What Does Google Consider a Bad Link?

We will soon find out, or will we?

Matt Cutts just announced that Google will have a new feature in WMT that will give examples of bad links. If this happens, we’re gonna have a shock wave ripple through the global SEO community. Millions of people worldwide are involved in SEO; building links, blogging, social media and more. Now imagine that Google actually revealed this information as they claim they will, it would put a lot of people around the world out of work. Tons of people make a lot of money building crappy links and the average business owner just looks at the volume not the quality but once they see that 99% of these companies just get the low hanging fruit and rarely focus on quality hard-to-get links.

I usually don’t blurt out comments to Matt Cutts but I couldn’t help myself this time so here’s what I commented…

I can’t believe it?!?!?!?!? I never thought you would divulge such info at least not this early in the game. I can’t wait to see the long lists of links pages, footer links, networked sites, directories, content farms and other garbage showing up in WMT. I ain’t from Missouri but you’re gonna have to show me the links before I believe it…


Google Uses Analytics Data Against You


I have reason to believe Google just started using your traffic stats against you! I’ve come across two cases this month where the exact low performing keywords were abruptly removed from Googles search results resulting in a 20%+ loss in organic traffic. If this happened once, I could see this being just pure coincidence but lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice and its happened on two different sites in different niches.

Further evidence that the penalty only removed high bounce rate keyword is that the day after the penalty took place, the overall bounce rate decreased significantly. This is exactly what you would expect to see if Google used Analytics data against you.

Even more reason to stop using GA is on September 23rd of 2013, Google removed keyword data entirely as reported by SearchEngineWatch.com making it almost useless.

This is a tough decision for me as I have been using the platform since it first came out and I am Google Analytics Certified.

Proof Positive

Starting today I am conducting experiments to see if removing the Analytics code from one of my sites will have any effect on the rankings of my lower performing keywords. I’ll be replacing GA with Piwik a more private, server based system. Continue to check back for the full details and reports.

I hope I’m wrong but if my findings are conclusive, I’ll never use GA again and mark this as the night they drove old Google down.

Results Day 3 After Removing

Its been 3 days since I removed Google Analytics from one of my sites and as Modelcircle speculated in the comments below, I think I may be seeing the lash-back that he warned me about. So far my index dropped from just over 10,000 pages indexed to 6,220 which means Google has removed 40% of my site from their index. This is very disappointing as the index for this site usually increases rather steadily from user generated content adding new pages daily.

The 2nd thing I noticed is a sharp drop in traffic from an average of 1,100 visits per day to around 800 visits per day which are roughly 26% loss in traffic. This could just be that Piwik is not recording all the visits correctly but I don’t think they would be 26% off because that’s a pretty big discrepancy. Maybe after 1 full week of no GA, I run GA and Piwik together to really analyze the discrepancy.

So far things aren’t looking good, it’s too soon to say but I still think Google could be using your data against you but they might punish you for removing GA altogether. GA might be like women, can’t live with em, cant live without em. 🙁

Low Hanging Fruit Can Rot on the Vine

Choose high quality links

start picking high quality linksWhat I mean by this is many of the easy-to-get links can and will have a negative impact on your overall SEO score. Instead, it’s time to focus on quality and this means you might want to think about increasing your link budget and getting a ladder so you can reach the good quality fruit at the top of the tree. 10 years ago complete noobs could run Scrapebox, Xrummer and other automatic link building software and dominate the SERPs no longer does that stuff keep Matt Cutts up at night. Google seems to be winning the race and forcing us to seek better, higher quality links.

Google vs SEOs

It’s always been a technological arms race between SEOs and the big brother of the web, Google’s Webspam team. As we evolve, so do their algorithms and really, Google should embrace and reward our mischievous efforts are the evolutionary driving force that made Google what it is today. Yes, we SEOs owe ourselves a pat on the back for our contribution in Google’s Algos we taught them how to identify truly higher quality, relevant content from the billions of other garbage pages out there.

As this race continues, it is a natural inevitability that the easiest way to obtain links will always result in lower quality links because as those channels become overused and abused, Google will have no choice but to update their algorithm and sometimes these updates come with serious consequences as we saw in the last Penguin update.

The White vs. Black Hat Debate

A good way to explain this is to compare it to financial investments. If you are willing to take on more risk and exposure then the rewards can be much greater. I know two different people in the same adult niche applying basically the exact same black-hat SEO strategy and today one is pumping in millions while the other got penalized and may never recover. Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason why some sites get slapped while others never get penalized and that can be a risky game to play. Now, of course, the best financial strategy is one that combines just the right mixture of high-risk and low-risk stocks. That being said, your link building strategy should be the same.

Not only can adding quality links to your site render better results but it can also inculcate your site against penalties as I’ve mentioned before. You might think what you are doing is good for now but Google has already shown us what they are capable of with the Panda and Penguin updates. The Panda targeted on-page attributes while the Penguin fought against spammy link profiles. I’m not telling you guys that you should listen to everything Matt Cutts tells and go 100% white-hat but some expensive or hard to obtain links is just what this SEO doctor orders.

Where to get quality links?

  • The best links to get are always from the sites that rank for your keywords and these are usually the hardest but well worth the money and effort.
  • Contextual links. Produce high-quality content and push it out there linking back to your site.
  • Wikipedia- If your site is so awesome and credible then why isn’t it listed in Wikipedia?
  • Educational sites- don’t just spam .edu sites instead actually contribute to or participate in educational journals and studies.
  • Social Signals- Are people talking about you or your site? They should be.
  • News Sites- Get mentioned in the news or try the easier route press releases.
  • Partnerships- Forge real online partnerships with another reputable website.
  • Go the Extra Mile- Take extra measures in all your link building activities. Little nuances can make a big difference in the end.

Now go forth and conquer, my SEO compadres!

SEO is Not an Art, it’s a Science

The Science of SEO

There’s a way of thinking that is counterproductive to solving SEO problems and it’s the old saying that SEO is an Art. Now, after 10 years of updates and algorithm changes, I have to digress because that way of thinking has to change.

Is SEO an Art?

In the early days of SEO, I was less experienced and less familiar with the actual mechanisms of how stuff worked. SEO was new and exciting but it was also was foggier and had lots of mystery surrounding it. Back then, one could make simple tweaks to their website’s code or text and get ranked but Google was just learning too, so they often made mistakes and found it hard to close the loopholes. But now, most of the kinks have been ironed out, enough to consider SEO a true science and here’s my explanation.

Science comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning knowledge or to know something. The laws of science are simple, in order for something to be a fact it must be reproducible in a laboratory or a controlled test. Nowadays, SEO has evolved to the point where all occurrences and fluctuations can be analyzed with statistical data and tested to produce the same results time and time again. Matt Cutts and his team can measure the results at around 97% to 99% accuracy to the impact of billions of websites worldwide.  Just to give you a comparison, we are only about 99% sure the Atom really exists but they built the A-bomb.


This is why when people use the expression SEO is an Art, I cringe! Worse yet, when I hear, there are different ways it could be done or there is more than one way to skin this cat.

The fact of the matter is that they are ALL mistaken. There is no more hocus pocus in SEO.  Instead, theres always a right and a wrong way to do things. The guidelines are clear as black and white and every action taken can either hurt or help your website. The effects can be measured and tested.Google brags that over 500 algorithms control the results and they are constantly being updated. There are testable, mathematical codes that are as accurate as quantum physics and therefore, factual and true. Sorry to disappoint the superstitious people of the world but SEO is a science and

Google brags that over 500 algorithms control the results and they are constantly being updated. There are testable, mathematical codes that are as accurate as quantum physics and therefore, factual and true. Sorry to disappoint the superstitious people of the world but SEO is a science and I’ve still yet to see an SEO problem that I couldn’t identify directly in either the Google Webmaster Guidelines, Google SEO starter guide and other Google resources.

Am I Wrong Here?

If you or anyone you know would like to call me out or challenge me on this statement, just send the domain name of the site and nothing more and I am sure to identify exactly which algorithms or Webmaster violations are affecting the site. One of my favorite things to do is solve SEO mysteries and I haven’t found one yet that I can’t figure out.

And remember, next time you hear, SEO is an Art it may be time to look for a certified consultant to come in and clear things up.

Lost Links in Google Webmaster Tools

On Feb 7th, 2013 Google announced a known issue with the links counts
found in Google Webmaster Tools. It may appear that you have lost most of your links but its just a glitch and Google is working on the problem now. In the meantime, your traffic will not be affected.


Above is a snapshot of the Links to Your Site page in Google Webmaster Tools and below is a post that Google made on the Webmaster help Forum a few days ago.

Known issue: links to your site data issues

Thursday, February 7, 2013 | 2:23 PM


Some Webmaster Tools users have reported missing data in the Links to your site section. We are aware of this issue and are looking into it; you do not need to take any action. We hope to have the normal data shown again in the near future. The data were shown there is informational and does not affect your site’s crawling, indexing or ranking.

SEO Troubleshooting | Algorithmic Penalty Identification


Einstein once said, The formulation of the problem is often more important than the solution and in the case of trying to figure out why your website has lost traffic or ranking, this couldn’t be more true!

The first thing to do in a dicey SEO situation is, Don’t Hit The Panic Button! One of the biggest mistakes people make is they start doing drastic updates to their site or their SEO campaign(s) and this is exactly the wrong thing to do because it could set into action, a chain of events, that can make the recovery process much more difficult. Furthermore, when Google punishes a site for a certain thing like let’s say, Link Scheming and then you all-the-sudden stop building links to your site, it will trigger another algorithm that confirms you were link scheming in the first place. Yes, don’t be surprised that Google with their top Ph.D. analysts and billions of dollars already thought of that.

Really, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing for at least a week, sometimes two, while you have time to fully analyze all the data from every angle and troubleshoot. Sometimes, websites recover on their own while the updates shuffle around.

Picture algorithms being stacked like a Jenga game and when you get smacked down by Google updates like the Panda or the Penguin, the last thing you want to do is make drastic moves that could cause the whole thing to collapse. This is why you MUST carry on as you were and identify the SEO problems before taking action.


Where to Troubleshoot?

Out of my most recent 50 algorithmic penalty analysis that I conducted on websites for the Google Support Forum, I found most penalties were either because the website’s content was in violation or the backlinks profile was unnatural or spammy.


Start by checking the website itself. Look at your content for keyword stuffing, duplicate or scraped content and coding issues.


Check Backlink Profile to make sure it doesn’t contain unnatural linking activity or what Google considers webspam.

These are two very broad places to start looking but if you have specific questions or want me to look at your site, just hit me up in the comments below and hopefully, you read this before making any drastic changes.

FTC Clears Google

google-clears-ftc-chargesGoogle has been cleared of all antitrust and anti-competitive charges as the FTC has dropped all charges and closed all investigations against Google. This comes just a few months after Google was ordered to pay a record $22.5 million to settle previous FTC charges for Misrepresented Privacy Assurances to Users of Apples Safari Internet Browser.

Apparently, an inside deal was cut as the announcement was made on the FTC.gov website stating that a settlement has been made where Google agrees not to use its acquisition of Motorola to stifle markets like smartphones and tablets. In the settlement, Google also agreed to allow competitor access to propitiatory patents. On the second FTC letter commitment, Google agreed to allow advertisers access to rival ad platforms from within Adwords!

What Does This Mean?

This means Google has been given a license to dominate. Let’s not mention the biggest problem of all, Googles ability to make or break companies by adding and removing them from search results. After 19 long months of investigations and a settlement like this, don’t expect any new cases to be brought against Google anytime soon.

Secret Google Operators and Custom Footprints


google-advanced-operatorsGoogle Advanced Operators are basically, extra commands that you type into Google that help you filter your search. Think of them as searching short-cuts to help you find what you need easier and faster. Google has always had Advanced Search Operators and often released new ones, unannounced. Some of us SEOs out there stumbled across these years ago and started to find ways to use them in our SEO techniques. When used in combination to scrape sites, we called them custom footprints but now Google has officially coined these tools Google Advanced Operators.

Google Operators Mostly Used in SEO


Find a list of pages that link to the specified URL. Yahoo had this same operator that turned into a wonderful site explorer tool because unlike Google, Yahoo showed all or at least almost every link that pointed to a site while Google just gives a small glimpse. Unfortunately, Yahoo discontinued site explorer and there still is no free replacement.

will show sites that link to the specified URL


Wanna find what anchor text links to which sites? Use this operator to get results only from sites that have links pointing to them using  ALL of the keywords in their anchor text. Lets say you wanted to find websites that had links pointing to it and those links contained all of the keywords that you stipulated even if you stipulate 3 or 4 keywords along with your search (e.g.[allinanchor:keyword1 keyword2 keyword3] will show only sites that have all of those keywords in anchor text pointing to their site).

[allinanchor:porn seo] this means the links must contain both or all of the keywords in my query


Either one of the terms must appear in the anchor text of links that point to the sites. Unlike allinanchor:, not all of the keywords stipulated must be contained in the results.

[inachor: porn seo]  not all of the words must appear in the anchor text of inbound links in order to appear in the SERPs



One of my favorites advanced operators, it will let you quickly see every page of an entire website that Google has already indexed. It can be super useful for getting to know a competitors site better but also to check your own site to measure crawl depth and make sure Google is not indexing areas of your site that you don’t want them snooping around in. These also come in very handy when used in combination with other advanced operators.

[site:irs.gov] will render results from the Internal Revenue Service of America



Comes in very handy when searching for specific document file types like .pdf, .swf, .avi, csv, kml

[google leaked raters guidelines 3.18 filetype:pdf] will give results of the actual Google PDF file that was leaked earlier this year.

Exclude Using the  (-)

Adding the minus symbol or the dash in front of a word will remove any results that contain that word. A great example of this is if you type in the keyword [sex], then you will get tons of porn results but maybe your teenage daughter just wanted sex related topics and wanted to filter out the porn.

[sex -porn] removes the results that contain the specified keyword


Google Advanced Operators


Just type in numbers and full equations and you will see one of the most advanced calculators online today complete with 3d graphing and all!

  • + – * / Better than your Texas Instruments you used to carry around in school  x/2 (x/2)^2 ln(x) cos(pi*x/5)
  • ^ or ** When you want to raise a number to a power 2^5 or 2**5
  • % of Find the percentage of one amount to another 1% of 123


Converts currency, weight, and other measurements. Some examples are [300 Philippine Peso in USD] or [2342 ft to miles].

[unit1 to unit2] just list two amounts of units and use the word to in between


city1 city2

Google now has a built-in online flight checker not only to see arrivals and departures but also for bookings. Just type in two cities names and it will show flights. You can type out the full name of the city or most cases you can use abbreviations and airport codes or both in the same query like NYC-LAX.

Flights from New York, NY (all airports) to Los Angeles, CA (LAX)

Non-stop flights: 40–45 per day, 6h 6m duration
Airlines: United, American, Delta, and 2 more

[nyc lax] get flight information


Super cool tool to just get the definition of something without having to click through to other sites. Like the word triskaidekaphobia which most people have never even heard of but is special to me. The results are pulled from the top dictionary sites. Wikipedia, Websters, Answers.com and Dictionary.com.

[define: triskaidekaphobia] will show you the definition of a word


Find reviews and showtimes. Not really a movie goer but I’ll list this one anyways just in case you got a big date coming up and you want to be slick and take her for a movie and popcorn.

[movie: the campaign] I just chose a movie title that I wanted to see


Putting [stocks:] in front of the financial symbol of a company will give you a brief but informational overview of how the stock is currently performing in the market.

[stocks: goog] will tell you how Googles stock is doing in the market


Quickly find the weather in any city by just typing [weather] in front of the city’s name.

[weather Angeles city] you’ll see that I’m in the middle of the monsoon season in the Philippines 🙁


You can see what the site looked like the last time Google cached it. This can be helpful for seeing how Google caches your site and also for retrieving archived content.

[cashe: whitehouse.gov] will show you what the White Houses website looked like last time Google cashed it.


You will get a list of links that you can quickly access to get more information about a specific website. Here’s what the results will look like.

Google can show you the following information for this URL:

[info: whitehouse.gov] will provide information about the official White House website


Using this advanced operator, Google will give you results to related websites or at least websites their algorithms deem to be related. It can also be a good way to find one’s competitors or a great way to find sites to get links from because after all, these are the most relevant sites in the eyes of Google.

 [related:bored.com] a flash games site I used to work on so it should show other gaming sites


The terms following the allintext: must all be included in the text of the results. While the is especially good for find recipes that have some of your favorite ingredients, it’s also good for finding subject matter that you might not normally see together.

[allintext: jesus atheist dawkins] Will show results that contain all 3 keywords on the page


Unlike allintext where all of the keywords must be in the text, any one of the keywords in your query must be in the text of the websites shown in the results.

[intext: jesus atheist dawkins] should show different results as not all 3 words must be in the text of the pages rendered


Search for sites that have all of the keywords that you’ve stipulated in their title. This operator only renders results from the meta title of a page.

[allintitle:porn SEO finest] will only show sites that have all of the keywords in their meta title tag.


Not all of the keywords in your query must be in the title.

[intitle:porn SEO finest] you will see results that don’t have the keyword finest but they must contain at least one of the other keywords.


All of the keywords stipulated in your query must be in the URL of the pages rendered.

[allinurl:panda friendly article writing]  will render results from pages that have all 4 of the keywords in their URL


This advanced operator only works when searching in Google News. If you want to find news stories from a specific location.

[floods location:Philippines] this query will shows result from Philippines news arrogates


This is another Google Operator that only works with Google News. It will render results only from the specified source.

[porn stars source:cnn] will show all the news results where CNN mentioned porn stars

AROUND( x) Word Proximity

Will give results from pages where the keywords queried must be within x amount of words from each other. Let’s say you were looking for a page that had sentences that contained both the keyword search and engine within 4 words of each other then your search would look like this

[search around4 engine] this means that engine must appear within 4 words of the word search

Fill in the blanks (*)

The * aka, asterisk symbol aka, a wildcard is a common character in almost all coding languages and it usually means anything which means that the * is a placeholder for anything and everything that may follow.

[ Romney voted * on the * bill ] this will give results where Romney could have voted yes or no on any bill.

Number Ranges (..)

Put two periods in between a date range and get results from within that range.

[Richard Dawkins 2005..2009] will show all the pages published about Richard Dawkins within that date range.

Exact Search ()

When you put your keyword query inside double quotes that is telling Google that the results must contain those keywords exactly as you typed them and in that exact order. The reason this can be helpful is because sometimes Google uses synonyms and because the order in which words are typed can also have an effect on the results that are rendered.

[“imagine all the people”] will show the exact results from the John Lennon song

Keyword OR Keyword

This one is pretty self-explanatory if you want to get results from the two keywords at the same time. Sometimes you are looking for something that is referred to in two different terms like outsourcing and BPO.

[outsourcing OR BPO] will give results about outsourcing and BPO.

Combinations of operators:

Using these operators alone can be very helpful but when used in combination they can really become ultimate mining tools for targeting and harvesting large lists of sites. Let’s say you wanted to find all the WordPress sites that are relevant to your site and of course, you want ones that are still open for commenting without having to log in. Lastly, you’d like to narrow it even more to get only .edu sites.

[keyword Inurl:.edu “powered by WordPress” “leave a comment” -“must be logged in to comment”] this will get you an awesome list of sites where you can comment to get links.

Custom Footprints to Use in Advanced Operator Combinations

Here’s a complete list of different footprints that you can use inside your advanced search queries.

WordPress Custom Operator Footprints

Inurl:.edu “powered by WordPress” “leave a comment”
Inurl:.gov “powered by WordPress”
Inurl:.ac.uk “powered by WordPress”

BlogEngine Custom Operators

Inurl:.edu “Powered by BlogEngine.NET
Inurl:.gov “”Powered by BlogEngine.NET
Inurl:.ac.uk “Powered by BlogEngine.NET


“Powered by PHPbb”
“Powered by vBulletin”
“Powered by SMF”


allintext:[get a cbox]
“Powered by Tagbox”

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“powered by expressionengine” “yourkeyword” site:.uk
“powered by expressionengine” “yourkeyword” site:.us
“powered by expressionengine” “yourkeyword” site:.eu
“powered by expressionengine” “yourkeyword” site:.uk
“powered by expressionengine” “yourkeyword” site:.us
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Inurl:.edu “Powered by BlogEngine.NET
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Inurl:.ac.uk “Powered by BlogEngine.NET
“Powered by BlogEngine”

“Powered by Blogsmith”

“powered by Typepad”

“powered by scoop”


“Powered by Tagbox”
“Powered by DRBGuestbook”


Please feel free to share some Google Operators that I might have missed in the comments below and also share some of your favorite footprints and combinations.

Google Analytics Expert (GAIQ Certification)



*Click to verify my certification and view my score.

The average person only uses about 14% of Analytics, ironically about the same amount of average brain usage in humans. After 10 years of using Google Analytics and one month of taking courses and prepping, I finally got my GA individual certification and passed with a 92%! Becoming a Google Analytics Certified Expert has really been a great learning experience and even after countless hours of messing around in Analytics, I can say that this course has been one of the more enlightening experiences of my SEO career.

Become a Google Analytics Ninja

While studying for my certification exam, I put together this 15 part tutorial that covers everything you will need to know to get your GAIQ certification along with a few bonus lessons, tips, and tricks.

Need an Analytics Consultant?

If you don’t have the time or desire to learn Analytics but you still want to get the most out of it, you can hire me or another GAIQ certified individual to integrate your site with GA. Don’t spend another penny on SEO or marketing until you have proper tracking of goals, ROI conversion and more. A skilled Analytics consultant can setup your reports to better identify which keywords or channels produce the highest ROI or conversion ratios, identify abandonment and identify new opportunities that you didn’t even know existed. This can be done by tracking goals, events and other important Calls to Action and comparing them with engagement, keywords, referrers, locality and many more metrics. Once your site is fully integrated with Analytics, I will be able to cut the fat off your marketing campaigns and can usually increase the bottom line of your website by at least 30% or more!

Above the Fold Page Layout Algorithm Update

Above the Fold Page Layout Algorithm Update


Matt Cutts has been in a telling mood! He made a post on Google Webmaster Central Blog titled Page Layout Algorithm Improvement where he said, sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. This is why the SEO community is calling this the Above the Fold Page Layout Algorithm Update. Shortly after publishing his blog post, Cutts posted this tweet

Minor weather report: Update of goo.gl/OpIDL launching today. ~0.7% of English queries noticeably affected.

— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) October 9, 2012

What is the Page Layout Algo All About?

Basically, this means that websites that have too many ads, affiliate links, and even outbound links above the fold will be negativity by this update. The area above the fold of your website should be reserved for content and preferably the content that the user who landed on that page was looking for.

How to Recover if you Were Affected

Simple, just move your ads below the fold. It’s okay if you have 1 or 2 small ads up there but really you should put your content first and then place your ads toward the bottom of the page. You will probably have to sacrifice conversions because your ads will be less visible. That being said, Google also tracks page scrolling and will reward you if the user scrolls through the whole page so the object should be to give the user what they want above the fold and then entice them to scroll down to finish checking out the rest of the content and to check out your ads. This is a bit trickier for porn sites but I feel like this update will have a heavy impact on porn SEO.

Again, you should not have to remove all ads or outbound links that are above the fold just minimize them. Here’s what Matt Cutts said about this: This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree.