Major search player outed for bad link practices

Ian Lurie



Google’s busted.

I just took a look at Google’s link profile and the big G is clearly running a link network. Check this out: They own all these sites—YouTube, Feedburner,,,, and what do they do with them all? They link them to each other:

google is running a link network

My god man...

My god man...

It gets worse. They’re also using widget spam via their recaptcha tool. Use their captcha system? Voila, you gave ’em a link. Here’s an example (one of many) I found in MajesticSEO:

And don’t even get me started about their anchor text distribution:

anchor text distribution

Veeery suspicious, Google. Very suspicious.

Veeery suspicious, Google. Very suspicious.

Clearly they want to control the market for ‘please click here to exit’. Totally spammy.

The real point

Am I trying to stick a fork in Google’s eye? No. Accusing Google of link spam is ridiculous. What I am doing is making a desperate plea for sanity, amidst the bleating of a thousand penguins.

Google’s latest update and crackdown on link spam has its problems, and they’re annoying as hell. But bottom line, most Penguin slaps are easy to predict and to find. It’s common sense. If you know you have a lot of purchased, crappy links, then yeah, you’re at risk. If you don’t, but you drop out of the rankings, look elsewhere first.

I’ve seen Google make mistakes (they pitched us out of the rankings for our entire blog for, oh, five weeks or so). But Penguin isn’t all that subtle.

The other real point

Google, if you’re going to release an update that cracks down the way Penguin has, it would help a lot if you could be more consistent, and be a lot clearer about what you’re doing. The first announcement was a little helpful. But it took the concerted efforts of a lot of SEOs to dig up what was really going on.

Why? There’s nothing to hide here. You don’t like paid links. Got it.

Couldn’t you just say, “This new update will penalize sites that purchase big, steaming piles of poopy links, or otherwise acquire links in ways that violate our Terms of Service?”

Or is it really so difficult to detect…?

I’m just ranting

It’s the Friday before a 3-day weekend. I’ve slept about 20 hours in the last 4 days. I’m trying to wean myself off Diet Coke (and failing). So I’m grouchy. Feel free to disregard all of the writing above.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. The sarcasm of this blog post was AAAmazing. I just followed your RSS feed. I hope all your future posts are this amusing.
    Oh yeah, btw. Good article, I agree. People need to “chill out,” pandas aren’t that big of a deal.

  2. How do you feel after Penguin update 1.1? 🙂 Yeah, I know what you talking about…. All this ‘Google update’ stuff is going bit crazy…

  3. I sure hope Google get wind of… Oh. Wait.
    Actually, what would happen if Google deindexed Google as punishment? Would the Internet implode or something?

    1. They’re already off the first page of Google for “best search engine” and I’m sure they’ll be down a few more pages if they keep this up!

  4. I’ve been on a kind of anti-Google rant because I do none of the things they say are suddenly bad and yet my two main blogs (I have 5) lost traffic drastically. I’ll probably get it back at some point because one of my websites took a hit back when the first Panda update went through, I did almost nothing, and it’s traffic has actually grown afterwards.
    Personally, I’m wondering if they know what they’re doing. And I think it’s interesting how many blogs I’ve gone to that say if you believe Google got it wrong then send them an email asking for a review. Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.

  5. I’m still seeing sites ranking on page one that have 100% commercial anchor text links and then there are legitimate businesses with seemingly natural link profiles that have been shunned into oblivion! Is big G simply trying to scare us and keep us on our toes?

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