Matt Cutts: Here’s How To Expose Your Competitors’ Black Hat SEO Practices

    May 27, 2012
    Chris Crum

Google’s Matt Cutts put out a Webmaster Help video discussing how to alert Google when your competitors are engaging in webspam and black hat SEO techniques. The video was in response to the following user-submitted question:

White hat search marketers read and follow Google Guidelines. What should they tell clients whose competitors use black hat techniques (such as using doorway pages) and whom continue to rank as a result of those techniques?

Do you you think Google does a good job catching webspam? Let us know in the comments.

“So first and foremost, I would say do a spam report, because if you’re violating Google’s guidelines in terms of cloaking or sneaky JavaScript redirects, buying links, doorway pages, keyword stuffing, all those kinds of things, we do want to know about it,” he says. “So you can do a spam report. That’s private. You can also stop by Google’s Webmaster forum, and that’s more public, but you can do a spam report there. You can sort of say, hey, I saw this content. It seems like it’s ranking higher than it should be ranking. Here’s a real business, and it’s being outranked by this spammer…those kinds of things.”

He notes that are both Google employees and “super users” who keep an eye on the forum, and can alert Google about issues.

“The other thing that I would say is if you look at the history of which businesses have done well over time, you’ll find the sorts of sites and the sorts of businesses that are built to stand the test of time,” says Cutts. “If someone is using a technique that is a gimmick or something that’s like the SEO fad of the day, that’s a little less likely to really work well a few years from now. So a lot of the times, you’ll see people just chasing after, ‘OK, I’m going to use guest books’, or iI’m going to use link wheels’ or whatever. And then they find, ‘Oh, that stopped working as well.’ And sometimes it’s because of broad algorithmic changes like Panda. Sometimes it’s because of specific web spam targeted algorithms.”

I’m sure you’ve heard of Penguin.

He references the JC Penney and incidents, in which Google took manual action. For some reason, he didn’t bring up the Google Chrome incident.

This is actually a pretty timely video from Cutts, as another big paid linking controversy was uncovered by Josh Davis (which Cutts acknowledged on Twitter). Google ended up de-indexing the SEO firm involved in that.

“So my short answer is go ahead and do a spam report,” Cutts continues. “You can also report it in the forums. But it’s definitely the case that if you’re taking those higher risks, that can come back and bite you. And that can have a material impact.”

He’s not joking about that. Overstock blamed Google for “an ugly year” when its revenue plummeted. Even Google’s own Chrome penalty led to some questions about the browser’s market share.

Cutts notes that Google is also happy to get feedback at conferences, on Twitter, online, blogs, forums, “if you’re seeing sites that are prospering and are using black hat techniques.”

“Now, it’s possible that they have some low-quality links, and there are some links that people aren’t aware of that we see that are actually high quality,” Cutts notes. “But we’re happy to get spam reports. We’re happy to dig into them. And then we’ll try to find either new algorithms to try to rank the things more appropriately in the future. Or we’re certainly willing to take manual action on spam if it’s egregious or if it violates our guidelines. We have a manual web spam team that is willing to respond to those spam reports.”

According to Cutts, you can even submit spam reports using Google Docs. Here’s a conversation he had on Twitter recently:

@mattcutts Can we send a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet when reporting spam? #penguin 1 day ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

After Google launched the Penguin update, Cutts tweeted the following about post-Penguin spam reports:

To report post-Penguin spam, fill out and add “penguin” in the details. We’re reading feedback. 5 days ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

Shortly thereafter, he tweeted:

@Penguin_Spam yup yup, we’ve read/processed almost all of them. A few recent ones left. 10 minutes ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

I’m sure plenty more reports have rolled into Google since then, but it does seem like they process them fairly quickly.

Do you think Google has done a good job at cleaning up webspam? Share your thoughts.