Here’s how to penalise your competitors in Google

 
 

This is a story about Susan Moskwa, and the potential Pandora’s Box she opened by publicly posting her reply to someone performing a mass link exchange request [1]. Link exchanges have been used for years, but now suddenly Susan Moskwa has, perhaps unintentionally, given people a way to block their competitors. Not only can this be disastrous for websites reliant on search engine traffic, but can it also affect SEO?

What Susan Moskwa Did

People send out link exchange emails all the time. If you own a website, you have probably received one. Apparently Susan Moskwa owns the domain Thedame.net. If you check this domain, it does not resolve or load at all.

A Webmaster sent an email to Susan, stating that she (her name is Mary) said the website was interesting and wanted a link exchange. There is no way for this person to have seen the website, as it does not resolve. However, Susan’s response is what is causing a stir.

She works for Google, and said she is reporting the website to Google for being in violation of their Webmaster guidelines [2].

The Problems

There are two major problems here. First, according to Susan, this Webmaster was attempting to game the Google system and garner better rankings. However, if you check the Webmaster’s request, you will see that Mary just said that she was attempting to get more traffic. While link exchanges do have the potential to increase rankings, due to more inbound links, the request was very clearly for traffic.

Since when is getting links to increase rankings a problem? Link exchanging, and all of SEO, is based on getting inbound links. The Google system itself is built around the number of inbound links a website gets. Does this mean you are violating Google’s rules by playing by its rules? Susan doesn’t seem to have a very good grasp on common SEO practices.

The second problem is much more serious. According to Susan, this link exchange request is enough for her to send the domain to Google’s spam team, which will probably blacklist the website.

Do you want a good way to get rid of your competitors? Forget beating them at SEO, just send a link exchange request to Susan on behalf of your competitor. She’ll make sure the domain is banned from Google.

Google’s Spam Team

If you check Google’s Webmaster Agreement, Susan is technically in the right. Under the section “Link schemes” [3] Google says that it does not want websites participating in link exchanges. However, for the longest time, Google has perfected its search algorithm to discount websites with a massive amount of link exchanges, ensuring they do not get high rankings.

Susan, on the other hand, makes it seem that any website ever participating in a link exchange is subject to automatically being blacklisted. If you check out her comments on her reply (in which she continuously defends her position) she says that she is not in control of whether or not the website will be blacklisted. Instead, the spam department will check into it.

Considering that Google dislikes link exchanges, as expressly said by their Webmaster guideline, does that mean that people can viably game this problem to ban their competitors? Since Susan has not shared Mary’s domain, she instead showed it as “[redacted].com”, there is no way to check whether or not her domain has indeed been removed from Google. But, as it stands, this can be viable if someone sufficiently linkspams Susan and other Googlers [4].

What This Means for SEO and Fair Business

Pandora's BoxOn the side of business, Susan has opened quite a huge Pandora’s Box, because this might be the best way to get rid of your competitors. While there is no way to check what Google has done to Mary’s website, if it was ever indexed in the first place, this has become a scary reality for many Webmasters.

As for the impact on SEO, it’s actually minimal, especially for the SEO elite. Link exchanging is still used by some people, but this is largely an outdated technique that most gurus do not use.

Instead, gurus and experts focus on link clouds, article marketing, forum marketing and other one-way link techniques so Google has a much harder time finding out if people are trying to increase their rank. Had this been about 10 years ago, when link exchanging was in vogue, then it may have had some serious effects.

However, the impact this can have for your website can be various serious. Google, a business meant to bring people to relevant websites, sure can be ban happy. Susan has just given Google another way to take out the ban hammer, and it’s sure she will be thoroughly thanked by a massive wave of linkspam requests. However, most of this linkspam will probably be just to make her ban people’s competitors.

References:

[1] http://www.seroundtable.com/google-link-exchange-response-14575.html

[2] http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769

[3] http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66356

[4] https://plus.google.com/107122646256015117642/posts/c6eTWSpZiFq

Dan Petrovic is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of search engine optimisation and online marketing. Dan's work is highly regarded by the world-wide SEO community and featured on some of the most reputable websites in the industry.

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