More Big Brands Manipulating Search

More Big Brands Manipulating Search

There’s been a theme over January with big name brands manipulating the search engines with more than a little dodgy links… The main point that came across from this was that Google (and more specifically Matt Cutts/the webspam team) refused to respond to it.

Rap Genius was first penalized and now we see Expedia doing MASSIVE link manipulation with their own essentially blog networks/techniques.

So, I fired up MajesticSEO & Ahrefs, and got down to a little digging on some pretty well known UK brands. Now, I don’t really like “ousting” people for their activities, but when it’s so blatantly obvious that these companies are doing it, it rather.. well, pisses me off. –

These guys are easily the biggest UK based train tickets site in the country, and the first thing I’m sure you’ll notice is their exact match keyword as the first part of their homepage meta title –

Trackback Spam –

If you do a quick dive into the link profile via Ahrefs of the train line, you’ll find literally thousands of trackback links, mostly from irrelevant garbage sites but all have one thing in common: They’re dofollow, and use the exact same description as well as branded anchor text.

See –

Example 1:

trackback spam 1

Example 2:

trackback spam 2

Just to clarify, it says 1999 but these posts are all different and all from between 2010 and 2013.

The absolutely hilarious thing is, this trackback spam is actually from the Joomla blogging system, and that’s where all of these links are coming from. Take a look for yourself, just go to the Ahrefs backlink profile, and you’ll easily see 100s of the links within the first few pages, just look for any link with “/entry/” which is the Google dork/footprint for these kind of links.

To be fair, this could of been a negative SEO attack, though it’s very co-ordinated in terms of using the same kind of link profile if it was – Normally, negative SEO attacks are a lot more random, so Google won’t suspect it’s just that, and for it to be a nearly 3 year attack is some pretty hardcore stuff – As well as all of these pages are high PR/PA.

It actually took me a while to decipher between all these trackback links and the other links that The Trainline had acquired, but never the less.. this wasn’t their only tactic and it seems all of these links I’ll be mentioning were built within the last 3 years – Maybe an SEO agency they’ve been working with in that period of time?

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Blatant Link Networks –

Now, let’s take a look at some pretty hilarious link network examples from some “High PR Sites”.

You could more than likely buy a similar package of these for less than $200 from any BH forum..

PR2/PA 38, Example 1:

link network example 1

PR5/PA73, Example 2 –

link network example 2

Wow, these guys using SAPE? You SERIOUS?! Well, it’d seem I’m going to try and acquire this link now.

That’s Pretty Much It

From spending around an hour trawling through the train line’s link profile, it seems to be either Track Backs or these network links – With a few natural links thrown into the mix, and a couple hundred directory links – Which I found a number of were premium.

Woops.. I didn’t realize this was 2008?

Tesco Direct –

For those who haven’t visited the UK, Tesco is pretty much the most well known shop there is. With supermarkets in literally nearly every village, town and city in England. It was only a few years ago however that they launched their online serviced, called “Tesco Direct” with the famous advertising of a Sofa or BBQ kit sitting in a Tesco basket that can be delivered to your house, any time of the day or week.

When I decided to however look through their link profile, I found something HIGHLY interesting. Over 2012 and 2013, they hadn’t really had all that many links and they were infact pretty steadily building them up, yet in January of this year (2014) we saw a MASSIVE spike in referring domains –

tesco spike

Now, when I started investigating this I thought it was absolutely hilarious.

A Link Farm/Network, Hidden in Plain Sight –

Now, just to confirm you can order ANY of the products that are offered on these sites on Tesco Direct and infact most of them will just re-direct you back to the Tesco Direct pages (interesting!)

So, let’s start with a rather funny site, that is actually a Blog, so yes.. you could consider this as a blog network, especially when the footer links look something like this:

tesco living footer

It actually get’s better than that though, when you have links like this blatantly in your face (don’t worry though, these are only site wide links so EVERY page has links back.. All branded of course!)

tesco carpets logo

Now these all could be totally legitimate sites with awesome info on them, right?!

Well, it’s a bit odd to why they then have aged 301s pointing at them –


It is rather funny though how these domains were never actually owned by Tesco and seem to of been snapped up within the last 1-2 months.. Also, Ahrefs has found them all within the same week, yet most of these domains are a few years old..

Unfortunately however, across a lot of the 301s I encountered whilst looking through these links, most disallow bots (Ahrefs, Majestic etc..) from looking a bit deeper into their link profile, something to hide?

Boots –

I really didn’t realize how popular Russian link building had gotten until I stumbled across quite a few paid guest posts (a lot having more than 3 image links as well…) from Russian blogs –

boots image links

I decided to add the owner of this site on Skype and within the first few minutes he was trying to sell me a guest post with 1 image link for $50.. Apparently the webspam team hasn’t caught on to that kind of link building yet.. Which is weird as image comment spam has been popular for years.

Don’t worry though, they don’t JUST buy Russian guest posts, they also love Premium directory links as well.. even if it does have exact match anchors –

premium directory

Then again, who wouldn’t want a lifetime featured link with exact match anchor text for just $35?! Even if it’s in a non-UK directory that has nothing to do with anything Boots sell and an extremely low Alexa ranking?

featured lifetime link

Thanks For Reading!

So, next time you go and buy some links from SAPE or a Premium Directory or even just a guest post… You can feel pretty great that you’re literally doing the exact same strategies as the big boys.

Charles Floate
I'm a UK based Search Engine Optimisation and Search Marketing Consultant. With over 5 years in the Search Industry, I'm hoping to build up God of SEO as a Dedicated Internet Marketing Blog with tons of Information for the Community to engage with.
Charles Floate
Charles Floate
Charles Floate

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