Google WTF! An absurd story

Google WTF! An absurd story


Matt Cutts had the kindness of clarifying the story here below on Hacker News. Here his answer:

The explanation for this is actually quite straightforward. Google fights spam in 40 different languages and we absolutely take reconsideration requests in many different languages, including Italian, French, German, etc. We’ve also improved our reconsideration requests in the last few months to tell webmasters whether the requests have been granted or whether the website still has issues in our opinion.

People have told us that they’d like to have additional feedback though–not just a “yes/no” type of answer. So we’ve been experimenting with giving more in-depth answers. I discussed the experiment in this video we published a couple weeks ago:  (watch from 1:36 to 1:56 or so).

Now you know enough to understand what happened in this case. This person, after violating our quality guidelines, had done multiple reconsideration requests. His English-language reconsideration request was selected to get a more personalized response, but then when the Googler started to investigate the site, the actual site was in Italian. That’s what triggered the “this language is not supported” message because the person handling the case was expecting an English-language site based on the English-language reconsideration request.

What you need to know: – we absolutely do handle reconsideration requests in lots of different languages, including Italian. – we’ve also been experimenting with giving more in-depth answers to webmasters. The mismatch between the language of the reconsideration request and the language of the website caused this message to get sent, but – we’ll still send this site more in-depth advice. Based on the website’s spammy linkbuilding techniques mentioned in the blog post, it sounds like they could use the extra guidance anyway.

My reply to his kind, precise and fast answer can be read here.


Guido is a friend of mine who owns quite many old sites in the classic casual games in flash niche.

They are normal sites, not revolutionary, not astonishing, but neither they are awful or crappy. And they satisfy their purpose: to offer to bored white collars something to spend time with at the end of the working day, or to help fathers who desperately need to have their kids occupied at least 5 minutes.

My friend, another Italian living in Spain, is not a professional SEO, but knows the basic. He knows that his sites needs to be corrected in many ways, for instance in the game pages, so to avoid any Panda risk.

He is not a professional SEO, but he is attent to everything new in the Search Industry, and he is very proactive. For instance, Guido knows how UGC may be of help in his sites, that Schema review markup is something he had to use and that he should try to care more of the social life of the sites.

And, as every self-made part time SEOs, Guido did the link building that everybody was doing. Nothing deeply black, but yes he went against some Google guidelines rules as, for instance, creating a web ring with all his sites (somehow very candidly, as it was a very evident web ring).

Or he did very “cheap” and very old school link building: directories, footer links, sidebars, link exchange and a lot of exact matching anchor texts.

A classic example of a very normal webmaster, who knows what he wants, know how to create it, but for whom SEOs is not his life, hence does many mistakes.

Luckily Guido is smart enough to recognize and understand his mistakes (he would not be my friend if not), and from time to time we talk and see what kind of corrections he should commit to his sites. He also understood the importance of content marketing and he is trying to go along that strategy.

Why so caring? Simple, those sites are paying his bills thanks to Adsense and the affiliation ads he publishes there.

But then, one day, he received a message from Google in his webmaster tools panel. Ouch! It was the infamous message telling him that his site was infringing several guidelines points: excessive link exchange and participation in link schemes.

The site after few weeks started shrinking in the SERPs

Personally, if it were I receiving that message, I would not have sent a reconsideration request, especially because I consider that the message Guido received was an automatic alert for a next to come algorithmic penalization.

But Guido decided to fill a reconsideration request: the ticket [#1140476335]:

Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2012 03:42:30 +0000


After another evaluation of the website I understand that I have violated Google’s quality guidelines. In particular these matters:

*Excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”)

To comply with this Google’s quality guideline I have removed all the external links that were present in the Homepage and in the game’s page such our links to:

  • http://www.***.it
  • http://www.***.it
  • http://www.***.org
  • http://www.***.net
  • http://www.***.com
  • http://www.***.it
  • http://www.***.it
  • http://www.***.it
  • http://www.***.com
  • http://www.***.net
  • http://www.***

*Participating in link schemes

To comply with this Google’s quality guideline I have removed links from sites of my network pointing to in particular from these websites:

  • www.***.com
  • www.***.it
  • www.***.com
  • www.***.com
  • www.***.com
  • www.***.com
  • www.***.com
  • www.***.com
  • www.***.com
  • www.***.com

I therefore ask you to evaluate again the website taking in consideration these corrective actions that have been taken.


Guido Pedrelli

Maybe not a perfect reconsideration request, but – hey – absolutely not that bad from a not SEO! He said he was aware of the violations, that he was his intention to not violate the Google guidelines anymore and he listed those actions he realized in order to solve this issue.

At this point of the story, you may think that Google never answered to Guido, or that he didn’t correct everything, which should have needed to be corrected (and that’s possibly true, but he is working on it).

Nope, No, Nein! Google replied to my friend’s reconsideration request. But its answer was seriously astonishing.

Don’t you believe me?

Ok: read it:

From: The Google Search Quality Team <>

Date: 2012/11/7

Subject: Re: [#1140476335] Reconsideration Request for

To: guidopedrelli@*****


Thank you for your request.

We’ve found that the majority of your site’s content is in a language we do not currently support. Right now, we’re only able to offer language support for English.

While we look forward to supporting your language, we don’t yet have a date as to when it will be available for you. We apologize for the inconvenience.


The Google Search Quality Team


What does It mean: “… the majority of your site’s content is in a language we do not currently support…”?!?

That does it mean that a not English written site can be penalized and banned by Google, but no reconsideration request can be sent because an Italian site (in this case) is not supported?

That does mean that every penalization is algorithmic and that a recover will be just algorithmic?

That does it means that are not existing Italian quality raters? This is something that sounds science fiction to me… I wonder what are doing all the Italians I know are working in your offices in Milan or Dublin. Are all selling Adwords? Nah!

Dear Google, I think you can imagine the incredulous expression of my friend when he received that reply from you.

What does he have to do now? It is quite depressing to see Google answering to an email were you are explaining what you did to correct and solve a penalization with a: “sorry, your site is in Italian, and we don’t support Italian, even if we punish Italian sites too”?

Right now Guido is working on cleaning his link building past, while wondering how other sites in its niche are ranking having the same or if not a worst link building history (and present).

No, dear Google, things like that reply are what drives us SEOs and webmasters like Guido crazy. We can understand “not provided”, that organic SERPs that with every Google’s layout update are more hidden below the fold, and your desire to cope every vertical with your own products… but, at least, contract someone able to understand Italian or any other “not supported” language… I think you have the bucks to do it, haven’t you?

Or do you need I suggest you someone?


  • Fernando

    November 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm Reply

    LOL! Google is becoming like a third World country gov. setting up new laws everyday without a clue on how to actually make them work, too bad there isn’t an Internet constitution to fight them back and make them notice how many mistakes their making affecting webmaster’s income severely.

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  • BGK

    November 14, 2012 at 12:12 am Reply

    Only one answer: learn to speak ‘Merican!

    • John

      November 14, 2012 at 4:00 am Reply

      You should kill yourself.

      • Gianluca Fiorelli

        November 14, 2012 at 9:09 am Reply

        Thanks for the suggestion.
        I will probably do it, not yet though 🙂

        • John

          November 14, 2012 at 11:14 am Reply

          Not you.

          The person (BGK) this message was replied to.

          • Gianluca Fiorelli

            November 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm

            Yup… understood when saw the comment live (I approved and commented it via backend… something not to do).

  • Jed Meyers

    November 14, 2012 at 1:41 am Reply

    I am sorry, but when did Google suddenly start to owe you something? It’s a private corporation and they are not obliged to provide any services to the people they do not have any contractual relationship with.

    • Gianluca Fiorelli

      November 14, 2012 at 9:13 am Reply

      If Google have an area which is called “Webmaster Tools” with Help Sections and with the possibility of doing things like the Reconsideration Request, it is supposed that it will help webmasters and listen to those requests for help.
      Google does it, and it’s improving – we have to recognize that – but communication is not really its biggest skill, so can happen monumental misunderstandings like this one I reported.
      Said that, I was not asking for a reinclusion, just for clarity.

  • […] Google WTF! An absurd story, I Love SEO […]

  • Miguel Salcido

    November 14, 2012 at 2:14 am Reply

    Wow, its great to have friends in high places! Looks like you got it all the way up to Matt Cutts.

    Its nice to have that clarification but lame that they weren’t smart enough to know that the issue should have went to the Italian speaking wing of the web spam team. Or maybe it did but that message got automatically sent and definitely confused the webmaster, as it would anyone.

    • Gianluca Fiorelli

      November 14, 2012 at 9:10 am Reply

      More than having friends in high places (I may some, but I “worked” to earn them), that Matt Cutts answered to the post question was an Hacker News effect.

  • Jason

    November 14, 2012 at 8:01 am Reply

    aiyiyi… I feel bad for your friend. Hopefully he had a few others sites!

  • delizard

    November 14, 2012 at 9:09 am Reply

    shocking story!
    And, dear Google, i’m not as tolerant as Gianluca and i don’t understand “not provided”, penalization of organic result, penalization of website like because you are enable to penalize the true spam website…


  • […] situation came up recently in a blog post by Gianluca Fiorelli. It covered how an Italian site owner received a weird response from Google after submitting a […]

  • […] Google WTF! An absurd story […]

  • Social Bullets

    December 26, 2012 at 10:45 am Reply

    Well What Google want to show with this type of behavior man its ridiculous.

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