Marie Haynes

About Marie Haynes

Hi đź‘‹

I’m Marie Haynes. I really like learning about Google.

I was a veterinarian. I thoroughly loved my job, especially the bits where I got to put together the pieces of a diagnostic puzzle.

In 2008 I found another puzzle to solve that fascinated me: Google Search.

Isn’t it amazing that all of the world’s publicly available information is accessible to us by just tapping our fingers on a keyboard or screen?

I started learning about title tags, keyword research and learned how to get links and created and grew a veterinary advice website and several business websites for family members and friends.

In 2012, the SEO industry was thrown into a state of shock following Google’s release of an algorithmic filter they called Penguin. They started aggressively handing out manual actions to sites that built links at scale at the same time. A forum member asked if I could remove his penalty. I said, “Ah! I’m a veterinarian, not an SEO.” Still, I was up for the challenge. I researched everything Google had said or written about manual actions, and everything I could find online from people who shared about their success.

There’s nothing quite like the dopamine rush of receiving a notification from Google that your manual action has been revoked.

I took on more jobs, and had more success. Many of the sites impacted had questions for me that I could not answer. They wanted to know what to do now? How do you rank on Google Search without breaking their guidelines?

This set me on a quest for answering these questions! As I learned more I offered more consulting and eventually had enough demand to start an agency. We grew to 12, learning constantly and brainstorming with businesses. We had great success with many sites. We developed a process to look at sites in the eyes of everything we knew about Google’s algorithms, find where the site was lacking and then suggest pages and pages of ideas for improvement. We shared our understanding of E-A-T, now E-E-A-T and the rater guidelines, knowing that these are the things Google says their systems are built to replicate and reward.

The more Google’s systems developed, the harder it became to give recovery advice that was something we could implement with SEO. As we compared pages that were winning against the sites we were evaluating, the differences were things that were impossible for our client to improve upon. Google was ranking real world businesses, sites truly known in the world for their topics, and content that really was significantly more helpful over our clients’ pages that once dominated because of their knowledge of SEO.

In 2022, I returned to solo consulting. Two monumental things happened that year. First, someone sent me a link to OpenAI Playground and I marveled that I could ask a computer program to make a poem about John Mueller and Barry Schwartz arguing whether cheese was a ranking factor and it would use a bunch of math to create something really cool. The next was that Google’s Danny Sullivan reached out ask if we could have a call to talk about a new system in search – The Helpful Content System.

The Helpful Content System is a machine learning system.  I realized that I could not explain ranking losses without understanding more about machine learning systems. I spent the next year using my new AI assistants, Chat and Bard, then Gemini and then Gemini 1.5 Pro to help me understand patents and papers and formulate and critique my ideas. Since then I have been working on resources that I hope will help the SEO industry learn more about SEO in the Gemini Era – one where AI systems determine what is shown to searchers.

If I had to explain it in one sentence I’d say this: The helpful content system taught Google how to use the signals on the web in machine learning systems that use math to calculate predictions on what is likely to be helpful.

Today’s Google Search is almost completely run by machine learning systems. The new Gemini 1.5 technology allows Google to bring even more signals into their machine learning systems. These systems use many signals, including user engagement signals to determine what is likely to be helpful.

We have so much to learn!


The Atlantic’s article called “The Open Secret of Google Search” says,

Any hunt for answers about Google’s Search algorithms will lead you into the world of SEO experts like Marie Haynes.

It was an honour to be inteviewed by for an investigative piece.


Latest podcast episode

Featured Publications & Accomplishments

Dr. Haynes has written for Moz, Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch advising on manual penalties, Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines, E-E-A-T and Google’s algorithms and systems such as the helpful content system. She is also a regular speaker at Pubcon and SMX, two of the largest search engine marketing conferences.

Marie has been recommended in Forbes, the Huffington Post, Inc magazine, and Entrepreneur, and been featured on Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Journal, The SEM Post, and WebProNews.

MHC were also the winners of the 2019 Wix SEO Battle, winning $25,000 for ranking highest for the term “Wix SEO”.

Her most popular books right now:

You can find Marie’s content here: