0203 2877 049 hello@rebelhack.com

UPDATE: We’ve had a reply from John Muller (Google Webmaster Central) via Twitter. (see end of post)

Firstly, I’ve been using your site since you launched and knocked off my then favourite altavista! Big up 🙂

As a frequent visitor to your website, you have continued to evolve and innovate – and as a user so have I e.g. you provided answers to stuff I was looking for faster and I learned to refine my keyword queries to get to the content I actually wanted, quicker. Over the years I’ve been inspired/motivated to write content and have spent hundreds of hours per year following your web developer guides, YouTube vids and webmaster central blogs – writing content that hopefully is worthy of being found by potential visitors in the hope they will find it beneficial. Hence this open letter to you…

As a writer/blogger I (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) optimise for the user experience (not for search), adopting a policy of adding a variety of diverse media elements within articles & posts to adding content richness that may help people learn/remember specific points in a variety of different ways.

Now, I do this so that I can increase the opportunity of being found on your website. After all, we – and I think I’m speaking on behalf of webmasters in general – are in business to make money: to put food on the table for our families (or in the bowl for our bulldogs). You know what I’m saying. You’re in business too and like us you probably want to make a few quid to look after the people that work for you or enable you to make donations to good causes.

When your guidelines change, as you often point out, “…to improve the user experience“, I (we) follow your guidance; revamping pages with AMP – to improve the mobile user experience, implement structured data to help you and other search engines better categorise content during indexation, request that any sponsored posts or links be nofollow – so not to artificially increase authority etc. to name a few.

One thing I’ve noticed (and haven’t voiced up until now) is that you’re not practising what you preach and I’m now finding your website a bit frustrating. I have to scroll down past many ads to find the content I actually wanted; on my mac and mobile. In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to tell (quickly) what is your actual site content and what is advertising!

In short, not a great user experience.

Please don’t take me the wrong way, I’m all for companies wanting to advertise on their site – after all it’s a great source of revenue, however, as your very own Matt Cutts once said:

“Think about how many ads you have on the page. Is there good stuff above the fold or is it just stuff that crowds out the page?”

Click To Tweet

Matt Cutts talking about too many ads on a web page decreases the user experience

If I (we as webmasters) followed how you publicly position ads on your website we’d probably be penalised for it, right? Thankfully, because of the advice you provide I’ve not been penalised so far – so I’m living proof that what you say – works! – Thank you [happy face]

Click To Tweet

However, do you think it’s good practice that on the one hand you provide valuable guidance for webmasters to follow but on the other you don’t follow those guidelines yourselves? Specifically your Page Layout Algorithm. for example:

long scroll down to find the content I was looking for

[Small pause to let that sink in a little…]

You have, commendably, in the past, penalised such activities for being in breach of your own rules:

  • March 2005, Adwords Support pages violated your Cloaking rule and you removed those pages from your index.
  • February 2009, Google Japan owned up to buying paid links for a Google widget and you reduced their Page Rank from PR9 to PR5 for 11 months!
  • July 2010, You caught Adwords Help pages – for a second time – using Cloaking and subsequently downgraded those pages in search results.
  • March 2011, When you acquired Beat That Quote you penalised yourselves because you also acquired the purchased links that came with the site and you made it so Beat That Quote didn’t rank for its own brand term, but just for 2 weeks.
  • January 2012, You caught yourselves out(again) by purchasing links via sponsored posts that artificially increased the page authority for your Chrome Browser, resulting in higher rankings for related keywords. You removed yourselves from the top spot in search for 2 months.

Therefore my question is, when can we expect to see you penalise yourselves again for being in breach of your Page Layout Algorithm and what would the penalty be e.g. for people searching for ‘search engines’ would you remove yourselves from your own index or just automatically redirect the searcher to bing.com?

Yours enquiringly,


P.S. Could it be that you’re losing market share to Bing and Yahoo because of this poor user experience?

UPDATE: Since we published the above this morning we’ve since had a reply from John Muller (via Twitter)Google Webmaster Trends Analyst and Webmaster Central

Have thoughts on the above? Join the conversation 🙂