Email Reputation Causes Penalties in Google Search Results

A number of Web sites hit with falling search rankings in April had several things in common. These sites publish original articles, frequently in the 500+ word range, which is supposed to be a quality benchmark in the way Google values content. They are authored by writers generally considered to be among the leading experts in their field. And all of these Web sites publish email newsletters. I’m part of this group and while it sounds arrogant for me to consider myself an expert, there are a handful of topics I know more about than most other people.

When my traffic at JakeLudington.com suddenly dropped in early April, I thought I’d made some kind of change that was resulting in a technology failure. I was wrong. Everything appeared to load as it should. So why the sudden drop? I called around to a handful of friends and discovered I was not alone. Early April was the second round of Panda algorithm changes. With some additional digging, I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains. In talking with a number of other online publishers who were also hit with a stiff penalty, including LockerGnome, it appears that one common theme is that we all have email newsletters.

At first I simply didn’t want to believe email publishing was my problem. I require confirmed subscriptions. You can’t receive a single issue of my newsletter without clicking a link in the confirmation email saying you really want a subscription. This has been true since the newsletter launched as part of LockerGnome back in January 2001. I’ve always been adamant that people who don’t want to be on my list shouldn’t be and make it just as easy to unsubscribe. I currently use Aweber to send emails, which makes it easy to identify the number of people who mark your email as spam for any given mailing and automatically eliminate them. How could I get penalized for seemingly doing what was right?

Here’s the rub: I wasn’t doing everything right. If you publish an email newsletter or engage in email marketing, you probably aren’t either. One of the reasons I love Aweber for email publishing is the data it makes easily available. You can see whether people open your newsletter. You can see whether people click on anything. And with some fancy sorting of the data using Aweber reporting functions, you can very easily see that some percentage of the people who subscribe to your newsletter stopped paying attention a while ago. These inactive subscribers are the ones you need to worry about.

Email Reputation

Most email service providers, like Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo! Mail have a scoring system that determines which senders are spam. The “report as spam” button available in most services is one factor in this calculation. The number of people who open an email is another factor in this calculation. And the people who click on things in those emails are yet another component of the calculation. They likely have other factors as well, but those three components are a big piece of your email reputation. The people on your list who are receiving your emails week after week, but don’t open them or never click on anything, are hurting your reputation. This subscription deadwood isn’t making your business any money because an inactive subscriber doesn’t engage with anything. They are also hurting your ability to deliver email to the people who are legitimately interested in receiving your email. When you hit a high enough percentage of subscribers who never open your email, it sends a signal to their email service provider that your publishing activities are suspect.

If some of your subscribers are inactive, you need to purge them from your list of subscribers. If you have 30,000 subscribers and only 10,000 of them ever open and read your emails, you really have 10,000 subscribers and 20,000 people who are dragging your reputation into the dirt. I’ve known this to be true for a while, but I got lazy. It takes time to run reports, see who is reading, and purge those people who aren’t. But not taking that time will cost you money in the form of a damaged email reputation. Now a damaged email reputation is also a damaged search engine reputation, which brings me back to Google.

Gmail tracks email reputation. It’s part of what gives Gmail some of the best spam filtering on the planet. Gmail looks at how much email your domain sends to @gmail.com addresses and assigns a score to your domain based on how engaged those @gmail.com addresses are with your content. When your domain crosses a threshold, you get labelled as suspect. The Gmail scoring system used to apply only to your reputation within Gmail. Google is now applying email behavior to search results. If you don’t keep your email list clean, you get slapped with a penalty, as I did.

Addressing an Email Reputation Problem

There’s really only one way to solve an email reputation problem. You have to make an effort to clean up your list. Here again I was thankful for the awesome reporting built into Aweber. I was able to quickly track down which subscribers were receiving my emails via @gmail.com addresses but not opening the email. There are two ways to deal with these subscribers. You can segment your list and send these inactive subscribers a special email telling them you are going to purge them if they don’t take some kind of action. A few of them may respond. My gut tells me this is a waste of time and they will simply disengage again sometime soon. The other thing you can do is simply purge these inactive subscribers, which is exactly what I did. I chose a cutoff date. Anyone who subscribed before that date and hadn’t engaged with the newsletter in the last 90 days was deleted from my subscriber database. I started with @gmail.com addresses, because those were the ones closest to my source of pain. I then expanded my purge to anyone who matched my criteria from any domain. I purged about 13,000 subscribers. I’m now repeating this process at the end of every month.

I know it hurts to see that subscriber count shrink. Subscribers are nothing but a number if they aren’t reading your email or clicking on the links you send. And those numbers are expensive if they cause you to start appearing in the gmail.com spam folder. They are insanely expensive if they cause a drop in Google search results. After my purge, I filled out a detailed reinclusion request, listing the steps I’d taken and what I plan to do to avoid having an email reputation problem in the future. Google responded saying it revoked a manual spam penalty against JakeLudington.com, which further validated my action being the right thing to do.

If you are an email newsletter publisher or email marketer, I highly recommend looking at your subscribers to see who is active. If the inactive ones aren’t costing you money now, they may cost you money in the future. Use the tools available to you in your email hosting provider account to clean your list of these inactive addresses. If your email hosting provider can’t get you the information you need to take action, it’s time to move to a new provider.

While I personally think email reputation is a lousy indicator of the quality of a search result, I also realize I’m stuck playing by Google’s rules. So are you.

  • http://twitter.com/nickelnm Nicole R

    What if you do not regularly send out email newsletters? I only have about 20 subscribers and well, am still learning the whole newsletter thing so, I do not email out one regularly.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      It may not impact you as much.

      • http://www.seo-kueche.de Margarete M.

        dyxc

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      It may not impact you as much.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      It may not impact you as much.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      If you currently have 20 subscribers, I’d work toward sending a newsletter reguarly, with once a week being ideal. And growing that list of subscribers.

      I don’t have an exact number where this might start to impact you, but my guess would be you’d need at least 1,000 inactive @gmail.com addresses before you’d see any real impact.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      If you currently have 20 subscribers, I’d work toward sending a newsletter reguarly, with once a week being ideal. And growing that list of subscribers.

      I don’t have an exact number where this might start to impact you, but my guess would be you’d need at least 1,000 inactive @gmail.com addresses before you’d see any real impact.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      If you currently have 20 subscribers, I’d work toward sending a newsletter reguarly, with once a week being ideal. And growing that list of subscribers.

      I don’t have an exact number where this might start to impact you, but my guess would be you’d need at least 1,000 inactive @gmail.com addresses before you’d see any real impact.

  • http://twitter.com/nickelnm Nicole R

    What if you do not regularly send out email newsletters? I only have about 20 subscribers and well, am still learning the whole newsletter thing so, I do not email out one regularly.

  • http://twitter.com/nickelnm Nicole R

    What if you do not regularly send out email newsletters? I only have about 20 subscribers and well, am still learning the whole newsletter thing so, I do not email out one regularly.

  • http://twitter.com/nickelnm Nicole Rosen

    What if you do not regularly send out email newsletters? I only have about 20 subscribers and well, am still learning the whole newsletter thing so, I do not email out one regularly.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      It may not impact you as much.

      • Anonymous

        dyxc

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      If you currently have 20 subscribers, I’d work toward sending a newsletter reguarly, with once a week being ideal. And growing that list of subscribers.

      I don’t have an exact number where this might start to impact you, but my guess would be you’d need at least 1,000 inactive @gmail.com addresses before you’d see any real impact.

  • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

    Almost all of the metrics for email rely on one of two things: clicking on links in the email, or loading remote images in the email. Many users don’t do the latter due to spam using the same tactic (and in any case images in email often have zero value, much like the rest of HTML email); sensible email newsletters use inline images when the image matters, to avoid triggering a remote-image warning in users’ mail clients. Furthermore, anyone using a text-based mail client won’t load any images, remote or otherwise. Take care to avoid silently dropping users who legitimately don’t load images.

  • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

    Almost all of the metrics for email rely on one of two things: clicking on links in the email, or loading remote images in the email. Many users don’t do the latter due to spam using the same tactic (and in any case images in email often have zero value, much like the rest of HTML email); sensible email newsletters use inline images when the image matters, to avoid triggering a remote-image warning in users’ mail clients. Furthermore, anyone using a text-based mail client won’t load any images, remote or otherwise. Take care to avoid silently dropping users who legitimately don’t load images.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      You get an inferred open if someone is clicking on a link in your email. If you’ve got people who never click on any link in any email, then you are dropping people who aren’t actively engaged.

      That’s part of why I picked 90 days. If someone hasn’t clicked on anything in the past 90 days, they probably will never click on anything, which makes them a disengaged subscriber and economically worthless by any measure.

      • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

        Depends heavily on the email in question. If your email exists primarily to point people off to links elsewhere, then sure, you can measure “success” by how many people click those links; if you actually put useful content in your email, people might read your mail for its content and get value out of it whether or not they click the links.

      • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

        I”ve got consulting clients paying me thousands of dollars who show as “never open” for years before engaging me. You are throwing away money

        • http://markfrisk.com Mark Frisk

          Indeed, unsubscribing people in this fashion is foolhardy. I use Gmail, heavily, and I don’t load images for the vast majority of email newsletters I receive. So I would show as “unengaged,” even if I were reading every single issue of a particular newsletter.

          As for purging people who never click on links, Jake is on slightly firmer ground there, but only slightly. I work with a number of organizations that provide complete, “useful content” (as Josh Triplett describes it below) within the email itself. Using clicks to evaluate subscriber engagement for those lists doesn’t make sense.

          I would never advocate this kind of wholesale purge, particularly for clients in the B2B space, where lead times are often very long and can range into years, not months.

          • http://twitter.com/CaptainInbox Andy T

            Almost all marketing emails are intended to send people to a web-site to do something, like spend money: registering for an event or buying products; also thing like reading articles that people want to know about etc.
            This is why click counts are the chief metric for emails like it is for Ads on sites and search rankings. It is the web-site that closes the deal, the click is getting people through the door.

            If someone is not clicking any links in your email but still fulfilling your call to action, I’m afraid there is something wrong with your marketing plan and you need to re-think it.

            In your case Mark, if you don’t need to load image to read the email fully, it’s a well made email, but if you are not inclined to click through, the marketing email’s call to action is not good enough.

          • http://twitter.com/MarketingXD MarketingXD

            @Andy T: Not so. You may be confusing marketing with selling. Many marketing emails are transactional. One example is to tell people that their order has been dispatched, so as to make the overall buying process go smoothly and encourage future purchases.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      You get an inferred open if someone is clicking on a link in your email. If you’ve got people who never click on any link in any email, then you are dropping people who aren’t actively engaged.

      That’s part of why I picked 90 days. If someone hasn’t clicked on anything in the past 90 days, they probably will never click on anything, which makes them a disengaged subscriber and economically worthless by any measure.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      You get an inferred open if someone is clicking on a link in your email. If you’ve got people who never click on any link in any email, then you are dropping people who aren’t actively engaged.

      That’s part of why I picked 90 days. If someone hasn’t clicked on anything in the past 90 days, they probably will never click on anything, which makes them a disengaged subscriber and economically worthless by any measure.

  • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

    Almost all of the metrics for email rely on one of two things: clicking on links in the email, or loading remote images in the email. Many users don’t do the latter due to spam using the same tactic (and in any case images in email often have zero value, much like the rest of HTML email); sensible email newsletters use inline images when the image matters, to avoid triggering a remote-image warning in users’ mail clients. Furthermore, anyone using a text-based mail client won’t load any images, remote or otherwise. Take care to avoid silently dropping users who legitimately don’t load images.

  • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

    Almost all of the metrics for email rely on one of two things: clicking on links in the email, or loading remote images in the email. Many users don’t do the latter due to spam using the same tactic (and in any case images in email often have zero value, much like the rest of HTML email); sensible email newsletters use inline images when the image matters, to avoid triggering a remote-image warning in users’ mail clients. Furthermore, anyone using a text-based mail client won’t load any images, remote or otherwise. Take care to avoid silently dropping users who legitimately don’t load images.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      You get an inferred open if someone is clicking on a link in your email. If you’ve got people who never click on any link in any email, then you are dropping people who aren’t actively engaged.

      That’s part of why I picked 90 days. If someone hasn’t clicked on anything in the past 90 days, they probably will never click on anything, which makes them a disengaged subscriber and economically worthless by any measure.

      • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

        Depends heavily on the email in question. If your email exists primarily to point people off to links elsewhere, then sure, you can measure “success” by how many people click those links; if you actually put useful content in your email, people might read your mail for its content and get value out of it whether or not they click the links.

      • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

        I”ve got consulting clients paying me thousands of dollars who show as “never open” for years before engaging me. You are throwing away money

        • http://markfrisk.com Mark Frisk

          Indeed, unsubscribing people in this fashion is foolhardy. I use Gmail, heavily, and I don’t load images for the vast majority of email newsletters I receive. So I would show as “unengaged,” even if I were reading every single issue of a particular issue.

          As for purging people who never click on links, Jake is on slightly firmer ground there, but only slightly. I work with a number of organizations that provide complete, “useful content” (as Josh Triplett describes it below) within the email itself. Using clicks to evaluate subscriber engagement for those lists doesn’t make sense.

          I would never advocate this kind of wholesale purge, particularly for clients in the B2B space, where lead times are often very long and can range into years, not months.

          • http://twitter.com/CaptainInbox Andy T

            Almost all marketing emails are intended to send people to a web-site to do something, like spend money: registering for an event or buying products; also thing like reading articles that people want to know about etc.
            This is why click counts are the chief metric for emails like it is for Ads on sites and search rankings. It is the web-site that closes the deal, the click is getting people through the door.

            If someone is not clicking any links in your email but still fulfilling your call to action, I’m afraid there is something wrong with your marketing plan and you need to re-think it.

            In your case Mark, if you don’t need to load image to read the email fully, it’s a well made email, but if you are not inclined to click through, the marketing email’s call to action is not good enough.

          • http://twitter.com/MarketingXD MarketingXD

            @Andy T: Not so. You may be confusing marketing with selling. Many marketing emails are transactional. One example is to tell people that their order has been dispatched, so as to make the overall buying process go smoothly and encourage future purchases.

  • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

    “With some additional digging, I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains.”

    Hi Jake, I’d be curious to get more info about this sentence, because it’s not true. Do you mind if I ask who at Google you talked to?

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      So you can find them on campus and fire them? That doesn’t seem like a very nice thing for me to do.

      Which part is specifically inaccurate?

      • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

        The part that’s inaccurate is the headline “Email Reputation Causes Penalties in Google Search Results.” That’s not the case at all.

        I’ve been replying on the Hacker News thread at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2600933

        • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

          Then maybe you could clarify why my submitting a reinclusion request for email behavior resulted in having a ‘Manual spam action revoked’.

          • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

            Sure, I’d be happy to clarify. When you submit a reconsideration request, if the webspam team has taken manual action in the past, we take another look at the site. We do that regardless of what you say in the the text of the reconsideration request. You could slip in “I was kidnapped by aliens, and the aliens said to do a reconsideration request” and we’d still take another look.

            Just to make it concrete, it looks like you’re talking about your site, right? And I believe a few years ago, your site linked to some lower-quality sites, the sort of sites that bought a lot of links. So the manual webspam team had taken manual action to trust your site less. Your site still ranked fine; we just didn’t trust your links because of the sites you were linking to a few years ago.

            Then in April 2011, you did a reconsideration request. You might have submitted it for email behavior, but that doesn’t really matter. We saw that we’d taken manual action in the past, so that triggered a fresh look. The links to low-quality sites (the sorts of sites that bought links) were no longer there, so we revoked the manual action, and you got a “manual spam action revoked” message in your webmaster console. But the action was revoked because you were no longer linking to those sites, not for anything related to email. I hope that clears up what happened with your site, but just to be clear: it had nothing to do with your site’s email reputation.

          • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

            Matt, thanks for clearing this up as I believe it will prevent a LOT of misinformation from spreading any further. It’s good to see Google have a voice on things like this.

            That being said, the advice of cleaning up your list on a regular basis is a good one, just don’t expect SEO value from it.

          • http://lineswritinglines.com/ Natan Gesher

            Oh snap.

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul11 Paul Foeckler

            Looking at http://www.jakeludington.com/ it is pretty clear that this page was hit by the Panda update for legitimate reasons, it’s flooded with ads and has hardly any good content.

            Wouldn’t have thought it has something to do with email reputation but its good to read about what has caused the confusion. Do people get notified in GWT if there was a manual action taken by Google? Ie. could Jake have known about his low-quality site links and removed them earlier?

            Thanks for clearing things up.

          • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

            Flooded with ads? I suppose that is subjective, but I currently have fewer ads than what Google’s own Adsense team keeps encouraging me to run on every page.

          • http://www.facebook.com/wspencer Will Spencer

            Paul, Google already clarified that they do not have the technology to measure the number of ads on a page and that the number of ads is therefore not a metric in the Panda algorithm(s).

            In addition, your definition of “good content” is both subjective and questionable.

          • http://twitter.com/albertbori Albert Bori

            Transparency with this sort of thing really helps. I understand why Google tries to remain so incognito about their internal processes, but it causes a lot of confusion among those who are trying to do the right thing.

          • http://www.dazzlindonna.com/blog/ dazzlindonna

            My first thought was, “ok, cool, conversation over”. But then I got to thinking…and this makes no sense.

            – Jake’s site tanks in April.

            – Matt says penalty applied a long time ago, but still ranked fine.

            – That implies that the penalty didn’t cause the April tanking, right?

            – So lifting the penalty should have no effect on the tanking, right?

            – And yet, Jake implies everything is fine now.

            Granted, he doesn’t outright *say* “my rankings returned”, but he seems pleased with the outcome, so that’s the impression I’ve formed. If his rankings did indeed return, then Matt’s explanation makes no sense. If his rankings did not return, the the penalty never hurt him in the first place and lifting the penalty never helped him, and this entire conversation is totally out of whack.

            So the first question has to be, “Jake, did your rankings return after the penalty was lifted, or not?” Jake’s answer will clarify a lot.

          • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

            @dazzlindonna, I had the same question about the timing of the drop in rankings.

            However, I think it might tell us more about Panda than about whether email reputation plays a roll in rankings.

            If the Panda update focused on sites that Google had low “trust” in among other factors, it would make sense for the site to have tanked then.

            After the reinclusion request, the site was once again trusted and therefore not harmed by the new Panda parameters.

            Obviously this is just speculation but given the information we have, it would seem to fit.

          • http://www.dazzlindonna.com/blog/ dazzlindonna

            That would be an interesting theory. One to keep in consideration, for sure. Still need to know if Jake got his rankings back or not.

          • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

            So, Matt is saying is that there was a non-related penalty associated and still attached to the site. The ‘site still ranked fine’ text is interesting but I take it to mean that the site wasn’t banned from the index. It was ranking, but not as high as it might without the penalty.

            When the reconsideration request was submitted, the team reviewed not just what was contained in that request but the reason for the prior and continuing penalty associated with the site.

            During that review, the old penalty was lifted (based on changed behavior) which provided a false positive on the reason for the change.

            The April drop may correspond to the additional Panda update that took place on April 11. Only Jake could tell us if the drop in April was on this specific date.

            http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/04/high-quality-sites-algorithm-goes.html

            That update included the block site data, which Google recently acknowledged is a compelling signal.

            The January 2011 reconsideration request is an interesting turn, but it may have simply been human ‘error’ in not investigating the prior penalty, or the reason for the reconsideration might have been resolved already and so the request was essentially tarred since rankings had already been returned via regular methods.

            I know this for sure, email reputation doesn’t cause penalties. Matt’s not in the business of putting out disinformation.

          • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

            If that is what happened, great. Though, I had previously filed a reconsideration request in January 2011 when I had a DNS issue. My rankings dropped substantially following the DNS issue, so I filed a reconsideration. Rankings came back fairly quickly after it was processed, which led me to believe that something was fixed in January 2011. If this outstanding link trust issue was in play then and what my reconsideration request said in January 2011 didn’t actually matter, it seems odd that it wasn’t removed in January of 2011.

            The basis of this article is of course about the reconsideration request I filed in April 2011 around email reputation.

          • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

            I should have clarified – at one point I used Text Link Ads as an advertising service. That would be the only thing I’ve ever done that would constitute selling links. They ran in my sidebar and were clearly marked as advertising. I stopped because Google indicated they were a bad idea.

          • http://twitter.com/kowboykoder Cowboy Coder

            That is pretty interesting. Google penalizes you hard if you use any competitors advertising service. I am sure that you don’t get dinged for Ad Words. Assuming that it is true that the ad links were the ones that Mr. Cutts was referring to, would this then by anticompetitive behavior by Google?

          • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

            The difference is that TLA ads are not labeled as paid and, thus, pass link juice. It’s clearly outside of Google’s guidelines and essentially games the algorithm.

            AdSense units are labeled as ads and do not pass link juice.

            No, I’m actually not a Google apologist (my blog speaks for itself) but in this case I don’t see any anti-competitive behavior.

            You can sell links on your site, you just have to label those links as such so they’re not passing link juice.

          • Anonymous

            Surely that points a crucial flaw in the system, how can you manually penalize a site and not put any tests in place that would let you know when the reasons for the penalization have been removed.

            If Jake hadn’t filed a reconsideration request he would have continued to be “trusted less” by Google thus presumably receiving less traffic.

            Google should create a simple algorithm that would alert the webspam team who I presume take the manual action on websites that the reason for penalty has been removed and they should take another manual look at it.

            As I see it the only reason Jake was informed of such penalization is because he filed a recon request, what about the thousands of other websites who inadvertently had bad links or another reason for penalization on the site and didn’t sport the traffic dip and didn’t file a request.

            Maybe I’m wrong, Matt, do Google have these stops/tests/algorithms in place to stop incorrect penalization?

          • Anonymous

            Surely that points a crucial flaw in the system, how can you manually penalize a site and not put any tests in place that would let you know when the reasons for the penalization have been removed.

            If Jake hadn’t filed a reconsideration request he would have continued to be “trusted less” by Google thus presumably receiving less traffic.

            Google should create a simple algorithm that would alert the webspam team who I presume take the manual action on websites that the reason for penalty has been removed and they should take another manual look at it.

            As I see it the only reason Jake was informed of such penalization is because he filed a recon request, what about the thousands of other websites who inadvertently had bad links or another reason for penalization on the site and didn’t sport the traffic dip and didn’t file a request.

            Maybe I’m wrong, Matt, do Google have these stops/tests/algorithms in place to stop incorrect penalization?

          • Anonymous

            Surely that points a crucial flaw in the system, how can you manually penalize a site and not put any tests in place that would let you know when the reasons for the penalization have been removed.

            If Jake hadn’t filed a reconsideration request he would have continued to be “trusted less” by Google thus presumably receiving less traffic.

            Google should create a simple algorithm that would alert the webspam team who I presume take the manual action on websites that the reason for penalty has been removed and they should take another manual look at it.

            As I see it the only reason Jake was informed of such penalization is because he filed a recon request, what about the thousands of other websites who inadvertently had bad links or another reason for penalization on the site and didn’t sport the traffic dip and didn’t file a request.

            Maybe I’m wrong, Matt, do Google have these stops/tests/algorithms in place to stop incorrect penalization?

        • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

          Editing to clarify since @neyne thinks I’m being dense.

          Matt, if the implication made about email reputation causing issues in organic results is what you’re calling into question, can you perhaps divulge why his email related actions and reinclussion request surrounding those actions would have been effective?

        • Anonymous

          help mi…

      • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

        The part that’s inaccurate is the headline “Email Reputation Causes Penalties in Google Search Results.” That’s not the case at all.

        I’ve been replying on the Hacker News thread at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2600933

      • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

        The part that’s inaccurate is the headline “Email Reputation Causes Penalties in Google Search Results.” That’s not the case at all.

        I’ve been replying on the Hacker News thread at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2600933

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      So you can find them on campus and fire them? That doesn’t seem like a very nice thing for me to do.

      Which part is specifically inaccurate?

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      So you can find them on campus and fire them? That doesn’t seem like a very nice thing for me to do.

      Which part is specifically inaccurate?

    • http://www.facebook.com/mckanedavis McKane Davis

      I know for a fact that Gmail has implemented some (overly aggressive, and really far-reaching) “spam” triggers over the last few months. Many of them have been scaled back over the past few weeks but the crux of the new Gmail “spam” filters centered around what Jake is explaining here. Non-engagement was causing spam triggers (and blacklisting) of entire domains. This is troubling in it’s own right because of the possibility of exploitation for nefarious purposes to hurt someone else’s site.

      I did not know about search results being affected by the same overly-aggressive spam filters. This may not be the case, but if this is true, it is troubling.

      The notion that email engagement is a good indicator of a site’s sender reputation or a site’s search reputation is problematic. It can be gamed so easily. I could set up 5,000 fake email addresses at gmail (and google business apps) email addresses, subscribe to my competitor’s email newsletter, and then never ever open any email for the next 6 months. Presumably, this would get them blacklisted in Gmail and (possibly) blacklisted and dropped from organic search results as well.

      Scary.

      If this isn’t already happening on a large scale, it will… immediately. Especially now that this blog post is going viral.

    • http://twitter.com/JessiDarko Jessica Darko

      Hey, its the dude who ruined the internet by incentivizing spam! And is he here to help? Hell, no, he wants to know who within google spilled the beans.

      Thanks for the help, Matt, you ignorant slut.

      • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

        Lol while I do love any comment that incorporates the “you ignorant slut” line, if you think Matt or even Google for that matter incentivised web spam you’re fooling yourself.

        Spam has always been profitable in any form (online and off) and probably always will be. Should Google be much more careful about who it partners with via Adsense? I think so, but it’s unfair to blame them for the decline of the entire web.

        If you need me, I’ll be off trying to figure out how I’ve been relegated to the roll of defending Google…

      • http://twitter.com/kevinjgallagher Kevin Gallagher

        bit harsh blaming Google for that. Ok adsense spam is a problem but so is email so do we blame the inventor of email for email spam?

    • http://twitter.com/kevinjgallagher Kevin Gallagher

      sounds made up to me Matt

  • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

    “With some additional digging, I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains.”

    Hi Jake, I’d be curious to get more info about this sentence, because it’s not true. Do you mind if I ask who at Google you talked to?

  • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

    “With some additional digging, I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains.”

    Hi Jake, I’d be curious to get more info about this sentence, because it’s not true. Do you mind if I ask who at Google you talked to?

  • nancyseeger

    Wow, very disturbing Google would be using GMail user information. It maybe part of GMail terms of use but seems a very ethical grey area to be using data in that manner. Folks are lazy, they will mark as junk having forgotten they have subscribed intentionally. Not a reliable mechanism and no doubt result in many false positives.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, very disturbing Google would be using GMail user information. It maybe part of GMail terms of use but seems a very ethical grey area to be using data in that manner. Folks are lazy, they will mark as junk having forgotten they have subscribed intentionally. Not a reliable mechanism and no doubt result in many false positives.

    • http://twitter.com/ConOat Nick

      yeah, but regardless if whether I subscribed intentionally or not, once I mark something as SPAM, you(as the newsletter sender) should unsubscribe me. My preferences changing do not make me lazy….they make me fickle.

      • Andrew Clark

        How would the sender know you marked the email as spam in a third party application exactly?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EKALUOKR2V2MFL5FFMOAZDNHWA nareshov

          RFC2369
          “The three core header fields described in this document are List-Help, List-Subscribe, and List-Unsubscribe”

          • http://twitter.com/CaptainInbox Andy T

            Gmail uses list-unsubscribe; when you hit the spam button they will also give you the opportunity to mark as spam and unusbscribe. Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and lots of other high end consumer ISPs in the US have feedback loops which can tell the sender to opt that person out – if they register and pass. Not so much in the EU due to the privacy laws

      • http://bigiain.myopenid.com/ Guest

        So long as you tell the newsletter sender… Clicking the [Report spam] button in gmail is not the “correct” (or polite) way to unsubscribe from a mailing list you intentionally signed up for. The newsletter sender isn’t even going to know your preferences have changed, except by the method Jake’s using of noticing you’re not opening or clicking on links in the mail they send.

        If you want to unsubscribe, then unsubscribe. Remember that “mark as SPAM” is different, and is probably hurting the guy who’s newsletter you happily signed up for originally.

        • http://twitter.com/MarketingXD MarketingXD

          Mark as SPAM is very impolite, so please always try to unsubscribe properly first. But senders *are* told, providing they have registered with Gmail. Regarding Andy T’s comments below, I worked with an EU sender who got this information. No issue with privacy laws.

    • http://twitter.com/ConOat Nick

      yeah, but regardless if whether I subscribed intentionally or not, once I mark something as SPAM, you(as the newsletter sender) should unsubscribe me. My preferences changing do not make me lazy….they make me fickle.

    • http://twitter.com/ConOat Nick

      yeah, but regardless if whether I subscribed intentionally or not, once I mark something as SPAM, you(as the newsletter sender) should unsubscribe me. My preferences changing do not make me lazy….they make me fickle.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Nancy, Matt Cutts from Google’s Webspam team has confirmed that this is untrue (see comment below, the Campaign Monitor blog and Hacker News).

    • Anonymous

      Hi Nancy, Matt Cutts from Google’s Webspam team has confirmed that this is untrue (see comment below, the Campaign Monitor blog and Hacker News).

    • Anonymous

      Hi Nancy, Matt Cutts from Google’s Webspam team has confirmed that this is untrue (see comment below, the Campaign Monitor blog and Hacker News).

  • Anonymous

    Wow, very disturbing Google would be using GMail user information. It maybe part of GMail terms of use but seems a very ethical grey area to be using data in that manner. Folks are lazy, they will mark as junk having forgotten they have subscribed intentionally. Not a reliable mechanism and no doubt result in many false positives.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, very disturbing Google would be using GMail user information. It maybe part of GMail terms of use but seems a very ethical grey area to be using data in that manner. Folks are lazy, they will mark as junk having forgotten they have subscribed intentionally. Not a reliable mechanism and no doubt result in many false positives.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, very disturbing Google would be using GMail user information. It maybe part of GMail terms of use but seems a very ethical grey area to be using data in that manner. Folks are lazy, they will mark as junk having forgotten they have subscribed intentionally. Not a reliable mechanism and no doubt result in many false positives.

    • http://twitter.com/ConOat Nick

      yeah, but regardless if whether I subscribed intentionally or not, once I mark something as SPAM, you(as the newsletter sender) should unsubscribe me. My preferences changing do not make me lazy….they make me fickle.

      • Andrew Clark

        How would the sender know you marked the email as spam in a third party application exactly?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EKALUOKR2V2MFL5FFMOAZDNHWA nareshov

          RFC2369
          “The three core header fields described in this document are List-Help, List-Subscribe, and List-Unsubscribe”

          • http://twitter.com/CaptainInbox Andy T

            Gmail uses list-unsubscribe; when you hit the spam button they will also give you the opportunity to mark as spam and unusbscribe. Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and lots of other high end consumer ISPs in the US have feedback loops which can tell the sender to opt that person out – if they register and pass. Not so much in the EU due to the privacy laws

      • http://bigiain.myopenid.com/ Guest

        So long as you tell the newsletter sender… Clicking the [Report spam] button in gmail is not the “correct” (or polite) way to unsubscribe from a mailing list you intentionally signed up for. The newsletter sender isn’t even going to know your preferences have changed, except by the method Jake’s using of noticing you’re not opening or clicking on links in the mail they send.

        If you want to unsubscribe, then unsubscribe. Remember that “mark as SPAM” is different, and is probably hurting the guy who’s newsletter you happily signed up for originally.

        • http://twitter.com/MarketingXD MarketingXD

          Mark as SPAM is very impolite, so please always try to unsubscribe properly first. But senders *are* told, providing they have registered with Gmail. Regarding Andy T’s comments below, I worked with an EU sender who got this information. No issue with privacy laws.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Nancy, Matt Cutts from Google’s Webspam team has confirmed that this is untrue (see comment below, the Campaign Monitor blog and Hacker News).

  • http://twitter.com/simonnreynolds Simon N. Reynolds

    Although its quite reasonable to think that google would be looking for email spammers as they would be also likely to spam the google index.

    I am highly skeptically about the validity of your “tip”.. ”
    I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains”

    Who was this special person at Google? what was their role?

    If this is true, then it will definitely make marketers second (even fourth or fifth guess their email marketing activity / spam)

  • http://twitter.com/simonnreynolds Simon N. Reynolds

    Although its quite reasonable to think that google would be looking for email spammers as they would be also likely to spam the google index.

    I am highly skeptically about the validity of your “tip”.. ”
    I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains”

    Who was this special person at Google? what was their role?

    If this is true, then it will definitely make marketers second (even fourth or fifth guess their email marketing activity / spam)

  • http://twitter.com/simonnreynolds Simon N. Reynolds

    Although its quite reasonable to think that google would be looking for email spammers as they would be also likely to spam the google index.

    I am highly skeptically about the validity of your “tip”.. ”
    I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains”

    Who was this special person at Google? what was their role?

    If this is true, then it will definitely make marketers second (even fourth or fifth guess their email marketing activity / spam)

  • http://twitter.com/simonnreynolds Simon N. Reynolds

    Although its quite reasonable to think that google would be looking for email spammers as they would be also likely to spam the google index.

    I am highly skeptically about the validity of your “tip”.. ”
    I got a tip from someone at Google who indicated Google was penalizing JakeLudington.com with some new measurements that penalize email behaviors for domains”

    Who was this special person at Google? what was their role?

    If this is true, then it will definitely make marketers second (even fourth or fifth guess their email marketing activity / spam)

  • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

    So you can find them on campus and fire them? That doesn’t seem like a very nice thing for me to do.

    Which part is specifically inaccurate?

    • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

      The part that’s inaccurate is the headline “Email Reputation Causes Penalties in Google Search Results.” That’s not the case at all.

      I’ve been replying on the Hacker News thread at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2600933

      • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

        Then maybe you could clarify why my submitting a reinclusion request for email behavior resulted in having a ‘Manual spam action revoked’.

        • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

          Sure, I’d be happy to clarify. When you submit a reconsideration request, if the webspam team has taken manual action in the past, we take another look at the site. We do that regardless of what you say in the the text of the reconsideration request. You could slip in “I was kidnapped by aliens, and the aliens said to do a reconsideration request” and we’d still take another look.

          Just to make it concrete, it looks like you’re talking about your site, right? And I believe a few years ago, your site linked to some lower-quality sites, the sort of sites that bought a lot of links. So the manual webspam team had taken manual action to trust your site less. Your site still ranked fine; we just didn’t trust your links because of the sites you were linking to a few years ago.

          Then in April 2011, you did a reconsideration request. You might have submitted it for email behavior, but that doesn’t really matter. We saw that we’d taken manual action in the past, so that triggered a fresh look. The links to low-quality sites (the sorts of sites that bought links) were no longer there, so we revoked the manual action, and you got a “manual spam action revoked” message in your webmaster console. But the action was revoked because you were no longer linking to those sites, not for anything related to email. I hope that clears up what happened with your site, but just to be clear: it had nothing to do with your site’s email reputation.

          • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

            Matt, thanks for clearing this up as I believe it will prevent a LOT of misinformation from spreading any further. It’s good to see Google have a voice on things like this.

            That being said, the advice of cleaning up your list on a regular basis is a good one, just don’t expect SEO value from it.

          • http://lineswritinglines.com/ Natan Gesher

            Oh snap.

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul11 Paul Foeckler

            Looking at http://www.jakeludington.com/ it is pretty clear that this page was hit by the Panda update for legitimate reasons, it’s flooded with ads and has hardly any good content.

            Wouldn’t have thought it has something to do with email reputation but its good to read about what has caused the confusion. Do people get notified in GWT if there was a manual action taken by Google? Ie. could Jake have known about his low-quality site links and removed them earlier?

            Thanks for clearing things up.

          • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

            Flooded with ads? I suppose that is subjective, but I currently have fewer ads than what Google’s own Adsense team keeps encouraging me to run on every page.

          • http://www.facebook.com/wspencer Will Spencer

            Paul, Google already clarified that they do not have the technology to measure the number of ads on a page and that the number of ads is therefore not a metric in the Panda algorithm(s).

            In addition, your definition of “good content” is both subjective and questionable.

          • http://twitter.com/albertbori Albert Bori

            Transparency with this sort of thing really helps. I understand why Google tries to remain so incognito about their internal processes, but it causes a lot of confusion among those who are trying to do the right thing.

          • http://www.dazzlindonna.com/blog/ dazzlindonna

            My first thought was, “ok, cool, conversation over”. But then I got to thinking…and this makes no sense.

            – Jake’s site tanks in April.

            – Matt says penalty applied a long time ago, but still ranked fine.

            – That implies that the penalty didn’t cause the April tanking, right?

            – So lifting the penalty should have no effect on the tanking, right?

            – And yet, Jake implies everything is fine now.

            Granted, he doesn’t outright *say* “my rankings returned”, but he seems pleased with the outcome, so that’s the impression I’ve formed. If his rankings did indeed return, then Matt’s explanation makes no sense. If his rankings did not return, the the penalty never hurt him in the first place and lifting the penalty never helped him, and this entire conversation is totally out of whack.

            So the first question has to be, “Jake, did your rankings return after the penalty was lifted, or not?” Jake’s answer will clarify a lot.

          • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

            @dazzlindonna, I had the same question about the timing of the drop in rankings.

            However, I think it might tell us more about Panda than about whether email reputation plays a roll in rankings.

            If the Panda update focused on sites that Google had low “trust” in among other factors, it would make sense for the site to have tanked then.

            After the reinclusion request, the site was once again trusted and therefore not harmed by the new Panda parameters.

            Obviously this is just speculation but given the information we have, it would seem to fit.

          • http://www.dazzlindonna.com/blog/ dazzlindonna

            That would be an interesting theory. One to keep in consideration, for sure. Still need to know if Jake got his rankings back or not.

          • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

            So, Matt is saying is that there was a non-related penalty associated and still attached to the site. The ‘site still ranked fine’ text is interesting but I take it to mean that the site wasn’t banned from the index. It was ranking, but not as high as it might without the penalty.

            When the reconsideration request was submitted, the team reviewed not just what was contained in that request but the reason for the prior and continuing penalty associated with the site.

            During that review, the old penalty was lifted (based on changed behavior) which provided a false positive on the reason for the change.

            The April drop may correspond to the additional Panda update that took place on April 11. Only Jake could tell us if the drop in April was on this specific date.

            http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/04/high-quality-sites-algorithm-goes.html

            That update included the block site data, which Google recently acknowledged is a compelling signal.

            The January 2011 reconsideration request is an interesting turn, but it may have simply been human ‘error’ in not investigating the prior penalty, or the reason for the reconsideration might have been resolved already and so the request was essentially tarred since rankings had already been returned via regular methods.

            I know this for sure, email reputation doesn’t cause penalties. Matt’s not in the business of putting out disinformation.

          • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

            If that is what happened, great. Though, I had previously filed a reconsideration request in January 2011 when I had a DNS issue. My rankings dropped substantially following the DNS issue, so I filed a reconsideration. Rankings came back fairly quickly after it was processed, which led me to believe that something was fixed in January 2011. If this outstanding link trust issue was in play then and what my reconsideration request said in January 2011 didn’t actually matter, it seems odd that it wasn’t removed in January of 2011.

            The basis of this article is of course about the reconsideration request I filed in April 2011 around email reputation.

          • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

            I should have clarified – at one point I used Text Link Ads as an advertising service. That would be the only thing I’ve ever done that would constitute selling links. They ran in my sidebar and were clearly marked as advertising. I stopped because Google indicated they were a bad idea.

          • http://twitter.com/kowboykoder Cowboy Coder

            That is pretty interesting. Google penalizes you hard if you use any competitors advertising service. I am sure that you don’t get dinged for Ad Words. Assuming that it is true that the ad links were the ones that Mr. Cutts was referring to, would this then by anticompetitive behavior by Google?

          • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

            The difference is that TLA ads are not labeled as paid and, thus, pass link juice. It’s clearly outside of Google’s guidelines and essentially games the algorithm.

            AdSense units are labeled as ads and do not pass link juice.

            No, I’m actually not a Google apologist (my blog speaks for itself) but in this case I don’t see any anti-competitive behavior.

            You can sell links on your site, you just have to label those links as such so they’re not passing link juice.

          • Anonymous

            Surely that points a crucial flaw in the system, how can you manually penalize a site and not put any tests in place that would let you know when the reasons for the penalization have been removed.

            If Jake hadn’t filed a reconsideration request he would have continued to be “trusted less” by Google thus presumably receiving less traffic.

            Google should create a simple algorithm that would alert the webspam team who I presume take the manual action on websites that the reason for penalty has been removed and they should take another manual look at it.

            As I see it the only reason Jake was informed of such penalization is because he filed a recon request, what about the thousands of other websites who inadvertently had bad links or another reason for penalization on the site and didn’t sport the traffic dip and didn’t file a request.

            Maybe I’m wrong, Matt, do Google have these stops/tests/algorithms in place to stop incorrect penalization?

        • http://twitter.com/mattcutts Matt Cutts

          Sure, I’d be happy to clarify. When you submit a reconsideration request, if the webspam team has taken manual action in the past, we take another look at the site. We do that regardless of what you say in the the text of the reconsideration request. You could slip in “I was kidnapped by aliens, and the aliens said to do a reconsideration request” and we’d still take another look.

          Just to make it concrete, it looks like you’re talking about your site, right? And I believe a few years ago, your site linked to some lower-quality sites, the sort of sites that bought a lot of links. So the manual webspam team had taken manual action to trust your site less. Your site still ranked fine; we just didn’t trust your links because of the sites you were linking to a few years ago.

          Then in April 2011, you did a reconsideration request. You might have submitted it for email behavior, but that doesn’t really matter. We saw that we’d taken manual action in the past, so that triggered a fresh look. The links to low-quality sites (the sorts of sites that bought links) were no longer there, so we revoked the manual action, and you got a “manual spam action revoked” message in your webmaster console. But the action was revoked because you were no longer linking to those sites, not for anything related to email. I hope that clears up what happened with your site, but just to be clear: it had nothing to do with your site’s email reputation.

      • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

        Matt, you quoted a sentence, said that isn’t true, and now claim that the title is what’s inaccurate?

        Sorry, but if you’re going to accuse the author of posting inaccurate information you need to bring a bit of proof to the table as well.

      • Anonymous

        help mi…

  • http://twitter.com/jimboot Jim Stewart

    Logically it doesn’t make sense to me. Linking newsletter list quality with web search would have all sorts of problems. It’s too irrelevant for search and easily gamed.

    My guess is coincidence.
    As Monty Python tells, just because a witch floats, doesn’t mean she is made of wood :)

    • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

      On the contrary, I suspect that it does an excellent job of filtering out spammers and mass emailers, and lowering the rank of less interesting content.

  • http://twitter.com/jimboot Jim Stewart

    Logically it doesn’t make sense to me. Linking newsletter list quality with web search would have all sorts of problems. It’s too irrelevant for search and easily gamed.

    My guess is coincidence.
    As Monty Python tells, just because a witch floats, doesn’t mean she is made of wood :)

    • http://joshtriplett.org/ Josh Triplett

      On the contrary, I suspect that it does an excellent job of filtering out spammers and mass emailers, and lowering the rank of less interesting content.

  • http://twitter.com/jimboot Jim Stewart

    Logically it doesn’t make sense to me. Linking newsletter list quality with web search would have all sorts of problems. It’s too irrelevant for search and easily gamed.

    My guess is coincidence.
    As Monty Python tells, just because a witch floats, doesn’t mean she is made of wood :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-OBrien/1573749395 Bob O’Brien

    I’m a reputation consultant, and whether or not what led Jake there was accurate information about Google, the advice for constantly keeping one’s email lists “fresh and clean” is quite good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-OBrien/1573749395 Bob O’Brien

    I’m a reputation consultant, and whether or not what led Jake there was accurate information about Google, the advice for constantly keeping one’s email lists “fresh and clean” is quite good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-OBrien/1573749395 Bob O’Brien

    I’m a reputation consultant, and whether or not what led Jake there was accurate information about Google, the advice for constantly keeping one’s email lists “fresh and clean” is quite good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-OBrien/1573749395 Bob O’Brien

    I’m a reputation consultant, and whether or not what led Jake there was accurate information about Google, the advice for constantly keeping one’s email lists “fresh and clean” is quite good.

  • http://twitter.com/techofweb Atul Kumar

    very disturbing that Google is using Gmail Data and after reading this post, I am really disppointed to see that now I need to chek my Feedburner EMail list also. I use feedburner. need to check it that how I can know people that are not suing it

    very sad on google.

  • http://twitter.com/techofweb Atul Kumar

    very disturbing that Google is using Gmail Data and after reading this post, I am really disppointed to see that now I need to chek my Feedburner EMail list also. I use feedburner. need to check it that how I can know people that are not suing it

    very sad on google.

  • http://twitter.com/techofweb Atul Kumar

    very disturbing that Google is using Gmail Data and after reading this post, I am really disppointed to see that now I need to chek my Feedburner EMail list also. I use feedburner. need to check it that how I can know people that are not suing it

    very sad on google.

  • http://twitter.com/techofweb Atul Kumar

    very disturbing that Google is using Gmail Data and after reading this post, I am really disppointed to see that now I need to chek my Feedburner EMail list also. I use feedburner. need to check it that how I can know people that are not suing it

    very sad on google.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wspencer Will Spencer

    As we really can’t trust what Google says, it might be safer just to refuse newsletter subscriptions from GMail accounts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wspencer Will Spencer

    As we really can’t trust what Google says, it might be safer just to refuse newsletter subscriptions from GMail accounts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Goodwin/100002255248546 Tom Goodwin

    You don’t connect the dots *at all*. You say that some of your emails got flagged as spammy. fine. You said you rankings got dinged. fine. You don’t provide any sort of logical jump from one to the other. In any event, one would need a lot of data points here to draw any sort of conclusion (assuming you had the data points). Until then, I call complete BS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Goodwin/100002255248546 Tom Goodwin

    You don’t connect the dots *at all*. You say that some of your emails got flagged as spammy. fine. You said you rankings got dinged. fine. You don’t provide any sort of logical jump from one to the other. In any event, one would need a lot of data points here to draw any sort of conclusion (assuming you had the data points). Until then, I call complete BS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Goodwin/100002255248546 Tom Goodwin

    You don’t connect the dots *at all*. You say that some of your emails got flagged as spammy. fine. You said you rankings got dinged. fine. You don’t provide any sort of logical jump from one to the other. In any event, one would need a lot of data points here to draw any sort of conclusion (assuming you had the data points). Until then, I call complete BS.

  • Dominik Schneider

    Is there a way to check your @gmail reputation for your own domain? As is possible for PageRank and so on?

  • Dominik Schneider

    Is there a way to check your @gmail reputation for your own domain? As is possible for PageRank and so on?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mckanedavis McKane Davis

    I know for a fact that Gmail has implemented some (overly aggressive, and really far-reaching) “spam” triggers over the last few months. Many of them have been scaled back over the past few weeks but the crux of the new Gmail “spam” filters centered around what Jake is explaining here. Non-engagement was causing spam triggers (and blacklisting) of entire domains. This is troubling in it’s own right because of the possibility of exploitation for nefarious purposes to hurt someone else’s site.

    I did not know about search results being affected by the same overly-aggressive spam filters. This may not be the case, but if this is true, it is troubling.

    The notion the email engagement is a good indicator of a sites sender reputation or a sites search reputation is problematic. It can be gamed so easily. I could set up 5,000 fake email addresses at gmail (and google business apps) email addresses, subscribe to my competitor’s email newsletter, and then never ever open any email for the next 6 months. I can get them blacklisted in Gmail and (possibly) blacklisted and dropped from organic search results as well?

    Scary.

  • http://twitter.com/nirmaltv Nirmal

    @Jake,
    I have a doubt on your claims, you mentioned that if I subscribe to your blog using newsletter and use a Gmail address for subscription and in due course of time, when I’m not opening your newsletter, it might be addressed as low reputation email, is that right? And this happens when you have more than 1000s of gmail addresses doing this, am I correct ?

    Well my doubt is what if these 1000 readers use Outlook or Thunderbird or any other email client? These newsletter emails will still remain as unread. So how is that Google can penalize such domains?

  • http://twitter.com/nirmaltv Nirmal

    @Jake,
    I have a doubt on your claims, you mentioned that if I subscribe to your blog using newsletter and use a Gmail address for subscription and in due course of time, when I’m not opening your newsletter, it might be addressed as low reputation email, is that right? And this happens when you have more than 1000s of gmail addresses doing this, am I correct ?

    Well my doubt is what if these 1000 readers use Outlook or Thunderbird or any other email client? These newsletter emails will still remain as unread. So how is that Google can penalize such domains?

  • http://twitter.com/nirmaltv Nirmal

    @Jake,
    I have a doubt on your claims, you mentioned that if I subscribe to your blog using newsletter and use a Gmail address for subscription and in due course of time, when I’m not opening your newsletter, it might be addressed as low reputation email, is that right? And this happens when you have more than 1000s of gmail addresses doing this, am I correct ?

    Well my doubt is what if these 1000 readers use Outlook or Thunderbird or any other email client? These newsletter emails will still remain as unread. So how is that Google can penalize such domains?

  • http://twitter.com/nirmaltv Nirmal

    @Jake,
    I have a doubt on your claims, you mentioned that if I subscribe to your blog using newsletter and use a Gmail address for subscription and in due course of time, when I’m not opening your newsletter, it might be addressed as low reputation email, is that right? And this happens when you have more than 1000s of gmail addresses doing this, am I correct ?

    Well my doubt is what if these 1000 readers use Outlook or Thunderbird or any other email client? These newsletter emails will still remain as unread. So how is that Google can penalize such domains?

  • http://secretswede.net/ Hessam Lavi

    It makes a lot of sense to improve the way you use email for driving traffic to your site, but to link poor email open-rate to being penalized by Google is highly speculative and misguided.

    Your site was most likely affected by the Panda update which was released (in several iterations) around the same time – looking at your website I can see why this could’ve happened, and filing a reconsideration request seemed to have lifted the penalty.

  • http://secretswede.net/ Hessam Lavi

    It makes a lot of sense to improve the way you use email for driving traffic to your site, but to link poor email open-rate to being penalized by Google is highly speculative and misguided.

    Your site was most likely affected by the Panda update which was released (in several iterations) around the same time – looking at your website I can see why this could’ve happened, and filing a reconsideration request seemed to have lifted the penalty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Addison/778254997 David Addison

    If Matt Cutts says that the headline is inaccurate, then e-mail reputation is not a factor in Pandazation. User engagement with e-mail is a huge factor in delivery. Jake has some really valid points. Keep your list clean! One of my big sites was hit by Panda 2. We’re not a link farm – super quality content. And we do send a whole lot of opt-in e-mail. I don’t see e-mail as the root of our Panda problems.

  • Anonymous

    If Matt Cutts says that the headline is inaccurate, then e-mail reputation is not a factor in Pandazation. User engagement with e-mail is a huge factor in delivery. Jake has some really valid points. Keep your list clean! One of my big sites was hit by Panda 2. We’re not a link farm – super quality content. And we do send a whole lot of opt-in e-mail. I don’t see e-mail as the root of our Panda problems.

  • http://twitter.com/JessiDarko Jessica Darko

    Hey, its the dude who ruined the internet by incentivizing spam! And is he here to help? Hell, no, he wants to know who within google spilled the beans.

    Thanks for the help, Matt, you ignorant slut.

    • http://twitter.com/Skitzzo Ben Cook

      Lol while I do love any comment that incorporates the “you ignorant slut” line, if you think Matt or even Google for that matter incentivised web spam you’re fooling yourself.

      Spam has always been profitable in any form (online and off) and probably always will be. Should Google be much more careful about who it partners with via Adsense? I think so, but it’s unfair to blame them for the decline of the entire web.

      If you need me, I’ll be off trying to figure out how I’ve been relegated to the roll of defending Google…

    • http://twitter.com/kevinjgallagher Kevin Gallagher

      bit harsh blaming Google for that. Ok adsense spam is a problem but so is email so do we blame the inventor of email for email spam?

  • http://twitter.com/JessiDarko Jessica Darko

    Hey, its the dude who ruined the internet by incentivizing spam! And is he here to help? Hell, no, he wants to know who within google spilled the beans.

    Thanks for the help, Matt, you ignorant slut.

  • http://www.ninebyblue.com Vanessa Fox

    Jake, did you see your Google organic search traffic go up after you got the message that the penalty was lifted?

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      No, I did not. The previous time I submitted reinclusion, which was following drop in results due to a DNS issue, the traffic came back up the same day I got a notice back from Google in Webmaster Tools.

      According to what Matt said in another comment here though, apparently submitting a request is meaningless in terms of content of the request since he says: “When you submit a reconsideration request, if the webspam team has taken manual action in the past, we take another look at the site. We do that regardless of what you say in the the text of the reconsideration request”

      • http://www.ninebyblue.com Vanessa Fox

        That your traffic didn’t return to previous levels, despite receiving a notice that a penalty was lifted makes sense in conjunction with Matt’s comment.

        The penalty he described isn’t one that would lead to lowered rankings (and subsequently lower traffic), so lifting the penalty wouldn’t result in increased traffic.

        If in fact the site was hit by Panda 2.0 (I’m assuming you’re talking about April 11th: http://searchengineland.com/google-rolls-out-its-panda-update-internationally-and-begins-incorporating-searcher-blocking-data-72497), then filing a reconsideration request wouldn’t make a difference, as Panda isn’t a penalty (which is the realm of the spam team), but rather a change in how the rankings algorithm works overall (which is the realm of the search quality team).

        I know that it may not seem all that different to someone who is experiencing the same outcome either way (reduced traffic), but internally, it is very different. In the case of a manual penalty, someone on the spam team at Google can manually review a site and lift the penalty if warranted. In the case of something like Panda, there is no penalty to be lifted and since it’s an overall ranking algorithm for the entire web, there’s no way to “whitelist” a site to restore its rankings.

        In terms of how a reconsideration request works (I built webmaster central, which houses the reconsideration request, although I haven’t worked at Google for a long time now), it is as Matt describes (of course, being his team, heh), although again, it may seem odd looking at it from the outside.

        Basically, it’s all code to start with. If you file a reconsideration request and your site does in fact have a penalty (which, of course, is often not the case), the request is routed to someone to look at. At this point, the system doesn’t know if what you’re talking about in the form matches what the penalty is about. All it knows is that you filed the form and the site has a penalty.

        This is when the “we have received your request” message kicks in.

        Then, someone reviews the site. They look at penalty and then look to see if the criteria for applying the penalty still exist. Again, this is independent of what you put on the form. They do look at what you write in the form, and if it’s applicable, they ma use it in assessing whether or not to remove the penalty. But the key is that they independently evaluate the site.

        Generally, the reason for the reconsideration matches the penalty, so what’s in the form is applicable. But the Googler has to do an independent review because of course everyone who submits the form is going to say that the site’s been cleaned up! Even if all kinds of spam is still hiding behind every corner.

        Once the review is complete, you’ll get the message that the request has been processed and possibly that the penalty has been lifted.

        In your case, it just so happens that it was a coincidence that a penalty happened to exist on the site. So even though your reconsideration request wasn’t about that penalty, the request still sparked that manual review and lifting of the penalty.

  • http://www.ninebyblue.com Vanessa Fox

    Jake, did you see your Google organic search traffic go up after you got the message that the penalty was lifted?

  • http://www.ninebyblue.com Vanessa Fox

    Jake, did you see your Google organic search traffic go up after you got the message that the penalty was lifted?

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      No, I did not. The previous time I submitted reinclusion, which was following drop in results due to a DNS issue, the traffic came back up the same day I got a notice back from Google in Webmaster Tools.

      According to what Matt said in another comment here though, apparently submitting a request is meaningless in terms of content of the request since he says: “When you submit a reconsideration request, if the webspam team has taken manual action in the past, we take another look at the site. We do that regardless of what you say in the the text of the reconsideration request”

      • http://www.ninebyblue.com Vanessa Fox

        That your traffic didn’t return to previous levels, despite receiving a notice that a penalty was lifted makes sense in conjunction with Matt’s comment.

        The penalty he described isn’t one that would lead to lowered rankings (and subsequently lower traffic), so lifting the penalty wouldn’t result in increased traffic.

        If in fact the site was hit by Panda 2.0 (I’m assuming you’re talking about April 11th: http://searchengineland.com/google-rolls-out-its-panda-update-internationally-and-begins-incorporating-searcher-blocking-data-72497), then filing a reconsideration request wouldn’t make a difference, as Panda isn’t a penalty (which is the realm of the spam team), but rather a change in how the rankings algorithm works overall (which is the realm of the search quality team).

        I know that it may not seem all that different to someone who is experiencing the same outcome either way (reduced traffic), but internally, it is very different. In the case of a manual penalty, someone on the spam team at Google can manually review a site and lift the penalty if warranted. In the case of something like Panda, there is no penalty to be lifted and since it’s an overall ranking algorithm for the entire web, there’s no way to “whitelist” a site to restore its rankings.

        In terms of how a reconsideration request works (I built webmaster central, which houses the reconsideration request, although I haven’t worked at Google for a long time now), it is as Matt describes (of course, being his team, heh), although again, it may seem odd looking at it from the outside.

        Basically, it’s all code to start with. If you file a reconsideration request and your site does in fact have a penalty (which, of course, is often not the case), the request is routed to someone to look at. At this point, the system doesn’t know if what you’re talking about in the form matches what the penalty is about. All it knows is that you filed the form and the site has a penalty.

        This is when the “we have received your request” message kicks in.

        Then, someone reviews the site. They look at penalty and then look to see if the criteria for applying the penalty still exist. Again, this is independent of what you put on the form. They do look at what you write in the form, and if it’s applicable, they ma use it in assessing whether or not to remove the penalty. But the key is that they independently evaluate the site.

        Generally, the reason for the reconsideration matches the penalty, so what’s in the form is applicable. But the Googler has to do an independent review because of course everyone who submits the form is going to say that the site’s been cleaned up! Even if all kinds of spam is still hiding behind every corner.

        Once the review is complete, you’ll get the message that the request has been processed and possibly that the penalty has been lifted.

        In your case, it just so happens that it was a coincidence that a penalty happened to exist on the site. So even though your reconsideration request wasn’t about that penalty, the request still sparked that manual review and lifting of the penalty.

  • http://twitter.com/kevinjgallagher Kevin Gallagher

    sounds made up to me Matt

  • Noumaan Yaqoob

    @Matt glad that you cleared that up. My website also got affected in April and I can’t figure out what I need to correct in order to get my rankings back. I think there should be some information from Google regarding what steps people can take in this case by people I mean website owners who believe that they got affected by the panda update.

    Also I would like to know how can I submit my website for manual review?

  • Anonymous

    @Matt glad that you cleared that up. My website also got affected in April and I can’t figure out what I need to correct in order to get my rankings back. I think there should be some information from Google regarding what steps people can take in this case by people I mean website owners who believe that they got affected by the panda update.

    Also I would like to know how can I submit my website for manual review?

  • Anonymous

    hlep mi

  • Anonymous

    hlep mi

  • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

    Where did you get the idea that Search engine company count email opens? While they certainly could.. the effect of opt in subscriber is a positive that would outweigh any open rate calculation.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      Why would the number of opt-in subscribers be a positive in the case where too many of them don’t actually read the emails? All the major mail services absolutely track sender engagement as a factor in determining whether or not you are sending junk.

      • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

        This is a thought exercise because Search Engines do not use email lists.

        But if they did, of course they would count an opt in at least as much as a comment on a blog or LIKE on Facebook. It’s much more of a commitment. As I’m sure you know, most people don’t read all the RSS feeds they subscribe to and Facebook reports as high as 90% of the people LIKEing a page never return to it.

        Surely an opt-in is more of a vote than a social media tag. If there was a reliable way to count “real” opt ins, I’m sure it would be useful data.

        You are right to say that junk is determined by you sending to bad address or even closed accounts. That will have a lot to do with deliverablity but I’ll take Matt Cutts word over yours that this has anything to do with reputation or PageRank.

        If you have a source other than your assumptions regrading SEO value of mailing lists, please share. I’d love to see it

        • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

          Outside of the SEO factors, email reputation does have an impact on your ability to send email to people. I’m not talking about sending to closed accounts, but to open ones that just collect the email and never open them.

          With regard to Google and the SEO value of email, there are at least two Google patents that list email as a potential weighting factor in search results.

          Google’s method for detecting link spam patent references the possibility of the links appearing in email, which doesn’t guarantee they are using that piece of the patent, but certainly means search engineers were considering link spam as possibly including email.

          Google’s Ranking blog documents patent references links in email as a positive signal. Here again, we have no way of knowing which pieces of that exact patent are being used, but it’s reasonable to think they may be using email signals because they were smart enough to consider that as part of the patent description. (search for 0044 to save time finding it)

          So there are two sides that could add up to weighing email both for and against search rankings.

          • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

            Of course Google does such research, but even it I didn’t trust Matt Cutts, I would not let go of my unengaged subscribers so easily.

            The ROI on my email list from people who don’t open emails is way to high to flush it down the toilet on such speculation.

            Unless you have solid tests of this affecting the algorithm, I think it’s disservice to mailing list owners to tell them to drop subscribers.. especially in such a short time frame

          • http://twitter.com/MarketingXD MarketingXD

            +1

  • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

    Where did you get the idea that Search engine company count email opens? While they certainly could.. the effect of opt in subscriber is a positive that would outweigh any open rate calculation.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      Why would the number of opt-in subscribers be a positive in the case where too many of them don’t actually read the emails? All the major mail services absolutely track sender engagement as a factor in determining whether or not you are sending junk.

      • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

        This is a thought exercise because Search Engines do not use email lists.

        But if they did, of course they would count an opt in at least as much as a comment on a blog or LIKE on Facebook. It’s much more of a commitment. As I’m sure you know, most people don’t read all the RSS feeds they subscribe to and Facebook reports as high as 90% of the people LIKEing a page never return to it.

        Surely an opt-in is more of a vote than a social media tag. If there was a reliable way to count “real” opt ins, I’m sure it would be useful data.

        You are right to say that junk is determined by you sending to bad address or even closed accounts. That will have a lot to do with deliverablity but I’ll take Matt Cutts word over yours that this has anything to do with reputation or PageRank.

        If you have a source other than your assumptions regrading SEO value of mailing lists, please share. I’d love to see it

        • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

          Outside of the SEO factors, email reputation does have an impact on your ability to send email to people. I’m not talking about sending to closed accounts, but to open ones that just collect the email and never open them.

          With regard to Google and the SEO value of email, there are at least two Google patents that list email as a potential weighting factor in search results.

          Google’s method for detecting link spam patent references the possibility of the links appearing in email, which doesn’t guarantee they are using that piece of the patent, but certainly means search engineers were considering link spam as possibly including email.

          Google’s Ranking blog documents patent references links in email as a positive signal. Here again, we have no way of knowing which pieces of that exact patent are being used, but it’s reasonable to think they may be using email signals because they were smart enough to consider that as part of the patent description. (search for 0044 to save time finding it)

          So there are two sides that could add up to weighing email both for and against search rankings.

          • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

            Of course Google does such research, but even it I didn’t trust Matt Cutts, I would not let go of my unengaged subscribers so easily.

            The ROI on my email list from people who don’t open emails is way to high to flush it down the toilet on such speculation.

            Unless you have solid tests of this affecting the algorithm, I think it’s disservice to mailing list owners to tell them to drop subscribers.. especially in such a short time frame

          • http://twitter.com/MarketingXD MarketingXD

            +1

  • http://twitter.com/LinkBuilding_ InternetServiceDesk

    Great dialogue. Whatever the case, it looks like manual action by Google was done twice. The mystery is during the first manual action, you were fine with your position, and after April you dropped even more. If anything it shows that Google algorithm can make mistakes and it still requires manual action to fix the squeaky wheels that need grease ;)

  • http://twitter.com/glager Gennady Lager

    Sounds like an editorial ad for Aweber if you ask me.

  • http://twitter.com/glager Gennady Lager

    Sounds like an editorial ad for Aweber if you ask me.

  • Danny Yee

    My web site – lots of simple original content, basic navigation structure unchanged for a decade – has been hit by a Google penalty too, which this theory would explain. Can someone explain how I submit a “reconsideration request”?

  • Danny Yee

    My web site – lots of simple original content, basic navigation structure unchanged for a decade – has been hit by a Google penalty too, which this theory would explain. Can someone explain how I submit a “reconsideration request”?

  • http://increasingworkplaceproductivity.net Bojan Djordjevic

    Wow, you really explained it well, how email is correlated to search engine rankings. Way to go! This is certainly useful piece of information for all of us who engage in email marketing.

  • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan Djordjevic

    Wow, you really explained it well, how email is correlated to search engine rankings. Way to go! This is certainly useful piece of information for all of us who engage in email marketing.

  • http://www.burnworld.com/ BurnWorld

    Looks like I need to clean up my list then. ODes it hurt rankings, does it not?? Who knows but I agree with Jake, a clean list is the way to go.

  • http://www.burnworld.com/ BurnWorld

    Looks like I need to clean up my list then. ODes it hurt rankings, does it not?? Who knows but I agree with Jake, a clean list is the way to go.

  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    I dont know why everyone is hating on this guy. What a genius way to get matt cutts out of his little panda hibernation and tell you some specifics about your website.

  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    I dont know why everyone is hating on this guy. What a genius way to get matt cutts out of his little panda hibernation and tell you some specifics about your website.

  • http://www.onlineaspect.com Josh Fraser

    Isn’t email tracking usually done using an image beacon and aren’t images turned off by default in GMail? It sounds to me like you may have accidentally purged a lot of active readers by putting too much faith in flawed reporting tools.

    Sure, you should never send email to anyone who marked you as spam, but deleting people just because they don’t have images turned on is probably overkill.

  • http://www.onlineaspect.com Josh Fraser

    Isn’t email tracking usually done using an image beacon and aren’t images turned off by default in GMail? It sounds to me like you may have accidentally purged a lot of active readers by putting too much faith in flawed reporting tools.

    Sure, you should never send email to anyone who marked you as spam, but deleting people just because they don’t have images turned on is probably overkill.

  • http://www.onlineaspect.com Josh Fraser

    Isn’t email tracking usually done using an image beacon and aren’t images turned off by default in GMail? It sounds to me like you may have accidentally purged a lot of active readers by putting too much faith in flawed reporting tools.

    Sure, you should never send email to anyone who marked you as spam, but deleting people just because they don’t have images turned on is probably overkill.

  • http://www.jonnyross.com/ Jonny Ross

    Hi Jake, shame i didnt find your article first!! wondered if you would like to comment here? https://plus.google.com/u/0/103257102611138481756/posts/TfZsbwJTzx8