Google Has Manually Penalized Mozilla

Apr 23, 2013 • 8:49 am | comments (27) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Mozilla, the non-profit organization behind Firefox, Thunderbird and tons of developer oriented tools, was penalized by Google.

Christopher More, Mozilla's Web Production Manager, posted the details of the penalty in the Google Webmaster Help forums. You'd think Mozilla, an organization that is/was mostly funded by Google, would have other means to get the issue resolved.

The penalty was a "manual penalty" due to extremely spammy user generated content. The penalty notification read:

Google has detected user-generated spam on your site. Typically, this kind of spam is found on forum pages, guestbook pages, or in user profiles.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to your site.

So where is this spam? John Mueller of Google responded showing him. Just do a site command search for [ cheap payday seo] and you will find some samples. It seems to be coming from spammers abusing the blog comments and the addons section, amongst others.

This is a case of Mozilla allowing anyone to come into their home and make a mess and not clean it up - it happens all too often and it is sad to see.

John offers some advice, for the comments, you need a spam filter and someone to monitor them. For the add-ons section, John said:

For these kinds of sites, it may make sense to allow the community to help with comment moderation (eg. allow them to flag or vote-down spam), and to use the rel=nofollow link microformat to let search engines know that you don't endorse the links in those unmoderated comments.

John also added that in these cases, Google tries to go as "granular as possible with our manual actions." So in this case, Mozilla is not fully penalized, just the sections or pages that have this spam on it.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Update: We have an update to this story at Google To Mozilla: You Had 12 Megabytes Of User Generated Spam On One Page.

Previous story: Google's Cutts With Tim O'Reilly On Government Regulation


Pawel Gontarek

04/23/2013 12:56 pm

SEO spam on user profiles :)

Tajul Islam

04/23/2013 01:08 pm

What a news.... spam in Mozilla web?


04/23/2013 01:09 pm

Yet again Google is holding back the "BEST" content from everyday web browsers (I mean the users of the google search engine). It won´t be long before people really start to understand that google is not interested in presenting the best results, just playing God with the internet and making boat loads of cash with paid links. So google now hides the content on that page from users because of a few spammy comments. Hey google... how about the users of the web site in question vote that page down by not staying on it long because it´s not relevant rather you playing Judge, Jury and executioner with the worlds data.

walid gabteni

04/23/2013 01:38 pm

This story show again how the search engine's algorithm isn't enough efficient to fight webspam. By penalizing big sites as WPMU or Mozilla, mountain view is just trying to scare webmasters, with the aim to make them do the work he is not able to do himself. Funny things knowing that big G is probably the biggest web spammer on its own SERPs


04/23/2013 02:47 pm

Google is the no. 1 spammer


04/23/2013 03:34 pm

Someone on the Google Questions page mentioned that the links were nofollow? Why or how for that matter would a website be penalized even when nofollow is being utilized? I thought using the nofollow attribute is a roundabout way of saying "I don't really trust this website enough to pass on my approval" If even nofollow links can result in you being penalized, I foresee a very dim future for a lot of websites that allow commenting. Is it even reasonable to request that every website has their comments completely moderated? What about websites such as Wordpress who host millions of blogs? Will they be penalized?

Matt Cullen

04/23/2013 03:37 pm

First Chrome gets penalized, now Mozilla.. who's next? This is just sloppy blog management. A brand like Mozilla should have their act together.


04/23/2013 03:41 pm

A way to advertise Mozilla? Good job Google.


04/23/2013 03:46 pm

An interesting point, and further to your last statement, their own web property YouTube has zero comment moderation, by design.


04/23/2013 04:03 pm

Wow, what a uninformed and wrong comment. 1> The penalties are applied granularly, aka the pages with a lot of spam on them got penalised, not the whole site. 2> Its not a few spammy comments, its hundreds. Un-moderated spam is not a good search result. Would you rather they let spammy pages into the search results? If I wanted to get crap like then when I did a search, then I'd use Bing!

Rajesh Babu

04/23/2013 05:47 pm

How about youtube spam?


04/23/2013 05:56 pm

Your uninformed response has missed the point entirely. I´m not saying the comments are not jam packed full of spam, rather the article that has attracted the spammy comments has now been held back because of those comments. That article might be a rich vein of knowledge that google has now deemed you don´t have the right to see anymore. It might be the best information on the web on that subject. But now you will never find it. Best results? I think not! So rather than jumping in and trying to look like an expert in SEO by belittling a comment, open your own eyes and come and smell the toast.

Jennifer Mattern

04/23/2013 05:58 pm

That doesn't really change the previous commenter's main point. They don't like that Google is penalizing a page due to third party comments -- potentially burying truly valuable content (the main content on the page provided by the site owner) because they chose to allow open back and forth conversations on the blog without manually nitpicking people's links. Blogs are a social medium, and that open conversation is a big part of what makes blogs blogs. And they're right. Google has a habit of penalizing good content in the eyes of users due to the inadequacies of their own algorithm. I highly doubt most people conducting a search on Google are looking for the comments. They're looking for the main content being offered, and that's what's being penalized, relevancy be damned. And that's what Google supposedly wants rankings based on. Their system has been broken for a long time. I agree that some level of moderation is necessary on most sites. But that doesn't necessarily mean otherwise high quality content should be penalized. The previous commenter has a good point about letting users decide what does and doesn't cut it. Or Google could issue warnings of potential problems as they do with malware or unnatural link profiles before penalizing a site. I get why Google does a lot of what it does, whether I agree with it or not. But penalizing content because of third party comments seems silly at best. We're all big girls and boys. We can decide if a comment is worth our attention or is spam without them holding our hands.


04/23/2013 06:10 pm

These manual penalties are a sign of weakness in Google's algorithms... and too many manual penalties will mean Google won't be able to hide behind the 'automated' aspect of their algos in law courts for much longer.

Konstantin K

04/23/2013 06:13 pm

> Someone on the Google Questions page mentioned that the links were nofollow? Why or how for that matter would a website be penalized even when nofollow is being utilized? In some blogs it's not:

Konstantin K

04/23/2013 06:18 pm

LOL, my browser freezes when I open some pages at


04/23/2013 08:38 pm

No Comen't...I love all.


04/23/2013 10:30 pm

omg ... Jennifer, with all of the respect, but have to remind you, that you're "Professional blogger. Freelance business writer. Author. Web Publisher." Means you have no idea what is behind the Google's search form. You just have no appropriate knowledge and enough data to make any reasonable statements. Are you the writer ? Then write. Write about things you're familiar with. Write to help others with the valuable information. You can't help anyone, including yourself, with the pure speculations.


04/24/2013 04:05 am

Such penalties make no sense to me. Google should penalize the spammers and not he victims.

Faizan Khan

04/24/2013 06:08 am

Reminds me off "Big Brands Don't have an Upper Hand"- Matt Cutts Only Google and its Corresponding Products can rise above in SERPS

Faizan Khan

04/24/2013 06:12 am

@Barry Can i use "[ cheap payday seo" for other sites as well. Or this was only for Mozilla?

Martin Missfeldt

04/24/2013 06:40 am

As a non-linkbuilding seo I'm happy that this door is closed. But anyway: there are tons of similar sources...


04/24/2013 07:42 am

Uhm I am without words about this one. A google-funded organization that get's a manual penalty over poor comment moderation/comment spam?? I can understand that this could result in seeding poor content into the SERPS.But at the end of the day Mozilla is trying to give people good useful tools that they can use and isn't always gonna have time to waste on cleaning up comments on some of their pages or blogs... At the end of the day people are interested on what Mozilla can give them, not what is written in the comments section.And now because of this penalty people may not even find it.

Barry Schwartz

04/24/2013 09:56 am



04/24/2013 03:42 pm

No, my comment stands exactly as is. A load of spammy comments on a page, more so with dodgy and possibly malware ridden links in it DOES makes a page less valuable in general. The information on the page may be great, but which would you prefer, a page that has been properly moderated and only had decent comments on it, or a page full of spammy comments (assuming both had the same main content). Of course you would prefer the one without the spam, that goes without saying so the ones that are spammed will get de-valued so the ones that actually have proper moderation do better. This is a PENALTY not a 'we've banned your site/pages from the index', they will still display, just not as well as they should. If they are the most relevant pages for a query they will likely still show up top.


04/24/2013 05:21 pm

So google have now created another spam tactic then. All I have to do now is rip off any page from any authority site that has loads of spammy comments and I stand a good chance of ranking above them. Well done google for creating the next big spam fest!


04/25/2013 08:20 am

Good luck finding many pages with 22,000 spam comments (20mb of spam) on a single page like the one page on Mozilla that was penalised had!

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