Matt Cutts: Your newsletter won’t affect your search rankings after all.

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Yesterday we published a story on how your site’s email newsletter may be affecting your Google rankings. Jake Ludington’s report on the matter ended with Google confirming that his site was manually marked as spam and had been reinstated as a trusted website after he contacted the company and explained the steps that he’d taken to clean his mailing list.

For much of the web, including ourselves, that seemed conclusive enough. But fortunately Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, has stepped in and cleared up the confusion. Google doesn’t take your domain’s email trustworthiness in Gmail’s spam filtering system into account when ranking your site, and Ludington’s site had been manually marked as spam during Google’s crackdown on Text Link Ads publishers years ago.

Here’s the full text of Cutts’ comment on the original post at LockerGnome:

Sure, I’d be happy to clarify. When you submit a reconsideration request, if the webspam team has taken manual action in the past, we take another look at the site. We do that regardless of what you say in the the text of the reconsideration request. You could slip in “I was kidnapped by aliens, and the aliens said to do a reconsideration request” and we’d still take another look.

Just to make it concrete, it looks like you’re talking about your site, right? And I believe a few years ago, your site linked to some lower-quality sites, the sort of sites that bought a lot of links. So the manual webspam team had taken manual action to trust your site less. Your site still ranked fine; we just didn’t trust your links because of the sites you were linking to a few years ago.

Then in April 2011, you did a reconsideration request. You might have submitted it for email behavior, but that doesn’t really matter. We saw that we’d taken manual action in the past, so that triggered a fresh look. The links to low-quality sites (the sorts of sites that bought links) were no longer there, so we revoked the manual action, and you got a “manual spam action revoked” message in your webmaster console. But the action was revoked because you were no longer linking to those sites, not for anything related to email. I hope that clears up what happened with your site, but just to be clear: it had nothing to do with your site’s email reputation.

It’s likely that Google doesn’t draw on its Gmail spam filtering database because of the ease with which competitors could damage each other’s search rankings by gaming the system — but it does make you wonder: what would a world where our email marketing activities affected our search rankings look like? If there was a way to protect from the gaming, would it make the web a better place?

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