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Businesses Scramble To Stay Out of Google Hell 303

Posted by Zonk
from the argh-my-pancreas-the-demons-poke-it-so dept.
whoever57 writes "Forbes has up an article on the consequences of being dumped into a claimed 'supplemental index', also known as 'Google Hell'. It uses the example of Skyfacet, a site selling diamonds rings and other jewelery, which has dropped in Google's rankings and saw a $500,000 drop in revenue in only three months after the site owner paid a marketing consultant to improve the sites. The article claims that sites in the supposed 'supplemental index' may be visited by Google's spiders as infrequently as once per year. The problem? Google's cache shows that Google's spiders visited the site ss recently as late April. 'Google Hell is the worst fear of the untold numbers of companies that depend on search results to keep their business visible online. Getting stuck there means most users will never see the site, or at least many of the site's pages, when they enter certain keywords. And getting out can be next to impossible--because site operators often don't know what they did to get placed there.'"
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Businesses Scramble To Stay Out of Google Hell

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  • by DeadSea (69598) * on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:22AM (#18939585) Homepage Journal
    My tips for staying out of Google Hell.
    • Keep using the same domain name. Right now changing your domain name incurs a huge penalty from Google. You will lose 90% of your traffic for 8 months.
    • Use unique titles and meta descriptions for each of your pages. If the titles and meta descriptions on two of your pages are the same, one or both of the pages will likely go into Google Hell
    • Don't buy links to your site to boost your pagerank from unrelated sites. If Google sees links to your site on the same page as links to Viagra sites, you will likely get a spam penalty.
    • Ensure that your content is original and unique. If you use syndicated content, or syndicate your content to other sites, Google will realize that the content exists in two places and put one of them into Google hell.
    If you do get into Google hell:
    • There is nobody at Google you can talk to.
    • Fix any issues that you can find.
    • Contemplate. Google hell is designed as a penalty box. However it can whack the white hat folks just the same. You may be in it because you did something wrong, you may just have gotten hit by friendly fire. It happens from time to time to most large sites that depend on Google for traffic.
    • Wait. You will generally get out of Google hell. In my experience it can be as little as one to two months for most things, but up to a year for domain name changes
    • Get the PR machine going. Google doesn't want a bad image. If you get artitles like this one in places that Google engineers are likely to see them, the problems may get fixed for you faster. Google will still never admit that there ever was a problem though.
    • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003&columbia,edu> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:32AM (#18939725) Homepage Journal
      Add to this:
      do not hire idiot consultants to raise your pagerank.

        Which is not technical advice but should cover whatever fool stuff someone might try.

        I have to say, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the guy. He tried to cheat, and when it backfired, he goes crying because he can't get un-blacklisted. Well, sucks to be him, but it certainly serves google's purposes (and the health of the internet as a whole) well.

        Pre-emptive strike: I believe, in principle, on strong public oversight of corporate decision-making.

        The *exception* is anything that might be considered an editorial decision, the dispensation of advice, etc. If it's not a tortious lie, they have a right to say (to recommend, to blacklist) whatever/whomever they want, because I have a right to choose to whom I will listen.

        If you don't like what google does, you don't have to use it - but you can't force them to change what-they-say because you don't like it that other people listen to them.
      • by DarkSarin (651985) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:27AM (#18940487) Homepage Journal
        Actually there is one comment above that I have to disagree with. If you don't like what Google does, you may not want to do business with them, but you don't really have a choice--if you are depending on your site for revenue, then you absolutely MUST be concerned with Google, even if you never purchase advertising from them. In other words, you can't ignore Google, even if you absolutely despise them.

        If someone comes up with a better search engine that also gains equal or near-equal footing with Google, then you can worry less about them, but I think it will be a VERY long time before anyone doing business on the internet can afford to ignore Google.

        So while a business as a whole might decide not to purchase advertising via Google, and may not use Adsense, very few businesses can afford to ignore the monster that is Google.
        • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003&columbia,edu> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @11:03AM (#18941057) Homepage Journal
          I never said that businesses could afford to ignore Google. Restaurants here in NYC can't afford to ignore what the Zagat says about them.

            What I'm saying is that this should not open Google (or Zagat) to any requirement for editorial transparency. If people trust information source A, and information source A doesn't recommend you, well, that may suck, but you should not have any recourse to demand an explanation - because your *potential customers* have the right to go to any source of information they want for advice, and your *potential customers* are not forced to use google.

            This may in turn force businesses to do all sorts of things, but that's capitalism for you - your business does not have a right to succeed.
          • I never said that businesses could afford to ignore Google. Restaurants here in NYC can't afford to ignore what the Zagat says about them.

                What I'm saying is that this should not open Google (or Zagat) to any requirement for editorial transparency. If people trust information source A, and information source A doesn't recommend you, well, that may suck, but you should not have any recourse to demand an explanation - because your *potential customers* have the right to go to any source of information they want for advice, and your *potential customers* are not forced to use google.

                This may in turn force businesses to do all sorts of things, but that's capitalism for you - your business does not have a right to succeed.
            Outstandingly well put. It's a shame that more people seem to fail to grasp this, particularly the last point -- that freedom to succeed also implies freedom to fail; and that nobody has a right to any measure of success, only the attempt at it.

            When businesses whine about Google, who they're really whining about is their customers, because their customers are the ones deciding to go to Google (or Zagat, or the New York Times theater reviews, or whatever) and use that as part of their decision-making.
        • by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @11:26AM (#18941425)
          Google reached their position through complete and utter competence. They didn't advertise their site. "Google" as a verb spread through word of mouth alone. If pagerank is really being that unfair to a lot of legit sites, the same market forces that created the Google behemoth will bring it down. If somebody can show that Google's algorithms are really being unfair to Google's customers, Google will be compelled to change those algorithms or lose market share.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mstone (8523)
        ---- do not hire idiot consultants to raise your pagerank.

        What I want to know is: why haven't these 'victims' sued the living crap out of their 'consultant'?

        I'm pretty sure the pitch session didn't run:

        CONSULTANT: "For $35K, we'll set you up with a bunch of links that will drop your business right in the crapper."

        CUSTOMER: "Sounds good. Here's a check."

        There had to be some kind of promise that the client would get results they wanted, and that strikes me as sufficient grounds for suing the consultant to
    • by cyberianpan (975767) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:33AM (#18939737)
      The chief anti spam engineer of Google is Matt Cutts [mattcutts.com] he says:

      As a reminder, supplemental results aren't something to be afraid of; I've got pages from my site in the supplemental results, for example ... That statement still holds. It's perfectly normal for a website to have pages in our main web index and our supplemental index

      MySolitaire.com, another online diamond business, spent January to June of 2006 in the supplemental index. Amit Jhalani, the site's vice president of search marketing, says he figures that cost his business $250,000 ... Okay, so the VP of SEM for this site mentions that they tried buying links; maybe those links started to count for less. I decided to check into mysolitaire.com and see if I could find any other links that might have started counting for less. I did find a spam report where someone forwarded an email that appeared to be from mysolitaire.com ... I checked out http://www.mysolitaire.com/resources/ [mysolitaire.com] and by my count saw 329 different categories offered for link exchanging:
      And the fix:

      The approach I'd recommend in that case is to use solid white-hat SEO to get high-quality links (e.g. editorially given by other sites on the basis of merit).
    • by arivanov (12034)
      You forgot the most important one: 'Think twice before paying any of the so called "search optimisation consultants"'.
    • by kalirion (728907)
      I wonder if actually buying keywords/pay-per-click ads from google would help getting out of Google Hell....
    • by hotdiggity (987032) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:05AM (#18940147)
      If you do get into Google hell:

      A player gets out of Google Hell by...

      (1) Throwing doubles on any of your next three turns. If you succeed in doing this you immediately move forward the number of PageRank ratings shown by your doubles throw.

      (2) Using the "Get Out of Google Hell Free Card"

      (3) Purchasing the "Get Out of Google Hell Free Card" from another e-business and playing it.

      (4) Paying a fine of $50 before you roll the dice on either of your next two turns. If you do not throw doubles by your third turn, you must pay the $50 fine. You then get out of Google Hell and immediately move forward the number of PageRank rankings shown by your throw.

      Even though you are in Google Hell, you may buy and sell on e-Bay, buy and sell houses and hotels (in Second Life) and collect revenues.

    • by steelfood (895457)
      A domain name change can take longer. Especially if sites that linked there are updated infrequently. A site that I occasionally drop by is still in Google hell after more than a year. Granted, it wasn't designed with google in mind in the first place, but it is a prominent site for its topic matter, and was in the top 3 search results prior to the domain name change.

      As for what this site is, I'm not going to say, as this might have been an intentional, or at least, desirable consequence for the webmaster.
    • by Jessta (666101) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:50AM (#18940843) Homepage
      If your site isn't coming up in google the keywords you want and it's losing you $500,000 then you should probably buy some ads from google to get yourself back in there.
      It's sort of an obvious solution.
      • If your site isn't coming up in google the keywords you want and it's losing you $500,000 then you should probably buy some ads from google to get yourself back in there.
        It's sort of an obvious solution.


        Agreed. Perhaps more to the point, maybe they shouldn't have been depending on the free advertising provided by Google in the search results as their primary source of customers.

        Seems that the real lesson here is that you shouldn't build a business on shaky marketing, and search results -- which are basically the internet equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising -- are pretty shaky. It might get you started and off the ground, but you shoudn't depend on them always being there, and you need to have a plan for staying in business if they suddenly go away. Otherwise, you probably don't deserve to be in business, and they'll be plenty of other sites to take up the customer eyeballs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lintux (125434)
      What's the problem with the domain name change? If you just make your web server send people to your new domain name using a correct forward (not 302 but 304 IIRC) everything should be fine. Worked for me about two years ago, at least.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kestasjk (933987)
      I think you can simplify: To stay out of "Google Hell" don't try to cheat the system. Paying for hits is what AdWords is for.

      However if you do find yourself in "Google Hell" and see Larry Page approach with a big grin and a pineapple, before feeling sorry for yourself just remember all the perfectly valid sites your SEO tactics pushed below the first page boundary and know they are looking down from "Google Heaven".

      Remember; it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a irrelev
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Maxwell (13985)
      Or you could have a business plan that does not rely solely on free advertising. Just a thought.

      I find the concept that your business somehow deserves to be on Google's first page for 'diamonds' pretty bizarre. Google is about finding information on the web. If you don't provide it you move off the front page. Seems sensible to me. What will happen when twenty diamond sellers all want to be on the front page?

      JON
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by iplayfast (166447)
      Here's another non-obvious tip. Don't get any sudden exposure.

      My dad runs a stock expert tracking site stockchase [stockchase.com] that he was getting some small revenue from adsense on. He got some exposure from a major newspaper, and google canned the adsense. The only thing we can think of is the sudden jump made them suspicous, and my dad saw some ad's on the site that he was interested in, and clicked on.

      We wrote to them, and got no answer. He has re-applied for adsense and they won't touch us.

      It's one thing to do som
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bogtha (906264)

        my dad saw some ad's on the site that he was interested in, and clicked on.

        This is against the Adsense terms and conditions, and they mention it in big, bold letters when you sign up, if I remember correctly. Forget the speculation about "sudden exposure", your dad broke the rules and was kicked out for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oni (41625)
      Use unique titles and meta descriptions for each of your pages.

      I've been telling people that google doesn't look at meta tags.

      Ensure that your content is original and unique.

      How do you avoid duplicating the navigational links on every page? For example, I often use a page layout that creates menus and popout menus from nested ul's. All of that is duplicated at the top of every single page.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:23AM (#18939605)
    So these guys tried to game the system with high-priced "search consultants" and now they're whining that Google caught them?!?!? Even more embarrassing is Forbes giving a voice to these lowlifes as if they're the victims.

    Google's obligation is to serve the consumer doing the search with the most accurate and fair results possible, not to ensure that sleezy companies paying big $ to "consultants" who game the system maintain their sales.

    For shame, Forbes!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by capt.Hij (318203)
      That was my first thoughts. I was a little surprised to read that they *think* that Google knocked them down because of links from low quality sites. I did not think Google does this, but if it is true it opens up a whole new way to threaten people. Build a low quality spam site and then threaten businesses with adding a link to their site. A new kind of corporate blackmail for the internet age.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by asninn (1071320)
        This seems to be not so much about spam sites linking to them as much as it is about them linking to spam sites, though, so that blackmail scenario likely wouldn't work.
      • Google probably has included directionality in the their "graph" of the relationship between the sites, or will soon, so having all kinds of bad links pointing your way, and none of yours pointing to the bad links (except through extremely roundabout paths) will probably have a neutral affect on your ranking.
    • by Stormx2 (1003260)
      Don't you think you're being a little harsh? I hate the whole "search consultants" business, along with a lot of the web design businesses, but the company made a mistake. Hiring a consultant for this kinda thing would seem the logical thing to do, but they didn't calculate the risk.
      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:35AM (#18939783)
        Actually, I suspect that these guys knew EXACTLY what they were doing. You don't pay a guy $35,000 to tell you "I can't game the system, or make any promises. I can only give you some advice that you can find for free on Google's own site." I suspect this "consultant" went to them with promises of insider information on how to game Google to get them a higher page ranking than they deserved.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by the_womble (580291)
          Lots of people pay consultants without knowing exactly what they will do or why they need them. The entire management consultancy game depends on this.

          In this case they probably did know what they were doing though.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:41AM (#18939853)
        Harsh? No. If you're going to game the system, you might get burnt. Boo hoo.

        Let's not get started on relying on a third party (Google) whom you have no contract with for a large percentage of your business. That's got to rank up there with Stupid Business Models 101 in my view.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Have Blue (616)
          Of course, if they [i]did[/i] have a contract with google, it would open the far larger can of worms (and pile of Slashdot ire) that is sponsored search results. This is a no-win situation.
    • by MollyB (162595) *
      So true. It's like the feeling of satisfaction that burbles up when you see the driver who just passed you on a curvy two-lane road getting pulled over by the radar-cop a mile further. (Or, in the winter, seeing the SOB in a snowbank or ditch...) 8)
    • by bubblah (1095629)
      According to http://techwag.com/index.php/2007/04/30/welcome-to -google-hell/ [techwag.com] techwag, they were dabbling in black art SEO or Grey hat SEO when they got dumped, and the point on that one is that I agree with you, and black/grey hat anything is going to get you in trouble, and it is great that they are whining now about it, but really they brought it on themselves. As long as people try to game the system, they have to suffer the consequences of gaming the system. my 2 cents.
    • by coldcell (714061)
      It actually smacks to me of pro-Google 'journalism'. It may be the paranoia talking, but given that a lot of comments on this already are of the 'but that means that Google is awesome', and 'See? Google can't be evil if they catch the bad guys!' ilk, perhaps Forbes wanted to subversively massage Google's image of being Not Evil? Pretty shabby either way, really. -c
    • by Tassach (137772)

      So these guys tried to game the system with high-priced "search consultants" and now they're whining that Google caught them?!?!? Even more embarrassing is Forbes giving a voice to these lowlifes as if they're the victims.

      While these guys may not be innocent victims, this does bring up an interesting counter-scenerio. Instead of putting links to your site in link farms, what if you put links to your competition's sites in link farms, forcing them in to Google Hell?

      If I can create a throwaway site t

  • by Vengeance (46019) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:23AM (#18939611)
    When you hire a consultant specifically to improve your Google page rank, I guess you are opening yourself up to stuff like this. It sounds to me like this guy hired someone who thought they knew how to game the system, and the system gamed him back.
  • Marketing Consultant (Score:5, Informative)

    by CmdrGravy (645153) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:24AM (#18939623) Homepage

    after the site owner paid a marketing consultant to improve the sites


    Sounds to me like they should have hired a more professional consultant, it seems to me thats who the company should immediately be blaming rather than Google.
    • by FuryG3 (113706)
      Agreed. Seems like their Marketing money went to the wrong place. Had they instead used that money towards other marketing means (adsense or real world ads) they'd be in a much better situation.

      Actually, if your business is run *entirely* off of referrals from one search engine, I would think it would make more sense to use marketing methods which generate referrals from other sources. You can't get away from being dependent on search engines if your business is an online one, but diversifying your incom
  • *Caring* (Score:5, Funny)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:25AM (#18939629) Journal
    "Forbes has up an article on the consequences of being dumped into a claimed 'spam index', also known as 'Mail Hell'. It uses the example of e360, a site selling mortgage refis and anatomical enlargement, which has dropped in graylist rankings and saw a $500,000 drop in revenue in only three months after the company paid a marketing consultant to improve the emails. The article claims that sites in the supposed 'spam index' may be re-evaluated as infrequently as once per year. The problem? The site was reevaluated as recently as late April. 'Mail Hell is the worst fear of the untold numbers of spammers that depend on breaking spam filters to keep their business visible online. Getting stuck there means most users will never see their emails. And getting out can be next to impossible--because spammers often don't know what they did to get placed there.'"
  • Dante (Score:3, Funny)

    by inkedgeek (1067346) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:25AM (#18939639)
    I suppose this is Dante's 9th ring.
  • Unfortunately that is the price you pay for basing your business on the assumption that a FREE SERVICE (namely Google's ranking system) will continue to work in your favor. Many businesses are getting their "advertising" for free by being ranked highly by Google, and prominently displayed in search results. Maybe they should consider paying for strategically placed ads like everybody else.
    • by onepoint (301486)
      RAMEN brother. I worked very hard for my little site, it does not have any real ranking. but when someone wants to find my site and does not know the full name, it will rank number 1 - 5 on Google.

      My little apartment building competes in the miami beach market so there is no chance in hell I can rank #20 or greater under a hotel type search.

      I depend on buying AdWords to guild people to my place and depend on word of mouth. it the site ever breaks 20, I will be hosting a huge party and eat till I drop.
  • So.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:26AM (#18939651) Journal
    So basicly a guy paid a "consultant" to abuse how Google works and then when Google changed the system to stop this happening he complains that he got punished for it?

    At what point is this guy any sort of victim when he knowingly exploited the system for his own gain and got caught with his hand in the cookie jar?
  • In retrospect, Sanar thinks he can trace his problem to a search marketing consultant he had paid $35,000 to improve Skyfacet's Google rankings. He now believes the consultant mistakenly replicated content on many of the site's pages, making them look like duplicate--that is, spam--content. But even after he reversed the consultant's changes, he couldn't get Skyfacet's pages out of Google Hell, where they remain today.

    Mistakenly? Really? Are you sure? I thought that was the SOP for search-engine gaming-- th
  • New Business Model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:28AM (#18939661) Journal
    1) Go into business
    2) Gather home pages of major competitors
    3) Add links to these home pages on disreputable web sites
    4) Watch their traffic go down.
    5) Watch your traffic go up.
    6) Profit

    Just cant figure out where the "..." fits into this one.
    • I don't claim to be a google or SEO expert ... but from my limited understanding, inbound links do not hurt no matter what. I know that google claims that hiring people to get you involved in shady link farming can be harmful. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but the simple fact is that you can not control who links to you.

      A lot of people have theorized that what might be harmful is many unrelated links of very low quality in a very short period of time, however as you just pointed out, that opens complet
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by owlnation (858981)
      Yes, very insightful. That's where this all falls down.

      It's great that (as in this case) Google sends the Blackhats in to Google hell, although it still doesn't actually do it as successfully as many would like.

      But since Google rankings are somewhat esoteric, it's hard for Whitehats to stay white. And in the parent's example - even if you are doing everything honestly there's nothing to stop a competitor killing your business in exactly the way described.

      I see three real problems here:
      • 1. Search
  • Play By The Rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:29AM (#18939681)

    I am by no means an SEO expert... but I've had VERY good luck with google indexes for the small sites I build for people. I've even gotten some business from it, because people some how think I'm some sort of genius. So what's my secret?

    I READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AT GOOGLE FOR WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO AND I FOLLOWED THE RULES

    If you simply follow the rules that google lays out, you won't get sucked into google hell. If you try and game the system by paying for consultants to "juice" your site, you gambled and lost. Bottom line: Don't be evil, and google will not punish you

    • Re:Play By The Rules (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:58AM (#18940033) Homepage Journal
      Yup - Agree 100%.

      My personal check-list for this kind of thing is..

      1) Make sure that the site design is sensible and contains valid html + valid css. (if used)
      2) Make sure that all the text is relevant and not overly complex for the sake of it. (nice clear simple language..)
      3) Have a site map. (A normal one - I don't know if google sitemaps, i.e. the xml stuff you can add to your site are useful)
      4) Use all the useful meta information, (description, abstract etc..) ...But don't duplicate content or meta information for no reason (500 random key words really wont help you)
      5) Make sure that the links on site (internal and external) are valid and go where you think they should ...But don't have link page upon link page to random sites
      6) If you use a CMS or any content generation (i.e. data driven sites) make sure that the generated page addresses are neat, rewrite them if neccessary (possible). www.whatever.com/about.html is better than www.whatever.com/generated/pages/index.php?page=ab out&theme=pretty&data=-1&uid=14568681.
      7) Update the content on your site on a regular(ish) basis.

      8) Never ever let an SEO company that claims it an get you X hits per day/month anywhere near it, most SEO techniques involve gaming search engines in one way or another, whether through comment spam, blog spam, dodgy link farms or other nefarious methods. If an SEO company comes to you and says it will look at the layout/content of your site to optimise it to your sites demographic (by cleaning up the language or the code) you should be golden, anything else is a disaster waiting to happen. You should launch your site expect a few visitors and if it is a useful and usable site, then your user base will find it, as they find it, the links and traffic will come naturally.

      One quirk that I noticed a while back whilst writing a company site that listed news headlines from a couple of news agencies, was that the site was appearing in conjunction with some weird search terms, like "$companyname terrorists" and "$companyname organised crime". Its not just the search terms you want to be associated with that will work - but anything that is available on your site, dynamic content and all.

      • by radtea (464814)
        One quirk that I noticed a while back whilst writing a company site that listed news headlines from a couple of news agencies, was that the site was appearing in conjunction with some weird search terms, like "$companyname terrorists" and "$companyname organised crime". Its not just the search terms you want to be associated with that will work - but anything that is available on your site, dynamic content and all.

        This can happen to any site with lots of words. I was once worked on a site that had a bunch
    • by pvera (250260)
      That is correct.

      These days it seems it is too much to ask people to bother reading the instructions. This whole search engine optimization as a business model movement is going too far. I have a small blog (1500 or so original articles spanning 5 years) and I have never had trouble with Google indexing me. As far as I can tell from my traffic logs, most of my articles get indexed within 48 hours of publishing. I don't do anything special, I don't even have custom meta tags, just whatever is placed by Wordpr
    • I READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AT GOOGLE FOR WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO AND I FOLLOWED THE RULES If you simply follow the rules that google lays out, you won't get sucked into google hell. If you try and game the system by paying for consultants to "juice" your site, you gambled and lost.

      While I see you mean with trying to "game" the system, these guys are a bit of a straw-man. Why? Sure, they tried to "game" the system. But there are many of us who don't, and have been arbitrarily hurt. Possibly becau

  • by ThosLives (686517) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:30AM (#18939695) Journal

    I think this is evidence of a couple phenomena in modern business:

    The first is what I guess I'll call push vs pull, and that's the difference between business that cater to people who have a specific need "Hey, I need food, so I'm going to look for a place where I can get it" and businesses that create things they try to sell that people don't necessarily need but will buy on impulse - for instance, those businesses that are always sending fliers in the mail to get you to buy things you might not otherwise need.

    The other issue here is what I would call demand density - if a business has to be online to reach people across the globe, that means that demand density is very low. However, a grocery store has very high demand density - advertising is only necessary (if at all) over a very small geographic location because the market is local.

    Now, I'm not sure if I fully understand all the pros and cons of trying to support businesses with very low demand density - is society as a whole better off with the mechanism to provide goods and service to very disperse locations, or is the effort required to distribute the goods / services over such a large location really worse than not supplying that demand and eliminating the transportation / communications infrastructure overhead?

    More to the article's point, though, if I had to depend on a search service to get my business revenue, I would rethink my business plan. While I understand the ideas behind 'global economy' I am still a bit conservative in my belief in the merits of self-sufficiency; relying on a search service means that my business would be at the mercy of that service which I may not be able to control. Control is fairly important in businesses, I would think.

    • There is another aspect to your evaluation here to consider:

      The "low demand density" type of businesses may be hyper-specialists: They produce something that is so unique that while few people will buy it, those that do need it are willing to pay very good prices for that sort of product.

      Armoured cars are an example of a product like this. An average person is not going to buy one of these products, and it is likely that you will only find a very small number of businesses who even sell these kind of vehicles, which are all custom manufactured as well.

      Or to be highly specalized, a manufacturer of aviation-grade O-rings. If you have developed a process that improves the operating environment that these products can work in, you have something that is indeed very valuable.

      The problem as illustrated in this article is that the businessman who is the focus of the article does not sell a product which is on the leading edge of technology, nor is it unique from the thousands of jewelry stores that you can find in small towns. While gemstones and jewelry have enough value that shipping these items anywhere in the world is trivial compared to the cost, the competition for such a product is so large that there really isn't any substantial value gained by going with any particular jeweler, especially for an on-line purchase.

      This is exactly why he ended up in Google's "link hell". There is nothing that he is doing which is unique.

      If this jewelry business specalized in something which is of a regional flavor, such as south-western USA jewelry (heavy in silver and turquoise) or set up some legitimate information pages that would add value for somebody coming to visit his website, such as original content describing the process of making jewelry and obtaining the gemstones, there may be some reason to have people link to this website. And push up the rankings in a legitimate fashion. But as just another place to buy gemstones and jewelry, there is nothing remarkable that can't be done directly by DeBeers or genuine gemstone wholesalers.

      This businessman was also ripped off by this so-called internet consultant who tried to game the system without doing any real good to the content of the website. The $35,000 that was spent on the consultant could have been better spent in so many ways that it boggles the mind. Hiring a recent college graduate with an English degree (aka somebody who supposedly can actually write reasonable prose, and not some geek who can't use grammar worth a damn) to do some genuine scholarly research and fill up a website full of content about the jewelry industry would have been something very worth while. There are so many things that can be done to enhance a website to legitimately improve page rankings and make you stand out that you have to wonder why people engage in spamlinking at all.
  • Insequitir (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:31AM (#18939705)
    Here's a summary of the article (which I incidentally read yesterday):

    Why sites go in Google hell is a total mystery.

    Story 1: A guy sold diamonds on his site. One day he went to Google hell, but he had no idea why. Why is Google not telling him? He had no idea why this happened... ok... ok... so he paid 35 grand to a SEO "expert" who filled his pages with trash. He removed the trash and few months later he went out of Google hell. To this day he doesn't know how he went out of Google hell.

    Story 2: A guy had a site with lots of visits from Google. One day, he went to Google hell, but he had no idea why. Why is Google not telling? Ok... ok... so he had paid for a ton of links from spam sites, and he had to email each of the sites to get the links removed. Few months later he went out of Google hell, and this guy also has no clue what helped him.

    Summary: It's a total mystery, that Google hell, I tell you.
  • Uh Duh?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ack154 (591432) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:34AM (#18939759)
    So they list two cases of people whining that they paid "consultants" to optimize their sites but got caught. And then make Google out to be the bad guy?

    Both of the "businesses" seem shady to me anyways, and their practices on optimization only appear to confirm that. They got caught, Google did what it's supposed to do. Now they're being punished.

    Sure, they may have reversed any of said optimization, but as the article even says, it can take 6 months to a year to be indexed again anyways. So take two of these and call us in a year...
  • Inverse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@optonli ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:36AM (#18939791) Journal

    Skyfacet's consultant didn't improve their rankings at all, instead causing them to plummet. One wonders just how lucrative this sort of thing is? After all, if this consultant has done this for them, perchance he/she/they have done it to others? Perchance it would be a good idea to a) sue them, b) report them to BBB, and c) begin a this-google-consultant-sucks.com website.

  • for a real Google COmpetitor.
    Right now it's Google and 'those others'.
    MS hasn't even began to ctack the mind share, and they could if they did it right.

    I could creat a company that competes with google and gets mind share, I only need 150 million to do it.
  • So, these guys tried to game the system, got caught, and are now trying to play the victim?

    They got what they deserved.
  • by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:39AM (#18939827)
    For those that think perhaps that Google didn't warn people about disreputable SEO services...

    Don't feel obligated to purchase a search engine optimization service. Some companies claim to "guarantee" high ranking for your site in Google's search results. While legitimate consulting firms can improve your site's flow and content, others employ deceptive tactics in an attempt to fool search engines. Be careful; if your domain is affiliated with one of these deceptive services, it could be banned from our index.
  • by timholman (71886) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:40AM (#18939845)
    After reading the article, I typed "diamonds" and "engagement ring" into Google, then looked at the sponsored links. No sign of skyfacet.com, Mr. Sanar's company. I find it hilarious that Sanar would pay $35,000 to some slimball "consultant" to try to distort the Google search rankings, but not spend one penny on Google sponsored links, which would put him on the first page every time.

    I have zero sympathy for unscrupulous businessmen who try to game the system, get caught, and then whine about it. Kudos to Google for playing hardball and fighting to keeping their search engine useful and relevant instead of letting the spammers ruin it.
    • Tere is no indications of that. The consultant sure is, but this guy couod very well be a guy that wanted his site to be improved and hired a consultant that turned out to be an idiot.

      Not different then finding out the contractor you hired to do some work didn't build it to code.
      Or a mechnic that doesn't properly torque the bolts in your engine.
  • Google Hell is the worst fear of the untold numbers of companies that depend on search results to keep their business visible online.


    In this age of social networking and Web 2.0, is your Google ranking as important as it once was for driving traffic to your website?
  • As a Webmaster (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garett_spencley (193892) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:46AM (#18939909) Journal
    This kind of thing has always baffled me. It is quite possible to conduct business online without relying solely on search engine traffic. While search engine traffic is valuable, if your business strategy is relying on that then you're placing your entire business in the hands of an independent party with it's own interests.

    Google can do whatever the hell they want with their search index. Why on earth any company would place themselves entirely in someone else's hands, particularly someone else who doesn't have the slightest care in the world what happens to your business is really beyond me.

    Any sane business person should enjoy search engine traffic when they have it, but place themselves primarily in the position where they don't need it. Relying entirely on an independent company with it's own interests for your business survival is beyond stupid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cdrguru (88047)
      Since most people believe good companies get placed higher in search rankings and bad companies (with bad feedback from customers and poor customer service) get placed lower, how exactly do you function without search engine placement?

      There are businesses which aren't dealing with people who are searching, but for the most part today if you want customers you need to be in the top 3-4 of a search for your products. This might be more important than pricing, but more and more internet shoppers are using pri
  • with a $3,000,000 diamond business? He deserves to be in Google hell for that alone.
    /goes to sit in the corner wondering what he did with his life/
  • Oh, come off it! For every company that drops on the ranking, there is another one that goes up, so while that specific company might earn less, another one will earn more. Complete economic fairness. And while I'm not a great fan of the ever expanding Google, it is good to remember that they are there to serve *us*, the content searching end users, not product offering companies.
  • by Jimmy King (828214) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:59AM (#18940053) Homepage Journal
    Why would you create a business around your rankings on search engines which everyone knows can change from day to day depending on other sites and ever changing ranking algorithms? Even when you're not paying some SEO guy ridiculous amounts of money to scam the system and get you stuck in Google Hell that's a rather obvious huge risk to be taking.

    I understand that proper advertising is expensive, I've got a failed business of my own due to not being able to put the necessary money into it, but guess what? That's business. You pick the risks you're willing to take and deal with the results. Basing the majority of your business on search result ranking is low cost (unless you pay an SEO expert $35k which would have been better spent elsewhere, like real advertising, or a new car, or a 35,000 cheeseburgers from a fast food value menu) but high risk due to the constant changes.
  • by dbmasters (796248)
    have good content, based on keyword analysis, that people value, keep it current, organize your content properly, lay out your titles and page content strategically and accuraterly and you'll do fine on any search engine, try to game 'em, they'll get ya...

    it ain't rocket surgery...
  • I used to have a site reviewing free web page hosting, back in the '90s when that was a relatively new idea. I had a form where people could suggest sites, and every weekend or so I'd go check them out, try setting up a sample page, and add the results to the list.

    All of a sudden, over a period of a couple of months or so, the "request" page started getting flooded with suggestions for "new" free web hosting sites that seemed awfully similar, and offers to exchange links, and what in retrospect were obviously the work of the kinds of parasites that Google's been fighting. Pretty soon maintaining the page wasn't fun any more, and I quit updating it and eventually took it down.

    Given that Google has to automate this process, I think they're doing a pretty good job.
  • $500,000 is a lot of money. But is a loss of $500,000 more significant for a diamond-retailer or a baseball-card retailer? Granted $500,000 is $500,000, but when I saw what type of business realized that drop -- a business in which a single sale can be $5000 and more -- it seemed to me it would be much more significant for a company where a single sale is more in the $500 range.

    I wonder if the writer used the most extreme example they could find, but one that doesn't amount to very much?
  • by codepunk (167897) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:46AM (#18940767)
    Looks like google's search algorithms worked perfectly, he tried to game the search engine results and
    got sent to the black hole.....

    No sympathy here!
  • by ehrichweiss (706417) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @11:15AM (#18941285)
    It's true. They are in a losing battle with the web spammers who are developing an artificial intelligence based system that will make it so Googlebot won't be able to tell the good stuff from the bad, and if that weren't enough they ignore spam reports, and bury the reporting mechanism so deep that nobody wants to be bothered to report it anyway.

    What this will mean is that we'll be on a user-ranking system like Digg or the like since the users can vote a topic down if it's spam and it gets buried almost immediately(well within a couple hours as compared to days/months/years) but since Google isn't prepared for that type of system, they will soon find themselves overwhelmed with spam.

    I have at least one site that was permanently delisted by Google for some unknown violation and yet I get just as much traffic without them as I did with them. I don't think they're evil nor am I against them but if they don't wake up soon they're going to lose this game, not to Yahoo or other search engines, but to the spammers themselves.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem is, I trust user-ranking systems like Digg even less: Google may be affected by spammers, but user-ranking systems are affected by fads and things like Britney Spears flashing everyone while getting out of her car. Imagine if I want a legitimate bio on a person, or information on a company or country -- how will I ever find it if they're currently the subject of a controversial/popular news item?
  • profit? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by poor_boi (548340) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @12:02PM (#18941993)
    1) Create automated system which 'accidentally' blacklists honest sites obstensibly to relieve load on Google spider 2) ??? 3) 'Google Professional Services' analyzes 'honest' site for problem areas, provides personalized recommendations to 'honest' site's webmaster about what changes are necessary to stay out of blacklist. 'GPS' marks 'honest' site for immediate 'reindexing.' Assuming GPS recommendations were followed, site moves out of blacklist quickly. 4) Profit!
  • by BCGlorfindel (256775) <klassenk AT brandonu DOT ca> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @12:21PM (#18942311) Journal
    Forbes, being one of the 'premier' business 'rags, the real story isn't what Google's actions. It's the spin that Forbes is trying to create. The real thing to learn from this is that Google is still unpopular in the Forbes reading circle.
    Forbes is just trying to put some negative publicity onto Google any way they can. As many have already pointed out, no sane business model relies entirely on the search results from another business that has no vested interest. Anybody working at Forbes knows as much, and yet we have an article talking about "Google's gulag".
    The real information here is from in between the lines. A power struggle behind the scenes, currently Google is the target of some negative image campaigning. What I'm interested in is, where that pushing originates. Who 'owns' Forbes and is pushing for bad press for Google?
    • by Frenchy_2001 (659163) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @04:25PM (#18946505)
      currently Google is the target of some negative image campaigning. What I'm interested in is, where that pushing originates.
      The whole financial community hates Google.
      The feeling started when Google snobed them for the IPO (they went with a public auction, preventing the financial institution to get their hands on the first dibs). Google even kicked them by selling shares with a voting power 10x less than the founder's shares.
      It went worse when Google refused to post any indication of their growth or results past what the stock exchange require (no analyst hint, no prevision). And to compound all that, Google has exceeded the analyst expectations everytime, making them miss the best sale date.

      Basically, Google has shown over the year it does not need the financial community as much as they need it and they still resent that.
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:26PM (#18943403) Journal
    There's a lot more philosophy at stake here than people may realise. Ask yourself this: When you use a search engine, what results do you want to see? That is a complex question, partly because the answer changes from search to search.

    If I want to buy some fly fishing gear, I might search for "fly fishing equipment." Pretty straightforward, but the search engine has to decide whether I want to learn about the equipment, read reviews of specific items, or find retailers to buy from. If I then search for "Berkley fly rods," the engine has to make the same decision, and also has to throw in the possibility of the manufacturer's website. The trick is that I'm more likely to be looking for retailers with the second search than the first, so they should be given more prominence in the results.

    All well and good, but (a) trying to build this logic is tricky, and (b) companies benefit greatly by landing high on the list for any and every remotely relevant (and in some cases, even totally irrelevant) search. Therefore, companies try hard to get their name up on the list as often as possible, and google (and other search engines) try to present a useful set of results.

    The question comes down to this: Who is the search engine company beholden to? They're making money by selling advertising to companies, so they don't want to deliberately censure them; however, advertising is only as effective as the number of potential customers, so they want to maximise exposure--by providing the best results to the customer. Ultimately, companies and consumers are at odds about what constitutes the "best" results, and google has to sit in the middle, acting as gatekeeper.

    Having a neutral algorithm that tries to minimise companies' attempts at gaming the system is a good system. They can use it to back their 'useful results' ideal, and avoid having to beat down companies directly, risking revenue.

    In short, this guy paid too much money to a scammer masquerading as a consultant, and is paying the penalty for it.

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