Frédéric Dubut, spam team lead at Bing (left) and former Googler Fili Wiese (right) took the stage at SMX Advanced 2019.

SEATTLE — Frédéric Dubut, lead of the spam team at Bing and Fili Wiese, a former Googler who worked on spam and manual actions, spoke together on stage about algorithms and penalties on Wednesday at SMX Advanced.

Different approaches to fighting spam

Dubut said search engines remove spam from their search indexes in order to protect searchers from seeing bad search results or manipulative search results. They also do this to promote those who are playing fair, while demoting sites that aren’t, he added. Bing does demote and penalize sites.

Wiese said Google takes a different approach. It does manual actions in order to help educate publishers and site owners about what is in accordance with the Google guidelines. It also takes manual actions to correct the search results but are focused on education, said Wiese.

Algorithm updates aren’t penalties

Algorithmic changes are not penalties. They are not aimed at demoting specific sites but rather showing the best type of pages for the query. Algorithmic updates are about the input and the output, Wiese said. Inputs are controlled by publishers, webmasters and SEOs.

Wiese explained how Bing’s search engine works. It build a search engine to think about what would make searchers happy, and then build guidelines and training sets. The training sets can be judged by people to see what works to make searchers happy and then train the ranking algorithm. Bing pushes out models to subsets of users and watches to see if these real-life searchers are satisfied by the search results. This process continues when Bing does algorithmic updates.

Generally Bing would rather have an algorithm take care of dealing with spammy sites and not have manual actions. So it looks at how users react to search results, how the Bing judges like the search results and what the actual ranking algorithm returns. It isn’t always perfect, and that is why search algorithms continue to update.

Bing has a 42 page raters guidelines and does not publish them, whereas Google has a 166 page document it does publish. Bing’s “judges” are similar to Google’s “quality raters.”

Bing uses click metrics only when evaluating how the search ranking algorithm is working, it is not a direct input in how Bing ranks pages, but rather a metric Bing looks at afterwards to see if searchers are happy with the search results.

The one constant with search algorithms is that they are constantly changing said Dubut of Bing. Bing does not announce updates because they are constant — weekly or more often. Google does confirm or announce some updates, but not many.

Wiese explained that with manual actions Google can penalize in many ways, from a whole site level, subdomain, sections of the site or page by page basis. They can also demote rankings, de-list sites or other forms of penalties.

Webmaster guidelines

Both Bing and Google have webmaster guidelines, you can view the the Google Webmaster guidelines here and the Bing Webmaster guidelines here. Both Dubut and Wiese talked about specific examples in these guidelines. Intent is important when it comes to when a site gets hit by a penalty.

Bing also added that it has nothing against affiliate sites, but said affiliates need to add value or types of content it wants to serve users. This is almost exactly the same thing Google would say on this topic. Value-add is critical when it comes to affiliate sites.

When you break the guidelines it can lead to a penalty with the search engines. Search engines can penalize you by (a) neutralizing the impact of the spam, (b) demoting the site and (c) removing the site from the search results.

When you get penalized

But spam detection, algorithms and techniques are constantly evolving said Dubut. Wiese added that this was the fun part, coming up with new ways of detecting spam.

With Google and Bing, you can submit reconsideration requests and you need to do that for you to recover from manual actions. Waiting out manual actions, is not an option for most sites for many reasons. Submit a reconsideration request — only after fix the problem by often making significant changes to your web site. Then you submit the reconsideration request in Google Search Console or use the Bing spam form.

Reconsideration requests should be short and concise, explain the issue, and how you fixed the issue. It can take a couple hours to a couple weeks for a reconsideration request to get a response. Hopefully you will get your manual action reversed but just because the penalty was reversed, it doesn’t mean you will rank back to where you originally were. That is because the tactics you used to get that ranking originally is no longer working and thus you won’t be ranking as well. But you can now work on making improvements to start to rank better now.

Do not be a repeat offender – if you fix an issue and then break the guidelines again, they will know the history. Both Bing and Google store a history of your previous violations, new violations may lead to more severe penalties.

They then explain how to report spam at Google and Bing. Here is the Google spam report and here is the Bing spam report. You won’t always see a site get penalized after you submitted a spam report.

Key takeaways

  • Trust is everything and the most important thing you can covey to the search engines.
  • Any penalty can be resolved, if you solve the problem and you are trusted.
  • Algorithmic updates can work for you and help you rank better.
  • Audit you site regularly to control the inputs you send to the search engine.
  • It is all about the users for the search engines, and they care deeply about making sure the searcher is happy.

About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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