Former Google Search Quality Team Member Reveals All

by / Tuesday, 13 November 2012 / Published in Google

If you think you have heard it all from the Google front, think again.

In today’s post, you will learn about an ex-Google employee who decided to share some of his experience at Google and give webmasters some juicy insider tips.

On his site, James Norquay landed an exclusive interview with Andre Weyher, a former member of Matt Cutts’ search quality team. Wehyer is no longer employed by Google and has recently moved to Australia. He worked with the AdWords and Adsense team for two years and moved to Search Quality soon after.

Wehyer mentioned he enjoyed working with Matt Cutts and the team atmosphere was fantastic. He liked Search Quality because there were fewer people and he gained a wealth of knowledge while he got to “investigate the deep and dark corners of the internet, keeping the search index clean from spam and blackhat SEO.”

What were Wehyer’s daily duties?

Wehyer was in charge of content quality and back link profiles. He assessed the quality of web pages and applied penalties if needed. He also created spam reports on specific markets.

He stated a fact we already know:

“The teams main focus is fighting spam and keeping Google’s search results clean so that the user gets the best possible experience. This is a very important thing for Google if you think about it. Google’s entire earning model relies on the good quality of the organic results, if people didn’t trust organic, they would stop using search and not click on ads anymore.”

Wehyer, when asked about Google’s latest slurry of algo changes, said there are many more to come. Google is “fed up” with violators and those who do not follow the guidelines.

In Wehyer’s own words, a webmaster would be “out of his mind to still rely on techniques that were common practice 8 months ago. Purchasing links was always risky but resembled a game of roulette, you could get caught but many people also got away with it. Today it’s not a question IF you get caught, it’s merely a question of WHEN you’ll get caught.”

Another part of the interview caught my attention. Wehyer said this statement…

“Relevance is the new PR.”

With this statement, he is alluding to people trying to get links from high PR sites and how this method is outdated.  Today, it is more advantageous to acquire links from related sites and the high PR is just the cherry on top of the cake.

In the next part of the interview, Norquay asked Wehyer what concepts he used to identify a spammy site while working at Google .

Wehyer said he divided this topic into categories:

On-page signals – Keyword stuffing, hiding elements under the CSS, keywords the same color as the background, etc.

Content quality – Google is not interested in the nature of your content, but more in its authenticity. Poor content could be identified as scraped, synonymized, or poorly written.

Backlink profile – A few questions Wehyer would use to determine a spammy link profile:

How many total links are there?
What is the quality of the pages the links come from?
Are the pages real or just existing to host links?
What are the anchors?
What is the commercial vs. non-commercial ratio of the anchors?

Wehyer said he used a logical thought process when determining if linking profiles were spammy. He imagined what the anchors would look like if the linking happened naturally and then compared this with the site’s actual linking profile. (not entirely scientific, don’t you think?)

On-Page Tactics

Wehyer went on to discuss the most important on-page optimization elements. He says most people overlook these strategies but they are very important.

  • Choose a good domain which is a great head start. Valuable domains are often expensive.
  • Add the basic elements such as titles, descriptions and H1/H2 headers.
  • No more than two commercial keywords in your titles
  • Focus on content quality

According to Wehyer, “Try to work on your website as if SEO was not part of your plan, create content out of a sincere interest and enthusiasm for the topic of your page. This is what Google and your users want form you, I know it’s tempting to think about financial gain but remember that Google’s primary concern is valuable information!”

Off-Site Tactics

Wehyer recommends staying away from anything automatic or your website will be at risk.

  • Link building has changed. It is now focused on building relationships with webmasters who are related to your industry.
  • Directories are still valid link opportunities. Poor quality directories are still out, but moderated, niche directories are still worth researching.
  • Focus on the quality of the links – According to Wehyer, “getting 3 links from authentic pages will do much more than 1000 links from splogs, so invest your time into getting quality, not quantity.”

The Kicker

Here is one of the most interesting statements to come out of Wehyer’s mouth:

…if you want to please Google with your SEO, then forget about SEO. Google wants you to create a site as if you don’t intend to manipulate their algo, but as if you are dinging because your passionate about the topic of your site. If you really are, your content will be great and your target audience will love you, this will do the best possible SEO you can imagine.

…if you want to please Google with your SEO, then forget about SEO?

Even Cutts recommends sound SEO principles. I think Wehyer was referring to manipulative SEO here. Maybe he should have clarified that.

Wehyer concluded with mention of his new project NetComber which will be a fingerprinting website that uses over 3,000 factors to determine if websites are owned by the same person. Search engines use this data to fight spam and now this tool will be available for users to check the quality of a directory, get ideas for potential linking partners, spy on the competition, and more. The tool is currently free to use.