Doug Pierce & Byrne Hobart do Digital Due Diligence

Apr 30th

A Spammy Start Up

Recently TechCrunch posted an article outing [link nofollowed] the Sequoia-backed start up Milanoo for ranking using paid links:

Here’s what Digital Due Diligence found: For a number of very valuable keywords in Google search,, Here’s how Milanoo ranks for “cheap dresses” (position 2), “evening gown” (1), “cheap wedding dresses” (1), and “summer dresses” (2). Digital Due Diligence partner Doug Pierce (who also served as an expert in the New York Times J.C. Penney expose), writes that those four keywords alone have an equivalent cost of nearly $200,000 per month in Google AdWords.

It’s a red flag, explains Pierce’s fellow partner Byrne Hobart

The article left a fairly foul stench in the air which is hard to get over.

Risk Analysis vs Risk Creation

These folks claim to do due diligence for investors, which essentially means "risk analysis" and "risk management." But then to market themselves, they throw active investments under the bus for self promotion. And now they have done so repeatedly. It is not an isolated incident, but rather a pattern of conduct.

To be frank, that form of marketing from an outfit claiming to do SEO risk analysis can be described using no other word than this: sleazy.

Just Another Form of Competitive Sabotage

An outing like the above is typically driven (at some level) by a competitor looking to take down a competitor. And such a high profile outing literally can destroy lives. It is a high stakes game of public relations. The media outlet gets a story, the expert gets quoted, and the competitor gets torched.

If I was an investment firm I would never spend a single Dollar with Digital Due Diligence. Why? Well they may do a valuable service on some project you are funding them for, BUT if you fund them at all you are encouraging more outing in the future and more risk for your own future investments.

Outing is Anti-Innovation

Eric Schmidt has stated that lobbyists write the laws. Markets are rigged to favor established interests. If you are an investor you are betting that you can take smart calculable risks & disrupt markets. But SEO outing is yet another layer of unknown risk which harms all start ups while rewarding existing market leaders: the exact opposite of innovation.

Even if you encourage your own investments to be ultra-conservative you still have no protection from this sort of activity.

A competitor could easily buy a bunch of links for one of your sites (they could even pay cash for a gift card while traveling & use that to buy links from a clean browser with cookies cleared on a public wifi connection, making themselves untraceable). After throwing a few hundred or few thousand Dollars at setting up the site, they can then leak a tip to Digital Due Diligence, who will then leak it to TechCrunch or the NYT.

Why This Sort of Outing is Horrible for SEO Professionals

The core issue here is professionalism. Should we let people who screw other people over get ahead while trying to paint themselves as the good guy? I don't see how there is any hope left for the industry if that becomes the new normal. Every time there is a high profile outing SEO investments become perceived as being more risky and the whole of the industry looks less professional.

Double fail+++

An Example of Two Interpretations of Google's Guidelines

The last time I had any significant experience on this front the SEO police asked who Google should "come down on" for our affiliate program passing link juice. That made our affiliate links no longer pass link juice. Shortly after a Google search engineer publicly stated that affiliate links should count and the same SEO firm that threw us under the bus mentioned they were thinking about bringing their affiliate program in-house so they could do the same thing they outed us for. A few years later it was highlighted that Google has an active investment in a start up that builds a scaled paid link network.

In other words, Google claims their guidelines to be black and white, but a particular technique can be fine for some, spam for others, and worth funding on an industrial scale if Google gets a piece of the action. Is it any surprise that the FTC is looking into Google's business practices?

Just Say No!

The above sort of activity is just like Google and Microsoft leaking each other's security flaws publicly to try to screw each other over. Out of such exchanges nobody wins, but everyone looks a bit more like a used car salesman, as we further create a market for lemons.

With the rise of such SEO diligence projects, how long until the primary business model & main form of diligence being done is funded "research" to take down competitors? Is this market even worth participating in if we let it devolve to that point?

These sort of folks who throw the whole of the SEO industry under a bus for self-promotion should be shunned by the industry. If our industry is to have any sense of fair, just, and reasonable meritocracy to it then this behavior can not be condoned.

Published: April 30, 2011

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Comments

April 30, 2011 - 1:15pm

Whenever a person who is opinionated writes a post like this they open themselves up to criticism. Being honest and being blunt invites others to want to cut you down. It comes with the territory.

I realize in the past I have highlighted how Google was caught spamming Google (repeatedly), how shady Mahalo was, and the dirty practices eHow was using.

In the past whenever I have made posts like the above some of the luddite end of the market living in a black and white worldview couldn't see the difference between outing Google for spamming Google and the above sort of competitive sabotage featured in the mainstream media.

Almost any time a media person asks me about "black hat SEO" I highlight examples of things Google does which are dirty, how the guidelines are fuzzy and open to interpretation, etc. Unfortunately that means that one of the following 2 happens

  • the message is too complex & lacks the concision needed to be part of a black and white media article for the public, so it is not included in the article
  • I get misquoted & the journalist states that I am a spammer (when I state something along the lines of "anyone who questions Google's motives and purity is often considered to be a spammer" it becomes "Aaron Wall, a self-proclaimed SEO spammer")

The purpose of highlighting stuff like "Google spamming Google" in the past was to point out just how hypocritical Google was by buying a site in a space they penalized competitors in the same niche for doing the same things, and the caustic effect of Google on the web ecosystem driven by the absurdity of Google paying folks like Jason Calacanis to snag 3rd party content & wrap it in AdSense, so long as he claimed he was white hat & was willing to trash the SEO industry as part of his gig.

Back in the Threadwatch days I highlighted some corporate level stuff back when Google wouldn't really penalize large corporations for spamming (to highlight the 2-tier nature of the stuff) but after the likes of the JC Penny outing response and the Overstock.com outing response I wouldn't even out corporate stuff at this point unless it was something Google is directly responsible for driving and/or if the founder of said site basically positioned themselves as a white knight and the SEO industry being a bunch of scumbags (like Jason Calacanis did). A big part of the reason I ended up shutting down Threadwatch was the conflict it presented.

May 2, 2011 - 8:09pm

It's inevitable that scammers and slimeballs will move into any market that will enable them to make fast money, or get large payouts for flashy efforts. Wall Street used to attract these types... so we ignored them as they did their business behind complicated financial schemes. If you stayed in the domainer space long enough they would find you. If you hang around golf tournaments or celebrity affairs or yacht clubs or even prep school talent night these days, they find you. They say they want to know what you do, but really they want to know if they can easily take your money (or your client's money).

In social settings with higher-end people, I no longer tell people what I do for a living. I got tired of the inquiries that were clearly just targeted attempts to find a new niche to exploit for fast money. Any SEO that needs to out corporations in the press in order to gain clients is not a very good SEO. If Venture Capitalists or Private Equity investors fall for the fast talk and flashy presentation, let them pay to play and learn the hard way. I have yet to see a project offered as a portfolio piece that was well done and/or defensible as a search marketing play. What does that say?

I don't know these particular guys and I'm sure their Mom's would attest they're wonderful human beings. Buyer beware... not only is outing a sign of character flaws that will likely come back to bite you, but the ill-will generated in the community is also very likely to hurt and genuine search marketing efforts the companies might pursue in the future.

May 2, 2011 - 11:49pm

They say they want to know what you do, but really they want to know if they can easily take your money (or your client's money).

In social settings with higher-end people, I no longer tell people what I do for a living. I got tired of the inquiries that were clearly just targeted attempts to find a new niche to exploit for fast money.

It is not just the social settings...it is literally everywhere where if people know what you do they try to cheese you. And it is not only at the freetard level, but even some of the richest folks in the world. I recently had a research firm contact me about the Panda update at the request of a hedge fund. The hedge fund wanted to hire me for only 1 hour and wanted my rate heavily discounted. And for that, I told them to go pound sand. :D

The Google update shifted over $1 billion in ad revenue (and thus some multiple of that in market capitalizations, since companies trade on multiples of their profit margins) and the hedge fund wanted nearly a decade of my experience & an hour of my time for at most $1,000. Good luck to them on that!

That said, I have done some work for some private hedge funds where I thought highly of the folks & they treated me with plenty of class & dignity...putting us up in a real nice place & not trying to cheese us down on hours and actually investing primarily based on long term value-added thesis approach, rather than a quick buck "gut the company" styled approach that was done with the likes of Burger King & the types of companies that get driven into bankruptcy via debt leverage to steal the retirement accounts of existing employees.

not only is outing a sign of character flaws that will likely come back to bite you

Exactly. If people screw others to get ahead, that is not a key signal of a person who is fiercely loyal...rather the opposite. A person who's mouth is available to the highest bidder. Bid with caution!

May 3, 2011 - 8:09pm

Hi Aaron

There has been a great discussion about the hole black hat techniques being used to game Google rankings since the New York Times article. Now Doug Picer and Byrne Hobart are taking it into the next level. But before going into the details we have to set the field.

Who is Due Diligence? According to the whois, it was registred back in March 01, 2011 by Byrne Hobart. What is the common factor here is that BOTH work for Blue Fountain Media, a website design and seo agency in New York. It seems that now the new SEO will be getting press releases showing the world how the other guy is ranking at Google and WHY.

I do not want to imagine that Blue Fountain Media is using the excuse and using these two employee to take down the competition. After the New York Times article was published I have done lots of research around this company. What I have found so far is very interesting and I can provide Aaron with all the evidence showing that Blue Fountain Media were Doug Pierce works is doing the same black hat techniques that they are accusing others of doing. What about the thousands of spammers footer links with "Website Design" , "Web Desing", "Web Development" and "Blue Fountain Media" that I have found so far in thousands of sites that has nothing to do with the fild of web design. What about the links farms that they are using on their customers to rank their customers with keywords such as "Brooklyn Gastroenterology". It seems that they are saying one thing to the news and media and doing the same that they are saying is against Google webmaster guidelines. Worse is that Matt Cutts goes crying pulling sites out of the SERPs to their minimal articles. Why does Matt Cutts does not research their clients and find the thousands of links that they are using from thousands of links farms. Why blue faountain media has not been penalized for the thousands of footer links that they have accumulated in a black hat fashion. Why the JC Penney story was published in the New York Times, the same media were the Blue Fountain Media founder Gabriel Shaoolian is an author on their blogs? This goes beyond what is good and bad for search engines. They are using it to destroy competition.

May 4, 2011 - 1:42pm

Hi Aaron, Hi leonel80,

We are not a company out to "take down our competition" by outing. In the case of The NY Times, we were contacted to comment regarding a lead that the reporter already had. The reporter who reached out to us knew Byrne Hobart from his article on Search Engine Land about DecorMyEyes (http://t.co/8snVbAp) which he quoted here: http://nyti.ms/dKmcEh . He was not aware at the time that we had a regular column in the NY Times blog, which is run by a separate editorial team.

We've been contacted similarly since then to provide similar info. Our goal is not to "out the competition" here. In each case, we had no idea who was behind the work being done. Also, it's important to understand who our competition is. We had never even heard of SearchDex and their core business is/was SEO. Our core business is web design. And search is only one piece of our marketing services.

As for links to our own website, what you're referring to as footer links are from clients. Every web design company does this. Yes, I agree, it can be considered spammy. I would not mind if these links would get devalued for us AND our competitors. In that scenario, we'd be ahead of the game. We get links from very reputable sources through organic link building:

http://www.bluefountainmedia.com/press

If you'd like to talk, I am more than willing to.

Alhan Keser,
CMO of Blue Fountain Media

May 4, 2011 - 1:58pm

...also had plenty of organic mentions. They were still outed nonetheless.

If you guys view yourselves as primarily being a web design firm that only touches upon SEO as a tangent then why...

  • does much (perhaps most?) of your press revolve around SEO
  • would you create a second brand name built around doing SEO due-diligence
  • would you market that second brand name primarily via outing in the mainstream media

If the press is what makes you credible, you are not really focused on SEO, and yet most of your press is about SEO stuff it really paints an incomplete story with a lot of mixed messaging going on.

Beyond that mixed messaging, you justify some of your gray area stuff by saying the press makes your stuff fine. Well the sites you guys got torched also had many references...so what makes you any different than them? Is it only that you are lucky that a company like yours hasn't done an expose on your marketing approach yet? If so, then it would be smart not to screw others over to get ahead...because inevitably that stuff comes back around. It is never fun when you are the one getting smeared.

For what it is worth, I don't have anything against you guys as I don't really know you. What I do know is patterns...my job is to analyze them & understand them. I am informed enough to be aware that ultimately outing screws over SEO professionals, and so when I see people do it I generally don't trust them because they have proved they are willing to screw others to get ahead.

I try not to mingle with those types of folks.

Ultimately an infinite number of excuses don't change the facts. A long time ago someone told me the only way to *honestly* apologize for a misdeed is to change the behavior. To stop doing it. Everything else is hypocrisy & blather.

May 4, 2011 - 5:13pm

I appreciate the time you are taking to discuss this issue. Here are answers to your questions:

"If you guys view yourselves as primarily being a web design firm that only touches upon SEO as a tangent then why..."

"- does much (perhaps most?) of your press revolve around SEO"

That is what the press is mostly interested in talking about these days. We'd love to talk more about conversion optimization, the latest in HTML5, etc. but the requests that come in are mostly related to SEO and Social Media. We do have a large marketing team, but our specialty is combining an effectively designed website with ethical online marketing. We have a PR team focused on establishing us as experts in our industry, specifically in New York.

"- would you create a second brand name built around doing SEO due-diligence"

Digital Due Diligence is a side project created by 2 of our employees. I had no knowledge of it until I saw the Sequoia article on TechCrunch, while I was away on a trip. BFM is in no way affiliated or approves of anything published by them. I personally, as an SEO (although that is not my primary function anymore), do not agree with a website created with the focus of outing.

I came back from my trip on Tuesday and confronted Byrne and Doug about the issue and asked them to stop outing companies. They are 2 of the most valuable individuals in our marketing department, but this was a case of bad judgement. It seemed like an interesting side project, but not one that BFM could be associated with. We regularly encourage our employees to come up with side projects, such as what another member of our team, Bill Ryan, did: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-ryan . In the case of DDD, I wish that I could have prevented it from ever happening. At this point, either our 2 employees are going to stop what they are doing, or they will no longer be part of our team.

"- would you market that second brand name primarily via outing in the mainstream media"

Please see above.

To reiterate: Blue Fountain Media does not in any was endorse any of what was published by Digital Due Diligence. It is a pure case of reputation management gone wrong on our part. We trusted our employees too much. We are taking this issue very seriously and will provide you with an update on how it is resolved.

Again, thanks for taking the time to have an open discussion.

- Alhan

May 4, 2011 - 6:52pm

ethical online marketing

In a world where Google continues to have an AdSense category named "get rich quick," I hope this doesn't mean that Google gets the last word in anyone's mind in terms of what is ethical or not. Ultimately what I think matters is risks and disclosing said risks. Some projects make sense to take bigger risks on than others, etc.

Based on your comment I presume you think that a lot of folks will operate in the gray areas & doing so isn't entirely bad so long as risks are disclosed & such? It is no different than a person buying stock options rather than stocks...more risk & more leverage, etc.

I came back from my trip on Tuesday and confronted Byrne and Doug about the issue and asked them to stop outing companies.

Outstanding.

The web is a better place when people are driven by creation and creativity rather than operating based on fear.

Thanks a bunch for the update!

May 4, 2011 - 9:46pm

Ahlan, my respects to you and your company. It does gives me a great sense of peace!!!. Trust me I am not against Blue Fountain Media, its clients or anything like that. But I guess there must be an ethic among us the SEOs. It is up to Google and its company to decide and take action on others companies and sites. As Aaron has expressed, some marketing might be a matter of risks that can be assumed in order to achieve a goal. I hope that we do not go out pointing out crazy stuff like the one that Byrne and Doug brought out more specifically after the NY Times article because trust me, people are going after you and your clients.

I am very happy to hear that you share in a sense our concerns when we read the article by Byrne and Doug and my first thought was to think that in a way you were involved but I am sure you have more important things in your hand as a company than doing Due Diligence.

I hope to hear more good things from Blue Fountain Media since I know you ROCK in New York!

May 5, 2011 - 2:09am

After discussing the issue, Byrne and Doug have decided to continue doing "due diligence" and continue outing companies. As a result, we have let them go from BFM. We do not wish to associate ourselves in any way with their outfit.

May 5, 2011 - 3:22am

That was fast.

I am quite surprised they want to keep outing companies. Pretty sad stuff!

Congrats to you though for sticking with your principals. :)

May 5, 2011 - 10:42pm

I have to say that this might be a sad day in the history of SEO. The business industry might be changing into doing harm to the other parties and then exposing it publicly. Spammers will go and game Google by pointing bad links at you using black hat techniques and then try to do the same publicity trying to get you out of the game.

To me, Google must do the work not us. I can almost go on every keyword and point some sites ranking good for the keyword and using gray area techniques. Let Matt Cutts be the cop after all he is the one being paid by Google to do the job. As I have said, this might injure Google more than help them as then we might go crazy after the competition by throwing links and getting a press coverage in the LA Times or something like this. In the long term I hope that Byrne and Doug rethink their strategy and start constructing a stronger and better search engine enterprise.

May 5, 2011 - 10:54pm

I'm not especially interested in "outing" anyone. I'm interested in evaluating strategies and seeing what works.

I've written plenty about successful SEO strategies--as is understandable, the media are a lot more interested in the dubious stuff, so that's how my project came to the attention of many people in the industry.

But rest assured, I have no problem with telling a client: "This site is running an intelligent, effective link-buying campaign. Google's not going to catch them, and they're going to make a lot of money." That's the whole point of doing due diligence. I have expertise but not capital; investors have capital but not expertise. If I can lend them some expertise, they can better invest their capital, so good businesses will be able to grow faster.

Long-term, this is bound to happen. If it's not okay to talk about black-hat strategies, it's easier for people to get away with doing black-hat stuff and telling their clients it's lily-white. That hurts the SEO industries (honest practitioners lose out to scammers) and it hurts the businesses that rely on us for traffic.

May 5, 2011 - 11:08pm

I'm not especially interested in "outing" anyone. I'm interested in evaluating strategies and seeing what works.

If this is true, then why did...

  • you feel the need to out that start up for self promotion?
  • your former boss just say the opposite in an earlier comment on this very page?

If I can lend them some expertise, they can better invest their capital, so good businesses will be able to grow faster.

This misses out on the fact that many of today's current clean lily white sites were the link spammers of a few years back. Some gambled aggressively and won, and then scaled back on risk as they built other signals. Risk is not a static point...but a variable that changes over time with strategy.

Long-term, this is bound to happen. If it's not okay to talk about black-hat strategies, it's easier for people to get away with doing black-hat stuff and telling their clients it's lily-white.

This is a laughable comment. It presumes that often the SEO practitioner is taking on great risk without the client knowing about it. When you get to the corporate level the truth is actually typically just the opposite...the client wants to push for growth to hit the numbers & then the SEO practitioner tries their best to achieve the desired level of growth while minimizing risk.

Of course, people trying to make a name for themselves by outing others are increasing risk across the board for everyone (except Google), even if they pretend otherwise.

Truth is truth.

If you put Google above clients (or prospective clients) then you are working against the SEO industry for self promotion, hoping Google tosses a few scraps from the edge of their table. There are a lot of hacks that do that (like one guy who had a cloaking-based CMS stated at a Googleplex meeting amongst Matt & a bunch of SEOs how much he loved "outing spammers" and the only reason he did that is likely because he wouldn't have been able to get away with his dynamic auto-generating spam CMS without making such claims).

My point is that as marketers is that we shouldn't have to cut each other down to get ahead, and that when we do behave in such a manner ultimately the only winner is Google. It feeds into their scammy "ethics" angle, even while they maintain a "get rich quick" AdSense ad category that they pollute the web with.

May 5, 2011 - 11:24pm

Actually, I've gotten more pageviews for writing positively about why the SEO campaigns run by LinkedIn and Demand Media are effective. So it would be more accurate to say that I'm promoting myself by writing positive stuff, and that I've written negative stuff, too.

Alhan's comment is not how I'd summarize what happened. Since he's representing Blue Fountain Media, with which I have a non-disparagement agreement (i.e. they aren't going to say anything negative about me, and I'm not going to say anything negative about them), he's presumably been advised by company counsel not to say stuff that close to the line. I won't get into the particulars of my leaving BFM, but it certainly was not presented to me as a choice between continuing to work there and "outing" companies.

I don't think I'm missing anything, here; obviously, some people are quite aware of what their SEOs are doing, and obviously some sites switch back and forth from white-hat to black-hat techniques. I don't expect to get a lot of business from people who want me to make sure their spammer is spammy enough; I'd expect more business from someone who wants to know how and why the site they're investing in ranks, and whether or not it's risky.

There's more to that than white and black hat, too; changing searcher behavior, a superior link-building value prop, or changing competitive dynamics could all lead me to negatively assess a company's future ability to rank.

May 5, 2011 - 11:56pm

Actually, I've gotten more pageviews for writing positively about why the SEO campaigns run by LinkedIn and Demand Media are effective.

So the outing is not only damaging to the industry as a whole and your personal brand, but it is not even as effective as the other stuff you could do then.

some sites switch back and forth from white-hat to black-hat techniques

And let's not forget that Google arbitrarily changes their classifications of various techniques after the fact & after the work is in place.

See the top of this page where it talks about how some AdWords advertisers got screwed by bogus account associations from their employees & ex post facto changes to guidelines.

changing searcher behavior, a superior link-building value prop, or changing competitive dynamics could all lead me to negatively assess a company's future ability to rank.

And it is worth noting that mentioning that stuff is totally different than "outing" & trying to damage a company of course.

May 6, 2011 - 12:44am

Bah, I accidentally deleted my comment. Anyway!

I see this as investment research. An investment researcher has to be able to say "It's a buy" or "It's a sell." And even though a "sell" recommendation can hurt a company, it's the right call to make. What *really* hurts investors is spending money on an overpriced stock.

So I see this as something in the tradition of the amazing Roddy Boyd ( http://www.thefinancialinvestigator.com/ ), or some of the smart folks on Value Investors Club. I'm looking for discrepancies, and for campaigns that are misunderstood. I'm trying to establish a track record of being *right*, not of being positive or negative.

I suppose someone could make a good business out of trashing innocent companies for attention, or trying to blackmail people by doing damaging research. But that's not something I'm at all interested in doing. The way I see it, the next LinkedIn or TripAdvisor or OKCupid should be able to raise more money, on better terms, to grow faster and do cooler stuff, because people know how to evaluate their SEO strategies. Obviously, there's money in it, but it's a business I feel good about.

May 6, 2011 - 2:31pm

I see this as investment research. An investment researcher has to be able to say "It's a buy" or "It's a sell." And even though a "sell" recommendation can hurt a company, it's the right call to make. What *really* hurts investors is spending money on an overpriced stock.

This sounds like an altruistic goal UNTIL one realizes how firms like Goldman Sachs consistently trade against their own public advice and ratings. See this example: 8 public calls where internally Goldman profitably did the exact opposite of what they suggested others do.

If you think that was an accident, and firms like Goldman were betting against deals they were selling to others while calling them words like "shit" was also an accident, then I recommend you get a glimpse of reality. The Inside Job DVD is only $14.99.

So I see this as something in the tradition of the amazing Roddy Boyd (thefinancialinvestigator.com), or some of the smart folks on Value Investors Club. I'm looking for discrepancies, and for campaigns that are misunderstood. I'm trying to establish a track record of being *right*, not of being positive or negative.

But that is a big problem in a subjective SEO world. Trying to promote oneself as being right can lead one to do sleazy things: like outing!

Plenty of folks prove themselves correct every day on services like StockTwits & Twitter every day. 1 day before Demand Media jumped 12% I warned that I couldn't believe people were still short...look at the time stamp on the tweet. My favorite investor (EJ from iTulip) bought silver in 2001 & held it until he sold it last Friday within 2% of the peak, right before it tumbled about 30% in the following week.

I suppose someone could make a good business out of trashing innocent companies for attention, or trying to blackmail people by doing damaging research. But that's not something I'm at all interested in doing.

The TechCrunch piece "fooled the market" on that one then. :D

The way I see it, the next LinkedIn or TripAdvisor or OKCupid should be able to raise more money, on better terms, to grow faster and do cooler stuff, because people know how to evaluate their SEO strategies. Obviously, there's money in it, but it's a business I feel good about.

Once again this is what you really miss. Investing is primarily driven by 3 things: leverage, influence & asymmetrical information.

  • Leverage is just that: the magnitude of the bet. Folks like former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson lobbied to lift leverage limits while at Goldman, before pushing to make his former company whole while working as the secretary of the US treasury. Some of the sleazier "investment" deals coming out of the TARP era have the US public eating the leverage risk to the downside, while giving wife's of banking CEOs the upside returns in offshore safe havens.
  • Influence: largely the ability to connect deals together amongst different parties and/or manipulate markets. This is largely what lobbyist money is about.There have been recent blog posts about how some angel investors have threatened founders to destroy their careers if they didn't let them invest at price x. Further, there is the famous line from John Doerr, one of the leaders at Kleiner Perkins, "no conflict, no interest."
  • Asymmetrical information: even if you did investment research for investors, the companies they were investing in would not gain access to that information until AFTER the investment was made. That is logical, obvious, and something that anyone who has done this would be aware of from past experience. This asymmetrical information goes so far as not only using co-located servers & algorithms to trade, but some of the machines also push bogus bids into the marketplace to slow down other competing machines.
May 7, 2011 - 5:40am

Saw you outed a bunch of flowers sites in the NYT again.

What made your acts disgusting was this part: “This is a pretty typical link-buying campaign,” says Byrne Hobart

If it is "pretty typical" then why the hell are you outing it in the New York Times

May 7, 2011 - 2:52pm

First we have to see how the NT Times article on the flowers site is coded in HTML which I guess is not an act of God or any supernatural event. They give links with a purpose, period.

First, I question myself why the article does not link to Teleflora, ftd or ProFlowers but links to 1800Flowers.com. I do not want to think that since the headquarters of 1800flowers are in New York they are just linking to that company for SEO purpose. Giving preferences to your buddies in New York! What a great and fair journalism…
Second, the article is linking to Digital Due Diligence. Sound like paid for post or post for link which actually Google hates so much after they were doing the same in their Asian Google Japan.

The New York Times knows better and their webmasters are not ignorant. Why the NY Times is linking to MyIndianReceipes.net, NapaValleyInterfaithCouncil.org and Jonathanduffy.net , the spammy sites getting paid by 1800flowers. What those sites have in common? They are link back to 1800flowers which looks like I want to give authority to the sites linking back to 1800flowers. A perfect SEO campaign Doug!!!, but again no links to Teleflora.com, ftd.com or proflowers.com. WHY the NY Times was so selective in the people they were linking to?? Why the NY Times prefer to link to “sites that are selling links” and not to the legitimate business sites? The owner of one website that she does not want to be named said she was paid $30 / month for a link. It seems that they promised her a link in the NY Times in order for her to say such a thing or may be more money. I do not want to think that Doug Pierce and Byrne are promising people links on the NY Times or Techcrunch for a testimony against a company.

I can also accuse Doug or Byrne of using black hat seo. I can also say that you are using paid for posting in the following site: blog.caplinked.com/2011/04/11/longer-runways-and-better-deals-through-seo/ . I have no way of proving it but at the same time you have no proof that those sites were paying to about 6000 sites to post their links. You did have access to their banking books?? E-mails?? Etc.

Now let’s go back to the New York Times (Mother Theresa White Hat Techniques)

According to Doug Pierce on the milanoo.com article he says: “Under the banner of 企业推广, or promoting enterprise, many popular websites in China see it fit to sell links.” In other words you are saying that links on the footer of high PR Chinese sites are bought. By the way, I thought Google knew it; Matt Cutts is a really intelligent guy. But guess what they have a buffer zone and PR is not important as it was one decade ago.

By using your assessment and conclusion then I can say that it looks like the NY Times is doing that by purchasing links in the footer of Chinese sites??? Hey, can you accuse the NY Times of buying links at:
wenweipo.com
360abc.com/
chinaelections.org/
or the following link at ktdom.com/:
´º¿åŸÀÓÁî

More spammy links at:
marsmene3145.inube.com/blog/85455/searching-for-a-motorcycle-loan-have-you-considered-a-peer-to-peer-loan/

Or about the 301 redirects on and many more pages like:
iht.com/articles/1992/12/05/mrcu.php
iht.com/articles/1991/09/07/mrrb.php
snurl.com/napkinfinance

Are they doing it on purpose??? Who knows, I cannot go out and publish an article saying that they are doing Black Hat to game Google.

The response from Google to you, the author and the NY Times seems like it was LEAVE US IN PEACE! WE DO NOT CARE. We have an algorithm in place and let it work out.

Again, recommendations are Do not go to war because it will very bad before it gets any better. May be I start contacting those spammy sites on the flower article subject of interest will be (The lady that said she was paid $30 per month for ftd link) and offer a couple thousand dollars to see how was your approach to them!

May 6, 2011 - 1:03am

Byrne, as an entrepreneur I can completely see your idea behind your new company. Your are clearly trying to fill the gap between the investor and the risks associated with internet investments. The bad thing is you are entering into a very thin line between conservative investment and risky investments. I doubt that any good investor will hire you to perform a risk analysis in a company with the only purpose of ousting it because that particular investor is a short in a company. The SEC will be after him due to the big volume of shares that needs to be traded in a particular moment and that might be seen as an insider information affecting a public traded company. Second, the big guys in wall street will go after you! Just imagine saying today that Gap is doing black hat. You were paid by investment company A. Investment company B loose millions due to your study. Investment company B pays Black Hat guy big $$$$ and he goes into action. Investment Company B says that Macy is doing Black Hat were Investment company A is a long investor. Investment company A loose millions.

Suddenly everything gets out of control! Remember that if you are going into the area of investment research you will have to register and there are tons of regulations in the market.

By the other side, if you idea is to give counseling to investors and investment companies and keep it private for their own investment advantage, then that is another game. But going public with the information will just create a bad environment of mistrust in the SEO industry because you know that most "keyword" links except for brand names have been placed with SEO in mind.

May 6, 2011 - 1:55pm

Not only do you have basically unlimited legal downside (where your opposition is loaded with cash and frequently simply above the law) but even the upside is typically quite limited as well.

After the Google Panda update a large hedge fund wanted to hire me to get my thoughts on Panda. They had a research firm they work with reach out to me because they asked for me by name. Well, as it turns out, they wanted to hire me to avail myself at a specific time, only wanted me to work for 1 hour, and wanted me to take at least a 50% hourly pay cut for the privilege of working that 1 hour with them (with the classic "who knows, there could be more later" angle).

I passed on that opportunity. All it takes is me telling them what I think happened and they end up relaying that advice to some of their investments to pattern their strategies after mine. Suddenly rather than applying the information and making significant money from it, all I would have got out of it is 1 hour of wages (in spite of doing hundreds of hours of research on that issue and 10's of thousands in my SEO career). That would have been one of my dumbest moves in the history of my SEO career.

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