Thursday, February 23, 2006

Google Catch and Release Program

The title of this post came from shor - a regular poster over at Search Engine Watch forums - great phrase!

With all the recent posts about Big Mouth Media, and Matt Cutts blog entry about Traffic Power there is definitely the need to get a better grasp on penalties and database glitches where sites are temporaily dropped from the SERPs but return in a very short period (hours to a few days).

Big Mouth Media is a great example of wildfire gossip. The site drops from the SERPs and their competitors are all over the forums dropping comments - some even anonomously. They blast about hidden text and cloaking as the cause - funny this was not discovered before the "alledged ban" ... maybe the competitors were too busy playing catch up and only had the chance when BMM fell from the rankings ... though the extra clients should have kept all these people busy...
BMM were out for just under four days... and the only people that know if Google dropped them and then put them back is Google and BMM...
The speculation though was scary... if it had been 200 years ago in Salem, Mass they would have been burned as witches without any proof.... on the otherhand was banned briefly - but they revamped their site and dropped the offending actions and Google respidered them and back they came in under 5 days... they got back because they followed what was needed to be fixed and Google saw they may have done this by poor judgement in people handling their SEO efforts.
Did they use their influence to get back quicker than most - well that one is to be determined - would you have someone look at your site again and see if they can have it spidered if you had the ability (if you answer no you are lying or someone I would not hire).

Traffic Power is an example of a company that should have let their bad press die. The recent lawsuits are just making sure they never get to walk away from the bad image. Making changes are generally not enough and though they have distanced themselves with renaming etc. - they forgot that stirring the pot at the old name just makes others point to where you are hiding...

If Google is using the penalties to bring attention to what they do not want in the organic listings then the Catch and Release program is a success - though I would suggest the instances of obvious witch hunting because of minor temporary tweaks in the datacenters should be indentified just as Traffic Power was identified by Matt Cutts as a penalised site.

The fear of a Google penalty is a big stick. Terri Wells over at SEO Chat has written a detailled article Beware the Google Death Penalty that is well worth the read.

But before we all start looking like peasants with torches storming the "evil castle" - trial by media is an ugly sight - we need to carefully examine motives and actual knowledge. Traffic Power is suing over things published on blogs - allowing anonymous posts to accuse people is a slippery slope and one that may be indefensible if taken to court.


  1. Excellent comment - when I heard about this and spoke to our SEO agency - a competitor of BMM, instead of putting the boot in, he said that it was probably a glitch and that it would be several days before you could say for certain what happened.

    There is at least one agency who does not want to join the witch hunt!

  2. *sigh* A little knowledge can be a ridiculous thing.....

    BMM are notorious within a certain section of the industry for their practices. Notwithstanding the ethical image they like to tout, they are known to use tactics that are in grey areas of SE guidelines - nothing obvious, just pushing the envelope REAL HARD.

    They dropped, certain of the more out there elements of their disappeared, and they are back in. I'm sure BMM have the number / email of at least 1 Google engineer