60-Seconds #313 : Google Link Removal schemes raise a lot of questions

by Fred Showker

... continued from the previous page.

How do you know it's bad when it's not bad? Who do you believe?

As mentioned on the previous page, Chuck Green's email is a living example. Chuck knows there's nothing wrong with those links. The web was perfectly happy and prospering for two decades before Google. Chuck knows the organization he's linking to is a good organization. He knows it's a GOOD link -- so far as reference links go. There's nothing unnatural about that. But still ... should he believe the Google threat? Will Google penalize him and move "Jumpola" down to page 60 in search results?

Most web designers I've talked to say "ignore it." Back last year, I went and asked the designers on LinkedIN: "What do you do when you get a Google link remove demand?" Most of them said ignore it. But if you go and read the words of writers and bloggers like Jon Morrow (Now becoming filthy-rich heros because they now know how to 'save' you from Penguin!) you'll be afraid and do anything to avoid "Google Death." Of course these disciples of Penguin are happy to teach you how to comply to Google for a fee.

BUT HERE'S THE RUB . . . over on the Safenetting* side, where we've been spam and cybercrime fighters since 1997, I have discovered a something very strange. We've processed so many, we've started calling them: "Google Death Joe-Jobbers"! These strange emails are like phishing -- but they are using a technique known as a "Joe Job" to scare web owners into removing links. The reason is unclear, but at the end of the day, it seems they want to erase the popularity of web sites they don't like. Yes, that's correct. As I said, the Design Center gets a lot of these requests. We routinely track down the sender's authenticity and require them to provide us with a copy of the Google communication for security purposes. When the demand came from somewhere in Pakistan, or Romania, or both, and we require Google confirmation -- suddenly they disappear. Poof. Gone.

It's brilliant -- think about it: What's to keep competition for Chuck's Jumpola printer from spoofing a Google demand to remove links? How about not just from Chuck's site, but all the other popular web sites it may be linked to as well? It's an easy spoof, and people are so afraid of "Google Death" they'll comply immediately. 99% won't even ask, they'll just remove the links. Poof. In a few days, that printer's inbound links from authority web sites are GONE. Period. And, he's gone from Google. Joe-jobber wins. Game over.

I'm wondering, did Chuck validate the sender IP address? Did he ask them to send back the Google contact info (raw, with headers) so it could be authenticated. Do we have any way of knowing it actually come from Google? Spammers spoof Google all the time, and they're extremely good at it -- so good in fact that Google is no longer accepting spam or malware complaints from the spam reporting sites. (Google has saddled investigators with heroic measures to report a site. But that's another whole story all together!) Is Chuck's linked printing site running AdSense ads? Are they bleeding traffic from another printer who buys AdSense keywords? The difference in profits to Google can be alarming. Is Chuck contributing to their popularity too much? (He's very popular!) Are there other printing companies that want that link removed from Chuck's wildly popular web site? Nobody has the answers to any of these questions except Google. And if you ask, Matt Cuts will grin and say

Quoting  begins We don't require any web owner to do anything. We're just cleaning up the search facility for users -- higher quality search results. If we find bad links, well, we devalue the site. But you don't have to do anything. Higher quality.Quoting  ends

If you analyze your search results over the past four years, then you'll agree that the results quality hasn't really gotten much better. Maybe it's gotten worse. For instance : the other day I searched for "Cruise in Fort Lauderdale"* ... I found dozens of Google AdSense sites, some of which have nothing to do with chartering a cruise in Fort Lauderdale ... most aren't even in Fort Lauderdale. (Some don't even mention the word 'lauderdale' in their code! How did THEY turn up in the results?) I had to go to page 5 to find the actual "Cruise in Fort Lauderdale" site. So did Penguin really give me a better quality result? The top three sites were spam sites. While trying to find the "Lauderdale" entry on those sites I was bombarded by stalker links and blinking distraction. Do you think Matt actually believes these are "quality" results? Hmmmmmm. On the other hand, Google's alleged Panda and Penguin have provided the PERFECT platform for the cybercrime industry to harrass or destroy web owners. (We say "alleged" here because it's actually not clear, nor testable, that Google's algorithms actually do what Google says they do.)

But guess what? It doesn't matter!

None of all that matters because web site owners jump to Google's whim no matter what it is, and would rather die any other death than "Google Death".

Here's what I do :

The Design Center, the User Group Network, and especially www.DTG-forums.com, have been getting these link removal requests for a while. At first I thought they were legit, until I checked IP addresses, and put the email through the Spam analysis formula.*

FIRST: I used to require the email of the inquiry be authenticated that they do indeed represent who they say they do. So I would email back with a set of criteria by which they can authenticate the complaint.
NEXT I would require them to authenticate the Google complaint by requesting a set of criteria by which we can authenticate it is a legit Google complaint -- just to make sure you're not being Joe-Jobbed by a cybercrook. . . . otherwise it's nothing in the world but defamation.

Forget that! NEW strategy: Nobody cares about cybercrime any more -- and everyone (keyword: EVERYONE) is scared to death of Google removing them from the searches. So I've started saying:

Quoting  begins Yes, we're happy to remove your link to save you from Google Death, the standard fee for this is $50, and once that payment hits my PayPal account, I'll personally, immediately remove the link. Quoting Fred Showker ends

And that's exactly what I do. After all, it takes time and resources to go back in and remove links -- or add the nofollow tag -- specially those in the DTG-Forums. Since Google is stimulating these requests, it seems fair that Google should pay for them -- but that's a little optimistic. So if the web owner wants them removed, he can help us out -- since the site is non-profit.

Bottom Line

The next time you get a LINK REMOVAL REQUEST let them help you cover your cost, pick up some change, and keep the Search-Engine-Gods happy. Let Google drive some revenue your way for a change.

fred_c_125 But don't be surprised if only one in ten actually send the money. All the rest are Joe-Jobs!

Good day, everybody . . . and thanks for reading

Fred Showker

      Editor/Publisher : DTG Magazine
      +FredShowker on Google+ or most social medias @Showker
      Published online since 1988

 


GO Visit Chuck Green's "IdeaBook" on Facebook
GO Google's search results for "Cruise in Fort Lauderdale"
GO What is a "paid link"?
GO It's okay for Google to charge for links, but NOT YOU
GO Matt Cutts answers two questions about nofollow
GO Can nofollow links hurt my site's ranking?
GO Matt Cutts: The No Follow story
GO Need to report someone? Use this authenticated paid link report form


Please share your discoveries with other DTG readers:
GO Send an email to our editorial staff
GO Contribute your own article
GO Join the Design Cafe forums, or
GO Follow DTG on Facebook!

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