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Overstock.com's Google Rankings - Too Good?
CanadianGuy



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 2:02 am on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ladies & Gentlemen of WebmasterWorld,
I'd like to propose a review of Overstock's SEO success in the last 1 - 2 years. Whoever has participated in O's SEO, I have to commend you! Before 2010, you would almost never find Overstock in the top 10. Now they dominate in just about every vertical they compete in. What did they do?

 

Shaddows

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 5:53 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

So the question is, where's the line. Links for cash is not acceptable, but links for % discounts in leiu of cash is fine?

What about links for vouchers?

What about links for capital bonds?

Links for negotiable bond?

Links for cheques?

Don't get me wrong, I think OS are in the clear. Its just that I'm currently much vexed with Googles subjective treatment of links (see also my other thread on Paid Link Immunity [webmasterworld.com]

indyank

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 6:06 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm currently much vexed with Googles subjective treatment of links


Big online players read google's T&C with legal help, while the smaller ones find them hard to figure it out...If any of those big players get caught, their SEO company is not a professional one :)

wheel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member wheel us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 6:22 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

So the question is, where's the line. Links for cash is not acceptable, but links for % discounts in leiu of cash is fine?

You're reaching. You can make any link about cash if you look hard enough.

Those links didn't go live as a primary condition of the discounts - it was not an exchange of discount for links. The links sure look to me like they were put up as part of the promotion, by the .edu's, for the benefit of the people who qualified. Sure the links were stretched hard by O. But that's what makes them smart IMO. They market in places that get them links. Duh.

And guess what? It works. So we can moan and complain that Google's guidelines aren't strict enough or abided by or interpreted in a way that benefits us, or we can learn and adapt.

I think though what Shadow's suggesting is that the interpretation of the guidelines is vexing. Don't let it be. Instead, figure it out and use it. Everyone else is.

jersey_guy



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 8:03 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

well overstock seems to be using discounts for links, so unless Google slaps them in the next couple of weeks based off this thread, then that should be the green light for all of us to incorporate this angle into our efforts. why wonder what works when you have evidence of what works.

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 8:24 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

You're reaching. You can make any link about cash if you look hard enough.


You're right. But, certain links are clearly manipulative. In this instance, there is blend of both. When you have that block of text with links appear on a blog that really has nothing to do with the overall theme, then it becomes somewhat questionable. Personally? I typically don't even discuss links unless it is to downplay them. Too many folks focused on that one aspect and missing the entire picture.

I will say this, OS have done a good job of diversifying their link profile. Those pdfs are genius. I typically won't discuss those either as they are a prime source for high quality links that are evergreen and they are counted in the equation.

Those offers on .edu and .gov are just fine. They've milked it for everything you can from an anchor text perspective and there will probably be more than a handful of folks who would call that a bit manipulative. The anchor text is inline, it is fairly well written (SEO'd) and could easily be construed as manipulative. I think we all know that OS have a pretty aggressive campaign going on there to get those types of links from high quality TLDs.

It looks a little too "forced" and unnatural upon first inspection. The harder you look at it, the more it becomes blurred. ;)

wheel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member wheel us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 8:55 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Those pdfs are genius.

I agree. If I'm ever at a conference with an overstock SEO person, here's an open ended offer...first beer is on me :).

jersey_guy



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 9:01 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

I know who created those PDFs and the company working with OS - well, at least the company making those PDFs. It wouldn't be right, or ethical publicizing it though. I should probably just hire him!

jakegotmail

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 9:30 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Has anyone noticed that the first example that was provided -- [utdallas.edu ] -- is now returning a 404?

Someone get the university to step in and take action?

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 12:04 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

This thread was an exception to our usual rule [webmasterworld.com] - and that is "no posting example links" and "no analysis of specific websites." The experiment has been educational in several way - but we're not going to expose any other websites, thanks.

Anyone who is analyzing SERPs regularly has got to find many, many, many link examples that raise their eyebrows. The thing is, you cannot really tell how any individual link is actualy being scored by Google. They have a whole spectrum of possibilities they can use, and they are not all penalties.

So the question about Overstock.com is answered pretty well - and we are definitely not going to look into any other specific backlinks.

ratzker



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 10:14 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Poof, Overstock is gone.

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 11:53 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Poof, Overstock is gone.

Interesting... tried 4 keywords from one of Overstock's edu link pages and for all four they are now 4 entries above jcpenney, on the 6th page of results.

Search done on google.com from UK but with with gl=us in URL.

I wish I tried these KW before ratzker's post above - do not know if they were there before or have just now been demoted...

But it is interesting that in all cases JCpenney result is 4 places below Overstock - seems too coincidental.

CanadianGuy



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 11:57 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

To those who questioned my intentions & my motives,
I'm definitely not an SEO expert, so it never occurred to me that experts on this forum might reveal some questionable tactics. I was merely trying to figure out what they're doing that's working so well. I think we all have some pretty good ideas now. I do compete against O in one vertical, but considering how many verticals they compete in, it's hard to find an eCom co. that does not compete against them in some vertical. That's what made me think it would be of considerable interest to members here.

I had no idea of the NYT article about JCP until it was mentioned here.

I didn't post my homepage because I have a few. Now I'm concerned that there's some kind of risk of posting a HP on here as some of you have alluded to that.

As I started my post, I still commend O on a great SEO job. In my opinion, the link building is genius on that scale, and the on page is extremely well thought out & a great user experience too. When you get as many positive reviews as O does, you deserve the natural links that come with it. Maybe this is proof that even the biggest players need to guide the linking process.

I definitely appreciate everyone's input. It's been really interesting.
-Dave

wheel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member wheel us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 12:29 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

That's what made me think it would be of considerable interest to members here.

I've seen it discussed over many many years. It is of some interest.
I had no idea of the NYT article about JCP until it was mentioned here.

That's why you should read here :).
I didn't post my homepage because I have a few. Now I'm concerned that there's some kind of risk of posting a HP on here as some of you have alluded to that.

You post your homepage, you'll likely enjoy the same scrutiny (but not publicly) that you've just visited on O. Which is why many folks keep that information guarded, and why it's sometimes considered impolite to out someone specifically, as you've done. That's probably why you were challenged earlier in the thread over this - you want to name names, let's let O have a look at what you're doing as well.

Personally I don't name my websites publicly for that very reason. And until recently I didn't even publicly invite speculation as to where I was located other than it was non-US. Learn and chat, but keep your head down :).

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 7:54 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Offering a merchandising discount with instructions that it be posted and properly linked would seem to be begging for links, not paying :-)

Wait, they are paying in the form of a discount instead of cash! Ahh well, looks like they got busted.

Anyway, as to SEO

~ site has cleaned up excessive fluff links considerably and consolidated many pages.
~ site has fairly solid internal link structure.
~ site has original text and images on many products, I'm not looking at them all.

The site actually deserves to be well ranked, well, minus the begging. I wonder if they can get re-inclusion for something off-site that they can't take back now.

chicagohh

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 4:09 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

While this was an informative thread I can't help but feel that WW was a tool to a negative SEO campaign. I guess if you can't beat em - bitch em.

Brett_Tabke

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 4:58 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Has CanadianGuy Posted his employer/homepage yet? I think it would only be fair. Aside from Overstock being a competitor, I have quite a few friends playing in this market as well.

kidder

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 12:15 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is simply a great thread and one thing is for sure, we are going to know one way or another. I have a bit of a theory that if you build a high quality user experience / website that you will get a bit more latitude when you start to explore the gray fuzzy outer edges of link acquisition. If the users are sticking to your site and all the other planets line up then its game on, Google gives the users what they want.

anallawalla

WebmasterWorld Administrator anallawalla us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 1:56 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google Penalizes Overstock for Search Tactics

[online.wsj.com...]

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 2:27 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Goes back to rule #1 - "Don't make Google look stupid"

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 3:06 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

The change followed a complaint by a competitor last week to Google about Overstock's actions.


Why couldn't they just give WebmasterWorld credit where it is due? ;)

9:04 am on Feb 15, 2011

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 3:46 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

One thing's for sure, I'm not likely to let another rankings analysis thread run on this forum. I do not want this forum to be leveraged in anyone's ranking wars, not at any level.

I'm trying to see whether Google just wiped out the effect of those particular backlinks, or if they applied a more widespread penalty. For query phrases that include the word "overstock" they still seem to be at the top. For the generics - as the WSJ says - they're way down.

Brett_Tabke

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 5:01 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

agreed tedster. Lets bookmark this thread and when the whiners start about the no outing / no linking to SERPs policy we point them back here and remind them IT COULD BE THEM and that policy was here to protect them as well as the Overstocks.

The incident, according to Overstock, stemmed in part from its practice of encouraging websites of colleges and universities to post links to Overstock pages so that students and faculty could receive discounts on the shopping site. Overstock said it discontinued the program on Feb. 10, before hearing from Google, but said some university webmasters have been slow to remove the links.


Which certainly does not violate G's guidelines in any way that I can see.

The only thing it did is shame Google into action. aka BOWLING still works.

chicagohh

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 5:01 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

At the end of the day an SEO company put together a very clever campaign that was undone by another SEO with a clever idea. Too bad WW got caught up. It least it was educational in that I am sure the technique still works - especially if it's done a little less ham-fisted.

Brett_Tabke

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 5:39 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

>SEO company put together a very clever campaign

Show me evidence of that. Where is there a tie in to a seo company in any of this.

WSJ:

The incident, according to Overstock, stemmed in part from its practice of encouraging websites of colleges and universities to post links to Overstock pages so that students and faculty could receive discounts on the shopping site.

In Overstock's case, the retailer offered discounts of 10% on some merchandise to students and faculty. In exchange, it asked college and university websites to embed links for certain keywords like "bunk beds" or "gift baskets" to Overstock product pages.


Nothing wrong with that at all. That's just creative - damn good promotion and marketing. The college market is a lucrative, viable, and appropriate target. Cudo's Overstock!

Google wouldn't discuss details of the incident, citing a policy against discussing specific websites.


What The!? Someone from Google talked ad naseum about the JCPenny incident and the BMW incident.

TheMadScientist

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 6:07 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Someone from Google talked ad naseum about the JCPenny

Yeah, didn't they scurry to set up a M. Cutts interview about this one?

nuthin

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 7:03 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't see anything wrong with Overstock's linking strategy if indeed their statement is correct in regards to getting university students to link to certain products/pages with the 10% discount attached to the offer. Makes sense to link to relevant pages with the text the page is about.

Creative as Brett mentioned.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 7:19 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've seen algorithmic penalties against this type of link immediately reversed after a reconsideration request. Of course, those weren't high profile businesses, either.

At this point it looks more like we have a PR battle than an academic attempt to improve relevance. I hope journalists consider the consequences of any future reporting deeply. Otherwise their interventions may end up BEING the story rathe than covering it.

SEO is a new discipline, and it's not well understood or even very mature. Search engines are a new technology, and they are also not generally understood and undergoing rapid evolution. Journalism should benefit the public understanding of both areas - rather than cast dark shadows for the sake of gaining readers.

Don't forget who owns the WSJ - and the Google problems that we've already seen from that direction. The current opportunistic stream of SEO articles feels more like a propaganda war than true journalism.

kidder

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 7:54 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

So was this a clear signal that this type of linking is considered black hat? Or was it something Google had to do because of the attention drawn to the website? To me this situation would be very easy to engineer in order to bring down a competitor..

BeeDeeDubbleU

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 10:43 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Overstock said it discontinued the program on Feb. 10, before hearing from Google, but said some university webmasters have been slow to remove the links.


Perhaps I am missing something but if they thought what they were doing was OK why did they discontinue the "program" before hearing from Google?

anallawalla

WebmasterWorld Administrator anallawalla us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 11:39 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

The only difference I can see is that there are keyword-rich anchor text links to overstock.com. I see no signs of them being paid links. Offering discounts to academics and students is not new. Now everyone who uses anchor text links should be concerned.

I think overstock's rankings will be restored quietly.

thegypsy

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4252178 posted 12:21 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hey Gang, not much to really add here, other than nice work! I don't think the 'Canadian Guy' was meaning to out them, it's just how it worked out. I can also say that he wasn't the one that contacted the WSJ, I was privvy to that situation.

Ultimately, I had to at least comment on this thread because I've already had peeps thinking that the 'CanadianGuy' was me and that I was playing shady tactics against a competitor. I am NOT the 'Dave' above and I don't work in any competing markets with Overstock... for the record. Thanks :0)

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