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Last year I hired a web designer, who also advertises as SEO specialist, to get my site going on SE's. He discarded the site as "not user friendly", designed a new look for my small business, made it "good" for SE's and submitted it. He was paid in full ($1450 +++ - no programming involved).
After he was done I needed a programmer to make the shopping cart work. The programmer found at least 150 links to the designer's website in the code + hidden text to trick SE's. He removed all of the links but 3 and most (unfortunately not all) of the hidden text.
Seeing that the links to his site were removed the SEO specialist went berserk and started to post hundreds and hundreds of derogratory adult and pharma links to single pages of my site on blogs and guestbooks.
He posted ONLY those links - about 10 of them - over and over again that were hidden in the source. He did it in a way that made readers believe that I'd been the poster - and then he reported the posts and links as spam and as "not fitting into the Quality Guide Lines" to Google.
Result, my site was banned by Google. Not a trace of the real site is left - only those garbage links. Business went down to 0 - visitors use "Search" only to find the stuff which isn't there.
After corresponding with Google for more than two months I got email today, saying that the engineering team will review my site and if they reinstate it, it will be some time in the next few months.
I am a photographer (not adult material) and I know very little about web design and SEs. And to be honest, I do not know if my site is 100% up to Google's standards now.
My question is: Would it be better to just forget about the actual domain name and move it all over to a new domain? Or is it better to wait and see what Google comes up with?
[edited by: lawman at 4:14 pm (utc) on April 10, 2006]
All you have to do is clean up the spam and ask for re-inclusion. Google has always been pretty fair to me when they've caught me misbehaving. Just tell them your side of th e story, after you fix it.
[edited by: lawman at 4:15 pm (utc) on April 10, 2006]
I'm just not sure if it is better to move to a new domain or wait for Google to reinstate the now banned domain.
If you start over on a new domain you will be starting from scratch and keep in mind Google values older domains over young ones, plus the PR your site might have had and links. You will have to start all over and it can take years to recuperate.
You said you had adequate proof of what the "seo" did to your site so you may have better success reporting that site to Google's Spam Report or AdWords violation (if they use those ads) or any other ads they post on their site.
I have had pretty good sucess getting sites removed that post anything that harms another site by reporting them to google and also the host of the site. It may require a DMCA report but worth the effort. Perhaps this situtation will have the same result. If so, then your rank and PR, etc should return within a few months vs a few years if you start over.
It's a stock photo site, hutcheson. Customers can download pictures and order prints.
And that's the problem. The site is 95% pictures and 5% text. The images would stay the same if I would move to another domain. And the text doesn't leave much room for change. So G would probably ban the new or moved site right away because of identical content.
The site was easy to find as long as it wasn't banned.
It would be the same with the new domain since it is almost impossible to change the search phrases.
And a tiny spelling error somewhere "by accident hidden" in the text (I found one yesterday - agenices instead of agencies), code or db would expose the new domain to the SEO consultant in a minute because he knows what to search for.
It doesn't make sense to hide or "run".
Lorel said it very clear: with a new domain ...it can take years to recuperate.
I cleaned the site to the best of my knowledge and will stick with what I have.
G has a full report and all data they need, and I'll count on them being fair.
Thanks for your input. It helped me a lot to come to a decision.
This experience shows the potential danger of paying $1400+ to <shady> SEO specialists.
I disagree with this statement – it doesn’t matter what is nationality of programmer/SEO specialist/contractor, but it has to do with person’s ethics and quality of work. Clearly you got taken by this guy with shady and unprofessional practices, however I wouldn’t brand everyone in that country as such. It could of happened with contractor from anywhere - US, India, etc. It just shows you that you have to know with whom you’re dealing with (on a personal level). As for suing him, you can still do that – contact US embassy there and they should be able to help you obtain a lawyer (it’ll probably be cheaper then here).
Based on how the original poster described the situation, I would get a new domain name and start fresh, however it should be taken as a general statement because I don’t know the specifics, i.e. is the brand name already established, etc.
[edited by: lawman at 4:16 pm (utc) on April 10, 2006]
with a new domain ...it can take years to recuperate.
From the original post "to get my site going..." it sounds as if there isn't too much to recuperate from. It can certainly take years to recuperate from certain things that Google does when it finds something it doesn't like, no matter what the engineers might say. Some of it may be unintentional.
There's nothing like a clean start. And I presume the original site would be deleted altogether, so I can't see how the duplicate content issue arises, nor the problem with the original SEO person.
Of course I don't know the full circumstances.
What would be the benefit of suing him? He doesn't have a fat banking account to pay for the damage he's doing to my business.
It doesn't even make sense to me to get his sites banned from G. It would only draw me down to his low level but would have no benefit for my site or me other than getting revenge.
All I would want is that he stops the splogging and let me start over, but there's no end in sight.
In one of his hateful emails he wrote: I will not stop until I killed you twice. - what ever that means -, and he continues to push the button of his automated blogging program every day.
He's so sure that my changes to go after him are close to zero, that he doesn't even bother to hide his IP address.
I think there's not much more I can do but sit it out.
And yes: The brand name is established since 1997, and my site was indexed by G ever since, just not in a good position.
The methods the SEO consultant used to "get the site going" didn't bring it in a better position either. PR 3 was what it had before and after I hired the SEO consultant.
But funny enough the splogging brought it up to PR 5 before the site got banned.
[edited by: ChrisGraph at 7:30 pm (utc) on April 8, 2006]
I share your point of view, Tastatura, but I do agree with WebFusion: If something goes wrong, they are (for the most part) beyond the reach of the law...
All I would want is that he stops the splogging and let me start over, but there's no end in sight.
Chris, situation you are in is really unfortunate and I sympathize with you (if I was in your shoes I would probably be a bit more then ‘ticked-off’).
If you have a proof that you paid him, you might tell him that you will make sure that tax authorities over there know that he received payment for his ‘work’, i.e. that he made money. No matter what kind of a gov’t is over there, or any other place in the world, they are all very serious about collecting taxes, and issuing serious penalties if they get stiffed. From your description of the situation and his character there is a good chance that he did not pay taxes. This is just an avenue for you to remedy situation…
As for suing him, he might or might not have means to repay you for the damages (not sure if you know this for sure), but I would bet that he wouldn’t like to be dragged through the courts….
Interesting – this might or might NOT be a coincidence – but minutes after I posted the above, I got unsolicited PM from somebody offering SEO work; he claims to be from India though. Again, it just might be a coincidence :)
Use what you've learned to make it different enough from the original site to avoid the dup penalties.
Continue to try to get Google to deal with the situation but let the troll waste his time on the old site while you focus on the new one.
The tax issue is interesting. I'm sure the Serbian IRS loves to put tax cheats on the racks.
Good luck and keep us informed.
I'm also considering to send a warning to the customers he mentions in his portfolio to check their sites because they may not fit into the Google Quality Guide Lines either.
The suing-idea is still not my favorite. Suing would only add even more $$ to the damage without bringing a single penny in return.
Early February I informed the SEO consultant's ISP in Serbia about the blog-spam and provided proof. I have been told that hosting companies are required to shut down accounts like this, but they showed no reaction.
I bought a new domain and started to make a new site from scratch. It will take time to get it done.
Continue to try to get Google to deal with the situation ...
It seems they do not spend much time on reading emails, and to talk to someone who is competent by phone seems to be impossible. I'm almost proud that "The Google Team" replied to my emails at all. But I'll be hanging in there.
Thanks for showing so much interest in my problem.
I learn a lot from your replies.
As to informing his host. Realistically, what difference does that make; lots of hosts out there.
Tastatura's tax idea is nice tho :)
Forget about Google help; best to start from scratch with a new site unless the domain name is really, really good and you don't want to lose it.
The problem with this kind of thing is - whether it should be or not - its all civil law. Somebody burns down your photography studio, you got criminal and civil options. Somebody "burns" your website - regardless of their country of residence - good luck getting criminal action (less you're MSN or Amazon).
There was an interesting little article in one of the SEO email services I got last week called "Why I love Ugly sites" or something like that. Point was there are a lot of people making pretty nice money out of pretty bad looking sites. For a small site, sometimes you wonder if you're better off getting that friend who knows a little or an out-of-the-box site builder rather than paying a specialist.