Banned in Google  2002-2014 2002-2014

Goodbye TopSEOs.  I enjoyed being on your list way back in the early 2000s (I think 2003).  Back then, it was free to be listed, you just had to request it and then they would presumably check you out to see if you qualified.  A short time after I was listed I received a phone call to tell me that it would cost in excess of $2,000 per month for me to retain my listing.   I immediately dropped it.

This morning got nuked.  It’s currently not possible to find their site in the Google listings.  They are a big sponsor of the Pubcon conference, and at 10am today they heard the news and packed up their booth and ran.  I suppose I would too if my business went from successful to dead in the span of a few moments.  I can empathize with the owners and staff, but they can’t possibly be surprised.  If you run a paid link directory, especially a sleazy bait and switch one, you’re going to get banned.

My friend Mark Jackson has deep information about the situation including a great timeline of events on his blog.  I encourage you to check it out here: TopSEOs Ban News.

HTTPS As Ranking Signal

From the Google Webmaster Central Blog – emphasis added by me
“…we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal – affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high quality content – 
 while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

Well – Google’s done it this time.  They want the whole world to be “secure”, even sites where it really doesn’t matter (like this one).  They want it so badly, that they are offering an organic ranking boost to webmasters who comply.  I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

When does Google EVER do that?  When they want something from you.  Google lost a lot of trust from Webmasters when they offered an incentive for implementing authorship and then took it away.

I’m very annoyed by this.  One of the biggest things that annoys me is that it’s another example of Google forcing their agenda on people.  They are basically saying “Don’t use HTTPS? Don’t think it’s relevant for your site?  Well, too bad.  We’ll cut your traffic until you comply.”  Certificates cost money and in some cases take a lot of time to implement which costs even more money in IT support time.   One of the more annoying things is that their push for HTTPS contradicts their push for a fast web.  HTTPS slows down sites which messes with another ranking signal – site speed.  When all other factors are equal, site speed really helps push a site up the listings.  Is the HTTPS organic “boost” enough to overcome the damage to site speed caused by HTTPS?  I’m not sure yet, but I would hope so.

I guess I’ll pencil in time to convert my site and blog to HTTPS, since you all give me so much personal information here.  Oh wait…. no you don’t.  I guess you’d better start.

Pay Attention to Webmaster Tools HTML Improvements

Google Webmaster Tools features a section under Search Appearance called HTML Improvements.  As with anything else “Google”, they don’t tell you about things unless they are pretty important.  This section contains notifications about short and duplicate title and description tags.  This presents some pretty low-hanging fruit, but it can be very challenging to work through it all on larger sites.  I recommend you take some time and sort out as many issues as possible in this section of Webmaster Tools.  It certainly pays off!  Having all your issues resolved sends a clear message to Google: you operate a good site.  Your title tags are all unique and (hopefully) contextually relevant, you haven’t done mass automation to populate your tags, etc.  It shows that you have taken time, and your ranking will reflect it.

Below is a shot taken from Webmaster Tools for a client of ours with a pretty decent size site.  It took a long time to achieve, but we finally got a clean bill of health! (In this one area)

Perfect HTML Score in Google Webmaster Tools

It’s hard to get a perfect grade from Google, but worth working towards.

Google Kills Authorship in Search Results

Sometimes I feel like a jaded old man when it comes to Google.  Nothing they do really surprises me anymore.  They make people chase their “new feature” and shortly thereafter kill the benefit from it in the name of UX (think Google Sidewiki and Google Knol).  In my jadedness I lean toward conspiracy theories about how Google is manipulating people to get what they want.  I’ve got a good one about authorship…

Google needed to identify influential online authors but was having a very hard time with it.  The trouble was that they couldn’t REALLY tell how many people were following the authors, if the authors were real people or not, and even worse, Google couldn’t tell which sites these authors contributed to.  They needed to create a way for those authors to tell Google what content was theirs, what their guest-writing relationships were, and exactly how influential they are.  How could Google convince these authors to freely hand over that information?  Give them an incentive. Something that sets their content apart from the rest of the search results: a picture and a statement of how popular someone is by showing their follower count.  Feed their vanity to get them to try it and let the side effect of skyrocketing CTRs get authors to tag everything.  It worked.

Google is removing the authorship picture and follower count from the search listings in the name of good UX.  They are doing so to provide the same experience across all platforms.  They don’t include authorship stuff in mobile results and Google knows that mobile is going to surpass desktop soon.  They don’t want to dilute the experience for mobile users, so they’re diluting the experience for us all.  Google say they have tested the impact and found that displaying the authorship info has no impact on CTR.  Riiiiiiiight.  The SEO community has solid data to show that when authorship tags are displayed in search results they lead to a 30-150% increase in CTR.

Keep in mind that Google is only killing the CTR boost authors receive by removing the photos and circle counts.  The rest of the ranking factors that come from authorship are still there.  Don’t quit using it or you could see a drop in ranking.

For Posterity: Google Authorship in the search listings.

For Posterity: Google Authorship in the search listings.

Super Uncool Google

Google is always talking about how sites are not to reproduce content from other sites just to get traffic. Well, guess what? Google is the worst offender. They will do anything they can to keep a visitor on their site instead of heading off to someone else’s site to find the information they are looking for. Fewer exits from Google mean more pageviews for them which means more views of their ads.

Today I’m working on my presentation for an upcoming KCDMA event where I’m presenting to a group of about 100 Kansas City area marketers about the fundamentals of SEO. I am terrible at PowerPoint and was trying to figure out how to edit my presentation’s theme. When I went to Google to search for instructions I got exactly what I wanted from Microsoft, but it wasn’t on Microsoft’s own site!

It's ok for Google to steal and re-publish content in the name of "user experience" but try it for your site and you'll be banned as a content spammer.

It’s ok for Google to steal and re-publish content in the name of “user experience” but try it for your site and you’ll be banned as a content spammer.

What does Google do to people who reproduce content from other websites? Bans them! Google… you’re getting more and more evil and hypocritical all the time.