Ms Google – We need a reverse nofollow tag like in — NOW!

Dear Ms Google,

Google as a woman.

This is how I imagine Ms Google to look ;-)

I hope you don’t mind that I am writing to you, but there is something wrong with the way your dating and matching site Google.com works at the moment. Your latest site up date, nicknamed so cutesy ‘Penguin’, puts many of us searchers for the right match in the grave peril of internet link cyber stalking, let me explain:

Most people are using your site as dating, or at least ‘find your perfect match’ site, some people, like me, publish content and others are looking for said content – and you match us together. The better the match works, the happier is everybody. Me, the site owner because I get more visitors, that not only stick around but also come back, the searcher because s/he finds what they are looking for and you because, em, you make money from the whole thing – lots of it I might add. So far so good.

Until now you employed, more less successfully, a way of making this happen by matching certain signals to sites and searchers. You analyzed first the behavior of the searchers to guess what they were really looking for by taking in account their localization, previous searches and – let’s not forget all this yummy data they send you, more or less unconsciously, when they were using your own browser – Chrome.

Then you tried to find the best matching website for that query and one of the factors you took into account is the number of links pointing to said website. In general it used to work like this: The more related the links and websites the better and the unrelated links you simply ignored – which worked fine.

But the latest ‘website improvement’ you did on your dating and matching site google.com now includes a penalty for getting unrelated links to our own website – no matter if a website owner created said links him/herself or not. And this opens the door to cyber link stalking, also called negative SEO, something you always stated doesn’t exist! Your personal bodyguard, Matt Cutts, stated frequently over the last years that the wrong kind of incoming back links can’t hurt a website, but have a look at this example:

http://www.seobook.com/negative-seo-outing (scroll down to the paragraph entitled >A Recent (& Very Public) Example of Negative SEO<

and for the other side of the coin, have a look at this forum thread: http://trafficplanet.com/topic/2369-case-study-negative-seo-results/ but the really scary bit is found on page 2 / post 29 of the same thread!

Dear Ms Google, if you are too lazy to read through this reference material, here a summary for your convenience:

Some Black Hatters got p…ssed with a friend of your personal bodyguard Matt C. and decided to teach him a lesson and to make things even more interesting they also decided to remove a site from the SERPentines that sells (sold?) negative SEO services. They did this by simply blasting these two sites with an awful lot of spammy links that carried the exact anchor text of their main keywords. They also documented the results, which were pretty impressive for something that you and your bodyguard always claim doesn’t exist:

Site 1 is an authority SEO site and dropped from being number eleven for ‘SEO’, to nowhere to be found in the first 1,000 search results after only one month of ‘treatment’.

Site 2, a bit less impressive, dropped from being number 1 for ‘destroy your competitors’ to being number 13, also in one month.

But the really scary part is the guy who chimed in on page two / post 29 of the forum discussion who described exactly how he took a completely legit business out of the SERPentines for basically all their keywords by using negative SEO against them in order to free the way up for his client. It took him a year to do so, but he claims the main damage was done in only four months. This is what he writes about it (excerpt):

“We have managed to totally destroy a credible site with decent page rank, age, traffic and some-what authority. I have been running a negative SEO company for many years now and managed to make small businesses drop heavily on Google SERPS, receive -50 penalties and get dropped all altogether. … As of this week the site is totally gone for all its major keywords! It still seems to get traffic from long tail but the main damage is now done. The whole process was not a quick one (almost a year in total, but the major damage was done in 4 months), if you want to target a small businesses its can be done in as little as a month. But bigger businesses take a while longer.”

Ms Google this should have never been possible to happen! The site affected was not some guy selling negative SEO services (well deserved to disappear from the SERPentines imho) or an experienced SEO guy with the right, direct contacts to get himself out of trouble asap, it was a normal, non-spammy business buying and selling used cars. A business on which the livelihood of many, his employees and families, depends. There are families now out there that don’t know if their main income earner will still have a job next month!

So, what can be done to reduce, or counter-act, negative SEO attempts by people without a consciousness? Here my idea:

  • In short, we webmasters need a reverse nofollow tag that we can apply to incoming links in order to avoid that a competitor blasts our legitimate sites into oblivion with a zillion of crappy, spammy back links each day. This could be achieved in the following way:
  • Webmaster signs up / enables ‘back link verification’ in your webmaster tools service.
  • Every time you detect a new back link to a site you send the respective webmaster, if signed up to the service, an automated message (very similar to a ping / track back really).
  • Webmaster checks links in his/her inbox in Webmaster Tools and has three possibilities:
  1. Accept the link as it is – making it dofollow / doindex so to speak on his / her side of things.
  2. Reject the link – telling you so that s/he doesn’t want to have this link counted in his / her link profile for this website.
  3. Rejecting / banning the whole domain as a back link source for his / her website permanently.

The first two would mean to decide on a case by case basis if a link is a good fit and the third scenario would be reserved for domains that would be beyond redemption even if they would change hands and content, you know the ones with p.rn and v..gra in the domain name itself. And obviously, by doing so we webmasters could save an awful lot of time by not having to go through our links one by one.

I give you an example how this could work practically:

Lets say I would get the notification about a new back link to this blog post from the following sites, here is what I could do:

1. Aaron Walls of Seo Book fame decides to link to me in one of his next blog posts (a woman can dream) – I obviously would accept this kind of back link as it is from a highly related authority site.

2. Someone links to this blog post from his or her general site, but from an article that has nothing to do with SEO, internet marketing or blogging, so I would politely reject this link, but only this one. Some time later s/he might want to link to me again, but from a more related article, so I don’t want to ban his / her domain completely.

3. A site called 1millionspammybacklinksforfivedollar.com (made up example) tries to link to me. I would reject that link plus all future attempts to link to my blog from this domain by banning it as it is unlikely that these kind of site would ever develop into a site I want to be associated with ;-) BTW, if one domain would get banned frequently from webmasters in this way, that could be also a strong signal for you that something is fishy — just saying …

There would be one drawback to this, from your point of view, and that is that less white hat webmasters might be inclined to accept links they bought – if they are related and on good sites they might be difficult to spot, but I am sure you could think of a way to overcome this obstacle!

So, Ms Google, now you might see how, by allowing negative SEO to happen, you open the doors of your dating and matching site wide to cyber stalkers that are after the innocent searchers. With whom do you want them to match, with a person that pays money to get rid of their competition for good or with the best possible match they would be happy not only now, but also in future and ever hereafter???

Your turn Ms. Google…

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8 comments to Ms Google – We need a reverse nofollow tag like in — NOW!

  • Vi

    Here is also interesting story
    http://wpmu.org/wordpress-penguin-google-matt-cutts/

    p.s. nice new website

  • […] could easily fix this As Sheseo pointed out, Google needs to come up with a way that webmasters can reverse no-follow bad links pointed at […]

  • […] warnings sent from Google.  The only current way to discredit a link is to have it removed as reverse nofollow functionality for webmasters simply doesn’t exist.  One recent example of a link […]

  • Gab

    Although I love the idea, it seems clear that google can’t care less…. isn’t all this a PPC long term strategy.
    Ignoring specific domain names is an OK idea, but let see, the negative SEO company can generate 10K backlinks in one day.
    How will this work for the real business owner?
    Start blocking one by one…?

    The easiest way will be : Ignore links.
    Simple. No penalty. No drama.

    But obviously Google doesn’t care about what we want….

    • Hi Gab,

      Yes, a lot of people think that PPC is a major driving force behind this latest update, I am not so sure about that point. I also see your point that when ‘hammered’ with negative SEO going one by one through them might be a tiny bit tedious, but still, I think preferable to the current situation where a webmaster can do nothing about it. Google can’t ignore links, there is really no replacement for this part of the algo in my opinion, social signals like Twitter, G+ etc are not really able to replace this for various reasons. One thing Google could do is to ignore links that don’t carry any traffic over to the linked site or at least to value such a link much less. And yes, Google certainly doesn’t care what we want, but it might care a tiny bit more about what the search engine users and Adwords buyers want, hopefully …

  • Pip

    So, this service which webmasters could sign up to doesn’t exist yet right? WHY? It is such a good idea and yeah it may be tedious but y’know what? You have to work hard to get anywhere in life! Great post SHESEO

  • Ashley Lane

    Great post!

    Google disclaims in several places that it cannot control spam in its search results (Which IT controls) but it expects webmasters to control links and content on OTHER people’s sites?

    Google has more control over their content than webmasters do!

    It all makes no sense.