Im an Expedia employee (inbound marketing director, covering SEO), although Im currently at the end of my notice period. (Im leaving in two weeks).
Also, I worked in the B2B division, nothing to do with the consumer side that this article references.
The author of the post linked above contacted me a couple of days before publishing it, to warn me that he would publish (quote: "damning evidence of expedia spam").
HOWEVER: If I wanted him to not publish it, he would "sell the post to the highest bidder".
That was what prompted me to post this on my personal blog: http://webmarketingschool.com/big-brand-seo-spam/ and for the record, I told him to sling his hook reference to extorting money out of anyone in exchange for not posting stuff about their backlinks.
No doubt that is why I got singled out in the article. You'll notice that at the top I get mentioned as being in charge of this stuff, then right down at the bottom, he mentions that in fact Ive got nothing to do with it.
"I’m an app review consultant and I wanted to know if your current version of ‘insert name of the app here’ has the capability to handle an extra 250-400 app downloads per day? Let me know so that I can begin downloading them at your convenience."
"Outsource your downloads (google it, there are several providers). Rinse and Repeat, as all the fake Guru’s like to say."
For example, you might have started looking at <a>houses for sale in Sudan</a> because you love the hospitality of the area, but find that flights from your usual home are prohibitively expensive, which would limit your use of it."
I'll draw my conclusion among other things from statements such as:
Sure, there are some skeletons in SEO-closets, but thats the same for every single major site that has existed for a decade or longer, bar none.
Not only do you attempt to drag the whole web business through the mud after being caught with your pants down, you also personally insult people who have been opposed to these kinds of practices and still ran major sites for a long time.
If I were you, I'd keep quiet and seek a position somewhere unrelated to SEO and not taint Expedia's reputation even more by invoking the "everyone else is doing it" defense, which most people in the web business know is just plain wrong.
Also, I'd now expect people to scrutinize Wikipedia more, looking for spammy Expedia links. Thanks for the hint.
Martin, if what you're saying is true, that's very shady behavior on his part. However, it does not have any impact on what he's saying. Your post seems to say "yes big brands are doing it and can do it because they are brands, suck it up"
I don't think we should accept that same behavior should have different implications depending on who is doing it.
I totally agree there should be one set of rules and thats it.
Thing is, there IS one set of rules already - and thats governed by the google organic results algo which looks at a sites backlink profile as a whole.
If its mainly crap links with no authority then the site will get banned. If its a big brand site with authority and reputation, its really tough from Google's perspective to simply ban that site and all its pages because there are some links of questionable authority pointed at it.
IF they did that, the search results would be a pretty lonely place, and it would be super easy to remove sites positioned above yours in the results!
Google does NOT only use the algorithm, and manually bans sits algorithm may have misses as it was in the case of RapGenius. I don't buy the argument that search results would be lonely, if Google somewhat punished Expedia for this, it would force them to change behavior. They would fall inline as well as others that may be using these questionable methods.
His point is what proof does Google have that this was done by Expedia and not some competitor doing negative SEO?
This doesn't justify the spam, it just makes it much more difficult for Google to detect and penalize due to the mostly natural link profile that Expedia has earned legitimately by building a household brand.
If you had 99% signals saying this is a strong brand worth ranking high, or even only 85% of the signals are positive, and you have a few shady backlinks, wouldn't you give them the benefit of the doubt? Even if you wouldn't can you risk penalizing them without a smoking gun and proof of spam?
The only real question here is why Expedia even bothers with these efforts...Most big brands can get more than enough natural backlinks by launching new programs and services and having all the press pick up the story.
Thats absolutely true - Google do have the power, and often use it, to make human decisions on the quality of websites and often ban those that break they TOS. As for whether Google should take action against any particular website, its not for me to say.
I would trust this post if you could at the very least provide some evidence that he did contact you and that you are leaving because to me, it seems like you're just a employee trying to pin the blame on him and do a little damage control.
The fact that you're the Marketing Director at Expedia makes it even worse (if you are lying).
EDIT: Okay, I just did some research and this person's company is extremely fishy but I would still like to see some evidence.
Your allegation is a strong one. Plus considering that your personal reputation is being impugned against by Nenad, I wonder why you don't publish his email where he said he would "sell the post to the highest bidder"?