Google’s Latest Cans of Worms

Apr 23, 2012 by

About

Norma writes topics on primarily related to Adsense, traffic and news marketers need to know to keep their businesses in Google's good graces. There are few things in life she enjoys as much as a good, solid rant.

Two Rants for the Price of One!

Double rant

Two rants for the price of one!

 

Today, I began a rant about the “unnatural links” notices some webmasters have received in their Webmaster Tools accounts, but it morphed into a second rant about negative SEO.  I haven’t ranted about anything for a while, so I wanted to give everyone their money’s worth, or so to speak ;)

Yeah, the redhead is cranky this morning. It’s raining and dreary and put me in a mood. A ranting mood.

It looks like our friends (?) at Google have opened a massive can of worms with their new algorithm change to detect “unnatural links.” While the intention to get rid of sites who are ranking high due to link spamming is a positive one overall, it is having massive unintended repercussions.

 Rant One: Unnatural Links Notices

First of all, it’s important to understand that, in Google’s eyes, any link that you build yourself pointing back to your money site is “unnatural.” The key here is “built yourself.” How many of us have ever built any kind of link? Well, just about all of us have at one point or another.

I’m not talking about link building from forum profile spam from Xrumer blasts, or 1 million Scrapebox blog comments or anything of the sort. In Google’s eyes, if you have done something as benign as written an article for EzineArticles that points back to your site, you have engaged in unnatural link building. Any link to your site not built by someone else is “unnatural” in Google’s eyes.

Now, don’t go and panic and take down every article that you’ve written and submitted to Ezine’s or GoArticles or the like! Or go on a bloodbath and nix your Squidoo lenses or your Blogger blogs or the like. I’m just saying that the “official” view of unnatural link building by Google is pretty narrow, even if this type of link building is on the mild side.

Recently, site owners may have received “Notice of Unnatural Links” in their Webmaster Tools accounts. You would think that Google was being totally gracious here and allowing site owners who have paid for link building to make amends by removing their bad links and keep their rankings. Ha!

I have read several reports where site owners wrote to Google and showed where they had tried to remove what Google had termed “bad links” and documented the steps they took to make amends to Google. Didn’t matter. Their sites still ended up diving in the SERPs.

The problem is if you do in fact attempt to make amends and clean up these links, it’s clearly an admission of guilt. As well, by attempting to clean up these links and submitting a reconsideration request means that you will face a manual review from Google. That’s not something any sane person would invite. The kicker is that just because you jump through the hoops doesn’t mean that Google won’t penalize you anyway.

I would also not use Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools. Why? Because I don’t see the point in handing the keys to your sites over to Google. You don’t think that they won’t use that nice list of sites of your sites that you’ve conveniently provided for them? I think you’re being naive.

Guilty Before Proven Innocent?

Over on the SEOMoz forum, one user, JarrodH, provides a nice summation of why attempting to make nicey-nicey with Google is probably not a great idea. I agree with his assessment of why trying to appease Google could do more harm than good.

Click here to learn more

Getting the notification does not mean that your are going to lose rankings or get a penalty. There are a lot of cases where webmasters (or their SEO’s) never built a single link and are still getting the message. The majority of people who are loosing rankings are only loosing rankings on a few over-optimized keywords, and on a limited number of pages. In the case where someone has lost a ton of their rankings because of massive low quality link building and over optimization (and in many cases low quality websites), I still do not suggest submitting a re-consideration request. Most of the rankings that were lost were because of devalued links not because of a penalty. And most trust penalties/filters are short lived. If your site has lost that many rankings, inviting Google to do a full manual review of your site is a very bold move, and you must be prepared to do a ton of work to get a positive answer (most people are not getting positive answers even after spending weeks and hundreds of man hours to “clean up” their links). And here is the kicker, getting a positive answer is not going to cause Google to revalue the unnatural links, so your rankings are not going to rebound as much as you might hope. They may shorten the length of the trust penalty, but the trust penalty is short lived anyways (It must be short lived else competitors could easily wack eachother). You don’t need Google’s written forgiveness to rebuilt trust, you can do that by building better content, being socially engaged etc.

Rant#2: Negative SEO

Google’s attempt to force owners to clean up their links is having an unintended fall out: The rise of negative SEO services. Negative SEO is  a means to blast thousands of bad links at a competitor to make their sites fall in the SERPs. While in the past, Google gave reassurances that you could not be harmed by someone pointing bad links at your site, this doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.

Here’s a case study that a couple of members of Traffic Planet performed to see if they could sink someone’s site with bad links. They were very successful with their negative SEO experiment. I’m not condoning what these guys did at all; I just want to point out that Google’s algo update to punish bad links has not been well thought-out when innocent bystanders can be caught in the cross-fire. Make sure to read the whole thread, as it is pretty enlightening.

You know when something has gone totally mainstream when you see Fiverr gigs appearing for the service. Yes, there are now negative SEO Fiverr gigs.

Edit: This gig has now been pulled by Fiverr.

Google needs to put a lid on this stuff and fast.

Evil Google worms

The Evil Google Worms!

 

So, what’s the take away from today’s rants?

1) Look for alternatives to Google analytics/Webmaster Tools. If you get one notice of bad links from Google for one of your sites, you don’t think they won’t check out all of your sites that are conveniently listed for them? A marketer I really respect, Shane Melaugh, has done an excellent analysis of the pros and cons of various Google Analytics alternatives.

2) I would not respond if I got a notice of “unnatural links”. Why admit guilt if you are likely to be punished regardless if you try to remove the links or not?

3) Make sure that you are not creating a huge footprint when you are creating back links. Quit hammering the exact same anchor text to the same pages.Yeah, I’m a nag on this point; diversify your anchor text!

4) Find yourself some quality traffic that doesn’t rely on Google’s whims! Facebook, ppc, email marketing–whatever. Just don’t rely 100% on organic search traffic from Google.

What’s Your Take?

I’d love to hear your take on Google’s latest maneuvers. Please leave a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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37 Comments

  1. Greg Beaty

    WOW, you nailed this one dude… I agree with you 100%. Thank you for confirming exactly what I was thinking. You are correct.

  2. I have no idea what Google is doing. I was mad at first and now it’s finally sunk in that I need multiple streams of traffic.

    I began losing tons of Google traffic in late march for one of my main sites and now impressions have gone down -18% and clicks have gone down -45%. You can guess what this is doing to my sales.

    The only notices I got in webmaster tools was:

    “Big traffic change for top URL”

    “Search results clicks for http://www.*********/ have decreased significantly.”

    Do I have an idea why? No way!

    • nrickman

      Hi Jeff,

      I think the scary thing is, “Does Google know what it’s doing?” Yikes. It’s like the recent algo change that was supposed to nail parked domains, but nailed a bunch of legitimate sites in the process. See this link: http://searchengineland.com/dropped-in-rankings-google-mistake-over-parked-domains-118979

      • None of my sites are parked domains. I actively write good, quality content every week.

        Over-optimized? What do they mean by that? Have requirements for keyword density changed?

        Really good article, thanks for providing it.

        I loved it when the Google guy said they made mistakes but he never said they were going to fix those mistakes.

        • nrickman

          Doesn’t it make you a little crazy when they say things like “over-optimized” but don’t spell out exactly what they mean by it?

          Fellow marketer Jeff Hampton has spoken about Google giving out misinformation to scare off people, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Is there really an over-optimization penalty, or is it just something to freak people out and get them panicking? We will probably never know.

          I guess the best way to test would be to write a post fully-optimized via the Yoast SEO plugin, SEO Pressor, or the like and see what happens when you lessen the optimization.

          Does the post rise in the SERPs, stay the same or dive without doing anything else such as creating back links or sharing on social media? That’s the only way to know for sure.

  3. John

    I’m just enough of a conspiracy nut about Google to believe this is orchestrated to push more people and companies away from SEO and into SEM via Adwords. Crazy? Not really. They are a public company with shareholders to answer to. I think it makes sense from their perspective. Fed up with all the new rules and possible traps from organic rankings? Well, hey, looky there… we have the answer: pay us for clicks instead!

    • nrickman

      Oooh, I love hearing from a fellow conspiracy theorist,John. I think the exact same thing is going on. Now that Google has gone public, you can bet that the pressure’s on from shareholders to jack profits even more. One great way to do this is to force people into SEM after sinking their sites into the ground.

      • I don’t really think this is a conspiracy theory at all, I think it’s just common sense. Of COURSE google is going to do the most it can to get people to buy ads instead of achieving ranking via SEO.

        Problem is, I recently ran $200 worth of free ads with google and they didn’t help me a bit – at least not $200 worth.

        I just deleted my google analytics and webmaster tools from all my sites – all of it except adwords because I do want to use google’s keyword tool from time to time and I need it for one of my keyword software.

        I guess the lesson here is to do your best to stay white hat. But as I said earlier staying white hat completely is more or less like committing SEO suicide unless you have the type of site people are naturally going to flock to. Some products and services just will never get a lot of traffic or backlinks or social bookmarks due to their nature.

        So the other lesson is to start using Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other marketing methods instead of relying on google ranking.

        Ever since google changed their privacy policy a couple months back I have wanted to have as little to do with them as possible, on a personal level. But for IM you pretty much HAVE to suck up to them, at least to some degree.

        But I figured out a way to make money off google!
        I’m going to sell I HATE GOOGLE! t-shirts, hats and etc.
        But then I suppose they’ll sue me for trademark infringement…
        Maybe if I write it “I HATE G**GLE!” they won’t be able to…

        Hey, there’s a good test on natural SEO! Make a site: http://www.ihateg00gle.com (with 0′s instead of O’s) and use all white hat techniques and see if you can rank it! Just do it anonymously so the google mafia doesn’t track you down and kill all your sites!

  4. I am SO with you on this and have just made a ‘note to self’ to get my main ‘money sites’ the heck out of G. Analytics and Webmaster Tools.

    The analogy: Google decides they ‘police’ what you do online. Now, OK they can walk by my house to see how many visitors come to my front door or what time I turn out the lights and go to bed. Annoying but OK I can live with that kind of scrutiny.

    But being in G. Analytics etc? I’ve given them my front door keys so they can let themselves in and check out what’s under my bed whenever they want!

    That’s just dumb! Thanks for eminding me to fix this ( and NO I’m not some kind of Black Hat marketer just a guy creating good content rich sites with affiliate links who is making $20k a year less than I did this time last year!)

  5. nrickman

    Yes, my mentor, Roger Rowe, pounded it into my head not to give Google the keys to my sites. Of course they have you dead to rights on any sites you have monetized with Adsense anyway, but why make it easy for them to get at your other sites as well?

    I don’t use Chrome or the Google toolbar, either. Am I paranoid? Yes :)

    • I am not using chrome anymore either, and am even thinking of moving out of gmail but the problem is I HATE yahoo mail too and hotmail etc. so not sure where to go. Anyone have ideas on what web mail to use?

  6. OJ

    hey Norma

    You really did hit the nail on the head. Dropped GA sometime ago cos it didn’t make sense to me to give Google ammunition against me!

    Obviously Google seem to be on a witchhunt, I suspect though they won’t admit it, they are gunning for internet marketers and niche marketers who focus on organic search results than ever before.

    All over the web, adsense accounts are being banned with no reason given.

    Sites are dropping rankings fast.

    It seems Google really wants us to come pay thru the nose for adword campaigns.

    The prob is Google has too much monopoly on web organic traffic, until they lose that monopoly, we can expect more crazier measures disguised as practical solutions.

    Thanx for sharing Norma

    Always love reading ur stuff

    Keep the rants coming

    OJ

    • OJ wrote: “The prob is Google has too much monopoly on web organic traffic, until they lose that monopoly, we can expect more crazier measures disguised as practical solutions.” [end quote]
      ________

      Yes, and to that end they just killed scroogle last month which I used to use religiously. I hate using yahoo for searches because they give my sites lousy ranking! Also their search results aren’t good imho. Dogpile?

  7. It does not appear that I can drop Google Webmaster Account without deleting the entire account. I can’t do that as it is my main account.????? But, most of the sites listed have not been verified any way. I really don’t know what makes a difference. With the little people like me; it seems that no matter what you do; you are not going to make a significant amount of money. You buy little WSOs here and there trying to get the secret in a nutshell and find out it isn’t. Follow advice, work and work some more..for 2.5 years….nothing…significant. I am ranting too. Simply because you write material, you publish, you try to get a few links; the safe way, and do the best you can to do the right thing, and U still do not find the secret…and it seems that if you do not know the tricks, it is impossible to make money….so….what do they want? AND what does one do….Does anyone really know? Disgusted!!!

    • I was able to delete my webmaster account and analytics and tools without deleting my gmail and adwords if that’s what you mean… One pop-up did warn me that my analytics of keywords etc in adwords would be lost but I didn’t care, I just dumped the b*st*rds. Do a search for “how to delete google analytics” and you will find various links. Google’s own page on this is outdated and does not coincide with their current GUI. However if you poke around you can get to the right page which allows you to delete most of it.

      Good luck!
      My new slogan: “DUMP GOOGLE!”

  8. Luke

    Great Post Norma,

    Lovely read… and thanks for keeping us up to date :-)

  9. The negative SEO stuff is downright stupid – I can’t believe they’re letting that stuff go, but will ding you for ads above the fold or an over-optimized site. The negative SEO fiverr gigs (I was just writing about the same thing – lol) are downright scary. Blackhatters do this kinda stuff on their own or in their own social circles as it is – exposing the masses (most of which don’t know what they’re doing already) is a recipe for google-flavored disaster, IMO. They need to get control of this, and freakin’ pronto.

    • nrickman

      Yeah, Google is out for blood and it doesn’t matter who is in the wake of it. To me, it’s a bit like trying to pee on someone for revenge, but forgetting to check if there’s a wind first.

  10. Colin Glover

    Norma

    Absolutely spot. It is just like the wild west. google is in the bar drinking up big while the combatants are facing off in the street outside. I understand that Googles return on Adwords dropped in their last report to the market.

    In the meantime the smart guys are bringing out “new” fixes down at the WF. Is targeted ads and selective list building the best way through this maze. ARM 2.0 by Andre (no affiliate connection) is becoming more attractive.

    • nrickman

      I think you just hit the nail on the head with “targeted ads and selective list building”, Colin. :) We all need to study up on these techniques. Even if you’re rather good at them, you can always be better. Hands down, there’s no better way to protect yourself from Google’s whims by building a list AND a relationship with your audience. One is no good without the other.

  11. Hi Norma, I enjoyed your rants!
    If Google is condoning negative SEO, then it has to be beginning of the end for them. They got to be big and powerful through “doing no evil”, now that has changed and they are only interested in making money, not keeping the web a fairer place.
    Interesting times!
    Wendy

  12. Rick R

    Well the EMD thing is still a nuisance. I have a real battle geting above third spot with a content rich site, good unique stuff, great edu backlinks and a wide backlink profile (its a K-12 site) and decent SEO that is all on target. First two sites are EMD spammers, one is even an MT site with no content to speak of at number one position. So Google’s results are bollocks anyway when they tout “best user experience”.

    • nrickman

      So Google’s results are bollocks anyway when they tout “best user experience”.

      I think this should be the quote of the day, Rick! In fact, I’m gonna go post it on Facebook ;)

      Cheers,

      Norma

      • Right! I was looking at some sites above mine the other day and some are complete cr*p! I looked at them to try to figure out how they did it but the only thing I can imagine is black hat techniques that still work or at least are still working for them.

        Google often ranks cr*ppy sites above good ones! In fact I tend NOT to look at the first and 2nd place sites in some subject areas, for this reason!

  13. To: Norma.
    Being a long term Beginner,I would like to ask a question,please.?
    I have Google Chrome as my browser. It is now better and faster than FireFox,(unfortunately, when FF did some updates about a year ago, suddenly, it became so SLOOOOW).
    Now, one of the boxes that I have allowed a tick for, asks if it is okay to let Chrome have information about it working as my Browser (or something like that).I think I will go back and untick the box.
    Secondly, I am planning on doing a few Affiliate sites. (without Backlinking etc). In your opinion, is this also SAFE.
    Personally, I am going to go to both Bing and Yahoo.
    Thank You. Harry (Sydney, Australia).

    • nrickman

      Hi Harry,

      I know Chrome is faster than FF, but I still won’t use it. That’s probably being overly paranoid, but it’s up to you to decide if that’s the right move for you.

      You absolutely need back links if you are driving organic search engine traffic. Add some social sharing, and get links from lots of diverse sources. Articles, Web 2.0s, videos, blog comments (manual, slide shares, etc. are all great sources of links.

      So yes, building links is absolutely safe. Keep the same link velocity. Don’t build a ton of links at once, then suddenly stop. If you build 10 links this week, build ten next week, and the week after too–you know the drill. Also, vary your anchor text and include some bare url links as well.

      One reason that people’s sites dove so hard after the blog networks were nailed is that they were using these as their primary sources of links. When the sites were deindexed, they lost the bulk of their links. This was not an actual penalty; it was just that their links were suddenly gone. So, make sure that you get links from different sources.

      • Norma so are you saying that writing and (well-) spinning articles to post to some networks, and buying links from SOME sources may still work?

        I am scared to death because I bought an SEO package from someone on the WF who uses article blogging on their own network of article blog sites and it caused a huge increase in my rankings and thus my traffic and profit.

        But now I am afraid of being de-ranked. If you get de-ranked what exactly do you do if you can’t buy links or etc anymore? (I’m sure there are going to be a lot of WSO’s on this subject over the next months, but who to believe??)

        • nrickman

          One of the theories of why the blog networks got slammed in Google was that Google sent out these notices of unnatural links, then when people contacted them, they said “Oh, my links are coming from Build My Rank (insert alternative blog network here.) So then, since these same sites came up over and over, it gave Google exactly what they needed to kill the networks. Plus the blog networks were very visible.

          Private link networks such as you describe are a lot harder to detect. Don’t panic yet :)

  14. Peter

    Good to be able to hear from people like yourself, Norma. Talking about GA are you saying that one should shut down one’s GA accounts completely and remove the Analytics plugins and preferably use another source? Or what other alternatives are there?
    Peter

  15. I have realized a long time ago that:
    1) Google is not a friend to IMers
    2) Google is much like the IRS or government bureaucracies: what they say goes and even if it’s not fair or just, too bad.
    This is why most of us hate google.
    But at the same time we have to try to get google to love us.
    It’s certainly a love/hate relationship.

    Norma, do you have proof that people are getting these “unnatural links” notices even if they have not bought packages of blog links or spun articles and blasted them to hundreds or thousands of article sites?

    I could sort of understand google not liking us doing that, but hey it was working and so people did what worked.

    As I have stated before: If you do 100% total white hat seo and use no “unnatural” links at all you will NOT get to the top of google page one unless you’re giving away free money or something. I struggled for years trying to be total white hat and guess what? it did not get me to page 1.

    Especially if you have a site like “screen doors” or “kitchen tables” you just never going to get on p.1 of google against sites like ace hardware or amazon or walmart or whoever because you’ll never have a lot of organic traffic or organic backlinks.

    In conclusion, in my view:
    GOOGLE HAS GONE INSANE.
    And I hate them even more.

    • nrickman

      Yeah, I’m on a forum where lots are convinced that they can make thousands in Adsense just by making “great content” and not worrying about back links.

      News Flash: You can’t–especially with a new site.

      There is one guy on the forum doing exceptionally well, but he has a site over ten years old. It’s his only site too, so he focuses all of his time and energy on this single site. Oh, but they forget he also makes a good chunk of income selling them his deluxe keyword tool that has a recurring payment charge.

      The noobs think since this guy doesn’t make links anymore, they don’t need to either. Uh huh–riiiight.

      Their other advice is “get lots of social traffic.” Does it convert? Jury’s out there, as far as I’m concerned.

      • There are certainly those on the forums who swear the money is at Facebook. I guess it works for some anyway.

        Unfortunately we will always have to at least TRY to rank on google to make money and if we get slapped, then so be it, we just have to get up and try again. Having great content may help you get visitors but honestly without some form of driving traffic TO that content, it’s like having a store at the end of the alley.

        Again, if you’re giving away money or something maybe you’ll get lots of natural traffic by “word of mouth” but otherwise for most of us, you have to blog, use comments, do backlink exchange etc to get ranking. But apparently google can – and will – slap you down for ANY reason now.

  16. I’m the guy on fiverr who had the nseo gigs. They were all rejected by fiverr, who understandably, frowns upon negative seo. However, while I have a new gig up for building over 6,000 backlinks, I feel any buyer could get a similar effect from using any gigs that are similar. Thanks for the mention, btw.

  17. Wow, now I’m feeling there’s a conspiracy…

    Today I took my google analytics off my sites. As of just a few days ago and for the past couple of months I have ranked on page 1 – even Top 5 – for 5 of my main keywords on my main money site.

    Now suddenly, tonight, my rankings are gone.

    I didn’t get an email or anything. But I just checked and my rankings went from like #4 to #70, from #8 to #150, etc…

    This is a site with a ton of information on it
    ( http://www.whatsthebestwaterfilter.com ), not just a simple sales page, and it’s about 2 years old and my rankings have been at least in the To 30 or 40 for the past year or so, with them going up to page 1 over the past few months as I used an article blasting service.

    Think google slapped me for that? I’m guessing that’s what must have happened.

    Now what do I do? What kills me is even the keyword phrase my site is named after has ALWAYS been page 1 or 2 and now it’s like page 8 or something. Seems more than just being slapped, it’s like being PUNISHED.

    Eff Google.

  18. I wrote a blog about Google’s latest update and how it’s really hurting a lot of people AND making its searches give lousy results. I hope you’ll read it and share it. We need to fight back, and I make some suggestions on how to do that, and how to protect yourself from the Penguin.

    KILL THE PENGUIN!
    BOYCOTT GOOGLE until they do!

    Here’s my blog, I hope you’ll approve this post with my link in it. I think people need to read this stuff!
    http://whatdoesgooglewant.blogspot.com/

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