Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Google's War on Unnatural Links

It's a SPAM filled morning. I received my first piece of marketing rubbish about Shuffleboard King ("it looks a great app"), from a company wanting to help me with my SEO strategy. I haven't the energy to tell them that I don't have a SEO strategy and, frankly, if the difference between success and failure is being the kind of person who talks about having a successful SEO strategy, then I'll pick up my hobo stick and knapsack at the door before I hit the railway tracks.

I also received another email about 'unnatural links' on a website I maintain on behalf of other people. I've had a few of those emails myself. One of my old blogs contains a link to Spearmint Rhino and they keep asking me to remove my 'unnatural' link because, they claim, it's damaging their Google ranking.

'Unnatural links' is going to be the new big thing in the world of SEO. You should keep an eye out for it. Rather than sounding like illicit relations between two uncles, it means that Google are finally cracking down on the business of fraudulent back links.

Dull technical bit: for a long time, websites earned their kudos, known as their Google Pagerank, depending on how many people link to them. The theory is: if people link to your website, then your website must contain quality things that people enjoy reading (judging from this morning's traffic, that means naked pictures of Barbara Windsor, cats sneezing, and hamster porn). There are, however, ways that so called 'blackhat' companies (the people who like to cheat the system) can artificially inflate a page rank. They create false links leading back to your site. Often, those links are from webpages that just contain thousands of links embedded in meaningless text. Sometimes they're on websites produced by people working for schemes like Amazon Turk, where they ask you to write a 2000 word article on cheese for 25p. You write your low quality cheese article, they pay you your 25p, and the company then posts it to their '' website with backlinks  to some cheese company has paid them a small fortune in order to improve their SEO. The trick is that the blackhat operation will have hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of cheese related webpages. Each one will have very little value in Google's eyes but enough of them will amount to something that counts towards your Pagerank. If you ever wonder why 99% of the internet is filled with bland meaningless crap, waffling on about things you can't believe people would want to read: blackhat operations are the reason. Their websites are the dark matter of the web.

It's also why you can often find websites that have page ranks of 5, 6, or 7, even though contain nothing but marketing crap, and others (coughs humbly) contain original cartoons and writing but have a relatively low page rank of, say, 4/10.

Which takes me back to Spearmint Rhino. Unfortunately, it's been so long since I wrote my old blog, I can no longer remember the password. However, even if I did remember the password, it fills me with inordinate pleasure knowing that I can do something to piss off Spearmint Rhino. In fact, it's great to know there's a way to damage the SEO rankings of any company you particularly despise. Click here for great offers from O2.

The irony in all of this, of course, is that until a few months ago, the very same companies now asking us to remove links were the companies begging for space on our sites. Every day, I would receive one or ten requests from companies offering me real money so they could post to this blog. Trust me that I need the money and sometimes I was tempted to allow a cheese related post. However, I just wouldn't compromise my blog that way. And if Google is finally going to war against these SEO clowns, then it's a moment to celebrate.

Marketing freaks have ruled the internet for so long. The only bad thing I could say about Google's crackdown is that it seems to be wrongly identifying quality websites instead of spammers. Even if I say this myself: my other blog, the one I can no longer access, was pretty damn funny. Spearmint Rhino are bloody lucky to have that link.

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