Google's Matt Cutts, as you may or may not know, often appears in Webmaster Help videos addressing questions about what Google does (and what it doesn't do) in certain situations. Usually, the questions are submitted buy users, though sometimes, Cutts will deem an issue important enough to ask the question himself.
In the lastest video, which Cutts tweeted out on Monday, a user asks:
"Just to confirm: does Google take manual action on webspam? Does manual action result in a removal or can it also be a demotion? Are there other situations where Google remove content from its search results?"
Who better to address this question than Google's head of webspam himself, Matt Cutts?
Cutts responds, "I'm really glad to have a chance to clarify this, because some people might not know this, although we've written this quite a bit in various places online. Google is willing to take manual action to remove spam. So if you write an algorithm to detect spam, and then someone searches for their own name, and they find off-topic porn, they're really unhappy about that. And they'll write into Google and let us know that they're unhappy."
"And if we write back and say, 'Well, we hope in six to nine months to be able to have an algorithm that catches this off-topic porn,' that's not a really satisfactory answer for the guy who has off-topic porn showing up for his name," he says. "So in some situations, we are willing to take manual action on our results. It's when there are violations of our web spam quality guidelines."
"So, the answer to your question is, yes, we are willing to take manual action when we see violations of our quality guidelines," he says. "Another follow-up question was whether it has to be removal or whether it can be a demotion. It can be a demotion. It tends to be removal, because the spam we see tends to be very clear-cut. But there are some cases where you might see cookie cutter content that's maybe not truly, truly awful, but is duplicative, or you can find in tons of other places. And so it's content that is really not a lot of value add - those sorts of things."
"And we say in our guidelines to avoid duplicate content, whether it's a cross-domain, so having lots of different domains with very, very similar or even identical content," he says. "So when we see truly malicious, really bad stuff, we're often taking action to remove it. If we see things that are still a violation of our quality guidelines, but not quite as bad, then you might see a demotion."
A bad enough demotion might as well be a removal anyway. I'm sure a lot of Panda victims out there have a thing or two to say about that.
"And then the last question was, 'Are there other situations where Google will remove content from it search results?'," continues Cutts. "So, we do reserve the right to remove content for spam. Content can be removed for legal reasons, like we might get a DMCA complaint or some valid court order that says we have to remove something within this particular country."
"We're also willing to remove stuff for security reaons, so malware, Trojan horses, viruses, worms, those sorts of things," he says. "Another example of security might be if you have your own credit card number on the web. So those are some of the areas that we are willing to take action, and we are willing to remove stuff from our search results. We don't claim that that's a comprehensive list. We think that it's important to be able to exercise judgment. So if there is some safety issue, or of course, things like child porn, which would fall under legal. But those are the major areas that we've seen, would be spam, legal reasons, and security. And certainly, the vast majority of action that we take falls under those three broad areas."
"But just to be clear, we do reserve the right to take action, whether it could be demotion or removal," he reiterates. "And we think we have to apply our best judgment. We want to return the best results that we can for users. And the action that we take is in service of that, trying to make sure that we get the best search results we can out to people when they're doing searches."
Speaking of those security concerns, Cutts also tweeted on Monday that Google has sent messages to 20,000 sites, indicating that they may have been hacked. He attributes this to some "weird redirecting."