Bob Sakayama : In The Search
Bob Sakayama is a non-traditional SEO known for achieving high ranks in competitive markets. He is also happens to be a big fan of Matthew McConaughey as Killer Joe, and his company TNG/Earthling was responsible for the performance of this website. These are his thoughts on the state of the search.
Updated November 20, 2023 :
Bob very recently posted on the topic of rank recovery over at Google-Penalty.com. One of the takeaways is that Google has been broken for a long time in ways that may be harming search results.
We have seen and addressed many examples of massive index pollution due to Google not respecting directives that were in place to prevent exactly this issue. Google is punishing sites due to their own failure to live up to their responsibilities. We developed a software fix for this that forces the inappropriately indexed pages to noindex.
Also seeing evidence of broken Google permitting the wrong url to hold rank. Sometimes this looks like a parent/child issue, but often it's just an annoying glitch. Because this can be huge problem if the rank is very valuable and is generating revenue. To address this we've had to canonical to the intended url, redirect to it, or replace the offending url. All things we should never have to do.
We're also seeing evidence of negative seo making a comeback. The evidence is huge numbers of links coming from weak domains where the links are embedded in content not intended for humans. The text is slammed with links to legitimate sites that are the targets of this attacker. This is one of thousands of pages involved in this attack:
The process for dealing with this is to make use of the disavow tool from Google Search Console. We have to first find all the attack link sources using a bot created for this purpose, then convert the sources to the disavow:domain syntax, and submit to GSC. We then are left to hope that Google actually does disavow them. We don't know for certain whether an attack is effective, or if disavowing works. We have seen sites begin to recover 1-2 months after submitting. We've also seen no change. But the attacks are real and have scale. Read more on Google-Penalty.com.
December 20, 2021:
Using Google As An Extortion Tool
The image below is from this NYTimes article. At first glance, it may not be obvious how Google is involve with this scam:
The reason this unethical practice works is that the slanderous content ranks high for the search of your name. Google makes it very visible, which is the problem. So it should be easy to request that Google remove those harmful search results, right? First, it's never easy, but you have a chance if posting the content was a crime. It would also probably come down if it proved to be an embarrassment for Google, or a very powerful person, or a number of other exceptions that don't include anything you have access to.
That's where the reputation management companies come in. As referenced in the NYTimes story, some of these guys are themselves responsible for the slanderous posts and you can pay them to take them down. Anyone doing this should be exposed and prosecuted. If you can prove you're being extorted to pay to remove content, Google will remove it.
But harmful search results exist even without the bad players, where someone's private information is publicly revealed, or similar names cause unwanted associations. A 15 year old DUI can ruin your job hunt if it shows up on page 1 for a search of your name.
Reputation management firms attempt to use SEO to drive down the harmful content by advancing other webpages. But to remove a result that is #1 in Google, they need to advance 10 others above it, and at #11 it may still be too visible for comfort. This is why it's expensive.
TNG/E has worked on projects to remove harmful search results for clients who were victimized by Google. You can read more about this service here: https://www.imfy.us/. We've helped people whose names were associated with crimes committed by others, or who once worked for a business under investigation, or whose business is connected to an embarrassing legal action or divorce, or health issue, etc.
But we have to be careful that the person hiring us to clean up their reputation is not using us to hide their own bad behavior.
Why Is Google Requesting Our Private Information?
Is there really a law that requires us to give up our private information so Google can show us ads? This request was recently added to the log in for Google Search Console - the tool used in concert with Google Analytics to manage a website's vital information related to traffic and visitors. There's no way your birth date is relevant for this service, which is often managed by a 3rd party.
Although I looked, I was not able to find a reference to the actual law with which Google claims requires them to gather this information. If they don't collect this info from us they're breaking the law? This looks like surveillance pure and simple.
Inappropriate Warnings From Google Search Console
Because we manage a large number of websites, we are constantly receiving what appear to be helpful notices regarding issues with our sites. But the problem is that the large majority of these notifications are bogus and just waste our time on issues that are not real.
So we no longer believe any of them and instead of wasting time looking, we simply claim to have fixed the issue. This so far has always worked and we get confirmation:
Things like these cause the gradual decline in the respect for Google's ability to be on top of their own systems. Getting their house in order means not enabling bad actors and harmful results to corrupt their search results, respecting the privacy of their users and their members, and fixing broken systems that waste the time of those who are trying to keep their sites compliant with Google's often onerous demands.