More about Google and poker

I’ve gotten a lot of comments on my last post, seen here.

I’m pretty pissed at Google right now and not just because it affects a company that I help to run. I’m pissed because Google is applying their “webmaster guidelines” selectively, without rhyme or reason and, in my opinion, unfairly.

I appreciate everyone’s comments on the last post. I’m well-aware of the Google guidelines, I’ve read them many times. However, I’m also aware that, over the last 5+ years, Google has not paid attention to those guidelines. They’ve allowed rampant link buying in many industries and poker was not an exception. If you looked at the results for any competitive term, it was mostly filled with people who were not only buying on-topic poker links, but they were abusively buying off-topic links and doing all sorts of more extreme blackhat tactics. Google made the poker SEO industry into what it is — a massive link buying cluster**** of SEOs jumping all over themselves to **** each other over for the best terms. It’s a sad sight to see. I know that a bunch of SEOs are probably going to be angry at me for saying that, but it’s true. The fact is that there are basically zero sites out there with good content that are also poker affiliate websites. There are exceptions like PokerNews, but for the most part, the content on these sites is complete and utter garbage written by shitty poker players who grind 1-2NL at the Commerce and they just complain about their bad beats in their articles. It’s really complete crap content.

Therefore, I appreciate, in some ways, what Google is doing right now. CardPlayer, PocketFives, etc — they have terrific content and they deserve to rank. CardPlayer especially does a great job covering things from a lot of angles. Their CardPlayerTV and High Stakes Living stuff is terrific content and I’m glad that someone is doing that. Even sites like BLUFF Magazine (who I have an obvious connection to) and World Series of Poker have pretty good content. A little piece of me is really happy to see the shitty affiliate sites with crap content get their asses handed to them. They don’t deserve to rank for high traffic two-word poker terms because they just don’t have the content to back it up. The only reason those sites ever ranked for those terms is because they perfected their on-page SEO and they link bombed the shit out of those terms a year or two ago on blog sidebars and other websites. I don’t blame them for doing what they did — it was an excellent investment and it made many of them into millionaires in short order. They did exactly what Google would reward them for. However, that doesn’t change the fact that link bombing and good header tags doesn’t make the page a good result for searchers.

My big problem with Google here is that they’ve selectively applied their guidelines to only include some people. Who gets penalized? CardsChat, Compatible Poker, Launch Poker, etc. I don’t blame Google for knocking those sites down because they were all abusing the Google guidelines badly. So were a bunch of the sites that I’m involved with — we were doing what it took to rank. I accept our penalty as being fair and just, provided that it’s applied across the board to people who were doing the same thing as us.

But that isn’t the case. Who hasn’t been hit? How about Poker Listings? They’re the biggest non-gaming site link buyers in the industry. I’d bet they spend at least mid five figures a month on links. They dominate terms like poker bonus, poker tournaments, poker freerolls, poker strategy, etc. Not only that, they even rank top 10 for monster terms like online poker and poker. It’s just silly for them to be up there for those terms. Their content is garbage. Their site is garbage. It’s the same with sites like MacPokerOnline, EveryPoker, ArchPoker, RakeBrain (owned by PokerListings) and tons of others — they’re just link bombers, not content creators. Are they also great SEOs? Yes, they are — they’ve been making millions/year for years now.

Site like NeverWinPoker are keyword spamming the shit out of their pages. Take a look at this page or this page. (You’d better bet those links are no-follow’ed). Are you telling me that doesn’t deserve a penalty? I’ve actually seen those sites rank top 10 for their desired terms, which is really sad in 2008. I thought Google was smarter than that.

Or what about Full Tilt, Party, PokerStars, 888, Pacific, PokerRoom, etc? Those sites have some really abusive link practices. When PokerStars runs that blogger freeroll, they’re doing it so they get 8 billion links. Google — is that what you meant when you said a link is a vote? I don’t think so. That’s a link where someone said “we’ll give you X dollars in equity if you link to us”. That, my friends, is a paid link. Full Tilt’s Battle of the Bloggers thing is the same thing. Or even Bodog’s Blogger championship stuff. It’s all the same thing. Get links. Get rankings. Get more players. That’s the end goal of all of that stuff.

Do I personally have a problem with any of that? No, absolutely not. It’s how everything has run in poker for years. Of course penalities have been given out for years and they’ll continue to be given out, but this one really bothers me more than any that I’ve read about or seen before because of how unfairly it has been applied.

I think it’s pretty odd that all of this happens just after Matt Cutts make a post about reporting paid links — both link buyers and link sellers. And by odd, I mean not odd at all. I’ve got an inkling that certain poker SEOs jumped on that and started reporting a bunch of people. I hoped at first that it wouldn’t happen, but it seems as if I was wrong. At this point, the gloves are coming off for me… I know that a bunch of SEOs will probably say “just sit back and wait, shit happens”, but I don’t think that’s happening for me. I’m done being friendly and not resorting to underhanded tactics to get sites ranked.

Now let’s see when the rest of these sites get penalized and then who can actually make a site with good content.

/rant

9 thoughts on “More about Google and poker

  1. Andy

    Enjoyed your rant! It was only a matter of time before some sites got found out. It was all too obvious. The adverts used to hurt my eyes!

    I would recommend that any blogger who has been paid to put text links up on their site to take them down NOW. Beleive me there is no way, if your site has been hit by the Google Update, that these sites will be back offering cash and certainly won’t be on your tail asking for the money back if you do. **** them because that is what they have done to you.

    I do blame Google because they have put there whole strategy on the importance of links and that is the only reason people will pay for them. Their algorithms are not up to scratch so they have to resort to the nazi style of getting people to report these links.

    However, Google is king and if you want traffic you have to play their game. I don’t agree with people ‘dobbing’ others in for doing these things but there are probably some desperate poker seos out.

    There is a massive debate out there about paid links – go and read some of the stuff. Both sides have good arguements but at the end of the day it is content that will/should win out….hopefully.

  2. blackie

    Matt has been posting his garbage for almost a year now asking people to roll over others and there haven’t been any major issues like this since he first posted. It’s not a new topic. You are blaming affiliates for your problems and so are bloggers in your original post. You can’t tell me that you don’t know what you are doing in regards to your site. Your posts show that you know enough about basic tags and optimization skills that surely you understand how things work, or you wouldn’t take these steps when creating your posts. You understand how to monitize your blog for revenue, and the implications of doing so, as do many bloggers.

    Multiple things could have stemmed the snowball effect, if it was that easy as people reporting links I could go and buy a load of links for my competitors and then report them. It’s not that simple.

    All this post has done is shown that you believe you are in the right here, and that everything and everyone is to blame for what has happened to you. It’s your site, your responsibility and you are the only one who has control over what happens with it.

    I don’t like to see anyone get penalized and hopefully this resolves soon for you and anyone else who has been hit.

  3. Falstaff

    It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, to say the least. I certainly think there are a couple of different categories of people affected by this mess. On the one hand, there are the sites that actively bought and sold text links knowing what the deal was and with a lot of familiarity about SEO. These sites frequently bought ads to boost PR and many of them created little or no original content.

    Then there are those of us who started blogs and were just thrilled when somebody came along and offered us a little bit of money to put an ad out there on our space. That’s where I am, I’ve learned more about SEO in the past month than I have in the several years I’ve had a blog. I’ve now been nuked by Google, and have seen a 30% drop in traffic in the last two weeks. It sucks, because now I’m going to see advertisers stop renewing on my site because my traffic is down, but apparently I wasn’t supposed to place ads on my site in the first place? Last time I checked, it was MY site, and I can place ads wherever I want to. But if they’re not Google Adsense ads, then they’re gonna get me dinged from the empire of Google. Well, I have contracts with people through the next year, so those ads will stay up until people no longer want to renew them.

    My blog will continue to be what it’s always been – my corner of the interwebs where I complain about my own lousy poker play and the rest of the world. If people wanna buy an ad, great. If they don’t, that’s fine too. But I generate original content almost every day, and people will continue to find my site whether Google wants them to or not.

  4. blatherin

    Yes Falstaff and the rest of the story is that “GOOGLE ADSENSE SUCKS” and know one every makes any real money placing those ads on their site.

    Google keeps increasing the minimum bids for adwords alienating the buyers and forcing them to check out overture, microsoft ads and adbrite. Now they are messing with the sellers of ads.

    Facebook has finally gotten wise and created their own ad serving system, hopefully myspace will follow suit. Eventually their will be alternatives to Google and most of us will run (not walk) to get away from “big brother”.

  5. sirfwalgman

    Who the fuck are you to decide that Poker blogs should be black listed because they suck and talk about bad beats? A lot of these sites keep low limit players on sites in droves and build up communities of loyal players. Like you started to say in your article nobody should decide on the quality of the content except the person searching. I agree with you there is a lot of advertising abuse but if people like reading shitty bad beat sites they should be able to. A search on a general term like “Poker” should bring up every shit site in the world and you should need to sift through it. Good sites like PokerNews and others you mentioned should be able to generate their own buzz and get people through various means not just a general search on “poker”.

    In general I do not give a fuck if advertising dries up because I write my blog for fun and so I can whine about bad beats and get all the poison out of my system after a tough night. If people want to pay me that is just a bonus.

    I also think Google is fucking moronic to blacklist sites like mine which have advertising but are mostly about the content. Fucking Google. I really used to like them too.

  6. Ghatesme

    Google is flawed in this industry….that’s why SEO is a must. If SEO didnt exist then it would be a first come first serve basis due to the weighting given to aged domains, and keywordindomains.

    How would google be able to decide who has the best poker bonus code review. Im surely not going to link to a competitor from my site and give them traffic and potential money. People don’t freely link to each other. Bloggers do because they don’t lose anything from doing so.

    You may know the basics of SEO, Nat, but it doesn’t seem you understand the true “game” being played here. Not every site is geared towards creating massive amounts of great content or written for poker strategy. The link buying is for MONEY keyterms not content keywords. Buying links and putting the effort in to rank those pages should reward the SEO’er as they’re probably getting the best deals for the players from the poker rooms because of all the money they spend to rank up high.

  7. LinkXL

    You need to buy links where there is no footprint, and the links are contextual like LinkXL.com. Also SEO’s and buyer’s should also do research to see if the publishers are shady or “violating” guidelines beyond “gray” before deciding to purchase a link.

  8. Ex-Google

    A couple of things to keep in mind. First, as you know, there are obviously too many websites out there to review manually, so Google relies on algorithms to identify spam. The sudden widespread changes you noticed recently are surely due to the rollout of a new algorithm. Manual spamfighting is going on all the time with continuous updates to Google’s blacklists; there are not usually abrupt widespread changes due to it. Second, all these spam-fighting algorithms are far from perfect; they make lots of mistakes. The “inconsistency” you are noticing is likely just due to the algorithm catching some sites and not catching others for whatever reason. It’s not some human being acting in a capricious fashion (most likely). While this sort of inconsistency leads to very unequal and unfair outcomes, it’s hard for me to see what the alternative is for Google. The problem has to be attacked algorithmically, and no one knows how to create a 100% accurate algorithm.

    Another point I would make is that the manual spamfighting efforts tend to be rather conservative. If a site has any shred of redeeming value, and is not doing something blatantly in violation of Google’s rules, it will probably not get banned. The algorithms, on the other hand, employ a broader brush…

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