New Zealand SEO Companies Punished For Dangerous Link Building Strategies!

When SEO companies go bad!

After you have read this post please share it with anyone who currently employs a company to do search engine optimisation for their business website. What is outlined in this post could have a major negative impact on the future of their website and their online business prospects. You can also share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn using the buttons at the top. Here we go…  

Something big has happened at Google… really big!

SEO companies try to fool search engine robots

And so far the new Google initiative has mostly gone under the radar (note I said “So far” )

But this will change very quickly once businesses realise that:

  • the phone is not ringing as often this week compared to last week
  • or maybe the email volume from the Contact Page seems a little more manageable
  • or sales seem to be down this week
  • or any of the other conversion targets your business has for the company website don’t seem to be firing the way they were

Sure, there are seasonal fluctuations, there are even weekly and daily fluctuations which seem sometimes to have no logical cause.

But, this is a bit different!

What has happened that could cause such a sudden drop in traffic and sales?

The major international SEO blogs have been abuzz with this latest initiative for a week or more now.

And it is looking like it cuts a bit closer to home and has more serious consequences  than Google’s now infamous Panda Update!

What is Google up to and how does this affect business SEO?

Google signaled quite clearly at the recent SXSW (Annual music, film, and interactive conference in Austin, Texas) that it intended to level the SEO playing field a bit…

No, actually, a lot!

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team broke the usual Google information norm by pre-announcing a strategy to improve search results – making sites with quality content and reputation (mom and pop sites) rank against the big sites with massive SEO budgets.

He was reasonably oblique with his ” How” (surprise!) so there was a flurry of speculation and a number of top SEO bloggers offered advice on toning down keyword density, further variations to anchor text, relaxing title tag/ H1/ description/ alt tags to make SEO appear “more natural”.

If you are not an SEO obsessive, here is a simplified version – Matt Cutts said – If we detect that you are pushing the envelope by doing too much SEO you will be penalised – so everyone went into pre-emptive damage control!

Interestingly, I think Matt Cutts trumped everyone!

While the scurry was happening Google quietly took down and de-indexed the biggest paid blog network on the Internet.

Paid blog networks to build links are history!

“Build My Rank” was probably the biggie of blog networks.

Results from using this network were fairly spectacular – reviews which I won’t reference here documented huge sales growth for affiliate marketers – just 50 posts on this network across PageRank blogs of only 2-4 seemed to get amazing results!

 

SEO company link building

 

And the somewhat surprising factor was that this site really didn’t go too hard down the “black hat” line. The posts had to be human approved, no duplication and spun articles were often rejected outright.

This was a site that even the owners thought was “compliant enough”!

Kudos to these guys – once they were hit with de-indexing they immediately offered refunds to all members and they also offered an easy solution to remove all of the offending links from their members’ sites.

For the people who received a message via Webmaster Tools telling them that an unnatural link profile had been detected this is probably too little, too late.

If you ever get the following message be very afraid!

 

Webmaster guidelines warning

Does your provider give you access to your Webmaster Tools information? If not, ask why!

If you are unfamiliar with what it takes to be reconsidered for indexing in Google, be sure this is not an easy process.

First you need a full link analysis. Then you need to approach every one of the undesirables linking to you (and they will usually not be reachable), or you need to remove duplication or code issues, or you need to remove anything else that violates the guidelines…

One mid-level SEO in the US charges $10,000 per month to clear a site of non-compliance penalties and get the site re-indexed! Got a spare USD$60,000 to invest?

If you are doing this yourself first you have to ensure your site is completely Google compliant, then you ask to “please” be reconsidered – think about this process as being 3 – 6 months.

Sound easy? No, of course not!

And this is the thin end of the wedge…

It is becoming obvious that Google has dug a lot deeper with a large number of blog networks being taken down.

How does this impact on New Zealand SEO?

It looks like Google has really embarked on this campaign with a take no prisoners mindset.

I have personally seen New Zealand SEO and web marketing companies drop from the top few positions to page 3 or into oblivion in the last few days. These are businesses which have held fast to the top spots in many cases for at least the last 12 months.

Gone Baby Gone…

The scary thing is that their clients’ sites have had the same treatment. Those clients who actually monitor their search engine placings will already be asking “Where the hell has my site gone?”.

The answer of course is in this dismantling of non compliant paid blog networks!

Build My Rank is an example a blog network, a privately owned network of blogs which houses a large amount of content and which builds PageRank for each site in the network based on unique content and visitors.

Having links within the content on these sites is an attractive way to gain links for a subscriber which appear to be genuine and natural.

To build a network like this takes time, investment and a large number of participating content suppliers to build up Page authority.

This tweet from Rand Fishkin shows the breadth of the Google initiative: (click the link in the tweet to see what he is referencing)

Are these people nuts? (click the link in the Tweet – a Google search that will surprise… Doh!)

 

If you build 500 blogs on WordPress and you buy 500 domain names at $10 apiece per annum, then you host the sites through a large provider (varies in price but you need to find a provider that is of the “no see/no hear/no speak” variety), and then you need the software development, the coders, the marketers and the management to maintain the network.

Big bucks!

It is much easier to subscribe and pay the 60-400 dollars a month to have instant access to a simple, link producing machine.

How prevalent are these non-compliant SEO strategies in New Zealand?

Let’s look at the level of paid blog network use by some of our local search engine optimisation providers…

And I am talking about some extremely prominent SEO companies here.

One New Zealand company offers (or offered, I hope) an article which is put through an article spinner (ie unreadable rubbish) and submitted to their own private (maybe not so private) network of WordPress blogs – 400 in total.

Article spinning? Check this out:

Carson Ward wrote this great post at SEOmozThis is a great example of a title on a blog network “Choosing Tragedy Cleanup Sodium Body Of Water Town UT”.

Did anyone guess that Sodium Body Of Water Town is a spun version of Salt Lake City?

Anyway, 200 links from one of these networks is usually enough to gain front page top positions for a Kiwi business for their keyword. (in a non-competitive niche it probably is)

And this example of SEO spam is not a lone wolf – several big firms will be looking very closely at their clients’ Webmaster Tools notifications and they will be working out how to deal with monthly client reports… (sorry, no data? a glitch in the system? Yeah, Right!)

We are not talking about moderated blog networks or anything approaching compliance here. We are talking about webspam pure and simple. And this is fairly prevalent in New Zealand as an SEO solution…

After all:

  • Who wants to spend hours building social media connections?
  • Who wants to reach out to influential bloggers and build relationships with them?
  • Who wants to create high quality articles and jump through the hoops to get unique content published on the most fussy sites in the world?
  • Who wants to apply to be considered by the most important global business listings?
  • Who has the time to build a following on social bookmarking and web 2.0 platforms?
  • Who has a business that would be considered as worthy of listing by a .govt or .edu site?
  • And last of all, who has the time to monitor every single daily change that Google makes to it’s algorithm?

So the easy answer is to utilise:

leverage…

automation…

outsourcing…

black hat SEO…

But there are huge risks with taking this approach as we have seen.

Plunging from the top Google spots to the outer reaches of the universe is one.

One day you are making sales, the next day the sales have stopped abruptly… gone… finished!

And believe me this is happening right here, right now!

Google has also hit another common SEO hack

Now for the second Google slam-dunk!

The second big webspam problem Google has been targeting is what they refer to as an “unusual link profile”.

This may be all of your links from one particular link technique:

Are all of your links from blog comments? (indicating automated comment spam)

Or are they from low quality directories? (outsourcing to third world providers who hammer PageRank 0-2 easy listings)

Are they from paid link sources? (have you ever been offered 100′s of links for $49.95 – yes we have too!)

Or perhaps from blog networks (as above)

Or maybe your web developer is screwing you without you knowing it!

More dubious link techniques – this time from developers!

Here is a case of a large New Zealand/Australian web development company breaking all the rules.

A friend who runs a web design, conversion optimisation, SEO and PPC business called me this week to clarify a situation she was having a bit of a problem with.

A client had suddenly plunged out of the Google New Zealand search results. They wanted to know what was going on so they rang my friend and asked the big question.

This led to major analysis of the site and what was found was more than 500 hot links from the site all leading to the web developer’s other current clients…

Wow!

Would you be pissed?

A phone call to the web company who built the site got the response:

“Hey, what’s your problem? This helps the site do better in Google”.

Really?

As part of the recent algorithm update, sites that have an unnatural link profile will be penalised, and this is serious!

I checked out the web development company’s link stats and the tools I use showed more then 500,000 links pointing at their site.(500,000? For a local web supplier?… Come on!)

Yet, when I used their premier home page title tag keyword in search they did not figure in the first three pages of Google! (or even in the top 100 spots according to my friend’s research!)

Check out the link stats below… (most sites would be in the 300-3000 range)

Page authority and links

528,441 links? They should be outranking Coca Cola! And should be nudging Wikipedia and maybe giving Lady Gaga a bit of grief!

I suggested that the company in question would probably be less concerned about one client’s change in fortunes than about the complete destruction of their brand through being totally busted for using black hat SEO.

The bummer is that in each of the cases above it is the clients of these companies who will suffer the most.

A company takes years to build a reputation and a following for their brand, both online and offline and to have this destroyed by cowboys looking for a way around the time consuming reality of ethical search engine optimisation is disturbing.

And they will have been charged top dollar for these results.

This really bugs me!

Is it time for some sort of regulation in this industry?

Mind you I would be a bit worried about who did the regulating… (no comment)

As an interesting aside/postscript there was a great post recently on Search Engine Watch about this same topic. Eric Ward talks about his frustrations with a client who would spend $25,000 on a website plus black hat techniques, avoid the Google police for several months, make $40,000 then have the site taken down. Then he would have site 2, 3 4, 5, 6… to take it’s place.

Measure the ROI on this strategy and you will see, as the author does, that this guy is making a pile of money by breaking all the rules…

If your target is to not be concerned at all about your customers – just make a quick buck, change your name and location,get busted,  make a quick buck, change your name and location, get busted…

…then ignore everything I have said here.

If, however, you are genuinely concerned about the way your business is perceived by others – building value, customer trust and loyalty and a powerful long term brand then you must ask your SEO provider exactly how they plan to improve your search engine results.

If they are vague about this or if they talk about automation, networks of high PageRank sites, leverage or fast link growth then I would advise you to avoid this provider completely.

If you found this info valuable please share using the social media buttons at the top of the page or share with your business connections by email. I really believe this information is crucial to New Zealand businesses.

I welcome your comments.

About Mike Morgan
Mike Morgan works with innovative businesses in New Zealand and Australia developing custom web marketing strategies integrating SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media Optimisation. When not in front of his screens you will probably find Mike walking on beautiful Ohope Beach with wife Midge and doberman Cooper. Follow Mike on Twitter here and

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Comments

  1. Thanks for a great post Mike, it is good to know that there are now consequences for this unethical SEO behavior.

    What is a shame is that the website owners, who for the most part know nothing about SEO and listen to the ‘experts’ are now being penalised. Where do they go from here and what is their best course of action moving forward to repair the damage?

    I guess the moral of the story is to chose an SEO company who you trust and know enough about the basics (and definitely Google’s guidelines) to ensure their site is well managed.

    • Thanks Justine,
      Yes, that is the frustrating aspect! In most cases the business owners will only have a very basic understanding of SEO and may not even be aware that there are white hat or black hat techniques or what that actually means. How SEO practitioners can play fast and loose with their clients’ businesses is beyond me. Maybe a couple of hefty law suits might bring the cowboys into line?
      Thanks for the visit and comment!
      All the best
      Mike

  2. Thx for this great in-depth article Mike. Luckily I never joined networks like BMR, because I always figured google will punish them sooner or later and as it turns out, that was a wise decision…

    • Appreciate your input Andreas,
      It blows me away that local SEOs were quite upfront about using networks like BMR. I think we all see these opportunities for shortcuts and know that there will be repercussions at some stage. The question is always about how you want to do business. Are you really prepared to take a risk with someone else’s site and brand?
      All the best
      Mike

  3. Awesome information Mike, and really helpfull when it comes to the effect when using these techniques. Great selling point when it comes to, what not to do. Thank You :)

    • Thanks Helene!
      Appreciate the feedback! Glad you found the post useful – I think the effects of this will be felt everywhere. You may find a whole lot of Swedish companies have been hit as well.
      Thanks for visiting!
      All the best
      Mike

  4. Gone are the days of using public blog networks, that is for sure. People are going to have to join very private blog networks that are normal looking sites, or do guest posting with anchor text backlinks. I would choose the latter because you don’t have to worry about getting penalized because Google encourages doing things like guest posting.

    • Hi Caleb,
      I think public and private blog networks are toast! One top New Zealand provider had a page on their site which described in detail how their private blog network works and how it gets awesome results for their clients. Now they have plunged from the number one spot for search engine optimisation to nowhere in the top 100 results… ouch!
      Thanks for visiting.
      Mike

  5. Possibly your best blog yet, Mike. I wonder how many so called ‘SEO’ experts I have dealt with in the past are having a hard time at the moment.

    • Wow! Thanks for the kind words Andrew!
      With some of the tactics you have described to me I am certain some of them will be reading the dreaded Webmaster Tools notice.
      All the best
      Mike

  6. To me it seems that the penalties are more pronounced for those people who are using the “black hat” seo just mindlessly…….throwing in thousands of links from low quality sites every months. Just a few weeks ago, an seo provider on elance told me she is making 3000-4000 links for their customers without their sites getting penalized (I was worried because she wanted to create 100 or so links for me in 1 month).

    I would say that more than 90% of commercial sites out there are using some sort of link building method or seo company to get their sites optimized. Any company including Google would not make changes that would HURT large portions of commercial web landscape.

    I think Google is making changes and that are good….to prevent excessive use of “black hat” techniques…..and to create a HYPE around use of ethical seo methodologies. I write this because even after Panda updates, I found that a lot of seo techniques still worked, although when I got links from related niche sites, I seemed to be rewarded for that by higher google rankings relatively quickly.

    • Thanks for the comment Yula!
      To be honest I would be a bit nervous outsourcing link building on Elance or Odesk as you have less control over methods used. And just because a particular service provider hasn’t been penalised yet, doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. It is obvious that unusual link profiles are in Google’s sights so I would be very careful to retain control over this aspect of SEO. The risks are just too great!

      You can be Guidelines compliant and still build links – it is automation, spam, poor quality content and “link schemes” that Google is after.

      Absolutely agree about links from related sites. Panda wasn’t anti SEO, it was anti poor quality, thin content. Even Matt Cutts gives tips on how to improve SEO!

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to contribute your thoughts.
      Mike

  7. This was an interesting one, no one knows what google are going to be doing technically, we know what they want to achieve but not what they will do to get there.

    Personally I do not worry too much about these snippets of info google put out that causes panic in seo land as I have noticed that they seem to be less and less equip to deal with things through their algorythm.

    The leaked “spam pdf” that tells their outsourcers how to tell if a site is spam and the fact that the only way they could have deindexed a blog network would be to have joined it and looked for footprints are key signs. Also – when they do manage something like a de-indexing of a blog network they make a noise about it and try to make people think that this will happen to all such networks, it wont…..

    Good to see them taking action but not worried about anything!

    • Hi Sandy,
      Thanks for sharing your opinion.
      Google tends to only offer a small part of the picture with any announcement and for good reason. It is the drastic effect on businesses that have no idea what their SEO providers are up to in this case that really disturbs me. All Google had to do was find the network and follow the links. Any site with hundreds or thousands of links from BMR gets a big penalty and a Webmaster notification… too easy!
      Fine if you want to take risks with your own website but it is another thing altogether if you are taking risks with clients’ websites.
      Appreciate your input.
      All the best
      Mike

  8. I own a real estate site and I’m just starting to realize that I need to pay more attention to marketing online and SEO. It’s so scary reading about all of these things online. How will I know if I find a reputable company? Being someone who doesn’t know anything about SEO how do I not get duped?

    Michael
    Louisville Realtor

    • Hi Michael,
      Your best defense is to educate yourself as much as possible by following the major sites like search engine land, seomoz, search engine journal and others to stay up with what is going on. Then look for a referral from someone you know in business who has worked with a company for a reasonable period of time. Unfortunately if you search “search engine optimisation company” the top results are often taken by people using borderline techniques.
      Thanks for your visit and comment.
      Mike

  9. It is basically a good news for masses as majority of site owners don’t have big SEO budgets but they have quality sites. We will see a major improvement in results when these changes roll out and this is the beginning. The dark side of this story is thousands of blogs who sell links and all will face major drop in their link sales and probably Google will block such blogs/sites more frequently.

    • Hi Nick,
      Overall it is good news for the web and bad news for the business owners who trust an SEO company to comply with the guidelines. Let’s face it, if you are not showing on Google, you are barely showing at all. I don’t have any sympathy for those who are selling links – they will move on to the next high risk search engine hack and continue to make a pile of money.
      All the best
      Mike

  10. I would say that more than 90% of commercial sites out there are using some sort of link building method or seo company to get their sites optimized. Any company including Google would not make changes that would HURT large portions of commercial web landscape.

    • I agree, of course most commercial sites are using link building as a strategy.
      And link building is not contrary to Google’s guidelines at all – what is in violation is spam, automation, poor content, link schemes…
      There is such a thing as ethical, guidelines compliant link building and that is exactly what we do. I have been called naive by one black hat guy who I spoke to – he told me “You just don’t get it – the search engines are there to be gamed”. Wonder how his client’s sites are looking now!
      As far as making changes that hurt large portions of the web go, I remember when Google enacted the famous “Google Slap” a couple of years ago to clear business opportunities from it’s Adwords results. Tens of thousands of marketers said “They won’t do that, I pay them $20K per month!” But Google did, because they wanted to improve search. Losing millions in ad revenue was a sacrifice they had to make in order to protect the quality of their brand.
      Thanks for the comment
      Mike

  11. The way I see it, the latest Google update affects spammers and I have absolutely no issue with their sites getting banned. So this is a good development and anyone who is concerned should take a careful look at their SEO practices.

    • Agree only partly. Tell that to the clients of so-called reputable SEO companies who have seen their sales dry up and I think they will disagree. And yes I know the temptation to use a keyword as your name is there but I would really appreciate it if you used a real name. It is hard to have a conversation with someone called Merchant Account ;-)
      Cheers
      Mike

  12. Wow a lot to read a very interesting and in depth article. I am glad I have not paid a lot of money to these so called experts when I started up!

    • Thanks Craig,
      Yes, and there are situations where an SEO provider takes on a new client without knowing what black hat techniques have been used in the past. Who gets the blame if things go awry? The current provider in most cases of course, so it pays to do a link analysis for any new client to ensure safety.
      Cheers
      Mike

  13. Great information! I know that this will be hard for certain business owners, but I guess the best way out of this is to learn about the latest developments from Google and to comply with all the changes implemented.

    • Thanks Graham,
      Having a reasonable understanding of current guidelines is very important and well worth the effort for a business owner. Asking for clear answers as to what your SEO providers are doing is also essential. If they won’t give a clear indication definitely go elsewhere.
      All the best
      Mike

  14. So this is really the reason why I haven’t heard about BMR today. I guess this would serve as a wake up call to those who are buying links. It is always best to follow the rules which imposed by Google to prevent penalties.

    • Yes, BMR is gone! And there are plenty of other blog networks MIA as well judging by the hacker and black hat forums. No sympathy here from me – the guidelines are absolutely specific about paid links.
      Cheers
      Mike

  15. For website owners who hire SEO companies, you really have to make sure you go with a reputable company which openly communicates with you so you would know exactly what’s being done to improve your rank. Also, learn SEO yourself so you won’t be kept in the dark. Continue to provide quality and relevant content and do not do unethical SEO.

    • Nice one Reese,
      Agree completely – but it is tough to expect every business to try to get their heads around SEO and the constant changes to the algorithms. This is the problem! How do they ensure the company they employ is not going to damage their website and brand without a comprehensive understanding of SEO?
      Appreciate your input.
      Mike

  16. Scary! Personally, all this chopping and changing really bugs me. Today it is good tomorrow it is banned. Some of us have businesses to run and cannot dedicate the time or resources to keep up with all the changes.

    • Hi Neil,
      I think the interesting thing is that the basic concepts change very little. Follow the rules – create great content, be active through social media, have a good website with lots of useful info, know what keywords relate to your market and optimise for these, understand how your business relates to your customers… None of this has changed. If something is ever banned it is usually because it was a shortcut involving webspam.
      Cheers
      Mike

  17. The positive thing about this is that people will be compelled to learn more about SEO so that they will not be able to commit the errors that Google hates the most.

    • Hi Brenda,
      It is a positive I agree. Learn the basics at least and make sure you know what is NOT allowed, then you will be in a position to question your SEO provider about the strategies they are using.
      All the best
      Mike

  18. It was about time that Google takes action against these people. Then, maybe the sun will shine also on the honest webmasters’ street…

    • Hi Debi,
      I think the sun definitely already shines on the honest webmasters’street. We all hate spam though don’t we?
      Cheers
      Mike

  19. I was about to start using BMR to build a few links to my site. So glad I didn’t!

    • Saved by the bell Alison?
      Lucky timing for you. I guess the problem in part is that link schemes like BMR are sold as being guidelines compliant or at least immune from algorithm changes. Every person with a website needs to be familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – not long, not overly technical.
      Cheers
      Mike

  20. Being an SEO company is a scary thing I would imagine. If you try to get too far ahead you are punished. You need to just go slow and easy it seems.

    • Hi Steven,
      We have to remember that as businesses we are really only guests on these platforms. There are rules and if we don’t abide by them who are we to scream foul when Google penalises us for breaking the rules? Who are Google concerned about? Searchers and advertisers! That’s it…
      Cheers
      Mike

  21. It is very important to choose the best SEO companies and we must be careful and be choosy in looking for the most reputable company..

    • Hi Nicca,
      The tough part is working out who the “best SEO companies” are. How can you be sure they are not using non-compliant techniques if you know little about SEO? This is the crux of the problem.
      Cheers
      Mike

  22. Hey Mike,

    Quite an interesting article. Yes, we know that Google has recently de-valued BMR, ALN and other paid blog networks. This has seriously impacted rankings of major sites. I therefore try to steer clear of such tactics that result in quick high rankings for a while but are later penalized.

    The sad part is that several site owners who depend on SEO companies for managing their sites ratings have had to suffer a blow because the SEO company resorted to such black hat techniques. I believe, building the links in the right manner may be a hard and lengthy process but is worth spending all the effort in the end.

    • Nice one Rita,
      Couldn’t agree more! And there are quite a few more that have since been picked up in the Penguin Update. If you are OK with short term gain and are not building a respected brand then black hat is fast and risky – kind of a lottery though. Slow and steady wins the race in my opinion!
      Thanks for commenting
      Mike

  23. This was a well written article that changed my mind about some things. First of all that guy whos abusing Google for $20,000 profits. How can we say anything bad about what he is doing? Should we be on Google’s side or our own.. Is Google out for their own good or our own? Is that not a viable business strategy? I dont subscribe to blackhat SEO tactics such as automation but I do think that using white hat seo tactics is the way, and Google is saying don’t use SEO at all but just focus on content. But a lot of people are doing scary things that work and make me intrigued into their methods. Just saying, it’s kind of a drag.

    • Hey Ryan,
      As I said – if your sole aim is to make a buck, move on to the next opportunity then black hat is probably going to work for you. If you have a business or personal brand you care about then no way should you be dabbling in this area. The reason why affiliate marketing gets such a bad rep is because the marketers in many cases couldn’t care less about a brand. Makemoney675 or Getrich554 have nothing to lose so for them any way they can get lots of visitors to their landing page is a good way!
      Thanks for your great comment!
      Cheers
      Mike

  24. For me, Panda and Penguin updates were the best. I am getting more traffic and I’m on the first page now.
    White Hat and patience pays off :)

    • Hi Jack,
      It has been a busy month for Google – Blog networks, free parking, 2 Pandas and a Penguin… phew! They are certainly signalling that they are pretty serious about eliminating spam. Good to hear you are benefiting from the updates.
      Cheers
      Mike

  25. Great post Mike and very informative about what to avoid. A funny comment on the Penguin update as Google is calling it came from Google this last week. They stated that they want site owners to forget about back link building and SEO completely and focus on great content.
    This is a little bit of a contradiction against what they preach in some ways. Also it opens a new and even darker side to your competitors. If you have some one our ranking you all you need to do is build a lot of back links for them from questionable web sites or blogs and you can ruin their credibility over night.

    • Hi Mark,
      I agree about the concerns around negative SEO. It is too easy to pick off competitors by buying links and using spam to hurt their website ranking. This is something that Google must address and quickly. Thanks for the comment.
      Mike

  26. Mike,

    But the biggest issue that has arisen out of this Google exercise is the emergence of negative seo. I know of several websites not much talked about but brought down for main keywords by competition. This is getting uglier by the day..

    • Hi Rayna,
      Yes, negative SEO is a big concern. I recently read a blow by blow account on a forum where a guy was describing with glee how he destroyed a legitimate business using negative SEO – it made pretty sickening reading. And I don’t doubt that many of the Black Hat guys will see this as an opportunity to use spam to make a buck… unfortunately.
      Cheers
      Mike

  27. Interesting article. Yes, we know that Google has recently de-valued BMR, ALN and other paid blog networks. This has seriously impacted rankings of major sites. I therefore try to steer clear of such tactics that result in quick high rankings for a while but are later penalized.

    • Thanks,
      As far as I can see nothing has changed in the guidelines – Google has just got better at finding and punishing breaches. If we stick to the rules in most cases we will do OK.
      Cheers
      Mike

  28. Google doesnt look after our blogs and our business but so many “do gooders” are happy jump around spouting their AUP, guidelines or terms and conditions, what ever they call them today.

    Fair play to anyone who games google, its just as much hard work as been a “white hat” and doing things right – google caught blog networks and everyone knows that they did that manually which in itself proves that their algorithm is not as magical as they would like to to believe – yet they continue to spread mis information through their network of “fans” much like apple.

    Fair play to both sides but small private blog networks still work regardless of it they are in NZ or otherwise!

    • Hi Sash,
      Do-gooders? I am always surprised by the anger directed at Google particularly by those who have been caught out using Black Hat. Maybe you should follow the usual pattern and abuse Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan and all the other Google fanboys… Google is a business and they protect their asset in any way they can – having millions of pages of unreadable garbage does not give a very good user experience don’t you think?
      Cheers
      Mike

  29. Johnathan says:

    I agree with your thought that it is already bad enough to be penalized for those unnatural links and yet you paid an SEO company to do the job.

    I hope this will be a lesson to those who want to do unscrupulous practices in the name of getting ahead in the web search game.

    • Thanks Johnathan,
      The release of the Penguin update has changed the game even more in a number of ways – good and bad. Post coming soon.
      Cheers
      Mike

  30. With the Panda and Penguin updates now in force, I think we are going to see a lot of so called “SEO Companies” struggle to stay in business. Low quality links and non-varied anchor text seems to be the main issue when trying to avoid the ban hammer from Google.

    • I think you are correct. There are many local providers whose own sites suffer from serious keyword stuffing, poor quality content and link spam on a number of levels. We have worked with clients to undo some pretty poor advice including hundreds of hidden links to other clients! The problem is that the really effective black hatters now have an equally powerful tool – negative SEO. Watch this space.
      Cheers
      Mike

  31. .edu links says:

    Mike,

    You reply with another valid point. Negative SEO seems to be a growing concern amongst many of us. I really hope Google have a plan for this- as right now it seems plausible. Surely they have to choose between one or the other when it comes spam links and negative SEO, they can’t prevent both simultaneously surely?

    • Hi .edu links,
      A name is nice when you are talking to someone… ;-)
      I saw a great post on Search Engine Round Table http://www.seroundtable.com/google-block-links-15190.html
      Let’s hope this happens – we have a site which has linked to us thousands of times which is of course unsolicited and the site owner does not know how to stop it (malware he thinks). Should we be punished?
      Cheers
      Mike

  32. I guess I can change my SEO slogan to “we build the best and repair the rest” I’m happy to see the changes even if innocent companies are hurt”. The spamming was out of control and some people will opt for a fresh start.

    • Nice one “Orlando SEO expert”
      Not using that name too much I hope ;-)
      There is a shift in SEO (isn’t there always) and the spam will die down for a minute or two… until the next fast buck loophole presents itself!
      I am actually nuts enough to stay subscribed to a number of “get rich” internet marketers – I will be interested to see what the next “make a million bucks fast” hack will be!
      Cheers
      Mike

  33. I hope that these Google’s movements are to make some changes in the industry. SEO is an addiction for some people/companies and should be regulated.
    Everything should have some limits, but over 500.000 backlinks for a small company is a “BIT” too much!
    People, look at more natural ways of getting business.

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks for the comment! Yes, I agree! I couldn’t believe the number of links that particular site had – I guess they are a bit concerned about their website visitor numbers now, following the Penguin update which penalised sites for un-natural link profiles.
      Cheers
      Mike

  34. Great post Mike, SEO is important for a business, but like you said, asking your SEO provider how they plan to overcome certain obstacles such as this one is very vital. If they cannot confidently tell you, look for another company or learn to do your own SEO. Yes, it’s quite time consuming, I’m still learning!

    • Hi Nickie,
      Unfortunately most business owners have neither the time nor the inclination to learn a complex range of strategies like SEO. So a certain amount of gut instinct has to prevail when selecting an SEO partner. A referral from a trusted source has got to be the preferred way.
      Cheers
      Mike

  35. Something big has happened at Google… really big! – LOL. “Google has also hit another common SEO hack” – Very True! the SEO companies are now moving to dangerous level just to get a high page rank. I think Google is slapping the over optimizing websites and I heard mycroburst website was also the one to get slapped by Penguin.

  36. New rules, new restrictions.. This should have happened long time ago to prevent cheating and fooling the system. But history shows that as long as there are smart people, rules would be broken! Penalties are good but will they effect?
    PR is not that important as it seems to be, content is important!

    • Hi William,
      Thanks for your comment. Google will always attempt to stay ahead of those who are gaming their system. This will be an ongoing battle – as soon as they close one loophole another will be found.
      Thanks
      Mike

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