Playing a Little Defence On The SEO Court

Google Spam Report, Defensive SEO

When developing and refining a search strategy, many SEOs focus on how to aggressively improve one’s own site rankings. But what many fail to do is consider playing defence when competitors are climbing the rankings at a rapid rate.

After managing the marketing function for a job site in what is considered a very competitive industry in the UK, I realised that it is rarely enough to rely on playing a purely offensive game because you may not get ahead if the other team is not playing by the rules.

And whilst the early days of SEO was rife with black hat SEO, it seems there are still many out there prepared to play the dangerous game of cat and mouse with Google to get ahead.

For those who therefore want to play a little “d” as part of their SEO strategy it is important to analyse the competitor sets strategies, to identify the more unsavoury tactics that may be deployed to outrank your site.

Here I will share 3 techniques that I have seen deployed by 3 different competitors that were in my competitive set.

Google Can Find Your Hidden text1. Hidden Text

This technique has been around for a long time but it still props up in various forms. In this particular instance the competing site hid text within the page making it invisible to the naked eye. However if you happened to click on a particular part of the page, the page would extend and the SEO copy would suddenly be revealed.

How can you spot it?

Compare content in the back end code with that on pages within a site. If the content is not visible on the site it could be hidden through the use of white text or by using a similar technique to the one that I have described above.

2. Excessive Link Buying;

Another prominent competitor in the space was engaging in excessive link buying to build artificial rank. Since 2008 Google has frowned upon the use of such a technique given its ease to build PageRank.

How to spot it?

Excessive link building is usually simplified through the use of a link broker. As a result the offending links usually adopt a similar format. Start by reviewing competitor sites utilising Yahoo Site Explorer. Look for links that appear on irrelevant or spammy sites. In addition look at how links appear on sites – are they in a similar format with the same anchor text and are there many of them?

3. Bogus Domains

Yet another competitor was using a technique whereby they registered a large number of domains to create bogus landing pages which were then hosted on different servers. These pages were created to target specific keywords and were used to point towards a master domain to make the site look popular by Google’s standards.

How to spot it?

This one can be a little more difficult to identify. Look for patterns in the types of domains pointing to the site, are they similar in nature? Are the pages just simple landing pages like doorway pages that link through to the master site? Do they provide the user with any value or do they simply look to be set up for the purpose of rankings?

Google Spam Report, Defensive SEOWhat to do about it?

The most important part to a defensive SEO strategy is to report an offending site to Google. Submit your case via the Google SPAM report form and Google will then review it which can lead to downgrading a sites PageRank, impact rankings or if severe can result in Google blacklisting the offending site from the SERPs.

Have you found a competing site that you think might not be playing by the rules? If so please email me at and I would be happy to look at it for you.


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5 Biggest Search Marketing Trends in 2009

SEM Trends

In 2008 it is believed that Google made over 400 changes to its algorithm, keeping all of the search marketers out there on their toes.  But just when you think you may have cracked the big time with your search results, the search landscape is changing.

So what may Google and other search engines have in store for us in 2009?

  1. Semantic Search –It seems the next big trend upon us in search is semantic search. Recently Google’s search results have shown preliminary signs of deploying semantic search, and both MSN and Ask have made their intentions in this area known.
  1. Blended Search – Whilst blended search has been in use for sometime it is becoming more and more mainstream. At the SES conference in Chicago in December it was identified that nearly a third of all search results contained some kind of blended result. This had nearly doubled since March 2008.  With web 2.0, interactive content is exploding and it will be those who can optimise video, maps and images for search who will benefit in 2009.
  1. Local Search – The importance of local search results and reviews is more important than even. This is partly being driven by the rise in smart phones to search for on the fly information such as restaurants and entertainment. Optimising for local search should therefore have a greater focus by marketers.

Trends such as localisation as well as personalisation are not only changing the optimisation process, but are changing the way in which we measure SEO.  Localisation and personalisation make rankings less important and results in an even stronger focus onto measuring traffic and conversions.

  1. User Behaviour Metrics – Site relevancy & quality will play an even greater role in search rankings. Click-through rates and bounce rates will be taken into consideration and overtime poor performing sites will be affected.  A natural progression to utilise these metrics seems obvious given Google already utilises these metrics in their quality score for paid search.
  1. Popularity – Link popularity will begin to take a backseat as Google will focus more on the intelligence gained through personalisation, search wiki’s, chrome and social media to determine real popularity.
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