False Online Storefronts?

I have a few web directories that are getting stinkier and stinkier to work with over time. Ninety percent of the submissions are the usual MFA, Amazon knock-off, auto-gen mass reprint article content, and every type of splog imaginable. And so on. But the site quality for submissions is getting WORSE as time goes on.

Where it used to be the odd few that had hidden codes and links, it’s happening more often and on more legit looking storefront/ecommerce type sites.

I’m now seeing hidden forex code on outdoor sporting good stores, blatant outgoing porn links on diamond jewelry store sidebar links, hidden – tiny 1 pixel links going to who knows where, and I’ll never forget that poker/blackjack link front and center of the computer supply store I stumbled across trying to shop for office software. Never mind the resource/links pages on many of these sites. OMG what are they thinking!

I realize there’s some hacking going on and hidden links are being placed on websites without the owners knowing about it, so maaaaaaaaybe some of the hidden stuff can be discounted. But what about the front and center stuff? The sidebar links going to porn heaven (buy an engagement ring then skip off to watch Ms. Tushy)? The poker parties above the fold, dead center? The photographer’s site with links to Mesothelioma lawyers? The crafts stores with links to hoodia, scoodia and all that jazz?

I have to wonder. Are these storefronts even legit? Are they even open for business? Or are they mock stores, all about feeding search engines what they want for seo reasons?

Gah what a mess it is out there, and it seems to be getting worse in so many ways.

Going back digging for more hidden jewels of the net–Wrapping myself in the usual adsense & popup repellent on my way in. Sigh.

Personal Name Reputation & Authority

I’m not afraid of tinfoil hats. Sometimes I go there. Here’s a thought, something to chew on.

I’ve been reading Graywolf’s post Does Google use Whois Information and he’s got some great ideas to vary up your whois data. I don’t want to start some crazy discussion about web mafia tactics, dark gangstah arts and all that jazz.

It made me think about name reputation though. Your name. Do you think that some day (maybe soon, maybe not, maybe already?), Google will be evaluating a domain using the name of the person on the whois?

If John Q. Affiliate is known to Google as a webmaster who creates a good amount of thin, low quality pages, would that put an automatic taint on all websites owned by John Q. Affiliate? Based on Google’s experience with John Q. Affiliate and by its calculations, this guy is a crappy headache to deal with and keep out of the SERPs.

Or if Suzie B. Webmaster is known to Google as pimping out link schemes and intricate link networks, would Google comb over all domains registered in her name–basically putting them under a microscope? Her reputation with Google is established as a master manipulator of its SERPs and it’s just easier to toss her out altogether.

Does Google knock out websites sitting on certain IPs or nameservers based on Google’s experience with them? I can’t say for sure since I haven’t seen it or have it happen to me, but I’ve come across mentions of it happening. If that’s the case, is it a stretch to think your actual name can be a factor?

What if Johnny Wikipedia cranks out one smoking hot quality site after another. Would Google give domains in his name a free pass to the top of the serps, or at least an easier time of it?

Is maybe ‘all this search engine stuff’ building to something where we need to establish and protect our Personal Name Reputation & Authority?

Would that not be the most creepiest thing ever?

Is SEO For Affiliate Product Sites Dead?

First I’ll say I have a smidgen of affiliate sites still doing ok in both Yahoo! and MSN (for the time being). Never have I done well in Google. With the latest Yahoo! update knocking out some of the power keyphrases I used to rank well in, I’ve been doing some investigating.

Going through some old bookmarks of affiliate product sites to watch (mainly datafeed and store link directory style sites), I see some interesting things.

One, an across the board drop on Alexa traffic charts. Alexa can’t be counted on for true traffic numbers, but it is a good indicator of traffic trends for a domain. I see big drops across the board starting at the beginning of this year (2006).

Two, smaller affiliate product domains being flipped over to monetized parked domains.

Three, not a lot of affiliate sites in the SERPs mix. If there are any, most of them are heavily built around content. Things like forums, articles, interviews and blogs. And with one of the below listed criteria (*).

Four, I see more ‘traffic creation’ techniques such as blog traffic pushing. Take the ‘Fashion’ category for example. A few fashion blogs that link to each other and then link to affiliate product domains. The fashion blogs appear to be duds though (no one linking to them but each other), with reader comments like: “Don’t you love shopping online! Better yet to go make your purchases at FatWallet so you get part of your money back!” or “My advice: Go try these on at the store first – they’re cut large” :roll:. I don’t see the affiliate sites the blogs are pushing traffic to or the blogs themselves anywhere in the SERPs, but it’s also impossible to come up with every possible keyword/phrase. Alexa traffic stats don’t register a heart beat, but that doesn’t mean anything either.

What I see in the SERPs (aside from merchant domains):

  • A lot of eBay
  • A lot of bizrate
  • A lot of nextag
  • Yahoo store
  • Google DMOZ
  • shopping.msn.com
  • Amazon
  • Craigslist
  • shopzilla
  • Shop.com
  • About.com

(*) For the Affiliate sites that are working:

  • Attached blogs with lots of content & strong inbounds
  • Attached forums with lots of content & strong inbounds
  • Affiliate product pages on subdomains of domains that are strong & full of content and quite reputable (inbounds)
  • .edu, Wikipedia, Yahoo directory and DMOZ inbounds ==> !
  • .edu & established non-profit type domains filled with subdomains or pages of affiliate products (Shocked!)
  • Older domains (lots of 1997-2001)

MSN and to some degree – Yahoo! – are still viable options for traffic delivery, but MSN just doesn’t deliver high traffic levels. And Yahoo! seems determined to replicate the Goog–which means an eventual big boot to affiliate sites.

I’m not fond of PPC. I don’t think it’s a good long term strategy since I believe/perceive affiliate pages/sites will be pushed out of PPC by Google and eventually Yahoo! just like they’ve been pushed out of the SERPs. But…

I’m taking my anti-PPC rant off the sidebar. PPC might be the best option for strong levels of hungry, shopping traffic when the SERPs aren’t lovin your affiliate product sites. And I think the SERPs love has been dropping bit by bit, especially this past year.

To me the writing is on the wall that if you want to make money online with affiliate marketing using domains filled with datafeeds and page after page of affiliate products–you either need to relook at how you’re building your money pages/sites or understand you’ll be working with PPC to generate some good traffic.

Unless of course you’ve been in the game a long time and you have some good, juicy older domains at your disposal. If so, lucky-lucky you! ;).

What are you seeing? Do you think affiliate domains are SOL or soon to be SOL in the SERPs? Am I seeing too bleak a picture?

Free SEO Tool That Does Not Harvest Your Data

How’s this for a big time treat:

Aaron Wall’s SEO For Firefox

SEO for Firefox Features:

Pulls useful market research data right into Google’s and Yahoo!’s search results, including the following data near each search result.

  • PR: (Google PageRank) an estimated measure of global link authority
  • Age: age pulled from Archive.org, shows the first time a page was indexed by Archive.org’s spider. The theory is that if Archive.org found a page so did many of the major search engines.
  • Links: (Yahoo! linkdomain) shows a rough estimate of the total number of links pointing at a domain
  • .edu Link: (Yahoo! .edu linkdomain ) shows a rough estimate of the total number of .edu links pointing at a domain
  • .edu Page Link: (Yahoo! .edu link ) shows a rough estimate of the total number of .edu links pointing at a specific page
  • .gov Link: (Yahoo! .gov linkdomain ) shows a rough estimate of the total number of .gov links pointing at a domain
  • Page Links: (Yahoo! link) shows a rough estimate of the total number of links pointing at a page
  • del.icio.us: number of times a URL has been bookmarked on Del.icio.us. Heavily skewed toward techy / Web 2.0 stuff.
  • Technorati: an estimate of the total number of links to a site from blogs
  • Alexa: rank based on website traffic . Heavily skewed toward internet marketing and webmaster related resources.
  • Cached: (Google site:) shows how many pages from a site are indexed in Google
  • dmoz: searches the Google Directory to count the total number of pages from a site that are listed in DMOZ, and the total number of pages listed in DMOZ that reference that URL.
  • Bloglines: shows you how many people are subscribed to a particular blog via Bloglines.
  • dir.yahoo.com: is a site listed in the Yahoo! Directory or not.
  • WhoIs: makes it easy to look up the whois data for any site.

Since I’m highly suspicious of free SEO tools that you find online, I just had to ask: Are my queries/data being stored somewhere?

Aaron clearly states: No (read comments).

Much impressed :).

Gotta Digg It – Spam Gold In Google

The Google crew is gonna walk into work and face one big headache on Monday morning…Crazy stuff, crazeeee!

The thread that started it all: New SPAM sites…billions of results!!!!

OK, how do these sites do this?? They were registered just a few weeks ago and got millions or billions of results…of fresh SPAM.

Yes you read that right – *billions* – of mfa spam served up in Google’s serps from a domain that is weeks old. Traffic? The Alexa stats are showing a lot of eyeballs.

That DP thread resulted in this blog post: Step-by-Step: How to Get BILLIONS of Pages Indexed by Google

Which is whirrring through the net at warp speed:

Digg

Tailrank

del.icio.us

Lots of talk and chatter on blogs and boards, some whispers that webmasterworld wiped clean all mention of this on its forum. A few notable SEO blogs are sitting quiet about it atm but they’ll have to blog about it at some point, it’s that big.

Plenty of people hooting and hollering about the adsense on the pages and that Google should delete that adsense account. I don’t think adsense is the problem. I think the algo is the problem.

If Google wipes out the adsense account, it just gets replaced with YPN. Goog might as well just cut a cheque and send it off to Yahoo!. If YPN cans it, the guy just pulls in some 2nd or 3rd tier ppc feeds. Or popups or banner imps or or or…

If Google, Yahoo and MSN handjob the domain, more pop up in its place. The domain isn’t the goldmine in and of itself, it’s the knowledge that was used to spam beat Goog over the head. Any domain will do from now until the algo is changed ;).

Priceless quote from the DP thread:

I’m so glad that some of our sites with “low quality inbound links” have been de-indexed to make room for these fountains of information.

What’s the buzz in the war room now? Free scripts and scrapers and hacks and workarounds are being developed and worked through that will be available for the masses. Everybody wants a piece of this pie.

Yup. Adsense isn’t the problem, that algo needs to be de-tweaked and fast!

ETA:

“Pizza sauce recipe” shows up a few times in the top 30 results in google, and then a few spam domains completely take over (see pdf):

Google spam: Pizza sauce recipe

Also see

Pizza dough recipe spam

Now that’s seriously borking goog!