I paid for ad's through HotScripts, and this was a solid source of leads. This mixture, along with a fast, secure, easy to use site and great word of mouth lead to an annual growth rate of around 30%, ending up in 2011 with a monthly income of just over $5000. Not bad for what started out as a side-project. I took none of this for granted, and worked by butt off every day.
It's key to note from 2007 to 2011 a great consolidation was taking place, with Google eating, for me at least, 90% of all search traffic.
Then the spammers hit. My site was targeted with millions of low quality links, which lead to a Google penalty in 2012. I lost 90% of my traffic and along with it, 90% of my revenue.
4 years on and I've never actually recovered from my penalty, with traffic being manually limited to under 30 clicks on any particular day.
I've done my best to advertise, with Google capturing the lions share. Unfortunately I too have very little luck with this channel, with only 1 $4 conversion after hundreds spent.
The real kicker here, and my reason for posting, is the difference between what was my organic traffic then, and my ad traffic now, is nowhere near the same in terms of quality and obviously, conversions.
I guess my point is the current situation, basically 2 companies controlling so much traffic, seems, well, bad for small business in this country. I value what they bring to the table and fully understand why they're so popular. But is things keep on this way where does that lead the guys like me? Is this just the way it has to be? Is the dream of the open Internet already dead?
It wasn't till we realised we had 10,000+ spammy links pointed at our site that we wondered whether we had been the victim of some malicious attack. We couldn't recover the penalty to the site no matter how hard we worked and have had to rebuild at a new domain as a result.
For small businesses like us, is it really possible for a competitor to just destroy our online credibility like that or am I just paranoid?
What I'm wondering is how easy it is really to get to top at some more obscure search term by just using nasty black hat tactics. I'm also wondering if this is actually the easiest way to get top of search results. If that is the case than it's really alarming IMHO.
SEO is a big industry and taking down competitors is a part of being the top N results.
I've forked out a lot (for us) on adwords and the return has been negligible to say the least.
Does this mean that the democratizing power of the internet has been swallowed up for small, lean companies like us who cant afford a mega adwords budget?
For a criminal-justice-system analogy, it's similar in concept (though not in extremity) to SWATting. And I don't think we want governments to wash their hands of that and say "not our fault our system is abusable that way, it's all on you to do something about it after the fact".
The credit rating agencies could establish reasonably secure channels directly to consumers (passwords would be a start, dedicated tokens would be best), and require explicit authorization through the secure channel for new lines of credit. No account system is perfect, but it'd be a hell of a lot harder to break than "prove your knowledge of full name, address, DOB, and SSN" which are shared and stored all over the place, and bound to leak.
The financial industry or the government (probably at the financial industry's behest) could sign/distribute cryptographic identities along with plastic ones. Opening a new account could require a signature from a signed certificate.
Banks could send prompts to your smartphone asking you to approve/reject ACH and even credit card transactions, ala Venmo. Or you could sign them from a device you control, as with Bitcoin. (Instead, when we get cryptographic signing for payments at all, we get cards which sign all transactions presented to them by devices the consumer doesn't control, without verifying the cardholder's intent except through the merchant's terminal, whose UI could be lying. And we're still stuck with shared secrets for online payments).
A lot is possible, the financial industry has simply chosen to put consumers (and itself) through the hassle and expense of cleaning up after fraud because it's cheaper than a serious attempt at an authentication system.
Google does something much like this - but without regulation or clear appeal process.
If Google's approach is encouraging or enabling fraud, I'd like to see to it they're the ones who are motivated to change their approach. Making them legally responsible for the actions of their algorithms, preferably with penalties steep enough that even they can't ignore the resulting fines, might not be a bad start.
If the police simply refused to respond until you'd done the full investigation yourself and handed in the proof, and then the only thing they'd do was acknowledge "yup, that guy stole your wallet, we won't assume he legitimately possesses that wallet anymore but we also won't do anything to get it back or prosecute him", then you'd have an analogy.
Also, have you tried reporting a minor crime in a major city recently? Me: "My (nice road racing) bike was stolen. Here's the video tape from the security camera showing the crime and the thief's face." Cops: "That's nice for you. Come back in a week and see if your bike is in our shed if you like. Cheerio".
I spend an average of 10-15 hours/week disavowing bad links our competitors build. I've automated most of it now so it's going faster, but it's out of control.
Their latest update of the Penguin algorithm states it is more "granular" and also stated it will really only penalize the pages that have the bad links pointing to it, rather than the whole site.
Small steps, I know but at least they are doing something it seems.
2) Email Google directly. It is sometimes difficult to find a way to email, but once you do they'll take care of it.
So a easy way to game that was to set up "link farms" that pointed to each other, but not really offering anything worthwhile except a bunch of words people were likely to search for.
Why "in this country"? Isn't it a problem for the entrepreneurs in the rest of the world too?
Few people in Russia use Google for Russian language searches, this is because Google is not as good at declining Russian nouns and conjugating Russian verbs. Yandex gives more results of a higher quality for certain searches.
That has no bearing on whether Chinese businesses care. Obviously there are tons of Chinese businesses that sell outside China, including retail businesses, and their customers DO use Google.
Same for the Russian case.
So a reasonable explanation is that Russians are increasingly using Google's apps: gmail, google calendar, the google now launcher; which probably has something to do with the fact that these apps come preinstalled on their phones. Not necessarily that they prefer Google for searching for Russian-language websites.
This is not true, Google has >20% share in Russia iirc
Are you saying competitors maliciously sabotaged your ranking? Or that you bought SEO services from an unscrupulous company?
I have seen the consequences of paying for SEO. They spam your site URL on random web forums. If you pay for SEO, you are very likely paying people to use bots and sweatshops to spam your site url via low quality garbage links dumped on Twitter, on web site hosts, in comment sections and forums. A lot of this traffic originates from criminal botnets. Seriously, don't do it.
As an example I just pulled out of our filter, here's what you're really paying for when you pay for SEO: https://twitter.com/karenhall191
Unfortunately, as a web hosting provider (neocities.org), I have to deal with some of the fallout from this. Google's business model creates this problem, but they provide little support and few tools to help us deal with it (reporting API please?), and we're largely forced to go it alone.
Because they tell us:
>How does one determine their site is "punished"?
Because it suddenly falls behind in results?
Without a real way to understand what's actually going on, you're just shooting at the darkness. It feels more like worshiping a cargo cult than doing something actually productive.
That's no more a reason to doubt spam links' effect than to doubt any other suspected metric, as all as "shooting in the darkness".
What are you gonna do, lie down and have the site end up as low as it can get? Sometimes you do need to fight in the dark, and gauge any changes you make from the reaction you get.
"I'm never going to say to myself "welp, our pagerank went down, time to use Google's weird tool to clean up the negative SEO attack again."" -- is not really an option.
So I've never done any "SEO" work on the site outside of Google's own recommendations with regard to site content, ease of use, etc.
In other words no link building, keyword stuffed pages, etc.
I'm still in the dark all these years later, but my best guess is:
a. I had a blog and forum that, like most of that time (2012's), has occasional spam posts.
b. Those posts would often, but not always, be referenced by the spam links pointing to my site.
c. I had very high rank in Google for several years leading up to the penalty.
Because of this I don't think it was a necessarily a competitor, but rather spammers trying to leech off of that high ranking.
At most, the dream of ad-funded websites might be dead. (I wish!)
This dream created a lot of value by providing free services to Web users. But it also created a lot of harm by enticing those users into closed gardens full of surveillance, which service providers created to gather data to drive ad revenue. I think on net the harm is much greater; we'd have a much more open Internet today if people had gotten used to paying a few dollars a year for ad-free webmail, IM, social networking, search engine access, etc.
What you are wishing for is a world in which access to things like Google Search which we take utterly for granted now are forced to become paid services. What are the implications of that, particularly for the world's poorest?
hmmm so Google will stop being a de facto monopoly while ad networks crumble? Maybe free and/or open search will start flourishing again because finally there is incentive to write readable HTML for all crawlers instead of only returning scannable results when they detect the (highly peculiar) GoogleBot.
Maybe we'll get search engines again that do proper ranking (I hear actual pagerank was not a bad idea), or ones that do a proper AND-search of your keywords instead of trying second-guess you. Maybe they'll even return more than the top 1000 results. Search engines aren't that hard if you don't try to be as big as Google immediately and they just try to be good at that things they're good for.
Walled silos of user-supplied data will fall apart because it's no longer a viable strategy to special-case GoogleBot access to get your locked data appear in the results any way.
Google can no longer afford to arbitrarily overlook tactics which are against their TOS, as long as the player is big enough.
All the while, small business can still advertise if they want, easily enough by making a deal with other businesses (perhaps through a middle-man) and self-hosting the banner, click-through link to the other. Maybe some self-hosted analytics. And because in this hypothetical dream-world the craziness of these huge 3rd party ad-networks is gone, this will actually work, it'll pay, people will click.
Ads will therefore become much less shady as they are currently perceived (like, merely deceitful, not as a proper possible danger to your computer, your data and identity). Hopefully this will change the public idea of what ads can and should be in such a way that these ridiculous 3rd party ad networks with their "accidental" malicious code and ubiquitous tracking will never get a foothold again.
There might also be some downsides, though.
(The world's poorest people are a really bad target audience for ads - they have very little discretionary income!)
Meanwhile, the cost of Internet access for the poorest people is at least an order of magnitude bigger, maybe two orders of magnitude (since the cost to Google probably is much less than $1). Also, poor people's main or only Internet access is often via smartphones, and mobile data costs much more per GB than landline ISPs.
On the margin, some people who can afford Internet access today would not be able to also afford (as many) paid services. I'm willing to pay this price, in exchange for everyone who could afford access and services (including most of the poor people who can do so now) getting much better and more varied service and much less surveillance. Also, a paid model would enable people who publish blogs and other sites, and various services.
Finally, if you treat Internet or Web access and services as very important and maybe a human right, then governments should provide it or subsidize access or regulate prices. Absent that, for-profit corporations paid by users would be much better than the same corporations paid by advertisers.
"If your content is fresh and linked to from reputable sites, we'll promote you in the search results... for free."
Facebook is purely pay-for-play. Paying for boosted posts is the only way to cut through the noise (unless your content goes organically viral, which only has a 24 hr shelf life).
Some evolution images and stories: http://searchengineland.com/evolution-google-serps-three-key...
It is still "free" but takes a lot of work to get there, and it is worth less than it used to be. Lots of SEO's have gone the way of paid.