Do you depend on Google to get customers? If you or your SEO guys are using spam techniques to get your site noticed, you should be afraid, very afraid
During March 2012, Google launched a new aggressive approach to its fight against websites that artificially dominate its search results through spammy and ‘artificial’ search engine optimisation techniques. Until then, received opinion was that, at worst, spammy techniques might be spotted by Google causing them to be downgraded to zero benefit, but that you would never suffer actual penalty or negative effects. That has all changed.
Unnatural link patterns
Google is now actively targeting sites with what they describe as ‘unnatural link patterns’. Broadly, these are sites that have adopted any of the following poor quality SEO tactics:
- Posting masses of automatically generated comments containing links on forum and blog sites
- Posting automatically generated articles on blog sites and low-quality article directories
- Creating large numbers of artificial user profiles on forum sites, with links in the profile signature block
- Buying quantities of identical links using specific keywords as the anchor text
- Buying links on commercial networks of low-value blog sites maintained specifically for SEO purposes
Frankly, I’m surprised that Google has taken so long to start targeting these techniques assertively as, in every case, it is very easy for them to identify such abuses. But make no mistake, this change in policy and scale has serious implications for the SEO industry and for website owners. Many of the offending parties and networks have seen their dross sites dropped entirely from the index.
Make a confession and grass up your SEO guys
The owners of websites which have been using those services have either seen their sites drop spectacularly in the results or have been getting messages from Google stating that they have been identified as having unnatural link profiles and demanding urgent corrective action be taken to avoid penalty. This ‘corrective action’ essentially entails:
- Removing all spammy links from other sites (can you imagine having to track down potentially thousands of these automated links created with false user credentials and trying to get the owners of the sites – most of which are not actively managed – to remove them?!)
- Confessing to having broken Google’s guidelines and explaining why you did it
- Grassing up your SEO agency if they were responsible for the abuses
Strong and frightening stuff! You need to be very careful how you react to this situation – we can advise.
Blog networks – game over
As an illustration of impact, just consider what is happening with the commercial blog networks. These guys buy up huge numbers of old blog sites and create new ones, all maintained just to host optimised links to their clients’ websites – an easy way to get lots of backlinks to your site for a monthly fee. They typically pride themselves on keeping the identities of their blog sites and the relationships between them secret to avoid Google cracking down.
But this has always been a disaster waiting to happen. All Google had to do (hypothetically speaking) was to sign up to these services using a disguised identity and to track which sites their links then appeared on. So simple. That’s (one of the reasons) why we have always discouraged our clients from using this kind of “quick fix” approach to SEO.
Some of the blog networks have accepted that it is ‘game over’ for their business model and have withdrawn with good grace, making it easy for their clients to have their links taken down, and offering refunds. A shining example is BuildMyRank (www.buildmyrank.com).
Others have responded with bluster and dubious self-interested ‘advice’ to their customers. A company that had been using SEOLinkMonster was referred to us for advice after suffering a dramatic drop in their rankings. They had been asked by SEOLinkMonster to sign a non-disclosure agreement before getting an explanation. They were then sent a rambling email blaming it all on Google(!), making no offer to remove links, offering (to our mind) questionable advice on how to handle the situation, and setting out SEOLinkMonster’s intention to carry on regardless (we won’t spill the details as we don’t want to cause any vicarious breach of NDA). I don’t know about you, but if my livelihood depended on traffic levels to my website, I would be running as fast as my legs would carry me away from high risk situations like this.
Are you at risk?
You will know if you have directly been using any of the tactics or services described above. You may already be one of the estimated 750,000 to have received a warning letter or penalty in the last month or so. Contact us now for recommendations or assistance in handling the situation and associated risk.
More worrying is that millions of website owners are unaware that their SEO agency has been – and still is – using these techniques without telling them. The SEO industry is saturated with cowboy firms selling SEO snake oil. If an SEO firm is charging you without any active input into the difficult stuff – your page content, website structure, social media, quality linking strategy, etc. – then they are just using cheap Asian labour, automated tools, and spam networks to game Google. You’re paying these clowns to deploy discredited techniques and to put your business at risk.
Worried? What you can do
Contact us now! Here are some of the ways we can help you …
- We can run an analysis on your website and search engine presence to establish whether your profile puts you at risk of penalty or downgrading.
- Whether you are at risk, have received a Google letter, or have already been penalised, we can suggest and (if you choose to engage us) implement a recovery strategy to get you out of danger and to build a more robust and less risky search engine ranking
Delay could be expensive. Email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Kevin Holdridge on 0845 638 0700
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