Saturday, November 1, 2008

Outing Websites on SEO

In a recent post by Aaron Wall over at, Aaron expresses concern related to SEOs who “OUT” companies who are involved in shady ranking practices. I usually read Aaron’s blog everyday and I credit him for being my inspiration that re-sparked my interest in SEO after I took a two year hiatus a while back; and his remarks go a long-long way with me. However, his concern on “outing” sites and the negative impact it could have on SEOs who attach their real name to such an endeavor I believe doesn’t pollinate very well when it comes to the floral industry. Any way, here is his post and I will pick up conversation below. The part that I highlighted in red is the reason for my post.....:

"SEO Related Publicity Kills Google Search Rankings


"Outing" Kills Websites

I recently posted about Rand outing another SEO site for self-promotion. Looking at the Google SERPs today, it appears that NationalPositions site is no longer ranking on Google for "seo company" (though they still show up on AOL). They still rank for their own brand, so they might have had some of their links whacked without being fully penalized/removed from the Google index.

Google Even Policing Some Corporations?

I never though Google would go after businesses as big as BankRate, but after their CEO highlighted that they bought for $34 million based largely on its Google rankings, Google seems to have removed that site from the search results as well - it does not even rank for "credit card guide" when it has had a long history of ranking for "credit cards."

There may be an update going on, and these sites might come back (and/or the above sites may get de-penalized after I publish this post - as happened with JoeAnt), but it is quite rare for an established site like not to rank for "credit card guide" and "creditcardguide."

Lessons Learned

What are the morals of the story?

  • Even large brands might be policed now, which will drive a lot of site acquisitions underground and make companies be more cautious with promoting their purchases (especially if Google whacks another purchase, and/or the business is buying thin affiliate sites based on their Google rankings).
  • Even if your publishing business model is SEO centric you need to give it another name...there is no upside in being branded as an SEO play. Sure Mahalo is nothing but a thin affiliate and AdSense site marketing via SEO, but Jason Calacanis made sure he called members of those industries scum to separate his site from the label it deserves.
  • When people out sites on SEO blogs they do so with intent of destroying their businesses for self promotion, and if anyone does it again there is no way they can claim they didn't know any better.
  • If you do not sell SEO services, but learn it on the side, you may want to consider having an alias you use in the SEO industry, while using your real name to promote your regular sites. Being branded as an SEO is not a benefit when Google decides to judge you...ill intent/spam is assumed when you are branded as an SEO."

What makes the floral industry so different? In no other industry can you place an order in, say, California and pay cheap rates to have a delivery made in New York in less than 4 hours. There must be a team effort right? Indeed there is. The problem is that while most of the floral industry tries to work as one team, some team members who are behind computers take advantage of thousands of other hard working team members who are behind design tables.

To illustrate the complexities of the team dynamics, most people who are not in the floral industry have no idea that FTD.Com is one of FTD-members biggest competitor. That’s right, our recognized floral leader, who we take orders from everyday, is one of our biggest competitors.

Not only that, but it is no longer a requirement for membership to have a physical store front. As a result, more and more so-called online florists are popping up and optimizing their floral websites for placement in every zip code across the United States. In that regard, they often times use shady tactics to out rank real-florist websites and take orders away from real-florists while simultaneously force feeding them those same orders at much lower at rates. 

In no other industry is a company expected to take a competitor order at a lower rate than what the customer paid for it and made to fill the order to the value the customer paid for it (this same scenario holds true for the members of & Many florists feel trapped by this circumstance because without being a team member they can’t accommodate the needs of their local customers who have floral needs elsewhere.

As a florist, for real-florists, I believe that real-florists can not only learn from my posts regarding both good and bad SEO practices in the floral community, but also enjoy the benefits of one less competitor if Google believes one is shown to be outside its boundaries.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be the SEO Police for the floral industry (nor do I want to be), but rather a blog bent on helping real-florists understand how national order-gatherers rank so well and how the conceptual model of the web works for their own gain. As many of my readers know, nothing pleases me more than helping local florists out-rank order-gatherers in their own area. 

Having said all that, you will never see me focus on the SEO practices of websites that are outside of the floral community for reasons laid out in Aaron’s post. There are 10’s of thousands of real-florists trying to secure their local geographical search area on the net, and I think that any name attached to the fall of a major order-gatherer is going spread like wild fire in a positive manner rather than a negative manner as Aaron suggests.

Of course, that's just my opinion.


Cathy R said...

Hey Mark -

I read Aaron's post with interest too and can see his points. Yet, in the end, I DO hope you and others keep outing "florist" spammers for the shady ways they manipulate consumers and search engines.

The credibility of the industry is at stake - and with less discretionary dollars available to shoppers these days, every dissatisfied online flower purchasers harms us all... since there's always the chance they'll choose "something besides flowers" the next time they need a gift.

Keep up the good work at shining a light on dodgy practices. :)


Mark McFall said...

Thanks Cathy. Your comments are very much appreciated.