There's a trading technique used frequently by professional traders (high frequency trading - HFT), where computers exploit both price movement and the trading rules to gain an edge. And the big money has spawned trading firms whose sole strategy is using technology to generate massive numbers of automated trades to gain advantages over their competition.
There's an seo technique used frequently by professional seos, where computers and low paid offshore employees post massive numbers of links on blogs comments, forum posts, etc. And the big money has spawned seo agencies whose sole strategy is using technology to generate massive numbers of spammy links to gain advantages over their competition
In both of these worlds, the common thread is automation gone amuck. In the traders' marketplace, the individual investor is disadvantaged, and the markets appear to be manipulated by the monied players. In the search world, the sites that pursue genuine relevance are disadvantaged, and the search results appear to be manipulated by the monied players.
It's a sad state for everyone, when the best strategy becomes the one that games the system the best.
And for us, at least for the moment, it means that Google is in desperate need of a change - both in ranking protocols and in disincentivizing garbage links.
These two stories are really related in a much more serious way. Both the markets and the search are model environments where honesty and truth should be rewarded. In both worlds, the system is disadvantaged if monied players can buy an edge, and the if the existing rules are enforced, that should not happen.
But it has already happened in both worlds. And the citizens are waiting for enforcement on both fronts to correct the corruption of these systems. The markets will require a revitalization of the currently captured regulatory bodies like the SEC - read bureaucratic, long lasting problem.
Unlike the markets, the search only requires a single entity to act, and we think we've already seen the opening salvos from Google in the form of a new penalty.
In a sense, Google is responsible for the problem. Once the world learned that links pushed rank, entire industries were born to generate links. How many link schemes have you been sold lately? From paid links to auto submit software that can get beyond the captcha wall and automate link insertion on blogs and forums, website owners are bombarded by link building sales pitches.
We noticed that in Europe and especially the UK, there are SEO agencies that do ONLY this kind of link building, and if you read the blogs and brags on their sites, they openly discuss it as a valid technique that's working for their clients. This is why one might say that Google has lost this battle. And it's related to another lost battle, that of paid links - since it is impossible to know the motivation of a link on a web page. Without understanding that motivation, the value, or trust behind the link is unknown. And that trust or vote was a primary motivation behind rank in Google's algorithm.
Starting late 2009, we started seeing penalized sites that did not conform to the typical non-compliance issues. Basically, sites with no technical issues at the domain or server level, and no structural or traditional link issues were receiving penalties that were not removed until their link profiles were cleansed.
This is a clear signal that consequences are being meted out, however randomly. We know of many large European sites that have outrageous link numbers - in the tens of millions, the majority of it spammy, that are still within the index, while many small sites are getting hammered for a few thousand links.
This is from Bruce Clay's 19 Nov post
"Internationally, link spam is often just "how SEO is done". Google grudgingly turns a blind eye without a serious attempt to detect it and levy penalties, because to enforce their link guidelines would be to leave their index barren, or because the language and technology issues are too expensive to warrant action. In many countries, link spam is openly discussed by the local SEO firms; in some cases, it is openly advertised by publicly traded SEO firms as the only SEO activity that is necessary - these firms do not even try to improve on-page quality because it is not necessary. Google is losing the international link spam battle and the top ranked site is often the site with the best spam instead of being the most relevant. So far Google has chosen to let the international sleeping dog lie but that will not last."
That dog has actually mauled quite a few websites this year, all over the world.
And we believe that risk of harm is greater in the US. We oversee seo agencies here and abroad for our clients. Our own overseas clients are often reluctant to cease the spammy link builds, because it has been working for them. But we're seeing more penalties over there lining up with our suspicion, and we're advocating for better link practices among all clients just to get it on their radar. In the US, you put your enterprise at risk if you initiate a spammy link campaign on a young site, because one of the penalty triggers appears to be related to the relative numbers of garbage links in the your overall link profile. On older, larger sites, here in the US, these spammy links tend to do no harm but really do not push rank even when indexed in large numbers and included in Google's Webmaster Tools. So there's no longer any incentive to use them - yet the marketing of them powers on.
The enterprise is required to act conservatively, so we have always steered clients away from these kinds of links. But for many site owners, the message is coming late. They either still have teams in place obtaining these links, or have a large inventory already pointing at them. If this is you, there's a new risk to your business - a risk due to the nature of your link building team.
To preserve search integrity, Google has to act. Either it migrates trust away from links, or it devalues certain kinds of links - profiling as it were. This would no doubt create harm to the communities devalued. Whatever the consequences, and believe me they are unknown, changes are already underway. And the accompanying changes Google must make to preserve the search value of its index are making charlatans out of previously successful seos.
There's a new Google penalty you might be at risk of if you buy the charlatans' talk.