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Google WMT notice of detected unnatural links. So, what now?
pontifex




msg:4430987
 7:26 pm on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Right before Pubcon 2011 (November) I cancelled the last paid links to my site. The marketplace where I bought should have removed the last one by end of November.

Suddenly I start to get this stupid notification in WMT... It is coming around 3 months too late!

We rely heavily on our merchants. It is a big marketplace and everybody who sells there can link and use widgets, which link to their products. These widgets have a NOSCRIPT part with a standard link to the product.

In the last 6 months we have gained around 1,000 new merchants on the platform. Not all, but quite a lot do link to their products - like they would on eBay or Amazon.

Will they eventually understand that? Grrr... after "Reinclusion request", they still mail me: "nope, still unnatural links..."

To really investigate, I would need some examples. Maybe a merchant (or 20) are doing something fishy - but how should I know?

GWT is totally not helping me...

P!

 

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4439407
 2:32 am on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Or maybe they really have lost touch with what a webmaster really needs.


Google is more interested in collecting information from webmasters than it is in providing it to them. If that weren't so the data would not be outdated, inaccurate and incomplete to the extent it is.

As for the message, any changes that would please Google would not be detectable by the average visitor and so you should ignore Google and focus on the visitor.

Seriously - DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME ON PARTIAL NON-DESCRIPT MESSAGES even from Google. They *could* provide you with a list of offending url's but they won't so why should you waste even ONE hour of your content creation time on them?

I would send in another reconsideration request that simply states "I've done what I can with the information you've provided me and I consider this matter resolved. If you do not think it is resolved please send me a list of the offending urls you have found, otherwise I'm wasting my time chasing content on websites I do not own or know about and your generic message will have been most unhelpful. Thank you." (but don't send it until you HAVE done all you can).

Also serious, if Google 'detects' unnatural anything why can they not share a url and save you hours of guessing? It's ridiculous.

SEOPanda




msg:4439677
 4:46 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Also serious, if Google 'detects' unnatural anything why can they not share a url and save you hours of guessing? It's ridiculous.


If they pointed out the problem, people would know what they can or can't get away with.

I do understand why they are vague, but it's still frustrating.

econman




msg:4439777
 10:05 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

penalising sites for having links pointed at them


Aside from the wording of these sorts of warning messages from Google, do we have any hard evidence that "unnatural" links are being penalized, or causing a site to drop below the level in the SERPS where it would be absent those "unnatural" links?

I wouldn't be surprised if Google is getting better at detecting what it considers to be "unnatural" links, and I would expect Google to treat those links as if they didn't exist.

If they are detecting (and therefore ignoring) an ever-increasing fraction of all "unnatural" links, (say, moving from 20% to 30%), this progress would explain some of the downward movement in the SERPs reported by some members.

If they are still failing to detect, and therefore unable to ignore a significant fraction of the "unnatural" links (say, the other 70%) this would explain why some members are still seeing competitors thriving off of "unnatural" links.

The fact that these messages are so deliberately vague is consistent with the theory that they are still unable to detect a large fraction of all "unnatural" links, and therefore they can't tell you about the ones they have detected (because the types of links that are NOT listed in the warning messages would be obvious to the folks building the unnatural links).

jsherloc




msg:4439803
 11:43 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've been following this issue VERY closely for the past year as it has become worse and worse. Months ago I posted on here that I couldn't believe there was not more of a unified outcry from within the Industry about just how ridiculous this "inbound links policy" is and how ultimately it will be a massive mistake with massive implications. I'm sort of a pessimistic dude though so I think folks also try to see the positives...I'm not seeing many personally.

Things are finally getting interesting:

https://groups.google.com/a/googleproductforums.com/forum/#!searchin/webmasters/authorname:johnmu|sort:date/webmasters/RPlKleYVOXk/-Lb4TE0yuqIJ

The discussion there and Mu's response does seem to indicate there may be some type of "penalty" involved in this whole deal or whatever name we wanna call it, and if so IS based on a certain length(s) of time per usual Google practice.

Mu says that he recommends NOT to wait it out and people should submit the reconsideration request (even if they don't have an idea if their drop was due to algo or manual reasons etc) which leads me to that conclusion, BUT it makes you wonder the way he phrases things. Cryptic fear-mongering with a corporate touch at its finest. How long for some people is gonna be the question I guess...

I'm hoping that thread goes viral especially "coolguy's" post lol...

I'd say this is a pretty clear indicator that you can "penalize" the majority of newer, less established websites owned by average individuals that make up the majority of the Internet. The severity/length of time the "penalty" lasts is probably dependent on some other factors we won't know.

How anyone could read that discussion there and then conclude that you can't do that to just about any URL owned by an average Webmaster here (if the site is NOT already an "authority/established" SERP leader)...I have no clue, because this type of thing is currently happening all around us to your typical affiliate/IM websites in decently-competitive verticals.

I don't care to argue with folks that don't believe is happening, because evidence certainly suggests otherwise. I always hear: 'WELP TANK WIKIPEDIA OR HOW ABOUT THIS CNN ARTICLE...CAN'T DO IT? When people bring this up (a point that I agree with) I don't think it really brings anything productive to the table other than give Google and friends a reason to say: "Hey, see that website, you can't harm it! So therefore you probably can't harm ANY website...lol" It is a very good point that yes MANY websites out there are certainly "immune", I just don't want this thread to get derailed for pages on end because people argue about whether you can tank certain authority websites...the answer is probably not.

What really matters to all us here going forward is that negative SEO is seemingly a very real concern for the majority of websites on the Internet. IMO this won't really change much unless there is major publicity and studies being done, many of which are in the process, etc...

The thing is, competitors don't even have to "tank" your site several places/pages to do damage, now that we know incoming links can directly harm you in certain ways, it is very easy for competitors to REALLY "junk up" your website's backlink portfolio. WMT is only going to show you SOME stuff, imagine the backilink scanning power and vast knowledge of inbound links that Google now has, all being organized into type, class, etc...

So your competition can directly hurt your assets (many of my own websites I consider assets, dunno about others). What if they send links that don't trigger any filters today, but when you go to sell some of your assets in a year the buyers get weary looking at the type of inbound links your assets have accumulated over the years? etc...

Hell, certain types of links could basically be a "ticking time bomb" for some people's assets. Meaning if Google doesn't have an issue with them now, they might 6 months from now. This is certainly a problem to consider when you have ZERO control over the type/velocity of incoming links. Just the tip of the iceberg of things to consider in this type of "eco-system" that apparently is existing...

I often hear people reply: "negative seo is just impractical so it must not really be an issue for most people, because for every one website you tank, another will just take its place, how will you know which websites will shift positions and take up certain places for your ultimate benefit in the SERPs? etc..." Umm, dunno about folks here, but in most of the niches we operate in, there is usually a group of 3-5 "major" players competing for similar organic traffic...so for most folks, if some of those major players are not yet properly aged and established enough to handle bad incoming links with overoptimized anchors from spammy properties, it WOULD be practical to get rid of these websites for an extended period of time, would it not? Ethics and morals aside here, because we all know it isn't about what the good guys won't do, it is all about what the "bad" guys ARE doing.

Let's say people do get hit with some sort of penalty, depending on severity drops their rankings for 60-90 days. 60-90 days is still a lot of money involved for folks. Just makes me wonder if eventually we'll see some high-profile litigation stuff related to this.

I don't know how long other folks have been in this industry, but Google doesn't really often make many major moves unless they get major negative feedback and press coming from different connected avenues, kind of like any other giant company. So I get a little bit frustrated when some folks basically start slinging insults at people telling them that Google will take care of everything and the problem is obviously them as a webmaster or their website must have QUALITY issues and clearly Google doesn't want to index their "crap" blablah. For many folks in many cases, yes this IS the case. But certainly not the majority of websites we have been looking at with this issue lately.

Simply put, telling the entire eco-system of online businesses and IMers (on all different financial and knowledge wavelengths) that shouting from the rooftops about this porblem is going to do them no good is counter-productive in my experiences dealing with giant corporations. It can only help in the long run, right?

I mean Google knows there is a problem for folks, they read all these boards, case studies, reports, complaints from publishers that made them six figures year after year, so are they going to address this specific negative SEO issue you guys think? I doubt it lol...but it certainly can't hurt to keep reminding the general public and the industry that there is potentially a major MAJOR problem at hand...

Another related post from Aaron Wall:

[seobook.com...]

The typical forum posts on many IM boards nowadays:

[forums.#*$!.com ]

That is just one minor variation of popular "negative SEO" efforts being implemented behind the scenes. There are hundreds more posts like that all over the IM community. Not sure why links seems messed, Google: "[METHOD] Illuminati Link Domination Strategy" to see the type of nonsense I am talking about. And THAT is nothing in regards to the type of thing we are looking at on our end here guys...seriously.

IMO Google does not have enough data for reliability purposes other than data related to links (historical perspective, type, class, velocity, etc) to base the majority of their crap off of right now IMO, obviously they're heading for much more social/Author rank, but they are certainly a ways off and will need to do link evaluations for the foreseeable future. Taking this route seems pretty risky from a PR standpoint... It should be an interesting year ahead is all I can say...GETCHAAAA POPCORRRRRRN

"Donnnn't worrrrry, about a thinnnng. Cuz Every little thinggg, is gonna be alriiiiight...."

fathom




msg:4439834
 1:55 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

How anyone could read that discussion there and then conclude that you can't do that to just about any URL owned by an average Webmaster here


I didn't read everything but the above quote - "you can't".

In the event of a "firm" the left hand often does not know what the right hand is doing.

In the event of an SEO Practitioner... unless you are investing 10s of thousands of dollars each month for some firm to "just make your website great"... chances are they all greasing links that you would not normally get... if you would not normally get these you can concluded those are paid for.

In the event of "I am the only person involved in the proactive SEO of my site"... well you are the only one to blame (I'll agree) but often we get tunnel vision on our own deliverables. e.g. I don't build doorway pages, this are called see pages... or I don't pay links I built satellite sites... or I don't have any unnatural links to my website I'm only traded links for 10 years... or we only build social bookmarks and there isn't anything spammy in my 1,000 accounts at digg, facebook, etc.

All of those are link spam and all are 100% unnatural.

I view this from the vantagepoint of driving. I have driven since I was 16 years old, over 500 cars, a dozen trucks, a bus, a skidoo, a few boats, military ships and a submarine. I know how to drive... but I have no clue what occurs under the hood.

You have no idea what Google can and can't determine whether it's manual or automated... so I don't trust your competence to determine what anyone's can do.

John Mu suggests:

...it's always possible that something was noticed incorrectly on our side, and you're welcome to submit a reconsideration request with that feedback (from what I've seen, those situations are very, very rare though). Also, when talking to publishers and SEOs, I sometimes hear of situations where one side wasn't fully aware of what other people on the team were doing with a website -- I'm sure that's not commonly the case, but it can happen (and has surprised us internally as well, as you can imagine). Either way, I'd recommend still taking a look at the links and seeing if there isn't something that can be resolved -- just like you would with other issues surrounding a website.


Very, very rare and I'm sure... are strong indications that there is something else you've missed.

jsherloc




msg:4439848
 2:34 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

No problem Fathom, agree to disagree is fine.

Just letting folks know what we have been witnessing first-hand INCREASINGLY the past few months.

We don't know what goes on under the hood, but when people are crashing and burning all around you on the most popular freeways after cruising along just fine for a long time, and upon investigating backlink portfolio's across thousands of sites and comparing data with other major companies and webmasters that all seems to point to the same thing: "sabotage possibilities" IMO.

I completely disagree on the "rarity" of this issue, after corresponding with folks across the globe the past few months this seems pretty widespread and seems to effecting SOLID websites, not simply your "weak affiliate warrior forum" variety website either.

Also, if Google was as powerful as you suggest, why are these IM forums repeatedly having to take down these case studies regarding negative SEO?

Is it just because it is unethical?

I agree it is unethical, but that's interesting because even the blackhat forums had to erase several threads recently after people reported their results of tanking websites they do not own with a variety of specific backlinking methods.

OR

Is it because it is unethical AND there really is a problem with negative SEO in terms of how easy it is right now to "harm" a solid chunk of websites on the Internet?

fathom




msg:4439852
 2:57 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

We don't know what goes on under the hood, but when people are crashing and burning all around you on the most popular freeways after cruising along just fine for a long time, and upon investigating backlink portfolio's across thousands of sites and comparing data with other major companies and webmasters that all seems to point to the same thing: "sabotage possibilities" IMO.


No one admits that they crashed because they were driving under the influence, dropped their cigarette and wasn't looking, were combing their hair or putting makeup on...

I'm positive when asked they would blame something other than their own vanity.

In my experience, "upon investigating..." means... "the first thing I saw"... and that may or may not have anything to do with what ails your domain... so the natural conclusion for the inexperienced is sabotage.

But don't ask me... ask Google... how many times have they uncovered sabotage?

I'm sure I heard them say... a couple of things you don't wish to hear... but that does not make them any less true.

I don't care if we disagree... just avoid using speculation as evidence.

jsherloc




msg:4439864
 3:57 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

The problem is that we only have speculation based on REASONABLE evidence reported from trusted sources within our industry. Yeah, there aren't many "trusted" sources these days I agree...but lets just say when ALL of my trusted sources are reporting similar things, well, you know the deal...

No one will ever have the evidence that you seek due to Google's proprietary reasons. My beef is why should we just accept that because we don't know exactly what goes on, we can assume that Google is making the right "value" judgements then...lol

I mean does "Panda" mean anything to folks here? lol

The entire industry is speculation based on testing...and I provided folks with a direct link from the horse's mouth regarding a potential "penalty" issue...about as close to "evidence" as we're all gonna get I'd imagine...

Question for you since I believe this is ultimately what you're getting at, and what I read through on the Google webmaster help boards seems to reflect this basic type of "defeatist/you obviously deserved it you're a bad webmaster with a bad site" attitude.

Lets just speculate and assume that Google is handing out temporary ranking penalties to folks based on unnatural links, are you implying that the majority of websites "hit" in this scenario probably deserved it then, but for entirely different onpage/offpage issues etc that were probably identified when Google took a closer look? Possibly manual?

jsherloc




msg:4439871
 4:08 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Also, just want to add, you can assume that the folks analyzing these websites in our experiences have plenty of experience in the industry in all types of verticals, and I'll leave it at that. No "$99 SEO Backlink Checkup Doctor" providers here lol. This isn't just "the first thing seen", trust me. These websites are going through all different types of tests by different people as well...

I don't follow the Google sabotage line? So we should accept what Google says in this case in terms of it being very rare? Didn't they tell us to build quality content and people in our industry will simply naturally link to us and our site will rank for worthwhile terms...all the while developing and flaunting the most aggressively link-reliant algo in history?

I'm sorry if I trust what I am actually seeing happening all across the board vs what Google is telling folks. I wish I could just sit back and smile and say "No worries guys, I'm sure they've got a handle on this simply because all of us won't ever know what is EXACTLY really happening over there".

Do other folks here feel OK with all of this happening? Just figured some other folks would have issues with this type of environment going forward which is why it should be discussed IMO...

fathom




msg:4439882
 4:55 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

The problem is that we only have speculation based on REASONABLE evidence reported from trusted sources within our industry. Yeah, there aren't many "trusted" sources these days I agree...but lets just say when ALL of my trusted sources are reporting similar things, well, you know the deal...


Trust is a strange commodity when investigating that which does not allow you to connect the dots. If you don't know how to avoid making your own link development campaign 'unnatural' how can you possibly identify unnatural linking patterns?

No one will ever have the evidence that you seek due to Google's proprietary reasons. My beef is why should we just accept that because we don't know exactly what goes on, we can assume that Google is making the right "value" judgements then...lol


Every single website has "questionable links" pointing to it... but just because a link points to a domain does not mean it influenced anything.

The first problem I see when trusted sources uncover spammy links to their domain that they theorize are what Google determined as unnatural they never go to those domains to determine if the paid profile causing their issue was also removed from the indexed or discounted in some way.

If Google discounts you for these... you can be 100% certain Google discounted the pages those links reside on... ignoring this as "evidence" means you are no one bit interested in "the truth".

I mean does "Panda" mean anything to folks here? lol


Panda is a content oriented issue not a link issue... they have nothing to do with each other... but a natural link profile to a specific page will prevent that specific page from being effected by PANDA.

The entire industry is speculation based on testing...and I provided folks with a direct link from the horse's mouth regarding a potential "penalty" issue...about as close to "evidence" as we're all gonna get I'd imagine...


The horses mouth is very, very rare...

I conclude based on their emails and their talking points that much of the industry is interpreting the wrong links as unnatural.

Question for you since I believe this is ultimately what you're getting at, and what I read through on the Google webmaster help boards seems to reflect this basic type of "defeatist/you obviously deserved it you're a bad webmaster with a bad site" attitude.


No... I have the experience of 10s of thousands of domains in 20 odd link networks, assisting thousands of customers over the years, a handful of de-indexed networks while not having a single customer's website being punished for paid links... I seriously have lot of data to support my conclusions.

Lets just speculate and assume that Google is handing out temporary ranking penalties to folks based on unnatural links, are you implying that the majority of websites "hit" in this scenario probably deserved it then, but for entirely different onpage/offpage issues etc that were probably identified when Google took a closer look? Possibly manual?


Unnatural links are pretty clearly defined... what isn't clear is the list of links included in unnatural...

So what type of link development is considered unnatural?

Almost all link development is unnatural if your target and you target unnaturally.

Can someone else do this? I'm sure lots try.

But getting a link today does not mean it got crawled today, it doesn't mean it got credited today... before you can lose anything you have to gain something so their are no guarantees that you don't help your follow man for 3 years before they get discounted.

...and in my vast experience of watching deindexed domain losing ranks & traffic immediately the link credits remain for 1-2 months... not only that.

When your trusted sources lost ranks & traffic because of discounted links... you can be sure whatever happened, happened 4 weeks before (or more)

fathom




msg:4439883
 5:12 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Also, just want to add, you can assume that the folks analyzing these websites in our experiences have plenty of experience in the industry in all types of verticals, and I'll leave it at that. No "$99 SEO Backlink Checkup Doctor" providers here lol. This isn't just "the first thing seen", trust me. These websites are going through all different types of tests by different people as well...


Maybe they can enlightening us. I sure would love to debate the merits of their findings.

I don't follow the Google sabotage line? So we should accept what Google says in this case in terms of it being very rare? Didn't they tell us to build quality content and people in our industry will simply naturally link to us and our site will rank for worthwhile terms...all the while developing and flaunting the most aggressively link-reliant algo in history?


I don't recommend anyone blindly follow anyone... but I also recommend not trusting anyone who anonymously retorts ..."No "$99 SEO Backlink Checkup Doctor" providers here"... and "trust me".

I'm sorry if I trust what I am actually seeing happening all across the board vs what Google is telling folks. I wish I could just sit back and smile and say "No worries guys, I'm sure they've got a handle on this simply because all of us won't ever know what is EXACTLY really happening over there".


Well I'll tell you what... before the end of April I will review your domain since your domain is part of the Google thread.

I will post my finding in the supporters forum.
Do other folks here feel OK with all of this happening? Just figured some other folks would have issues with this type of environment going forward which is why it should be discussed IMO...


Enlightening people about the dangers of SEO is something I take very seriously. But you can't address the problem by ignoring the LIKELY problem.

I believe ignorance causes most of the problems.

buckworks




msg:4439884
 5:12 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Fathom, you seem bent on believing that malicious competitors creating malicious links would have zero power to hurt someone else's site, but you sure haven't convinced me.

jsherloc




msg:4439886
 5:29 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

@fathom, what are you referring to in regards to reviewing a domain? What domain in what Google thread are you talking about?

[edited by: jsherloc at 5:30 am (utc) on Apr 12, 2012]

fathom




msg:4439887
 5:30 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

buckworks wrote:
Fathom, you seem bent on believing that malicious competitors creating malicious links would have zero power to hurt someone else's site, but you sure haven't convinced me.


First things first...

1. demonstrate the website owner conclusively had absolutely nothing to do with what happened, then after that
2. demonstrate the links that conclusively caused this effect, and then
3. show the "competitor's" timeline of development that supports this occurred at the appropriate time.

You haven't proven any of these occurred... and you want me to convince you they didn't... I did that already.

I love experiments so I've got a website that is 100% clean... so how much money do I need to give you (or the best negative SEO) to prove I'm wrong?

fathom




msg:4439888
 5:33 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

@fathom, what are you referring to in regards to reviewing a domain? What domain in what Google thread?


The domain name at the top of the google group thread... I assumed it was yours.

jsherloc




msg:4439889
 5:42 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

1. Google has no clue who builds the links and they state they don't care in their guidelines/reconsideration process, they just have an issue with certain types/velocity used and want those issues addressed as much as possible. Fact is, most people will not be able to remove the majority of "unnatural" links from their overall site portfolio, as we've already acknowledged most websites out there pick up tons of "shady" links along the way through no fault of the owner.

2. Just in my own experiences the past year helping clients out, we've seen specific examples of spun blog posts, article directory posts, forum profile links, blog rolls and others shown directly to our clients directly from Google. Google shows you some of these types of links as an example of what they are having an issue with.

Just about every single response I've seen directly from Google showing these types of "unnatural" links they have an issue with, shows types of links that can certainly be pointed to your competitors, typically en masse, and very easily/affordable at that.

3. Not sure exactly what you want here, as backlink graphs and logs of onsite/offsite changes across all types of verticals and competition-levels are a start, and about all that those of us on the other side of the curtain can compare/contrast experiences with. What "proof" could we demonstrate to you in this regard? The volume of webmasters noticing these similar issues and sharing their experiences within their industries leads me to believe something strange is afoot.

Correlation is not causation, but when enough people report similar things and you see it repeatedly over and over testing and isolating the variables as much as possible...it is clear that there is an issue of some sort.

edit: The site(s) mentioned in the Google thread(s) aren't mine, but as I've mentioned, I've been following this issue very closely the past year as I believe it is only getting worse out there, so it was interesting to finally see SOME type of public response from a real live Google employee

fathom




msg:4439906
 7:22 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

1. Google has no clue who builds the links and they state they don't care in their guidelines/reconsideration process, they just have an issue with certain types/velocity used and want those issues addressed as much as possible. Fact is, most people will not be able to remove the majority of "unnatural" links from their overall site portfolio, as we've already acknowledged most websites out there pick up tons of "shady" links along the way through no fault of the owner.


What Google can and can't do isn't something you can claim you know much about.

Fact is... most people that buy links... are actually buying links.

Fact is... if you have proof that you paid for links that is proof that you did that not someone else. (I tested the competitor theory on my own website isn't a valid test)

Fact is... "shady links"... where did Google claim anything about shady links? Unnatural links as Google claims manipulate PageRank and/or results... which competitor wouldn't intentionally develop either of these for you on the off chance they may get you banned, penalized, etc... what if the competitor doesn't get you banned or penalized... would that campaign be a success or failure?

Fact is... you have no facts... and that makes for bad SEO observations.

2. Just in my own experiences the past year helping clients out, we've seen specific examples of spun blog posts, article directory posts, forum profile links, blog rolls and others shown directly to our clients directly from Google. Google shows you some of these types of links as an example of what they are having an issue with.


You helped clients get banned or penalized?

Not harming clients is not evidence of harming anyone.

Google showing an example of a link isn't an example of a profile.

If this works are easy as you claim wouldn't this be the PERFECT business model for you? You don't need to compete against the competitive landscape results... and surely there is no question that you delivered results.

Just about every single response I've seen directly from Google showing these types of "unnatural" links they have an issue with, shows types of links that can certainly be pointed to your competitors, typically en masse, and very easily/affordable at that.


The problem with the unknown is the fact that you just don't know and you are grasping at straws in an attempt to recover. Not knowing doesn't translate to knowing because you don't have a clue.

3. Not sure exactly what you want here, as backlink graphs and logs of onsite/offsite changes across all types of verticals and competition-levels are a start, and about all that those of us on the other side of the curtain can compare/contrast experiences with. What "proof" could we demonstrate to you in this regard? The volume of webmasters noticing these similar issues and sharing their experiences within their industries leads me to believe something strange is afoot.


Volume? A few thousand websites, or even a few 10s of thousands of websites all having similar issues and all are caused by malicious competitors without a single false positive?

Interesting... no false positives? Is there a percentage of false positive or does it even matter?

I find it odd in a few thousand websites, or even a few 10s of thousands of websites that no one can conclusively show who did what?

That's unbelievably obscure for something that is so prevalent.

Correlation is not causation, but when enough people report similar things and you see it repeatedly over and over testing and isolating the variables as much as possible...it is clear that there is an issue of some sort.


Link building for the sake of developing ranks is the clear issue... the competitor isn't required in this... it's just a nice way to say "honest, I didn't do a thing".

edit: The site(s) mentioned in the Google thread(s) aren't mine, but as I've mentioned, I've been following this issue very closely the past year as I believe it is only getting worse out there, so it was interesting to finally see SOME type of public response from a real live Google employee


Did you review their backlinks? It would be worth the effort.

They still have paid links in their profile and they were not paid by a competitor... and the website owner clearly suggests an SEO did it without their permission (not a rogue SEO either). An SEO developing ranks the only way you can (at the low-end of no WOW content budget) isn't a competitor and as for permission... that is quite debatable.

Customers want results... not excuses.

Customers don't understand that most link development is manipulative... purpose-driven to artificially make their domain appear more important than it really is so to provide that which they desire... ranks, traffic, sales.

If you are the decision-maker of the domain and you outsource your responsibility to someone else... it is still your decision. Not reviewing the tasks you assigned in where you 'ere.

That said, before you can conclusive blame some unknown 3rd party you must refute the owners involvement... then you must identify the precise links causing the issues.

I cannot prove a third didn't do something anymore than your prove they did which is why I find it bizarre this is part of the discussion.

So instead let's deal with likelihood.

1. It is more likely you don't know what you did that would be considered as unnatural as oppose to knowing precisely what you did. (your exact actions here)

2. It is more likely you don't what is being classed as unnatural as oppose to knowing precisely what is unnatural. (the exact links here)

3. It is more likely between the unknowns of #1 & #2 you don't have enough evidence to support any conclusions as yet so adding in an addition unknown - a 3rd party does not improve any understanding it merely makes the waters murkier.

In the great scheme of all those websites being affected means "no one cares" what's the cause... the only thing that matters is "what's the fix".

jsherloc




msg:4439920
 8:35 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

@fathom, not quite sure where you are coming up with this "attitude" and ad hominem attacks towards me...I just mentioned what I have personally seen over the last year and what thousands of others are witnessing and reporting. Not sure why a handful of people in this industry literally become ANGRY when Google's practices are called into question on a large enough level. If there is no issue here, why doesn't Google just address it, instead of altering their webmaster guidelines recently and things of that nature? Hmmm

Just because we don't know exactly what goes on behind the scenes, doesn't mean we should just accept it as not potentially being a massive problem and move on considering recent reports IMO..obviously fathom you believe Google is capable of distinguishing things that most people in this industry find laughable considering their recent combo of manual/algo actions...we agree to disagree there OK.

Helping people get penalized? Really? Where in the world did you get that idea based on everything I have written. Yup, I just go around helping people get penalized and then make random posts on all the webmaster boards, I don't even develop websites or anything, great business model I am banking hard, are you for real here?

This type of "distraction nonsense" is exactly why these types of threads end up going nowhere on all the IM boards. I discussed specific examples of "unnatural" links answering you're "number 2" question above. We will never get the full backlink profile for ANY website we own, so everyone uses tools to the best of their abilities as I mentioned above. Certain types of links and a large enough percentage of certain types of links does damage to many URLs in my experiences and thousands of others experiences.

Now you state this is not so in your own experiences. "You guys are wrong because I've done my own test and Google is too powerful to let this happen" is essentially your position on this then?

"What Google can and can't do isn't something you can claim you know much about." Neither can you, but it seems that people's experiences throughout the industry align with the general sentiment that negative SEO is very possible for a large portion of websites on the Internet, increasingly more so as of late...does it not?

"Fact is... most people that buy links... are actually buying links." Yes, yes they are.

"Fact is... if you have proof that you paid for links that is proof that you did that not someone else. (I tested the competitor theory on my own website isn't a valid test)"

I am not following you here. You have no clue what types of tests are being conducted and have been conducted and reported on, and you do not know the ownership of the websites involved in these types of studies.

I never once suggested here that I have not personally seen this theory tested, and I have seen definitively "NEGATIVE" results when certain methods and processes were used on target URLs (notice I said URLs, not necessarily the whole site), some of which are completely layed out publicly now for all to digest and experiment with if they're so inclined to test the waters and come to their own conclusions.

So my own studies (the significant majority of them and NOT the client issues I was referring to above) seem to indicate negative SEO is very real for the majority of your "typical" websites. Your studies apparently do not.

I guess my question is where are all of the studies out there convincing all of us doomsdayers that we should just relax because Google clearly has it all handled A-OK? I do not come across many such pieces of info these days...but if its out there, by all means, let some of worriers know what is up!

[edited by: jsherloc at 8:50 am (utc) on Apr 12, 2012]

Shaddows




msg:4439921
 8:41 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Buckworks wrote:
Fathom, you seem bent on believing that malicious competitors creating malicious links would have zero power to hurt someone else's site, but you sure haven't convinced me

I agree. And I think I know why.

fathom wrote:
First things first...

1. demonstrate the website owner conclusively had absolutely nothing to do with what happened, then after that
2. demonstrate the links that conclusively caused this effect, and then
3. show the "competitor's" timeline of development that supports this occurred at the appropriate time.


Fathom wants empirical proof, of the most formal and rigorous kind- one in a vacuum, in a static universe, with no delay between cause and effect. But also will not accept any data posted, due to "In my experience, "upon investigating..." means... "the first thing I saw"...

Other such dismissive language abounds. In effect, anyone posting contradictory information are dismissed as non-rigorous, ill-informed, amateurish no-hopers at best, or fabricators at worst.

Funnily enough, I actually do NOT think that individual links can get you penalised, or even masses of links in most circumstances.

Some limited testing and a lot of research shows that a strong site with a good existing link profile cannot be taken down by a negative link campaign.

HOWEVER...
Quite a few sites have gotten good rankings by manipulative techniques, before switching to "sustainable" models. Those can be taken down by negative campaigns, until their legitimate link profiles match their rankings.

Info sites are much easier to get demoted than ecom- but that is almost certainly NOT a penalty. The mechanism there seems to be something like(kicking in at (3))
1) Assume links are trustworthy unless otherwise indicated
2) Dampen* overtly suspicious links adhoc
3) EVENT: Overall profile flags as suspicious
4) Re-evaluate ALL links and dampen* on perceived merit
(Possibly, site might return to a "trusted" state at some future date, but there is no consistency there)

Ecoms are somewhat expected to have a financial basis to their link acquisition; freely given links to ecom are relatively rare. I have NEVER seen an ecom taken down by link campaigns whether legitimate, negative or merely incompetant.

Trust me, thats what my investigations show.

I am fascinated by Fathom's suggestion that a poorly executed link campaign can damage your own site, but not a competitors. If all is the same except the target site (or, in a different formulation, the person paying the bills), I cannot see how you can categorically say one will be penalised but not the other.

*dampen means to reduce power by any amount, up to 100%

jsherloc




msg:4439931
 9:09 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Shaddows...thank you for your VERY useful contribution, I can finally get some sleep knowing I am not actually going insane these days lol...

For the record, my own experiences match up pretty much spot-on with what you've seen, ESPECIALLY regarding the info-site variety. However, after reading Mu's response in that Google thread, it does make you wonder...

Whether it is a penalty or not, it is clear that the affect is clearly negative for the website owner, and POTENTIALLY positive for their competitors. Just the fact that there would be a potential "expected value" in this equation and on this scale makes me uneasy, I dunno about others.

Most people have a handful of competitors they fight for organic traffic over, so they don't need to spend thousands tanking their whole industry...

fathom




msg:4439937
 9:28 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am fascinated by Fathom's suggestion that a poorly executed link campaign can damage your own site, but not a competitors. If all is the same except the target site (or, in a different formulation, the person paying the bills), I cannot see how you can categorically say one will be penalised but not the other.


Conjecture doesn't mean it happens. Conjecture doesn't even mean it was ever attempted.

What skill-level would you need to do this?

Where do you find these people... clearly those that got the messages from Google would also need to be in top ranked positions as I can't fathom why a competitor would hire anyone to harm a poorly ranked domain which bags the question how they got ranked in the first place? Surely not because of spammy links but high quality editorial ones? Or paid ones?

Law of averages

How many times have you attempted to harm any website?
How many times have you paid someone to harm any website?
How many people do you know that have a chronological timeline for their attempts to harm any website?

Now compare that to how many times have you attempted to gain ranks or increase PageRank through links (paid or otherwise) yourself?

Based on the law of averages... this is a no brainer.

I'll concede it could happen if someone actually attempted it... I just find that 10s of thousand of people not attempting it ... means it never happened... which comes back to "you did it yourself".

fathom




msg:4439952
 10:27 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

jsherloc wrote:
Most people have a handful of competitors they fight for organic traffic over, so they don't need to spend thousands tanking their whole industry...

So how much do you spend on this?

fathom




msg:4439953
 10:31 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

jsherloc wrote:
Most people have a handful of competitors they fight for organic traffic over, so they don't need to spend thousands tanking their whole industry...

So how much do you spend on this?

Clearly you are a competitor with only a handful of others you fight for organic traffic with and it is clear to you (at least) this happens all the time.

Can you demonstrate your prowess in this area?

fathom




msg:4439954
 10:32 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

jsherloc wrote:
Most people have a handful of competitors they fight for organic traffic over, so they don't need to spend thousands tanking their whole industry...

So how much do you spend on this?

Clearly you are a competitor with only a handful of others you fight for organic traffic with and it is clear to you (at least) this happens all the time.

Can you demonstrate your prowess in this area?

Or are you an exception to this rule?

Shaddows




msg:4439963
 11:27 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Conjecture doesn't mean it happens. Conjecture doesn't even mean it was ever attempted.

What skill-level would you need to do this?


In a low money, low competition area, you can still get a site on to page 1 in a short space of time, using techniques that mean it probably wouldn't stay there anyway.

You can also get it knocked off for a few hundred quid by hiring an incompetant SEO firm. Its not throw-away cheap to do, but it is easily demonstrable. And the person paying the bills could be anyone.

Of course, its only demonstrable on a weak site.

Whether it is a penalty or not, it is clear that the affect is clearly negative for the website owner, and POTENTIALLY positive for their competitors. Just the fact that there would be a potential "expected value" in this equation and on this scale makes me uneasy, I dunno about others


Yes, but all that happens is the links get evaluated more rigorously. If you start appearing in the top three postions on competitive SERPs, or get enough total SERP exposure, or otherwise come to Google's attention, your links get that level of rigour anyway.

I'm fairly sure the idea that the idea of a 2-tier algo is controversial, with some thinking its obvious, and others that its impossible nonsense. If you want to start another thread, feel free, but lets not add ANOTHER debate to this one

SnowMan68




msg:4439978
 12:05 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, but all that happens is the links get evaluated more rigorously. If you start appearing in the top three postions on competitive SERPs, or get enough total SERP exposure, or otherwise come to Google's attention, your links get that level of rigour anyway.


I want to believe this, but it seems crazy to me that so many sites in highly competitive niches are getting away with obvious link buying. Most of these sites are getting "text links" on the side bar from relevant sites, but it's obvious as hell its a Paid Link. We're talking phrases that bring in 100,000+ searches a month. Every single link is the same old thing. How do they pass the sniff test with a more rigorous Google?

fathom




msg:4439983
 12:23 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I want to believe this, but it seems crazy to me that so many sites in highly competitive niches are getting away with obvious link buying. Most of these sites are getting "text links" on the side bar from relevant sites, but it's obvious as hell its a Paid Link. We're talking phrases that bring in 100,000+ searches a month. Every single link is the same old thing. How do they pass the sniff test with a more rigorous Google?


Yes that is bizarre... could it be that competitors don't actually buy "paid links" for competitors.

If your "main website" is the one that has unnatural links maybe that's because competitors also don't normally own your satellite sites. (an example only).

If you deal with 3-way links maybe the unnatural links are these unnatural linking practices.

SnowMan68




msg:4439986
 12:34 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ fathom

We consider Guest Posting unnatural then too, right? So basically those people are in the same "unnatural" boat with the people buying links on #*$! sites, blog networks and text ads from ad sellers? Not sure who Google is going to have left to show in their results if they penalize everyone with "unnatural" links. Going to get real ugly in the serps.

Shaddows




msg:4439994
 12:48 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

@SnowMan68
Personally, I am of the opinion that paid links will NOT get you penalised, no matter who paid for them.

Others seem to think that they WILL get you penalised, no matter who pays.

Fathom is taking a different line- that who initiates the links influences the action taken against those links.

Once you are ranking well in competitive SERPs, link campaigns cannot harm you. You are already being fully evaluated, and any paid links are simply dampened (not necessarily ignored).

By the way, I saw a traffic figure from someone of <20K uniques/month. That is not indicitive of someone ranking well in competitive SERPs, but IS indicitive of the type of site "feeling" penalised for a more objective examination of their link profile.

fathom




msg:4439995
 12:54 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ fathom

We consider Guest Posting unnatural then too, right? So basically those people are in the same "unnatural" boat with the people buying links on #*$! sites, blog networks and text ads from ad sellers? Not sure who Google is going to have left to show in their results if they penalize everyone with "unnatural" links. Going to get real ugly in the serps.


Individual links are not detectable against the uproar of trillions of links... but the sniff test... was the posts' link for "advertising" or "editorializing"?

If the post is purely for advertising then the link should have rel="nofollow". Obviously, if you have a problem with rel="nofollow" in your post's link we know the reason for the link wasn't editorializing.

Do I believe that Google is that granular on individual links... no, not a chance... but if you have say 500 guest posts and all have the same link anchor pointing to the same page... that could be easily seen as "unnatural".

fathom




msg:4440003
 1:24 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Fathom is taking a different line- that who initiates the links influences the action taken against those links.


Actually you don't seem to understand my position at all.

When Google cannot tell who developed the link... they merely discount the links. This assumes if a competitor developed links to you, you would merely lose the value those links offered (since you didn't develop them, no harm, no foul).

When Google can tie the website owner to those links it also discounts your results... and most recently when it does that it notifies you.

I don't presume to know what Google has under the hood... but believing you have been sabotaged by a factious competitor is very unlikely (unless your competitor notifies you with hahaha! then I would say you are probably right)

[edited by: fathom at 1:59 pm (utc) on Apr 12, 2012]

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