What will it take to get webmasters and SEOs to actually read Google's guidelines?
For the past month, the penguin algorithm update and other anti-webspam measures by Google have shaken things up, particularly for people who have been doing things that are either intentionally manipulative, naive mistakes, or just plain wacky.
Through conversations with people who are looking for an analysis of what went wrong with their #SEO , I have come to believe that a large percentage of those affected most by Panda, Penguin, unnatural link warnings, etc have never actually read Google's Webmaster Guidelines http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769 nor the SEO Starter guide http://bit.ly/JHVsTJ or at least they did not take the guidelines seriously.
New clients seeking help in de-spamming seem to have learned everything they think know about "what Google wants" from 2nd or 3rd hand sources. Some were completely unaware that Google has readily available guidelines and plenty of "official" statements. I link to them any time I write about things like "what not to do" but have never seen more than an outbound click or two in analytics - until now. I have noticed that many more people are clicking out to Google's Guidelines than ever because they are freaked out that Google is enforcing these rules that they didn't take seriously enough to actually read before trying to work around them.

So why DO people treat the Webmaster Guidelines like a privacy policy, TOS or other commonly speed-scrolled and ignored agreements, anyway?
It is partly Google's fault that people didn't take the guidelines seriously, if they even know they exist. That soft-spoken "If it isn't too much trouble would you mind taking a look at these guidelines?" approach isn't working when there are so many willfully ignorant webmasters and SEOs.
Google should be more aggressive about making sure people read the guidelines. Yes, I know the old saying, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can not make him drink." Some people will never get it. But can't something be done to make it hard for people to reasonably say, "I had no idea that buying links was not OK. I read somewhere that this is how SEO is done."

How about a short test where users have to answer maybe a dozen simple questions about the contents of the Webmaster Guidelines before a Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics account is set up? Would that be enough?

Anybody else have any ideas?
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