WebGuerrilla on Wired - Search Engines Easy to Manipulate

Thread Title:
Search Rank Easy to Manipulate
Thread Description:

Greg Boser is featured in a Wired article on manipulating search rankings that dubs PageRank and linking as a possible Achilles' heel. No shit sherlock..

With so much at stake, it's not surprising that some search-engine-savvy geeks, like Boser, will do whatever it takes to get a client to place high in the rankings, something for which he makes no apologies. He claims he's just being realistic.

"The search engines created the monster," he said. "It only exists because Google's algorithm places a lot of emphasis on link popularity."

"The search engines live in a fantasy world," Boser said. "Every link is a vote. But people buy and sell links."

The article, that ends rather abruptly on page 2, goes on to talk about how irrelevant many of the links coming into sites ranking for the term "search engine optimization" are, quoting a few examples and the difference between "do it by the book" clients and "do what it takes" clients.

Quite a fun read...


Cop out

"The search engines created the monster," he said. "It only exists because Google's algorithm places a lot of emphasis on link popularity."

Sorry, but I think that's a bit of a cop out. It's like virus writers saying "Well it's Microsoft's fault for leaving an exploitable hole".
Afterall, people writing viruses to distribute adverts to infected machines is business too ya know....

There is a HUGE difference

Virii writing is illegal, giving away free content is not

That is Great!

Really great.

The people who are buying and

The people who are buying and selling links are not giving away free content, they are trying to sell things to make money. Same thing as some of the virus writers. You could argue both are interferring with what users are doing in order to sell them something. Just because one of those things isn't deemed illegal, doesn't make it a good thing to do. I hate seeing crappy sites at the top of SERPS based purley on the fact they've bought links.

I'm sure Google would happily make the buying and selling of links illegal if they could. If it were (and I'm not suggesting for a minute that it's something that would actually happen) made illegal to buy links, would your views on it change?

If I publish a site and host

If I publish a site and host that site, my links are my links.
I can give them away OR I can sell my links.
Again, they are MY links.

Do MY LINKS manipulate a search engine? Why should I care. Maybe they do one month and maybe they don't the next.


I don't force Google to spider me and index me

Google and all of the search engines cost me money every month and they have never given me any money for all of MY bandwidth that they use. Since it is my bandwidth, my servers and my content I can do whatever I want with my links and so can every other webmaster.

Also I assume you think scrapers are terrible evil people. Well Google is the biggest scraper site in existence. They steal content from all sites then they host it on their own site and sell advertising wrapped around my content and your content. So if Google is using my content and counting my links, then it is their problem to fix their algorithm.

"Do MY LINKS manipulate a sea

"Do MY LINKS manipulate a search engine? Why should I care."

But if you're buying and selling links, you do care, don't pretend otherwise. If the link had no value, you wouldn't buy it, if it has value, presumably you care.
It also suggests the effect on search engines by buying and selling links is a mere side effect. We all know that 99% of the reason for buying links is for that exact effect.

Anyway, my main point was that the excuse of "I can, so I will" is a complete cop out and poor way of justifying it. And is exactly how some virus writers and mass email spammers justify their actions. They know the results will annoy people, but hey, it's not their fault it's easy to do, surely it must be the fault of the people leaving the holes for them to exploit.

Search engines didn't create the monster at all, everyone can make their own choice about whether they exploit that kind of problem or not. If you're going to buy and sell links, say it's because you want to be higher in the SERPS and make more money. Don't try and excuse it by blaming the SE's.

I'm sure Google would happily

I'm sure Google would happily make the buying and selling of links illegal if they could. If it were (and I'm not suggesting for a minute that it's something that would actually happen) made illegal to buy links, would your views on it change?

These are the sorts of crazy replies that make me smile on a day when I wish I was out in the sun!

Thanks for the laugh :)

Real life or not

Adrian, this is about living in the real life or not. In real life there are search engine spammers, blogspammers and link trading. If you want to compete in that space you either pick it up or leave the game to others. This is not about ethics or anything - this is just business. Very simple.

Feel free to block Google fro

Feel free to block Google from spidering your site then.
Though I doubt you actually want to do that. The whole process of spidering is a give and take process. You allow them to spider the site and list it in the serps, in return, depending on how 'relevant' the equations think the site/page is, you get visitors.

Yeah Google are effectively scraping content (I thought about this with the recent discussion about the link tool that GoogleGuy butted in on), but you have the choice to allow or disallow Google. Perhaps you think it should be opt-in rather than opt-out? They may not give you money for the bandwidth they use, but do you pay them for the visitors you get from organic listings?

By the way, I'm not anti-SEO or anything, I do my fair share of SE manipulation to try and boost the companies site. The line I draw between what I would/wouldn't do to that end is different to others, but I'm not going to say "It's the engines fault".

"If you want to compete in th

"If you want to compete in that space you either pick it up or leave the game to others."

Oh I know it's naive to think people won't take advantage of it where it make business sense, and I don't think along those lines. I've discussed this kind of thing for too long and with too many people to take such an angelic view of the world :)

Just say it like it is.

You can't get away from it ...

This is not about ethics or anything - this is just business.

That in itself IS an ethical stance.

Saying it's just business is ok with me. I don't agree with it, but at least you're being upfront about why you do what you do.

But arguments that Google steals your bandwidth and your content? They'll stay away if you ask them to...

In short, I agree with Adrian. Buying and selling links is a particular business practice, and it's done, in my opinion, to take advantage of an algo that puts too much emphasis on links. Hopefully, the people who pay to have this done for them fully understand that algos can be improved, and that the advantage their sites are getting from all these links could disappear overnight.

Adrian, Sorry I've come ba


Sorry I've come back a lil late to the thread but when I said "giving away free content" I was actually talking about the slightly more controversial topic, commonly called link spam.

As for buying or selling links, well IMHO advertising is advertising. For eons advertising has delivered various goals.

The major goal, and most measurable goal, may be selling more of a widget product or widget service.

One of the harder to measure goals is increased brand awareness.

If the search engines chose to use (or not) advertising to assist them in their algorithms then that's a matter for them. I admit that the market for certain types of adverts may diminish but that's simply market forces at work.

Greg was being nothing but honest. The facts are that the reason a particular kind of advertising has increased is due to the Search engines themselves. I forsee that while the engines continue to operate in a similar manner market forces will ensure that the costs will stay at a similar price. When (and if) the engines stop working as they do, see the market diminish!

No problem with advertising

Certainly no harm in advertising Jason, and yeah, I'd agree that the business of buying and seeling links is so big because it does work.

But no search engine is EVER going to unexploitable in some manner. To say they created the problem is just unfair IMHO.

Reminds me of a simpsons episode where Bart starts swinging his arms and says to Lisa "I'm just gonna move like this, and if you get hit by one of my arms, well, it's your own fault", or words to that effect.

Maybe we should go back to the old Alta Vista days of nicely vague SERP's and not using links for ranking :P

[quote]To say they created th

To say they created the problem is just unfair IMHO

Presuming of course, that you see free content addition and certain types of advertising as a problem (I don't, but I do appreciate not everyone agrees with me) would it be fairer to say that the problem is there because of the search engines?

I think that is factually correct although I think we are arguing semantics :)

Most of his clients...

He gets most of his clients through speaking engagements at conferences

I think we all know that speaking at conferences has it's perks, but it almost sounds as if he has no need to market his company at all.

An enviable position for sure.

>>free content addition

That really should be beneath someone of your intelligence Jason. Tell it like it is.

If you're a spammer, you're a spammer. Not a fucking content provider.

LOL. I take it you don't like

LOL. I take it you don't like the term Nick?

I find it a little.... silly at best.

Blog spam is spam, i've done it, you do it, lots of other have done and do do it. It is what it is though, a great nuicence to the the live websites that get caoght up as 'collateral damage' and i although i dont take great exception to it, yes, i dont like it :)

I think if you do these things, you need to at least admit them for what they are....


A few years ago, on a public SEO forum, the question was asked what we would all call ourselves.
I answered spammer.
A Brit posted that I was a low life to call myself a spammer.
He said he called himself a "professional spammer".

You're right of course. I am

You're right of course. I am a spammer and I have no problem admitting it nor sleeping at night.

There is a reason I have started to sometimes use the term "free content addition" over spam and it's a social engineering thing, which I was going to use in this thread. Not gonna happen now though :D

Firstly a much greater discussion can develop when a somewhat legitimate term is used. My aim was to build a discussion towards my viewpoint and then change the term to spam (for free content addition) and buying links (from advertising) and see how opinions change.

Semantics, Buzzword bingo, spam, advertising and link sales in one thread. You gotta love TW!

I've been called many things.....

But I've never been compared to a virus hack before. Not quite sure buying and selling text links is the same as modifing/damaging someone's personal proerty without their consent.

But if it helps you sleep better at night, then I'm fine with it.

I am surprised this is seen as news on wired. I can't believe that people still believe SEO is 'new'.

Excellent work by WG! I wish

Excellent work by WG! I wish he took the opportunity to speak out about autolink though...

Adrian, some one once said, "There is no such thing as spam, just shitty algos."

I agree, the emphasis on link-pop has created this mess. Once upon a time it took me exactly 1 page to rank #1 in altavista, now it takes 500k pages to achieve the same thing in google.

Optimizing is not new to business

People have been optimizing for the phone books for over 50 years. Why do you think someone would call there business "AAAAA Company", it is so they are listed first since phone books list companies alphabetically. Everyone needs to decide how much they want to optimize and what they are comfortable with within legal bounds. The last time I checked SEO is legal and virus making is not.

I wasn't actually going to go

I wasn't actually going to go so far as to call it spam. Everyone has different deffinitions of spam, and there's a huge grey area there. I'm not even sure I've decided where the line actually is for myself yet.

An algo may be shitty and exploitable, but it doesn't do it all on it's own. It requires someone to come along and exploit it. That's pretty much all I'm saying about it. I didn't really mean get back into the ethical/non-ethical arguements, probably some bad wording on my part though. I happily exploit what I know about how the SE's rank things in order to improve rank. I just don't go quite that far. And going against the way I started this post, I'll quote the topic of a thread Peter_d started some time ago "seo=spam". I guess there's just different levels of spam, and I'm less hardcore than some of you :)

My reference to virus writers was purely about how some of them try and justify their actions, some of them leave little messages in the code like "MS, why do you allow this to happen" and stuff. Like it's the fault of software companies that someone decides to write code to manipulate that software. Not drawing any similarities between the results of destructive viruses and buying some links to get a boost in the SERPS, that would be a bit daft.

Someone just said to me (and again, this is a slightly extreme example ;)) it's a bit like someone shooting a gun and saying it's the guns fault.....

Hope this helps

>Everyone has different deffinitions of spam, and there's a huge grey area there

Thats not true with regard to what is regarded as search engine "spam". There is no black, nor white, nor grey - the moment you even "think" what would happen if you added an extra word here or there, a link or two etc then I'm afraid you are a spammer.

Learn to live with it, be honest if only to yourself.

I'm not exactly sure how I'd

I'm not exactly sure how I'd define spam, but that ain't it.

Gosh, by NFFC's definition I'm a spammer if I think, "People sometimes link to useful content without being asked, so I'll try to create useful content."

I'm a spammer if I think

You nailed it right there.

buckworks, this is said with love, you are a spammer.

Its not something to be ashamed of.

Hence the quoting of the SEO=

Hence the quoting of the SEO=Spam thing NFFC. And I realise that then led my post to completely contradict itself :)

I think I started this whole discussion trying to say "be honest about it". If you manipulate the SERPS, it your own fault for manipulating the SERPS, not the Search Engines fault for not being able to stop you.

People get away with it, and thus it's become quite popular because the engines can't stop it, but that's something different.

Okay, then we need a new name

Okay, then we need a new name for some of the Evil Nasty Things out there.

Suggestions welcome.

New name

"Site Enhancement Strategy"
added: SES for short

Site Enhancement Strategy

Professional Intuitive Site Strategies

P.I.S.S for short.

What is wrong with being a Pisser?

Everybody is a spammer.

That is just the way it works, you can't survive on the net without thinking about promotion. Promotion in any way is spam. This is a very old argument.

Sorry for the analogy, but I can not come up with a better one right now. Thinking you are not a spammer is a lot like thinking you are free of sin. Or, thinking you do not have blood on your hands. We all live by destroying or parasitically living off of something.

It is the delusion of innocence that does the real damage.

Therein lies the problem

As this discussion has highlighted (not for even the 1000th time, and I doubt the last), the problem is deciding what is and isn't a Evil Nasty Thing buckworks.

My threshold would tend to be lower than that of most of the participants in this thread, and I'm never going to compete effectively for terms that they can compete for because of that. My choice, I'm happy with it. I'll find other ways of generating ROI. I'm sure they won't lose any sleep over it :)

Degrees and degrees

I'll certainly agree that none among us is without sin (if you accept the concept of sin at all), but we have names for different sorts of sins and recognize some differences in seriousness.

It's up to God (if you accept the concept of God) to judge the fine points, but I suspect most of us would agree that for functional reasons if nothing else, cold-blooded murder ought to be judged and treated differently than the sin of coveting some shiny thing one doesn't really need.

We might all be sinners, we might all be spammers, but there are still degrees and degrees ....

It's a very very old argument

And not everyone agrees with it, but let's not aruge about it. You can feel free to call everything everyone in the internet marketing business does "spam" and I'll only call some of the things some of the people do "spam".

Saints and sinners

We might all be sinners, we might all be spammers, but there are still degrees and degrees ....

Buckworks - I don't get it... At least in your references to God we have an omnipotent being who is full of justice and mercy deciding the degrees of the offence.

Who would you place in that position to define spam?


an omnipotent being who is full of justice and mercy deciding the degrees of the offence

God's in heaven, but on earth humans define the problems, humans write the laws and humans run the courts. It's up to us to make things work.

One can't just say, "It's all spam, everyone here is a spammer," as if that excuses absolutely anything ... especially when we have not even listened to what each other's definitions might be, let alone agreed on any shared meanings.

NFFC has to be a spammer according to his own definition, but he might not be by my definition. It would be interesting to explore the differences. Many things that are tut-tutted in discussions about spam, I don't see any problems with, and wouldn't use the label at all. Other things I do, and would.

WebGuerrilla on Wired - on Slashdot

Link: A Search Engine Manipulator's Tale - interesting high use of nofollow links in that thread, btw...


>NFFC has to be a spammer according to his own definition, but he might not be by my definition.

Not really. I think the important thing is not to allow other people to define what you do. If I'm being brutally honesy I would say I am less of a spammer than say Jill, ihelpyou and even Mr Perkins. By allowing myself to judge my own worth only in relation to others is wrong for me. Should I allow myself to be "defined" by a woman who isn't quite sure yet of her place in this "great debate" and by two of the biggest dickheads on the Internet [you can guess who is who yourself], NO!

The only sensible way is to be true to myself and not tell any lies to my self, therefore I am a spammer.

That make sense?

That make sense?

Erm, not really. I'm ok with you judging yourself (as if it were up to me to allow you to judge yourself), but I don't see how a claim that those three people are bigger spammers than you (whatever you think of them personally, which has nothing to do with how they conduct their businesses) can possibly prove your point.

Erm, not really.

Same here.

Its all about if you live your life in other peoples imaginations, I don't.

Offline example, are you a good driver? Bet you break the speed limit every now and then don't you? I don't but I'm not a good driver.

See, simple isn't it?

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