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Webbed Feet UK, web developers in Salisbury, Wiltshire

SEO as Sabotage

We review and improve the search engine optimisation (SEO) for many of our clients’ websites. One client specifically was at or near the top for all of his desired search terms, generating him a lot of business, but last Friday his rankings plummeted.

Our immediate priority was to find out why, and rectify the situation in order to keep his enquiries coming in, and after some investigation we believe we have found the reason, and that reason is sabotage…

Historically one way of improving a website’s search engine optimisation was to create lots of inbound links from other sites. After all if other businesses would link to you, you must be important. It didn’t take long for this to be abused and so search engines started to place less emphasis on links, and categorised them in to good links and bad links. A good link being a free link from a reputable website, and a bad link being a paid-for link on a website specifically designed to boost SEO.

One way of buying (bad) inbound links is to outsource them to developing countries with an underpaid workforce, and you can buy thousands of (bad) links for a few pounds. This should never be done by any reputable SEO company for any reason.

If Google detects, or suspects the purchase of inbound links, which violates their terms and conditions, they will penalise the website by either dropping its ranking, or banning it completely.

So, back to our client, we acquired this contract earlier this year after one of our competitors [1], another web designer, were charging him obscene amounts of money. Although hard to prove in court, we felt that this could be verging on being a criminal offence rather than just a matter of simple overpricing. When we eventually managed to get control of the website, this competitor mentioned that our client’s website would drop in performance as they could undo their past work.

Using our specialist software, and Google webmaster tools, we examined all of the inbound links to our client’s website and plotted these on a graph of when they were first discovered by Google. The results were outstanding.

Last month, long after we have taken control of this project, there has been a sudden surge of inbound links. This is worrying as we haven’t added any and have been focusing on legitimate forms of search engine optimisation.

Looking deeper, it transpired that last month had the biggest increase in inbound links the site has ever seen. Furthermore many of the links came from just a handful of websites, which were not only of a poor quality, but a simple Google search found them to be on lists of the worst link-farm websites in the world.

It’s always possible that websites find themselves on these lists naturally, but looking at the source pages, they have been misclassified, and our client had links from pages associated with pineapples (they do not sell food stuffs).

There is always the small chance that this is coincidence, but based on what we can see it appears that the previous web agency have deliberately purchased the lowest quality back links that they could find, in an attempt to make Google blacklist our client… and it’s working (they seem to be suffering but have no manual penalty as yet).

We are expecting them to call our client in the next week or so and say “we notice your website has fallen in search engines, why don’t you come back to us”, time will tell.

We have Googled this web agency, and have noticed that there are dedicated third party web pages set up to discuss their poor quality of service. According to a well-known newspaper the company director is known for dissolving businesses, and his previous business partner has been banned from being a director and has been to jail twice for fraud and scams.

It is absolutely shocking that a company can run a ‘business’ in this way, and this is an exceptionally difficult crime to prove. Quite simply, they will get away with it.

What’s worse is it isn’t us that they’re hurting, it’s our client.

Of course the responsibility to put this right is now up to us, and there are ways in which we can tell Google to exclude these bad links. This certainly won’t happen overnight and there is nothing stopping the web developers from generating further bad links.

It looks like we have a battle on our hands!

[1] In order to preserve goodwill, I’d like to point out that this competitor is not a local web designer in Salisbury.

This article is categorised within:

Case Studies Online Marketing Search Engines