Back in 2009 a certain SBI review made some waves in parts of the internet marketing world. You can read it here >>> SBI<<
- SBI or Site Build It! is a membership site that helps people to build up and maintain their own internet based business.
- The good point about them is, that they take people by the hand and walk them through all the steps and that they provide all the tools, website builders etc that are needed to achieve this.
- The bad point is, that people will have to stay with them, and continue to pay, a whooping $299 per year if they want to keep their sites working as usual. Moving a site out of the system is certainly possible, but difficult for non-techie people (and that are the once that SBI mostly seems to target, and in all cases people wouldn’t be able to take the tools with them, as they belong to SBI, not the website owners.
So, for all practical matters, joining SBI would be a lifetime commitment (lifetime of the website obviously ;-)). But this post is not about if SBI is a scam, a great business opportunity or simply an overpriced membership site. It is about the fact that Ken Evoy, the owner of the parent company SiteSell is on the Google War Path and the reason for this is, in my opinion, that Lis’ review from 2009 ranks pretty high in Google. Not only for ‘SBI scam’ or ‘Site Build It Scam’, but also for Site Build It (without quotes). Meaning that, according to Scroogle.org (cookie free, non-personalized and privacy respecting Google Scraper) she ranks between place 10 and 11 for this! Oops, not a good thing for Ken’s online reputation. Imagine you own a business and an article, that criticizes your business model, is ranking high for the exact name of your company / business. So Ken got angry and went on the ‘Google War Path’! So, here the next long piece to read >>>Ken Evoy’s War Declaration<<<!
I personally believe that SBI is simply overpriced and ties people in for (website) life, without an easy way to transfer their websites out of it, but reading what Ken Evoy wrote in his post, and how his community reacted, shows also some other, interesting facts. Here some examples:
He describes what happened when Lis first published her initial review as Google Bombing. If you have a look at >>>this Wikipedia article <<< you see that her review doesn’t fit the definition at all. I quote, emphasis by me:
“The terms Google bomb and Googlewashing refer to practices, such as creating large numbers of links, that cause a web page to have a high ranking for searches on unrelated or off topic keyword phrases, often for comical or satirical purposes. In contrast, search engine optimization is the practice of improving the search engine listings of web pages for relevant search terms.”
Now everybody that knows Lis, will confirm that she can be sarcastic or even satirical, not sure about the comical part of her ;-), but the review she wrote was not! Actually she wrote a review about what she believes is a scam and entitled it accordingly. So that is that, sorry Ken, you didn’t get ‘Google bombed’, you only got a negative review! And this review ranks high in the search engines for many reasons, one being that it was one of the first, if not the first, that was written by somebody that didn’t push the SBI affiliate program in the article itself …
Next thing Ken Evoy says is
“A Googlebomb is massive, organized webspam, the extreme link scheme.”
and he uses Lis’ post as an example. Now a link scheme is something two or more webmasters set up in order to help each other out with backlinks, planned, organized and carefully orchestrated in order to stay under the radar of the search engines whilst at the same time improving each others rankings. What happened in the case of Lis SBI review was not a link building scheme in this sense, it was a blog post going viral! And as her blog post was the source, it was only natural that people linked to it. Actually, if Ken had kept his calm and his followers back, the review would most likely have sunken of the radar and nobody, or at least not many, would have linked to it. So, in a certain sense, he contributed to the success of this negative review of his own business 😉
As Ken didn’t keep calm, the story was promoted and supported by many of us, that know Lis and value her opinion. There is a big difference between a ‘link scheme’ and a group of online friends sharing information they find interesting with their readers. I am sure I also ‘throw a link in her direction’ back in 2009, not because anybody asked me to, but because I found the information and opinions she provided useful and wanted as many people as possible to read it.
To make it quite clear, if a story goes viral like this, it is not called Google Bombing or creating a link scheme, it is called ‘viral or breaking news’ with natural back links from relevant sites pointing back at the original story. Taken the internet as a whole, this was not even a tiny ripple compared to a true Google (and Social Media) Bomb such as >>>Amazonfail<<
A bird has twittered me, or should I better say a whole flock of birds is twittering on the internet?, that Panda wasn’t kind to SBI sites! Apparently lots of people are complaining on the private SBI forum that their traffic took a serious downturn after the Panda / Farmer update. So, instead of looking into which feature(s) /aspects of SBI might have caused this happening, Ken is setting out to look for a scapegoat and resurrects the 2,5 years old review of hers as a reason for this!
So, in his opinion there is nothing inherently wrong with the SBI system, it is all Lis’ fault because she Google bombed and link schemed her way onto the first page of Big G for a whole bunch of SBI related keywords. This still doesn’t explain why websites that were build with SBI have experienced sinking traffic, btw, but it would explain why the oh so attractive SBI affiliate program is not performing so well as it used to be. Even Ken says so:
“…It also damages SiteSell’s reputation and growth,…” — Translate growth to profit and you get the idea 😉
Before I elaborate on the measures Ken Evoy recommends his followers to take, here another quote from the SBI website itself that makes me think that he is really a ‘pot calling the kettle black':
The SiteSell Value Exchange is the simplest, fastest, most efficient, and most genuine way of exchanging valuable links with matching sites. Relevant, valuable sites link only to other relevant sites, providing value to your visitor, to your site and to your partners. Value Exchange also leads to other opportunities, such as joint ventures.”
If I read this right, and I am sure I do, link schemes among members are actually part of the SBI strategy, and as all these sites are sitting on the same, few servers, Google had a field day in discovering this, me thinks …
And now about what Ken calls his ‘Call to Action':
What he basically tries to do is to get his followers, community, groupies, call them what you want, to help to lower Lis’ article in the search engine rankings to a point that nobody finds them anymore and SBI can do business, and profit, as usual. He argues that
“Google does not seem to mind that users of its Search service receive a poorly written, inaccurate review of SBI!”
Now, it might come as a surprise to Ken that Google doesn’t care about the amount of typos in an online article, nor does it care if somebody is wrong or right on the internet, it only cares about serving the best fitting result to a search query. And if I would be searching for something like a SBI review, I would prefer to find Lis’ article, typos included, instead of the fake review of one of the many affiliate marketers that only want me to buy the product via their link in order to make a nice commission! Perhaps Google is intelligent enough to disregard reviews that come with blatant affiliate links? Just food for thought!
So, if Ken and the SBI community like it or not, from a search engines, and searchers, point of view, Lis’ review belongs into the top results, at least in my opinion.
Far more concerning is that Ken openly and publicly asks people to do the following:
“… let Google know that the #1 ranking for a search for “site build it scam” delivers a bad user experience, a false review written by a Ms. Sowerbutts, due to webspam.”
And then he gives detailed instructions on how to fill out such a report and continues with
“Once you have done that, please “Like” this page (below) and let Google know by +1’ing it, too.”
So, not only he asks his followers to report a blog post wrongly (imho) as web spam, he also asks them to improve the rankings of his own blog post by using ‘likes’ and G+ buttons! Pot.Kettle.Black!
And if that would not be enough, he also suggests to take further action by telling his readers to block her domain from their future search results, hoping that this will raise a red flag with Google. This obviously would work only if people are logged into their Google account when doing so and that would mean that Google actually ‘sees’ who is doing it …
And to cover himself, he ads at the end of his post
“Please note that I am NOT suggesting that anyone abuse this mechanism. Do this if you find the review to be of poor quality and is inappropriately ranked highly by Google.”
In summary, Mr. Evoy:
What happened in 2009 is neither called Google bombing, nor web spam nor a link scheme, it is called a negative review, not more, not less. Instead of taking it gracious and with countenance, you decided to ‘fire back’ in 2009, causing a lot of Lis’ friends to support her against your attacks. Would you have simply ignored the review, this would not have happened and it would be, most likely, forgotten by now. Fast forward to 2011, by emitting a ‘call to action’ against Lis to your followers the same thing will happen again. Perhaps you should calm down and remember that all publicity is good publicity, even the negative one and that the worst thing that can happen to any business is when nobody speaks about it 😉
And last, but certainly not least, a reality check for you, Mr. Evoy. The following numbers are the exact, not broad!, searches performed daily on Google:
- site build it scam 33
- site build it review 24
Does put things into perspective, doesn’t it? Especially if you bear in mind that quite a few are, most likely, performed by the people that are already members of your site …
And now it is time for me to add my own
Legal Disclaimer: Everything written in this blog post is an expression of my personal opinion and not orchestrated by anybody! 😉
So, you have read until here, I hope you found it entertaining and informative! If you like to leave a comment, by all means do so 😉 You don’t have to agree with me, but please keep your language and expressions on a family friendly level, otherwise I might either edit your swear words out or delete your comment completely, depending on the amount of coffee I had 😉
Update November 2012: Comments on older posts like this are closed on this blog, sorry, too many spammers and too little time 😉 A reader contacted me and asked me if I could add the following link http://www.stopfraud.gov/report.html to this post, as you can see I have just done so, I also recommend that, if you have a problem with SBI that you can’t solve otherwise that you contact the Better Business Bureau. That’s all for the moment, have a great day!
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