Vanessa Fox’s Last Google Interview?

Shortly before she left Google, I spoke to Vanessa Fox about what’s going on with Google Webmaster Tools, and, we also spoke for a while about duplicate content problems. While I was working on polishing up the interview transcript Vanessa left Google. So I may have had the last real interview she did while at Google. After another week of vacation, she will officially make the leap over to work at Zillow. Best of luck Vanessa!

We talk at length about key parts of Webmaster Tools, and we also talk about the newest features, and planned features for the product. Vanessa talks quite a bit about they types of features that users have been requesting, and while nothing was committed, it should provide some insight into the types of things you can expect to see in the product in the future.

We also talk quite a bit about duplicate content, what types are easy for Google to detect, and some more advanced duplicate content situations, such as those were actual penalties are put in place.


  1. Gary says

    Eric –

    You and I spoke on the phone several months ago. You were getting ready to fly out to the Las Vegas SEO Convertion. In our nearly 30 minute talk we discussed the wisdom of me adding state and city pages (over 50,000 in all) to my site. I had mentioned that several of my competitors were doing that and how they all had page 1 Google rankings for the most competitive keywords in the industry. You were undecided on whether I should or should not do this; but you did say that I might need to to compete with my competitiors and that in my particular industry that it might be OK to do this.

    Well, I did eventually add the auto-generated state and city pages; no way practically speaking to make over 54,000 such pages be totally unique one by one – just impossible. Well, doing this evidently has my site either *penalized* or at the least *suppressed* in the Google SERPS. In your interview with Vanessa Fox you seemed quite clear that you considered this practice against the Google Guidelines and yet when I asked you for your expert opinion on the subject, you were so vague and non-comittal?!”

    Anyhow, I finally decided it was time to do a Google reinclusion/reconsideration request and have removed the 54,000+ auto-generated US city and state pages. What is weird I only do white hat SEO and yet my site gets penalized. My home/index page currently ranks at # 2 on Ask and also # 2 on the Lycos search engine (high as you can rank in my industry) and last I checked was # 37 on Google for the same keyword phrase. I did the reconsidetation request about a week ago and am still waiting to see if my page gets its proper Google (unpenalized-non suppressed) rankings.

    Last, I think it was dead wrong of you to specifically mention the newspaper you mentioned as I and other webmasters just might want to *GET TRAFFIC AND HENCE SALES* from advertising on such websites. I am presently making 2-5 sales on average per day from doing text link advertising. But in order to kiss up to Google, I admitted my “sin” of advertising? and cancelled all our text link ads. I mentioned in my Reconsideration request that it was with trepidaton that I did this as we will most likely miss the sales; but that in order to not even give the *perception* of wrongdoing – wroingdoing as defined by the Google Guidelines; that we cancelled the ads. I even specfically mentioned the website where we rented the ads from. So our site is now about 110% compliant with the Google Guidelines even though we feel that those Guidelines infringe upon peoples and companies rights under the U.S. Constitution.

    Well our sales have tapered off to a prescious few and we are still waiting for Google to un-penalize or if you will, un-suppress our rankings in the Google SERPS. My suggestion to Ms. Fox and to Google would be simply tell webmasters precisely what is wrong with their site; IF Google truly is sincere about wanting to improve their search index. IMHO, what Google is really about is *forcing* webmasters to advertise on Google but no where else (online). Also, they clearly want to stamp out SEO as we know it – even though Matt Cutts states otherwise (he’s a very good PR person for them) and does his job very well. And they also want to bury Ma and Pa sites. They only want big corporations and companies to rank on page 1 and so it is *Google* that is manipulating (to use a word) their search results. Courts have ruled basically that it is Google’s search engine and that they can pretty much do what they want, etc. But to me, especially the part about penalizing webmasters for practicing their Constitutional rights of free speech of which I believe tha advertising falls under that – that they (Google) are infringing on U.S. citizens Constitutional rights.

  2. says

    Hi Gary,

    I apologize for not recalling the conversation, but I am truly sorry that things have not worked out well for you. It is always difficult to know what to do in each specific situation that a webmaster faces. This is one of the reasons why I must be non-committal when I do talk to people about the things they are trying to do with their sites, especially when these people are not clients of ours.

    Everybody’s circumstances are quite different, and the devil is very much in the details. Even with our clients, we point out the pros and cons of our recommendations, and the alternative options open to them, and then we ask them to make the final decision.

    As for Google’s policy, I think I can paraphrase it by saying that the policy is that you have the right to buy as many links as you like, and they reserve the right to decide how to value them in ranking your site.

    Since Google wants to rate links as editorial endorsements for the sites they link to, they choose not to place any value on links that they determine have been purchased.

    Without arguing the merits of this policy, it does cause us to recommend to our clients that they do not purchase links. It is our philosophy that the time, energy, and resources spent on purchased links are better invested in developing high quality content that people will want to link to from their web sites.

    That said, many, many people to well with the process of purchasing links, and succeed in obtaining better search rankings as a result.

  3. says

    Gary: I am surprised that anyone today don’t understand that adding 54.000+ autogenerated pages to a site is not a violation of the search engines guidelines. Make content for the users, not the search engines. If this is not spam – what is? And how do you know that it was the spam pages on your competitors site that made them rank well? (And BTW: Your disappointment over what EE said to you on the phone should be addressed to EE privately, and not published on this blog.)

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