Google Bombs, Google Slaps and Link Building

Google Bomb

As you might have noticed recently Court Tuttle’s Internet Marketing School blog recently got ‘Google Slapped’. Court seems to think it was caused by him promoting the idea of “Keyword Sniping” as he describes in this article: As It Turns Out, Content Is King. However, I don’t think that Google has it in for Court personally or for what he’s written in relation to building niche blogs. I think that the slap is due to something else, tripping the Google Bomb algorithm.

The Google Bomb

Al Gore may have invented the Internet but George W. Bush invented the Google Bomb. More accurately, one of the first places where Google bombing cropped up was in political activism. Essentially the Google bomb is using the same anchor text over and over again, 1000’s of times, in the hope of ranking well for a particular keyword term such as “miserable failure” or “French military victories”. This method used to work well until Google implemented algorithms to blunt the effect of such bombs. I suspect that Court ran head on into this algorithm by overusing “Internet Marketing” as anchor text.

Court’s Penalty Box

Protecting the Goal

Court isn’t the first blogger to encounter this situation though. John Chow received this penalty a while back for his review linkback scheme. David Airey also ran afoul of it a while back too. In Court’s case I think a few factors played heavily into him getting the penalty.

First, his SEO Themes, especially his Keyword Sniper theme, were in widespread use, spreading the single anchor term all over the place. I also suspect that a lot of these links were from a single class C source, Host Gator, one of the most popular hosts for WordPress niche blogs.

Secondly, there are 61,000+ “Internet Marketing” links from Blogging Zoom alone. Court and Vic’s keyword anchored link is on each and every page. Google probably does discount these links but having so many off-site links in one place that were built up rather quickly probably raises spamming flags.

A third factor is that “Internet Marketing” is most likely considered a high competition search term which probably lowers the threshold for spamming and bombing penalties. You’re less likely to draw a penalty if you rank via anchored links for something that isn’t that competitive like “Vaseline Glass” rather than something like “Payday Loans”, “Weight Loss” or “Make Money Online” where there is a huge amount of competition.

Linking Strategies

Not the kind of links you want

Slow, natural, link building is, well, too slow for most marketing purposes. Sure, great content may get you noticed and get your site many natural links eventually in a year or two but, then again, it may not if you don’t get lucky. Don’t get me wrong, great content can be an effective long term strategy but if you want to make money online you’ll need to couple it with other link building techniques.

The main thing that you want with any link building campaign is to vary the text used in the link, the anchor text. My primary strategy in this area is to go for lower competition, long tail, terms. To do this, in my anchor text I blend my primary keyword, let’s say “Cheap Glassware” with many other related terms. For example, I may have links that say “Cheap Christmas Glassware” or “Inexpensive Decorative Glassware” or “Informal Glassware”. The idea is not to have a single term standing alone but a basic set of 1-3 terms modified by a wide variety of other words.

The advantage here is that you’ll soon find yourself ranking for and bringing in traffic for a wide variety of terms rather than just the single term. For example, one of my better earning niche sites gets about 8% of its traffic from the primary keyword term. The other 92% of the traffic comes from long tail terms that relate in some way to the main term. My link building for this site has included the main term, a particular brand name, as well as generic terms for that product.

There are other linking strategies out there, this is the one that is working well for me.

So, What About Content?

This content sucks!

Should you always have very high quality content on your niche sites? I’ve been asked that several times recently, probably due to my Blog Content Wizard program. My opinion is that your niche marketing blog content has to have two goals, placing well in searching engine results and directly or indirectly encouraging the search visitor to click on an ad. This more closely aligns with decent, yet dull, content rather than great content. Save your truly great content for a flagship blog or an informational niche site or blog, not a site expressly intended to make you money.

Feel free to share your thoughts on Google bombs, slaps, penalties, link building and content in a comment below.

 


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28 Comments »

Comment by cedric
2008-09-09 15:35:19

very insightful post. I must say it puts the slap in the right perspective, which is the google algoritms. Google’s strength and background is in math models so it makes sense for google to tackle this in a structural way, rather than on a case by case basis. In order to support this theory however there should be similar cases in the very recent past. Do you know of any? Or did court just reach a tipping point?

Comment by jfc
2008-09-09 15:54:00

Hi Cedric,

I know that it’s a pretty common occurrence in the black hat world where they’ll use tools like YACG and Blogger Generator to build 1000’s of links, rank briefly, make some money and then get deindexed within days or even hours.

This technique is also sometimes used to “Google Bowl” a competitor by giving them 100K+ crappy links overnight. This will cause all but the strongest, most established, authority sites to temporarily incur a penalty like Court is seeing. Check out this site for more info: http://www.watching-paint-dry.com/v7ndotcom-elursrebmem/google-bowling/

 
 
2008-09-09 16:02:50

Rather bizarre I think. I mean, I’ve read through his website paying particular attention to the keyword sniping pages…when they were up, and I never came away that the method was for anything but finding a targeted keyword and writing good content around it and getting links using it. I found keywords like he suggested and built Hubpages, Blogger blogs, Squidoo lenses, etc around it. What could be wrong with that? I’m a bit confused what he is doing now and what he previously referred to as keyword sniping.

I like Court’s teachings and respect him and all, but isn’t it a bit arrogant to think Google has time to slap you down personally? Do they have time and interest to do that? Wouldn’t they be more inclined to let their very expensive algorithms do the work?

Comment by jfc
2008-09-09 20:31:01

Hi Splork,

Akismet doesn’t like you for some reason.

I think he ran afoul of an anti-spam/anti-bombing algorithm that flagged his site and applied an across-the-board penalty until a manual review. I doubt that it’s anything personal. After all, the US Department of Justice is still showing up in search results. :)

 
Comment by Robert
2008-09-10 01:37:59

I agree with Frank — I doubt this is Google taking a swipe at him personally. His content is above-board and IMHO not even in a gray area. There are so many more better targets for manual penalties.

As for content being or not being king, I never got the impression he said anything about writing crap content. He was saying you needn’t post every day, or even necessarily often, in order to rank. If you aren’t posting anything that matters, like a rant about your breakfast this morning, then it doesn’t matter, but keyword focused (or at least keyword friendly I guess) posts always have value.

Comment by JR
2008-09-12 20:06:34

@ Robert
You are right, he didn’t say anything about writing crap, in fact his blog is FULL of high caliber content.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
Comment by Mike
2008-09-09 17:08:24

Google’s got a mean back hand! Getting deindexed is no joke, in fact depending on the domain, you might as well walk away from it.

 
Comment by Trent Brownrigg
2008-09-09 20:33:36

I think you are right on the money about why Court was penalized. It was probably a number of factors mostly leading back to having too many exact links for internet marketing. I also completely agree that you should vary the text on links to avoid getting penalized and to rank higher for more terms.

I really hope Court can get his rankings back! It’s a shame that he got dropped.

Comment by jfc
2008-09-10 08:02:56

Hi Trent,

I think he will get it back eventually.

I agree that it was probably a combination of things that triggered it as opposed to a single thing or an arbitrary decision by a single Google employee.

 
 
Comment by LISSIE
2008-09-10 00:55:34

Perhaps Vic has made me paranoid but I wonder if his site has been reported? A jealous competitor probably. I am really glad I had recently looked up is main keyword sniping post and found it had morphed into a pdf file and downloaded it. Do you think Google knows its on my hard-drive ?

Comment by jfc
2008-09-10 07:57:24

Hi Lissie,

I really can’t believe that Google has the time and manpower available to manually follow-up on every individual report, nor that they would automatically act algorithmically on a single report, nor that they would apply penalties based on what someone wrote in a blog post.

In spite of what Vic said in his videos yesterday, I strongly believe that it was a combination of factors that caused him to draw an algorithmic penalty. Those factors included having a large number of links with a single keyword in what’s called an “unnatural linking pattern” and perhaps his penchant for deleting and redirecting old posts. Both look distinctly ‘black hat’ and will raise algorithmic flags.

The penalty may have been applied manually after some search engineer got an automated report between free cappuccinos and their massage break but I very seriously doubt that it has anything to do with him being reported by one disgruntled person or by someone at Google reading that one entry on his blog and getting pissed off about it.

 
 
2008-09-10 02:37:41

[…] of Op Tempo has a different opinion though when he wrote, Google Bombs, Google Slaps and Link Building. He was of the opinion that the penalty could not have resulted from what Court had written in his […]

 
Comment by neil
2008-09-10 02:40:09

link building is a slow process, well worthwhile though. i dont think there’ll ever be a way to do it quickly

Comment by jfc
2008-09-10 08:10:47

Hi Neil,

It’s not so much that is has to be slow but that it has to be ‘natural’. There are sites that have built up quality links naturally very quickly, such as the Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a horse site. There are, of course, quick ways to build unnatural links and these do have the potential for getting your site in trouble.

 
 
Comment by free ringback tones
2008-09-10 18:12:41

So very true man, awesome post. Varying anchor text has gotta be the single most important SEO characteristic there is.

 
Comment by kouji
2008-09-11 07:33:39

great post this. i haven’t been varying my anchor text at all unfortunately. looks like i’d better start cracking on that one soon. and it’s nice to know that changing up anchor phrases has other benefits as well. :)

 
Comment by JR
2008-09-12 20:01:25

Frank,

Great point about varying anchors, this is so important and so easy.

I like what you said about content, the difference between building a site just for money or a specific flagship-knowledge based niche site will make a difference in the how’s and what’s of content building. Software such as your Blog Content Wizard, and Niche Store Writer, certainly can be great tools to expedite content writing, I am just against making everything automated.

For me, a slap such as Court’s would really bother me, especially if I caused it with bad linking strategies, I like the piece of mind in knowing that my sites won’t be suddenly sent to oblivion and negate all I have done to get that SERP position.
Thanks Frank,
JR

Comment by jfc
2008-09-12 21:16:59

Hi JR,

Automating repetitive tasks is one thing that computers are very good at. If it’s Google counting the number of links to a site or a program building the links it’s all automation. My motto is why bark when you can buy a dog to do it for you.

I like to think that Blog Content Wizard does add value though, mostly comedic. :)

 
 
Comment by Make Money
2008-09-14 19:48:05

Heheh, I like the way u used the people to describe it - but I’m scared - I’ll just keep varying my anchors :)

 
Comment by Kevin
2008-09-18 14:25:41

Very interesting theory that is probably very close to the truth. There is NO WAY that Google is going to punish a site for publishing something that Google would disagree with or even something that would harm Google. Perform google searches on “how to cheat google” or “google sucks” and you won’t be looking at blank pages.

 
Comment by mauik
2008-10-01 16:31:33

Hey jfc,

I’m new to link building, and I was just wondering, since it was never explicitly said in your comments or the post…

I’ve been building links naturally for a few months, and I’ve been using the same anchor text for all of them. Do you think that slowly building links over time, despite the same keywords, will be seen by the google algorithm as natural, or in your opinion would that eventually have the same effect?

Comment by jfc
2008-10-01 18:04:58

Hi Mauik,

Slow link building is OK for the most part because it does look rather natural. What Google really frowns on are 1000’s of links showing up quickly from the same small group of sites where the anchor text is in a highly competitive area like say, “Internet Marketing”. If you link on your name or some other low competition anchor you run little risk of tripping any flagging algorithms.

 
 
Comment by BobbyNy
2008-10-14 09:02:25

The most strange thing for me is why google is placed “hacked” .edu sources at a high positions instead of my high quality site!

 
2008-11-01 22:26:44

I got some lessons google bomb, keyword and linkbuilding are related in complementary in serp

 
Comment by Busby SEO
2008-11-11 08:04:58

very insightful post.
if varying anchor text is the answer, what do you think about anchor text by wordpress theme creator in they free wp theme footer. If they use same anchor on their free theme will they face big problem ?

Comment by jfc
2008-11-11 08:58:39

Hi Busby,

Varying anchor text is a good way to stay under the radar in order to avoid raising algorithmic flags that will put in you a queue for a visual inspection. If there’s something that the Google engineers don’t like when they investigate your site then you’ll get a penalty. As with anything involving human judgment this can be quite subjective.

Rumor has it that the Google engineers didn’t like Court’s ‘keyword sniping’ content and applied a manual penalty on that basis. I find that a bit troubling that they would do that on account of those articles alone. It’s not like he’s the only site in the world that talks about keyword research and link building.

 
 
Comment by Article Submissions
2008-11-19 11:43:15

The slap normaly happens when you build too many keywords, or links to quickly! Google also looks at the sites your links are coming from. Google has gotten good at filtering out fourms and blog post, but they still have some affect as long as you have some high page rank sites pointing to you.

 
Comment by Camping Lights
2009-04-01 09:44:02

I think content needs to fit the purpose of the site - for example BCW has really improved its English grammar the last release and has got quite conversational so produces great content for some obscure terms

 
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