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Rankings have been Stolen PLEASE HELP!

     
8:55 pm on Nov 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Hi everyone, I will try to make this short and as much to the point as possible.

A year ago we hired a company to do our SEO work and site redesign. To make a long story short we got into a dispute and ended our relationship. Our site has been up and running for over 13 years and has ranked on page 1 for numerous terms for a good amount of those 13 years. A few weeks after our dispute we noticed all of the sudden our business was DEAD. I decided to test our search results out of curiosity. What I found was all of our rankings were gone and we were replaced by the domain named that was being used as a test domain for the new site redesign which was bought and owned by the SEO company. We found they went into our Google Webmaster Tool Account and requested a change of address to their domain. This was done on July 19th and we found out about it around 2 months later so it took about 2 months to take effect. We withdrew the change of address request and our rankings came back about 6 weeks later. Now all of the sudden our business died again and sure enough I checked our rankings and they have all been replaced again by their domain. I'm not sure why or how this time as they did not do a change of address like last time because they no longer have access to our webmaster tools account.

We have been ranked on avg in position 1-4 on page 1 for all of the keywords we target. They are also trying to sell the domain most likely using the stolen rankings as proof of value.

If someone can please help this is our only source of income and it supports a family. I cannot have this happen much longer. What can I do?
9:07 pm on Nov 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Hello Discount80, and welcome to the forums. Sorry the circumstances that bring you here are so challenging.ight

I would not treat this kind of situation as a technical issue at all. Rather, it is copyright theft and that's the way I'd go at it.

Start here: Scraped or Stolen Content: What To Do First [webmasterworld.com] and get your actions moving, fast. Also, use your Webmaster Tools account to submit a Reconsideration Request to Google.

[edited by: tedster at 9:46 pm (utc) on Nov 21, 2010]

9:42 pm on Nov 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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hi Discount80 & welcome to webmasterworld,

sorry to hear about your troubles. have you changed all of your passwords since breaking the relationship with your vendor? make sure they do not have access to google webmaster central, your ftp, cms etc.

tedster makes a good point about going after it as copyright issue since there are many remedies available to deal with that. have you also checked to see if there are any 302 or 301 redirects going on?
9:51 pm on Nov 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Yes we have changed passwords to all accounts and also have checked to see if any redirects have been implemented and none have been found.
10:17 pm on Nov 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I think it's important to repeat my view here. This goes beyond a technical issue. Yes, pay attention to the technology but what you have is essentially content theft - and that's illegal. Go the route outlined in the link above, write the DMC notices, especially to the hosting service used by for currently stolen content.

Back this up with a Reconsideration Request - they do get read by Google employees and you do stand a chance of rapid action there, especially if some kind of technical trickery is in place.

And then go over your Webmaster Tools reports carefully, too, but only after you get the legal ball rolling.

And finally, you can post about the problem in Google's Webmaster Help forums - that's another way of potentially bringing the issue to the attention of Google employees and getting help.
3:48 am on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Is your domain redirecting to theirs, still? I mean, check whether the change of address is still effective? If yes, check GWT for ownership.It is possible that they too have ownership.
3:57 am on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Sorry about your situation OP.

In addition to Ted's suggestions, i'd also suggest that you raise this issue also in the official Google support forum for hacked sites with full details of your case.

You can quote that thread in your reconsideration request.
12:16 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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How about taking them to court as well? This seems to me like ordinary theft.
1:40 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Can I just ask, have they actually stolen any content? Or are they now just ranking above you for said phrases?

If content has been stolen, this can be addressed. However, if all they are doing is ranking for search terms, that might be a little more awkward to do anything about.
1:54 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Stole everything
1:54 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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sounds to me like they've done nothing wrong.

just to be sure... was all the SEO they did for you on this other domain? i presume they must have been doing a lot of link building and promotion on this other domain (which is want you wanted them to do). and switched it over in webmaster tools in preperation for moving it all over.

you then pulled the plug on your relationship, by which time the change over in webmaster tools had already been done, but not taken effect.

when your rankings tanked, you realised about what they did in webmaster tools and switched it back.

but now the new domain has overtaken you in the rankings again. well, that might just be because they did a lot of link building and promotion on it, and it's taken this long for it all to be reflected in the rankings. sounds to me like they put the work in, and now you are seeing the reward of what could have been.
if they want to sell the domain, and they own it, then that is their business. they were the ones that got it ranking well, and now they are making some money off it.

of course, if they are using YOUR content to do that, then that is a whole different ball game. and you should go after them for that. but if it's just the domain name and their own content, then i don't see how they have done anything wrong.
2:02 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Londrum I think u are misunderstanding what happen. They took all of my content and put it on a domain they bought.
2:03 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The domain they own even has our phone number on it. That's how blatant this is.
2:10 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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To make a long story short we got into a dispute and ended our relationship.


Did you owe them any monies for work performed at the time the relationship was ended?
2:22 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I have had a look at both sites and this SEO company have blatantly ripped everything off.
2:23 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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discount80

Is the content really yours? Did you write all your content - thus it is your intellectual property? Do you owe money to these folks?

If you wrote the content, this is a simple case of copyright infringement.

It is like every week we have to deal with this including stolen images and you need to stay on top of it before your content enters the public domain so to speak.
2:27 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The content has been on our site since 2003 and was written by us yes.
2:29 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Be sure and take screen shots of everything now..As suggested this is a legal and needs to started, but before they can change anything get the screen shots now.

Print them off make sure the shots are dated send this company a copy of them and that all this is being turned over to a legal team. Demand the site be removed and expect futher communications with your legal team.

Be sure and take screen shots of serp positions so you can show how this has harmed your company. Get it all documated now.
2:46 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Bith all due respect, hire a lawyer and stop posting on boards.

With the best will in the world, none of us are qualified to comment. Worse, you may compromise yourself legally if you mispeak pubilicly about this issue.

I would file a DMCA and reinclusion request, but think very carefully about posting site specifics over on Google's forums- for the same reason of creating unforseen legal implications.
3:00 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Is it possible that they might have added your domain in their own webmastertools account and verified it while they had access to the files?
4:01 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Is it possible that they might have added your domain in their own webmastertools account and verified it while they had access to the files?


exactly...this is what i meant in my previous post.. double check whether they are still having ownership to your domain.

The other thing hat they could have done is simply point all the links to their copied site.You thus lost all the links that they built.You could then take them to court on copied content as well as failing your seo contract, if any.
4:26 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What would be the best way to check if they have ownership in thier google web masters account? So does this mean one domain can be verified in two sepearte google webmaster tool accounts?
4:27 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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By the sounds of things, there was a dispute in which the SEO company have not been happy with the outcome (hence their actions) - without knowing more about that dispute, it would be hard to comment on any contract that might have been in place.
4:28 pm on Nov 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I agree with Shaddows. Hire a lawyer and plan your actions. Many people found that the other party immediately took down the offending site when they got a letter from a lawyer about it.

Also, go to archive.org and grab screenshots of the oldest version of your site that they have indexed.
5:08 am on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

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You should be able to sue them for a lot of money. Take all the evidence now. If only WebmasterWorld would allow domains to be posted so we can see who this scam seo company is..
8:42 am on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Get some *proper* legal advice, preferably a firm that knows #*$! you are talking about.
8:52 am on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

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@np2300...

You will not be able to sue them for a lot of money unless you can prove loss of earnings. We have been through this with one of our companies and the best you can hope for is getting them to remove their site, unless you have very deep pockets and want to take them through the entire legal process - and that will cost you then! If they are only a small company, you might not get anything back!
1:49 pm on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What you want to also do is tell your story on ripoffreports and complaintsboard. Make sure you mention the seo company by name, be 100% accurate ame cover your bases. Then maybe think about letting them know about what you wrote.

No business owner or webmaster would deal with them if they knew.
3:08 pm on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I don't think this is an issue that can be resolved here. Without looking at the website, the domain and the SERPS it is not possible to tell wether the problems you encounter are a result of malicious intent or the result of pulling the plug on SEO work at the wrong time. Maybe changes had already been made for better ranking which now take effect but do not benefit your website since the contract has been canceled. However it looks to me like the SEO companies intention was to make the SEO work in a way which would have made you dependend on them forever - which may not be illegal but is pretty unprofessional.

So pay another SEO expert to have a look and then decide what steps you should take with Google and if legal actions should be taken as well. If they changed the information in your Google Webmaster Tools account after the contract had been canceled this might even be a case for the police.
3:03 am on Nov 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

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have you checked your website files to make sure that they have not done something like place a google specific 301 in your code?

Your website would in all respects, appear fine, but it would be telling google to go away and check the other site.

And yes, i'd expect the seo company has pointed links to their new site.
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