Black Hat Still Prevailing with Google's Algorithm Loopholes
It’s apparent Google plays by their own set of rules as they are frequently found to be violating their own requirements and failing to fill in loopholes. Google claims they’ve eliminated many loathsome SEO techniques, yet honest webmasters are still feeling the sting of each new update. Black hat tactics are still prevailing, despite Google’s “manual efforts” to clean up low quality websites.
In our case, we are still ranking significantly lower than our competitors. Weeks after Penguin 2.0, buybulkvisitor.com continues to rank above our site; although, their ranking has dropped slightly from our previous report. But, take a look at their link report. Still ranking with Sape links.
Our battle to rank above spammy sites doesn’t end there. With a diversity of keywords, we consistently rank below sites that should have been penalized and eliminated. Take “buy visitors” for example. Once again, we are beat by poor competition, including buybulkvisitor.com. With 419 links in their profile, the vast majority (at least 95%) are Sape links.
Another example of a low quality site continuing to win is Citadel-insurance.co.uk. In mid June, it was discovered the site held the first place ranking for “cheap car insurance” and “car insurance,” yet the one and only webpage has no content. What’s even more surprising, the page was registered only 3 days before, but in just 2 days held the 5th ranking. How it is a new site with no content beat long-established, quality sites with larger budgets?
It appears Citadel-Insurance beat their competition with an enormous link velocity and manipulation of anchor text. According to one report, there were 127,047 links generated on 2,923 hacked domains in just a one week time frame. With 7 undetected variations of the anchor text “car insurance” the site pulled ahead. The story is similar with Charming-ferret.co.uk, except 150,000 links were generated-- landing it in the 10th position.
Despite the “manual efforts” and algorithm updates, spam links are still pulling ahead-- Full Traffic ranking is proof of that. Sure, Google has gone after SAPE and similar networks to cut back on the web spam, but loopholes remain. Black hat forums are flooded with current success stories of the thriving SAPE and similar networks. Here’s just one for example, posted July 20, 2013.
Further along in the discussion you can see SAPE users aren’t even worried Google will go after them because they know there will always be a loophole they can use to their advantage.
And, what about the pay day loan fiscal Google was cracking down on? Google has reduced some of the “pay day loan” rankings, but they still have a lot of work to do. Sure, it may take some time to rid all of the spammy links, but is Google’s profit from the AdWords revenue for “pay day loans” slowing their attempts?
According to Fahrenheit Marketing, keywords associated to the loan industry, including “pay day loans,” are the second most expensive keywords. According to Google’s own Traffic Estimator, the pay day loan segment produces at least $60,000 in revenue every day. As Traffic Estimator isn’t 100 percent accurate, SEMRush shows the earnings may actually be far higher if you include other phases, such as “fast cash.” Maybe the dollar signs are blocking their view from their claimed goal. Yes, Google could certainly stay afloat with the loss of an estimated annual $34 million revenue from the pay day loans, but will they take such a massive pay cut willingly?
It’s clear Google and Matt Cutts like to benefit from breaking the own rules and their algorithm loopholes, causing us to lose. For example, Matt Cutts statement about press releases not “benefit your ranking.”
It’s interesting Matt Cutts would say press releases, their links and anchor texts won’t help your ranking when he benefited from a little experiment using just that.
As a test, SEO Consultant issued a press release on PR.com, which linked to Matt Cutt’s blog using the anchor test “sreppleasers.” Google then used the link to index Cutt’s blog, ranking it with the anchor text.
In just 3 days, Cutt’s blog held a number 2 ranking. Despite Cutt’s claim, press releases obviously have a direct SEO benefit, as well as the links and anchor texts. We know this first hand as our low quality press releases from the past continue to perform better than our press releases featuring newsy content. Our experience is just further proof quality content doesn’t always win.
With the algorithms riddled with loopholes many webmasters are using this to their advantage. To bend the rules, webmasters are keeping their low quality links but hiring authors to create well written content to hide the spam. As a result, Google often ranks the content higher because it’s well written, yet overlooks the spammy links.
But, on the other side, even well written content stands the chance of losing as spun content still has benefits. Yes, poorly spun content is detected by Google; however, if you once again find the loopholes, Google will look past your spun content. Using ENL Semantic Spinning Algorithm, rumor has it Google will overlook your spun content as it sounds native and natural. If there’s software that allows you to spin content with a push of a button and still rank, why waste your time and money hiring a writer?
Do we have to turn to the dark side to survive or will Google finally weed out the bad apples? Many aren’t waiting around for the kinks to be worked out of the algorithms, turning to Google Bombing to remain profitable.
Google Bombing first appeared in 2001 when a Google employ pranked his friend’s website, causing it to be the first result for “talentless hack.” However, Google Bombing was truly born in 2004 after the biography of President George W. Bush on whitehouse.org was listed in the first position when “miserable failure” was searched.
Basically, Google Bombing involves manipulating links and keywords for top results on a search engine. Although Google has tried to prevent Google Bombing over the past several years, many webmasters and hackers are turning back to the tactics to rank well.
Sure, website owners claim their sites have been hacked and they weren’t aware of the hidden code and manipulations, which may very well be true. But, many are getting desperate and turning to the despicable techniques.
Back in February, StepForth.com conducted an analysis on a few of the sites that have been Google Bombed. Although the identities are hidden, you’re able to see the code from a well functioning and ranking Google Bombed site, proving Google Bombing is still thriving.
There are even step-by-step instructions for those turning to this desperate measure, as well as Negative SEO.
So called “online reputation recovery” services are using the loopholes to use negative SEO, which includes direct attacks on competitors. Yes, there are reputable companies that actually do help rebuild your reputation honestly, but others are using the service to disguise their Negative SEO tactics. Many advertise their services openly, encouraging Google Bowling and site infections to rank above competitors, making our battle to rank on top even harder.
The most common Negative SEO techniques should have stopped under the Penguin algorithms as Mutt Cutts states, “Most negative SEO comes in the form of bad (spammy, irrelevant, paid do-follow) backlinks.”
If you can’t rank with white hat or are threatened by the unsavory black hat tactics, what are you left to do?
As Negativeseo.co puts it, “It’s not nice but do what you need to do.”
Google’s solution is the Disavow Links tool; however, in Google’s own words, “Simply disavowing them (links) isn’t enough.” We know personally that this essentially puts you back at square one, sometimes further back as results of the tool vary. Take our case for example. For 4 months, we’ve actively worked to clean our backlink profile by directly contacting the websites and adding the links to the disavow tool. After sending the disavow file, we still saw no difference, even 4 weeks later.
We knew our link profile needed some cleaning, so we took the initiative to resolve the issues without ever receiving a manual penalty. Now, we are developing excellent content and building our links according to the algorithms, yet we continue to rank 9th-10th with our main keywords-- continuously outranked by pure spammers and SAPE link buyers.
We’ve tried reporting these sites and contacting Google via reconsideration request as Matt Cutts suggests, yet our ranking is still dropping. A few of the sites have been taken down, but the sites are back up the very next day with a new site. You can tell the sites have the same owner as the text and language are the same. From what we can tell, their job is to spam a site, achieve top ranking, get taken down by Google…rinse and repeat!
For 8 long months, these black hat sites have continuously outranked us, which leaves us questioning if black hat tactics may be our only way to win? With the current state of the SEO industry, webmasters are seeing blurred lines when it comes to black hat and white hat, causing them to stray into gray hat territory. These methods are sometimes appropriate to use and you’ll avoid a Google penalty in the process.
Now, we aren’t encouraging anyone to change their white hat tactics, but instead raise the question-- how will we survive Google’s grand scheme to control the internet?