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Bogus Seo Google Needs To Get On Top Of!


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#1 ChrisReese

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 11:56 AM

I want to know if anybody else  here has seen this happening across the internet. It's pretty disgusting. I can't believe Google doesn't have a way to filter it out already:
 
 
Unethical Brand New Black Hat Trick (Rank With Press Releases – Pump and Dump)
 
It’s pretty simple, really: a company buys a PRWeb package (they can publish as much as every day if they want to), and the stories are syndicated to trusted, authoritative news sites. They point the links within the press releases to an “independent review” site (that dupes the consumer by reviewing their own sales site as having the best whatever product), and then they pump a few high Pagerank, spam comment exact match anchor text links to the news organization’s page where their story shows up (shotgun approach - they pick the outlet that shows up highest in rankings for the keyword they’re targeting), and within days, voila they get exposure on page one without having to do any real SEO to their website (their actual sales page)!
 
PRWeb Allows This? (And the News Website is Unsuspecting!)
 
It attracts consumers who trust first page results (and fall prey to the lie that the “review sites” mentioned in the press releases are credible) , the story is run on a major news outlet by default through PRWeb press release distribution, and spam links won’t affect the authority of the domain of the news organization. They can rinse and repeat as much as they want (pump and dump if for whatever reason the press release doesn’t stick on page one); and does PRWeb care, or does the news organization even realize that they’ve been used like a parasite? PRWeb is extremely “lenient”!
 
The Downside (Consumer Gets Screwed) – an Example
 
My wife’s girlfriend’s experience goes like this: She was searching for a consumer product, it happened to be a latex mattress, and she sees a couple of news organizations that each have put out a piece about the best latex mattress on the first page of Google’s results for the keyword phrase latex mattress. One was out of the Seattle Post Intelligencer and the other was out of the San Francisco Chronicle. So she’s thinking that’s great because she’s not getting a direct sales page, and the articles say at the end about visiting the websites because they have “consumer reviews” and “independent analysis”, “industry professionals”, “expert opinions” and the like.
 
She goes to those blogs that the news companies syndicated stories from via PRWeb, and they both recommend a particular company. I don’t know if it’s all that appropriate to name them here, but I’m sure people here are sharp enough to figure it out if they wanted to with the information I’ve provided (it's ongoing, by the way - "crime in progress").
 
So she goes to buy a mattress from the particular “highly-rated” mattress merchant that is like around $2,500 from the main website that those blogs and the news agencies are steering her towards as being the best from “consumer reviews” and “independent analysis”, “unbiased” (insert expletive here).
 
She’s ready to buy when it hits her she should just check out their BBB rating because it’s a lot of money to spend over the internet. Well, she finds out that it has a B rating (which is just okay), but then she sees at the bottom of their BBB profile they did/do business as another company name too, which she finds out has an F rating with 30 consumer complaints.
 
Then because she smells something at that point, she says she remembers that the two recommended blogs from the news companies look so similar and she finds that neither provides any contact information. Upon researching them, I found out they are owned by the company that they recommend for the best latex mattress, and nothing is independent, and they are probably breaking FCC rules by not providing full disclosure on their blogs who they are.
 
I was happy to hear my wife’s friend overcame her naiveté before she wasted $2,500 on the company’s mattress. She was enlightened too by what I told her I had uncovered that was helping the Seattle Post Intelligencer and San Francisco Chronicle to rank first page for latex mattress. Clarifying pump and dump – even if the particular 2 results that are on the first page for latex mattress get removed from the first page, they can do the same thing all over again with their PRWeb membership and their black hat link spam techniques, and it only takes a very short time to rank first page! Rinse, repeat!
 
How is Google still allowing a parasite trick like this to continue with a no-risk proposition to the abuser (it's not their own website!)? Will their upcoming update take care of harmful stuff like this?


#2 chrishirst

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 10:13 AM

Google are not the "Internet police" and "shills" have been around since the dawn of selling products.

 

 

"Caveat emptor" is the watch-word no matter what you are buying or where you buy it from, and if people are dumb enough to think that being 'ranked' in a Google search means that page is 100% trustworthy and it is safe to part with money, it is THEIR OWN STUPID FAULT.



#3 ChrisReese

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 02:16 PM

Okay, Chris - let's keep the discussion on the SEO part of the equation then. Basically, the discussion revolves around Google filtering out press releases that get syndicated to authoritative news organizations' websites that are then spammed with high pagerank links to rank on the first page of SERPs for a given keyword. That's the gist of it. Google is the internet police in the sense of spamming their search results.



#4 chrishirst

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 04:41 PM

Google can display or not whatever links their algorithm determines are the best fit for the users query. They have NOT and neither should they have any measure of censorship over what documents are "allowed"   on the Internet.

 

Your entire rant is just another example of how NOBODY is prepared to take responsibility for THEIR OWN ACTIONS, . it is NOT the responsibility of Google to allow for the stupid people of this world and protect them from all harm.



#5 ChrisReese

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 09:11 AM

Chris,

 

Calm down, my moderator brother. I'm not sure your getting the point here at all. Let me try one more time to clarify this, put behind you the ranting part about responsibility - I get that, I do!

 

Go back and re-read (at least the first paragraph!). The first paragraph says it all, my friend - it's about SEO, forget about the rest. This is primarily an SEO and rankings forum, and that is what I'm here to discuss and get other's input on. The rest of my post, my rant, is just the fallout that can happen from spam. But first and foremost, focus on the SEO portion of the discussion.

 

The results I'm speaking of are not the best fit for the users query in this case. Maybe you haven't seen what I'm describing. Let me get really basic - an unscrupulous individual gets their content posted onto an authoritative website, by whatever means (in this case it's simply a syndicated press release). Then they point spam links at those press releases (all of the links that they build are aimed at gaming the algorithm - they are built as keyword-rich anchor text hyperlinks in blog comments on pages that have high pagerank), which helps them to rank that syndicated content on the first page of Google results for a highly competitive term in days (not weeks, not months, not years).

 

Just reminding you, this is an SEO discussion, no more, no less. This isn't about "censorship", it's about the ordering of their search results. If you have a comment about what I have now clarified that would be most welcome. The gaming of the search results does not "result in the best fit for the users query". But I think you just misunderstood, so kindly please review with the given information.

 

Google has got to somehow find a way to stop the parasitism as far as rankings are concerned - allowing a webpage to be ranked like the example given just because it's on a news site and it's got a several spammed links going to it. It's a weakness in the algo. Google is getting better at filtering out smaller websites that spam links to their own sites, but not yet equipped to stop the hijacking/parasitism of more authoritative websites from showing up in their results via black hat SEO techniques.



#6 Jill

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 09:14 AM

@ChrisReese are you seeing that still happen post Panda/Penguin? And if so, I can't imagine that the page lasts very long at the top. 

 

If you have some real life examples, I'd love to see them (via PM).



#7 torka

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 10:02 AM

I understand your concern, but -- without becoming the "internet police" and reviewing every press release for "legitimacy" -- how is Google to tell the difference between a scammer's press release that has garnered a bunch of inbound links and a legitimate business's press release that has garnered a bunch of inbound links?

 

I understand this is an important issue to you, because you've experienced it personally, through your wife's friend. So you're sensitized to it -- just as when you're considering purchasing a red convertible, all of a sudden it seems you're seeing red cars and convertibles everywhere. That doesn't necessarily mean the problem really is all that widespread -- especially considering the hundreds of thousands of press releases that are issued worldwide every single day. In my experience, the vast majority of press releases may be vapid, self-congratulatory crap, but they're not scams.

 

Google may be rolling in cash, but their resources are not infinite. Every dollar they spend, every minute they devote to solving a problem like this, is time and money they can't spend on solving larger problems. I'm sure they consider the opportunity cost of these types of decisions, and in this case I suspect it simply isn't enough of a general problem to make it cost-effective for them to pursue.

 

Would this not be a situation better addressed to PRWeb et.al.? Rather than asking Google to catch the spammers after the fact, why not hold the press release distribution agencies responsible for preventing them from publicizing the scam in the first place? All the legitimate ones already claim they perform "editorial reviews" of all the content published through them. Seems to me the failure is not with Google's algorithm, but with the distribution agencies' cursory "editorial review" process.

 

Scammers are always going to be with us. They may change the specific tactics and tools they use, but their overall strategy is the same: sound authoritative, offer phony "social proof" and hope nobody checks into their claims too closely. Now they're using online press releases and bogus "review" sites, but the overall scam is nothing new. These folks are just the natural descendents of the door-to-door vacuum salesmen who con the gullible into spending thousands of dollars for a vacuum cleaner that doesn't work any better than the $200 model they already had in the house.

 

May I assume y'all reported these apparent violations of federal law to PRWeb and to the FTC?

 

My :02:

 

--Torka :propeller:



#8 ChrisReese

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 10:05 AM

Top of the morning to you, Jill. Thanks for being a meadowlark on a beautiful spring day - it was starting to feel like the dungenous Google Product Forums here for a bit ;).

 

In answer to your question, Jill, this blackhat press release pump and dump technique is alive and well to this day. And the examples I'll provide herein have been on page one for a month or longer.

 

Just check these keywords: latex mattresses, latex mattress reviews, latex bed, latex mattress. Each of these is pretty competitive in the retail space from what I gather based on the other competing results on the first page.

 

The example press release that is ranking for those keywords is a page on sfgate. Go check the backlink profile for that particular page. Pure spam.

 

The danger in Google's algorithm allowing this to continue is that the particular offender can do it over and over again (pump and dump) by hijacking/parasitising other news sites with their black hat SEO. If this result gets dumped, they start over again. That is what is happening. It's definitely a leak in the algo that might be difficult to plug.

 

The offender enjoys the exposure without having to put their own website at risk whatsoever.

 

I know Barry Schwartz over at SERountable was reporting on a similar subject about whether or not press release links help with SEO, but this technique is a whole different ball game, very twisted, and it needs to be fixed.

 

Thanks, Jill



#9 ChrisReese

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 10:26 AM

Hello and Welcome, Vintage Babe,

 

I appreciate very much your well-thought-out response to my post. I can tell you read through it thoughtfully and carefully, and this is starting to feel more and more like a meaningful forum to be a part of.

 

I definitely get your point about PRWeb, they let a lot of things pass through, apparently. Stuff that's not really news, and stuff that isn't ethical/honest. They should be held accountable.

 

But, that doesn't take away Google's responsibility to manage their results to make it the best experience for the user. They may in time figure out how to work it into the algorithm to be more fair-handed on what ranks and not give a pass to websites that are assumedly more "authoritative", and that have spam going to them as well. We'll have to see what the next Penguin update brings.

 

Thanks for your valuable contribution to the discussion.



#10 qwerty

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 11:39 AM

This also raises the question of whether the sites publishing the press releases have any responsibility. If I were running the site of an authoritative, trusted newspaper, would I want to publish some trashy press release that has no basis in fact? Shouldn't I at least stick a disclaimer on the page indicating that I'm not responsible for the content?

 

My guess would be that this is all generated automatically, via some feed (and the newspaper probably gets a fee for subscribing to and republishing the feed), and no editor ever looks at the releases.



#11 Jill

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 02:15 PM

Wow that press release is for to announce a blog post! That is bad for sure.

 

I can see how the algo was tricked however. The release is well written and if you're not really thinking much, it even sounds like it's a useful release. Couple that with being on a major news site and you've got a new way to trick Google. Very interesting.

 

Go for it spammers! Perhaps if enough others use the technique Google would wake up.

 

Do you know if Matt Cutts has been made aware?



#12 ChrisReese

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 03:36 PM

Hi Jill,

 

Yes, PRWeb seemingly doesn't follow their own standards very well, and the news sites don't do a good job of curating what they syndicate either. A flaw at PRWeb (lax publishing standards), a flaw at the news site (published automatically?), and a flaw in the Google algo (just build crap links to a high powered website) - which makes for a pretty terrible user experience.

 

Just to point out again why the algo was tricked - sure, it is well written for SEO and such, however, the main point being that you can build keyword-rich anchor text hyperlinks in blog comments on pages that have high PR showing in the Toolbar for serious link juice, and that's how it ranks (besides the fact that it's on an "authoritative" news site). It's not like the algo is tricked just because of the on-page SEO of it. It's got a bunch of spammy links to it - that's what is helping it rank.

 

Just want to know how pervasive this is becoming. Has anyone else seen it elsewhere?

 

And why do you think Matt Cutts would care, anyway? Not saying he shouldn't - it's a glaring weakness in the algo, but what is going to make him perk up and pay any attention? At least we can make more people aware of it. I guess the more people that care and are aware, somebody that has some influence or a way to communicate with him could possibly tune him into it.



#13 chrishirst

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 07:01 AM

 (just build crap links to a high powered website)

Do you mean "links FROM a 'high powered website'??

And of course it is NOT the links per se, but the anchor text of those links that adds 'ranking weight'

 

It's not like the algo is tricked just because of the on-page SEO of it. It's got a bunch of spammy links to it - that's what is helping it rank.

 

Just want to know how pervasive this is becoming.

 

Since 1998 there have been many, many 'tricks' that 'worked' for a time, some longer than others, this is just another one of those 'tricks' that will simply disappear one day.






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