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Update: Matt Cutts from Google’s Webspam team has confirmed that there is no link between email reputation and penalties in Google search results. Many thanks to Matt for weighing in on this issue.

Yesterday, one of our customers sent us a rather curious post by Lockergnome blogger, Jake Ludington. Titled ‘Email Reputation Causes Penalties in Google Search Results‘, it asserts that recent changes to Google’s search algorithm have resulted in possible penalties to sites who also send email newsletters. From Joel:

“Gmail tracks email reputation. It’s part of what gives Gmail some of the best spam filtering on the planet. Gmail looks at how much email your domain sends to @gmail.com addresses and assigns a score to your domain based on how engaged those @gmail.com addresses are with your content… The Gmail scoring system used to apply only to your reputation within Gmail. Google is now applying email behavior to search results. If you don’t keep your email list clean, you get slapped with a penalty…”

The skinny is that if you send to a lot of subscribers who don’t regularly open your emails, then, according to Joel, your Google rankings may suffer.

Personally, I haven’t seen or heard of any evidence to back up this claim, beyond the anecdotal – as yet, there is no official information from Google linking email reputation to search results. Joel is a customer of another email marketing service (who may take a different approach to managing feedback loops and reputation) and other factors may have resulted in this drop in traffic, so we’re definitely not asking you to purge, or segment subscribers from your lists based on advice given in a blog post. However, if he’s on the money, this has some pretty strong implications for senders.

We’d like to know if you’ve had a similar experience to Joel, so:

Do you think sending email newsletters has affected your site’s Google page rank recently? Please let us know in the comments below.

Update: Matt Cutts from Google’s Webspam team has confirmed that there is no link between email reputation and penalties in Google search results. See comment below and this thread on Hacker News.

Many thanks to @Joel_Hughes on Twitter for keeping us up to speed – we really appreciate the tip. Naturally, we’ll be keeping our ear to the ground and will follow up in this blog if any new information comes to light.

  • Al Iverson

    Eh, I personally don’t buy it. I’ve done lots of blogging and emailing and I’ve never noticed a reputation connection. Interesting theory, though.

  • Matt Cutts

    Nope, this isn’t the case.

  • Jake Ludington

    Matt hasn’t exactly provided any insight as to what is untrue about my analysis. On my post at LockerGnome, he states that one sentence of my article is not true.

    What I do know is, I scrubbed my list of inactive subscribers, I submitted a reinclusion request stating that I had done so and planned to continue doing so, and I received a manual spam action revoked reply to my request.

  • Ben Adam

    I am appalled at people’s willingness to believe anything that Google might tell them.

    Seriously, people need to think for themselves. Analyze your world and develop your own answers. It’s part of being human.

  • Brandon Wirtz

    Matt didn’t say there is no link. He said he didn’t like the title of the post. BIG Difference. Matt likes to play semantics. Matt once told me that something didn’t give a penalty and later explained it “failed to receive a bonus” if I did the bad thing.

    Until Matt says “There is no relationship between email and search rankings” I will work under the assumption that Matt just doesn’t like that he has a leak.

  • Lotte Mae

    If they don’t currently do that, then I don’t see why they wouldn’t implement it. It’s certainly possible, and there is logic in it.

  • Luke Jones

    Glad to see Matt Cutts refuted these claims – they’re really worrying and it would be a really poor ranking factor too. Many of the best websites send awful newsletters.

  • Vanessa Fox

    Brandon, he has said it:


    “your email newsletter’s reputation doesn’t affect your search rankings.”

  • justzentai

    Matt Cutts is so kind. But this is also a good topic, even the newsletters don’t affect the page rank. If people click your website url anywhere, it also be good for the site, I guess.

  • SiteGeeks

    It doesn’t make any sense (for me at least) that email newsletters could affect Google pagerank…

  • J2g

    In this reality where Google adjusts page ranking based on email deliverability reputation at Gmail – any company that doesn’t use a branded sub-domain of the root domain of their website wouldn’t be effected.

    How could Googles mega-robots know that emails from news@acme-emails.serviceprovider.com are associated to a website hosted at http://www.acme.com?

    Logical thought will set you free from scaremongers.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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