Poll: Should Google Confirm Penalties To Public

Feb 17, 2014 • 8:16 am | comments (15) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

google penaltyThe amount of emails I get pointing to a large or small site getting penalized is somewhat insane. There is often a spike in these emails after I cover a penalty on Search Engine Land or here. It is a bit overwhelming at times and making judgement calls on what to and what not to cover is often hard.

This is why Danny Sullivan wrote, Open Letter: Why Search Engine Land Will & Won’t Cover Someone Being Penalized By Google.

In short, we likely won't be covering the vast majority of penalties at Search Engine Land. Why? As Danny summed up, Google penalties are not always and most often not, newsworthy. Why? Because sites, both large and small, are penalized every day by Google. Of course, some of the circumstances within some penalties might be worth covering. But most cases are not.

That being said, it would make our lives easier to report on penalties if Google would confirm them with us or give ways for us to validate if a site is indeed penalized. Danny wrote:

Google: You need to publicly report if you’ve hit a site with a penalty....Why shouldn’t searchers and consumers know if a particular publisher has a bad record with you? Why shouldn’t regulators and others, who might be concerned you’re abusing your dominant power, be able to review actions easily?....Open up. Find a way so that people can definitively know if you’ve acted against a site or not."

There are many reasons why Google wouldn't want to do this. (1) Legal issues, (2) It is a tremendous amount of work, (3) there can be lots of financial reasons not to do this. Plus much more.

But at the same time, it would let a company wrongly accused of being penalized prove they are not. It would let you differentiate between penalties and core algorithm changes.

I would love a way to look up if a site is penalized, it would make my life a lot easier. But what do you think?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Stephen Kenwright

02/17/2014 01:43 pm

If Google discloses that a site has been penalised SEO sales spam will flood in "offering" to fix it, probably doing the SEO industry some damage in the process. Although I see your point that it can allow a wrongly accused company to "clear their name" Barry, if they've bombed in the rankings they've probably done something. It would be like saying "our SEOs are great, but our developers are stupid"...

Darren Kingman

02/17/2014 02:56 pm

I'm actually losing my in-house job this week because of a Google penalty we haven't been able to figure out for 18 months. We endeavoured and I built links from The Guardian, Venturebeat, Ny Times, Washington Post, etc etc but nothing has shifted it. I've even been in touch with Rand asking for help and after a few email exchanges couldn't really find the cause. I've been lucky that my successes have resonated in the industry allowing another company (agency) to pick me up but I would have been able to grow much quicker as an online marketer if I was seeing my successes having an impact rather than not knowing if what I've been continuing to do would have "usually" worked. Family and friends often ask me if Google could have told us what they didn't like but unfortunately they can't (which I admittedly get) and they won't. We've been an honest business, one of the best in our main industries (thousands of reviews on various sites point to this) but because an algorithm thinks we're doing something wrong, even unintentionally, I lose my job and have no way of knowing what the problem was.

Mukesh kumar

02/17/2014 03:33 pm

hello Darren, My Sympathy is with you but you are not a single person who is suffering from this pain . Big Giant seo business shut down bcoz of google , every one is fed up from these update and i personally think Google results are worst in recent time.


02/17/2014 03:55 pm

The sad part is that when Snowden revealed Google's ties to the NSA, like PRISM, Google screamed hypocritically for more transparency from the government but keeps penalizing companies in absolute secrecy. Google should change its name into "Fuck transparency".


02/17/2014 04:25 pm

it google not will display both penalties (algo and manual(all manual, not like now)) than it CORRUPT


02/17/2014 04:26 pm

i think it valid reason why google not afraid anti-monopoly things.


02/17/2014 04:28 pm

matt cutts also love to build links from The Guardian, Venturebeat, Ny Times, Washington Post. Because if google will penalize it, google will more useless than now.

Durant Imboden

02/17/2014 06:09 pm

Or maybe Google could just indicate sites that *aren't* penalized, don't have malware, etc. (i.e., sites that have a "clean bill of health" as far as Google is concerned). Google could also give penalized site owners the opportunity (via a checkbox in Webmaster Tools) to remove their domains from Google Search for the duration of their penalties.

Craig Hamilton-Parker

02/18/2014 11:05 am

Same here Darren - been two years trying to work out what the algo thinks is wrong with my site and had SEO advice from a few really good people but still in a fix. If we were just given a hint of where we are going wrong we could do something about it. Bad incoming links, poor spelling on the forums, people copying my articles.. I feel I am being punished for other people's sins. Maybe Angela Merkel's recent interest in data protection, since the whistle-blowing of Edward Snowden, will one day force Google to be more transparent with the data gathered from our websites. To quote the BBC today: "Mrs Merkel criticised the fact that Facebook and Google can be based in countries with low levels of data protection while carrying out business in nations that offer more rigorous safeguards." Our data is not safe in the hands of Google which uses our data against us for its own self-interest.

Patti Paz

02/18/2014 12:24 pm

Maybe I am unable to see the forest for the trees here, but WHY would anyone, other than those SEO hustlers, want to know??

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2014 12:25 pm

Shareholders might be interested in knowing.

Darren Kingman

02/18/2014 03:11 pm

Just a hint from Google would have saved my job. It would have at least pointed us in a direction where I could focus my efforts and then offer value to the business. Unfortunately, even with my efforts being considered a success on the face of it (e.g. link building) we still aren't getting anywhere with the rankings and the profits driving my position have fallen below what the company can keep justifying to pay me. If Google did provide information regarding penalties, I'm sure black-hatters would then been able to collate enough information to game Google, but people are losing jobs out of this - something needs to change.


02/18/2014 08:45 pm

If Google were to publicly announce penalizations there would be an influx of people creating a database of websites penalized vs not, backlink profile, anchor text distribution, etc...and correlating with the dates of algorithm changes and volatility. It wouldn't be rocket science to find patterns to reverse engineer certain aspects of their algorithm, giving those that understand it a VERY unfair advantage. I know people are attempting to already do this, but adding the above database to their knowledgebase or toolbox would make keeping the black hat on even more appealing to those currently on the fence. Obviously not everyone would do this, but when 1 small change in ranking can make a HUGE impact in your bottom line (as is the case in my industry), it would be a worthwhile endeavor for a lot of people and companies.


02/19/2014 12:15 pm

absolute power = absolute corruption. Google killing webmasters and show only growing earning reports every month. So it not possibly to tell why google killing sites - because of their earning reports or because of "fighting with spam". So such information is must be provided without any questions from their side. Otherwise it just the pure 100% evil corruption, they doing now anything they want.


02/19/2014 12:18 pm

with all google penalties - now it necessary step to provide that penalties data publically. That what you described here is not the justification for that evil monster.

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