Norwegian Technology Journalist Exposes an SEO Scam

Academic paper translation, with a link back! Another ‘clever’ SEO idea which further damaged the reputation of our industry.

SEO Scam: Translation Email

Image Credit:  Fraud 2.0: Albertio wants to stick his straw in NRKbeta’s Google Juice

What happened?

Around six months ago I received an email from a translation service offering to translate one of my science articles from English to Bulgarian. They also mentioned something about me linking back to that translation and (being an SEO) I saw that there were hidden agendas. I had a chuckle and deleted the email.

No harm done. Right? Wrong!

The same provider clearly contacted a very large number of academic authors, science writers and scholars asking them for the same thing. The problem with trying to scam smart people is that they are likely smarter than you and will figure out what you’re trying to do. Sadly some fell into the trap.

Academics Fight Back

This morning I scanned over my junk mail for false positives. One caught my eye and I decided to read it:


I want to inform you, that if you ever got message requesting your permission to translate your publication, don’t trust those people. They making that in a commercial purpose. The translation made by Google translate (you can check that).

When you post the link back to the site (where the translation is located) you help them to prove the site Google score and the PageRank of the site. The higher PageRank  and Google score the more people can find the site, the more money this site cost. It’s a commercial sites.

The example of the first letter you may got:


I’ve known you website for ages, strictly speaking from year 2000. I found  interesting your  publication “Name of the publication” which  I googled on <link to publication> ! I’d  love to use it in a project I’m involved with called “Web Flower Society” (“Translation for education”, Geek Science”, etc)  so I’m seeking your permission for translation to Spanish language. “Web  Flower Society” is a freemium-model non-English language orientated startup  with collection of scientific articles, personal notes etc. in several  languages that is collaboratively edited by volunteers from around the  world since 1999. Young and old, students and professors – even your  neighbor could be a volunteer member.

If you agree, we will credit you for your work in the resulting  translation’s references by stating that it was based on your work and is  used with your permission, and by mentioning the name of my project “Web  
Flower Society” (“Translation for education”, Geek Science”, etc)  back to:<link to publication>

Thank you for your time and patience. I look forward to your response next week.

Wishing you the best,”

The (excluded) second part of the email names involved translators and the company behind the scam. It also lists an article by Anders Hofseth which details his experience with the whole thing. The article includes one entire sample of the communication trail between Anders and the translator, Albert.

Unfortunately what happens is that this translation team wouldn’t just (Google) translate and notify the original author, but instead they pester people until the link has been placed.

 Check this out:

So sorry to disturb you again with my request. But I am very concerned about it, as I have not heard from you for more than a half month. Is there a chance, that you will publish the link to my translation…

Anders finally reaches out to the community on twitter and gets a clarification on what is going on from Magne Uppman from

PageRank Transfer

Uppman, calls this link building method unethical and ‘blackhat’. I personally label this tactic as ‘sneaky and manipulative’ and certainly in breach of Google’s guidelines. But could this harm a site? No. They could have been running their little scheme for a long time and with decent success rate, but greed and scale got in a way (as usual). This clearly worked on a number of cases so they thought the next step is to hire an army of people to do the same thing and instructed them to extract those link with borderline aggressive follow-ups.

The company on the receiving end of the ‘translation scheme’ did acquire some great links, but now that its reputation is challenged – the question is, was the whole thing worth it?



Fraud 2.0: Albertio wants to stick his straw in NRKbeta’s Google Juice

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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8 thoughts on “Norwegian Technology Journalist Exposes an SEO Scam

  1. If the articles were merely translated using Google Translate, isn’t there a potential duplicate content issue since Google will obviously know that it is the same thing? (just in different languages)?


  2. There were some subtle changes in wording in the ‘translation’, so that it looked different from my A/B test with google translate. Might be sufficient to cheat an automatic check as well…
    – anders

  3. They don’t. I once translated a paper from English to Spanish, and viceversa…it didn’t recognize it as duplicate content. Not even after I’ve corrected it and made it readable.

    An excellent article, Dan. Very well written. I understod it ( it doesn’t come often with articles from IT people)

  4. ummm clearly no guideline were broken because that is no different then outreach to bloggers. Though a BS tactic from an outreach standpoint and not something I’d recommend IMO, it doesn’t break Google TOS or quality guuidelines since it passes the biggest test that being adds benefit to users, that a translation makes available content to a new audience is a benefit in and of itself. It isn’t really duplicate content because it is in another index assuming the translations are hosted in the country they were translated for so again wondering if the people saying this is bad really … understand the guidelines… or know what dupicate content is and isn’t

  5. What an interesting article. I shall translate it into sansrit which has a large community of people interested in these subjects. Then please link to my translation. This will benefit everybody (but most especially my pharma clients)