Google Secrets Revealed By Ex-Google Employee

by Chris Horton

Andre WeyherEvery now and then we get exciting news from behind the Google curtain and whenever we can get a clearer picture as to what Google’s expectations are, the better it makes our lives. Ex-Google web spam team member Andre Weyher provided some of the secret sauce with James Norquay and here are some pretty major takeaways.

Don’t keyword stuff or use “commercial keyword” hyperlinks freely.

It’s pretty common to litter your verbiage with hyperlinks using competitive keywords and keyword phrases like ‘car insurance’ or ‘wood furniture’ which he refers to as commercial keywords. Andre says to not do that and keep it to a minimum. “If 90% of the anchor texts on your backlinks are commercial keywords, it’s a dead giveaway of a spammy profile, especially if the links run in to the tens of thousands. This would never occur naturally. So ensure you have non-commercial keywords anchor texts in there too – like the url of the website and long tail keywords.”

Should you waste your time getting listed in these directories like DMOZ?

The short is answer is yes and no, but he does insinuate that it would be in your best interest to get involved with directories that cater to your niche. So if you’re a car dealership, get listed in a directory that is specific to dealerships or the brand of car you sell. As for general purpose directories, he does give some love to the directory list at SEOMoz as “good and up to date.” We agree.

Meta tag keywords

The return of meta tag keywords?!

Of the most surprising revelations he shared was that Google does indeed read meta tag keywords. While it will not help you in regards to ranking, he says that it does help Google get a clearer picture of what your site is about. But he also cautions to the overuse of it saying that less is way more.

You shouldn’t overdo it. I see a lot of sites with a huge amount of them in the META data. Webmasters need to remember that the more of them you have, the less each one of them is worth! The less of them you put in your META data, the more powerful each one of them becomes. They might not make a difference in the battle for the #1 position for the keyword “cola” between Pepsi and Coke, but they might give a head start to the bakery around the corner, competing for the keyword ‘bakery in Brooklyn’.

What things would get your site labeled as spam by Google?

Keyword stuffing (using the same keywords way too many times and unnaturally) such as “We are an Atlanta furniture store selling furniture in Atlanta. Come find furnishings for your Atlanta home. Visit our furniture store today right here in Atlanta.”  Other indicators would be the above mentioned over-usage of commercial keywords which he says come across as unnatural. And as for linking, he says, “How many links are there in total? A very important one; what is the quality of the pages they come in from? Do the pages look ‘real’ or are they just there to host the links? What anchors are used? The commercial vs. non commercial ratio of the anchors.”

The number he threw out in the interview was 90%.  If 90% of the hyperlinks present on your site are commercial keywords, it may be a good idea to pull back.  You know which ones you set up for specific SEO reasons. Fix it.

Can't hide spam.

What are the three most important on-page SEO elements?
The domain name. Usage of the proper tags (titles, descriptions, headers), and lastly create content as if SEO was your least concern. Google is looking for passionate content that contains good information. All of which we addressed in our first online video for our 3 part basic SEO series.

 What are the three most important off-page tactics?

Don’t ignore directories (see above bullet). Realize that 3 links from sites relevant to yours are worth more than 1000 from spammy blogs and sites that have nothing to do with your industry. Google judges your link profile based on who is linking to you, so be careful.

There were tons more to read, but we’ll let you pick out the remaining gems yourself and give Norquay some love. Start with part one of his interview here at and also Part 2 here. Additionally, you can follow Andre’s adventures on his new blog at and also utilize his awesome toolset that lets you uncover hidden relationships of site owners at the root


Do Your Competitors Cheat On Google?

by Chris Horton

I’ve done SEO for many years now and I’ve always adhered to the rules and guidelines set forth by Google, Yahoo and Bing (aka MSN aka Live).  However, there’s nothing more frustrating then when you have a client that is in a very competitive market and their competitors are breaking all of the rules and appear to get away with it. Their competitors are at the top of the rankings and a lot of which got there by illegal means and by illegal I’m referring to illegal in Google’s eyes, such as hiring linking companies to spread their links to thousands of websites (most not even relevant), buying one way paid links, and not even trying to look natural.  They win and prosper and never get caught.

The topic came up again over the weekend as covered by the lovely Vanessa Fox about how major retailer JCPenney broke those rules and had enjoyed top rankings on Google for pretty much everything they sold and in turn had a very prosperous holiday shopping season.  JCPenney is not a small company and were certainly not prospering “in the shadows”.   They were caught because of a New York Times article where the writer hired an SEO company to find out just how JCPenney performed its SEO magic. The writer found that JCPenney had been buying links, supposedly inadvertently through their SEO firm, on literally thousands of websites and most of which weren’t even relevant to JCPenney.  When the Times questioned Google’s Matt Cutts about the issue, he released a very short, “Google’s algorithms had started to work.  Manual action also taken.”   The result was JCPenney’s rankings taking a major plummet, but Twitter came alive with questions about why it took a New York Times investigation and a tap on Google’s shoulder for them to notice this had been going on.  Vanessa’s article covers it in more detail here and it’s a great read, but it raises important concerns to all legitimate SEO experts.

SEO professionals have had enough.  We all have had those clients that are in competitive fields and experience this first hand.  We see a clients’ competitor sit at the top of Google rankings that are only there from beating the system. We see them buy links, appear on hundreds of irrelevant sites (some even pornographic) and they win the battle.  Meanwhile, we have to tell our clients, “I can’t do that.  You need to consider the penalties. If you get caught, you could be removed from Google’s index.  They’ll eventually get caught. You’ll see….”  and then months later, even years later, they’re never caught.  They just continue to prosper and our clients go elsewhere. Most of the time to black hat SEO hobbyists that give them what they want.  Top rankings via whatever means necessary.  If clients are smart, they will steer clear away from this type of activity, but the question truly is, when will Google figure out how to spot this?

Someone explain why Google ignores legitimate SEO professionals pleas?  The graphic below is from the aforementioned post that showed how many links JCPenney had from month to month.  Why can’t Google see this activity and why don’t they act on it?  As mentioned before, JCPenney is not a small company, and they still don’t get caught unless something like this occurs.  Maybe Google can explain to us how they don’t see this activity below?  Google’s algorithm brags that it analyzes 10,000 ranking factors to determine positioning. Is this not one of them?  There’s not one SEO professional that hasn’t struggled getting a client to rank following the rules while we watched their competitors flourish by breaking them.  All we had to do is use SEO Elite to see the origin of their links. Does Google not have something similar?  Do we have to tattle-tale on sites for them to get caught?  It’s time for this hole to be patched and thankfully it takes an embarrassing slip like this to bring it back to light.