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To kick off Brighton SEO this year, Kelvin Newman sat three ex-Googler’s down on a couch on the stage and opened the questions to the audience.

Those three were Jonas Weber, Alfredo Pulvirenti and Fili Wiese – all formerly of the Search Quality team at Google.  Unsurprisingly, they held back a lot of information and occasionally did their best to swerve the question(s) being asked.

Jonas WeberAlfredo PulvirentiFili Wiese

They introduced themselves and informed us that the Google Search Quality team are split into manual and algorithmic search engineers. The manual side, where these three worked focus on their native language, geo-specific aspects, whilst the algorithmic guys take a look at the big picture.

Here were some of the things we learned from our ex-Googler’s:

Q. How does Google know if a website is buying links?

A. Google has so much data it can work out what is natural and what is not.

Q. Does Google do anything extra with the Disavow file?

A. No they don’t and I wouldn’t expect them to do anything with the information anytime soon.

Q. Now that you are all SEOs, how do you build links?

A. Hire a team of good writers to produce good content and build yours or the website’s profile.  Solve someone’s problem in your blog post.  Link exchange with your mother companies.

Q. How frequently am I allowed to update my Disavow file?

A. Daily. I update mine daily with all the new, spammy links that we attract on a daily basis.

Q. Does Google check my spam report?

A. All spam reports are looked at.  In the key languages; English, German, Dutch etc. they are usually all looked at within a week.  The lesser languages can take a while longer.

Q. How likely is Google to accept my reconsideration request?

A. The more aggressive you are with your changes, the more likely you are to be reconsidered.

Other points I picked up from the ex-Googler’s:

  • Social signals are “not really” directly affecting rankings… yet.
  • Matt Cutts and his team are still trying to work out what to do with the social data
  • Start using Google+ now – give Google long-term data for when they start using this information.
  • A higher click-through rate helps with rankings