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Overstock.com's Google Rankings - Too Good?

   
2:02 am on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)



Ladies & Gentlemen of WebmasterWorld,
I'd like to propose a review of Overstock's SEO success in the last 1 - 2 years. Whoever has participated in O's SEO, I have to commend you! Before 2010, you would almost never find Overstock in the top 10. Now they dominate in just about every vertical they compete in. What did they do?
8:51 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



If Overstock is reading this thread, I'd like to apologize on behalf of the readers here. I don't think most people here would've liked this to have gone down the way it did.

Sorry? Who gave you permission to apologise for "the readers" here? I would prefer to reserve my judgement if you don't mind.

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

Can anyone tell me why they removed the links before hearing from Google?
8:57 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Just a guess but perhaps they saw what happened to JC Penny and figured they were not immune to a penalty. Knowing full well they were using black hat techniques they figured they better clean up their act ASAP.

Also, I have no idea why they think University webmasters will do their bidding and drop what they have to do and remove links. Maybe they are offering them 10% as well ;-) .
8:58 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Sorry? Who gave you permission to apologise for "the readers" here? I would prefer to reserve my judgement if you don't mind.

Nobody gave me permission. I was just being polite. Take a picture, it doesn't happen often.
9:02 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator coopster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Can anyone tell me why they removed the links before hearing from Google?


The paychecks stopped arriving in the mail? :-)
9:04 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Can anyone tell me why they removed the links before hearing from Google?


They were alerted to this topic and the potential storm brewing?
9:07 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Thanks Ted. Yes gang, I haven't had much time for hanging out here, but I do try to drop in once in a while. The WSJ approached me for context, the ranking losses had already occurred before I was involved.

I can't disclose some elements because it was given to me 'off the record' and I respect that. My contacts (and my reputation) are certainly more important than some story that will be old news in a week or two. I simply wanted to help folks figure out what exactly happened, thus I chimed in on this thread. I was also somewhat concerned that there was no apparent smoking gun.

As for the conspiracy theory stuff, I am also aware of details in the JCP and the OS cases and can say with some certainty, these were seperate instances and not started by the same individuals. It is NOT some grand plan of some SEO firm.

What is more important I think, is that people are using the mainstream media to do their bidding for them. I wrote a piece on Search Engine Journal today looking at the whole issue of outing/reporting competitors, (Ted can add the link if he wants, or we can start a thread on that topic). This seems to be the conversation to be had at this point.

Furthermore, if we consider the preceding hot news prior to this (content farms/ thin content) we can start to consider the root of much of this is actual search quality. It's not bloody easy running the world's foremost search engine and if they manage to improve search quality, none of this would be an issue. I doubt we'll ever see a perfect world though. It is what it is.
9:16 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Can anyone tell me why they removed the links before hearing from Google?

Because it was a program designed for newly arrived students this semester? That's how I understood it, anyway. The new student program was over - and the actual infraction that caused Google's action is something that has not been reported, not by Google, WSJ or anyone.
9:29 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



They were alerted to this topic and the potential storm brewing?

Possibly but if they thought they were clean why take any action?

- and the actual infraction that caused Google's action is something that has not been reported, not by Google, WSJ or anyone.

So why are some of us defending them?

.
9:31 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Hmmm can you imagine the main stream media running site analysis on a new website every week with a panel of SEO experts just to see what might happen? Spam reports won't be going to Google anymore thats for sure. This might be the start of a new wave of Google bowling with a twist, what a circus.
9:47 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Apropos of the MSM discussion; last night's Law & Order: SVU had a side plot where the owner of an online handbag store deliberately harassed his customers in order to get better Google rankings. Sound familiar?

Ripped from the headlines... Law & Order: SEO.
9:52 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



I was just being polite. Take a picture, it doesn't happen often.


Too funny, wheel :)

Ripped from the headlines... Law & Order: SEO.


I like that!
9:57 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Overstock was penalized for having great rankings and a brillant marketing effort.

- Provided an affiliate program anyone could join.


I don't know if it is in the google TOS, but I am pretty sure there is a google webmastertools video out there that says if you have affiliate links pointint to your site, be sure to nofollow them.

I apologize if my memory is wrong. But I am PRETTY sure that is what he said.

So while it is a brilliant marketing effort, I can't help but imagine that many of the links were devalued because they were affiliate marketing links.
1:35 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)



Technically they did nothing wrong. Here are a few things we offer 10% off on. Bam! The sites linked and it got too popular so Google acted.
1:57 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Technically they did nothing wrong. Here are a few things we offer 10% off on. Bam! The sites linked and it got too popular so Google acted.


They basically bribed their customers in exchange for cheaper items. You even had to link to exact URLs. Bit dodgey?

I remember a few years ago Belkin were paying people to write 5 star reviews for them on Amazon. Is that OK with you? Reading product reviews that are all fake?

Why didn't Overstock pay people with blogspot or wordpress.com domains? Why only .edu domains? Their campaign was to artificially inflate their rankings and it worked. If nothing happened, the SEO firm who worked for these big guys would be applying their same strategy to all their other site portfolios. Sooner or later you have all these .edu sites filled with commercial crap. Google index becomes less relevant.

I have to say, these big shot SEO firms are really ahead of their game. Google should hire them to improve their spam algo.

Seems like Google is sending out a clear warning to all these fortune 5000 companies thinking they can play dirty tactics by hiding behind their huge brands and unlimited marketing budgets to outrank real relevant personal/mum and dad sites with virtually no marketing budgets except great content.

I wonder how many giant corporations are now scrambling to undo their blackhat SEO? People thought JC penny was a once off, this second one is hitting it home.

Google has delivered for the little guy!
5:32 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



The 'expert' opinions are funny to review now given that links were exactly why Overstock gained so rapidly in the search results.


Yup, said it all along.

Sometimes the good guys win.

Two thumbs up for those that move ethically in their circles.
5:37 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



I have to say, these big shot SEO firms are really ahead of their game. Google should hire them to improve their spam algo.


I second that. It is kind of like big corporations that hire hackers to try and find out where there networks are vulnerable.
6:43 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)



They basically bribed their customers in exchange for cheaper items. You even had to link to exact URLs. Bit dodgey?


They pushed their luck with several deep links, perfect keywords and all, but as an idea is brilliant. Or it was.
7:36 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



ratzker and all thanks for sharing the information.

I see nothing shady here.

It's sort of social networking. "Overstock.com is offering 10% off of selected <link>products</link> using the discount code xabcx -

which products? the ones they need links for.
7:42 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



>> Why didn't Overstock pay people with blogspot or wordpress.com domains? Why only .edu domains?

Oh, that's because their marketing advisers got some research that college (.edu) folks tend to buy online 24.456% more than blog readers...
7:51 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



So you mean it was brilliant marketing?
And doesn't it make sense to link those words to those pages for the people who want to visit them?

What words should they have told people to link to the pages if not those?

"Please link $@DVAFHAWG@%@%^YH to the jeans page, 76yrthw0q34t234k4ntg to the page with electronics..." - lol
9:03 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Don't get crazy - it should have been "click here". They do sell overstock castanets, right?
12:45 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



For me the takeaway from this (and the JCPenney case) is that the tactics used in each case worked UNTIL the site was outed and Google took action.

Now, these are both huge sites with significant brand presence, but these were also sizeable link campaigns with a huge acquisition of highly targeted links.

Did this raise a flag at Google? Was it 'clocked' and let go?

Or were they completely unaware?

No proof either way, but my own view is that they were ignorant they were being gamed. At least some of the keywords that were targeted in each case have to be ones that Google would play close attention to.
1:08 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



How does this situation differ from how non-profits all over the US include a link to the big A to raise money for their organizations?
6:54 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

redhat



Thread Continued here: google/4294611.htm [webmasterworld.com]
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