Shaad Hamid

Oxford SEO and PPC Consultant/Blogger

How far can you stretch the boundaries of white hat techniques?

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I am a ‘Google Adwords Qualified Individual’, which means that I have taken the necessary exams to prove my proficiency in Google Adwords. Just before Christmas some of the SEOptimise team undertook the Google Analytics exam (with perks including bragging rights for the highest scorers). So today, I thought I should have a look at taking the Analytics exams myself. But before that I needed to locate my ‘Google Certification Program’ profile. Since it’s been a while back that I last logged into my profile I couldn’t recall the URL at the top of my head, so I did what most people do – I ‘Googled’ it (by the way, my spell checker’s informing me that ‘Googled’ isn’t a word; strangely I thought it was added to the English language ages ago).

Anyway, I searched for ‘Google Adwords Qualified Individual’ and (the SEO in me) browsed through the results that Google presented to me and came across an interesting search result.

Google-Adwords-Qualified-Individual

The exact match domain name “googleadwordsqualifiedindividual.com” appears right at the bottom. I was a little inquisitive and clicked on it. Here’s the page:

Anyone with an iota of intelligence will be able to identify the purpose of this one page website :) This site then links to the following website:

According to their title tag, they are “Canada’s highest ranked seo and internet marketing firm”. A quick check on Adwords preview tool confirms this:

Apart from Wikipedia, theirs is the highest ranked result for the term seo in Canada.

Obviously I do not condone tactics such as these, but I can’t help but be perplexed at how this even ranks among the top ten results. Wasn’t Google’s Panda update meant to weed out keyword stuffed and content starved pages like these? The strategy of registering ‘exact match’ domains (or affiliating with these sites) and linking them back to their own site is quite a dangerous tactic. Although it may seem clever on paper, the risks outweigh the benefits. I wish I had the budget to try and test this out. I’m not entirely sure if this tactic would get your site banned, but my gut instinct is that this is very much a ‘black hat’ technique (I’d really appreciate it if someone would care to enlighten me on this by the way). I probably need to do a little bit more research into this in order to find out its effectiveness. Just thought I’d jot this down quickly on the blog.

Care to discuss? :)

Postscript:

Interestingly, Danny Sullivan is currently covering a story about the Google Chrome campaign, where Google seem to have violated it’s own webmaster guidelines. Google have issued a statement to ‘Search engine land’ stating that they will “lower the site’s PageRank for a period of at least 60 days”. More on the story here.

However, the fact that Google had outsourced the promotion of their Chrome browser to external agencies which undertook questionable tactics, gives you the impression that these techniques still do work. I was one of those who rejoiced when Google rolled out the Panda update as it was exactly the kind of cleaning up this massively messy place called the internet needed and also the kind of kicking in the rear the SEO industry so badly needed in order to grow up. However, what concerns me the most is that by refusing to take a holistic and strategic view of SEO and Search Engine Marketing within the broader role of strategic marketing, SEO will – in the minds of most – fail to be taken  seriously.

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Author: Shaad Hamid

Shaad used to be an Oxford based SEO and PPC blogger, consultant and citizen journalist. He has recently moved to Dubai and is currently working as an SEO Account Manager at DigitasLBi. He is passionate about internet marketing and is the SEO lead for numerous clients from diverse sectors such as FMCG to Travel & Tourism. Find Shaad on Google