Dance with the devil and you’ll get burned

Dance with the DevilHow far is too far, how much is not enough and how much is too much?

Google’s webmaster guidelines are meant outline the do’s and dont’s of being a webmaster and how you should conduct your business, but that’s the killer, it is business. There is no room for complacency or half measures in business if you want to come out on top, you can be damn sure your competitors won’t lose sleep over you.

I did a small bit of work for a company last year to help improve traffic and rankings, the site that ranked at the top used all sorts of crap, keyword stuffing, hidden text etc. It had however remained No.1 in Google for over 2 years for a very rich paying keyphrase, not a shining example of webmaster guidelines. That site had also been reported as spam on several occasions with no effect. This blatant abuse drove the client mad and in his own words said

‘if I give you enough money can you destroy them?’

Quite willing to let me try anything to undermine their current rank and give me a warchest to boot, I declined.

SabotageThat is the reality of business, everyone wants to steal a march on their competitors whatever the cost and while the etiquette of professional blogging is often nice, pretty and respectful (for now) if you ever delve into product based sales & companies you can sometimes see a real undercurrent of ..I could say hate as a lot of competing companies in the same field have history with each other offline but it’s more a competitiveness that knows no bounds 😉

For most of us it’s trying to walk a fine line between being a good webmaster and running a good site, yet still having the drive and desire to get to the top of the search results, white, grey, black, whatever colour you describe it as you wouldn’t generally be successful unless your willing to walk the line, a bit, never quite knowing how far is far enough, if you do find out it may be too late, once you have been heavily penalised and lost thousands in traffic & income.

Google has flexed recently, sending out messages of penalties for buying/selling/trading in text links and most of blogs & forums have questioned whether Google can actually tell the difference between a paid link and an organic vote. Well they took a couple of scalps this week to send another message out clear as day as to their intentions by IMO aiming for some higher profile sites.

Chowed up and spat out …again
John Chow lost his rankings yesterday, this time rather than being a WordPress related issue I feel its a personal penalty, previously ranking no.1 for “make money online” that has now gone completely and even doing a search for “John Chow” no longer brings up his site. It is not banned, doing a site: or link: shows it’s in the index, just heavily penalised.

This may be due to the fact I think he went a step too far offering to remove the “no follow” from commentators who paid him money, leaving the rest of the comments with the “no follow” attribute, that’s selling links in anyone’s book and biting the hand that feeds you with a rather obvious way of making a few bucks that could surely be outweighed by not doing it and keeping the rankings. Almost ironic seeing as JC disappeared from Google on the very day he made a post stating

Text Link Ads pays me $25 for signing up a new advertiser or publisher

Text Link Ads have also suffered the same fate, this was spotted by Matt over at Marketing Chat [Update: Patrick spotted it a number of days ago], it has been suggested directory listing in places such as the Yahoo directory are an acceptable link purchase as they are deemed a reviewed entry and not all links are accepted but buying a link from a website is not and neither is selling. I have to admit I dislike the way Google feel they can tell webmaster they must use “no follow” for purchased links on sites, their job was always to spider and index the web not to dictate to it Be careful!in any way. Either way when you start to openly go against them on the subject of text links you have to be prepared for the fall, especially if your high profile.

I think it reinforces my view that you should really look to build or buy a number of sites in your chosen genre once you establish yourself and use them as shields to your main larger site that can be protected, using smaller sites that can do a purpose and rank well for various sub topics and carefully pass traffic and link love to your main ‘mother ship’. One large site yes but with some smaller developed mini sites and test sites around it. 

Play nice, be careful and if all else fails get out the old tin foil hat.

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.


  1. Yes, it’s interesting that John hasn’t mentioned this drop in his blog. I’d figured the last drop was a Google penalty, and was disappointed when it wasn’t.

  2. That’s crazy that he doesn’t rank for “John Chow” anymore. I wonder how his overall search traffic is being effected by this.

    • And he’s still not back up in the rankings for “John Chow”, looks like its a bit more of a permanent thing this time around.

      • Yep, a proper Google slap for him. I don’t think you’ll see him rank for some time now unless changes are made and re-inclusion done.

  3. If he doesn’t rank for John Chow I can’t see Google sending him any traffic.

    I am 100% sure his penalty is due to the unrelated text ads he sells on the right hand side of the page.

    The TLA issue has been going on for 10 days now:

    • Whether it be the unrelated text ads that have been there for a long time or the selling of comment links or a combination it’s sure to kill of all G traffic as you say.

  4. I still don’t see how Goolge can claim it’s a better user experience when they do this. Surely if the user searches for John Chow they want to see John Chow’s site at the top.

  5. But just imagine how many bloggers are going to be talking about John Chow now, any publicity is good publicity etc etc
    I stopped reading his blog ages ago as I didn’t find anything particularly useful on it.

  6. He has made a mention on his site.

    In all fairness, I think he went a little too far with blog reviews.

  7. People are way to obsessed with JC and other popular bloggers.

    Over this last few months, I saw dozens of new blogs wearing the same blog template that JC uses, same widgets, same ad sizes and positions, same niche, same techniques (batches of reviews) and so on.

    It´s pretty much amusing when new “bloggers” are trying to teach you how to make money when they have no experience on the subject whatsoever.

  8. What could they think up next?

    I suppose now the only way you can get a good PR is to get organic links by sitting and waiting for them

    Which will reduce PR fraud

    • It is difficult from a standing start, you have to seek links either through marketing or being viral, once you have a network of sites you can open a new site and get it out to the public easier.

      • Well I just realized it will encourage more Adsense usage because more people will be tempted to use it to make money and therefore it will gradually become more and more valuable

  9. Kind of appropriate really. Googles motto “Don’t be evil” versus John’s philosophy of being evil to make money.

  10. maybe this is a bit offtopic … but it seems to me that google does favor his own blogspot-blogs … or is it just me?

  11. I think G is fixing what is not broken. If they feel that counting links to a particular website is not good enough anymore, they should find a way to determine the relevancy of a website some other way.

    The Internet is about networking. Blogging in particular is an exercise in networking, don’t you think? It is all about links. Big business wants them, and bloggers control them. Monetizing any blog depends on turning links into money – whether those links be JavaScript, text or nofollow.

    G is in the business of making links into money too. So what gives them the right to dictate to the rest of us how to use the links at our disposal? Just because G would like to have sanitized links to feed into their ranking algorithms does not mean that there is a right or wrong way to turn money into links.

    G is short for Google – not God. Just because G declares paid links bad does not mean they are (or that they are going to stop existing).

    It would have been better for Google to keep this part of their algo secret (like the rest of it), because paid links are currently easy to identify and discount. But this declaration of war on paid links is going to make link merchants work SMARTER.

    Instead of announcing link sales on a site, the sales will be done off-site. Paid inks will no longer appear in footers and sidebars, but INSIDE article text. Paid links will not disappear. They will just get harder to spot.

    Is this what G intended?

    (I think Abdul has a point about G channeling “link money” towards ads of some kind. :cough: :adsense: :cough:

  12. hi,
    one of my sites fell 70 positions – from page 1 to page 7 for a high paying keyword. the only thing i had done was made a couple of sitewide link exchanges (3-way: so there was no outbound link for the link partner from my site). could this be a factor for the drop?

    • Sitewide links on low quality sites would not be a great idea imo, especially if they are unrelated as that could affect your perceived trust.

  13. Interesting post & thanks for the links out I found a great tip on one of them 🙂 All these things g is doing is a pain in the butt, its cost me a fair chunk of change with the devaluing of paid links but thats ok Its just made me focus more on the constants “Unique Content” maybe i should have wrote “the only constant” 😉

  14. Building a site to meet all the ‘unwritten’ rules can be daunting. Yet, if someone can reach that level for that long before they get penalized maybe just focusing on building a good site is the most important. Besides, understanding how to do many of the things not supported by the g takes time and work that many new websites do not even have.

  15. I agree. Can google come up with a set of rules and stick to them. There is too much grey area. I understand SOME grey but if you are doing everything by the book you should be rewarded. I guess google is doing what they can but don’t they seem like the SEO Nazis these days. You work for six months on what you believe to be within the guidlines only to find out that you have broken some unknown rule. I am even afraid of badmouthing them,google, now. Maybe they are watching? Ok thats my rant. Great Post. Thanks

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