Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

h4xor In-Law

Here are the email correspondents with a a recent subscriber to seo black hat’s private black hat seo forum.

I swear, you just can’t make this shit up:

from lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>
to –seoblackhat.com,
date Sun, Mar 16, 2008 at 12:33 PM
subject Information Please?

QuadsZilla,

Our paypal & ebay accounts were recently hacked and I have found this transaction along with alot more. I am trying to get all these fixed. I don’t know what the idiot who hacked us bought from you, it seems like it is some sort of advertisment as there is a subcription created also.
Could you let me know what was purchased?
I apologise for all this, but I am a small business and I need to regather as much as possible…

I hope you understand and maybe shed some light on who hacked us?

Thank you,

Sean O Connor..

Notice he said “along with alot more” transactions. This haxor has used their ID to defraud many other merchants.

SEO Black Hat to lee

from SEO Black Hat
to lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>,
date Sun, Mar 16, 2008 at 12:39 PM

what is the paypal email address?

-q

he responded:

lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>
to QuadsZilla
date Sun, Mar 16, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Hi,
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. The paypal address that was used was sales@thearmycenter.com, but we have change that login now. I have someone trying to fix it for me.
Can you tell me what they bought from you?

Thanks again,
Sean.

I did a quick lookup and wrote:

From: SEO Black Hat
to lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>,
date Sun, Mar 16, 2008 at 2:58 PM

viljimidrinker@yahoo.ie using sales@thearmycenter’s paypal address

from ip

89.166.35.35

purchased a monthly subscription to seoblackhat’s private SEO forum.

so he writes back:

from lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>,
to SEO Black Hat
date Sun, Mar 16, 2008 at 3:37 PM

Hello,

Thank you! So they came from the same computer? I had a feeling about that.

That yahoo address is from the guy that does alot of our software work as I dont know much in that area.

Thanks a million for your help, atleast I now have a good idea what happened.

Sean.

Me – no response. I thought he was basically saying “OK, I know it’s totally our fault.”

. . . but apparently not. Today he wrote:

to SEO Black Hat
date Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 8:06 AM

Hi,

Can’t you just give me back my money? I have no interest to be apart of your forum.
I appreciate you have a business to operate too, but I havent and don’t plan on using this service.

I would just like my money returned.

Thank you!

I did an IP lookup on his email and find:

X-Originating-IP: [89.166.35.35]

From: SEO Black Hat
to lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>,
date Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 10:45 AM
subject Re: Information Please?

Sean

You just sent me that email from 89.166.35.35.

The subscription was purchased from 89.166.35.35

Send me a copy of the police report where you state that the programmer (and give his name / address etc) fraudulantly used your paypal account and I will be refund your money.

I will post the police report on my blog for everyone to see.

Crimes like this should be reported to help keep criminals like this from operating. If the programmer did this to you, he probably did it to others too.

Together, we can help stop things like this from happening to others.

-q

Here it gets even more amazing:

from lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>
to SEO Black Hat
date Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 11:31 AM

Hello,

Yes this is my computer.

Most of the work is done from here. The programmer is a member of my in-laws and such does alot of our work form here.

There will be no police report as I will sort this internally as most family matters should be.

I only want my money back from you, I don’t require member ship to your forum.

So, if you are sincere about been helpful and working together you will appreciate my viewpoint also.

Hopefully this can be sorted asap..

Thank you

He has a h4xor In-Law!

from SEO Black Hat
to lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>,
date Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 12:01 PM

If there is no police report, nothing was stolen.

Either you were the victim of Identity theft or you were not.

Which is it?

If you were, I will help.

If you were not, and it’s a family affair, why is it my problem and why should I foot the bill?

-q

His Response:

from lee cunningham <enterlee@hotmail.com>
to SEO Black Hat
date Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 12:09 PM

Listen,

A family affair is for families not police! Why would I add to my grief by causing more trouble?
Explain foot the bill? You have money belonging to me and I have not used your service!!

You have got my money and I have got nothing in return, do you think this is fair?

I just wanted it sort, but we can wait for paypal.

Well, instead of waiting for paypal, I’m gonna open it up to you: my readers.

What do you think is “fair”?

Google Bans NY Times For Cloaking!

Ha! That’s a headline that will never be true. Yup they still have their page rank 10 even though they are flagrantly violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Jamie Sirovich tells the tale perfectly in his piece, The Google Cloaking Hypocrisy:

There is no doubt about it. What the New York Times is doing, without special Google accommodations, or at least their complicity, is a black hat technique according to Google for everyone else. Other search engines are less quick to vilify cloaking, so long as it is not used to spam. I agree, but Google is in a pickle here.

It is pretty tough to get banned JUST for cloaking / IP Delivery. I think what Google really objects to is sending out spider food that is substancially different from a page’s content. If you want to use IP delivery for your flash site, or to highlight certain terms in the Title and H1s, odds are you’re going to be fine. Even sending out your paid content to the Googlebot, as the New York Times does, should not get you in hot water.

In fact, if you have paid subscription content and serve it to Google by cloaking and do get banned (and that’s the only Black Hat SEO you do), you could probably parlay it into some serious publicity because of the Google Hypocrisy.

It’s funny to still see people describe going outside of the Google Webmaster Guidelines as being “Unethical” as if Google is the final arbiter of Good, Evil and Morality. For those of you still in that camp, it’s time to wake up.

Mark Cuban is a Hypocrite

Hilarious. Here is someone who owns a freaking basketball team calling someone else greedy!

All i know is that when the black hat hackers see easy money, they take it. I also know that they are greedy and a jealous bunch. The more they see the more they take . . .

Pot meet kettle. Kettle this is pot.

He then goes on in classic Cuban style to blur the lines between PPC Arbitrage, Splogging and Click Fraud.

Sorry Mark, but Capitalizing on discrepancies in bid/ask markets is not fraud. Creating a “newsmaster site” or “Niche Aggregator” (he calls them splogs) is not fraud.

And who the hell is he to complain about splogs and scraper sites anyway? He owns Icerocket, one of the largest scraper sites on the Net!

Hey Mark, what percentage of the 36,200 icerocket pages indexed in Google are original content?

Well, 31,900 contain the word “tag” in the URL. 99% of those are pages like:

blogs.icerocket.com/tag/gifts
blogs.icerocket.com/tag/pictures
blogs.icerocket.com/tag/english

That is TEXTBOOK scraper. There is no original content and there are sponsor links that give nothing to the original content producers. And when I say nothing, I mean that even the citation links are nofollow. There is NO difference between that and what he calls splogging.

From the wikipedia:

The term hypocrisy is also commonly used in a way which should be more specifically termed a double standard, bias, or inconsistency. An example would be when one honestly believes that one group of individuals should be held to a different set of morals than another group.

Hypocrisy also refers to the act of criticizing others for behavior which one engages in as well, or in other words, not practicing what you preach.

All that’s missing from that wikipedia entry is this picture:

Mark Cuban is a Hypocrite

Is Black Hat SEO like Cheating?

From as far back as when I was 8 years old I remember trying to find holes in computer systems to gain an “unfair” advantage. I remember copying ghost files for the DOS game dungeon hack to get more items for new characters. Back in 1988 when I was playing Pool of Radiance, I learned hexadecimal so I could use xtreepro to modify the character stats to give myself all 25s when the highest normal stat was 18. It worked, it was fun, and my enjoyment of the game was enhanced because I had an “unfair” advantage. Part of the fun of game to me was beating the system. Today, game cheats, hacks and cracks are a huge part of the multi billion dollar a year gaming industry.

Although this incredible example of in game deceit was not technically cheating, it was so intriguing to me that I almost started playing Eve Online. It was not done with hacking accounts nor did they use alts. The beauty of heist was that it technically fell into the rules of the game and was all done in character. The result? They made off with more than 15,000 real dollars worth in virtual goods in the biggest in game heist in MMORPG history.

In high school, I learned that if you penciled in the “key” above question 1 in space 5 of a scantron, you would get a 100% on the test and everyone who got a question right that you got wrong whose scantron was fed after yours into the machine would get those questions marked wrong. This tactic was only really good if you were only going to get 1 or 2 questions wrong anyway – otherwise it might raise a red flag and you ran the risk of getting caught. Personally, I never used this tactic unless I knew that someone else was going to be doing it on the same test. But if someone else was doing it, I’d be damned if I was going to be penalized as a result.

Maybe it’s that mindset that attracted me to black hat SEO. I like unfair advantages and I am clearly not alone.

From the New York times article on cheating in College:

In a survey of nearly 62,000 undergraduates on 96 campuses over the past four years, two-thirds of the students admitted to cheating. The survey was conducted by Don McCabe, a Rutgers professor who has studied academic misconduct and helped found the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke.

So if two thirds of college students admit to cheating, and gamecheats have become such a major industry – what does that say about the future of black hat SEO? Is black hat SEO like Cheating? And is cheating always wrong?

For example, I am against click fraud, shaving, fishing and most anything that can clearly be construed as stealing. Also, I think that it’s unethical to do Black Hat SEO consulting for a client who is not aware of all the risks involved. But to me, Google or Yahoos guidelines only enter into the equation in so far as they access penalties for specific practices. I don’t have a problem with comment spamming unless someone takes it too far. And I have no problem with creating computer generated content sites, newsmaster sites, niche aggragator, doing XSS, 301 tricks, doorway pages, typo spam, cloaking and a host of other practices. I don’t give Google any moral authority to judge what I do. If they have to make certain business decisions, I’m fine with that. But don’t try to tell me that going outside Googles webmasters guidelines is the moral equivalent of fraud. It may be for you, but it’s not for me.

With deeper analysis, we find that most everything does not fall into simple absolutes of black or white; most often things are shades of grey (or pink, blue or hex:24b655). With SEO, as with everything in life, you should measure things in terms of risk vs. reward and cost vs. benefit. If moral concerns increase your “costs” (as they do for me) then they should be part of your decision making equation. It all comes down to what you are comfortable with and what your risk tolerance is.

Google is Right to Not Trust Paid Links

Those of you who read my blog know that I’m hardly a Google Apologist. I don’t buy into their “don’t be evil” hype nor do I think, like so many do, that they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. In fact, I’m probably the last people you’d expect to see defending Matt Cutts and Google when it seems the entire webmaster / SEO community is up in arms against them.

But . . .

Matt Cutts is under fire for this Q&A:

Q: “If one were to offer to sell space on their site (or consider purchasing it on another), would it be a good idea to offer to add a NOFOLLOW tag so to generate the traffic from the advertisement, but not have the appearence of artificial PR manipulation through purchasing of links?”
A: Yes, if you sell links, you should mark them with the nofollow tag. Not doing so can affect your reputation in Google.

This isn’t really news; Matt mentioned this a while back. He even stated that Google has not trusted the links on Oreilly Publishing’s web site for quite some time because they are known to sell links.

Sure, 97% of Google’s Revenue comes from selling links. But Google is not saying “you can’t buy or sell links.” What they are saying is “If we know that you sell links, we will not value your outbound links as much in our search algorithm.”

What’s wrong with saying that? Google was built on the principle that linking to someone is like vouching for them. The more trusted sources, like the New York Times and Harvard University, count exponentially more than Joes Pizza Shop, and Mary’s Cat Blog.

The SEO marketplace realized exactly what was happening. People like me, who are into game theory, said “OK, if those are the rules, then I’ll just pay trusted sources to vouch for me.” So Google has decided to change the rules of the game – it’s their game they can do that. They figure that if they can ignore bought links, they’ll have more relevant search results and be a better Search Engine.

Essentially, Google’s just saying that “if we know that you will vouch for anyone for a buck, we’re going to trust you less.” Just like in the real world. Who would you rather trust? Someone who will say anything for a buck? or someone who will only vouch for something if they truly believed in it?

You know what? I’m happy that Matt is sharing this information with us. Sure, it’s mostly FUD because it’s often difficult to tell who sells links and who doesn’t. But I’d rather Google tells us to be discrete about link deals than wonder why that $50,000 a month link on a Page rank 10 is doing exactly nothing for me in the SERPs.

Google is right to make this move. It’s not unethical. It’s not even hypocritical. Hypocritical would be if they sold links that helped in the SERPs.

If you were Google and you were smart, you’d do the same thing. Management’s obligation is to the shareholders and the users of Google’s Search products. This is both better for the company and better for the end users. Why should Google give a crap about SEOs? We don’t pay their bills: they pay ours.

As Google gets better and better at detecting sold links, their value in SEO will deminish. Indeed, this “Google rule change” is why SEO must necessarly move more towards buzz marketing and link bait to remain competitive.

Make $200K+ a Year Running the SEO Scam

Let’s face it. Most SEO is scam. Is it fair to say that 80% of the people selling Search Engine Optimization services have neither the knowledge nor ability to deliver good value to their customers? I think so.

If someone could take your crappy site and rank it for Viagra, Poker or Mortgages, why the hell would they do it for you? Why wouldn’t they just do it themselves and keep all the money?

So, while you’re trying to figure out how to get up to $100 a day in adsense, these SEO Scam shysters are raking in more than $200K per year.

In this post I’m going to lay out the Anatomy of the SEO Scam and how to identify an SEO scam when you see it in the form of a beginners guide to becoming an SEO scammer.

Step 1. Don’t let the fact that you know nothing about SEO hold you back. Sure you could at least get a primer by reading some of the newbie blogs. Or if you’re really interested you could read the best Search engine forums and all the important blogs of SEO experts daily and (God forbid!) actually go out and rank for something in the search engines. But all that’s really overkill for running the SEO scam. All you really need are some buzzwords like “meta tags,” “crawler pages,” “doorway pages,” and “premium placement.”

Step 2. Buy a domain with the word SEO in it and fake a page rank 7. Alternatively, you can purchase a link to your domain from a page rank 8 that transfers page rank for about $400 a month. Copy some other SEO firm’s site (that doesn’t have a blog) almost verbatim – make sure you change the colors and the contact information. You will of course show this site to your prospective clients and point out your Google page rank. Don’t worry about the fact that you don’t actually rank for anything in any of the search engines, or the fact that no legitimate SEO has ever quoted or linked to anything you have written – you can double talk your way around that.

Step 3. Get the word out that you are an SEO. Make business cards and tell everyone you know. Once you have business cards, you are by definition a “Professional SEO.” I don’t have any business cards so I am NOT a professional SEO. Remember, almost all of your business will have to come from your offline hustling – because no one is going to find you online.

Step 4. Go to non SEO trade shows. Steer clear of Adult, Gambling, Pharma and Technology Related Shows– they are, on the whole, too savvy to pitch. I would throw Mortgages in their too, but you can definitely find some mortgage brokers who
a) don’t have a clue and
b) have money to waste.
A fool and his money are soon parted. – Thomas Tusser
Tell everyone you meet at these shows that you can get them a top 10 placement in Google and the other search engines. Get their cards and call them until they agree to meet with you. Your prime targets are people with decent sized business who know nothing about Search except that they heard about “Google or Something like that on the news”.

Step 5. If you have to, whip out the yellow pages and start dialing for dollars.
“Hi this is Mike Jones, I’m trying to find it . . . what is your companies web site address?”
Then pull their site.
“Oh, it looks like the Search Engines are having problems finding your site. Who should I talk there about fixing that problem – the President right? What’s his name? [pause] Joe? Great – Transfer me over to him. Thanks!” And so on. I could write the script, but that’s all just sales 101. Once you get rolling, you’ll be able to hire telemarketing appointment setters.

Step 6. You guarantee a top ten placement in Google, Yahoo, and MSN. How do you deliver this? If need be “with long phrases in quotes”. Do not guarantee that you will rank for any important search phrases that people actually search for or that have any traffic. Do not do pay for performance or ever agree to work for a piece of the increase in revenue.

Step 7. You tell them that because you know people at Google, you can get them premium placement at the top of Google Searches. This is of course doublespeak for selling them Google Adwords.

Step 8. You charge $1500 per month with a 12 month contract + 25% of PPC spend and a 50% markup if they want analytics software like clicktracks (basically for installation). If you think you can get more, then get more. But never work for less than this. If you need a contract or two, just contact some of the big SEO chop shops who don’t have anyone you’ve heard of working there. Tell them that you are interested in their services and want a proposal (you may need to purchase an extra domain and throw up some crappy web site for this). After you get the proposal, do a find and replace. If there is anything about link bait, viral marketing, natural links, buyouts and 301s, footprints, content generation or delivery, affiliate programs, building communities, blogging, networks, interlinking, building a site that someone might actually want to find, or any legitimate SEO strategies that you don’t understand, just take it out. Don’t worry, odds are the SEO you contacted won’t have mentioned any of these.

Step 9. When you meet with the customer, don’t be afraid to lie and over promise to close the deal. As long as your contract does not lie or over promise, you are covered.

Step 10. After the Contract is signed, make sure you get that first check. Do some on page optimization (if you know how – if not just guess), sign up for PPC programs, do a few press releases and buy them a few links – but not all at once. Stall this process over of a 16-20 week period. If they ask about results, just tell them that these things take time. If they persist, show them how they rank for a certain “search term with their company name in quotes” and talk about the next Google update.

Step 11. Send them some keyword reports, traffic graphs and their Adsense reports and ASK FOR REFFERRALS! Ask early. Ask Often.

Just close one of these deals a month and you’ll be making over $200k per year after expenses. You will have to close slightly more once you have hired your telemarketing appointment setters.

Hopefully this guide will be used more to help people avoid being ripped off by an SEO Scam, but of course I know better. As PT Barnum said (or didn’t):

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Digg this Story.

What Google Gave Up to Get 5% of AOL

Earlier this week I challenged Google’s management “to digitally sign an oath to never accept compensation in exchange for preference in what we now call the organic SERPs.”

They have responded.

According to the New York Times, (via grewolf and TW) in order to secure it’s 5% stake in AOL:

Google, which prides itself on the purity of its search results, agreed to give favored placement to content from AOL throughout its site, something it has never done before.

Isn’t it always the case? The ones who are the most pious: the ones with that annoying “holier than thou” attitude: the ones who are preaching to others how they “do no evil” turn out to be the biggest hypocrites of them all.

Yahoo Accepting Bribes for Organic Search Results

I gave Matt Cutts a little bit of a hard time in response to his critisism of hand coding of results a few months back. From his post:

We talked earlier about some of the issues with Yahoo hand-coding shortcuts for queries, and the difficulty of knowing if money was involved.

After all, it’s clear to me that Google has done some hand coding of results in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

However, the Yahoo CAP program Search is much more ominous:

Web Results may also include links to sites that participate in the Content Acquisition Program (CAP). CAP enables content providers to submit web content directly to Yahoo! for review and inclusion in the Yahoo! Search index; content providers that participate in CAP through the Search Submit program pay for these services. Participation in CAP or Site Match does not guarantee placement or ranking in search results but additional information made available through the direct data feeds may increase or decrease relevance depending on the search query.

So here’s how the CAP program might work:

1. You do your research and understand what search terms convert. For example, the search phrase “buy Meridia online” has a much higher chance of making a sale than “research information on Meridia” and will find higher paying customers than “Low cost Meridia.”

2. You agree to bribe Yahoo with a certain amount of money through their CAP program.

3. You supply Yahoo a “direct data feed” for your site that essentially say: My site is more relevant for the search term “high converting search term” and less relevant for the term “poor converting search term”

4. You rank for the terms you want in Yahoo’s “Organic” results.

Here’s why is this so alarming:

If this bribery for “organic” results becomes more acceptable and commonplace then the search engines will suck the margins out of every business on the web. CAP will essentially be a tax the search engines impose on anyone wanting to monitize search traffic.

Today Google has a unique opportunity. An opportunity to legitimize their “Don’t do Evil” slogan and hopefully shame the other search engines into doing the same:

Googles’ upper management should digitally sign an oath to never accept compensation in exchange for preference in what we now call the organic SERPs.

Today, I’m calling for this as part of a Search Engine Code of Ethics. I think it would be a good idea for a panel of high profile search professionals to help draft this Search Engine Code of Ethics. Let’s start the conversation. Let’s get the ball rolling.

After all, if we can’t Trust Search Engines to be ethical – we cannot trust them with our information.