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.