BadRank & the Ugly Side of SEO

Apr 11th

I think having regular channels for communication and building brand are important, but providing honest scalable SEO services is not an easy task.

Below are some of the issues which have recently occured in the SEO field. I don't offer any solutions because I do not know that I know how to answer the problems. BadRank:
RustyBrick posts about BadRank, which is a concept discussed in some search spam fighting research papers.

Many of the papers discussed methods of automatically finding and then penalizing the 3rd generation spam technique. Some went as far as discussing "BadRank". Where they downgrade pages that are found within a linking network that fits the spam discussed above.

Most of the papers discuss a certain threshold (i.e. the page needs to be associated with X or more "bad" sites) to be downgraded and marked as a bad site.

Many, in the forums, feel that search engines would rarely penalize for being linked to by "bad" sites. But these papers clearly discuss how a page that is being linked to by "bad" sites but NOT linking back to any "bad" sites will be penalized.

Link Filtering:
If a site has too many similar links it can get filtered out of the search results. I have been told that some people have paid to point links at competitors sites and knocked their sites out of the search results.

$49 Fraud:
Since the business model and work is not visible until results are achieved many customers pay for crap services from hucksters hungry for a buck. At one point in time I bought bogus SEO services.

Now there are even SEO Verification websites that sell search engine submission services. WTF is that? I bet the verification logo also links back to their site. hehehe

Outdated Material:
Some search engines still rank SEO sites highly based on offering things like free search engine submission, which has no value in today's market. Forums, articles, blogs and just about any form of SEO information suffer from being outdated.

Redirects:
Google has long had a problem with 302 redirects where some webmasters can remove competing URLs from the Google search results.

Spam Email:
Recently someone was sending spam email link exchange messages trying to destroy the brand of a well known SEO company.

Blog Comment Spam:
People complain about others blog spamming active blogs for them.

Fake Forums:
A while ago many dubious SEO forums sprung up.

General Forum Faults:

  • Hate Threads: Really there are a ton of them out there. I think the most SEO hate threads usually revolve around the White Hat / Black Hat SEO theme. Those threads generally are a complete waste of time and hurt the industry as a whole. The only people who win are those who are branded as the white or black hat expert.

  • Some people knowingly put out false information.
  • Some people refuse to accept honest information.
  • Most threads only scratch the surface of what is going on. As one reads each thread they may think that each issue is more important than it actually is, and may miss the whole picture.
  • People are more inclined to participate in forums when they are new, and thus likely do not know much what they are talking about. This combined with noise and how quickly some information ages makes it hard to know which threads are worthwhile and which ones are not.

Many of us weblogs tend to share many of the same problems as the forums.

Client Forums:
I have seen multiple SEO firms place SEO forums on their sites. Some of these forums lack personality and have a sales pitch in nearly every post, and in doing that the forums may actually:

  • make customer service worse

  • make it easy for people to complain about your services
  • wear your resources thin
  • make it easy for your competitors to poach your clients

PPC Click Fraud:
Competitors clicking your ads to increase your cost.

I think something has to be done about this really, really quickly, because I think, potentially, it threatens our business model - Google Chief Financial Officer George Reyes

Impression Fraud:
People can run many searches to change your effective clickthrough rate, which could slow your ads and increase your ad management time.

Contextual Partner Fraud:
A friend of mine told me about a guy he knew who made $75,000 on click fraud but never cashed the check. As seen by the recent WordPress fiasco the AdSense QA program leaves something to be desired.

Google Stealing Large AdWords Clients:
As recently mentioned by Danny Sullivan.

Dumping Sites:
Not too long ago Google dumped over a million sites to stop a few search spammers. Later they accidentally dumped Australia too.

Low Entry Cost:
Both a blessing and a curse. It is a large part of the reason I was able to do well, but at the same time it is part of what makes it hard to charge your full market value for your services.

SEMPO:
An organization that was formed to represent SEOs never was interested in participating with the community or accepting any feedback it had to offer.

I am sure I missed a bunch of things too.

It seems to me there is lots of ugliness inside the SEO market. Lots of independant forces which aim to constrict / chew up the market. It makes sense that for the most part Google generally does not want to recognize SEOs. They are probably hoping that eventually we will just canibalize ourselves. So what is the solution?

Published: April 11, 2005

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