On August 8th, 2013, Google released 7 YouTube Videos geared towards SEO’s who want to learn more about manual penalties given to webmasters for various reasons.

One might say that this information is a tad obvious, but it is always good to hear factual information from Google.  Google has historically not been very transparent with their search algorithm and ranking factors in general.  They do this for 2 reasons:

  • they don’t want SEO’s gaming the system
  • competition (i.e. trade secrets)


At the same time if you look closely, Google does reveal quite a bit of information about their algorithm if you read between the lines.  If you read Matt’s blog, his tweets, and the blogs of other Google search engineers you can learn a lot.

That said, below we have embedded all 7 videos along with a short description of each video, my interpretation, and any comments or relevant quotes from the video.


User Generated Spam

If you are looking for a high profile example of this type of manual spam action, we spoke about it recently in a blog post about the types of Google penalties.  Earlier this year, Mozilla was given a manual penalty for user generated SPAM.

Apparently they had a section of their blog where comments were set to “auto approve”  and thousands of comments were just sitting there.  This not only is not so fun to experience while on Mozilla’s site, but it is a honeypot of sorts for blackhat SEO’s to create links on.  Google responded to this publicly in the forums and lifted the penalty shortly after they cleaned it up.

Sites that could be in violation of this are frameworks such as: forums, guestbooks, blogs, etc.


Hidden text or keyword stuffing

This video features Matt Cutts and “Nelson” explaining hidden text and keyword stuffing.

This is probably one of the most old school SEO webspam tactics out there.  This penalty is given when a webmaster does white text on a white background or black text on a black background (etc).  Keyword stuffing involves not only stuffing keywords into the body of the post/page, but into the title tag, meta tags and other portions of the HTML markup.

In this video they do mention that mouse-overs and hovers that will make the text the same color as the background is ok, it is only when it is used to manipulate the rankings is when it becomes a problem.

They mention a specific example of a site that has a full paragraph of keywords at the bottom of the document.  Matt also brings up content spinners and other programs that generates text.

Solution: get rid of all of it.


Pure Spam

This example is kind of a combination of everything.  Matt talks about cloaking, scaping, throwaway or “churn and burn” sites, repeated spam, etc.

“The sort of thing that a normal person looks at and says this is complete junk.”

This type of action is normally taken on the entire site, not just a portion of it.


Thin Content with Little or No Added Value

In this example, Matt is quick to mention thin affiliate sites  and doorway pages. Out

He uses the example of a contractor that services every city in CO, and has a page on his website for each city in CO but the only difference is the city name is changed in the body of text.

This he says, is clearly a no go.

He does mention that affiliate sites are ok, and that lots of affiliate sites do add value.  On the other hand, “thin” affiliate sites which are basically just re-purposed or regurgitated content taken from other places are no good.

This also includes low quality article marketing as well as duplicate content.


Unnatural Links to Your Site

This video features Matt Cutts and “Alex” a bright young Google engineer.

“We have seen enough low quality links to your site that it affects our entire opinion of your site.”

This is definitely one of the most popular messages out there and the most debated.


Unnatural Links From Your Site

Matt Cutts and “Sandy” talk about the unnatural links from your site message.

A natural link is an editorial choice, based on the merit of the site, according to Sandy.

“Usually it is link selling.” Matt Says, referring to webmasters who purchase links.

We don’t want people who have more money being able to rank just because they have more money, he added.


Unnatural Links to site – impacts links

Am I the only one that thinks this message is confusing due to the fact that it is almost identical as “unnatural links to site?”

This is the longest video out of the 7.

The easiest way to explain this message is it is given to webmasters that overall have a good site, but for some reason might have some bad links.

For instance, lets say your SEO blog is 100% natural.  Then one day a blackhat see’s his link on your blog and starts blasting it with Scrapebox to add link juice.

Another scenario Matt mentions is if a site was hacked and it creates a number of links to your site from it.


I hope you got as much from these videos as I did, and my commentary helped explain the gist of each video.

If you are really interested in penalties, actions and the like check out these blogs related to these videos:

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!