Black Hat

Blog Network Outed & Google Responds

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October 1  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

I was doing some answering on Google Webmaster Central this morning when I spotted a thread where someone outed a link network publicly. This should be a little alarming to those blackhatter’s out there who do the same thing and don’t cover their tracks. What’s even more strange to see is an actual Google employee piping in on the thread, and it looks like someone’s hard work is about to be pwned.The network was put in a Google Docs and every site is now on the web for all to see, and that means Matt Cutts.

Fortune 500 Company + SEnuke = Disaster

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July 3  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

Before we get into this quick post I’ll state this is in by no means a bash to SEnuke, but more of a lesson when hiring an in-house SEO. A lot of the link building tactics used in the software are 100% link schemes, and are going to eventually get you in trouble. However, it is also in the user(think guns don’t kill people, people with guns..) to make it black hat. You could most definitely use it for legit purposes in small doses. But for the most part, this software spams forums, blog comments and web 2.0 profiles. It also now does link wheel “strategies”, and by looking at the diagram below, what do you think of;

If that’s not a visual definition of a link scheme. So in came an email from a fortune 500 company asking for help when their homepage dipped out of the SERPs, and a whole ton of their target kw’s were now bouncing around the 50-70 range. Not good right? Naturally my first step was to run a link report and see what was going on. I nearly spat my coffee all over the keyboard with what I saw after my Link Research Tools (shameless plug for Cemper here :) report finished.

So what happened? This company is an old school one, and they for so many years just relied on a webmaster, basic on page SEO and the natural links they received. After a few of the higher ups went to a conference and got all jazzed on online marketing, they decided to put together an in-house team. This lead to someone fresh out of university being picked up and hired, along with 4 other graduates from the same school/marketing program.

Perhaps a risky move, but the university has a great reputation, and the fresh hires were cheaper than some one with a lot of real world experience. Perhaps the first mistake, but not necessarily a bad move. The problems arose once the team decided to implement SEnuke as their link building platform and methodology.

After learning about link wheels, profile links and all the other “techniques” out there they went to town with this software. After 8 months there were nearly a dozen link wheels setup with spun content, but the worst part, the thousands and thousands of forum spam, blog comment and 2.0 profile links. To back that up, only 6-10 different money keyword anchor text were thrown in the mix. This got real obvious real quick.

So a year later and some very major problems are now a reality in this companies life. The clean up process is going to be down right awful, and guess who gets the clean up work duty? No me, that’s for sure! We’ll be taking their link building efforts into 2012 with awesome content, resources, web apps, mobile apps and beyond. Large companies have huge pull and don’t need to resort to anything other than natural link creation, so let this be a warning to all.

Be careful who you hire, don’t use questionable tactics and do things right if you want to stick around longer than a year in the SERPs. Google is going to be really focusing on SERP quality over the next year (and beyond), so now is the time to go over everything and make sure you’re squeaky clean.

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Dilbert Caught Buying Links – Google Punishes!

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June 27  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

Dilbert.com
Thanks To: Dilbert.com For The Comic!

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Buy Google +1 Votes? How Long Before It’s Gamed?

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June 12  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

I was recently adding the Google +1 button to my site, and while I’m not too happy about adding another bloody button to the long list of ones here, it had to be done. I’ve yet had to see any positive results, or notice a change within my Google SERPs in regards to this new social voting feature. The long tail search results still are over spammed and it seems that Google’s Panda update is still lost in the dark for the most part. So is this the next step to redeeming the polluted search results, or the next thing to game?

There is without a doubt a network being formed as I write this to sell, trade and gain Google +1 votes. I scoured some of the biggest webmaster forums for this post to see if anyone was already offering them for sale…not quite yet (and I’m kind of surprised). There is definitely going to be a blitz to buy these if they work, and if it does work well then Google is in for even more trouble.

For those in the know, or in the I read a ton of forums, their is another large update related to Panda coming. There has also been talk about a major change to the way they view links as well! I doubt this sooner than later update will incorporate the +1 votes, but in a year from now I imagine these will come heavily into play. Just like the people who have gamed links when the anchor text tip was out, they’ll game this and there will be huge money to be made. So this is why I’m a little worried.

So how many of you will buy these votes if it’s an option? If you’re not willing to dip your pen in the black ink, do you fear being left in the dust with nothing to do but complain to Google? I’d also love to hear from anyone who thinks the +1 votes are already influencing their rankings.

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Buy Google +1 Votes? How Long Before It’s Gamed?

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June 12  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

I was recently adding the Google +1 button to my site, and while I’m not too happy about adding another bloody button to the long list of ones here, it had to be done. I’ve yet had to see any positive results, or notice a change within my Google SERPs in regards to this new social voting feature. The long tail search results still are over spammed and it seems that Google’s Panda update is still lost in the dark for the most part. So is this the next step to redeeming the polluted search results, or the next thing to game?

There is without a doubt a network being formed as I write this to sell, trade and gain Google +1 votes. I scoured some of the biggest webmaster forums for this post to see if anyone was already offering them for sale…not quite yet (and I’m kind of surprised). There is definitely going to be a blitz to buy these if they work, and if it does work well then Google is in for even more trouble.

For those in the know, or in the I read a ton of forums, their is another large update related to Panda coming. There has also been talk about a major change to the way they view links as well! I doubt this sooner than later update will incorporate the +1 votes, but in a year from now I imagine these will come heavily into play. Just like the people who have gamed links when the anchor text tip was out, they’ll game this and there will be huge money to be made. So this is why I’m a little worried.

So how many of you will buy these votes if it’s an option? If you’re not willing to dip your pen in the black ink, do you fear being left in the dust with nothing to do but complain to Google? I’d also love to hear from anyone who thinks the +1 votes are already influencing their rankings.

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Donations As A Link Building Tactic? Be Careful

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May 6  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

A recent thread in GWC made me remember that donations are an often tactic used by companies with a lot of link money to burn. They’re usually pretty safe from Google’s clutches, but they’re also a huge risk. I was doing some backlink analysis for someone in a thread who had got stung with a -50 filter, and saw some not so good links. I was quite surprised to see a company of this high standards pulling this off, so I thought I’d make one public example for everyone to see. Google most definitely has taken notice to the page so it’s not really a secret, and it’s already out there in the public for anyone to see.

First up, let’s talk a little about why this is used as a link building strategy for a lot of big players. There are a lot of donations opportunities out there and usually they’re on very authoritative sites. Their donation pages are also not far off from the homepage, thus you’ll see a lot of companies going after these links. Sometimes it only takes a few hundred dollars to get a link from a really big foundation, open source project or a charity. For the most part, you’ll often see people drop well over $10,000 for a really link from a popular resource like this. Now that’s a scary link budget to compete with!

I can say openly that we’ve employed the tactic, but we did a few things different. For one, there was in no way any specific anchor text used. Secondly, the donations were made because they were open source software that the company relied on heavily to do their business. Lastly, the company only donated to three open source projects and that was the end of that….oh and I believe we sent the staff beer and pizza one day but we didn’t net any links for that!

Ok so what’s a really bad example of donation giving for inks? Sadly it comes from my favorite flavor of Unix, NetBSD. These folks most likely allow certain anchor text variations mainly because they need the money to go on, and they have one hell of an authoritative website. This means a lot of people will pay big bucks for a “proper link”, and that is most likely too much money to turn down. Times are tough, I understand! I doubt NetBSD would ever get penalized either, more so just have their donation pages devalued a lot. This still works out for them as they’d get the donations and the buyers would never know if those links were duds.

Naughty Naughty!


So most of you would cringe when you saw this, and just imagine what a Google web spam engineer would do? It really surprises me that some of these large companies let their link builders get up to this! Either that or they’re not in the know of what’s bad or good, and they’re just throwing heaps of money at a SEO firm. You’ll most likely see a ton of results, but one day you could have the carpet pulled out from beneath you. No on wants to wake up one day with their rankings gone, so be very careful in what you do.

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Panda Update Is Working For Us Against OneWayLinkBuilder.com

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April 20  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

OneWayLinkBuilder.com has been scraping not only our blog content, but Vertical Measures blog as well. I’ve asked many times through many streams and nothing was done about it, well, not until Panda anywho. We’ve implemented Google’s original source meta tags, blocked the scrapers via .htaccess but that didn’t stop them there. They take our content fully, rip out the links and the images which is really down right rude.  Since Panda is supposed to throw down thin, duplicate and weak content, I was glad to see it working so well for us.

Well I had to write about it since we weren’t getting anywhere trying to stop them from scraping. I even offered to let them take an excerpt but at least provide a link back to our original work. I filed a DMCA request with Google months ago and that did absolutely nothing, so it’s nice to see the Panda update doing its job. I know a lot of people think it’s done nothing but screw things up even worse, but here’s a real world example.

The original source implementation seemed to be doing an ok job, but not great. For the longest time we’d still see the scraped posts ranking within the top 10 search results. While it wasn’t hurting our rankings or image at all, it is just frustrating to see someone stealing your written words, and the links within them. I’d also hate to think a potential client would think it was their work, and end up wasting their time getting links that are most likely a waste of their money. With that in mind, just taking a look at the links they’ve built, you can see quickly this is not a consultant you want to deal with.

Post Panda Results?

 

I am pleased to see that the blog results are now what they should be, something I’ve demonstrated in the picture below. This is exactly what Panda was intending to do, so we’re all pleased that something has worked in our favor. I know not everyone is pleased, and I’m very aware that a lot of scraper sites are still outranking original content producers out there. That has been very evident if you look at all the inquiries in Google Webmaster Central.

So there’s a bit of hope for our team and hopefully folks out there dealing with scraper sites. If you’re seeing the opposite still with your content, pipe up here in the comments and let’s get a discussion going. We’re always more than happy to offer our advice and hopefully that leads to some answers for your problems.

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Paid Links in 2011

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March 13  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

I never thought I’d be writing another post about paid links, especially in 2011. Talk about beating a dead horse, resurrecting it and then beating it to death again. You can find our team helping people for free on Google’s Webmaster Central, and it is the reason I’ve decided to blab on the topic. Almost on a daily basis we’re answering topics where the webmaster either has no idea that buying links are a no-no, or they’re not checking who they’re hiring. I could have stated a third option, but I just cannot imagine people are dumb enough to buy the kind of paid links we’re seeing. I’m talking the usual lame blog with dozens of unrelated anchor text links all over the place..footer, blogroll and in-content text ads. A blog about potty training doing a post on car insurance…as Gob from Arrested Development would say, “Come On!

The latest thread I posted on was from a printing company in the UK. They made a post stating that they’ve lost most of their traffic over night. Imagine that folks. How would you feel if you had to come back tomorrow morning and tell your staff that business is going to get really rough. It would be even worse if you had to start laying off workers because of the massive monetary hit your company is about to take. Don’t let this be you folks, as well let this be a lesson to not keep all your eggs in one basket. Google is a volatile lover, and that’s why our company builds relationships on line…not just links.

If you’ve hired a link building consultant in the past year and haven’t bothered to look deep into the links you’re getting, do so right now! If you’re seeing a whole lot of lousy links then you need to jump on that asap. You wouldn’t believe the amount of potential clients that come to us in major trouble from past people hired. They were either burned hard and lost most of their business, or they were teetering on the edge of getting caught.

In this day and age, if your top anchor text count is for a specific search term you’re targeting and not your company/brand name, then I’d be a little worried. Google has been cracking down more and more, and they’ve even stated recently that major changes are coming to the way they view links. No one really knows what that entails, but I can imagine they’ll start looking closer into “natural” link profiles. A common factor in the clients we help get out of a penalty is the fact that their top 10 used anchor texts were obvious links to game the system.

If you’re going to still buy links against the advice of the Google gods, then at least do it smart. Link networks are always lousy and obvious, links from unrelated sites are obvious, and links in the sidebar or footer are just plain silly…I’m getting tired of cleaning up paid links for people!

Peace out

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