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Currently competitors can damage you in a variety of ways (probably best not to get too specific as you'll give some people ideas) but general things that Google lets your competitors affect your rankings with are:
1. Inbound links from "bad" places.
2. Hundreds of links from one IP address.
3. Duplicate content:
3a) from competitors scraping your entire site and creating their own from it
3b) from competitors stealing your articles and submitting them to article submission services
4. 301/302 redirect hijacking (after all this time it STILL happens!)
and more. There is a new one that is very quick to work using 301's that I daren't put in here but a black hat "associate" of mine said she's dropped quite a few of her client's competitors within days!
Why do you think that Google has this mentality of allowing this war between webmasters? They could simply ignore bad stuff rather than filter sites, such would not create less relevant results.
My peers are having the same thing happen to them, we actually have started talking to each other to try to address it.
There is only one way - take the fight offline. If there were doing this to my store front I'd be round their house with a baseball bat. No rules saying that you have to keep the war they are raging online, online. Right now I'm finding out the home addresses of all the directors of big company name 1, big company name 2 and big company name 3 and sorting out some alibis for myself ... ;)
The anonimity of the web has given cowards a way to seem brave. I'm sure 5ubliminal wouldn't be spouting "I'm a blackhat and I see this totally different. Sorry:)" so cheerfully if we were having this discussion in one big room ...
It is obviously a exploit and it is being used by some of the biggest companies on the web, they go out there and buy a trusted property and then engage in this new tactic to take out competitors using that property, im not talking a few pages here, im talking millions of pages.
All I have to say is hope or even pray they dont target you because you will have to watch your 4,5,6 or 8 year old matured well ranked pages get destroyed over night one by one for weeks on end.
Between this and some other stuff Im about to throw in the towel after 10 years.
Build great content - 40,000 hours
Get respect via gazillions of natural links - 5000 hours
Update frequently - 10,000 hours
Make sites for users - 20,000 hours
Dont bend the rules - 30,000 hours
Your pages being targeted getting destroyed overnight - PRICELESS
I do site: searches for websites that appear to have indexing challenges. There is one thing in common amongst all of them, they have a high number of scraped entries being indexed. Its almost as if someone purposely made sure that this particular site appeared in every "bad neighborhood" they could find. From MFA's to Arbitrage sites, they were everywhere. They were also included in hundreds of directories, blogs, social media sites. I'm tellin' ya, that whole network of scraper sites is damaging to one's Internet presence. I don't care what the search engines say, there is cause and effect taking place.
It was bad enough to begin with but in the past 48 hours I've been hit with a business running 500 scrapers to my site with cloaks, redirects, everything. Their pages are being added hourly as I watch posted 1 hour ago, posted 2 hours ago etc. etc. I'm proactive but you can't keep up with all the garbage Google is dredging up now. You're a hop, skip, and a jump from vanishing completely in Google without a response from them. Meanwhile Google is thinking up every filter, penalty, and reason to toss you in the supplemental results.
Meanwhile year after year I sit untouched in Yahoo and MSN plus dozens of other engines. Google didn't run a very good search engine to begin with and Universal search pretty well ended any future hopes of it. Google has just become one incredible pain and workload to everybody except for the ordained it doesn't touch.
Your sites are obviously not targets yet. Anyone with a high ranking site in a competitive industry will have been the victim of SEO Vandalism. (Let's stop calling it black-hat as it does not fit into that camp, it is criminal acts, not keyword stuffing alt tags ...)
I wish someone had shown me this stuff as I was building my rankings, so if you would like to send me your website addresses that are ranking the best I can destroy those rankings for you. Better to learn now rather than later. Feel free to sticky me with the details, I can destroy them for as little as $100 - a cheap lesson now or an expensive one later.
In the UK, in certain regulated industries, there is an independent complaints service called an ombudsman service. If a member of the public has a complaint which cannot be resolved through a normal complaints procedure then they can take their complaint to the independent ombudsman. If their complaint is one for which the ombudsman service thinks it has juristiction the company being complained about has to pay a fee, around $1,000 and has to accept the findings of the ombudsman.
This whole process is designed to stop frivolous complaints being escalated and it seems to me that Google could implement a similar system to help it identify the really serious issues.
If they had a team of engineers that you could refer an attack to along with a significant fee (this could be a deposit which would be returned if it turned out that you were correct) then Google could deal with individual problems and use what it learns from them to improve the overall situation.
If they don't do something to provide a method of resolution I think that eventually they will either be forced to do so by regulation or they will fail under a storm of spam, like Altavista.
If only each of these posts were prefaced by each owners website stats (age of site, hosting, PR#, type of site, etc) I believe we would see different trends amongst different groups of people.
At some point all of our generalization and speculation is a waste of life without further data to compare. It's not a 1 suit fits all algo, geez even the og alta vista was more sophisticated than that. Some of you need to remove the tinfoil, go outside, and ride a bike or something.
I started a thread here [webmasterworld.com...] and then found your thread.
Take a look, I and probably many others could do with some quality advice.
I think Google is smart enough to identify links from a forum/blogs and links bought from a link farm.
Ummm .... of course they are. What was your point? Our problem is that they are penalising things instead of just igoring them which gives dodgy competitors a way to vandalise our sites.
Let's assume that the traffic drop is not harmful activity by other webmasters, but rather a result of Google Update.
We're not talking about traffic drops that we can't explain. We're talking about our competitors that have used tactics to have us either dropped in ranking or completely removed from the index. This a very specific thread about very specific activities that are going on. You're looking for the threads that say "I have a 1 million page review site that I bought for $49 and 95% of my traffic has suddenly disappeared overnight"
Please read through the thread, we are talking about competitors hijacking, buying bad links, duplicating content, installing malware etc. etc. deliberately to attack our rankings. Not unexplained traffic losses.
Please note: I'm sure I'm not the only one being stickied alot over this thread. Please stop asking for details on the exact tactics used because I don't know you or your ethics. There is a reason people are being vague in this thread on exactly what to watch out for.
We're talking about our competitors that have used tactics to have us either dropped in ranking or completely removed from the index.
That tells me that Google engineers could get to the heart of the problem very quickly if a G rep were to step into this discussion and contact someone like drall directly for the details. They need to do that now before this sort of thing gets too big to handle, or, can only be managed with draconian measures.
[edited by: jatar_k at 7:17 pm (utc) on April 11, 2008]
As far as Pagerank is concerned it makes no difference what the pagerank of the page they target is nor does it make any difference on how popular the page is. The exploit they are performing bypasses everything that is fundamental, similar to the proxy hijack issue but substantially more powerful.
The first and last thing you will ever see if you are the target of this is when you view a cached page of your page and it will show another website, yes you heard me right, another website has replaced your cache because Googlebot is being tricked in an entirely new way, not the old proxy hijack way which is trivial compared to this.
After spending hundreds of hours backtracking we found the culprit and we figured out how they were doing it.
The inhouse teams of the large corporate publicly traded company that is doing this has done the research. They know exactly what to target on our site and others and once they do, well bahbye Google traffic.
There is no defense to this, it is purely a Google problem as our top security and technical guys have stated and the very exclusive club that knows about it is using it with great effect cutting wide swaths of quality content out of the competition.
So spending 1-2million to wipe out millions of your competitors pages was worth it to them. Im am also quite sure upper management is keenly aware of this within the company thats doing it, this was a well planned and well funded project.
As far as other areas I do not know what the penetration is but in our area of the web which is technical in nature my last count was 28 of our competitors have been effected by this.
Sadly all of our tests have failed to bring back the effected pages, googlebot is being tricked via the redirect chains and your page is gone forever it seems once this happens.
Im quite sure Google is aware of it, perhaps someday they will workout a solution since they usually do things on scale but this may take some time. I honestly do not blame Google for this, it is not Googles fault that someone has figured out a hole, I just hope they plug it soon.
I will say this, I havent seen it used outside of my industry segment yet....
It's like have a bomb loose in the community -- it's not law enforcement's fault that it's there, but now that they know about it, every officer should be out looking.
If this thing is as bad as you say, then the lights at the Plex should be burning 24/7.
Hundreds of links from one IP address.
Again, is there a penalty here?
I have been so naive until recently about how widespread link buying has become. I am beginning to see the light now. It appears to me that any new business (and probably old ones as well) assume that buying links is a necessity just as back in the old days we knew that we needed to get links based on the content on our site .
If Google is trying to fight link buying they will look at patterns that might indicate a site is buying links. Google can't look at every site on the net so they have to find trends or patterns. Thus they no longer ignore inbound links.
I think that this thread is in fact several threads that have become intertwined.
The thread didn't start as a discussion of the exact tactics and how to identify them. It was supposed to be a discussion on why Google chooses to allow webmasters to vandalise each other's rankings whilst other search engines do not.
Google can't be that daft, which leads me to believe that as they are aware of blackhat SEO and are aware that they are allowing webmasters to wage war on each other that they are actively encouraging this war?
Analagy Attempt: if a government were to leave a stockpile of guns and bombs in the middle of an ongoing warzone between two sides knowing that only one side would happily pick up those guns and kill the other side.
With regard to links from bad sites.
FWIW I think that Google has simply made a huge mistake allowing an algorithm to apply penalties. Once it has been spotted what causes a particular penalty to be applied it is easily reproduced. Now if you get a dodgy third party in a remote and scary part of the World to do the dirty deed on your behalf then it is virtually impossible to trace it back to the perpetrator and what is worse it is virtually impossible for the victim to escape from being continually shafted, even if they know it is happening.
Does Google penalizes websites because of external links pointing to adult content or what?
p.s. The links are not marked as "nofollow".
[edited by: tedster at 3:19 pm (utc) on April 18, 2008]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]
Does Google penalizes websites because of external links pointing to adult content or what?
Yes they do, webmaster guidelines for Google state who you link to is noted. And many are moving toward the feeling that Google have not been 100% upfront about the nofollow tag anyway so I doubt it would make any difference.
We had this on one of our review sites. Just add some coding that disallows the submission of HTML tags or that brings up an error if regular "adult" terms are used. Most of these submissions are automated so returning an error when HTML tags or adult terms are used rather than just stripping them out is the best way.
There is NO chance that such a trivial attack as placing a link from a bad neighborhood can do any damage. If it worked, everyone would be doing this, and SERPS would be a total mess. The real situation, however, is that I see that many blackhats are doing that indeed, but to no avail. My site, and any other site holding 1st position in Google for moderately competitive niche, has a considerable amount of links from adult, gambling and other junk sites, and my content is being scraped every day even before it is indexed by Google. It doesn't change much really.
I feel like this thread is a little bit paranoid. I must admit though that drall's posts made me nervous too. There is one thing we still can do - diversify. You can not be hit in all markets at the same time ...
And many are moving toward the feeling that Google have not been 100% upfront about the nofollow tag anyway so I doubt it would make any difference.
If there were evidence of anything Google did in regards to ranking I'd be surprised! This "concept" comes from the "fact" that links with nofollow are showing up in backlink reports, links pages with nofollow attributes are being dropped from the index, pages using nofollow for internal linking to stop link juice loss seem to be losing ranking and such like.
must be limited to complex cases and exclusive ($$$) attackers.
Not really. It doesn't cost much to do in most instances, I think I already quoted in this thread that I could knock out a large majority of sites for just $100. To hang on to my ethics I'm willing to spend $1000 on better links and some new content than $100 to attack my competitors ...
If it worked, everyone would be doing this
There is only one person in this whole thread that has stated they do this sort of thing. The rest of us know about it and are disgusted. I know a huge amount of black hat tactics as do most of the webmasters on these boards and we refuse to employ those tactics whether they work or not. Are you saying that if you knew how to vandalise someone else's hard ranking work and quality website you would do so?
Are you saying that if you knew how to vandalise someone else's hard ranking work and quality website you would do so?
No. But the number of people doing that would be large enough to turn Google SERPS into the total crap, and leave Google no other choice but to fix it.
This "concept" comes from the "fact" that links with nofollow are showing up in backlink reports, links pages with nofollow attributes are being dropped from the index, pages using nofollow for internal linking to stop link juice loss seem to be losing ranking and such like.
Ok, interesting. I was not aware of that. But I am still saying no evidence. Just a speculation. We all know huge forums that have tons of nofollow links, and they are far from being dropped from the index. On the contrary, they have hundreds of thousands pages listed and growing.
I think I already quoted in this thread that I could knock out a large majority of sites for just $100.
Guys, this thread makes me feel incompetent :-) It looks like knocking out a competitor is a common knowledge here. Is it only me who has no f#$%$ing idea how to do that? (no pm offers, please. I am ok with my ignorance)
But you know what? If you guys know how to do that, please do a favor to the web community. Knock out techcrunches, expedias, wikipedias, facebooks, apples, etc. My guess is that after you do that, it won't take long before Google takes action to eliminate the loopholes. Everyone will be back to his natural rankings and happy :-)