Google SEO Confession Booth

I run a pretty white hat local search engine optimization operation here but I often am tempted by the so-called dark side. If you talk to some black-hatters out there it just seems way too easy to game search engines for short term gains. So once in a while I get the urge to try something out just to see what would happen.

I was particularly intrigued by a well-publicized trick that involves linking to a page on a high authority site like which has a custom Yahoo! search engine. You do a search like this “ yourkeyword” and you get a page on with links to your site with your keyword in the anchor text. You link to this page from your site and in theory Google will crawl it and boost your ranking for the keyword.

So I gave it a shot and of course Google had already figured this one out and instead of a ranking I got a yanking. Not only did my site disappear in the results for the keyword but also for several related keywords.

Once I saw what was happening I removed the link and guess what? In about three days all of my rankings came back. Now I am not going to get all wishy washy about how Google does no evil, but I think that’s a pretty cool policy. It’s like they know that people have a natural tendency to subvert things but if they come clean all is forgiven.

So the next time you think it might be worth it to use some dodgy tactics, stop what you are doing, bow your head and repeat after me “Bless Me Google For I Have Sinned”.

Update: For more about how Google can ding you sinners for this kind of stuff check out this post from Hitwise.

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6 Response Comments

  • Neil Street  February 15, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Sometimes I wonder just how much of the bad stuff Google really catches. I know of one site that has just rocketed to the top of its lucrative niche in less than a year, by employing a really old-fashioned scam: they simply exchanged links with hundreds of small but relevant sites, and then hid their outbound links in some kind of script, so the search engines think they have a bunch of one-way links pointing at them. OK, so it’s an old trick. But I thought Google was supposed to be able to detect a scam like this by looking at a so-called “link profile.” But no. This site appears to have gained hundreds of one-way links very quickly, yet it has raised no flags. Instead, it is rewarded by ranking higher than established sites that have been working this niche hard for many years. Currently, it is just one spot behind an extremely authoritative government site on this topic. It is very discouraging.

  • Andrew Shotland  February 15, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I hear you Neil. I have seen so many examples of this kind of stuff that it’s hard not to take note. The fact is that in marketing there are no rules and the more you play by what you believe the rules are the more likely you are to get beat by those who don’t use a rule book.

    Webmasters and presidential candidates take note…

  • kris  February 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Google/yahoo hasn’t caught onto this yet.

    Do a search on:
    san francisco dvd duplication

    And you will notice that all you see is 1Stop DVD

    It looks like there are using google maps on their site to get picked up in the local business results. They have done this for some 30 odd cities

  • Andrew Shotland  February 15, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I have seen this kind of google maps spam a lot. I’ve got to believe this is only a release or two away from being fixed.

  • Teresha Aird  February 17, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Great post Andrew but I would advise caution to any would be spam-triers out there as Google doesn’t always forgive so quickly. I would guess your site is very well ranked/linked/respected and therefore granted a certain amount of “grace” which may not apply to all sites.

  • Andrew Shotland  February 17, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Agreed Teresha. I was definitely fortunate.