I’ve been following this story today. If I understand it correctly, a guy called “Doc Sheldon” got a notification on 20th March 2014 of a manual, site-wide penalty from Google.
The action against Doc’s site seems to stem from the relationship he’d had with MyBlogGuest which recently ran foul of Google’s interpretation of its webmaster guidance.
Back in January, Matt Cutts wrote a blog post saying that guest blogging was ”done” because it had become too spammy. Ann Smarty, who created MyBlogGuest, wrote a post in reply stating that MyBlogGuest would continue to require bloggers who used its content to use dofollow links.
MyBlogGuest is NOT going to allow nofollow links or paid guest blogging (even though Matt Cutts seems to be forcing us to for whatever reason).
Initially, MyBlogGuest said they wouldn’t budge and would not therefore be allowing publishers to add nofollow to guest posts at the blogs. Although, after the penalty, they’ve said they’ll give publishers the flexibility to “nofollow byline links“.
The interesting twist to the saga is that Doc Sheldon’s manual penalty seems to have resulted from him mentioning on his site that he was a moderator for MyBlogGuest in 2011. You can read Doc’s March 22nd open letter to Matt Cutts and everyone at Google here. On 24th March Matt Cutts replied to the open letter stating that some guest post content on Doc’s blog was the reason for the penalty. A whole lot of discussion ensued, including here.
It looks like Google gave Doc’s site a manual, site-wide penalty because it linked to MyBlogGuest but decided to give as their reason one of just five guest posts on Doc’s site… from a total of 111 posts since 2011.
So what’s the message we need to understand from this storm? Well, if you want to play by Google’s Guidelines, you have to be scrupulous about which sites you link to. As a webmaster, you are responsible for everything on your site, from content to links to organisational structure and load times. If something is “wrong” on your site, you run the possibility of a penalty, especially if there’s also something “wrong” with your backlink profile. Note, the definition of “wrong” is down to Google, and seems to change over time, so be ultra-careful.
(update: I’ve added a video version of this post at the bottom)
Alice Looks Down The Rabbit Hole
The phrase falling “down the rabbit hole” comes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Going down the rabbit hole is how Alice gets to Wonderland.
Much like Alice, if you jump into something without looking you can end up in a lot of trouble.
In this post I want to look at how much harder it has become to trick your way to top search engine rankings. As you’ll see, it’s a long way to the bottom of the SEO rabbit hole in 2014!
Introduction: Why We Love Short-Cuts
Throughout human history we’ve had a love for taking short-cuts. If a short-cut succeeds, it saves time and effort and quickly becomes the new way of doing the original process.
As humans competed initally with other animals for food, and, later, with each other for resources, it was important that if there were a short-cut to a laborious process, it was found. Hence, we’re always looking for short-cuts and ways to save time and energy. The best anecdote I remember on the subject was the boss of a factory saying to an employee that he always gave the most difficult job in the factory to the laziest employee because he’d either find a short-cut or quit. Either way, the boss won.
Short-Cuts As A Part Of SEO
In the race to the top of the search engine results, short-cuts were taken. Way back in time, it was easy to fool Infoseek, Altavista and Hotbot by a few well-placed keywords. Time passed and Google saw the end of the old short-cuts, and the arrival of a new one… backlinks. With a few well-placed backlinks, you could get traffic aplenty from Google, for a while. Eventually, Google got tired of the manipulation and fought back with Panda to weed out low-quality content and Penguin to see off those with poor backlink profiles.
As the SEO short-cuts of the past disappeared into the mist, we have to ask ourselves whether there’s anything to be gained searching for new ones. According to the rule of “opportunity cost”, by doing something you risk the gains that could’ve been made doing something else. Time is finite and if every short-cut you take leads to a dead end, you’ll make no gains.
Do These SEO Short-Cuts Work In 2014?
Of course, there are always people promising short-cuts. Invariably they are also trying to sell you something. So, let’s follow the logic of people still trying to beat the search engines. Now that simple keyword stuffing and cheesy backlinking doesn’t work, what do people say does work? Well, firstly, there’s the “I can rank on page one of Google within 48 hours” concept. It’s barely worth mentioning, but for those of you who don’t know, people who claim that they can quickly rank on page one of Google are almost always referring to grabbing a spot on Google’s search engine results pages for a brand new video submitted to Youtube or an article picked up as “news” and which features in the “news” section of the results page. While the claim that they can get on to the results page is true, the problem is that the results don’t stick and your ranking will disappear as quickly as it appeared.
OK, so you want a page that sticks on the first page of the search results for your chosen keyword. Right. The first concept people will sell you on, if they’re old school, is to use “Web 2.0 properties” to backlink your “money site”. The reason they do this is that they consider Web 2.0 properties such as Squidoo, WordPress.com, Wikipedia, Hubpages etc to be immune to the bad backlink profiles that will get your “Mom and Pop” website slapped by Penguin. So now you need content for all your Web 2.0 properties. No problem, I’m sure “spinning software” will help. Then you’ll most likely want to make your Web 2.0 properties “more powerful” by backlinking them, right?
Again, no problem, there’s also software to help you build backlinks. Hooray.
So now, everything works and you get rich, right? Wrong. What happened, when people used Web 2.0 properties to backlink their money sites was that Google got suspicious and from 2008 to 2013 almost all the big Web 2.0 properties decided to make the outgoing links from their websites all “no-follow“, meaning that no benefit from those webpages you built on Web 2.0 properties flowed to your money site. Of course, that meant all the backlinks you built were worthless too.
Controlling The System: The Bottom Of The Hole
So, what to do? Well, if you want to continue down the rabbit hole, you decide you need to bring those Web 2.0 pages under your control. While you can’t control what Squidoo or Hubpages do, you can go one better and build your own network.
So, you buy a lot of domains, host them on different webhosts because different “C-Class IP addresses” are best and use whois privacy to avoid a footprint. You then need content. Lots of content. I guess you could pay for a ghost-writer, but that’s expensive, so perhaps you could spin “PLR articles”? You also need to build backlinks, a lot of them, to your multiple sites.
If you need to register at places such as forums to get a link on a forum profile page, or comment on a blog, you’ll need software to do all the registering and email validation and captcha breaking because that can slow a guy down. Of course, we’re not talking a low-cost enterprise anymore, what with the domain costs, multiple hosting fees and money for all the software. Hopefully there’s a bottom to this rabbit hole, and you’ll make some money. It does seem like a huge organisational effort though, keeping track of posting content, creating links and making sure you don’t leave a footprint, especially if you do a link wheel or pyramid to super-boost your links.
You know, getting Google to recognise and index some of those forum profile links and blog comments can be tricky. You may also want to backlink them so that they get indexed and count as backlinks to your network sites which then promote your money site. So now you’re backlinking the backlinks to your backlinks, right?
Oh, and one final thing… are you doing all that for just ONE money site? That seems a bit risky, carrying all your eggs in one basket. Why not have several private networks, working in isolation, to promote several money sites?
All this pre-supposes that Google would consider any link you can create in such enormous volume as worthy of any notice at all. And if they don’t count those huge volume third-tier backlinks, you won’t get your second-tier backlinks indexed, which is a problem because they won’t then be able to power your first-tier network of sites and they, in turn, won’t power your money site. So, is it really all just a house of cards?
Of course, while you’re doing all that, you’ll be wondering if the opportunity cost isn’t greater than that of just writing quality content and doing the kind of low-key self-promotion that real businesses do online.
What do you think? Is “Black Hat and linkbuilding” the way to go in 2014? What about White Hat SEO, or buying traffic? Are you struggling to decide where to place your efforts for the best return on investment? Please leave a comment, below, and share the post if you liked it. Thanks.
I’m writing an updated SEO guide tentatively called, “SEO Now: What Works In 2014?“.
It’s really interesting to see the changes to SEO since I was trying to rank high at Infoseek way back in 1997! Back then it was a simple job of sticking the keywords you wanted to rank for in the Title and several times in the body of the webpage, preferably inside a lot of header tags.
Wow, SEO has changed dramatically over the years!
Here are some topics I’ll be addressing in the new book…
How often should I add content?
Are social signals important? How can I easily get more?
Is “page load time” important?
How do I organise my site best?
Should I claim my content?
Is being mobile-friendly important?
What’s bounce rate all about? What other metrics should I know?
What are “guideline” pages, and do I need them?
What can kill my site’s trust?
Should I be building links in 2014? How?
Is a “mention” worth anything?
What’s this I hear about “semantics“?
I’d like to make sure I answer everyone’s concerns about what it takes to get free traffic from Google and other search engines.
Do you have any other areas you’d like me to tackle regarding SEO?
If so, please let me know by leaving a comment below…
I’ve been reviewing a new set of three pieces of software called “KD Suite” by Dave Guindon. As someone who has organised the creation of a few pieces of original software in the past, I can honestly say that it’s not easy! Dave’s done a great job with the KD Suite of software which helps you make more money from selling Kindle ebooks in a variety of ways. Take a look at the video, below, where I explain what you get with your KD Suite purchase, and look in detail at each piece of software…
Google released their “dreaded” Penguin 2.0 update on May 22nd.
Did you notice?
I have to admit, it pretty much passed me by. I don’t see much difference in my organic traffic. What about you? Did you see any major changes?
It’s about a year since our popular blog post about Google Penguin which generated 101 comments. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction to “Penguin 2.0″.
Let’s broaden that out… do you care about Google anymore, or have you given up jumping through their SEO hoops to get “free traffic”?
Do you even use Google to search anymore…? Bing’s market share has grown 2% over the last year… but at Yahoo’s expense, not Google’s. With two-thirds of searches powered by Google, I guess someone still loves the “Big G”…