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Whats wrong with this picture?

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 23:04

(...don't mind me, it's been a strange week)

I have generally stayed away from all the pretty hats that SEOs get to wear. While I do look smashing in them, it mucks up my hair, ya know? But lately, I am finding it harder. To me we’ve always been search manipulators to varying degrees. While we may truly encourage search engineers to have to dig deeper, or facilitate content ingestion, it cannot be doubted that SEOs are the thorn in the IR world’s side. Ok, that I can take.

Why? Because SEO could as easily stand for ‘Search Engine Opportunist’ as anything else. That is until now… more and more I am seeing websites that are hacked for a variety of SEO purposes including link building and SERP destruction. It is one thing when people take advantage of an algorithm and quite another when it poisons honest people’s best intentions.

 

Let’s talk turkeys

And so where does this all come from? Well, certainly websites the world over are constantly hacked for a variety of reasons… of that there is no doubt. For the moment though, let’s look at a few SEO approaches;

  • Death by out bounds – this one is fairly straight forward. You simply look for opportunities on competitors sites, hack in… drop links, (and even cloaking, hidden whateva) - and wait for Google to axe them (the more aggressive of the Big3).
  • Link building bonanza – this time the main goal are some links, regardless of how limited the window. You hack in, drop some links (hidden of course) rinse and repeat.

It is that last one that has me going today. Recently I have been unfortunate enough to have fine peeps approach me to look into problems that lead me to numerous networks operating like this. If you’ve ever spent time in the land of Pills Porn and Poker, ya know of the colourful neighbourhood of which I speak.

But really… where’s the root of the problem (in many ways)? The link addicted algorithms certainly must play into this, no? And let us not forget it is the search engines that give us the mantra of, ‘you can’t be hurt by those linking TO YOU – only those you LINK TO’?

Does this not actually make this kind of activity more favourable? Many of these networks, you see, even use an intermediary site that 301s the link juice. This give the ultimate recipient and extra layer of plausible deniability to stay up and running longer WITHOUT using on-site black hattery. My friend, it PAYS to crack and dump...

 

Encouraging the behaviour

So it would seem that search engines ongoing love of links would be, not it’s own undoing, but the downfall of many a hard working website owner. These people aren’t in the 3P’s but get hammered none-the-less for nothing more than a momentary lapse in security, while the real culprits, the search engines and the crackers… go about their merry way.

Of course we can’t forget the authority sites that seem all but impervious to penalties, thus become defacto accomplices… one needs look no further than the followed links at Adobe for one such example (there are MANY )… just have a look

Is Adobe indexed? You bet your ass. 

How about local (Toronto) basketball star Chris Bosh? Seems he’s been tagged with some unwanted hidden links

Is he still indexed? Feel free to bet another appendage…

Are some of these smaller websites that are being hacked indexed? Naw, they’re dead friggen meat and losing $$$ each day awaiting the moment they are back in the search engine’s (usually Google) good graces. So once more we see the bar is set to different levels (as noted a year ago with; All’s fair in love and SEO).


This is illegal isn’t it?

Once more donning our trusty tin foil hats, we must consider that these are illegal activities in many regions. This isn’t simply breaking a search engine’s TOS, its breaking laws. Watching the after effects (of money honest peeps are losing) I can’t help but wonder if the search engines and complicity ignorant sites (such as Adobe) are aware of their roles in the crime? Aren’t they somewhat encouraging such behaviour?

I am constantly amused when marketers of all shapes and sizes talk about ‘ethics’ or other moral conundrums. At what point shall we, at very least, put down the hats for a moment and talk about the real bad guys? Furthermore, when will search engines get smacked with an intervention to stop this mad addiction with links? It seems that the little people are taking the brunt of the loss here… not the search engines, not the authority sites and certainly not the bad guys.

In the end, I don’t care WHAT tactics you use on YOUR site… defacing others illegally is simply wrong.

/end rant

 

BTW Donna highlighted this nifty tool you might want to check out (it’s free..no worries)

 

Comments  

 
0 # DazzlinDonna 2009-04-01 07:21
Oh yeah, my friend, I'm right there with you in the "this is just ticking me off department". First of all, I don't consider the people who hack other people's sites to be SEOs at all - of any hat color. No indeed, those people are just flat out criminals. They are damaging other people's property. It's no different, in my mind, than if they walked into someone's brick and mortar store and blew it up with a bomb. That's a criminal act, and hacking someone's web site for ANY reason should be too. Sure, everyone needs to "lock the doors to their sites" just like they would lock the doors of their physical store, but criminals can get past the locks of either. Not having big enough locks or strong enough locks doesn't make the criminals any less criminal. It angers me, but there's very little we can do, other than be diligent in defending our property as best we can. Thanks for adding to the conversation, because it needs to be an ongoing one.
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0 # JMorris 2009-04-01 08:11
Ok, one of our friendly programming genius friends needs to come up with a button that mass emails posts right to the freaking inbox of search engine execs in such a way that it cannot be filtered out, it's bolded in huge letters and the title reads "READ THIS!"

We've shared rants about this topic in other venues and all I can say is Amen Bro!

Great rant!
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0 # Mike Wilton 2009-04-01 10:15
You make great points, but sadly too many businesses are ignorant to what their sites are being used for and furthermore I feel that too many people are slow to act on such things because they're not sure who to turn to.

Hopefully in time the search engines will man up and do something about this.
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