Is There A Google Whitelist?

Jan 21, 2011 • 7:56 am | comments (17) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine
 

Google Seal Of ApprovalYesterday, Greg Sterling wrote an article named Deconstructing "Search Neutrality" which brought to light a overlooked claim by one particular site owner, claiming Google has whitelisted his web site.

Visit searchneutrality.org and read the paragraph midway through. Here it is:

For three and a half years, Google ignored all of Foundem’s appeals to lift the penalty, despite Foundem’s mounting credentials, which included Foundem being named the UK’s best price comparison site by The Gadget Show (the UK’s leading technology television programme) and being selected to power content-integrated vertical search services for many of the UK’s leading media companies. Eventually, interest from the national media persuaded Google to open a detailed dialogue with Foundem, which culminated in Google manually removing the penalty (by “whitelisting” Foundem’s site) in December 2009.

You see that last line? It says Google's site was whitelisted by Google after receiving a penalty and having a ton of bad press about it.

It was actually brought up in a solo post thread at WebmasterWorld in November, but no one really took notice. Or at least, I didn't.

Michael Martinez found it strange that the SEO community did not react to such news. I agree, and I am partially to blame for not bringing this to light. In two forum threads, one at HighRankings Forums and the other at Cre8asite Forums, Michael said:

I am a little upset and disturbed right now because in reading the claims made on this site I discovered that Foundem -- a UK price-comparison service that was penalized by Google for aggregating content for several years -- has been claiming to have been whitelisted from Google's spam penalty since last February. I have found numerous news stories mentioning this claim of whitelisting, but none of those stories were published on Search Engine Land, where Greg Sterling has covered Foundem's story many times.

Foundem has allegedly shared an email from the Google Adwords team with an update on the whitelisting request.

This is a very serious matter.

First of all, a known spammer is alleging to have been given a free pass to spam Google's search results. Everyone else, it seems, still has to play by the rules.

Secondly, we have been told for years that there is a WALL between Google organic search and Google paid search -- that neither side of the business is allowed to interfere with the other side of the business.

Apparently, that's not true, either.

Google needs to come clean on this matter and either change its policy so that ALL aggregators are allowed to compete in the search results OR they need to enforce their policy fairly and neutrally.

There are certainly, in my opinion, reasons for some businesses to vent about Google promoting its own content above search results -- but the solution is NOT to bully Google into whitelisting a site that is violating Google's spam guidelines. THAT is unfair and if that is the way Google is going to do business then they can count on me to call for government regulation of search results.

Does Google whitelist sites? Is it fair?

Google should go on record about this. I suspect when/if they do, they will say it was an algorithm change that results in Foundem's reinclusion, but who knows. I'd like to see a comment from Google on the matter.

As Michael correctly points out at Search Engine Land, "I’m surprised the SEO community hasn’t made any fuss over that."

Forum discussion at HighRankings Forums and Cre8asite Forums.

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Comments:

PR Distribution

01/21/2011 01:06 pm

I'd be fairly confident in saying that they were sandboxed, and during all their complaining they came out of the sandbox naturally and are now claiming Google have whitelisted them. Having worked with a retailer who spends over £2 million on adwords per year, I know very well that Google don't negociate the natural SEO rankings or filters no matter how much you spend.

Alistair Lattimore

01/21/2011 01:07 pm

Who is to say that 'whitelist' isn't just a poorly chosen replacement for 'reconsideration request'? Plenty of websites do stupid things either accidentally or deliberately and if the issues are rectified, are allowed back into the index. What if Foundem cleaned up their act a little to slide just inside what is considered 'okay' and thus were re-included.

Barry Schwartz

01/21/2011 01:09 pm

Yep, totally possible.

Paul Dickinson

01/21/2011 01:11 pm

This reminds me of the time John Chow got banned from Google for the term "John Chow", they must have whitelisted him. This can be a problem for Google, if they didn't show results for a brand search in particular then they aren't doing a useful job. I think if there are a high enough number of brand searches they will let websites get away with black hat techniques.

Sebastian

01/21/2011 01:12 pm

I doubt we get a comment from Google any time soon: Michael Martinez: @google @mattcutts Foundem claims that Google whitelisted them from spam penalties via AdWords Team request. Is this true? Matt Cutts: Typically I try to avoid commenting on legal complaints on Twitter. I'm weird that way, I know.

Barry Schwartz

01/21/2011 01:13 pm

Nice find Sebastian. Thanks for adding!

Jill Whalen

01/21/2011 02:05 pm

Agree. I think it's just worded poorly. They should have said that the penalty was lifted. (Assuming that was the case.)

Colin

01/21/2011 02:07 pm

I would be inclined to agree with that Alistair.

Danny Denhard

01/21/2011 03:28 pm

The whitelist has been around for a number of years, just think of why huge "branded" sites always have listings and do not ever have issues with rankings. And then there is discussion of how all the major search engine arbitrage traffic for ads rev and how their larger networks are allowed to buy and sell their traffic in between each other & do not get penalised....think about it whitelist is just a rev stream

he knows

01/21/2011 04:29 pm

Sorry, but this is what you think. I had a client who had a massive credit issue with AdWords and one disappeared from the organic results. Needless to say he paid and reappeared as soon as that was done. Wake up people. Google is not just evil. Google IS the Evil. :)

Michael Martinez

01/21/2011 06:05 pm

Foundem claims to have NOT changed the way it publishes content to the Web. So the idea that they might have aged out of a penalty for good behavior seems a stretch.

Navya

01/22/2011 06:46 am

Hi, I'm a newbie to this IM, I just dunno that there is a term like Whitelist!! I have an idea of companies in Blacklist ( Blacklist - companies involving in some fraud or something like that) . I'm glad to read this post.....

Yozza MacAoda

01/23/2011 08:17 am

I noted in Cutt's comments yesterday (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/google-search-and-search-engine-spam.html) - that Google clarified; "To be crystal clear: * Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google; * Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google; and * Buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results. " Which is the latest comment that we have to (some of) the comments and questions that have been asked since. /y0z2a

Matt Burgess

01/23/2011 08:34 am

If I remember correctly, John Chow worked to make his site compliant with guidelines. Not a "whitelist" from Google at all, just a matter of making his site "clean".

AndyBeard

01/23/2011 03:27 pm

The whitelisting is just Adwords related - something probably tripped up something in the quality score and they somehow manually tweaked it. I haven't seen anywhere where they have claimed to be whitelisted for organic. They still have major issues, but then they haven't really fixed their site either

Michael Martinez

01/24/2011 12:08 am

AndyBeard wrote: "The whitelisting is just Adwords related - something probably tripped up something in the quality score and they somehow manually tweaked it." Given that their organic rankings have returned, and that they specifically claim on the SearchNeutrality Website to have been organically whitelisted, I don't see how you can argue that the alleged whitelisting only applies to AdWords. From June 2006 to December 2009, Foundem laboured under an algorithmic Google penalty that effectively “disappeared” Foundem from the internet. The penalty systematically excluded Foundem’s pages from all Google search results no matter how specific or relevant the query. For three and a half years, Google ignored all of Foundem’s appeals to lift the penalty, despite Foundem’s mounting credentials, which included Foundem being named the UK’s best price comparison site by The Gadget Show (the UK’s leading technology television programme) and being selected to power content-integrated vertical search services for many of the UK’s leading media companies. Eventually, interest from the national media persuaded Google to open a detailed dialogue with Foundem, which culminated in Google manually removing the penalty (by “whitelisting” Foundem’s site) in December 2009. Foundem’s complaint is therefore as much about the systemic failures of Google’s manual review process as it is about the legitimacy of the search penalties themselves.

Nigel Copley

02/12/2011 02:31 pm

The SEO community probably didn't go up in arms about this because - If there is a "whitelist" or a "blacklist" what does it matter really? If you're doing things by the book as an SEO, then you're site has no reason to be on either of these lists and thus won't be affected. For those who talk about correlation between paid and organic search and one having an effect over the other. if you look hard enough you'll always be able to find some kind of correlation. The difficulty in proving this is that "you" are always doing so much around SEO, PPC and a whole host of other activities and we all know that the slightest change can have both a negative or positive effect on your rankings. Just MHO - Nigel

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