Google Propaganda, SEO and Why Marketers Need to Wake Up

    January 31, 2014
    Rae Hoffman
    Comments are off for this post.

As the entire search world knows, Matt Cutts released a post last week – I’m paraphrasing – warning us that Google now considers “low quality guest posting” to be spam under their guidelines and will begin to take action in accordance with those beliefs.

I don’t plan to revolve this post entirely around that announcement. If you didn’t see Matt’s post coming at least a year ago, you were either oblivious or in denial.

WebProNews Do you approve of the tactics Google uses to fight web spam? Has it gone too far? Is Google hypocritical, and not enforcing its web spam rules on its own web properties? How can webmasters fight back?
Join the discussion in the comments section.


Any link building tactic that can be scaled – and cannot be “controlled” by Google in regards to their algorithm not being manipulated by it – will eventually become part of Google’s “link scheme” list, complete with a FUD campaign within the search community centered around it to scare “in the know” webmasters into compliance.

Next up, we’ll see a larger brand “nailed” with a penalty for guest posting – complete with the accompanying mainstream media coverage of that nailing so that Google can get their FUD campaign out into the mainstream media. The larger brand will then claim ignorance at breaking any guidelines (or blame their SEO company), do a bunch of articles sharing Google’s “this tactic was bad” message, and then have their penalty revoked – all within a 1 to 2 week window. (The latest one of these “nailings” was Rap Genius.)


As would be expected, comments began to flood in to Matt’s post (at the time I’m writing this post, there are 420+ comments) while social media streams were just slightly short of all out panic and blogs within the industry published in force with cheers, jeers and the occasional “I told you so” posts.

As one would expect, one of the most shared comments on that post was from search marketing journalist Danny Sullivan (one of the few members of the search community “famous” enough to be listed in Wikipedia under Wikipedia’s arbitrary “people worthy of an entry” guidelines – and rightfully so).

I’d post Danny’s comment here but it’s long, so, ya know…

Angry Panda

So you’ll have to go read it if you want to see it in its entirety here. The part of his comment that spurred me to respond was this:

Danny Sullivan “I wish you’d just not count the links you don’t think deserve credit.”

To which I responded with this:

Rae Hoffman“The problem there Danny is they can’t successfully find and discredit all of them. They can find and discredit the obvious, but most on their “spam list” done “well” are ones they can’t detect.

So, it’s easier to have webmasters provide you a list (disavows), scare the ones that aren’t crap sites providing the links into submission and damn those building the links as “examples” – dragging them into town square for a public hanging to serve as a warning to anyone who dare disobey the dictatorship.

Don’t like it? Then move to a different country – despite the fact that on the proverbial internet earth, Google makes up 5 of the 7 continents.”

This morning, after Aaron Wall retweeted the link to my comment, I hit Matt’s post up again and saw him make the following statement in one of his comments:

Matt Cutts “We are taking action against low-quality or spammy sites in order to protect the relevance of our users’ search experience.”

Normally I would agree with Matt here, believe it or not.

If you actively spam, you’re taking a risk, and you have to be prepared to accept the potential negative (just like you do the positive) consequences of that risk. Back in the day when I participated in “below the board” activities, that was simply how it was. And we accepted that.


The problem with Penguin overall is that Matt’s comment above is false. In Penguin, Google isn’t taking action on “low-quality or spammy sites”. Google is taking action against sites being LINKED TO by “low-quality or spammy sites”.

Angry Penguin

There are definite instances where a webmaster did not actively obtain these links (and thus, did not “sign up” for the risk in having them, even if they did indeed benefit from the reward).

They won’t tell webmasters what the low quality or spammy links are, yet they “know” what they are enough to punish a site. I used the quotes for a reason.

The reason being because if Google truly knew all of the unworthy links inflating your rankings, they’d simply discredit them as they’ve done with multiple link types in the past.

Matt long ago stated that press release sites had diminished value in regards to getting “links for SEO purposes” and were discrediting them. Then in 2013, Google officially added those same press release links to their link scheme list – implying webmasters using highly optimized anchors within them risk getting hit for them.

Why would they hit you for them if they’ve been devaluing them without penalty since 2005? Because, IMHO, they can’t successfully identify all the sites – many of which are deemed “high authority” – scraping the press release sites and republishing the releases giving you “natural” and highly anchor optimized links.

By scaring – or potentially penalizing you – into adding the nofollow within the release itself, it helps them solve that problem because the scrapers that leave the links in then also include the nofollow as a result.

Back to Penguin. They know some of the crappy links, for sure – but they’re relying on those of you with enough of the “knowns” to be hit to fill them in on even more via the disavow tool.

Then there’s a question of a potential “fall out” effect. If enough disavows of a domain occur, does that domain get hit? How many webmasters does it take not going through the effort to ask for a link to be removed and merely disavowing it before innocent sites are hit by the actions of scared webmasters on the proverbial witch hunt?

Salem Witch Trials

But, they’re shitty sites, right? Otherwise people wouldn’t be disavowing them. So who cares?

But here’s the problem – Google’s lack of transparency coupled with financially devastating punishment is causing desperate webmasters to disavow links from sites where they merely have heavy anchors, gave away a review product to the webmaster and legitimate links that they want killed off, you know, just in case.

And now, we’ve added sites who allow guest posts to the chopping block. And if you think webmasters aren’t running around – right as you’re reading this post – disavowing legitimate sites where they have legitimate, useful guest posts (I’m not talking “made for guest posts” sites here people) then your head is buried in the sand.


In Panda, Google hits false positives because they are not able to always accurately deduce who is the original source of content.

They go by some measure of authority as if the big guys would never steal from the little guys (and they have an even harder time accurately deciding “authority” when it comes to determining an original source when it comes to non big brands).

Manufacturers who don’t know any better provide merchants and affiliates with the same product feeds they use on their own sites. If the merchant or affiliate using that feed has been around longer than the manufacturer, or has better links than the manufacturer, or is Amazon, then the manufacturer gets Pandaized.

Sites like Yahoo Answers and Amazon’s Askville have users who plagiarize small content sites on a regular basis – often posting a full article from an outside website without crediting the source.

Sites like Business Insider republish blog RSS feeds and you either have to forgo the publicity or hope to God you have a decent enough link profile to compete.

Gwen Stefani Wax Figure Unveiled At Madame Tussauds Las Vegas

High quality and high traffic websites like Huffington Post will republish amazing blog posts they find on the web (with permission). Do you see the source site (Daddy Doin’ Work) ranking for that article? Sure, that may not speak to an entire site getting hit by Panda, but it does speak to Google’s often inability to correctly identify (and not rank the original).


Google acts like they themselves are some kind of protector – and decider – of what is good and what is evil on the web.

In Penguin, they act like a parent telling a teen that they’re grounded for four specific things their friends did in the last three years of their life – and that they’ll let them off grounding as soon as they apologize for all four specific things done by their friends and identify which friends specifically did them to boot.

But, they have to figure out what it is other people did with no help. When the 16 year old complains this is unfair, they tell them if they don’t like their rules, they’re free not to live in their house.

When in reality, they know that’s not a viable option for them.

In Panda, Google is like a teacher giving you a failing grade because someone else copied off your test – whether or not you knew they were copying from you or that you indeed were the one copied from is irrelevant.

Child in dunce cap

They simply see two identical tests – one from an A student, one from a B student and without question or recourse, they assume the B student is who cheated. You receive the punishment of failing the class and if you don’t like it, you’re free to attend a different school.


The best part in all of this is that Google does not lead by example.

Google Local is one of the biggest scrapers on the web. While Google tells review sites not to make pages with nothing but manufacturer information without original consumer reviews available to be indexed by Google, Google Local scrapes address databases, other review sites and then makes the pages available with no original reviews of their own on publication.

And let’s not even “go there” with the Knowledge Graph.

Do as Daddy says, not as Daddy does. Reminds me of the old 80′s say no to drugs commercial – “I learned it by watching you dad!”.

“We” are not allowed to give away products to bloggers to review unless we demand a nofollow on the post. But, Google can give away thousands of Android phones in 2009 resulting in thousands of links without any issue or slap from Google’s search division.

In fact, they’ve done it over and over again – with no recourse.

But, it’s all about “intent” right? Too bad you can’t scale determining intent.

Google says it can’t be “responsible” for moderating the content of every comment published on YouTube, but it requires AdSense publishers with UGC content be able to do so to stay in compliance with their policies.

Google says embedding links within widgets without a nofollow is not only bad, but cause for penalization within their search results. However, as Dave Naylor noted, it appears Google Maps is exempt from feeling any wrath.

Google says you’re not supposed to add any anchor rich links to your press releases without a nofollow or risk a negative impact on your search results. Yet, when they announced Calico, they put two links within the press release to their own properties using anchor text – without using a nofollow. This of course resulted in straight links from folks who scraped the release. This doesn’t appear to have had any effect on that rank of the page they linked to in the release in regards to ranking on the anchor used.

To be clear, I’m not picking on Matt personally here, even though his post was partially responsible for spurring this post. Google is a huge company and Matt doesn’t run it. I’m sure when Matt is met with examples of the above, he’s sometimes like…

Matt Cutts Facepalm

And I’m hoping that after reading this post he’s not feeling like…

Matt Slaps Rae

But the bottom line is “we’re” given one set of rules (dispersed to us via Matt and the webspam team) while Google and other large brands get to operate under another.


Google says that anything that manipulates the natural link ecosystem of the web is bad. But the largest manipulator of the linking ecosystem today (and has been for a long time) is Google themselves. They created a currency around links, then failed to control it, then issued mandates to alter it to compensate for their failings for their own benefit.

We’re told to “create good content” and our Google rankings will be fine.

The content unicorn

I’m sorry, but I live in reality. In reality, creating good content guarantees you nothing.

There’s no guarantee good content will magically be shared.

If it does get shared, and gets shared so much that a larger site republishes it, it could screw me.

If people like it, and link to it with too much anchor, it could screw me.

If not enough quality sites link to it in proportion to the overall inbound links, it could screw me.

If multiple bloggers with a good audience who can give me good exposure, but that also blatantly sell links or publish a lot of guest posts links to it, it could screw me.

If I include a nifty graphic in it and enough people repost that graphic and give me a link credit for being the source, it could screw me.

Over the last two years, the number of don’ts is increasing as quickly as Miley Cyrus’s sluttiness while the number of “dos” continues to dwindle.

Even Danny Sullivan is confused about what the hell he’s exactly expected to do and “allowed” to do to develop links without angering the Google gods in this day and age – as evidenced in his epic rant from SMX West in 2012.

In short, I’m supposed to publish awesome content, not actively promote it and hope that the right ratios of the right type of people (sites) like it and link to it. Oh, and then I’m supposed to cross my fingers and hope that my competitors don’t actively try to fuck with my “create good content” stars aligning.


Of course, Google (and their fanboys) will tell you that you’re free to do whatever you want, and simply accept that you might not appear (well) in Google as a result.

But let’s face it…

Search share August 2013

That’s some financially devastating bullshit – even to the largest of brands. Just like a tyrannical leader can tell his citizens if they don’t like it, they can move – he knows that the large majority of those citizens have no realistic, viable choice but to endure – and obey – the tyranny.


Hardly. As anyone with an SEO agency will likely tell you, demand for good SEO services has merely increased. Before all the Penguin / Panda craziness, we (SEOs) had one core offering. We helped you get your on site technical shit straight, and helped with building branding and links with the end goal being to get you more exposure in the search engines.

Nowadays, good SEO companies are still offering that, but there’s now a demand (and thus, services) to help Penguinized sites (both deserved and underserved) recover and Pandaized sites (both deserved and undeserved) recover. Because this shit is way too complicated at this point for anyone who doesn’t live and breathe SEO to navigate – especially where false positives are concerned.

Now add in the need to understand on site factors, indexing issues, Schema markup, understanding backlink profiles, how to get keyword data when Google’s holding it hostage (except in regards to paid advertisers), the infusion of Google places, personalization, information architecture, Hummingbird and even the potential social impacts on SEO… and, well… it’s a lot to be “in the know” on.


A lot of people who think “SEO is dead” in my opinion, do so because they were “one trick ponies” so to speak. How you “did” SEO or maybe more accurately, what you perceived SEO to be, is partially dependent upon when you entered the industry, IMHO.

One Trick Pony

Before you get your panties in a wad, I’m not saying there are no good SEOs that entered the industry in its later years (or that more aren’t on their way). I’m simply saying that many people who entered the industry after 2006 had one ranking tactic in their arsenal that they confused with a strategy (and in fairness, for a long time, it could compensate failure to know or implement the multitude of other tactics) – build keyword based links.

And now that building keyword based links has been relegated back to being a tactic and not a strategy, a lot of link builders marketers are standing around with their dick in their hands proclaiming that SEO is dead because they only perceived SEO to be a tactic versus an all encompassing traffic growth and conversion strategy.


If I were to list what I wanted you to take away from this post, it would be this:

  1. Google’s primary concern is not “the web” or “you” – it’s Google
  2. Penguin is not always fair – Google knows it but… see #1
  3. Panda is not always fair – Google knows it but… see #1
  4. Google talks the talk, but does not walk the walk and there’s nothing we can do about it
  5. “Creating good content” guarantees you JACK SHIT when it comes to ranking
  6. SEO is as alive now as it was a decade ago
  7. SEO has evolved to become the result of an actual marketing strategy versus marketing tactics
  8. Your pony is dead

So what now? It’s time for marketers to wake up.

Say content marketing one more time

From here on out, you need to stop with the tactics. You can’t replace “link building” with “content marketing” and call it a damn day.

From here on out, a marketing plan that consists of (and even more importantly, relies on) “rank well in Google” is a bullshit plan. Because Google doesn’t care about you, or your website or your business. They care about theirs.

From here on out, you work on generating traffic. From here on out, you work on generating branding. From here on out, you work on obtaining customers. From here on out, you work on making your product or service or “value provide” (for bloggers) fucking epic. Not just epic – FUCKING EPIC.

I’m not saying the new SEO is not to do SEO. I’m saying that you need to do things in the most search optimized way as possible, but never losing site of the fact that what you’re supposed to be doing is building a business and not merely building search engine rankings.

By doing so, you’re doing the most defensible thing you can for your business. And, you’ll end up doing the very thing that Google is looking to reward in their algorithm. Google doesn’t want to make websites popular, they want to rank popular websites. If you don’t understand the difference, you’re in for one hell of an uphill climb.

And if Google still screws you at the end of the day – despite you trying your best to “do things right” – doing so is your only chance to survive – and thrive.

This article was originally published at sugarrae.com. The article and its images are provided by and include the opinions of the author. As such, the article does not necessarily reflect the views of WebProNews.

  • http://www.promodrone.com/ Lee Davis

    1st off – let's cut the crap; Matt Cutts IS – NOT – MY – BOSS. I'm not "owned" by Google, and there are a few thousand other search engines to utilize. When I do anything that I do online, it's not with any of these inauthentic voices in my ears (that's for sure). REGARDLESS of the hot air blowin' outta his mouth, I'm not changing an iota of how I do things. If I make links, it's because there is relevancy either to myself or my users of my domain VRE. Because my life is primarily in both Social and Content, I shouldn't have any problems. All this is going to do is trigger a backlash that sees Google scrambling for market share. Keep this idiocy up for too long and it'll DEFINITELY create hostility. Oh, I get supplementled for something that fits the approach of my domain. Not to worry. 1st, I delete all resources connected, 2nd, I set up a platform using the other few thousand influential search engines, 3rd, I delete all my contributed content, then 4th, go on a merciless grass-roots social mission. Keep this idiocy up and see where it heads. How they gonna make money if no one is using them?

    • wertwert

      90% of my organic search sales come from google. 8% come from Bing/Yahoo combined. The thousands of other search engines you speak of are actually dozens. In the 90's it might have been close to a thousand, but most have shut down. Of the other search engines they are mostly meta search and ISP subscriber search, both of which tend to use syndicated search results… and most of those are syndicated Google search results… So at the end of the day, when it comes to organic search revenue you can either play ball with matt or give up 92% of your organic revenue.

      I set Bing as my default search. Not because I like Microsoft better but because Google needs a competitor to behave better. Until more people hop on board with the idea of giving their searches to someone other than Google you are organically owned.

      It's a monopoly. Do you know why google gets away with such crappy customer service? Where else are you going to go? If your livelihood is their search results then you are at their mercy.

      I wish I could follow a plan like yours, but at this time it just isn't realistic.

      • http://niallflynn.com Niall Flynn

        Look at Russia and China, no Google there monopolies fall and they start with the community telling ppl. Look at DuckDuckGo you are right Bing is not better but SEs are not supposed to be ad platforms, AltaVista died so will Google, search is not social, I don't care what ppl on G= search for, I don't care if business pay to be #1.

        • http://www.seventhman.com/ Shaleen Shah

          I wonder just how many of the world's population use Google for search though; just that now, we're all being pushed to get on G+ with their YouTube integration and authorship stuff – makes you wonder what the future will bring.

    • Rod

      Hey Rae, this was an awesome piece. You spoke from our hearts, you are RIGHT ON!

      You are absolutely CORRECT! Google's main goal is to increase google's revenues PERIOD. They even started charging for products ads (used to be a free service). They made managing google ads very complex task that average business owner will not know what the hell they are doing. Poor people Pay for ads and hope for the best. Google intentionally dropped the little guys out of the top ranking to force them spend on ads. The top search results are full of large branded businesses, very rarely you will find unique specialty business to what you are searching.

      Bottom line we need to teach google a lesson. I am not wishing them to go out of business, like they intentionally did to thousands of honest hard working people. We are the people who made them big and we should show them how much we mean business.

      I am proposing boycotting google ads search, for only few hours. If this can be well organized, where millions of people will not click on google ads for only couple of hours on a set date. This will send google a powerful message. Obviously, this will not put them out of business, but will prove to google who has the power.

      Again, Rae, thank you for this great information, hopping that more people will pay attention and a major shift will take place. Just like years ago when Yahoo was the master in search now they are not even in the search business anymore. Google is NEXT!

  • http://www.7media.de HG Weber

    It's very well written and sums up a lot of my feeling towards Google's moves over the last year. That's an advice I'll communicate to my customers: "Google doesn’t want to make websites popular, they want to rank popular websites."

  • http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk Alex Morris

    Some interesting points raised. If some companies hadn't adapted their SEO campaign at least a year ago you do have to worry for them. As for guest posting – as always it has to be great quality on good sites. No spun articles using content creators, and nothing keyword heavy. Pretty straight forward, it's just such a shame so many have obviously been spamming the hell out of the internet with dodgy posts. It's severely limited my reach, and I'm someone who writes articles and puts everything into it, but these days I usually get ignored.

    Ho hum, I do hope things can pick up a bit. I have no issues with Google and their efforts to clean the internet up, and I love Google+, so I hope I can contribute my articles to a wider range of sites again sometime soon.

    • http://niallflynn.com Niall Flynn

      "If some companies hadn't adapted their SEO campaign at least a year ago you do have to worry for them."

      That's just not true, Google are trying to remove SEO and force AdWords on all, they are making a hazy industry (SEO) completely undefined.

      • http://k2media.co.uk Joe

        I agree totally with you Niall. This has been coming for sometime and those focusing solely on traffic from Google are on a slippery slope.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    "In Panda, Google is like a teacher giving you a failing grade because someone else copied off your test – whether or not you knew they were copying from you or that you indeed were the one copied from is irrelevant. "

    I think that's a great point. I have had more than one junky website steal my content and because it happened to have a link back to my site in it I worry Google is thinking I am copy-pasting my own content around the web. I've also seen the same thing happen on sites I guest write for. I didn't ask for those links, want those links, and I keep trying to stop those links from happening.

  • http://niallflynn.com Niall Flynn

    I wish I could shake your hand, then buy you multiple beers, I thought I was the only person who felt this way.

    We need a new Yandex style algo for search, Google's relevancy is gone and there changes are just asinine.

  • Hank

    Penguin is terrible, i had a customer suffering from a google penalty, and google gave us examples of links to be removed, but these links were LEGITIMATE. The thing is that google just want to sell more ads, they don't care about smaller businesses, seen from an overseas perspective, it's all about penalties and trauma, it's typical of the "old white man" americans mentality of "we need an ennemy, let's declare war to someone", in this case spammers. but not everyone is a spammer, it's only a minority !
    Matt cutts is just a slave responding to corporate demand ( his boss asking him to increase ad sales ), he is responsible directly for the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs all around the world.
    For my part i am building an ecommerce and i am targetting yahoo and bing as my sources of trafic. I am even thinking of blocking the google bot from my site, as a matter of protest.

    • http://niallflynn.com Niall Flynn

      You are right all I see here is a move towards AdWords, clients just get tired trying to understand and opt for an old ad sales model, plus here in Ireland Google are so loved and trusted due to the HQ no one says oh they are a big faceless ad company only interested in profits.

  • glover

    google is useless, it removing even real companies from their index. I thinks days of google as search engine is going to end.

    • http://seolincoln.co.uk Joe

      Sorry can't agree with that, however you must ask the question, why would anyone consider trying make a living from SEO, unless you can acknowledge that what is relevant to Google today will be penalised tomorrow.

  • John

    Cheat because following the rules is no longer possible . . . Follow Google guidelines and they change the rules. Hope Matt ends up homeless

    • http://www.planetgolfuk.co.uk Johnny

      My web site has been hit by Google no manual penalty just algo.I have lost everything,all my money business and my house goes next month. So thanks Google.

  • http://www.newyorkshoppingstore.com Haresh Makwana

    Yes Rae Hoffman, you are 100% right google doesn’t want to make websites popular, they want to rank popular websites..

  • http://www.interpreteremployment.com Paul Harvie

    Hahahaha!! This article was epic.. No not epic, FUCKING EPIC!!! This was perfectly portrayed and was an absolute pleasure to read, that being said, I have been fighting with Google forever, and the fact of the matter it’s like David VS Goliath, only Goliath Brough an army of robots, and guns. The reality that Google is only about Google is absolutely true, and small blog owners (like myself) are in an uphill battle no matter how much we know. To you and to all other bloggers in the world today I wish us all good luck!

  • http://docsheldon.com Doc Sheldon

    Wow, Rae… this article is nearly as good as the one you had on your own blog the other day! LOL

  • http://www.mindconnection.com Mark

    Excellent points made in a clear (and sometimes colorful) manner. I will add that Penguin relies on grossly outdated data; our Webmaster Tools profile shows hundreds of links that have been dead since 2012. And I think we've reported all of them at least 199 times.

    China doesn't want Google, and neither does Russia. It's not for the reason another commentator said. It's because Google sucks as a search engine. Those two countries didn't go through a Google honeymoon, making "google it" a common saying. We did, and it's time to vomit out that Kool-Aid.

    Many other search engines do a far better job than Google. We need to educate others on this fact, and get "google it" out of the popular lexicon. Google destroyed thousands of good businesses with its own poor practices. This will only continue, unless we give Google a taste (actually, an overdose) of its own medicine. Don't spend ad dollars with this Do More Evil company (or if you're desperate, cut the budget to the bone), and make sure you always recommend a competitor. Eventually, we can stop the dirty dealing by doing to Google what it has done to so many businesses.

    • glover

      Totally agree with you. Google killing the web, it killing the freedom in the internet, make peoples lost huge money for excellent content without any results (they just cheating us).
      I think google search engine need to be separated from adwords, and google must provide evidence what everybody in same conditions (not like now – google & amazon & wikipedia & internet coalition sites N1 everywhere). And they need to stop practice to "penalize", "deindex", "pandalize", "penguinize" websites.

  • Dave Fogel

    Google is out of control. Bottom line is they are trying to drive as much money into PPC as possible and handing out 60,000 penalties a month is certainly going to help them keep that stock price going up and up.

  • Cindy Springer

    This seemingly arbitrary action by Google has done our family business much damage. We have completed the disavow three times now and still are at a loss. What was once a thriving small business is now limping along because of Google. It's not fair to penalize us, an honest, hard-working family, and not assist us in figuring it out. The livelihoods of untold Americans are now slipping down the drain and Google is to blame.

    • Stephen

      Spot on, but it's not just American livelihoods at risk. We are a UK company with over 1000 professionally written articles on our ecommerce site.

      Like you we are a small family business.

      Up until Christmas we had 5 full time staff and 3 part time writers. Now there are just the two of us.

      So we have great content (even professional journalists have said how good the content is), which apparently is what google want (can never give them a capital G). However our content just does not cut it. Instead we lose 80% of our traffic at the whim of a false God – because that is what google think they are – God.

      I am currently looking at blackhat tactics for some <b>new</b> sites as if I can't make a living on the light side then dark side here I come.

      • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

        Hi Stephen,

        You aren't alone. 100% of all the small businesses I used to manage AdWords campaigns for or have worked with since that time have lost 56-70% of their incomes thanks to Google. These are real businesses built over a decade mercilessly gutted by Google.

        After doing AdWords for 5.5 years I quit because I could not protect these small businesses from Google taking money for junk traffic. Since that time I have been spending all my time figuring out how small businesses can survive without Google and finally believe I have that sorted out.

        Nothing converts immediately like search, so you must capture visitors from every source you can and get them on a mailing list. But you can't send them just anything – you MUST figure out what they really want and give it to them. In doing that, you will be top-of-mind when they're ready to buy.

    • Steve

      Our family run business has been destroyed by Googles animal updates. We too have disavowed twice all of the bad links and removed as many others as possible and still no recovery. Now on the first page of Google for all of our keywords sits Target, Walmart, Home Depot etc. Small businesses like mine with better selection, price, customer service etc. have been pushed back to page 2 or 3 and forced to spend more on adwords to try to hang on. We desperately trying to stay in business now with our organic traffic down 80%. Some thing needs to change and I hope soon. Great article Sugarrae I loved it!

  • http://www.memphiswebprogramming.com Jim Atkins

    Good read and dead on.

  • http://www.MagnaSites.com Pat Marcello

    OMG, Rae, I love you! Seriously, this is stuff I've been writing about and saying for a long time now. It's always the scare and deflect tactic, innit? Yeah, I'm one of the people hit by the shitty sites being linked to mine, and that's when I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid. (Well tasting it, anyway. I've never totally trusted what they say.) What Google says and what it does are often 2 very different things.

    I started writing about Google oppression long before that and well… I often wonder if they don't nuke us for straying from the fold.

    I'm also pissed at their holding our Analytics keywords hostage if we don't spend money on AdWords and lay prostrate while saying ten Hail Googles, just to get ads running. There are other places to advertise with better results. ('Course we do have to remember that Analytics is free, but there are other methods for tracking, too.)

    But suggesting that Google Plus is tied to search to get people singing up? I mean, really? Come on. This is total garbo.

    Still, I agree with some of the folks above. They truly need a strong competitor, and it's up to us to give them one. DuckDuckGo is nice. :)

  • Fud You

    FUD U

  • http://www.localtextmarketers.com Paul

    Brilliant article. Sums up all the frustration I have been feeling over the last 3-4 years rather nicely.

  • Michael

    I appreciate your article and the time you took to articulate your thoughts. When did Google say that if you wrote good content, they would make you popular? They didn't. They said that good content usually starts the ball rolling, which means you need to do marketing so you're discovered. The goal of all search engines has been about giving people what they want.

    So… what are you proposing that would be better for Google to do? It's easy for everyone to be a critic.

  • Andre

    Great article and I applaud the bravery of pointing out the inconsistencies. I am calling it "Google's Kangaroo Court"

  • Joe

    Google is so full of crap. Do a Bing search for vrng, they hold a patent that Google has violated for years. The court has ruled Google violated it, but they kept doing so. They ordered royalty payments, then increased the royalty payments for willful infringement. Google is fighting tooth and nail, even though they are in the wrong here, even after the court has told them they are in the wrong. Do no evil? This is just one example of many and one of many reasons I've set all of my default search engines to Bing. Everyone else should do the same.

  • Matt

    I think google are mean spirited, punitive and at times sadistic. So much for goodwill and trust. I hope Apple create a search engine that really competes and perhaps therefore inspires google to treat the honest small business webmasters out there, like human beings.

    • Kevin Morley

      Anything BUT an Apple search engine, they would soon be worse

  • Matt Cutts

    Hi, I'm Matt Cutts and I'm a self-important loser.

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    BRILLIANT! Thank you so much for writing this "epic" – yes I agree with Paul Harvie – EPIC – post. Google is a monopoly who years ago stated they were going to "clean up" the Internet "cesspool" by "favoring big brands". Aaron Wall published that quote on SEOBook and I've been promoting that page ever since.

    When Google says "big brands" that means their big brand multi-national corporation buddies – NOT you or any small business thinking you can join their brand club.

    As George Carlin says in his classic stand-up routine The American Dream (available on YouTube): "It's a big club and YOU are NOT in it!".

    The rules they try to condemn us with do not apply to them – not in law; not in life; not in the media; and not on Google. "Do as they say and NOT as they do."

    I love that Sugar Rae pointed out the obvious propaganda: make an example out of someone and spread the FUD to scare the naive into compliance. Reminds me of what I often share privately re: the next big social network:

    They launch companies with the perfect carefully crafted profile (in the voice of a game-show host): company A was launched by "two guys in their: a) dorm room or b) garage. Then huge company B offers Zillions of dollars – which they turn down. Later they pump and dump to an IPO guaranteed to empty the pockets of the gamblers who fall for the "next big – can't miss – "opportunity of a lifetime".

    I am pushing the same conclusion Sugar Rae is: you can't count on the easy money instant conversions from search traffic because Google is hiding your products for the money phrases in their product search, picking your pockets with distribution fraud in AdWords, and taking your traffic with various MayDays (30%), Pandas (50%) and Penguins (up to 70-100%) just because they can.

    So learn to actually DO marketing: capture visitors, figure out what you can send them that they will actually open, and learn to create multi-step marketing funnels to build relationships that will generate sales for you eventually (not instantly). Sorry – but NOTHING converts like search.

    • guy

      agree. Just want to add what even google adsense program now pay just small pennies for clicks with cost 30-50$ (according to their keyword tools). In reality (based on statistic for last year 2013) they pay less than one dollar for such traffic!!! Just it specific niche and hard to find advertiser directly.
      So google even cheating us on hard earned money, even not from google search traffic.

  • http://www.jezebeldesign.co.uk Andy

    I think the Google algorithms make some sense for indexing knowledge-base sites and articles, but not for retail and services business' websites. These sites use SEO and because they are commercial organisations Google thinks they a) have money to spend/burn and b) that money should be spent with them.

    Personally as a new start-up I have little or no marketing money so I have to try and get my site noticed by posting well thought out replies to posts in forums/blogs that cross over with my niche.

    If that is no longer an option I will concentrate on other engines and social media, leaving Google to choke itself.

  • OldFatPanda

    There's no better proof than the fact I'm more satisfied with the results I get when I use Yahoo or Bing than when I use Google. It AMAZES me the CRAP that will show up in the top results in Google sometimes. It's rare I see an authority dot com in the top three spots, it's usually an article from some cheesy gossip blog. I'm getting to the point where I automatically skip the first few results.

  • http://ri-website-designers.com Mike A.

    Wow,you write with a stiletto. Gives a great voice to all of us under the Google thumg.

  • http://www.cruelheartbreakerscinema.com Sublithium

    I love how Google uses there own asinine system and their own flaws to validate there own discriminatory practices. Don't like sites with "Spammy" links and backlinks, google? Well maybe you shouldn't set up a system that favors sites like a popularity contest based on links. Maybe if you want to start phasing out guest posting as a means of climbing the rankings you shouldn't have invented a system which improves rankings for sites with guest posting. Finally Google, just be honest and go to a system where every single sight that is on google has to pay google to even be listed. And if your site generates revenue then a percentage of said revenue has to go straight to google. Drop below a certain dollar level and be dropped off google completely. That is what it's about. That's google's right as a private company and I have no problem with that, BUT just be honest.

  • Danny

    Great Article
    Did a little exercise this morning by taking a subject I know little about and putting in a google search. I then looked at each site as it ranked from 1 to 10 and found that I would have ranked them completely differently… Maybe it's just me, but after reading this post and many of the comments, I don't think so…
    Google is BIG, very BIG, but if enough people start looking elsewhere for their search results, it won't stay big, because 'Relevant Search Results' is what they promise – now they are not delivering anymore…

  • Stephen

    Everyone is saying that you should use bing etc. However what you all forget is that you are preaching to the converted. As seo’s we all know how full of sh#t googl is so we don’t use it. But the general public don’t. They get it rammed down their throats about how ‘good’ g is. Its on their phones as standard, at school they have to use it (my daughter got told off for suggesting they use Bing at school), g are in the news all the time and even in soap operas the characters refer to it. Sorry but I believe the death of g has no chance of happening for quite some time.

  • http://seobandwagon.com Kyle Alm

    I think the problem with Google being transparent is that it makes their algorithm even more ripe for abuse.

    Of course the problem is spam. It always has been. Spam needs to stop and the amount of content being generated simply to create an indexable link.

    It does seem more and more that Google want to anoint sites, or at least links. Widget links were a bigger surprise to me, it's a link on an actual product you built to share, why should your link back be nofollowed? Because you want the credit and that gets interpreted as advertising by Google?

    That is way too far for me. They need to just count the links that they "like" and stop pretending like they want to handle it algorithmically.

    • guy

      i think web spam it just a google fairy tales. In reality they not need to get rid of spam. If no spam in search engine – they will unable to penalize good sites (just to make more money) explaining us about their crusade for spammers. So it all just lie and cheat. If google really want to get rid of spam, they can do it long time ago. But it all about money, not about spam.

      • guy

        Also –
        Do you think wikipedia ranking now as N1 everywhere because it high quality??? No, it just because of wikipedia unnatural backlinks & doorway pages (huge amount of pages on every possibly keyword with one sentence of text and lot of internal links).

        What about wikipedia backlinks – everybody link to site in top10 to not get of penalty. Is this link natural? No!

        Is amazon ranking because of natural links? Not!
        They pay webmasters for that links via affiliate program.

        They even have 50 footer links at homepage with keyword in anchor to their own sites. Spam?

        Is youtube ranking because of natural links? Not!
        Just check a youtube profile, you will find what it has most crappy linkprofile in the world. It rank because of white list & google property, otherwise google pets eat it long time ago.

        So, Mr. Matt Cutts – tell us most popular websites on google, displayed almost everywhere, have lot of unnatural backlinks and not follow your rules!?
        Why wikipedia and youtube shown for lot of adult keywords? Do you know what surfers want when they searching for adult keyword? Do you think they want to read what is sex on wikipedia? Or watch non-adult video on youtube?

        Clear examples of google cheating to get more traffic on their resources.

  • Chris

    Google sucks harder every month. Profit is King, F**k business, F**k the people.

    When is the general public going to realize that google is a shitty search engine, stuffed only with paid ads and irrelevant search results?

  • Debbie

    I am beginning a new crusade. Whenever someone asks how they can find out about a topic, I will be saying "BING it!" (instead of Google it) Maybe if I say this to enough people, people will actually start using another search engine other than Google! Everyone Join me in my crusade!

  • http://outsource.techndu.com Bob Massa

    I hate to say I told ya so, so I'll just say I TRIED to tell ya so back in 2003.

    Sugarrae is absolutely right. If you can ever convince yourself that you don't NEED google, you'll find there are a LOT of places to get traffic from that google does not control. The thing is you can't continue to take the approach it's about beating google. you have to accept it's about engaging people. For almost 20 years SEO has seemed to be satisfied with a 2-4% conversion rate because we could get 10's of thousands of "hits" by being in the top of google/alta vista/ infoseek/excite/etc. Now we can get 1000's of hits from sources other than google but we need to up that conversion rate to 15-25% and believe it or not, once you stop focusing on being #1 in google and stop playing by their self serving guidelines,drastically higher conversion are not only possible, but in fact are much easier to succeed with than trying to walk that thin constantly moving, line google tries to make us all believe is out only option.

    And guess what? want to become a brand and get away with anything like Rap Genius? The secret is to sell crap! You don't that and you'll find your sites hitting first page again and again. Once your popular, google wants to rank you.

    I lost that lawsuit and was pretty much a laughing stock. I don't know of anyone that has been hit harder than I was by Google but I'm still here, Im still ranking sites for clients. The secret is marketing strategy and execution.

    Great post Ms Hoffman

    Bob Massa
    Former CEO

  • http://www.seoservices.com.sg/ SEO Singapore

    Basically Matt was addressing to those people who are utilizing this technique just for their gain and increase the number of back-links, I really feel happy for this because many people just started to send bulk emails to bloggers for guest posting requests. In the last yes off-course Google is not a non-profit organization to let people take benefit by their gold mine 😀

    any comment will be appreciated :)

    • guy

      may be you need to read this article before posting the "answer".

  • abomb

    Standing ovation to the author. I couldn't have said it better myself. You hit the nail right on the head.

    Unfortunately, we all know the game, but there is very little hope of that changing until the government wakes up and breaks these guys up or considers serious regulation.

  • john

    Look for scrapes and some huge scrapers repeatedly appear with adsense pages.

    It feels as if google sponsor reward induce and promote scrapers then penalize the original for duplicate content and being less unique.

  • http://gastricballoonpill.co.uk Geoff Gastric Band

    What a great post !! I have been saying the same thing in forums and blog comments for a long time and no one seemed to get what I was saying but your article says it all ever so clearly…..

    Yesterday Google posted the highest annual increase in Profits from advertisers in its History so that also confirms that the whole "Matt Cuts" exercise has always been to increase "google adsense" revenues all along.

    I could Say "I told your so" !!!

  • John

    I don't care what they say, you can follow the leader if you want to, but I don't give into that. Many webmasters are getting tired of this stupid game and soon Bing will take the lead because of it.

  • http://sugarrae.com Rae Hoffman

    Thanks for all the comments re the post. :) I didn't have time to respond to them all, but I just wanted to note that I read them all and appreciate all the input. :)

  • Justin


    Awesome article. I've been in this game since 2002 and I have never heard someone put the "big picture" into such a clear, concise package. You couldn't be more right about everything you said. I have a $120K/mo ecommerce business and every dime I make on it is with a manual penalty in effect. That is beyond any shadow of a doubt proof that it can be done without making it your primary goal to rank in Google.

  • http://www.2bubbleblog.com 2BubbleBlog

    This article was hell long to read but worth it. I agree 110% with what you said about Google. They are toying with us, making them feel like if they were gods; do this, no finally do that, let me think, no this way is better…
    In a perfect world you would only work for your site, not caring about the links coming to yours or content to create and post on other sites to have links pointing to yours… Yeah, hang on, I lived that, but it was before Google in fact…

  • http://basiccarpentry.org Robert Fahey

    Okay that was one very long read, it took two coffees to get through it but worth it.

    Just as Justin says above it is possible to earn a nice living without ranking in Google which is very nice to hear and see it being done.

    All these Google moves to limit us in how we the people run our business, websites etc is just as a government that is a dictatorship does. What surprises me is that so many people from free countries are being dictated to and do nothing. The people still have the power and we can either choose to use this power or just bend over.

    THink about it, if no one who has websites or at least the majority just went about our ways, built links and never implemented this damn nofollow tag, and ignored their other rules what would Google do then?

    Of course they would have to capitulate and figure out how to solve all these problems on their own without using the people.

    It is not so much Google being the problem is the website owners who bend to them who are. Until the masses stand up and do something just like people in a Country have to do to get their rights back so do website owners.

    This may be an idealistic viewpoint but it is my view! We have a choice to listen to their propaganda or not. I choose to not! :)


  • http://www.rankya.com rankyacom

    Great read no doubt, clear in your face kind of insights (all true) and the biggest room in the room isn't Bing at all (not with that stupid algorithms that they are running (it seems like the algorithm of Bing is a student project and with result set as Bing? No thanks)) the biggest elephant in the room who can give Google run for its money is Facebook not Bing or anyone else, because these giants are after one thing for their business model (internet surfers time)

    I love the pictures even more, where to from here, back to producing content (SEO optimized that is);

  • manish


    its very nice post related to SEO Concern, but my question is how we do make strategy for seo and how we calculate google hummingbird?

    thank you

  • Fraser

    Great post, at the end I just could not help but check if the keyword rich anchor was nofollow or not. Oh Google what have you done?

  • http://www.macgizmoguy.com macgizmoguy

    I do believe Rae has already written The Definitive Epic SEO Post Of 2014 — and the year's barely started. That beautiful innovation – the HyperLink – has become a poison dart of Google's, turning the glorious free democracy of internet publishing into a toxic, dying cesspool. Only the whitelisted Oligarchy will survive – as intended.

  • http://course.clickminded.com/ Jennifer

    I’m sort of in the middle in my opinion of approving of Google’s spam-fighting tactics. I think it’s necessary, but can be highly inaccurate for a diverse spectrum of websites. Has it gone too far? Perhaps. It is hypocritical? Perhaps. I’m new to the industry (recently completed an seo training), so it will take a great deal more experience for me to answer intelligently. I believe the best way for us to deal with this is to approach it with the creativity used with other changes we’ve had to deal with.