Google Gives in To John Chow; Proves Ends Justify The Means

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I always have a good laugh at the “whitehat” SEO’s making headlines on Sphinn about best practices in Google to do X. Most are Matt Cutts kiss asses that have never built a successful website let alone business. They talk about patents and theories but very few have any real world experience.

Here is a real life example of how stuff really works in Google and you wont read about it from any “SEO” expert.

Many years ago John Chow started getting steam as a blogger and told Google to goto hell. John sold paid links, paid reviews, and did massive amounts of reciprocal link exchanges to gain tons of backlinks. All of which fall under the penalty of death under Magistrate Matt Cutts.

John was given the death penalty and completely removed from the Google Index. Many people wrote about this and how Google was owning John and he was done for.

See Jim Kukrals writeup about how John Chow’s free fall begins

Or Neil Patel – John Chow vs. Google – Guess Who’s Winning

Some places like this blogstorm blog even tried to gain trust with users placing Adwords Ads like this:

Mean while I was making videos about how not to make Google Look stupid (which was mocked at the time but has recently been cited as a great resource on how Google works). In the video I talked about how its not really about what you do but rather if it makes Google look stupid or not in regards to them taking action against you.

If you appear to be able to control the rankings in Google through whatever method and can rank any site then Google has lost its luster and that would be the start of the end for them.

So when public pressure mounts, Google takes action…. stay off their radar and your fine (in most cases).

But when John Chow got nuked a strange phenomenon happened. His popularity and brand grew. Now it was the success story of how you really don’t really need Google to succeed on the internet. RU-ROH!!! Can you imagine if people started adapting this model =P

Now Google was in a dilemma. Search traffic for john chow was growing but nobody could find him on Google. What people were finding was infringing sites like johncow or notjohnchow who were only getting traffic because they were ranking for John’s name.

This obviously made Google Search look very incompetent. While there was a significant amount of search volume for John Chow it wasn’t anything like when BMW or other big brands were de-listed from the Google Search engine when Google actively sought them out to help them get back in. Searching Google for BMW and not finding BMW is not a user experience Google wanted. Google worked hard with BMW to get them compliant and back in the search index.

WordPress.org creators also experienced a similar thing when they embedded links to their websites in everyone’s blogs by default. After much scrutiny Google delisted them and dropped page rank for these developers websites. To which they stopped doing that and then all of their page rank and rankings came back. This is a huge example of how the ends justify the means.

But lets get back to Mr. Chow-

Always being creative and realizing that Google penalizes the domain, but not the link, John registered Johnchow.ca and redirected GoogleBot to that domain. Within days Johnchow.ca started ranking for all the phrases that johnchow.com used to. But as we talked about before…. when people publicly point out that you can beat Google they don’t like it and within a couple days Johnchow.ca was penalized as bad as JohnChow.com.

Today I noticed that Johnchow.com is not only back in the Google Search index:

Also seems to be ranking very well for his old reciprocal link exchanges where people linked to him with the target anchor text of make money online :

I talked with John today and asked him what happened and how he got back into Google. He said he worked with Matt Cutts, was told he had to be in full compliance with the webmaster guidelines and then submitted the site back to him and it was all fixed in a couple of days.

Now not many people are going to write about this and how its a great success story (especially in the SEO world).

I want to be clear on the lesson learned though. Its not about being a black hat and going against Google but building a good brand with a great site should be your number 1 priority. If that means you part ways with Google a long the way then so be it. If your site is good then it will continue to grow.

Besides its always easier to beg for forgiveness then ask for permission ;) Just ask Mr Chow!

181 thoughts on “Google Gives in To John Chow; Proves Ends Justify The Means

  1. Nathan @ Web Money Blog

    This just brings up the question of how much power is too much?

    I’m wondering what impact google bringing out their own ‘FREE’ operating system will have on their power in the marketplace, not only having power to see our search habits, but also direct access to our desktop habits and data.

    Its a bit like I remember university, just play by the rules, do as you’re told and you’ll end up getting the pass.

    Great info here as always shoe!

    Let’s make money!
    Nathan Hulls

  2. Mitchel

    I sense a Shoestradamus post coming soon! Nice recap of the whole story.

    If Google is going to have a double standard for small vs. large sites, they should just stop denying it exists.

  3. salzano

    so your title is the opposite of what happened. google didn’t give in, john talked to matt cutts and obeyed his every command to make his site compliant. that’s not google giving in to john, that’s john giving in to google.

    1. Burgo

      Have to agree with Salzano here, Jeremy. It’s great that John’s back in the SERPs, but saying “Google Gives in to John Chow” is pretty misleading… Google didn’t exactly “give in”, did they?
      Instead, John complied with their webmaster guidelines… which is pretty much what they’ve always said: “Clean up your site, then submit a reinclusion request and we’ll see”.

      So, no… Google didn’t “give in” to John Chow. John Chow just complied with Google.

      Your paragraph:
      “He said he worked with Matt Cutts, was told he had to be in full compliance with the webmaster guidelines and then submitted the site back to him and it was all fixed in a couple of days.”
      … explains all that.

    2. R Kumar

      I feel it is the other way round.
      Why on earth should Google even be bothered if JohnChow is featuring in their search results or, not? It is because he has a brand name of his own and he is important for the customer experience at Google. So what they did is, instead of sending a generic email about the compliance, they went into specifics for John and helped him get his site ranked in Google.
      But my question is, will John Chow just fore-go all his income making opportunities? Worth seeing!

      1. salzano

        it is foolish to think google reached out to john because they wanted him back in the index. the only difference between john’s situation and one you could have with google is that he might have had to wait less time to get a response and perhaps matt cutts was more accessibly for advice because john has a high profile. he changed his site to comply with the guidelines, and now he’s back in. period. why do you think this comes just after he tried cloaking googlebot to johnchow.ca? i wonder why that strategy didn’t work out and all of sudden he’s in compliance now?

          1. salzano

            yeah. r kumar implied that google reached out, and i think maybe he just isn’t familiar with the process.

            thanks for the update on this saga, but i just can’t wrap my head around this post’s title. are you taking your own advice when you say, “don’t make google look stupid?”

        1. Mihai Secasiu

          I agree, and it’s not like John didn’t know what he did “wrong” and why he was banned. He knew it all the time.
          Here’s how I I imagine the dialog between Matt Cutts and John Chow:
          John: Hey Matt can I get back in SRPS?
          Matt: sure, just nofollow those paid links and reviews
          John: ok, done
          Matt: thanks, you’re back now

          And that’s “Google giving in to John Chow”

    3. jamie lynn

      (as i said above) – I disagree and think shoe was right in the name.

      The only thing john removed was the text link ads paid links.

      The paid reviews are still there with followed links (you think he is going to no follow and refund them??)

      The black hat reciprical make money online anchor text links still exist (you should actually do some research on this one shoe was being nice).

      1. salzano

        jamie, the reviews do not have followed links.

        the category pages (johnchow.com/category/something) have a meta robots noindex tag.

        when you go to any post in the reviews category (like johnchow.com/designing-my-own-t-shirts-with-bluecotton/) all the links in the post bodies are now nofollowed.

        the google cache on that post in particular has followed links, so this was clearly among the changes he made to comply with google’s webmaster guidelines.

        i’m not sure what you mean by the rest of your comment.

        what’s funny is shoemoney mentions some of his best advice in this post, “don’t make google look stupid,” but the very title of the post does exactly that.

      2. Tim

        Reciprocal links are not black hat and never have been, but it doesn’t matter as the links John has pointing at him aren’t reciprocal.

        A reciprocal links connects pages, John’s links simply connect sites – ie . someone sends a link to his home page and he returns the favour from a deeper page.

      3. Steroids Forums

        I just think, like any other company out there, it all reverts back to dollars & revenue. I’m not familiar with John’s business model but I’m sure he’s monetizing through Adsense, GAN and other Google

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  5. Blair

    I just think, like any other company out there, it all reverts back to dollars & revenue. I’m not familiar with John’s business model but I’m sure he’s monetizing through Adsense, GAN and other Google properties. Based on that and his notoriety in the space, I think he was able to leverage that to get himself back in, whereas if the same situation took place with a small time publisher, Google wouldn’t have batted an eye in terms of permanently banning them, with no hope of re-inclusion.

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  7. Mark - Niche Store Builder

    Since I am sure Sheriff Cutts will eventually visit and comment on this post :-), I thought I might as well ask what the rest of the free world is supposed to do when it finds one of its sites has received a penalty.

    The obvious answer = bring your site into Google compliance, submit reinclusion request… I know.

    BUT – Im sure there were several additional explanations given to John about his site, AND (from experience) that other webmasters will NEVER get the same kind of attention John got, and we will only hear the cut/paste flavor of “review the guidelines and make sure your site is in compliance”

    When will mono-eh-mono access and specific correction reasons be given to the rest of the free world?

    Heck – it would be nice if they even got you pointed in the right direction! :-)

    Congrats… (Not sure whether to congrat John for getting in, or Google for forcing him into compliance)

    1. Jeremy Schoemaker

      The best thing you can do is try to make it to an event where Matt will be at and bring it to his attention in person.

      He is a very fair person and he wont just blow you off. If he says he will look into it you can count on it.

  8. Robin Majumdar

    So now that John’s notoriety with Google has come full circle and he is back in the usual Google SERPs – does this signal the end of his dominance as a MMO blogger?

    Or wait, did that happen when 40% of his content were tax-deduction grabs by blogging about his dining experiences?

    I personally check SM about 3-5 times per week, and John Chow only when I’m interested in nice restaurant opportunities in the GVR.

    /cynicism /sarcasm /fedupism

    :) Nice write-up Shoe!

    Rob

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  10. Strength and Fitness Blog

    I think he built up so much momentum before he was banned that it didn’t really matter what happened with google.

    I’m still trying to figure out the final word on selling text link ads and how it affects page rank.

    1. R Kumar

      You are right. He had grown like a colossus before the ban came, and Google could not hide him in a piece of cloth for his legs and hands grew outside of it. So Google had no choice but to uncover the cloth.

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  13. R Kumar

    It is funny to see the war between two symbiotic brands – one enforcing certain things that it says are principles and the other defying them and yet deriving the benefit from the former.
    Google has always been biased and their responses to issues at times are so generic that you get frustrated.
    Whatever said, I am of the opinion that Google lost the battle.
    Congrats JohnChow.

  14. Taplin Web Design

    To be honest I think the title should have been “John Chow Gives in to Google”. He was the one that complied.

    By the by – have you actually tried reading John’s stuff lately? There is so much spam and paid content it far from being useful anymore. Sad. He used to be cool.

    1. jamie lynn

      I disagree and think shoe was right in the name.

      The only thing john removed was the text link ads paid links.

      The paid reviews are still there with followed links (you think he is going to no follow and refund them??)

      The black hat reciprical make money online anchor text links still exist (you should actually do some research on this one shoe was being nice).

  15. Bob

    So…. you can basically do link exchanges and incentivize linking for a period of time and get banned but then later on play by the rules and still benefit from the previous link building? Seems that if he’s still ranking for the term he got into trouble with that Google is counting those old links? Way to go John – in the long term the benefits of doing what he did will pay off with more traffic than he lost by being banned for a year or so.

      1. domainpubber

        Just noticed when I searched for “John Chow” on G that the 1st two results are for johnchow.com and the next 2 point to shoemoney.com posts. Nice work Jeremy!

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  17. youfoundjake

    So, he met the guidelines, and they let him back in? Is that a good summary?
    Is there going to be a John Chow Adwords suit following on the heels of getting back into the index for DLI with Adwords?

  18. Andrew

    Shoe, let me say first off that I am a JC fan and I’ve followed this controversy for some time now. Let me also say that I am not that big of a Google fan because they are like the dictators of the WWW but…. from your explanation of how he got relisted..he caved.

    If JC worked with Matt Cutts then got compliant the bottom line is that he’s caved into Googles demands so at the end of the day who won this David v Goliath battle? Goliath did.

    I had a lot of respect for JC for standing up to ‘the man’ and while I’ll still remain a JC fan, I’ve lost a little bit of that respect now.

    In Australia, giving in like that is what we call ‘Piss Weak’.

  19. Jeff Quindlen

    Interesting to see this story progress. I think I am not the only one of your long time readers who has been following this incident since it began.

  20. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

    Yeah I saw in John Chow video that John chow back in google. That put a broad smile to John chow face and very soon you will be able to see traffic ups for John chow as well.

    That mean now John Chow is 1 + 1 = 11 not 2.

    John certainly knows at what time he should show his cards.

  21. R G

    People forget to build a brand / business and that is where the major problem is. For webmaster, Google in nothing more than a good traffic channel among others.

  22. Gunter Eibl from GetArticlesDone.com

    So what’s the conclusion now. Don’t care about Google or give Google what Google wants?

    I think most guys don’t even know the difference between white and black hat stuff anyway and just do what they have heard that is good to do.

    The more you know about SEO I think the more scray the whole stuff becomes. Basically Google doesn’t want anybody do to any SEO at all, right. It should all be natural. So even so called white hat stuff isn’t very welcome by Google. If you “manipulate” rankings white hat or black hat, does it make a difference at all at the end of the day?

    Gunter

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  25. TimM

    Internet drama. A guy I know, Don Vito, actually made a song about stuff like this. Nice summary of the incident.

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  27. purposeinc

    When it all shakes out, John and Shoe are the ultimate whitehats. They really didn’t give a $%#@ if they got links or not, they told the story.

    In the end, a good story gets the links and gets the rankings. That is whitehat SEO.

    Congrats whitehat seo’s shoe and john! LOL

  28. Stephen

    Bow down to the man. That man is Google. I hate it but that’s the way it is today. I think John wanting back in Google is all about the adwords game and that is about it. Adwords is the only leverage Google holds. And a very good leverage that is.

    Damn the torpedoes Full speed ahead!!

  29. uttoransen

    i read all sorts of good stories around the internet, but the fact is that the big guys will always make it. do you expect a normal everyday blogger getting an opportunity to discuss it with matt cutts?

    Hint: if you are a small blogger, just move on….

  30. Stephen

    Bow down to the man. That man is Google. I hate it but that’s the way it is today. I think John wanting back in Google is all about the adwords game and that is about it. Adwords is the only leverage Google holds. And a very good leverage that is.

    Damn the torpedoes Full speed ahead!!
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  31. Adam

    The ends only justify the means if you are a big enough blunder on Google’s part. I mean if you are me who has a site that gets 5,000 hits a month then Google doesn’t care at all and will never bring you back. I don’t think if I got banned Matt would be knocking at my door saying if you do this the right way now we will let you back in. It only happens when your site missing from the index makes Google look bad.

    1. uttoransen

      hi adam,
      exactly my thought, and its not just google, even digg, stumbleupon, anything that bans you won’t give you a second life…

      John chow got to talk with matt cutts, and the small guys only gets template replies…

      1. Adam

        Hey Uttoransen,

        I missed your response down below where you said basically the same thing before I posted my comment.

        But the ultimate truth is that unless you make Google look bad they aren’t going to quickly erase your past infractions and give you prime placement in their rankings.

        Which means for you, me, and average Joe we will have weeks of sitting in queues waiting for our site to be reviewed. Then IF it is approved we will wait even longer for it to build it’s natural rankings back up.

        I believe the saying it is great to be king applies here.

      2. Will

        “John chow got to talk with matt cutts, and the small guys only gets template replies”

        Not necc. true. Matt Cutts responds to the “little people” on Twitter sometimes. He also responds to the trolls, like Michael Grey, (just joking Michael, I don’t think you act like a troll unless you’re in earshot of Techcrunch).

        If you bombard the Google spam team with emails, they may eventually reply to you to you. Be persistent. Don’t give up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7aaynDhaVc

  32. Vic - BusinessAccent

    John Chow is really famous. Many are blogging for his comeback to the Google page.Actually John still needed Google to achieve his success now. Remember that it is the Google ban intrigue that made John famous. Hence, he still succeed unexpectedly because of Google.

  33. Tim

    If you have a strong brand with hoards of people searching for you it doesn’t really matter who many times Google want to slap you. The type of site John’s is means he does not have to rely on search traffic to make money. However if your selling a product or service often social traffic is not going to be profitable therefore it’s a good idea to keep on side with Google.

    You have to remember as well, that John did not automatically have a great brand and a lot of his dedicated followers at one point found him through the search engines (until he got the boot). SEO is a great tool for building a strong brand therefore you can’t simply dismiss Google.

    On another point if my memory serves well, John Chow built up his keyword authority for “make money online” by using triangular linking. A reciprocal link is page to page, John got links to his home page and sent a link back from a deeper page.

    Either way the best thing that ever happened to John was getting booted out of the index, no money could have bought a marketing strategy as effective as that.

  34. We Fly Spitfires

    The ends don’t justify the means. It’s great that John Chow isn’t banned any more but Google have strict rules in place for a reason. Using blackhat SEO techniques is not good for the web industry as a whole and ultimately very bad for users, making it harder for them to find the quality content they want.

    Let’s not forget that John had to eventually give in and comply with their guidelines before being getting everything sorted.

    Don’t try to defy Google, it will just end up in a mess for everyone.

  35. ez_miami

    Its like a happily ever after seo story. Nice post.

    I enjoyed reading this one almost as much as the local affiliate marketing post.

  36. John

    So in the end all you need to do to get back in good graces with google is have an in with the head of their spam team…simple. My site is in compliance and I have had 7 months straight of horrible google problems. My forum comments get other webmaster trying to help – who I listen to – but still google has dropped me from Minty fresh indexing.no idea why and going crazy trying to fix it… I think allowing certain sites with connections bypass the process the rest of the world goes through is garbage! Why should John chows earning potential matter more than mine? Why should google provide special treatment to him and not others trying hard to build and maintain a site? Would like to hear matts response because google traffic was critical to me and my family….. Not getting anything in 2009 ranking is destoying me and this story annoys me! Good vent?

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  38. Kuldeep Bhardwaj

    IT will be interesting to find out Google’s opinion on John’s paid reviews (that always contain followed links) & more so ever its good that john is back otherwise all have atarted using his fake name.

  39. Rocket

    I like John’s blog … but in true “make money online” fashion, you have to do what he does, not what he says to do if you actually want to make any money

  40. PMG Guy

    I think anything that makes Google look like the arrogant, internet bully they are is good.

    I may be new and struggling but to never depend on, and even build a business that flourishes without any Google “magic” would be a great feeling.

    I just think Google is the equivalent of the ego-maniacal, school yard bully. I can’t wait til someone kicks their ass!

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  42. fas

    Paid links is not good according to Google, but that was at a time a big money earner for many sites, so either you maintain a good PR or you get money via text links.

    What John then is something someone else is doing now, no not me, he also writes about making money online and his website has been featured on this site on free shirt Friday. However since he is not as big as John, nobody really cares about what he is doing!

    1. Ricky Peterson

      Paid links can KILL your website rankings big way as per new Google Algorithm. Recently I have noticed that 2 of my websites dropped rankings since i purchased 2 HIGH PR links, now I have requested that website admin to remove those links to see how my rankings improve. So bottom line is stop buying paid links since G uncle is not Dumb to see what is happening on your website over a period of time.

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    1. Will

      Is it? I thought the point is that doing reciprocal linking and asking people to link to you with targeted anchor text can help you rank high for this phrase, even though this is against Google’s guidelines.

      That’s the lesson I learned. Prove me wrong. Based on everything Matt Cutts has ever said, Chow has no business being on the top of Page 1 for “make money online,” since the VAST majority of the backlinks for that phrase came by breaking Google’s guidelines.

      Unless the guidelines have just changed.

  47. cheap steroids

    You have to remember as well, that John did not automatically have a great brand and a lot of his dedicated followers at one point found him through the search engines (until he got the boot). SEO is a great tool for building a strong brand therefore you can’t simply dismiss Google.

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  50. Fitness

    Finally it ends with no harm …And I observed that it takes almost 2-3 months to recover from google penalty and at that time john was invisible….Hope he is happy now

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  52. Michelle

    Google dominates all search queries. It holds too much power over the Web not always using that power wisely and/or fairly. However, users have to deal with this fact because Google holds so much power. It’s great to know that there’re people who can prove the opposite with their blogs/websites. But I wonder whether this fact will prevent Google from becoming an even more powerful monopoly making their policy more objective and fair.

    1. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

      If all bloggers will come united than yes we have the chances to challenge this monopoly.

      But I do not think that Google have done such big mistakes so far and they are delivering fair results. Over all Matt is also doing great job (except few showing off)

    1. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

      I think we gave them this right by making them No 1 search engine of world. Now they are showing fare results for searches and if any one try to break that one than he is going to get punish.

      That’s for sure.

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  55. Ricky Peterson

    Well this is something really amazing & i would like congratulate John for coming back on Google. I am also glad that finally he followed all Google guidelines. I am not sure how to approach Matt Cutts in order to get my websites out of Google penalty. There are about 31 websites which has got Google Penalty and i have done all necessary changes to get them back and submitted for Google reconsideration but still the result is totally depressing for me. Shoe is there a way you can assist me in getting this done or give me clue how do i go about fixing these websites ???

  56. Jenny

    wow that is great if become like john chow
    i am newbie can yaou tell, how to begin a new website to be no 1 in google

  57. Tyrone | Millionaire Acts

    I definitely agree with you with this Jeremy.

    Building a good brand is definitely a must. But before you built a good brand, you must build a good content first.

    Congrats to John Chow that he’s already back in Google.

    However, in my browser, he does not appear in the first page. Only in the second for that magic keyword “make money online”.

  58. metafever

    Don’t you think that link building + building a brand is a proper strategy?

    Obviously John had his reasons for coming back and complying with Big G . . . . And my gut tells me that good link building tactics will continue.

    In the end, John knew there was more to gain since his monetization’s strategy has moved to his back end. (More traffic will now mean more email sign ups) . . .

    So getting back in Big G’s good graces is smart business.

    1. Ricky Peterson

      Professional Link Building skills along with the knowledge of Algorithm makes you successful in long run. To be very precise anyone and everyone has to follow G uncle in order drive traffic and make money online.

  59. Chris Edwards

    Great post. I think sites like johncow.com who had full on marketing campaigns, sales products, etc… are going to fail from the change. Good deal for John though, just more publicity that is 100% and attached to a ton of traffic from the limelight.

    1. R Kumar

      You are right. But I wonder if this is in any way going to affect John. Johnchow.com has so many dedicated visitors that the increase in traffic will hardly make a change to John or, his website, I guess.
      Having said that, I also feel that any increase traffic is never unwelcome.

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  62. Dennis

    So true. You want to make or not? Because some search engine tells you how to ‘build’ your website, you leave the dollars on the table?

    Come on. We are not in this game to obey Google, make their users happy and fill their wallets.. Im in for my own wallet. I do white hat seo for customers who want it, and because i make money out of it anyway. But me my own sites? I will go as black as i have to.

    1. Will

      Yes. John Chow finally did something intelligent. You’re better off being Google complaint and getting all that SEO traffic (since he has over 100,000 pages of content), then fighting the law and giving up on tens of thousands of visitors from Google. I imagine he was always going to eventually cave into Google–it was just a matter of time.

      But now the lesson learned is that apparently you can do reciprocal linking and rank for the exact anchor text you want to rank for, even though this violates Google’s guidelines. Doesn’t seem like a very fair lesson to me.

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  64. domainpubber

    The thing is John could actually know why they banned his site (TLA, by the sound of it here) but how many of the rest of us could actually get in direct touch with Google? I mean it’s great that you suggest we run into Matt C. at an event, but that’s not realistic for a lot of us.

    The reality for most webmasters is you get penalized or banned, spend a bunch of time trying to figure out why, submit your re-inclusion request and nothing happens.

    And so, just by removing the TLA links, he’s back in the index? He still has a whole lot of paid links on his site then doesn’t he? I guess G doesn’t even have to apply their own rules consistently.

    I don’t bother reading JC’s blog anymore, so thanks for posting this Shoe.

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  78. Cher

    Its quiet interesting to know how John Chow came back on Google. But every webmaster can’t be a John to have talks with Matt Cutts.

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  83. jane

    I tried to go into Johns site once and it was so filled with crap and took forever to load that i left and never looked back….

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  89. Jannah

    very good read. I may be late in replying but I have heard of this thing long time ago. I m just glad i did not hit the x button but rather read the whole article. John Chow has been resurrected! I’ve always read his articles when I have time..

    Great post!

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