No Hiding Place For Online Cheats

By January 7, 2013Blog

The internet is a little like the Wild West.  A true frontier of opportunity. There are good guys and bad guys ready to roll.

Bad guys like spammers, identity thieves, black hat hackers and more thrive in the anonymity of the online world.  Good guys who deny spammers, make white hat work and create unique content struggle to be heard and seen.  The reason?  Frontiers are lawless, its easy for the bad guys.

Eventually the good guys win, unless its a Quentin Tarantino movie!  There are signs the internet is starting to come under the scrutiny of the law and Google.

The Google Crackdown from Within

Caffeine, Phantom, Penguin, Panda etc. The list of updates to the number one search engines index and algorithm continues to grow.  Over time, it has become apparent that Google is altering the way it returns search results.  As always, Google is working to improve the quality of information a searcher receives when they search online.

Knowledge Graph, for example, is designed to provide insight from “Big Data” that takes an educated guess at the additional information a searcher really wants when they search.  I see a situation where eventually we are so overloaded with information from a search we forgot what we were originally searching for, actually I think that happens now!  I digress, back to the bad guys.   Google is targeting the world of SEO and particularly Black Hat practitioners.

It is an uncomfortable situation for Google, they don’t want people to know exactly how their search works, otherwise people could gain an unfair advantage.  Yet they have to provide information so that people are at least interested otherwise Google doesn’t have all the information they need to provide great search results.

Google doesn’t really like any SEO practitioners

I believe Google has always seen SEO companies as a necessary evil.  White hat or black hat SEO practitioners made search relevant and provided important feedback.  Early on Google needed this interaction.  Now though they seem to be viewing the issues as too much.

They have turned up their penalties on a range of Black Hat techniques without too much regard for who ultimately pays the price.  It seems they are ready to cut the chord of their symbiotic relationship with SEO.  Now Google wants more control, are we months away from SEO coming under Googles umbrella.  They have already dipped their feet into this arena by investing $32M in HubSpot.

It only seems natural that for Google to gain more control of how SEO is practiced they would like to develop more control over the practitioners.  How is this manifesting?

  • Paid, Local and Organic search have become intertwined in such a way that is more difficult to distinguish which result you are clicking.
  • Google has upgraded its Google partner program and simple Google certification for Paid Search has been stopped.

In time, it is possible that Google will have a select band of partners whom they recommend as the right solution for getting your business found online.  This would allow Google to maintain what they perceive as a fair and lawful frontier.

The Legal Crackdown from Outside

Everybody knows the importance of online reviews and how they have become an integral part of marketing success online.  When the rewards are sizable, the temptation to con the system becomes too much for some.  The search engines and directories have self-policed this in the past by arbitrarily removing reviews they felt crossed the moral line.

The system is rife for exploitation, whether it is a business placing glowing reviews about itself or self-serving consumer sites collecting and promoting anonymous bad reviews, then charging thousands of dollars to have them removed, there are bad guys working the system.

Reigning in the Online Cheats

Finally, a law enforcement agency has stepped into our wild frontier.  The New York Attorney General set up a Yogurt shop and gave it some bad reviews online.  Then in a year long operation they uncovered 19 companies that would place fake reviews on behalf of the Yogurt shop or were similarly involved in placing fake reviews.

In our wild frontier, fake reviews were really just another Black Hat tactic.  It is interesting that the position the AG took was fake reviews represent false advertising.  Very reasonable but then it is not much of a stretch to say link farms are false advertising etc.

Maybe, just maybe, we are on the verge of the internet frontier being a more friendly place for the good guys!

Author Amanda Hall

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