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You&A with Matt Cutts at SMX Advanced 2014 (& Where is the Penguin Update?)


  1. Ryan Biddulph says:

    Thanks for the updates! Always fun to see what MC’s up to, and the Pay Day loan developments are good news.

  2. I’m worried sick about the Penguin update. I disavowed but can’t remove any links. I was hit by a negative seo attack, there’s approximately 500-600 ridiculously spammy links I found. I disavowed all of them but nobody will get back to me in deleting them. As most of them are on unmanaged websites with guest commenting. If Google had any sense, it would be plain obvious I never built the links. I hope I will recover on the next update despite being unsuccessful in deleting these links.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Ashley – you can add notes in the disavow file to let them know that you tried to remove the links to no avail. We’re all waiting on Penguin – hopefully the update will hit soon.

    • rob woods says:

      Hi Ashley,

      Unfortunately Google has to built systems aimed at true spammers. If they knew you were legit and would never build those kinds of links “it would be plain obvious [you] never built the links” but they are likely the very kind of links that a spammer might try to build to see if they work. Google has to treat all sites the same so they don’t know why these links were built or by whom. It stinks but unfortunately legit sites have to go through all the painful steps that Google puts in place to stop spammers and black hats. Google could make it easier but in this case you mostly have to blame the black hatters who ruin things for the rest of us.

  3. rob woods says:

    Hi Rae,

    Thanks for posting this (I didn’t take enough notes during the session…)

    On, “Additionally, Matt was clear on stating all manual penalties show in GWT. I will however say that I don’t necessarily believe that is the case 100% of the time personally, but, according to Matt, that’s how manual penalties roll.” I agree with you that not all manual penalties show up. An obvious example is if WMT is implemented for a site after the penalty occurred or if a particular user was added to an account after the manual action was created. It’s always been an issue with me, getting WMT access after a message was originally sent, I never see the messages unless I get access to an account that existed from before the action. That’s only one example of messages not showing in WMT so I am sure there are others.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Yeah, I have two instances of sites that recovered 20 months to the day from their biggest hit (and Google claims they did nothing on that day in regards to updates to the algo regarding spam)… and neither of them ever received a notification of a manual (100% fact).

  4. Ed Yates says:

    I absorbed more in the last 15 mins of reading this (I’m a slow reader) than I have all month! Very nourishing info, the penalty timer makes sense. @Rob Woods, @Rae – Have you seen many GWMT manual action messages simply vanish without a trace for unknown reasons?

    Matt may be letting slip on some really interesting grey lines within this speech that need exploring, can’t wait to test out these theories further. Matts cat getting his tongue (statement?) re. mixmash referring signals from some of the other ‘largest social networking platforms in world’ is a booya for me

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Hey Ed – depends on what you mean by vanish – if you’re talking the unnatural link notices email, etc. I haven’t seen the email notifications from them vanish. If you’re talking a manual action being listed under the manual actions tab one day and gone the next – that I’ve seen. Sometimes after a successful reconsideration request, sometimes straight out of the blue on manuals that have been there a while – so I’ve always assumed that the penalty expired in those cases. :)

    • rob woods says:

      I have to agree with Rae. I have definitely seen messages just vanish. Rae called out Matt Cutts in a question about recent disappearances at SMX Advanced. I asked the same question but Rae got hers in first and Danny quite rightly chose her’s to ask Matt ;) We both recently noticed some messages disappearing at the same time even though Google claims nothing happened at that time. I had a client with a manual link penalty… the first reconsideration request was rejected so we did another clean up and when I went to do another request GWT rejected it saying there was no manual action on the site. Sure enough when I checked in the Manual Actions portion of the site, the message about the action was gone. So, yes, messages do disappear and I do believe that messages sometimes don’t show up in WMT, especially if they happened before the account was created or before the account you are using to look at WMT was added to the site’s profile after the message. Google isn’t saying, IMO because it would be embarrassing for them, but my suspicion is that there were a bunch of penalties that “should” have expired and did not and that Google recently caught this and expired them all at or near the same time. Matt was very clear in saying that all manual penalties eventually expire and that when that happened the message would disappear from the “Manual Penalty” portion of the site.

  5. Doc Sheldon says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share the You & A with us, Rae. You’re ‘preciated!
    I’m still undecided about the timers. To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to revoke a manual after a recon, but essentially leave the penalty in force for some period of time.
    Not that Google would necessarily refrain fro doing something that doesn’t make sense, of course. :P

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      No problem Doc – yeah, you’d think not, but I’ve seem them do more “WTF?” things than that. :)

  6. Do you think that as a whole google tends to favor mostly blogs based in the States and in the U.K to give them higher page rank?

  7. I would imagine Matt hates going to these events, really. Can you imagine being in his position having effectively cost so many people their businesses and livelihood? I mean sure he’s got a bit of a cult following and the people wanting to gain an insight no doubt outweighs the blackhats but still. It must be a little bit daunting for the poor guy!

  8. Kostas Chiotis says:

    Seems like Matt was his usual cagey self! Thanks for sharing your insights Rae – very informative.

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