The Anatomy of a Google Smear Campaign

7 comments

What follows is the story of my good friend Ann Smarty's community being the target of a Google smear campaign. Full disclosure: Ann and myself both work for Internet Marketing Ninjas (IMN). ThreadWatch.org is owned by IMN's CEO Jim Boykin. The statements made by myself and Ann in this posting do not reflect the opinions of IMN, our partners, and subsidiaries.

Before we begin our tale, lets talk a bit about FUD. Fear, uncertainty and doubt is a popular PR strategy to confuse the public in a way that benefits a specific organization. Software companies are notorious for this type of strategy because software is inherently hard to for the public to understand. Even the most talented programmers require the use of abstracted thought to fully understand how a piece of software works. Understanding the algorithms that power search engines requires this same level of abstracted thought. Google understands this and leverages the public’s ignorance to craft FUD strategies that help them reach a certain objective. 

The following is just one case of Google FUD that I have witnessed first hand. In my opinion even professionals that analyze Google's algorithms all day fail to see this type of PR move. OR maybe they do, but they choose to stay quite. Staying quite has never been my style.

On March 13th Rae “Sugarrae” Hoffman tweets the following from the audience of a session at SMX.

rae

Many speculate that Matt is talking about MyBlogGuest.

speculateMBG

On March 19th at 1am (while most of the world sleeps) Matt Cutts tweets the following:

mattcuttsanounce

Ann officially states that MBG has been hit with a penalty.

AnnOfficial

Many including myself and Ann cast this as a PR campaign, and (wrongfully) doubt that members of MBG will be affected.

JoeHall mikeKing AnnDoubt

Webmasters within MBG begin to report they are being hit with penalties.

report

More support for MBG from the community. (proof that the FUD campaign isn't working)

support11 support1 support2

Seeing that the smear campaign isn’t taking hold, Google goes after a well-respected “white hat” SEO, that never was a part of MBG, to further push a sense of uncertainty and doubt.

portent

I can already anticipate a bunch of questions to this post. So let me address them now...

If this is just a smear/FUD campaign why did actual sites get hit?

To send a message. The important point here is that Google targeted MBG because it is the most popular guest blogging platform on the web. There are many other similar services that don't have the same level of publicity as MBG and they haven't been hit. If Google is serious about going after guest blogging they should go after the sites that charge $$ for each posts those are the services that actually break the rules.

Why did sites like Portent.com get hit when they had no connection to MBG?

Honestly, I don't know. And it looks like neither do they. In fact at first Ian thought they actually were connected to MBG. This is all a part of the Uncertainty in FUD. Create an enviroment where conflicting information rises to the top, so that decision makers start to doubt a given tactic.

Is guest blogging dead??

I am not sure, but this is the strategy I am planning on using in the future.

bird

Comments

I don't understand the

I don't understand the penalizing sites for linking to MBG. I've seen a few that had a single link to MBG that got them targeted for manual investigation. 

I do blame MBG for being so militant about not adding nofollow to the links. I truly believe that that one thing caused most of this. If the nofollow had been left as an option between the content producer and the publisher I would wager a fairly large sum (at least .0002 Bitcoins) that that is what caused all of this. By forcing nofollow not be used this created a link scheme in the minds of those at Google, Whether it was or it wasn't. 

Poling the bear is never a good idea.

I agree but....

I agree, but, why hasn't Google in any of this action against MBG mention the absense of NF? I mean if that was the lynchpin then why not state it? I think they wanted to send a larger mesage about guest blogging in general.

Becasue that would remove the

Becasue that would remove the FUD

One thing I struggle to

One thing I struggle to understand: Were we actually WORTH THE EFFORT? They clearly scraped the database, took some time to get ready (Matt was teasing us for a while), now there will be reconsideration requests, etc... WHY???? To prove what????

Just for the scare act? Aren't we scared enough?

Is guest blogging really such a big deal? Well, if you scale it (by paying money for placements, then yeah, probably) but any member of MBG would state that actually getting through the quality guidelines was a huge pain in the @ss each time! It was not scalable! We were not making any huge difference?!

All they proved is that people should go under the hood: All the shady services that were not investing into the brand (unlike us) are flourishing! So what exactly did they prove? :)

Also, love this rant: https://plus.google.com/+RobWagner/posts/cu84qT9Tjmc

:)

i truly believe that there

i truly believe that there were FAR better targets than MBG. But you were public and vocal about your stance, and it didn't synch up with the Google guidelines. Especially a few blogs posts that were straight up challenging Google to either be quite or do something. We have seen time and again where the vocal person gets looked at a lot closer than everyone else. 

agreed

I think they simply decided that as a big player, MBG was a perfect candidate to make an example of, generating more FUD. The fact that the fallout would hurt a lot of innocent sites was characteristically written off as "acceptable losses".Poking the bear didn't help, but I honestly don't think Ann was targeted because of that. I think MBG was marked long before her post or Matt's tweet were thought of.

I Still Don't Get It

Hi all... I'm new here - thanks for having me!

I just did a post on my blog where I walk through all my steps and thoughts in attempt to make sense of this action against MBG - and I almost thought I got it to make sense.... until one thing that GOOGLE does totally confused me even more - then it was just Facepalm City for me.

Do as they say, not as they do, right?  Sheeeesh....

Jennifer

 

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