BrightonSEO kicked off this morning with an informative Q&A with ex-Googlers Fili Wiese, Alfredo Pulvirenti and Jonas Weber. Organiser Kelvin Newman wanted to invite people who could be more open and revealing about Google and the trio didn’t disappoint.

Fili answered most of the questions, with Alfredo and Jonas adding some valuable points.

Kelvin’s Questions

How is the quality control side of things structured?
Fili: The quality control department is divided into the algorithmic side and the manual (penalty) side. The algorithm team focus on tackling large scale problems and don’t focus on individual sites.

For quality control they review sites manually. About 10% of them look for trends. But essentially the algorithmic team don’t penalise, they improve the system, but the manual quality control team are the ones that hand out penalties.

Is there a level of autonomy when you’re working? With big sites it could impact on share prices etc.
Fili: You have to document everything when working in the QA team. You have to say “we saw this, at this time, when we implemented this penalty”. So its a case of tracking problems and then trying to solve it.

What were the most common types of spam that you came across?
Jonas: There was lots of template spam. Misspelling correction, and porn sites were a really big issue when it came to template spam. Then it was link spam, now the penalties are much harsher and it’s a worse time to buy links.

Kelvin asked what type of bad links.
Alfredo: The team doesn’t decide to penalise based on a single link, they decide based on big data, so if you gain a large amount of links which are unnatural then they can see it. But Google is getting better at looking at smaller amounts of data and deciding what is normal.

How can you tell what normal looks like?
Fili: Google can tell because they have a lot of data, but what is ‘normal’ in general? He gave an example of an industry where everyone is penalised but because everything in the industry was spammy, there wasn’t anyone around to rank naturally. So effectively no one was penalised!

Crowd Q&A

How does Google deal with disavowals? Does it deal with them individually? And what’s the difference when it’s a manual and algorithmic penalty? Do they use this data to penalise your site if you disavow lots of links?
Fili: At the moment he hasn’t seen Google do anything with the data on your submissions and making extrapolated decisions based on it. At the moment it wouldn’t have a bad effect to disavow your site’s backlinks – they don’t take this and decide it must be a bad site that isn’t worth ranking. Nor does he think Google will do this anytime soon. However, data warehousing is pretty much their product, so they do have the power to do it.

When should you no follow?
Alfredo: When its a paid post you should no follow. But do it smartly, try not to have too many links. Use your best judgement and be careful with anchor text too.
Fili: Try to solve people’s problems. If your blog post is good quality and solves someone’s problem then you won’t have to worry too much about no follow links.

Now you’re all SEOs, how do you do your link building?
Jonas: It helps working with people who know how to write, people with good reputations etc, like doctors.
Alfredo: In Alfredo’s case, his parent company has lots of sites that they try to share links around (if the content is relevant), so it almost works like internal links, in that they own these other relevant domains.

What kind of content should we produce?
Fili: As he said before, solve someone’s problem. Don’t just describe the situation. E.g. For holidays don’t say, “you can windsurf and its sunny” etc. Say, “these are the best months to windsurf, this is where you can stay” and so on.

Are all spam reports looked at?
Fili: Yes, most are looked at within a week, but it depends on the language and market. But not all reports are helpful, you want to include example URLs and keep it short and insightful.

Some people are reporting bad links, but the link webmasters are sometimes redirecting to 404 pages (perhaps because they’re being paid for the links). Does Google spend time on this?
Fili: When you send reconsideration requests you can also disavow the site. They’ll try to do as much as they can, but there are legal aspects that stop them from doing too much here. But perhaps you can write a blog post about it and give examples / screenshots etc. Google wants you to try to get rid of the bad link. It will try and help you where it can.

If you had to make a site rank in 72 hours how would you do it, would you spam? If I go down this road, theoretically, how would you do that?!
Fili: He definitely doesn’t recommend this legally, but hacked sites are a way of doing it. The downside is that it’s heavily illegal. As Alfredo also said, Fili would go towards education and explain SEO is a long term strategy.

How important are social signals for rankings?
Alfredo: At the moment it doesn’t count.
Fili: Social signals are a very small part of rankings at the moment. That said, he can absolutely see it happening in the future. G+ allows them to get the data from a social network. It’s not a waste of time because you’ll get long term data stored up for when they do use it.

He also emphasises the importance of authorship which can impact CTR. The other reason to use G+ (and social ) is for traffic acquisition – it’s another way people can reach you.

Kelvin’s Last Question

What was the best and worst thing about working at Google!?
Jonas: Jonas misses his daily massages!
Alfredo: On the down side, it’s growing in bureaucracy. People leave very fast too.
Fili: He agrees, it’s a natural change so its nothing to worry about, but the culture has definitely changed. In terms of the best thing, he appreciates all the things he’s learned and discovered. It’s a great place to work, at the front of search.