Google Wants You to Out Good Sites. Really!


Yesterday, Google’s Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, shared a link to a simple Docs survey where they’re asking webmasters to report high-quality small sites that you think should rank better. Yes, you heard that right. They want to know about GOOD sites!

If you’re like the Outspoken Media team, this was met with a company-wide, “wha?!”

While Google has been working hard over recent years to make it easier for the Web Spam team to connect with and inform webmasters, they’re usually looking for help outing bad sites. Whether it’s more support for reconsideration requests, new language on link schemes, or the recently released (then revoked, then re-released) Manual Actions report in Webmaster Tools.

Big Brands vs Small Business For years we’ve debated the issue of size and brand as it relates to rankings and it’s interesting to see that Google is now soliciting advice from the masses to test the quality of the algorithm. The debate has raged since 2008 (and before). I put the “big business vs little guy” graphic together (thanks Todd for sharing it so long ago) to help sort through some hypocritical assumptions on Google’s part when it comes to website behavior. We’re used to the perception that big brands get away with murder while small businesses suffer, but I’ve always believed that when it comes to the algorithm it really is a matter of brand signals versus the actual size of the brand. The more sites behave like actual businesses and invest in brand development, the more they’ll align with the direction Google is going with quality signals for greater search rankings.

However, as Barry Schwartz cited,

“only 30% of SEOs believe web site size does not matter in terms of rankings.”

At first we didn’t believe the survey was legit, because it’s so simple. How could Google possibly review all of the submissions they’ll undoubtedly receive? But truthfully, how many webmasters feel confident enough in their site’s backlink profile to submit?

Will you?

I know there are plenty of webmasters who believe in the legitimacy of their link building practices, but we typically find a history riddled with old, highly questionable links. At Outspoken, we work hard to rehab those efforts, but the threshold of what’s acceptable is changing daily with the most recent updates affecting press releases, guest posts, advertorials, and infographics.

It’s been interesting to see the reaction of fellow SEO consultants and webmasters and I’ll be curious to see what comes next from the Web Spam team. Do they feel like the algorithm is doing a good job and they want validation? Or are they as worried as the 70% of SEOs who feel that the algorithm really is favoring brands?

Twitter reacts to Google’s request for good sites:


Sorting through yesterday’s tweets, it looks like Google had only received a couple hundred websites at that point:

Your Comments

  • IrishWonder

    Either that’s a honeypot (how stupid one has to be to get caught in it?) or if it’s legit then indeed G must be desperate and forgetting they are a search engine not a crowdsourcing site. If that’s a honeypot though, how many sites will be submitted just to get them hurt? Either way, fucked up.

    • Rhea Drysdale

      That’s some strong language, but the Irish *are* passionate about our SEO. ;) I dug up Matt’s tweets from yesterday after Kristi mentioned them. Sounds like an engineer was looking for some examples, so this isn’t a huge endeavor as much as a quick info gatherer for their team to review quality. I get that, but certainly it opens the door to a lot of folks submitting when they might not want to. I know everyone believes in the quality of their site, but the definition of quality varies person to person and industry to industry. I’d love to see some truly legit examples though! We typically work with larger brands, so I don’t have anyone to submit. :D

  • Rance Edwards

    So does this open up a possibility for abuse? Say I have a competitor that I know has obvious and unsavory link practices. If I then ‘recommended’ them as a ‘good site’ drawing the attention of Google… BAM! Penalty hammer? New form of negative SEO?

    • Rhea Drysdale

      According to the survey the submissions won’t affect search rankings. Now whether that happens… (I’m still an old school, tin foil hat SEO sometimes). Not that we have anything to hide, but I certainly wouldn’t want to recommend a client put themselves under a microscope unless they felt they were deserved to rank better in an area.

  • Jared

    It is interesting that they are asking for this information, wonder what they will do with it. I can imagine sites listing competitors hoping that some how Google drops the hammer on them.

    • Rhea Drysdale

      Jared, it sounds like an individual engineer was requesting just good examples, so my guess/hope would be that the negative SEO submissions (if they received many) were denied. Of course leave it to an SEO to try everything possible.

  • shahzaib

    Google endevaors to make it easy to get ranked well in the search engines, for every small business owners . So far google has tried various attempts to demote websites which outranked because of heavy amount spent on link building.However, user experience was bad. And this is another move from Matt Cutts. He’s sure everything now goes fair for small owners too. He wanted feedbacks from us to know is there any need to make updates in google ranking algorithm?

  • Amie

    So I have arrived at this post a bit late. Is there an update on this “website recommendation” tactic – is it still in place and if so is it a success?

    I personally don’t think Google would implement anything without doing research first, so I am sure they have method behind their madness.