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'll let you all draw your own conclusions.
The only reason I got mentioned, was that I refused to pay money to not have it published, and told the author that blackmail wasnt a great idea.
If someone had attempted to extort you, and were now using your name in this fashion, wouldnt you want to respond?
"Outsource your downloads (google it, there are several providers). Rinse and Repeat, as all the fake Guru’s like to say."
These tweets by you were enlightening too: https://twitter.com/searchmartin/status/417260215453876224
And of course the intro to the very post:
"After receiving a manual penalty by Google for 2 small sites (for gaming the Google PR system".
I would not touch this entire fiasco with a 10-foot pole and I do not envy all involved or dragged into this.
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.
I don't think we should accept that same behavior should have different implications depending on who is doing 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!
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.
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.
As for pinning blame on the author?
Im not debating anything he said, other than calling my name out.
Its not my place to deny OR corroborate any claims against a division that I NEVER worked for, of a company that I no longer work for! ;)
I took the decision then not to out the behaviour - however given that Im targeted in the article I've since slackened my ethics on how to treat the situation.