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Here is what Matt Cutts posted today on his blog:
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Thanks for weighing in, everyone. I especially appreciate the well-thought-out comments. Lots of people say that they don’t mind snark, but a lot of commenters also urged me not to get into responding to negative allegations. I am going to discuss this claim (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/anti-google-claims-to-reply-or-not/#comment-116157), but I’m going to avoid going into specifics about what the sites were.

The short answer is that Aaron obtained and promoted a domain in ways that Google considers blackhat, then combined/intertwined that spammy domain with a more legitimate domain. When Google detected the stuff that we considered spam, we took action against both domains.

My takeaway advice for anyone in a similar situation is “Don’t mix your blackhat networks with your whitehat sites.” I’ll tell a couple anecdotes to illustrate that:

- At a search engine conference, I was once talking to a group of blackhat spammers. This was years and years ago. If the name “toolman” doesn’t ring a bell, this was before your time. I wanted to know how well Google was doing, so I asked the blackhats if they’d ever had domains get caught. “Are you kidding?” one SEO said. “You torched my entire spam network to the ground!” The fact is that if we find blackhat spam, such as off-topic porn for peoples’ names, Google (and probably any other search engine) will try to root that spam out and prevent it from ranking again.

- A few years ago, I discovered that a very well-known catalog retailer (I just got a catalog from them this week, in fact) was doing really spammy stuff on their own site. If the retailer was www.example.com, then the spam was on www2.example.com and it included a ton of doorway pages. Unbeknownst to the catalog retailer, the SEO in charge of www2.example.com had also inserted links back to the SEO and the SEO’s clients on the spammy doorway pages. So if the SEO was shadyseo.com, then www2.example.com was filled with spammy doorways and secret links to shadyseo.com and lots of Shady SEO’s other clients. Google removed example.com (even though it was a large company) because of the spammy doorway pages. Mixing the blackhat/spammy doorway pages on the whitehat content of example.com was a Bad Idea.

So Aaron combined some sites in a way that I wouldn’t recommend. At all. :) When I noticed Aaron complaining about the situation, I looked into it myself and concluded that Google had actually been pretty lenient from our perspective. But I can also see the situation more from Aaron’s eyes after talking with him last week. The resolution that I suggested (and that I’d suggest to anyone in a similar situation) was to disentangle the blackhat-ish site from the other site. I recommended that after severing the ties between the sites, then Aaron could do a reconsideration request on the more legitimate domain.

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Comments33 Comments  

Comments

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from igorthetroll 2497 Days ago #
Votes: -16

Harith, thank you for the delivery, but if Matt looking to give an olive branch to the community, why do you have to be his delivery boy? He should have thought about how a person like Aaorn would feel and not try to make the Dude look like the sacraficial lamb by a public lynching vote.Let Matt come to our battlefield and open up his Black Heart, not send a messanger boy.Maybe it is time to make the coffee?if indeed Aaoron was doing something against GQG, being that he is so prominent in the community, why Matt did not send a nice email to him, as a friend, and tell him, "Dude your stuff is no good!" Why the spectical?So Matt brought it out to the open he has to deal of the critisisam bestowed on him by the community, even by a nobody like me, who he threw out of his blog amd made a special follow up post on how to ban someone and nuke their comments with an SQL command!Do you think a forget, the public bashing he did to me?Look up the last words that I said to him before he nuked my comments!They are still there! He even quoted them to me!Hey I do not care if Aaron is blacker than coal SEO, he still has a heart of Gold, and Matt is Shit!Now deliver this message to him from Igor The Troll, "We will see who will laugh last!"Sory Danny!

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from igorthetroll 2497 Days ago #
Votes: -14

Maybe you guys who do not know who is aaron and what he has been doing in the community should read about him and see his humble beginings with Danny. and Matthttp://www.seobook.com/about.shtmlI just met the guy but I feel empathy for him.

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from sza 2497 Days ago #
Votes: 4

Aaron: "my link profile was at least 95% organic, clean, and hand built using editorial votes"Matt: "Aaron obtained and promoted a domain in ways that Google considers blackhat"Can really both be true?

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from shoemoney 2497 Days ago #
Votes: 4

*yawn*  Aaron just sold 100 more books today

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from Gamermk 2497 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Yup, Shoemoney, he definitely did. Considering the amount of attention Aaron has received this is probably the best example ever of utilizing getting penalized by Google for profit.

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from corey 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 0

i’d rather matt help aaron sell ebooks then do more cat posts. regardless of who he responds to, matt would still be providing information about the goo that i can use. now, what effect does matt calling aaron blackhat have on aaron’s sales? is that a stronger or weaker endorsement?

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from planetc1 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 0

For what it’s worth, I found it educational. Not all of us are experts and getting even a little information from someone like Matt helps.

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from igorthetroll 2496 Days ago #
Votes: -13

matt meeds to grow up, but he gets personal, lets his ego get in the way of his work.Do not know if it is him talking or he is getting instructions from the top.Once he toold me his father is watching him...I said Google Inc., and he said no!I do think Google Inc., has the cat in its hairs, with the firger on the triger...poor Mattt.Not an easy job to do, but how can he play both sides of the table? On one side he says he defence Webmasters and the other side he bashes Webmasters...Sounds like double personality disorder.../Well enough with Matt, who cares what he says, Google becoming obsolite anyway, but bashing Webmasters on his blog, is bad Karma...What goes around comes around Mattsy...

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from Halfdeck 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 5

"Can really both be true?"I’ve read many webmasters post on GGWH claiming they got penalized by Google while doing nothing wrong. The fact of the matter is, as long as you don’t mention your domain name, you can claim alot of things because your claims cannot be verified. That’s one of WMW’s weakenesses: since it prevents people from posting real URLs, you never can verify what people are claiming. If you spend enough time in GGWH, you’ll realize how much of what webmasters claim about their own sites are not only inaccurate but just patently false.Most webmasters get too close to their own work, and Aaron Wall, as this thread proves, isn’t an exception to the rule.It also should stand as a good reminder that no matter how authoritative an SEO may be, you should read whatever people write with a grain of salt.

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from IncrediBILL 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 3

So Aaron’s a Black Hat, who knew...

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from igorthetroll 2496 Days ago #
Votes: -9

Halfdeck Google nitty greedy, going after every little thing to take the ball of the main issue that Google is falling out of favor.Come on it is totally Anal...there is so much freaking Porn, Malware, Trojans redirects in Google that google is the junk yard of the Internet...And Matt Cutts instead figuring out how to fix it, which can be easily done with filters, picks on Aaron with a public lynching...to make an example of his friend for years...it is pathetic...Even China blocks all its Spam on the net, but in other parts of the world Google serves it to you with Adsense and tells you to eat the shot and be happy.I am trying to forget about Google, Google, Google and do more social networking where a user has some brain, not a click, click Zombe.

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from MattCutts 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 5

Halfdeck, I’d agree that’s one of the things that frustrates me about WMW. I understand why they don’t allow details to be posted (it’s a slippery slope that might not end well), but sometimes it helps to know the details.

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from AmitN 2496 Days ago #
Votes: -1

Never knew Aaron was a Black Hat ... anyways he is making sales.

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from markdigerati 2496 Days ago #
Votes: -1

Good post, Matt. Shame bout Aaron got more book sales from it lol.

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from iBrian 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Obviously I don’t know the specifics in this instance, but I’ve got to admit, in my dealings with Google I’ve found them to be very fair. Matt’s anti-spam team seem to have a policy of restraint that at times I find remarkably patient - but there does seem to be a certain line that if you cross, you get burned very quickly.Funny how even without doing much overtly, Google still encourages us from darker ways, and try to keep on a reasonably straight and narrow path.2c.

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from SlightlyShadySEO 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Their anti spam team is patient? Wow. I’m sorry, I never heard that one before...More generally, I just really enjoyed that Matt Cutts reccomended that people keep their blackhat and whitehat sites seperate. Really? I have permission now?

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from IncrediBILL 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Matt didn’t say you had permission to do black hat sites, he just said keep ’em separate from your white hat sites. That way you won’t have to run around the web kicking, screaming, flailing and going off on anti-google rants like Aaron off-the-Wall did when his sites got a smack down.Matt’s just making sense, without either condoning or condeming the practice, that you shouldn’t mix your prime real estate with any questionable activities so you don’t risk having all your eggs in one basket when Google doles out penalties.

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from SlightlyShadySEO 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 3

heh I know. I was just messing around. I try not to take any of the matt cutt’s stuff terribly seriously. I listen, but I don’t treat it like gospel.

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from Harith 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Just to clearify the issue of blackhat/whitehat sites, Matt posted the followings today:"I think it’s a Bad Idea to do blackhat stuff. I absolutely do *not* condone blackhat spam. But if you have white hat properties, it’s even less recommended to mix blackhat-ish stuff with whitehat-ish stuff."http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/anti-google-claims-to-reply-or-not/#comment-116736

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from iBrian 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 2

"Their anti spam team is patient? Wow. I’m sorry, I never heard that one before..."Sure - let me use a generic example everyone here will be familiar with - the recent PageRank update.Google have made it plain for a long time that they don’t like link selling, and they don’t like sites selling links.Yet when conducting a manual and algorithmic review of the situation of blogs selling links, they didn’t implement large scale penalties, such as site bans, homepage 0, or otherwise implement any traditional punitive measures that would kill the highlighted sites and their traffic.Instead: PageRank -1. Not exactly an all-guns blazing approach, and certainly a more patient and fair approach than they could have implemented.So far as I understand it, if you are trying to offer some form of useful user experience, then Google will try to encourage you to change your ways. But sacrifice any aims of useful user experience then expect to be lined up for the Google toastie maker.2c.

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from 5ubliminal 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 0

*** Edit. Firefox double! grrrr

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from 5ubliminal 2496 Days ago #
Votes: -3

1st of all: iBrain - u scare me! Get a spine and stand straight. Stop kissing Google’s feet. Matt’s not gonna rank you higher if you kiss ***!--I really love explanations about DJs mixing white hat and black hat and getting dalmatians out of it. But Matt can say anything. Who can verify? Maybe Aaron if he was told in person but the rest of us are just having an enjoyable chat here.Google can level any site and then say: I noticed your blackhat sites you were linking back and forth so ... DIE! But who can really be sure about this? I like to verify things. I don’t take the word of Google for granted.Many grayhat practices used to get links in today’s World Wild Web (where nobody links) can be labeled as black or white based on the feelings of someone at Google or the algo itself.---And I’d like to point out to Matt this : http://sphinn.com/story.php?id=14571 as I see he sometimes reads our whining. That is really blackhat based on my taste in fashion.

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from iBrian 2496 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Heh, now I do like the sound of KissAssRank. :)Seriously, though, I’ve been on the wrong end of Google a few times in the past - I think a lot of SEO’s do just as part of the early experimentation, dabbling with a few different strategies, just to test - and quite a few years ago it would be easy for Google to be accused of knee-jerk reactions when faced with situations they didn’t like (take SearchKing, for example). I think Google have come a long way since, and are much more aware of their impact on webmasters and small businesses, and more aware of the concerns of webmasters and small businesses.I still have some concerns about what Google do, and they may feel the same about me. But there are more open channels now, and Google seem much more inclined to listen and communicate.I mean, look at the focus on this discussion topic - Aaron Wall lost a site he regarded as not simply quality but also an investment, and after dialogue, Aaron has a good chance of seeing this back in Google’s search results.Would we have seen Google take the same stance 5 years ago? Would the other search engines take the same approach now?Google have long acted as a kind of shepherd for the internet. Some people may resent that. I’m a realist, and deal with it as I can. But I do appreciate that if Google can be perceived in a form of shepherd role, that it’s a shepherd who uses their staff with care and consideration, rather than wantonly.I figure that’s in everybody’s interests.2c.

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from SamIWas 2495 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Aaron should come out saying what "Google considers blackhat". He’s currently being labeled a blackhat, which although it might be right, might also be a case of Google going a little overboard. Regardless, I’m pretty sure Aaron must have had at least a vague idea what he was doing wrong as he never claimed to be 100% clean; just 95%. He must have known all along there was this stuff he had done/was doing that could be causing this. No one is that close to their sites that they don’t see that kind of stuff. It’d also be good if Matt could come out and say that you don’t have to be doing black hat stuff to end up where Aaron ended up. It took 6 months for us to get an answer from Google that one section of a million page site was tanking the rest of the site.... nice. And the only thing ’wrong’ with those pages were that they were making it as easy as possible for users to book something, rather than adding clutter from the rest of the site to them.

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from 5ubliminal 2495 Days ago #
Votes: 0

o_OUnless you have not noticed, Google is not a shepherd. Google has monopoly and is the online equivalent of God. Just that God does not make mistakes!Unfortunately I see so many obvious and so easy to eradicate dirty tricks used to rank that I’m not sure Google staff sees the same serps that us mortals do. Maybe they have the spam3 versions. When guestbook links (that change on a page every 10 seconds) still rank you and paid, offtopic, unmarked, stray links still work ... I have my doubts.It’s all about external links: topic, theme, count and how they blend in text. Using this factors to value them would eradicate 90% of spam.PS: I have no problem with Matt ... he’s doing his best ... it’s the Corporate mentality (willing to walk on innocent, dead webmaster bodies) that I hate.

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from Harith 2495 Days ago #
Votes: 1

SamIWas"Aaron should come out saying what "Google considers blackhat". He’s currently being labeled a blackhat, which although it might be right, might also be a case of Google going a little overboard."I’m very surprised to see Aaron Wall avoiding this thread and not posting any comment.Should we understand that Aaron Wall agrees with each and every word Matt Cutts wrote in his current reply to him including:"The short answer is that Aaron obtained and promoted a domain in ways that Google considers blackhat, ...... " ??How could Aaron Wall’s clients be sure that Aaron wouldn’t promote their domains in ways that Google considers blackhat?

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from NickWilsdon 2495 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@Harith>I’m very surprised to see Aaron Wall avoiding this thread and not posting any comment.Well if he had a geniune issue with Google over the treatment of his site, and that has been resolved, maybe he just wants to let this drop now and get back to business. It’s not the worse thing in the world to be labeled a blackhat by Matt/Google. Considering the recent penalties you could be forgiven for thinking 95% of the internet is some shade of grey.

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from Harith 2495 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Nick,"It’s not the worse thing in the world to be labeled a blackhat by Matt/Google."Let me put it like this. If I was a client who wish to hire a SEO, I would prefer to hire somebody who is not labeled a blackhat by Matt/Google inorder to avoid my site to be penalized in the same way Aaron’s site did :-)

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from fantomaster 2495 Days ago #
Votes: 2

@Harith: >If I was a client who wish to hire a SEO, I would prefer to hire somebody who is not labeled a blackhat by Matt/Google<Capitalism and market economy being what they are, being labeled a black hat (by Matt Cutts or whomever as long as they’re fairly well propagated) can actually be a very lucrative tag to wear. And no, I’m not telling where I derive that particular knowledge from, so don’t ask, heh...

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from 5ubliminal 2495 Days ago #
Votes: -1

The only White Hat SEOs are those not involved in SEO!Over and OUT!

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from seobook 2491 Days ago #
Votes: 2

>Well if he had a geniune issue with Google over the treatment of his site, and that has been resolved, maybe he just wants to let this drop now and get back to business. Bingo. All is sorted now.

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from controltheweb 2479 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Most SEO’s suggest using "grayhat" techniques more when you start, and white hat as you succeed, carefully filtering out the black or gray as you get more backlinks and better organic placement in the SERPs. Aaron was admitting to 1 in 20 "non-white" techniques, and also admitting to trying to improve the rep of the site. Standard operating procedure: Try to fool Google a lot, then a little, then cover your tracks.Cutts simply pointed out that Google wasn’t fooled, and wasn’t going to let him cover his tracks. He then suggested how Aaron could fix part of the problem. It struck me as very straightforward, and very educational.

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from controltheweb 2479 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Some don’t seem to be referencing the same text I read on the Cutts blog, not all of which is quoted here at sphinn. In brief:Aaron: "I bought an old site that had about 500 inbound links .. I [then] built over 12,000 organic inbound links ... [then] rebrand[ed] the site using a stronger domain name."Matt: "Aaron obtained and promoted a domain in ways that Google considers blackhat ... there is a spectrum of combining sites or transferring sites .. end of the spectrum is ... buying expired domains, or buying sites purely in an attempt to benefit from their pre-existing links.""I recommended severing ties between the sites ... [and] do[ing] a reconsideration request on the more legitimate domain. "

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