Google has put out a new "Webmaster Help video" with the title "Can sites do well without using spammy techniques?"
That's a bit rephrased from the actual question that prompted the response:
Matt, Does (sic) the good guys still stand a chance? We're a small company that hired an SEO firm that we thought was legit, but destroyed our rankings w/ spam backlinks. We've tried everything but nothing helps. What can a company with good intentions do?
Cutts begins, "We were trying to decide how sassy to be when answering this question, because essentially you're saying, 'Do the good guys stand a chance? We spammed, and we got caught, and so we're not ranking,' and if you take a step back - if you were to look at that from someone else's perspective, you might consider yourself a good guy, but you spammed, so the other people might consider you a bad guy, and so the fact that you got caught meant, hey, other good guys who didn't spam can rank higher. So from their perspective things would be going well. So you're kind of tying those two together (Do the good guys stand a chance? and We spammed.)"
Well, technically Matt's right. They spammed, but it sounds like this person got screwed over by who they hired and paid the price for it. That might be their own fault (if that's even really what happened), but that does make the story a little more complex than if they did their own spamming and acted like they were still "the good guys". After all, this has even happened to Google before.
Cutts continues, "So I think the good guys do stand a chance, and we try hard to make sure that the good guys stand a chance giving them good information, trying to make sure that they can get good information in Webmaster Tools, resources, all sorts of free information and things they can do, and lots of advice. But the good guys stand a chance if they don't spam, right (laughs)? My advice is you might have to go through a difficult process or reconsideration requests and disavowing links, and whatever it is you need to do (getting links off the web) to clean things up."
"I absolutely believe good guys can stand a chance, and small sites and small businesses can stand a chance," he says. "But I think (this is May 2013) that by the time you get to the end of the summer, I think more and more people will be saying, 'Okay you stand a chance, but don't start out going to the black hat forums, trying to spam, trying to do high jinks and tricks because that sort of technique is going to be less likely to work going forward."
He notes that it can be harder and take longer to get good links, but that those links will likely stand the test of time.
"Good luck," he tells the person who submitted the question. "I hope you are able to get out of your existing predicament, and in the future please tell people before you sign up with an SEO, ask for references, do some research, ask them to explain exactly what they're going to do. If they tell you they know me, and they have a secret in with the webspam team, you should scream and run away immediately."
I wonder how often that works.
"If they will tell you what they're doing in clear terms, and it makes sense, and it doesn't make you feel a little uneasy then that's a much better sign," he says.
Image via YouTube