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3 Reasons Why “WhiteHat” SEO is Far Riskier Than GrayHat…

March 21st, 2012 · 83 Comments

Yes, I said White Hat is far more risky. Not less.

And by the way, I’m actually entirely pro-whitehat. I just wish it worked consistently, and didn’t leave gaping holes for the true villains (infringing scraper sites, reverse SEO practitioners, mass comment spammers, etc.) to have their way with my site and its rankings…

This blog post should be considered an open letter to Google, from yours truly. Because I actually still do invest pretty much all of my substantial time & energy into building truly awesome content, and building links the “right” way.

(But it’s a shame that I have to hedge against that by simultaneously running GrayHat campaigns – on different sites / different servers – as a sort of income insurance policy…)

Basically, as a publisher, I want to K-N-O-W beyond a doubt that hard work, creating an awesome user experience and really going to great lengths to add value to the web will pay off. The fact is that in the current Google playground, the only people who can’t sleep at night are White Hat webmasters. The GH and BH crowd are laughing all the way to the bank.

So let’s dig right into it.

Starting from the top…

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Reason #3: “Quality Original Content” Only Means Something if it’s Secured by Domain Authority.

So you’ve invested all this time into building your first round of initial content. You’re paying writers handsomely because you want your users to love their time on your site, and you want to be earning “editorial backlinks” (people liking your stuff and hence linking to it).

That’s nice. Too bad it can all be thrown in the garbage overnight by some asshole with an autoblog that has just a little (or a lot) more domain authority than you can just OUTRIGHT STEAL your content and be recognized by GoogleBot as the “original owner”.

All it takes is monitoring any popular SEO/webmaster forum to see the widespread number of victims of “source of content” theft accumulating in droves.

Now, this is a lot more preventable if you could really get some solid domain authority out of the gate, in completely WhiteHat ways.

But you can’t. Because…

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Reason #2: WhiteHat Link Building (For New Sites) is a Joke.

You know, even though I’ve been active as an affiliate publisher for the last several years, I’m still fairly “new” to the SEO world in any measurable sense. But even I’ve seen the so-called White Hat industry increasingly become an incestuous little cesspool of self-righteous bastards.

Article marketing used to be completely white hat. Now it’s “bad”.

Mass directory submission PRECEDED the search engines. But now – of course – it’s “evil”.

Even press releases, to an extent and in some cases, are viewed as a questionable form of linkbuilding, because “anyone” can distribute them for a fee.

Instead, what today’s White Hat “authorities” are telling us to do, is to just create “great content”, submit our Google sitemaps, and engage is relevant social media discussion to “let the world know” about our site, which will magically make those casual social users link to our new sites from their… profiles?

Maybe 1% of them have blogs/sites? Or less?

You know – this works (sort of) in niches where there’s a lot of blogging activity. But what if you’re a commercial pipe fitter? Or an insurance broker specializing in international shipping?

Should you go and “get involved” in the thriving social scene that exists online for international shipping insurance? Maybe send a few tweets or Facebook posts out about some incredibly boring “infographic” that visually outlines the importance of insuring goods in transit?

Obviously, you won’t get any traction. In that position and industry, there IS NO “White Hat” pathway for sites trying to gain their initial footing. None.

And this applies to less extreme niches / industries as well. (But the d-bag who’s ripping off your content so they can cash in on some easy AdSense rev is having a heyday, since you can’t build domain authority, but he can).

Fun stuff.

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Reason #1: Because Your Competitors ABSOLUTELY CAN Harm Your Rankings.

It’s now 100% confirmed.

External, “unnatural links” will trigger a Google penalty. Even if it’s not something that you did, yourself.

I’m sure you’ve already seen several examples of this in living color. Maybe you’ve had the great fortune of experiencing this first hand.

And if you don’t believe me, then maybe this guy, this guy or this guy can persuade you otherwise.

Sites are getting wiped out left and right. All it takes is for someone to fire up their copy of (the aptly named) SENUKE software or equivalent, and start lambasting your site with thousands of crap links.

But don’t worry. According to Google’s warning notification that’s sent to webmasters who have acquired (voluntarily or involuntarily) these “unnatural links”, all you have to do is somehow bring your site back into compliance with their webmaster guidelines, and then you can resubmit your site for re-inclusion.

I’m sure that the tens of thousands of splogs, inactive / abandoned forums, neglected web communities and every other shitty link source is going to be more than happy to accomodate your request.

Translation from Sarcastic to English: Hopeless. Not going to happen. Ever.

Even if you were, oh, say, a Fortune 500 brand (that Google is more than happy to unfairly defer to in their SERPs) with the resources to send out DMCA’s and removal orders all day long – all that has to happen to trip another filter is for someone to fire up SENUKE once again, and go to town.

This is a complete travesty, and puts absolutely everything in the “White Hat” universe at risk.

Google – ask yourselves something… Why wouldn’t a black hat spammer just spend their days building “unnatural links” to their competition, and then report those sites from your handy “Spam Reporting” interface, inevitably slotting at least SOME of those sites into a penalty?

Even if it’s just a temporary penalty – it’s degrading the SERPs and hurting real business (including consumers, not just the vendors). And it’s also creating a dark business model (reverse SEO).

What the hell are you thinking?

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See folks – here’s the thing…

Online publishing is still where it’s at. And affiliate marketing it still the best revenue game in town, for online publishers. SEO is still a safer bet than “mastering” Adwords, in my opinion. Because at least you can always start a new site. With adwords, once you get slapped – that’s it. Game over.

And yes, the best pathway (in my opinion) as a publisher is still to build a defensible, highest-possible-quality authority site with awesome content and a diverse and powerful foundation of quality, natural backlinks. That is hard-built, hard-won and full of challenges. It takes a LOT of time and effort.

But it has the highest return, in the long run. Because if you’re smart, you’ll realize that an authority site is a form of real estate. And real estate can be sold. Depending on your tax code where you are – that can be classified as a capital gain. Not just income. (Which means that it’s a REAL pay-day. And you get to keep a lot more of that significant windfall).

It’s just that as a standalone, and singular business model – it’s VERY risky. At least in terms of montly income and consistency.

What if your site gets penalized as a result of someone else’s doing? What if your content gets ripped off and syndicated across someone’s vast spam network?

And what if this happens while you’re still in “growth stage”, and have no subscriber base or user base to lean on as a fallback if you drop out of the SERPs for months at a time?

These are serious considerations. These are holes in Google’s algorithm, and instead of burying their heads in the sand, or having Matt Cutts deliver sugar-coated ambiguity and tiptoe around REAL issues like this with a nice nerdy smile – they need to be addressed.

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Here’s some easy fixes and suggestions for Google that will never be implemented, but I offer them anyway:

* Allow webmasters to voluntarily discount inbound / external links from Webmaster Tools. Everyone wins if this is the case – and it directly contributes to helping the overall algorithm improve, since bad neighborhoods and low-level link sources will be indentified directly.

* Allow webmasters to claim ownership of their content as it’s published. This should be built into the dynamic sitemap reader, and also alternatively available as a manual submission.

Ah…. wishful thinking.

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But until they do address these things, as an affiliate publisher, you need to be realistic, and play both sides of the coin.

You still need to be building some primary, main authority sites (even if it’s just one), where you actually “have something” you’re proud of. This is essentially your retirement strategy. You need to build something worth selling for a small (or perhaps a large) fortune. This will not occur overnight.

At the same time, however, I advise that you hedge your bets (so to speak), and build out a network of small affiliate sites (mini-sites, conduit sites, etc.), completely separate from your “real” site(s).

Different IPs, different servers – different everything. Zero crosslinking. Zero determinable footprint to link them to eachother. This includes using different google accounts to monitor Wembaster Tools and Analytics! This also means using different Privacy / TOS content, and using images (instead of text) for things like mailing addresses or corporate information, such as a company name.

With these sites, you go GrayHat. They should still have good content, which shouldn’t be a problem for anyone, since you don’t want to be exceeding more than 10 pages or so per site. Keep them small, and automate as much of your external SEO as possible. (How? Read my previous blog post )

In simple terms, the only difference between “Gray Hat” and “White Hat” is that you simulate natural backlinks, rather than earning them sporadically and organically (and uncontrollably). There is no difference from an on-site perspective, other than my recommendation that you keep GrayHat properties small, and easily replicatable.

Some of them will probably get penalized or deindexed. That’s why you keep them small. Never build a gray hat site that you can’t replace in 2 days. Some may last indefinitely, though.

Usually, each site will have a nice run for 6+ months, or years, before anything happens. (Unless you’re being totally stupid with backlinking like building masses of profile links, etc.). And most commonly, they just fade off the SERPs due to competition or algo adjustments – not penalties.

In reality, a GrayHat site is completely within ethical and legal compliance so long as you’re simply buying links from willing site owners, or distributing content to willing publishers who want to post it, along with your byline/links. Google might not “like” this, but they can go to hell. They aren’t the internet police.

Note: While you can flip these sites, you should definitely disclose your backlink activities to prospective buyers (so they know what they’re getting). GrayHat sites aren’t really what I’d call a retirement strategy.

Target a variety of profitable markets as you build out your “Gray Hat” empire. Don’t just focus on one niche. This spreads your risk.

Treat the whole operation like a production line. Don’t become attached to these sites whatsoever. They serve a purpose, that is all. And that purpose is to hedge against the massive risks involved in facing temporary penalties and competitor-driven hurdles that Google currently allows to afflict WhiteHat publishers.

It’s as close as you’ll get to “affiliate marketing insurance”.

And unfortunately, because Google is actively facilitating reverse SEO, it’s a necessary evil if you want to (eventually) establish a completely WhiteHat authority site.

Perhaps a better title for this post would’ve been… “Succeeding With Google – And Why You Have to Break the Rules in Order to Survive Long Enough to Follow Them…”

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Well guys – you’ve heard my $0.02

What are your thoughts on all this?

Have you had this happen to you first-hand? Do you think Google’s (retarded) algo-holes are temporary?

I think there’s some valuable discussion to be had here.

Who knows? Maybe someone on Google’s payroll will actually see this, and extract some form of logic from it.

Would love to hear your opinion in the comments below…

Cheers

~ Chris

P.S. Shameless plug time:

Affiliate Recon – which opens in just a few days now – is an awesome resource for Gray Hat niche targets and easily-rankable product keywords in (verifiable) 6 figure markets.

In a sentence, it’s basically SEMRush, but instead of just letting you “research stuff” – it shows you WHAT to research, and you can dig as deep as you like from there. A very profitable exercise. New niches and intel reports added monthly.

You can see our in-progress site at: http://AffiliateRecon.com

Tags: General Marketing Stuff

83 responses so far ↓

  • 1 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:26 am

    I’m positive there’s more than a few readers who’ve been on the short end of the stick in terms of Google Penalties resulting from EXTERNAL factors.

    Please, share your story here in the comments. If we raise enough of a stink, maybe we can reach one of the PHD’s over at Google who has a tiny fraction of common-sense, and recognizes that inherent vulnerabilities (like reverse SEO) are really, really bad for end-user SERPs in the long-run.

    Also – any questions about Aff Recon? Feel free to ask away…

    I’ll try to get to each one.

    -Chris

  • 2 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Also, I’m sure some people have heard about the news over at BuildMyRank (private blog network).

    Yep, the entire network got deindexed.

    Does this contradict what I just said about GrayHat “hedging”?

    Nope. It actually reinforces it, by proving that Google’s algo can’t intelligently deal with simulated linking. They rely on manual spam teams, and trigger-happy filters.

    And taddle-tailing, which was the likely case here.

    All it took was for a member, or perhaps a pretexting member (on Google’s payroll), to run diagnostics on their link sources and rat out the network to poppa G.

    What would stop a competitor from “ratting out” your site for some bogus infraction?

    ——————–

    This isn’t an improvement, folks.

    Manual intervention for a search engine is a scary thing.

    -Chris

  • 3 Leon // Mar 21, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Just visited your AffiliateRecon site. It looks good and makes sense. Can’t wait. Maybe this is what i’ve been waiting for all along.

  • 4 CoreyBornmann // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I’m a huge fan of diversifying and the “launch baby launch” school of IM. It is the only way to make it online for the long run. I’ve been taught this twice, the hard way and there won’t be a third time.

    The worlds in motion and anyone who get’s fat and comfortable is at risk of the floor falling out from under them.

    There should always be a “what’s next” in your online portfolio. There is in mine.

  • 5 Bill Davis // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I agree–this “improvement” to the Google algo is bullshit.

    What we used to think could never happen because it makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER, will happen all the time (kill your competition with floods of crappy links, all done for a nickel with automation software or some chump on Fiverr).

    Google is going backwards. They’re getting all self-righteous by stating *good intentions* — however, their unintended (but fully known) consequences will be “good guys finishing last.”

    A travesty.

    I’d personally like to see Google go the way of Yahoo.

  • 6 Anwar // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I think something will come out of this. There is too much mess and instability out there right now for it to last long. Sites are falling and gaining rankings like crazy. One minute a site is on page 2, next its on page 10 then back the next day.

    From the day Panda 1 was released, many people have reported their site rankings fluctuating wildly. I think the days of stable rankings are over ( at least temporarily). If you achieved top ranking before you could hope to keep it for months and even for years.

    Now, it can be weeks before your site falls off first page or it can even be days or hours. So, we should enjoy the rankings when we have them and make hay while the sun shines.

    All of this just plain doesn’t make sense. And I really think that such messy state of affairs cannot stay for long. But I don’t know what the end will be like? Where will this state of anarchy and chaos end, only time will tell.

    Maybe the situation is similar to early 1990′s when black hatters were using techniques like keyword spamming, doorway pages etc and were grabbing all the top rankings from legitimate sites and were laughing their way to the bank.

    I didn’t know about affiliate or internet marketing at that time, but sometimes wished I was doing IM during those times. I thought to myself, I could have made a fortune during those times. I do think this current scenario is similar to that one, with blackhatters again winning the search engine war although for just a short while.

    There were using different blackhat techniques at that time and are using different ones this time. But it may be a matter of time before Google plugs its loopholes and gets the better of them in time. It might be a little more difficult this time than earlier due to so much advances we have made in technology providing these blackhatters with awesome tools with which to go about their job.

    So, the chaos may last a little longer this time around. But eventually, something good has to come out of all this and then we can expect around 10 years of calm where the genuine, quality sites make it to the top. Then again, something will happen and blackhatters will come back to the scene with something new. I think the cycle will repeat itself every few years. Each time the battle will become more difficult for the search engines as they have to fight against advanced tools and softwares which are at the disposal of these blackhat crooks.

    So, lets hope for the best that search engines will win this war against spammers and blackhatters for the benefit of all the internet marketing community.

    In the meantime, remember the adage – if you can’t fight them, join them. This is what we should do perhaps. Join the black and grey hatters and use their techniques to make some bank while letting the search engines fight against these crooks. After all, we cannot wait for the whole battle between Google and black hat army to finish off as we have our families to feed and clothe!

  • 7 paul nicholls blog // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    hey chris

    great post

    its definitely a bizzare time we are currently going through with google telling you to do one thing but not actually able to back up wha they say because as you point out its quite easy for some competitor to tank our rankings

    if this isnt a major flaw in the googles algo then i dont know what is

    another good point you make is some niches ae just not ever going to be talked about on social platforms

    some are mind numbingly boring that you may not be able to gain any social exposure using those means

    those two types of tips that you present in your post about the webmaster having contol over links and owning your content are great

    but im sure google wont listen and they will just carry on thinking that they know best

    time will tell

    paul

  • 8 ktm // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    *&$@!!!! This is SO frustrating!

    I got into IM/SEO a few years ago after the company I was working for literally shut down overnight. It took a while of searching, trying to figure out what I was going to do next to find this industry, but once I did, I suddenly felt a huge sense of relief… that FINALLY I could be in control of my future, that I could work hard, help others and earn a decent living. Granted, some of what I learned and have been applying isn’t totally squeaky-clean white hat, but it’s never evil or malicious.

    Now I once again feel like the rug could get pulled out from under me at any moment. Offering to do SEO for others’ businesses (mostly local stuff) makes me nervous now, as who knows how my ‘tactics’ will be regarded tomorrow? WTF?!?! VERY discouraging…

    Today seems to be a “glass half empty” day for me… I need to find a way to see things as “half full” instead, and I’m all ears!

  • 9 Jon // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I like the fact you state that not all niches are “list building” friendly.

    Your example of an insurance shipping service and its futility to do social media is spot-on. Nobody is going to get social about insurance. It’s not going to happen.

    In fact, this is a frustration I have with the alleged rankings weight placed on social media indicators/sharing volume … not all niches/industries are going social (or ever will). Moreover, it too can be manipulated.

    For diversification (in addition to my 2 authority sites), I’m going local. I’m presently in the local market and it requires not much back linking or SEO. It’s there for the taking (not all markets, but many of them). I do a little back linking, but nothing involving teams of link builders. I do a little each week. Usually one to 5 links does the job for a new post.

    I realize my competitors can blast links at me. It’s a risk for sure. However, there isn’t the cut-throat competition at the local level. The same risk, as you point out, exists for authority sites.

    I’m not sure in the long run how much of my resources I’ll dedicate to local, but presently I invest about 25% of my time to it. It’s going well and the nature of little competition and the ability to publish quality content is for me a solid hedge against problems arising with my authority sites.

    I never thought I’d enjoy writing about locations and local matters, but it’s actually a lot of fun.

    I’m with you that the future for affiliate marketers is authority sites. It’s not a guarantee, and it requires patience and hard work – but I like the “retirement-strategy” element. In the right niche, they can be good for building lists as well – another excellent hedge.

  • 10 David Norden Magic Texting // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I don’t know what Google is doing, but one thing is sure it is that my sites that took me years of work and that earned me a 1200$ a month now earn me a 120$ a month, and my next step will be to remove all adsense codes from my sites, so that Ican put something more lucrative in place. The only thing that brings me traffic at this moment is Pinterest and youtube (also owned by Google), and Google they are the most hypocrit institution I know. They made me work for years for them, and what is my payday? NONE. I will also I think use Bing instead of Google as a search engine. in the future. I am done with the weekly algo changes of Google, and don’t see why Ihave to spend hours on social sites to see my sites ranked. Today they are plenty of new plugins to get automatic social backlinks, will also use some of those. I think all these Google changes are just here to try to force people to PAY GOOGLE, but for me I will just trew this company in the garbage. I AM JUST PISSED OFF.

  • 11 Tim Dawes // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Really important post, Chris. I had a shortened version of this discussion with Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ a few months ago.

    I do a lot of offline consulting and was endorsing his version of white hat SEO and questioning it at the same time, for the same reasons you do:

    I represent a plumber. He wants to join pipes. He doesn’t want to write facebook updates, or create an authority site on why copper is better than steel. He wants to do his job.

    I represent a carpet cleaner. The way he cleans carpets, they dry faster than they would with any other service in the Puget Sound. So why should he be excluded from the organic listings because he doesn’t want to create an authority site on stain removal (when most of his customers don’t want to read an authority site on stain removal).

    The conflict over the organic listings is cooked into the system. You show stores or service companies valuable virtual real estate. Then you tell them that only info providers or authority sites get to own a piece.

    It’s inevitable that they’re going to try to look like authority sites.

  • 12 Dan // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Yeah, I’ve had 2 sites 4-5 years old w/ an authority score over 50 on Open Site Explorer that free fall over night from #1-3 across 25+ keywords to # 15 or worse. Both hyper competitive niches. It could be competitors…but probably using blog networks. ..BMR, LinkVana, LinxBoss, etc….(I don’t even touch UAW, EVO, SENUKE or any thing spun or automated right now. And of You’re outsourcing links via. Fiverr right now…then you may want to quickly go check your rankings.

    Basically, whatever the SEO masses are doing I would avoid or at least put a buffer between your new link pages and money site.
    In fact I’m seeing new link pages especially one page blogs have about a 30 day shelf life (assuming you get them indexed) if links on those pages aren’t being clicked through. Spun content is a huge no-no right now too.

    But don’t despair, once the smoke clears there will be new and improved ways to do SEO — if you haven’t thrown in the towel yet.

    A word to the

  • 13 Sean // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Chris..

    Good post… some very thoughtful and insightful comments… Thanks!

    BTW… do you really want someone @ Google to see this post? That can be done no problem!

    Sean

  • 14 Thinker // Mar 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    How is it that the hundreds of Google brainiacs can’t figure out a solution regarding the harm that can be caused by one’ competitors? Maybe part of the answer is that Google has become too big, too successful, and too monopolistic. I get the sense that the Google VIPs are arrogant and especially out-of-touch with the way that their algorithm changes can devastate a person’s business. For instance, I had a some keywords that ranked #1 on page one of Google for several years. Then late last year due to Google’s algorithm change, these keyword results were found in “limbo” on page 5 or greater. Hey Google — were your old algorithms that screwed up?

    I always thought it was a real good idea to submit my websites to various directories. To me, this was kind of like an entrepreneur listing his business in the Yellow Pages. But then god-like, all knowing, all powerful Google suddenly decided to de-value directory listings. The result, some people with websites that were several years old fell off the face of the earth from a search engine perspective. In my instance, the $5,000 per month I was making online soon became less than $500 per month. How in the hell am I supposed survive on $500 per month? But Google doesn’t consider this. Google doesn’t care. The truth is that there is so much competition for most keywords that Google could have ten different results EVERYDAY on page one for EVERY keyword in their database and they wouldn’t miss a beat. In this scenario, let’s say that one day my keyword phrases is number 3 on page one of the Google search results and then the next day it is on page 13. People searching for my keyword phrase will still have 10 results on page one of Google–and Google will still have advertisers compete for this keyword in their AdWords program. Google wins and the common person is totally screwed. Way to go Google. You will soon be more hated by online marketers and entrepreneurs than Congress.

  • 15 Adam // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I 100% agree here. The line between white had and grey hat is all but gone. And after these changes, it’s almost RISKIER to go pure white hat.

    There are posts on SEO forums doing Case Studies of people actually penalizing other sites by means of backlinks. There’s even one thread on wickedfire where the guy penalized a competitor – and we know it was successful because the competitor piped in on the thread and complained that his site was penalized. Good stuff (or bad, depending on how you look at it).

    I’m so fed up with Google and their hypocrisy. I’m tempted to just get rankings on Bing/Yahoo because Google is so wishy-washy these days. They can’t stick with a story longer than 3 months without completely rewriting the rules again.

    This new ‘over-optimization’ thing they’ve got in the pipe-line is total BS. Less than 2 years ago, Mr. Cutts himself has videos advising webmasters on how to optimize for SEO – now they are penalizing for it? Come on…

    Granted, all my sites are fine as of writing this, it still worries me. My family and I rely on the income I make online, and if it went away, we’d be screwed. So I take it very seriously.

  • 16 piscinas // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Must say I do agree with you.

    Unfortunately we all know google’s moto do no evil is in fact the reverse, as they are so arrogant that they don’t give a damn about their visitors really.

    All they really care about is increasing their revenue, and I guess they are becoming increasingly under pressure to keep the increases going.

    When these latest round of changes started to happen I asked many friends if they had noticed that the search results where increasingly rubbish, stuffed with irrelevant local rubbish, google properties, results slewed because you happened to click on something before or because you had or your “friend” happened to unfortunately +1 ed something. (increasingly I am using Bing), after many years of saying to my friends “google it”.

    Most have said yes they are also getting the same frustrations with the results.

    I said to my friends I believe it is deliberate to make the organic listings less helpful so they hope more people will click on their corporate buddies paid listings on the right.

    You could see the light of understanding come on in their eyes.

    I hate government control BUT maybe Google needs it.
    Maybe what we really need is a search engine which is non profit making.

    Oh well i can dream,

    seeya

  • 17 Luke Gregory // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Hi mate,

    Great post I’ve been ranting about this for a while now and I’m going to spam this link to matt cutts twitter so he sees it , hopefully.

    From now on people will just spam their competitors websites, less risk. – google search team = idiots

    Cheers matt!

  • 18 Brian Owens // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I think search is going to be more categorized. Ecommerce SEO will be more “Shopping Results” based, where reviews, age, and relevance make you king. Anything local search related will completely dominate the 1st page, and other types of search queries will be categorized into “search types” which will involve a different SEO strategy each time. Global terms will still be subject to the above algo flaws, but I have a feeling Global Search will be delivered differently in the near future as well.

    I know one thing…If there were ever a time for a start up search company to make a run at it, now’s the time to step in and show a stark contrast to compete.

  • 19 Andrew // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I had two things happen. My site was hacked and almost destroyed. I was down for 3 days and it was put back together. Being down for 3 days obviously is no good. i had #1 rankings for every keyword in my niche across the board. Serious money keywords.

    It was only then when i went into webmaster tools, that I realized this message was sitting there about the unnatural links.

    My website has dropped in rankings, but I am putting more weight on being down then the message.

    However, I would have to think that anytime I can manipulate a competitor by blasting them with xrummer, or scrapebox, hey why not? My only hesitation is when Google removes this STUPID algo change, it will help them :)

    You just used to be responsible for linking to bad content (which is within your control), but now you have to be responsible for anyone now linking to you.

    GREAT STUFF GOOGLE! Can’t wait to see how we take in the backside next update!

  • 20 Dan // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Chris, I think your Aff Recom together w/ an authority site would be a good way to start…I can say that I won’t be goin local but the opposite…BIG. Instead of a niche …deliver to an Audience. It’s not terribly hard if you’re building authority via. content curation. It’s a great model that Google seems to still appreciate.

  • 21 Pawel Reszka // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Hey Chris, thanks for the mention. It’s definitely scary what Google is doing. There are already multiple threads on different forums where people are discussing how to penalize their competitors. So basically if your site is new and doesn’t have the pull to survive an attack you are done.

  • 22 Stuart // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Totally agree. Google are insane control freaks.

    I am curious after reading your article why you would imply that people should still use Google Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics?

    Isn’t this is bit like handing the keys to your house to a burglar, and hoping they don’t steal your stuff?

    It seems to me that ANY use of Google tools. Adsense, adwords, affiliate network, analytics or webmaster tools is now a bad idea; because Google are clearly NOT a reasonable company and all the data they collect is ALWAYS used to harm affiliate webmasters.

    I am sure the only reason they have an affiliate network at all is to actively collect data about ‘the enemy’ and their practices.

    Ranking on the search engine. Fair enough. They are the only game in town for search.

    But why use any of these other services that are after all (for now! Who knows how far the ‘control freakery’ will extend in the future…) optional?

  • 23 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Stuart, that is a really good point – particularly for BH and GH sites. (No capable bh would use them anyway).

    However, they are the best tracking tools, particularly WMT for true WH properties.

    The important thing is just to have NO connection between your whitehat stuff and anything else…

    In my opinion.

    Chris

  • 24 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    @Sean, #13, re: Do I want Google to see this

    Yes! Absolutely!

    I’m not “anti-Google”, but I am very much anti-BS, which is what their current environment supports.

    Where is the incentive to provide awesome content?

    It’s too risky. That is a big, big problem. And if Google has any semblance of intelligence left – then they’ll do something about it, I hope.

    Chris

  • 25 Ron // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    What I have noticed is that suddenly, on competitive terms, sites that are 2-3 months old taking the top spots. Low PR0 – PR1. Fairly low backlinks – a few hundred – nothing crazy. Just a few pages on the entire site. It’s got me thinking that I am going to do the same. And just crank a bunch of these out with either affiliate offers or adsense.

    With other highly competitive terms, I am seeing high authority sites like magazines and media outlets rank at the top – and these websites are not helping the searcher at all.

    So all I can say is that if Google wants to turn over the apple cart, we do exactly what we always have: Reverse Engineer. Just figure out what crap is rising to the top, and mimic it in epic fashion.

    Like you said, minimize and/or eliminate any footprints, and do this for non-authority types of sites.

    Lastly, diversification is key. Throw a bunch of balls in the air because some will always get batted down.

    My $.02.

  • 26 Paul Lacey // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Chris, as always a brilliant post. The senuke stuff is scary!

  • 27 Stuart // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Having never used webmaster tools Chris (for the reasons I stated above) can you tell me what the advantages of using it are?

    Clearly any ‘messages’ they leave are irrelevant; because as you pointed out it is impossible to comply with link removals on other sites (even if you REALLY wanted to); and so there is never any point in filling out ‘re-inclusion requests’, unless you are a Fortune 500 company (which most of us aren’t).

    If contacting them is not the reason, then presumably it must be extra information you glean?

    So, what else is useful in webmaster tools that you couldn’t gain for example by installing free tracking software like Piwik? (Piwik.org)

  • 28 Bill // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Great article. Some of my thoughts:

    - Yep, neg. SEO is alive and well and 100% possible. This alone is HUGE trouble.

    - While I have not received any ‘unnatural link’ msg’s in my GWT, I know plenty of guys who have received them and just like you, and NEVER built any links to these sites at all. I mean, ZERO links.

    Was it someone blasting their site with spam, or were the GWT msg’s sent out in mass just to get webmasters to start “outing” where they are buying their links from? This is just a theory I read today on a forum, not highly likely but interesting nonetheless…

    - Google has been preaching for years that they don’t want to make anything manual, that they do everything with their algorithm. Now they have to resort to manually deindexing blog networks like BMR and others. Ummm good luck with that Google! If you can’t find a footprint and you have to chase the networks manually, you’re screwed.

    - Is this just ANOTHER way to get Google to frustrate SEO’s and webmasters into leaving SEO and moving to Adwords? I mean, every year there are more ads above the fold and completely surrounding the organic results.

    - I personally believe this is all mostly a campaign to spread fear and paranoia amongst SEO’s.

    - Last but not least, yes if you are white hat you are now 100% completely fucked.

    Bill

  • 29 Mr. Hachis // Mar 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    This SEO thing is really sad. You go to a blog owned by Google (Adsense official blog or Google webmaster blog) and you find spammy comments that are approved by the blog administrators and not just that, you search Google for the anchor text these spammers use and the spammers are actually ranking high on Google. Its really sad!

  • 30 Sean // Mar 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Hey Chris..

    Thanks for getting back to me on this…

    I’d like to pass this post on and see what google says about this…

    Lets hope we can all sort this issue out. I would really like to hear what google can do to stop competition from bashing bad links at our sites… so that we dont (good authoritative sites) get rank drops ourselves! This is so important… those that want to build good sites that last need to be given more recognition and defense by google!

    I hope to keep you updated ;)

    Sean

  • 31 Isobel // Mar 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    “Sites are getting wiped out left and right. All it takes is for someone to fire up their copy of (the aptly named) SENUKE software or equivalent, and start lambasting your site with thousands of crap links.”

    Isn’t it about time someone did exactly this to Matt Cutts’ blog – and then reported it for “unnatural links”? Maybe then he’d get the message.

  • 32 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Isobel, perhaps it’s possible to do that (although I’m pretty sure Google protects their own properties “algorithmically”).

    However, I think the real problem here is that this is a well-known issue to Google.

    And they just don’t care.

    At least not enough to own up to it, and provide some sort of logical recourse for real content publishers.

    That is what’s so troubling…

    -Chris

  • 33 Affiliate // Mar 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Can say more on authority factors and their abnormalities. At some stage, they have quite flexible filters, temp penalties and so forth.
    But now with this authority factors, the social signals, links from gov sites….
    They want to emulate people and average them into an algorithm?
    The result is that in serps: spam on authority domains / trusted social networks crappy profiles.
    Soc. signals can be bought cheaper and easier than links.
    Iime on site bounce rate: adult and near, stupid entertaiment galleries always win.
    How about different types of content and a completely different audience of web sites?
    just want to press small boys, and get more people to buy traffic. And this should looks like good guys ‘caring’ about visitors not about their pocket :) .

  • 34 Greg // Mar 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    lol:

    “incestuous little cesspool of self-righteous bastards.”

    Spot on that’s why they don’t do any real SEO anymore and just sell software.

    Pussies.

  • 35 Luke Gregory // Mar 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Anyone notice that most of these updates and de-indexing of the blog posting networks has been since google changed there privacy policy recently?

  • 36 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Greg, it’s hilarious indeed.

    Google’s own webmaster forums are filled with this snooty breed of holier-than-thou twits.

    Every time a legitimate complaint comes forward (such as competitor abuse) these little shits jump all over it, claiming that THEIR wonderful white hat website could never be wiped out, since it’s holier than Mother Theresa’s own blog, if she’d had one.

    It’s partly because they’re selling SEO, partly because they think Google actually gives a shit – and mostly because it just hasn’t happened to them yet (because their sites don’t deal with competitive keywords).

    I just get annoyed by that attitude.

    The bottom line is that the new algo has MASSIVE HOLES in it. And only a total f-ing idiot wouldn’t admit it.

    -Chris

  • 37 Greg // Mar 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Hey Chris,

    I run my own SEO company and these comments you have made are so clear and obvious that it is ridiculous for Google to demand this kind of behaviour from folks running their business to be found “worthy” of the top rankings for their International Shipping Insurance business.

    I had to lol:

    “thriving social scene that exists online for international shipping insurance”

    It is just so extremely ridiculous when you consider nobody has the time to do a link to someones site let alone know how to do it with anchor text.

    I turn over six figures annually and it all from business owners who are so frustrated from bad rankings and the whole Google algorithm fiasco.

    I understand the G’ s dilema, there are probably 30 insurance brokers all doing a great job, all with “original” quality content on their sites, explaining what to do best in their industry, so who do they choose to sit up there at #1.

    The way SEO should work is closely related to who want’s it the most.

    If the guy who want’s it the most does what he has to, hire and SEO consultant to help him get there, then he is gonna wanna be Exactly What people are searching for.

    And remember that IS what Google wants.

    The trouble is they don’t want the #1 spot be seen as a paid ad like Adwords.

    Most folks would agree that SEO is mostly unknown, and at best too difficult to fathom.

    Most folks would also agree that the Organic results are where they find most confidence.

    If not THEY got it wrong and try another keyword search.

    We don’t think Google got it wrong, they are the best and there is no other…Yet.

    I used to use Savvysearch.com back in 1998 when Google popped up on my radar (thanks Igor you got that one right!).

    At the time Savvysearch worked well by actually finding results from all the search engines.

    So you found more and more in those times meant better.

    Google have taken what was working well and with Places, Algo changes and all forms of Being Evil begun to self destruct.

    Perhaps it is only a mater of time before they go to far and the nearest competitor Blekko maybe, is ready to strike.

    Time will tell, until then doing exactly what Google dictates will have very obvious and predictable results.

    Zip.

    Now I must get back to Google + where I am actively involved in a riveting International Shipping Insurance post – boy lot a people in this circle ; )

    Greg

  • 38 IanW // Mar 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Chris
    I find the whole of your article a little disconcerting to say the least – and it is not you but the idea that Google in their ‘wisdom’ are really acting as judge, jury and executioner based on their own view of the world.
    I am relatively new at this IM game and trying to build a steady income to support the now depleted retirement fund (thanks to the GFC).
    The model, business idea call it what you like that I have been encouraged to follow is build authority sites then backlink and post to article directories etc – all whitehat – which I thought was best.
    Looks like all that is at risk now. Pretty difficult to build a business on a base that is shifting all the time.
    And I would note that my infinitesimal Adsense income has halved in the past few months and instead of being reasonably consistent on a daily basis is now up and down like a yoyo.

    Thanks for an informative post

  • 39 Benjamin // Mar 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Yes, as an affiliate marketer I focused on providing high quality content for my readers. Content that I received countless “thank yous” from my readers for. Content that Google has now decided, for a reason I cannot figure out, deserves to be omitted in search results, while sites that have actually scraped my content still rank.

    Because the few websites I had were netting me a comfortable income, I decided to focus on quality, rather than quantity — instead of building many throwaway sites and promoting them with spam, I built up a few quality sites. They did consistently well in Google, up until October of last year. Since then they’ve been hit several more times, and nothing I’ve done to try and get them ranking again has worked. The only advice other people can give me is “Start over, make another site”

    Now in retrospect, it seems like a much smarter strategy would have been to create lots and lots of spammy, low quality sites. Sure lots of them would have gotten hit, but my income wouldn’t be in shambles right now because I wouldn’t have put all my eggs into a couple baskets. Many Black-hatters seem to be doing quite well for themselves. Seems like your organic search income is only safe right now if you’re either a mega corporation or have an army of easily replaceable sites.

  • 40 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Hi Benjamin,

    I know what it feels like.

    And it’s exactly for this reason that Google’s own system is literally stacked AGAINST the people they say they want to help. The guy carefully producing “quality content”, and playing nice.

    The ONLY safety net right now is diversification.

    Like you said, you’d be better off right now if you’d had your own BH network, spread across many different servers and niches.

    You still need to invest time and effort into real sites. Whether it’s from Google or some other (better deserving) search engine, in the long run it will pay off, and you’ll see the results of your efforts.

    But at the moment, you can’t rely on it. You simply can’t.

    You have to spread out into other markets, and create your own production line of GrayHat sites.

    That is how you swim downstream in the current Google playing ground.

    I know it’s less than ideal, and seems backwards.

    But Google is bringing this on themselves.

    -Chris

  • 41 Chuah // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I have been going crazy too with all these Google changes. I have got a number of my sites that get the “unnatural links” from Google Webmaster tools.

    I do forum, blog commenting, links from blog networks, article marketing. No SEnuke or huge link spam whatsoever. But my sties still get penalized.

    Now I have just no idea how to proceed. In a very depressed mood now. Can’t see the future. Truly need some help here :(

    Sincerely,
    Chuah

  • 42 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Hi Chuah

    Links from blog networks and forums (depending on what that means… profiles?) are not the safe bets they were in the past.

    Reserve those for GH sites.

    -Chris

  • 43 Janus // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    This is a thought provoking post!

    I believe in building authority sites and natural back links, something I’m proud of and that provides value to people. I think that’s the only long-term solution to protect against any Google algo changes.

    I haven’t heard about autoblogs with more domain authority can actually steal your content and be recognized by GoogleBot as the “original owner”. How frustrating is that!

    I really wish Google will read your post and fix it.

  • 44 admin // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Janus,

    I partially agree.

    Competitive external linking abuse though is a major problem. Even for established sites that follow all the rules and provide great content only.

    -Chris

  • 45 Mark // Mar 21, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Wow the comments on here are going to go on forever :-) this is a hot topic, and very frustrating.

    I love the idea of devaluing incoming links ourselves, very cool.

    What I can’t understand it, Google rolls out Panda over the last year, so with all these other article blog networks that simply publish the same article, spun 15 times, how is that content not getting hit by panda? Yet, BMR, allows only unique posts, and it gets hammered?

    I dont get that at all…

    Chris also brought up another great point I was actually thinking about after reviewing Googles own published best practices…How can you follow those guides lines for certian markets?

    Even with 100% to a T quality content, that will get linked to naturally and spread, you still have to start the fire, so getting our own links is a must.

    What is the most frustrating is that now I actually want to just build a small portfolio of solid authority sites, that I can cultivate over the coming years, yet at the same time I am thinking I should just spend those same resources on smaller “greyhat” type sites and flip them…

  • 46 easycash // Mar 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Let’s agree on someting.

    Google with all those $$ billions can’t get it right to deliver what they say is their #1 priority…

    accurate search results.

    In the past you got a bunch of duplicates on first page together with unrelated BS, now you get even worse results.

    The reason IMO is that a financial oriented company runs a service that is today in time PUBLIC interest.

    A SEARCH ENGINE, the one which controls 60% of the market, should NEVER be owned by a profit oriented company.

    It’s a “natural” thing that they don’t play “fair” as there are interests involved, a few billions of them to be exact.

    Google simply got too powerful as the internet evolved on light speed, far faster then any politics or government predicted.

    That’s only my opinion but there are laws which rules monopolies and cartels in our “evolved” worlds. You still wonder why?

    G.

  • 47 Hil // Mar 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Well where does this leave Actuallyrank.com then?

  • 48 Jay Perry // Mar 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    This is a sad state of affairs for sure… I have only been involved in IM for 3 months but have known of the Black Hatters since the beginning…. It’s akin to the struggle between good and evil – it has always been around and so will the struggle between Black Hatters and Big G! I guess the best approach is “Baby Launch – And Keep Launching.” Your right, 100 – 10 page sites and don’t marry any of them…The strong will grow and the weak will pass away – the simple laws of nature…
    Additionally, while your at it, master PPC if you can to hedge your success in the right direction… Bitching Won’t accomplish shit… so grow up and follow Da Plan….

  • 49 Hil // Mar 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Actually come to think of it, Actuallyrank is not exactly a blog network it is individual blog commenting correct?

  • 50 zmodo // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:26 am

    I feel everybody’s frustration after reading all the comments on such an indepth open letter blog post.

    I’ve stopped wasting time on blog networks myself, thank goodness not alot of money though.

    Chris, what would you recommend for a relatively new (6 months) E-commerce site to build rank for commercial buying keywords in this environment?

  • 51 acnarra // Mar 22, 2012 at 2:33 am

    I think there is an important lesson going on from Google… sure we all like to blame the big G when things fall apart… what is the real purpose for backlinks… its not there for webmasters to run from one blog to another dropping in links back to their own sites artificially showing importance of an article…. some of you dudes are not going to like what I have written here, but go and look at the real reason and purpose for backlinks… its supposedly done by some person who visited your site and found it to be helpful and so that person decided to post a link to the helpful site… now we see backlinking tools on parade all over the net, create your own backlinks… gee where did the big G go wrong with this… just food for thought… I know a lot of webmasters have got it all rationalised and justified why its okay to deceive with false pagerank won through atrificial backlinks….

  • 52 admin // Mar 22, 2012 at 3:11 am

    Jay (#48) and acnarra (#51)

    You’re missing the point.

    WE’RE NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT “OUR LINKS AREN’T WORKING ANYMORE”.

    WHAT WE’RE SAYING IS THAT PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE SITES, WITH REAL BACKLINKS, CAN BE PENALIZED AS A RESULT OF ******SOMEONE ELSE****** BUILDING SPAM LINKS TO YOUR SITE.

    Not sure how to make that any more clear…

    -Chris

  • 53 admin // Mar 22, 2012 at 3:29 am

    @Hil, #49, re: ActuallyRank

    Not really part of this conversation per se. Quality blog commenting is actually right in line with White-Hat marketing, because it’s conversational.

    BTW, our most successful users are blind to the nofollow tags, they could care less.

    Google is counting both, if not in terms of PageRank, then definitely in terms of diversity and natural profile.

    That’s huge, and it’s evident in the results.

    -Chris

  • 54 Jessie // Mar 22, 2012 at 3:40 am

    It all boils down to the need/system of using backlinks to determine a site’s worth/trust….whatever. That’s crap in my opinion. Each time that fat Cutts say something about what .edu or .gov links carry more authority, these sites got spammed like hell.

    Can’t they just do away with backlinks and give merit to sites that really provide decent content and perhaps judge a site’s worth by getting advertisers’ vote instead.

  • 55 Tom // Mar 22, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Chris,

    Another great post. That’s sad but true what’s happening and it almost make any good and clean link building or overll SEO strategy become useless.

    I don’t know what will come out of this. Bing and Yahoo still represent 30% of search. Maybe we’ll see some kind of viral campaign from BIG internet marketing experts telling the world to leave Google search because of crappy results, backing it up with proof that G is not reliable anymore. That would be funny to see the search market share reverse.

    Or maybe a new search engine will come out and be seen as better as Google, though that would take time.

    For now, I’m more into the small niche sites, and after reading your previous post on how Google was ranking their own properties, I’m experimenting in ranking Blogger blogs with SEO packages you can find on forums.

    I have several authority sites too, and was willing to start one or two others but to become an authority you need great content added over time. I don’t want to see my efforts shot down after a month while I would have created content to add every day for 3 or 4 months. And as you said, your content can just get scraped by autoblogs and the original site disappear.

    As for diversification and other marketing techniques… Maybe viral marketing is something worth it. Creating a campaign that carries some buzz and attracts social signals and get your content shared on Facebook and others. That’s basically the linkbait/social bookmarking campaigns we were told about few years ago. Except that it goes now to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. But viral traffic is not really buying traffic. However the social signals play a role in your rankings, and you also got backlinks from these social places.

    Still, just as not all niches are list building friendly, same goes for social networking and viral campaigns. Not everyone can do it either. So we may actually explore another niche that will allow this.

    Oh and no one asked so… How much is going to be AffiliateRecon? ;)

    Thanks

    Tom

  • 56 Carlton Johnson // Mar 22, 2012 at 5:45 am

    I used to love Google but increasingly more and more over the last year I have thought I don’t like the path they are taking. I am not just talking about SEO either, I have noticed changes I don’t like when it comes to things like adsense income as well.

    I now practise and preach a much more diversified route than just SEO and I believe in really making the most of your sites when they are high in the search engines because as many people will testify, no matter how great they are and even if the bounce rate is 5% and people are staying on your site for 30 minutes a time, there is no garauntee you are going to get or keep any kind of Google love.

    I Love your point about building these small gray hat sites as an insurance policy. It would be great if we could be 100% confident by just staying white hat that we would be loved by Google, just as our visitors might love us, but I don’t see it happening.

    Always love your stuff Chris.

    Great post.

    ~ Carlton

  • 57 Mr Bearly // Mar 22, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Isn’t that just great. We all know that ‘real organic links’ are impossible until your site gets into the top 10 and you need links to get there.

    Since Google have not revealed all the links to your site ever and Yahoo have shut down their link reporting how do you root out all those ‘unnatural’ links?

    What happens to all those people who don’t use the Google Webmaster Tools? They won’t even know why they have disappeared from the rankings.

    Seems to me that the answer is to build even more links because you are more likely to get traffic from the links than you will from the SERPs.

    What do you have to do to rank well in Yahoo and Bing? They might at least give more reliable results.

  • 58 Neo // Mar 22, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Chris,
    I totally agree with you.

    Complete whitehat is pure BS for a normal guy. Build a a great site with quality content and google will rank you is just a wishful thinking. It is never gonna happen.
    If you are an unknown guy with a great site, nobody is going to offer you free links unless you are in a niche which is controversial or something related to webmasters.
    I have built a site on a topic related to an engineering brand where I have more than 20 years experience and expert knowledge. Guess what? Nobody is linking to that site because it is not topic of general interest and people who are interested in that topic do not have websites. As a result the first two pages of SERPS is filled with authority garbage like, amazon book page, about.com page where the topic name is mnetioned somewhere, some directory pages and some other crap.
    Google don’t care about small guys. If you are big corporate with lots of money to promote your site you win. Or if you are some kind of celebrity google will bend infront of you. For the average guy there is no hope.

    I strongly beleive that google doesn’t like affiliate sites at all. However for many search terms, google doesn’t have a choice but rank affiliate sites since many affiliate sites have great content on topics where aithority sites like about.com etc do not have any relevant content.

    Google assumes that affiliates are creating most of the garbage sites online. But truth is that google is responsible for initating the mass amount digital rubbish online with adsense.

    I truly wish, someone (Yahoo, Bing are you listening??) create a better search engine who gives most importance on quality content rather than some BS algo. Until then I going Blackhat and screw google. :)

    -Neo

  • 59 Andrew Hansen // Mar 22, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Just as an interesting note on the discussion about “unnatural link” warnings…

    We received these messages on a couple of our sites, BUT we saw that those sites hadn’t dropped in the SERPS.

    Don’t know whether this is an isolated incident but it seemed to us like it was a case of Google asking you to “fess up” re your unnatural links, and remove them yourself, because they aren’t confident enough in the algorithm to be able to properly penalize sites using the “unnatural” links.

    I guess we’ll hear more about this in the coming months, but what a mess.

    Sick post Chris – keep em coming!

  • 60 Google Slaps SEO – Will Your Site Get Deindexed Next? // Mar 22, 2012 at 9:32 am

    [...] There also seems to be a bunch of other unfair ways that you can get penalized even if you’re playing by the rules and doing totally white hat stuff. Chris Rempel wrote a great blog post about this. [...]

  • 61 Paul // Mar 22, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Hi,

    I have read Chris’s last 2 blog posts with great interest, all this crap that’s going on from Google is certainly making our jobs as honest affiliate marketers a lot harder, thats for sure!

    With regards to Google, its jut been announced that they have a new Director…. Interesting to see that she has moved to google from one of the top most secret US defence departments… Looks like the government want to have a say in what google gets up to….http://rt.com/usa/news/darpa-pentagon-google-defense-503/ Any interference from them surely has to be bad news!

  • 62 Thinker // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Chris,

    I sure hope that a VIP at Google reads your post and all of these comments. Goggle probably spends millions of dollars trying to get a better handle on what people really think about them. Attention Google, you can get a boat load of FREE information just by reading the comments on this blog!

    The Thinker

  • 63 Almin // Mar 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Where can I read about these new rules that actually allow competitors to do spam link attack on your site and destroy your ranking?

    Can someone point me to the source?

  • 64 Paul Schlegel // Mar 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I mentioned on Affhelper’s site that I have a site that has natural links from gov sites that those gov sites placed, natural edu links, etc…but am constantly outranked by exact match domain sites stealing entire paragraphs from my sites for the keyword they rank for while they use spun & spammy links.

    Also getting the linking to sites from sites I would never want links from. Hmm…wonder why?

    As a previous poster said…these are really, really bizarre times SEO-Wise.

  • 65 Noah // Mar 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Hey Chris,
    maybe it’s our own fault, while beeing too ‘comfortable’ (lazy) when using the search Engines and accepting the default in our Browsers instead of changing i.e. to Yahoo or one of the others – i think more than 2k search Engines to hold a fair competition upright. Just google “search engines” ;) – there are a lot others out there like i.e. https://www.ixquick.com/uk/ -and maybe we should sign up with more SE’s and not just Big ‘G’ to promote our sites.

  • 66 admin // Mar 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    @Almin #63

    It’s not posted anywhere officially, but it’s clearly evidenced from the fact that hundreds of thousands of webmasters have started receiving notices of “unnatural linking” in their GWT accounts.

    Straight from the horse’s mouth. The messages urge the sites to “fix the problem” and then resubmit their site for reinclusion to Google’s index.

    As Andrew stated in #59, this *MAY* have been a double-sided strategy. Basically a witch-hunt campaign on Google’s behalf, getting other webmasters to rat out their link sellers and private blog networks.

    Of course, nobody can prove that – but I’d say it’s a definite possibility.

    Most of me thinks this is a short-term play on G’s behalf. There’s just too much collateral damage that WILL happen if this hole remains open.

    -Chris

  • 67 admin // Mar 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    @Paul, #64 – I’m sorry to hear that man. What a perfect example of getting indirectly punished for doing the right thing.

    In the long run, things will likely turn out (and you can contact their hosting companies by the way, slap a DMCA on them since they are clearly infringing).

    But the point is – why should this be knocking REAL sites out of the game for months on end?

    It sucks. It’s a serious problem.

    -Chris

  • 68 Leah Dubyk // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    “Brass Tacks Time – You IN or Out?

    There’s No Second Chances, Guys.”

    Guess Whhaaaaaaat?

    I just registered and got the Premium Affiliate Recon Upgrade too! Everything works great and looks very official and okay so I have no idea what I’m looking at yet but that doesn’t matter for 2 reasons.

    #1 Chris Remple products need to be USED to work, not understood.
    #2 I’ve got “The Genie” to make sure I get it done right the first time!

    When I mentioned Chris Remple’s ” Magnitude Method” he shot 2 emails back within hours about how you guys hang out on Sundays and go “drinking on patios” in Vancouver or something like that. — Leah

  • 69 Gabe // Mar 23, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Hey Chris,

    Good stuff man…

    Slightly off topic but in line with your thinking on GH/BH is a great example from SEOMoz of a site that made huge news recently…

    You probably have seen it but if not, it’s worth checking out.

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-garbage-ranks-in-the-serps-a-case-study

    Short version is – Total crap site that hammered Google with links (mostly high PR and blog networks) shot to NUMBER TWO behind PROGRESSIVE and ahead of GEICO for CAR INSURANCE and sat there for several months until Google manually deindexed it.

    Hah! Unreal… Hilarity of the highest order but definitely food for thought.

    Lastly, as to this latest crap from Google about the over SEO penalty, here’s some stats from this dude’s escapades…

    - 35% of all anchor text was for 3 keywords – auto insurance quotes, car insurance and cheap auto insurance quotes.

    - 77% of all anchor covered 16 keywords

    - 95% of all anchors targeted THREE pages of a 297 page site and 70% of those targeted the homepage

    Maybe Matt means over SEO penalties start “now” and this time he means it.

    - Gabe

  • 70 Gabe // Mar 23, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I stand corrected… Google has not deindexed the site at all. Looks like they just took him down for that search.

    However, if you really want to see something amazing, search for “car insurance” and then watch what appears on pages 3, 4, etc. Look at the page titles, domain names, etc.

    Somebody is seriously spamming – wow.

  • 71 Sunita Biddu // Mar 23, 2012 at 1:31 am

    Thorough! A fun read yet valuable. I’m sure this gonna hit Google’s staff somehow. There’s a chaos everywhere and people are hell scared of doing ANY link building since last week (natural, unnatural whatever).

    I agree with your point on rare niches like tradesmenship, electricians etc. They can’t even think of surviving now. Except few niches, every site and online business NEEDS EFFORTS to get a decent link profile and we call them “Paid Link”. What an irony. Question on survival.

    I’m in 100% favor of whitehat SEO but… but.. can actually some of my personal test projects SAFE and UNTOUCHED with grayhat… No intention to contradict but whitehat doesn’t have a longer life and indeed riskier.

    Thanks for sharing and addressing the concerns Chris.

    Awesome! and you got a fan :D

  • 72 Sankar bba // Mar 23, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Wow

    Fantastic….abs Fantastic what a blog what a post and what a comments!!!!

    This is equal to six figure i mean this post provides great tips.

    Usually i am mozguy and Seo addicted person living with great dreams.

    I have website and sales online .my webs are never got affected by panda.

    So far i learned google is now moving towards a big slap…..i am confident and i can prove this in many ways

    they want small business man to advertise on adwords and in case the keywords don’t make money for them they seek organic listings

    which means if some brand pay huge money then they will push them in illegal way…this info i got from several webmasters out there

    sure google is going to put serious updates in coming months this will affect our business online.

    what the bad one is brands which had poor quality which outranks whit hat websites who serves the people

    google is successful and owns 60% market share because they serves people upto 2010 and not any more…..now they serves for corporate clients who gives money……#WOW

    I accept the quality guidelines when comes from google but they are losing trust and faith now.

    I am wondering what yahoo and bing doing right now?if i owns bing or yahoo i will use this oppurchunity and start serving people

    Admin,i have one question at bottom line:What we can do now?what can webmasters do right now to protect their business online?how we still compete with big guys?

    i got your article from search engine land search cap and i am sure this is top 10 best read in 2012

  • 73 admin // Mar 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    @Gabe – very, very good example, isn’t it?

    And I bet those guys couldn’t give a flying crap about getting manually slapped. They probably spent less than a few G’s to rank in that $4Million per month spot for 3 full months.

    That is a hell of an ROI, and their GrayHat strategy reaped more dividends than going purely WhiteHat ever would have in that market.

    Am I saying it’s right, or ethical?

    No. What I’m saying is that Google’s algo is BROKEN and the losers are legitimate publishers.

    -Chris

  • 74 admin // Mar 23, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    But since Google is admittedly no longer focused on Search as their primary (src: http://gizmodo.com/5895010/the-case-against-google)…

    …what do they really care?

    “Wild west” isn’t quite the right word here.

    It’s more like the mayor and his deputy have skipped town, and the rest of us are wondering what the hell is going on.

    Welcome to search engine anarchy

    -Chris

  • 75 Adrian // Mar 25, 2012 at 1:20 am

    I built up a site over 3 years and spent over 10 grand . The site was full of information and well organized and was well written. The site had links from BMR. I just lost my entire income in what was a GREAT CONTENT SITE.

    I HAVE HAD IT WITH GOOGLE AND THEIR MONOPOLY. I am done with the a$$ kissing game of Google and their two faced elitist BS. I only hope that Matt and his butt buddies have the same hardships as I have had over the years trying to have my site “appease” google.

    Not only this – but my site was spammed with over 500 links from shitty blogs which I assume was a competitor. I now do not even rank anymore – gone. I was #2.

    If you want to see how corrupt of an organization Google is simply read:

    http://www.seobook.com/brand-and-the-cycle

    or

    http://www.affhelper.com/googles-hypocrisy-exposed/

    or any of the other countless accounts of their crap.

    I am so mad I cannot even breathe. These people are nothing but scum and corporate whores. They turn a blind eye on anything that benefits them but when other people actually build up USEFUL SITES and promote them through blogging and marketing – its a no-no.

    The way they treat their customers on Adwords is absurd. I had a great QS for years and one day was no longer a customer and would not even be responded to.

    Can you imagine what would happened if regular brick and mortar stores treated their customers this way?

    I hope this comes back to bite them in the ass and hard. I am so sick of seeing that giggling fat butt bun boy Cutts half-truthing is way through the public. He is nothing but a white house press secretary for Google.

    I am done with SEO and am moving all of my business elsewhere.

    You are on your heals you cheap bastards and it is all about greed. You know that links work because you made it a point to go out and fight against little blog networks – as if that matters against the billions that you receive from insurance companies and pharma companies – not to mention the illegal commercialization you did when selling Canadian drugs through Adwords and then said you didn’t know about it or the other litany list of things you keep hush hush.

    Honeypotting Bing, trying to establish Google + in wake of Facebook’s like button – all crybaby copouts.

    These people are disgusting.

  • 76 Adrian // Mar 25, 2012 at 2:01 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BslAhJ5-C9g&feature=related

    Is a GREAT example of the snake oil Schmidt.

  • 77 Mark Hodson // Mar 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    “Allow webmasters to claim ownership of their content as it’s published. ”

    Surely Google is starting to do this with the rel=author tag?

    I agree with your suggestion about allowing webmasters to discount links in WMT.

  • 78 Wandspiegel // Mar 26, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Number 1 on his list is extremely scary and Google should take note of that if nothing else.

  • 79 Donna // Mar 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

    If this has already been answered in the comments, I’m sorry I missed it. I read most of them. But I need to find out.

    There really is no advantage of having your sites in Google webmaster tools, right? (Because afterall, Google is not going to take your suggestions to heart – simply because they are great suggestions.)

    And if I were to delete them and remove the file in the root directories, wouldn’t Google still link them to me? Meaning my Google account?

    I just realize that I have too much Google in my life. I need to de-Google. LOL

  • 80 Suzanne Morrison // Mar 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Chris – very eloquently written post and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    One thing I’ve been noticing recently is that the sites at the top of Google seemed to have generally decreased in quality for many searches.

    I keep finding Yahoo answers in the #1 spot all the time and this usually consists of some crappy conversation between 2 or 3 people who don’t know what they are talking about (and it just so happens that there is a competitive keyword within that particular answer)!

    Google may have been trying to increase quality, but it seems to have had the opposite effect!

  • 81 Genycis // Mar 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    It’s sad that you have to even create a plan to game them or to go GH or BH as a result. It seems to me that you Should (key emphasis on SHOULD) be rewarded better for being white hat about it than having to go the underworld route and go Grey or Black Hat, but that’s what Google is essentially telling you.

    I agree, if you’re a new site, you won’t get much notice, and with things like article marketing that also depended on SEO that used to be of help to a new site also being reduced now, it’s a wonder how you’ll be able to do much at all.

    You made a great point too on those businesses that aren’t about the social networking scene. If I’m a new processing plant or warehouse, how social can I actually get with a bunch of people on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus (which is really what they want you to do when they say be social and hit the social networks for better rankings)? I’m sure there are TONS of people out there in groups and discussions about a new processing plant or warehouse now. Lol.

    They’ve lost their mind, and I think it’s only going to get worse. I could only imagine… maybe they’re starting the process to their untimely demise, who knows. They want to please the shareholders, and now this nonsense about them providing you with information that they deem will help your search (which will more than likely be information from your sites they pull and display without crediting you) is crazy too! They’re so amped about pleasing their shareholders that they’re forgetting about the countless businesses that PUT THEM where they’re at to begin with. But maybe I’m just rambling on and don’t know much at all.

    I know as a merchant site, there’s not too much I can actually do that will get my site noticed, and I’m not about to write 800 word blog posts and articles about every single one of my instrumentals just to TRY to get noticed and to make it to page 3 of Google.

    I’d hope it to get better, but I suppose it has to storm first before it clears up.

  • 82 Jan Gregory // Mar 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Just a few thoughts here…

    #1 Google hates affiliates.

    Pretty simple for them to trawl all their index data for popular affiliate product names and brands… bingo, we now have large list of affiliate sites, now apply a special algorithm with our bias in place, then send out letters.

    Folks, this is child’s play to code, and the crunch time is minimal, they only need to run it once a month or so. Haven’t you all noticed how these letters come in waves? And they hate other easily identifiable groups finding them without noticing un-natural backlinks or other footprints. It’s just simple keyword recognition patterns… debt consolidation, refinance 2nd mortgage, bad credit repair… so easy to find the sites, you see. The very thing you’ve been doing to get ranking now bites you in the Ass if G labels you a “bad group” member.

    #2 Finding the Low Competition Niches may be a lot of work, but it keeps you off the radar.

    You’ll be un-noticed by the scum competitors in the popular niches. You will be invisible to the tattle-tales.

    It’s simple. Don’t target high competitive product niches. You are joining another group to be easily targeted.

    I’ve just looked at affiliate recon, and I must say that’s a brilliant strategy, except that if too many are in… the undiscovered won’t be true for long.

    #3 Here’s the Memo again.

    Stop using Google Analytics on adsense websites or any other group affiliation that might draw hostile fire. In fact, why don’t you use other better monetization schemes and quit Adsense altogether

    Safe monetizable niche, good content, do some guest posting from relevant sites, a few high PR directory links spread over 8 to 12 weeks, a few original articles with personal syndication to relevant sites…. you’ll do fine and stay under the radar.

    Effort, investment, takes some time. Not for Pushionaire mentalities. But build up a few dozen of these earning $200 to $800 monthly per site and its better than the kick in the ass from the other models.

  • 83 Gravytrain - Vancouver SEO // Mar 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    There’s little doubt that Google is stepping up its game against the current tactics that SEOs typically employ to manipulate their pages into a higher rank.

    The question isn’t “how much can I whine about this”, but “what’s working and how can I continue to build”.

    Design, develop, test, toss away, keep, design, develop, test, keep, toss away…

    Stay on top of your game. People were crying this hard when meta keywords got taken away, and it got them nowhere.

    It’s unfortunate… but it’s reality! We have to man (or woman) up and move on.

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