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Defensive Optimization Strategy


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17 replies to this topic

#1 Haystack

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 10:17 AM

It's a shame Google hasn't figured out how to shut down the guestbook optimization strategy yet (building link popularity by posting links to your site from dozens-hundreds of online guestbooks).

It's easy to find high ranking sites where basically no one has linked to the site other than through links set up by the webmaster posting links to his or her own site through guestbooks. Has anyone found a good way to address this issue? We try contacting the guestbook owners but in many cases the contact emails no longer work, yet their guestbooks continue to pile up with spammy links.

#2 Jill

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 10:34 AM

Yeah, it does seem that Google does consider guest book links to be legitimate links. Which of course means that SEOs will continue to use it as a strategy.

Ed, I'm not sure I understand what you contact the guestbook owner about. To delete links?

Jill

#3 Guest_Bub_*

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 10:41 AM

There are programs that will automatically submit to guestbooks now- that is really a bad practice, IMO. But I think if the site is related and you do visit the guestbook, there's nothing wrong with leaving a link...

#4 Haystack

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 10:47 AM

Ed, I'm not sure I understand what you contact the guestbook owner about. To delete links?

In cases where the guestbook has basically been abandoned by the website owner I ask them to review the recent posts to their guestbook and decide for themselves whether they want to be affiliated with the content being posted there.

Here's an example email I use for this purpose. Feel free to use put this to work (and I'm very open to suggestions on how this could be improved).

Hello,

While visiting your site today I noticed your site's Guest Book is loaded with spammy posts from sites you may not want to be affiliated with.

Unfortunately, many guestbook scripts are easily abused by spamming web marketers using automated tools to post messages for the sole purpose of increasing the number of links back to their web sites. Since search engines take the number of inbound links into consideration when determining how high to rank a site in search results this becomes a problem, causing less relevant sites to rank higher than they otherwise would.

After reviewing the current posts in your guestbook if you agree that your guestbook is no longer serving the purpose you originally set it up for, please consider shutting it down. That can be done by simply deleting the folder called guestbook from your server using an FTP program.

We appreciate your consideration.


Bub, I definitely agree that links from relevant sites are a different story. I'm referring specifically to guestbooks that have been abandoned.

#5 Jill

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 02:55 PM

I can see where that seems like a good idea, but I also can see why it probably doesn't get you anywhere!

Someone once submitted my site to some guest books (without my knowledge) and I had no luck getting them removed. But you know what? Those links do show up as backlinks, so I'm not gonna complain too hard!

Jill

#6 Haystack

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 03:39 PM

But you know what? Those links do show up as backlinks, so I'm not gonna complain too hard!

True, but given a choice I'd prefer leveling the playing field by closing this particular loophole. While it's a labor-intensive process it can really beat down some weak competition. For example, here's a search for:
inurl:guestbook casinos viagra search engine optimization

That's basically a list of 106 dead guestbooks being spammed on a regular basis. Maybe Google could give less weight to links from URLs including the word Guestbook?

#7 Jill

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 03:57 PM

Maybe Google could give less weight to links from URLs including the word Guestbook?


Do we know for sure that they don't?

Jill

#8 Haystack

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 04:10 PM

Anecdotally, I'd say they don't give less linking weight to guestbooks today.

#9 Scottie

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 07:16 PM

Some types of guestbooks are PR0'd- I can't remember the software but there is a really big freeware guestbook service that is PR0.

I would think the engines would have the same issues with guestbooks as they have with FFA pages- typically they are just random links and not really a valid "vote" for a site.

Since most guestbooks are software generated and usually leave a noticable "trail" of clues, I would thing if the SE's were worried about it, they could systematically apply filters to ignore pages generated by those programs.

Yes, new ones would pop up but that is the nature of the game- close one loophole, find another...

#10 dragonlady7

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 11:47 PM

Man, I remember when guestbooks were the coolest thing...
It took about a week for that to wear off.
I remember first "surfing" the "web"... I think i was a sophomore in high school... 1995? 1996? and all the cool kids had their own webpages with guestbooks and everyone signed everyone else's books...
On the one hand, darn those spammers for ruining things for the rest of us, but on the other hand, it is a gaping weakness in the algorithm. So...
I'm sure Google's aware of it, at least, and they're probably working on ways around it.

Oh crap, i meant to be in bed two hours ago. It's not friday today, it's friday tomorrow! :slap: Oh wait, it IS tomorrow. Darn it!!!

#11 Herb

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 07:44 PM

If I've got this right, the search engines may not be catching these gestbook links. Do you think there is a DANGER in using this technique? Any reason NOT to do this??? As Jill said, it does provide a backlink...

#12 markymark

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 08:06 PM

Well, I don't think guestbook links are likely to cause sites to be penalised. It's more that they will eventually be ignored when counting links. Actually, if memory serves, I am certain that Google did ignore guestbook links at one time.

Nevertheless, it's hardly a good tactic if you are looking to build a reputable, quality online presence. The perception of this technique is that it is both spammy and shoddy. So that's enough of a reason not to use it, for me at least.

#13 Jill

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 10:29 PM

Yep, what Mark said.

Some people actually submit their competitors to these guestbooks, trying to discredit them (someone submitted my site). So, for this reason, the search engines really can't penalize you for them. But they can ignore them if they really want to.

Jill

#14 CLBridges

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 07:00 AM

Maybe Google could give less weight to links from URLs including the word Guestbook?

Perhaps go a step further and apply x-amount of negative weight to ALL other pages under that domain diminishing their overall PageRank? I think that would bring about the END of the so-called guestbook! (insert maniacal laughter here!)

But (sigh) it could be easy even for a non-programmer to simply rename whatever "guestbook" (word or directory) references in the cgi-script, depending on the script of course.

Doesn't Google already have some sort of system for spotting Link Farm type sites/pages? Maybe it wouldn't be all that difficult to tweak for finding spammy guestbooks?

But I totally agree that it's something I'd rather not have to worry and/or wonder about. I've always considered Google to be the innovator of the stronger no-nonsense anti-spam approach giving devious webmasters less and less ways to actually "spam" their index. So it's gotta be on their list of "things to do" hehe

#15 Haystack

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 09:18 AM

Perhaps go a step further and apply x-amount of negative weight to ALL other pages under that domain diminishing their overall PageRank? I think that would bring about the END of the so-called guestbook! (insert maniacal laughter here!)

Ha ha. That would definitely put an end to it. As I see it, search engines are trying to find a way to automate relevancy based decisions made by humans - add links to other web sites. However, not all decisions are created equal. A guestbook entry is clearly near the bottom of the barrel since it has no editorial control. A link manually added to a 3rd party site theoretically should have a much higher value and should carry a higher weight as a vote for your site.

In fact, this is how PageRank works but this guestbook thing appears to be a yet-to-be-closed loophole.




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