Is Google Misleading Us? If So, How?

Feb 10, 2014 • 8:11 am | comments (51) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

parking signs misleadingYou've all seen it, parking signs that are so confusing that sometimes you wonder, is the local government trying to mislead you...

Webmasters are asking themselves the same questions about Google. With all the blog posts, videos, guidelines, is Google setting SEOs and webmasters up for disaster one way or another?

Last year, we asked you if you felt Google was lying to you and only 10% said no. The rest, over 55% said Google is lying to us and 31% said Google lies to us sometimes.

The post has 150+ comments with examples and debates.

The new WebmasterWorld thread asks in more of a subtle way. Asking "What Official Google SEO Advice is Misleading or Misunderstood?"

Greg Niland started off saying that guest blogging is one of those examples:

For example Matt Cutts has recently said that if you were using guest blog posts "you should probably stop". This led many SEO people to start assuming that Google will consider every guest blog post to be bad. Matt Cutts had to clarify his initial statement and say that some guest blog posts when done in a relevant and professional manner can be good for your online business.

I am sure you all have many examples - do share.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Igal Stolpner

02/10/2014 01:23 pm

This "Guest Blogging" thing is going out of control; I don't understand why people are taking it so hard. All Matt said was that if "Guest Blogging" is your way of getting links, then don't do it. He never said anything else; he definitely never said to stop writing for other sites.

Mark Traphagen

02/10/2014 01:26 pm

Not to defend Matt Cutts--not my job--but that example is a perfect example of someone reading something into what Cutts said or wrote that he never said. I defy anyone to show me anything from Matt where he said, "if you're using guest blog posts, you should probably stop." Never. Not once. That's what happens when people read only a headline, or see what they want to see. Yes, his recent blog post did say, "Guest blogging is over," originally, but even before he added "for SEO" to the title, and the clarifying extra paragraphs, his original was still clear that he was talking about the practice of guest blogging merely for producing manipulative links. I don't think Google lies to us. But I do think public statements are intentionally crafted to keep us on our toes, and make us think twice before doing anything that might be construed by Google as manipulative. And I do agree that the exact line is what is too often unclear.

Jerry Nordstrom

02/10/2014 01:41 pm

Matt nearly always sticks with the golden rule of Marketing, Public Relations and Politics. Absolutely no absolutes.

Durant Imboden

02/10/2014 03:06 pm

It's always easier to blame someone else than to blame your own poor judgment. Last year, a fairly well-known travel blogger who sold SEO services lost his Google rankings and publicly wondered why. I looked at his blog, and he had a rate card for text links. (He's probably blaming Google right now for his own greed and stupidity.)

Rachel Roodhardt

02/10/2014 03:35 pm

One of my clients recently asked me if she should stop guest posting and I told her categorically no! She's not doing it for links, and she receives plenty of traffic. The website she does it for is bigger than her and in the same industry and it's entirely relevant and most importantly everyone loves her articles. It's a shame that businesses are so beholden to Google that they are even afraid to continue to do something that's great for everyone just because Google Knowledge Team say "To stick a fork it it" Should they be clearer… yes probably… but let's not publish the exact rules or we'll be back where we started with spammers at the top of the index again… I sympathise with the difficult job Google does and how close they must play their cards.. I can see why sometimes they're not as transparent as they could be in an ideal world.. because let's face it - there's nothing ideal about SEO.


02/10/2014 04:22 pm

Lying by omission is what I would call it. And the rules that they put out they randomly enforce because the algo isn't smart enough to catch it all. And they count on scare tactics to get people to stop doing what actually works. So they might not directly lie but it is pretty close.

Michael Martinez

02/10/2014 04:53 pm

Mostly it's the SEOs lying to themselves and each other. Business as usual.

Keith Bloemendaal

02/10/2014 05:22 pm

I stopped paying attention to Matt Cutts and most other SEO advice long ago. Create something people need, make it easy to read/view, and put it in front of your audience. There, that's SEO. I guest posted an article over the weekend, I linked to my Google+ profile...


02/10/2014 05:43 pm

I agree with you completely. Most of the webmasters were so frightened about guest posting like they were doing it to play Google Serps. Matt's words are clearly - Stop doing guest posting if you're doing it for backlinks otherwise is fine . Only companies or bloggers looking to get better rankings by posting many guest posts are getting penalized -

Ann Smarty

02/10/2014 06:12 pm

I really think there's no 100% correct answer to this. Do they say all the truth? No. Is it a lie? Probably. Can we blame them for that? Probably, not :) A couple of years ago Matt said he didn't see anything wrong with guest blogging... Where did that take us? Here! I do think their public reps should be more careful with what they are saying - that's for sure because, again and again, whatever they say blows up. But they don't seem to be learning their lesson... Do I dislike our community for misinterpreting their words from blog post to blog post? I'd say, yes :) SEO community needs to grow up and stress upon doing something real instead of picking up on Googlers' words and making money on tactics rather than strategies.

Gail Gardner

02/10/2014 06:39 pm

What must be clear by now to anyone wise enough is that there is no way to win this Google game. It is structured to make sure you waste maximum time playing before that strategy that works costs you 10x more time to reverse. Rinse. Repeat. The entire point is to keep you so busy that you can not get traction. There IS a solution. You have to be willing to give up the easy money of search traffic and focus instead on creating real relationships with your potential buyers using marketing systems and testing to find out what really works. There is a marketing system that works similarly to Salesinfusion, Infusionsoft or OfficeAutoPilot but costs less than $30/mo. for up to 30,000 emails. There is also something similar for SMS. Google can not kill guest blogging because the point is to create content your potential customers will engage with and publish it where they already are. It has NOTHING to do with Google - it is the solution to Google traffic. That is why they are desperately trying to kill it by making examples of blogs like mine. I published a post on what we must know and do yesterday evening. You'll recall if you've seen it because the image is of a Penguin driving a bulldozer over small business

Gail Gardner

02/10/2014 06:40 pm

Sorry. Wrong. See

Ben Parker

02/10/2014 07:34 pm

With Absolute Power comes absolute corruption. - Ben Parker


02/10/2014 08:29 pm

if google will want, it can penalize for natural solutions like guest posts, links on social networks, links in magazines, links in google and other search engines index, whois data, etc. They love to do unnatural things and destroy the competitors in any niche.


02/10/2014 08:56 pm

You're talking about advertising. Advertising is not guest blogging and will not be just because marketers call it so.


02/10/2014 08:57 pm

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with you ))


02/10/2014 09:04 pm

SEO is the product to be sold. When Google says something, that can destroy selling opportunity, then no doubt this is misleading ))


02/10/2014 09:29 pm

"if you're using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop" is exactly what he said. But you are correct.

Peter Watson

02/10/2014 09:31 pm

Surely adding content to your own site is far more advantageous than adding content (guest posts) to another persons site?


02/10/2014 09:40 pm

commentluv... the 90's called. they want their comment spam methods back!

Nick Ker

02/10/2014 10:16 pm

But that's too obvious for some people. If there isn't a "secret" or a latest trick to fool what some must believe to be the stupidest algorithm ever, they won't believe it. They just keep asking "how are we supposed to build hundreds of links without directories / article marketing / guest splogging / keyword density?"

Nick Ker

02/10/2014 10:36 pm

Absolutely! The echo chamber is full of squawking parrots. I keep hoping they will all eventually get frustrated with always having to explain being dead wrong, and just quit.

Nick Ker

02/10/2014 10:45 pm

What should be clear by now, is that it is not a "game". Children who still believe it is a game that can be cheated, are now crying that there is no way to win. Meanwhile, thousands of people who understood that grown-ups follow rules are wondering what the heck you are so upset about. The rules didn't change. They just became much more obvious when Google started seriously enforcing them. I know plenty of people who tried to play a game with Google and lost. They are now regretting that choice and trying to move forward in a more sensible direction. Yet there are others who climb to the highest hilltop and shriek how unfair it is that they can't "win" by cheating. I don't understand if that is because they are too proud to admit being wrong, or if those people truly believe that Google is out to get them and ranting about it will somehow help.

Gail Gardner

02/11/2014 12:12 am

Only if people can actually find your site.

Peter Watson

02/11/2014 12:18 am

Adding fresh content to your own site, and getting those pages to rank will increase traffic to your own site I would have thought. Personal preference I guess, but I'd rather put the great content on my site.......

Jitendra Vaswani

02/11/2014 05:55 am

Very true Michael


02/11/2014 07:28 am

If the chamber is too noisy, move on. Or are you staying put so you can keep looking smug? You have nothing to say, and you are saying it too loud!


02/11/2014 10:13 am

Can't agree more. SEO is not a game. Plain and simple. SEO is research and knowledge. SEO is serious business. Anyone that thinks different is going to loose sooner or latter.

Rory Truesdale

02/11/2014 12:20 pm

I don't think this should always be the case. A good example is Mike King who put his 12,000 word post on persona building on Moz. He could have easily put this on - used it to build leads, drive more traffic etc. as it's a superb piece of content. However, he chose to frame it as a guest blog on a site that has something like 16 times the size of his. If your website has an audience, then great - if it doesn't leeching onto someone else's with a guest post can work wonders.

Aqueous Digital

02/11/2014 01:26 pm

Google, or more specifically their employees, can sometimes be disingenuous but they don’t lie. The problem is that we forgot what we were trying to do in the first place. It became too easy for individuals to sit in their bedrooms, throw up a website, point a million links at it and cream off the majority of the traffic. This behaviour encouraged others to do it and then as Google stated to clamp down on this they started to look for the ‘next quick win’. As others have already posted, this is about marketing and nothing to do with Google. Google is simply a vehicle for delivering the Marketing and frankly one day it won’t be as dominant as it is now. Marketing however will endure. Clients regularly want to know ‘how long’ before our SEO services get them ranking on page one and this is entirely the wrong question. I reply by asking them how they are going to market their business if the internet doesn’t exist. Most have no idea. If you ask a client to compete with the high street brand names in the real world they will tell you they don’t have the budget, resources or time to do it, so they don’t. Yet these same people want to outrank the big brands online. Why? And when they don’t why is it Google’s fault? Our job should be to help clients come up with a decent marketing plan and then execute it on the best available channels, of which Google may be one. Remember my rule #1 folks, Google is just a machine. Sorry, rant over J


02/11/2014 03:40 pm

If you are a big business and on G's trusted list, you generally get great benefits for doing SEO. If you are a small biz, you aren't on any G list typically (unless you've engaged in lots of unnatural link building) and SEO becomes a series of punch vs. counter punch. Yes G has a problem and they do all kinds of things to fight spam, not just with Panda/Penguin/Cutts because they are perplexed - changing the rules and causing confusion isn't something that builds trust and a great brand for anyone, not even investors. Google is crumbling from within.

Gail Gardner

02/11/2014 09:18 pm

The businesses Google is destroying are REAL businesses built over years and destroyed overnight. When will people stop claiming it is spammers that Google is affecting. It is REAL JOBS that Google takes away. Real small businesses. If Google did not have an unfair monopoly and biased serps small businesses WOULD compete on even terms with big brands. How can you defend their practices? How can you defend them for destroying small businesses - some of which have NEVER built a single link or had a single piece of content published. Shame on you for being an elitist who does not care if people starve and go homeless as long as the "high street brand names" get theirs.

Gail Gardner

02/11/2014 09:19 pm

You assume that is possible - that you can keep your pages ranking. But Google does whatever they wish - and that includes making your real small businesses' pages disappear.

Gail Gardner

02/11/2014 09:24 pm

The rules didn't change? Oh, but they did - and they do all the time. For just one example: You are naive. I have personally seen businesses that have NEVER built a single link or published a single piece of content lose 70% of their traffic and sales OVERNIGHT - no penalty - not even negative SEO - Google just decided to hand their customers to someone else. There is no way to win the Google organic game consistently. That is true. Maybe they will deign to give you traffic for a while and then take it away. It does not matter whether you are an honest business providing great products and services for over a decade. You are intentionally targeted or you are collateral damage - but either way - you need to make Google irrelevant to your business. Give up on search traffic and focus on building relationships with real potential customers where they already are.

Gail Gardner

02/11/2014 09:26 pm

Laugh all you want, but CommentLuv is why I don't care if Google never sends me one single visitor. Because using it I can pull in more traffic than they ever sent me and create relationships with those people. It is not about spam - it is about relationships.

Peter Watson

02/11/2014 09:32 pm

That makes sense Rory, as long as he doesn't link back to his own site, or as long as he nofollows that link, right?

Soni Sharma

02/12/2014 05:24 am

If you have small business website and putting too many guest blogs with dofollow links, It may hurt by Google.


02/12/2014 06:23 am

Oh my. Not another "Google is out to get me" rant. Do tell us about how Google is on a mission to make Walmart the New World Order.

Aqueous Digital

02/12/2014 01:25 pm

Interesting post Gail, however I fear you may have completely misinterpreted what I wrote. Firstly I don’t doubt that changes by Google are destroying firms and businesses, the point is that this can hardly be pinned as Google’s fault. If you build your business model on a single platform and rely on that vehicle for delivering ALL your marketing then your business is always vulnerable. Google DOES have an unfair competitive advantage and if you would like to spend some time reading any of my posts on either of my sites, aqueous-seo and aqueous-digital, or even my Huffington Post blog, you will see that I constantly harp on about this. I do not defend their practices. I don’t defend them for destroying small businesses, as I didn’t praise them for elevating some of them above where they would otherwise naturally be. As for being an elitist who doesn’t care if people starve or go homeless, I fail to see how you get that conclusion from anything I wrote. The reality is that this thread is about whether Google are lying to us or not and frankly personally abuse and behaving like a troll does not address that point not will it gain you any friends. Back on point, I stand by what I wrote. What amazes me, even though I am caught up in this bubble like the rest of us, is how there came to be a whole industry around trying to figure out what one company does. It is at best absurd and at worst frightening. There is no doubt that Google does enjoy a monopoly, and their recent agreement with the EU could be interpreted by some as evidence of the abuse of that power. I’m sure that Google will claim that they will always try to ‘do no evil’ however since floatation I’m afraid that this may have been lost beneath the profit imperative. As they still enjoy their monopoly position, certainly here in the UK, then they can do whatever they like with impunity whether you like it or not. If you feel so aggrieved about their practices perhaps now would be the time to speak to your MP/Congressman and demand that they take action against clear monopolistic behaviour. It’s all very well shouting from the side lines but if you want to win the battle you will need to get in and fight, not with me but with Google.

Ann Smarty

02/12/2014 01:30 pm

Nofollow??? why? if the editor likes the guest post, they should have checked the links which make links editorial. In fact, Google's nofollow policy even encourages to give good contributors dofollow links for good comments. Why WOULD a guest post link need to be nofollow?

Ann Smarty

02/12/2014 01:31 pm

How many are too many? I do a ton and I am proud of all of them :)

Peter Watson

02/12/2014 08:58 pm

Yeah I am aware of that Ann, but in light of Matt Cutts recent announcement re guest posting, one needs to be very careful. You think you are not violating any guidelines one minute, and the next minute you are.

Nick Ker

02/12/2014 11:26 pm

Nah... you have to read more than the headlines. At no time did Matt Cutts or anybody else at Google say that all guest blogging is spam. Nothing wrong with guest blogging itself - when done for the right reasons. Even Matt said so once he realized a lot of people didn't get the message that guest blogging solely for links is another thing overzealous SEOs screwed up. If you were only doing it for the links, insisting on getting the links the way you want (with keyword anchor text), will publish any available crap on any old crappy site, and that was the main thing you were doing to get links - you were already violating a guideline or two. Shouldn't need a statement from Cutts to know that, but apparently many people did need to be specifically told that they were abusing a good thing. Google has not changed the rules much at all. People just find new ways to break the rules and statements about them have to be made for those who don't see the big picture.

Ann Smarty

02/13/2014 01:11 am

Sad but true "abusing the good thing"... the reality is, I WOULDN'T guest post unless I were allowed to link to my site + talk about myself in the byline but that DOESN'T mean all I care is links! In fact, many of my guest post publishers have become my best friends, so connections are my priority.

Ann Smarty

02/13/2014 01:14 am

Matt recommended using nofollow, *especially* when in doubt. To my understanding, that's broken. That encourages bad editors to still publish guest posts with dubious links because they can nofollow them. I say, when in doubt, DON'T publish the damn guest post. If you don't think the link looks good, why would you still let your readers click it while hiding it from search engines? That's a broken logic. Bad links should NOT be in guest posts, nofollow or not

Nick Ker

02/13/2014 02:22 am

I mean this in the best possible way, but you are not "normal" when compared to compulsive guest bloggers who care not about quality or their reputation. You understand the value of GOOD guest blogging, whether linked or not, and probably wouldn't publish somewhere crappy, or submit a garbage article just for the link. Personally, I kind of don't care if the link is followed or not as long as there is good exposure to a new audience, the publishing site is one that would be good to be associated with, and there is actually a likelihood of traffic coming through the links. That is actually a good way to estimate the value of a link, as well as a return to the original intent of links, for those who don't remember the time before link-based search engines.

Soni Sharma

02/13/2014 04:36 am

Ann.. You are kind of Big Deal.. You are not going to hurt by any update I am sure... :) Cheers!!!

Gracious Store

02/14/2014 04:30 am

I am a small business owner and believe the internet should be a level ground for all to compete if there are very clear and distinct strategies for doing business online. Yes Google is a machine but also more than a machine because it is Google that determines how business are run or done on the internet. Google need to be consistent in its expectations from webmasters and websites as defined in its ranking algorithm. .Unfortunately in every human systems there are people who go out of their way to abuse and take advantage of loop holes to maximize their interest and profit. It is up to the law enforcement agents in this case Google for the internet to go affect those people and bring them to justice provided there is no collateral damage to the innocent hard working people

Temilola Globalwalyy

03/20/2014 04:00 pm

But now She got hurt, not only her but All myblogguest active users..

Soni Sharma

03/20/2014 05:40 pm

Yes.. Bad news for All of Us. MBG doesn't seems to be involved in link buying and selling but may be some guest bloggers and publishers using it in wrong way and it caught by Google. But it is just my Assumption.

Gail Gardner

04/14/2014 01:51 am

It appears that Google now considers any site that makes it easier to find relevant blogs to publish on as "bad". I suspect Ann thought they were safe because she was adamant that no money be involved. Apparently, that was not enough. Ann is one of the best guest authors around. Today, the only way to ensure you never get a penalty is to never have a site.

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