Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Found Agency Slapped By Google For Black Hat Techinques

The Found Agency has recently been slapped hard by Google for using what is know as “black hat techniques”. Black Hat techniques are methods whereby an Internet property is promoted through the use of artificial linking. Black hat techniques are widely used by webmasters, in an effort to gain search engine ranking. The higher your ranking – the more money you make. Google always catches up with these methods in time.   

STORY: The Found Agency, whose estimated $3 million sale to the Photon marketing group is due to be completed later this year, has admitted to pushing the boundaries of Google's guidelines to get other sites to link to its website to improve its ranking on the search engine.

Paid search engine marketing and manipulating the more trusted, natural results have become highly popular marketing channels as more people go to search engines such as Google to find services and products.

But Google appears to have stopped counting potentially thousands of links pointing to Found Agency: last month had the top natural search position for the term "search engine optimisation", but by yesterday morning it had dropped to 52nd.

Google Australia would not comment on the case -- talk of which had spread like wildfire through the search marketing industry -- but a spokesman pointed to its webmaster quality guidelines, which covered the most common forms of deceptive behaviour.

The guidelines tell site designers to "avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings" and directs them not to participate in "link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking".

"Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here," the company stated. Industry blogs such as have cited one method used by Found Agency -- whereby it supplies numerous unrelated websites with a hit counter that tabulates the number of visitors but that also contains an advertising link to au -- as a "black hat link-building strategy".

Found Agency co-founder Tim Macdonald said Google had downgraded the site's search ranking but refused to comment on whether the company used black hat techniques. He said some strategies the company used were "in the grey area".

"We've just had a penalty applied to our site," Mr Macdonald said.

"We haven't been banned."

Similar action does not appear to have been taken on Yahoo, which had about 14,000 links pointing to on Wednesday.

The search engine optimisation industry is split into white hat - or approved --methods of achieving a high ranking for a website and black hat practices.

Clear Light Digital co-founder Jamie Silver said black hat tactics were about fooling search engines to achieve an artificially high ranking rather than optimising them for users.

Mr Macdonald said Found Agency had taken "a calculated decision" to aggressively promote its own website but said it did not use the same methods forits clients, which include, Travel. and Wotif. "There are clear things such as hidden text (which are banned by Google)," Mr Macdonald said.

"We've never done anything like that where there are clear guidelines. The rest of the rules are open to interpretation."

Said one rival, who asked not to be named: "Google says a link is a vote of quality and that's not a vote of quality."

Mr Macdonald refused to comment directly on the use of the hit counter. "The only way to rank for a term like (search engine optimisation) is to be exceptionally aggressive," he said.

Mr Macdonald said the company had been open about its practices with its clients.

"Working for a client, you have to stay way, way, away from the boundaries of what could be perceived as being not in Google's rule book," Mr Macdonald said. "Equally, you have to know where the boundaries are. We have tested the boundaries with other sites."

Chris Meehan, general manager, commercial at Travel., said he was not aware that Found Agency had been penalised by Google but planned to look into it.

So would Found use grey-hat tactics to improve its ranking on Google again?

"No comment," Mr Macdonald said. "There are other big name agencies that have seen exactly the same thing (happen to them) and they're very strong businesses powering along today We always knew the risks."


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Anonymous said...

The sad part is that the fluff they have said in response to the penalty is only going to make things worse for the people out there who are being signed up for services they do not fully understand. I read that they "have some other sites they expect to come into the first page results soon" - interesting that they can predict when the pages will rank? Oh wait that is not possible... liars. Furthermore - what sites are these? I'd love to have a look at the URLs, check the link sources, etc.

It was a nice recovery FoundAgency but you have only fooled fools. You did not have the skills to get your site ranking without using dodgy tactics. It is easy to claim to be great when you have a couple of large sites ranking well but here's a news flash - large sites are easy to get ranking well. Show us some of the other lesser known brands that you have helped achieve awesome results for? Do you have results for any clients in the home loan industry? Drop me a name that is ranking in the top 5 for "home loans" that I have not heard of before?

Kenny said...

These "SEO Specialists" are more often than not, full of %^&*&(. They call people up who have financial websites, and claim to help them rise quickly, and the examples they show for their "expertise", is some site on the keyword, "camel hump maintenence", or some such rare topic. ANY MORON can a site ranked for #1 in the SEs with rare keywords.

The other sad part is people get duped everyday by these con men.