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Last month I wrote an article about Google’s payday loan update which seemed to hit several sites but bypassed YouTube.
This month I have decided to go and take a look at two of the most popular press release sites and see if they have recovered from the penalty.
The 1st site I looked at was PR Newswire, who was getting an estimated 441,000 organic visits per month in May before the penalty. As you can see in the image below they are now driving an estimated 47,800 organic visits per month to the site after the penalty.
The 2nd site I have been monitoring is PR Web, one of the other big players in the Press Release niche. PR Web was getting a whopping 760,000+ estimated organic visits per month in May and since the penalty they are getting just over 34,000 estimated organic visits.
Due to these penalties both press releases companies have made sweeping changes to what they will allow to be covered in their releases moving forward.
For instance neither agency will allow releases to be published about HCG, Green Coffee Beans, Raspberry Ketone, Garcinia Cambogia, Electronic Cigarettes or Payday Loans.
Most of these products Google will happily to advertise for profit, as seen in the image below.
If you think about the implication of these penalties it should also make it pretty clear that negative seo can be applied to most anyone, regardless of the size, age or reputation of the site in question.
Let’s put this in perspective, both of these sites have millions of existing links pointing to them over the course of several years in the business. The behavior of a few black hat SEO’s out there caused the sites to lose rankings and traffic for keywords which resulted on up to a 90% drop in estimated organic traffic.
While it is unlikely this was an intentional negative SEO attempt the result was the same, the sites were penalized due to behavior outside of their direct control and links they did not build themselves.
How difficult would it be to replicate this same pattern of bad behavior and victimize other, smaller sites that are standing in the way of your rankings?
Matt Cutts put out a YouTube video discussing how negative seo is easily combated through the disavow tool and how webmasters might just find it a minor inconvenience to disavow links.
Below is a snapshot of PR Web’s 26 MILLION links across nearly 200,000 domains I am not sure about you, but I would think reviewing even 1% of those links to be more than a “minor” inconvenience, even if you are lucky enough to have a full time webmaster on your staff.
The point is no matter what you do it is in your best interest to regularly check your backlink profile in Google Webmaster tools and 3rd party tools such as Majestic Seo. Many times the penalty is not applied right away and by the time you figure out you have been a victim of negative SEO you may have to go back months to see where those links have come from.
What do you think; do you think Google has made it too easy to use negative SEO as a tactic?
Recently I put together an article about press release sites taking a huge hit in search rankings, presumably due to the “payday loan” algorithm which is supposed to target highly spammed keywords and sites using spammy techniques.
I spoke to an employee of a press release distribution company (who both will remain nameless) and they told me that the initial punishment occurred over the keyword “garcinia cambogia”, a keyword that gets more than 800,000 searches per month according to Semrush.
As I continued to write I decided to do a search for that keyword and see who the new results were. To my surprise I found a short YouTube video ranking near the bottom of page 1. After doing some research on the video I examined its backlink profile and came to the conclusion that the site was ranking purely on the strength of pure spam.
This discovery got me thinking that perhaps YouTube, a Google owned property might be “protected” from such actions. After all the more traffic their videos receive, the more revenue they can generate through ads.
I decided to check out some other keywords to see if my theory held true in another niche. After some consideration I decided to focus on a local seo keyword, such as “city name seo”. I wanted a term that would have value and a term that would have some good search volume.
The keyword I settled on has roughly 500 searches per month for its city name “seo” and could potentially generate a few hundred more visits by ranking for other variations of this same keyword.
Lo and behold I was able to find a YouTube video ranking in the 6th position for this keyword.
Well, if it is ranking in the top 10 and Google is attacking spammy backlinks, then this must be a squeaky clean white hat video correct?
The video has 65 views yet it has 1700 backlinks from almost 300 domains. How does that happen? How can only 65 people viewed the video yet 1700 links been created for said video? Perhaps the links are quality, so let’s take a peek!
After checking the backlink profile on Majectic SEO most of the links are coming via blog comments. Wait a minute, blog comments can be white hat right?
Of course they can but when the anchor text is either exact match or some variation of the main keyword then it screams spam. Don’t take my word for it, take a look yourself!
Notice that this page has been spammed to death and has some unsavory keywords on the same page as the “seo” keyword. I have marked out most information since I just want to point out the facts but do not want to “out” the video in question.
I think it is pretty clear that the site is simply using YouTube as a “host” to spam and rank.
In light of how Google has handled some news sites and the press release distribution sites I find it rather interesting that they are punishing these domains in the name of “search quality” yet their very own property can be used to rank for some of these keywords using the shadiest of tactics with no ill effects?
What are your thoughts?