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Archive for the 'Black Hat & SEO Spam' Category

All this discussion about “Negaitve SEO” reminded me about a blog post that I wrote in 2008 on the same topic:

“Jun 28, 2008

I have been reading and studying the term negative search engine optimization (SEO). I find it quite funny how people at Google in particular (Matt Cutts) says Google Bombing or negative SEO is difficult or nearly impossible without high jacking someone’s website. This is totally wrong, but then again he is the same guy saying you need links to get your site to rank, but don’t buy them… (If I hear that loaded answer one more time!).

Google is very smart. What they do is rely on a human being’s general perception that if something is deemed wrong or is generally unacceptable, that most will avoid it. They have been pounding down everyone’s throat that paid links are bad, if you buy links your a bad person or evil webmaster. They talk about penalties and banning websites. In the past penalties were very rare, but recently I have seen several link buyers penalized.

As soon as I see a client penalized, I see the clear path to negative SEO. Each and every time I see or hear about a website penalized for off site SEO work, I create a log of what transpired and what the effects were. Does Google think SEO’s or people involved in search engine optimization are dumb? Well we are not. I have a list of places where links are penalized, I have a list of the types and quantities of links that have been penalized, I know how long it takes and how to avoid it or how to cause it.

I am not talking about buying links for Viagra for a number one ranked website for the search term homes. But you know if the site that ranked #1for homes, ranked between 4-6 for home sales, sell homes, buy homes etc., and that these are the keywords that a top quality website can be penalized for, then you simply build just a few too many really good links. Do not be obvious, do 100% legit SEO (buying links is OK in my book) work for the target site, just do a little too much, a little to quick, and guess what they will be given a -30 or a -45, for several of the over optimized keywords. They will not be penalized for their primary keyword which would require a 100% hand removal from Google or a Hand Penalty from Google, but it is not difficult to get them hammered for their 2nd tier search words.

Needless to say, I can present Google with multiple instances of proof that this is a fact, and I can certainly repeat the results if required.

Google is crossing its fingers that the general SEO community will frown on the part of negative SEO, because of the bad Karma, but in reality what is the difference between getting your site to rank higher (therefore lowering your competitors site) or simply lowering your competitors site so your site ranks higher?

Google is really beginning to upset me with these link threats, and link penalties. If they continue this barrage on SEO companies, everyone will just do very low profile SEO for their client’s sites, and over optimize 3-4 of their competitor’s websites. When multiple SEO companies adopt this theory, Google is really screwed. They will lose nearly all control, and be left unable to properly address which sites should be rewarded and which should be penalized.

For now Google is OK, because of the bad Karma factors and the “it’s wrong to do this”, but it will only take Google penalizing 2-3 top clients before SEO companies will all decided it is so much easier, and more profitable to negative SEO their competitors.

I will say that it is NOT hard, it is NOT difficult. If a group of top SEO and link builders got together, they could probably get nearly any site penalized.”

With the recent Goolge’s algorithm update (which was quickly called “Farmer’s Update”, as it seriously affects the so-called “content farms”) and Blekko’s removal of twenty famous websites from its results, it seems that fighting spam is the hottest issue in the search engine market.

Indeed, when we face certain enemy, it is very advisable to know about him as much as you can. So, what is this “spam”? The answer is clear – something annoying and useless. The first occurrence of spam is said to happen in the 19th century, when many honorable English gentlemen received an urgent telegram with an advertising content.

When we are talking about search results, however, spam is not easily defined. Usually, it means irrelevant pages that happen to have a keyword in them. But this has been handled a while ago. The search algorithms are far more advanced than 10 years ago, when one could fill the page with meaningless phrases and get a high SE ranking.

The problem has switched to using a good-written content (grammatically that is), which provides little useful information. It keeps repeating the same things again and again, so while looking “normal article” for the bot/spider, for the human being it is simply a waste of time. That’s what “content farm” means – a website that has constantly generated and frequently updated content, which has little value in it. That’s what Blekko and Google are fighting. The problem is that technically it is very hard to distinguish between “useful” and “useless” content – even for a human, let alone an indexing bot…

Beside the big and known Google, Yahoo, Bing, Blekko and Ask.com and the local leaders Baidu and Tandex, there are several other, “little” search engines – such as HotBot and DuckDuckGo. The latter was launched in 2008 and has a very, very limited market share with about 2.5 million searches a month. However, everyone is trying to gain ground these days – and if this is done on expense of Google – it is even better.

DuckDuckGo tries to gain users by emphasizing their pretty unique approach – they do no store search data. Either this is done on purpose or the company simply does not have the necessary resources, the manner is now advertised as being solely correct.

In an aggressive marketing campaign, the company specifically highlights “the Google way” of “invading your privacy”, stating that with little effort, your search history associated with computer IP and, stored at Google servers can be tracked down to you in person. Next goes your personal data, credit history, insurance policy etc.

Although the campaign (as most advertising campaigns) is not entirely correct, purposely exaggerating the “big brother” threat of in its quest of “making the privacy aspects of search engines understandable to the average person” (quoted is DuckDuckGo founder, Gabriel Weinberg), it might have an effect on certain privacy-concerned users. Will they switch to DuckDuckGo or go elsewhere? That is another question, of course…

Fighting SPAM is everyone’s concern these days. E-mail providers try to create advanced Spam-filters that send offensive and disturbing emails out of your Inbox to a “Spam” folder (and, of course, sometimes valuable, long-expected messages from certain contacts end up there as well). Search engines are struggling hard creating sophisticated algorithms in order to present the most “relevant” results to the user – their success is somewhat moderate, I would say.

There is, however, another option. Grant USER the ability to “mark” certain domains as “unwanted” and “untrustworthy” aka spam. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, the search industry market leader spam fighting team “has definitely discussed this” and the option has a chance of appearing in Google search tools. Of course, Cutts was very clear about “not pre-announcing things before they lunch”, but the hint is there.

Based on the experience and data of the now-extinct SearchWiki, the feature of “user blacklisting” can be quite useful and successful. The intention is, reportedly, to provide the user with the ability to mark domains and create blacklists for any given keyword. This data, associated with user’s Google profile can be stored on Google servers, making it an effective tool for fighting spam or other unwanted content, which is regarded as irrelevant by a specific searcher.

Several polls, conducted recently, approve that the search engines are still regarded reliable by the internet users, yet the influence of “spammers” worries many searches.

Over 33 percent of the responders to the question: “Have Google’s Search Results Become Less Useful To You?”, said that the spammers “have gained a significant foothold”. Over 40 percent responded with the “kind of” statement, making a total of over 75% percent noticing the negative influence of “noise” on Google Search. With less than 4% stating that results got better, it seems that the spam issue needs to worry Google algorithmists.

Nevertheless, almost 90% still find Search Engines (and most use Google, of course) do either “excellent” or “good” job of finding relevant information, and about two-thirds of users rate Google results as “useful”.

With other search engines trying to close the gap between the runaway leader in the Search Industry, they might well switch their attention to inventing better search algorithms. Yet, there is no guarantee that those will produce less “noisy” results. And even if they do, and Google will lose a considerable amount of market percentage – the spammers will probably quickly adjust their techniques to alter these “new-search-algorithm” results as well…

You might have noticed that starting mid-December, Google is labeling certain websites with “this site may be compromised” notice that appears in the search results under the website’s link. According to Google’s Matt Curtis, this is actually done to help webmasters, noting that their website is probably being hacked. The procedure of banning sites from Google search index as noting the owners via Google Webmaster tools has proved “too slow” as not many site owners check their Webmaster Tools notifications on regular basis.

As the hacked website does not usually present an immediate threat to the visitor (if malware is detected, Google Search will show the more aggressive “This site may be harmful to your computer” message), the “this site may be compromised” notice is destined mainly towards owners, who constantly monitor their website appearance in Google search, urging them to pay an immediate attention to the problem.

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I was asked by a friend today if posting comments on blogs with no follows is a good way to build links for SEO. When I asked him what other strategies he had for acquiring links he mentioned this was going to be primary source of link building!

Why link building using comments is on its way out?

Just like the good old days where keyword stuffing and meta tag stuff used to work quiet well, search engines and especially Google are now catching on to comment spamming.

Links in comments are now devalued regardless whether or not if they have no follows. This is a direct response to the huge amount of spam comments now appearing on blogs, if you have ever ran a blog of your own, you will know what I mean, even the most obscure, hard to find blogs on the strangest topics can attract spam comments.

Its actually not hard for search engines to determine if  a link is from the comments section of a blog, a quick look at the code in wordpress.

<ol class=”commentlist”>
<li id=”comment-1372″>
<a id=”comments”>

Not hard for search engines to look for these tags and devalue the link-juice within them is it?

Don’t despair, comments are still useful

While comments are no longer useful for link-juice / reputation passing, they are still useful for the following reasons;

Driving qualified traffic

Lets say you own a fishing / lure store and you come across a blog post from someone complaining he isn’t catching any fish. This would be a perfect opportunity for you to leave a comment with fishing tips and suggest some lures he could use; at the end of the comment, be honest and say you own a fishing store where they purchase these products, with one link to your website, not ten!

You already have the target audience thanks to the blog post, now its simply putting together a well constructed comment.

Be mindful how you structure the reply, comments that look like a cut and paste job or advertising fluff will be deleted. Trust me, these type of comments are not hard to spot.

Ask yourself, are you providing any added value to the post, if a friend came to you with a complaint that he isn’t catching any fish. Are you going to give him a bunch of random lure names without telling him why he should use them? Of course not, be conversational. don’t write your comments like robots, because they will be treated like one.

Quicker Indexing

Comment links can also be used to get your website indexed quicker by search engines, if your website is new and not showing up in Google index; it is most likely in Google’s Sandbox.

A method I have found to be useful is using blog comments on popular blogs to naturally drive Googlebot to your sand boxed website.

Follow the advise above with comment structure and don’t spam. You will find once you have a few decent comments approved on blogs, it will move out of the sandbox faster, in most cases I have found this process to be faster than manually submitting your website to Google.

( Don’t forget to setup a Google webmasters account, if your sites not been found it could be other issues causing it, don’t assume its just been sandboxed, I will be posting about Google Webmaster Tool soon, stay tuned )

Making Connections

Blog commenting is one of the simplest form of Social Media Marketing! Good comments generate discussion, and this is what every blog owner wants. Subscribe to comment updates via email so you know when someone else has responded to your comment, this is where you can really engage with your target audience and offer your services / products.

Good comments can still land you juicy backlinks, most blog owners appreciate good comments and will reward you with a link from an actual post perhaps mentioning how your fishing lure has helped him catch more fish!

Not only do you get a backlink from an actual post which would pass on the link juice, you have just gained yourself a loyal customer that will potentially refer others to your website.

Closing thoughts on blog comments

So hopefully you will take my advice and stop comment spam once and for all on the internet!
But seriously, blog commenting is a great internet marketing tool, but for link building purposes they are clearly not as useful as they used to be. If you are solely focused on an SEO campaign, cross off blog comments please!