November 19, 2007 @ 12:54 am
Thanks for weighing in, everyone. I especially appreciate the well-thought-out comments. Lots of people say that they don’t mind snark, but a lot of commenters also urged me not to get into responding to negative allegations. I am going to discuss this claim, but I’m going to avoid going into specifics about what the sites were.
The short answer is that Aaron obtained and promoted a domain in ways that Google considers blackhat, then combined/intertwined that spammy domain with a more legitimate domain. When Google detected the stuff that we considered spam, we took action against both domains.
My takeaway advice for anyone in a similar situation is Don’t mix your blackhat networks with your whitehat sites.? I’ll tell a couple anecdotes to illustrate that:
At a search engine conference, I was once talking to a group of blackhat spammers. This was years and years ago. If the name toolman? doesn’t ring a bell, this was before your time. I wanted to know how well Google was doing, so I asked the blackhats if they’d ever had domains get caught. Are you kidding?? one SEO said. You torched my entire spam network to the ground!? The fact is that if we find blackhat spam, such as off-topic porn for peoples’ names, Google (and probably any other search engine) will try to root that spam out and prevent it from ranking again.
A few years ago, I discovered that a very well-known catalog retailer (I just got a catalog from them this week, in fact) was doing really spammy stuff on their own site. If the retailer was http://www.example.com, then the spam was on www2.example.com and it included a ton of doorway pages. Unbeknownst to the catalog retailer, the SEO in charge of www2.example.com had also inserted links back to the SEO and the SEO’s clients on the spammy doorway pages. So if the SEO was shadyseo.com, then www2.example.com was filled with spammy doorways and secret links to shadyseo.com and lots of Shady SEO’s other clients. Google removed example.com (even though it was a large company) because of the spammy doorway pages. Mixing the blackhat/spammy doorway pages on the whitehat content of example.com was a Bad Idea.
So Aaron combined some sites in a way that I wouldn’t recommend. At all. :) When I noticed Aaron complaining about the situation, I looked into it myself and concluded that Google had actually been pretty lenient from our perspective. But I can also see the situation more from Aaron’s eyes after talking with him last week. The resolution that I suggested (and that I’d suggest to anyone in a similar situation) was to disentangle the blackhat-ish site from the other site. I recommended that after severing the ties between the sites, then Aaron could do a reconsideration request on the more legitimate domain.