Thumbtack, a Google Capital Backed Website, Smacked For Unnatural Links


Leave it to the king of the spiders to weave a tangled web.

Remember that post from GoodOnMaps which called out professional development site Thumbtack for essentially paying for links? No? Well, here's the straight skinny: Google invested $100 million bucks in Thumbtack. Thumbtack starts offering users "points" in exchange for posting a link to Thumbtack on their personal websites. These points can then be used on Thumbtack, a sort of hiring site, to rank higher within their system. A sort of "you scratch my back, I scratch yours," system which is - duh - USUALLY considered to be against Google's link building guidelines.

But if Google's sunk millions into your company? I guess that was ok...for a while. As the original blog post said it best: "Will Google punish a site if they have their hands in its pocket?"

It seems to me that despite Google’s continuous protestations that organic search results are independently determined and not manipulated, this appears to be a way for Google to make money on organic traffic...By providing companies in which they have a direct financial investment with superior positioning, Google can avoid the appearance of organic search results manipulation.

Well, according to a new article on Search Engine Land Thumbtack has just been whacked by a manual action. According to its co-founder and president, Jonathan Swanson (no relation to Ron):

He says the company has seen a huge decline in Google referrals, ultimately impacting the leads that professionals in their network are receiving.


“To be clear, we do not now, nor have we ever, paid for links,” Swanson said. “We have always strived to work within Google’s guidelines.”

Swanson calls the GoodOnMaps post "inaccurate." Thumbtack is now going through the "standard reconsideration process" and waiting for a response by Google.

There's a lot of PR and "boo-hoo why do you slander us?" going on from Thumbtack. The reality is - how long will they be penalized? For your average joe, it can amount to months of waiting and nail-biting. But if you're Google's golden child, what do you think? A week? Two? Place yer bets.


Another question is, would it

Another question is, would it ever be penalized unless their dubious tactics went out to the public?


Google has a really poor record

My honest opinion @annadmin is that if they did not get outed,they'd be fine....and even though they got outed based on the history sites like thumbtack that get hit issue an apology and then they get out very fast...same thing for bigger companies...I will say that in general, they don't go back to the same level but get out fast....two non-google examples are rap genius and interflora...they got out in about 10 days! As far as google properties retail me not is one of the few success stories out there of fast panda recovery...they were only hit for a couple monthsAlso, for a number of these sites, they got outed or lets just say it was *very* well known by players in their respective niches what tactics were being used.I am sure that thumbtacks tactics were very well known to their competitors and the people following their niche...

Trying to discern between what % of this is pr and what percent of this is real ...i don't think you can ever really know...To googles credit, they're a big is their webspam team supposed to know what their acquisitions do? Also to googles credit, in some cases, there may be a sense of too big to fail on the internet (and I say this as a point of discussion) it a bad user experience for when a user searches 'buy washing machines' to not see Sears in the results or when you search or with some of the deeper penalties when you don't rank for your brand name any can argue that when you search 'rap genius' looking for the site and you don't see it...that that may be a bad experience for a Google end user

now I will sit back and wait between a week and one month for thumbtack to recover...rapgenius was using the same tactics and was out in 10 days after issuing their sorry but we're not sorry public statement :P


I agree with you that their record isn't the best. Those are some good examples of what's happened in the past and what will probably happen here.Interesting thoughts in the rest of your post! Lots to consider...I think that finding a company when you search for its brand name is good user experience. It's the rest of it, the keywords that the site ranks for, that is questionable to me. There are any number of places that sell washing machines, and it's big business to be high in the SERPs for product searches like that. If someone starts playing dirty to sell more of their stuff, it's only fair that when they get caught they should be punished for breaking the rules. That's the risk that comes with doing shady stuff - if they were willing to take a risk to turn a buck, they need to be willing to take the penalty, too. And at the same time, I can see that when a company is punished it might reduce the quality of experience for a Google user. But still, in a business system, if the rules aren't adhered to and enforced, the whole thing falls in on itself - and Google is not just a search engine anymore.It must be a hellish task to simultaneously be a public service like a search engine...and also have the power to push so much money around. What we see as gray areas must be where those two philosophies slide over one another and clash.On another note, I've been reading a bit about how Thumbtack users have been reacting to the penalty. Some of them posted in the comments over on the SEL article - check them out.

Damon wrote:
Was wondering why I suddenly can't get work/leads...thanks, nitpickers. My starving kids thank you. :/ Sorry, but this is nonsense.

Kristi Hines wrote:
As someone who also uses Thumbtack for leads for a local business, I have noted the decline in leads. No, they are not the only service we use for our business leads but we do have an outstanding credit with them that will take longer to deplete. Was Thumbtack's link building approach wrong? Sure. But this will affect more than just them.
Damon" again wrote:
Well, the problem is that no other advertising source gives a return for investment like thumbtack. Do you know any other advertising that results in a $800- $1500 job for every $20 spent? Because I don't. And I have tried. With the exception of referrals, every job I have gotten has been from Thumbtack, despite spending money in other mediums.

Thumbtack should have known better. Now its greed is costing its users dearly - and they're probably the ones who will really feel it.



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