I feel like this post covers one of the most important topics of 2013/2014 for blackhatters and anyone whos business has money invested in Google. The game is changing, Google's capabilities are advancing and we have to adapt in order to continue to thrive.
I have been trying unsuccessfully to run an experiment for a while now, even before the 301 redirect technique thread I had been trying to catch some attention from Matt Cutts but nothing was happening. It all started with Grindstone and Dog Snuggie incident(When Rand Fishkin's site ranked for "Dog Snuggie"). Google didn't take kindly to it at all.
So the idea was to try and bait Matt Cutts into attacking various levels of my sites and anonymity, thus revealing the current capabilities, resources and depth at which Google will identify and attack a person they want to "punish".
So on the 12th of December in another attempt, I tweeted him this post I made not long ago on BHW which is passive aggressive towards him and Google. I didn't think anything of it, but it finally worked. Two days later I get a tweet from Matt Cutts directly, but not on my @agentblackhat twitter account that I tweeted him from. I received the tweet on a very old and unused personal account with my real name on.
In preparation for this I had several layers of anonymity setup, I talk about this in more detail on my blog, hopefully BHW mods will allow me to post at the bottom.
So why did I do this?
We needed to understand how Google is taking the next step into penalizing sites and discovering sites. Google has created a vast network of online properties and software which they are recording user’s activity, your activity. The natural next step for Google is to begin targeting people, not just sites. If you are a big player in a specific niche, it won’t be just your site they target, they will begin doing homework on who you are, what you’re connected to and eventually your card will be marked. I even suspect a database, maybe even a “Most Wanted” database of marketers who cause Google the most trouble.
What we learned from this stunt
Matt Cutts has a personal hand in penalizing sites, he points the finger and you are a target, his team do the research on who you are and use all the tools at their disposal to track you. But how far do they go?
Anything connected to my webmaster tools account was penalized, including very very old sites which don’t even exist anymore. I even had unnatural link messages for sites that were deleted from my webmaster tools account. So we can safely say that Webmaster tools is a complete hazard to your sites if you’re targeted. Two, possibly three webmaster tools accounts were compromised by the attacker, in addition, my main personal account using my personal email was shutdown and I was asked to hand over my phone number, I had to contact Google support to reopen the account, no explanation was given by Google support. I found it odd that sites I don’t own or were removed from WMT were targeted and I was receiving unnatural link messages for them. This may also include other webmaster tools accounts you’ve logged into form the same IP, think your clients WMT account.
Your name is a target
I’m not completely sure how Matt Cutts found my name through my @agentblackhat twitter account, it could possibly that I don’t have privacy on some sites that this blog is connected to in WMT, either way, he spent the time and resources to find my name and then search it online(I wonder if they use Google SE for this or a hidden tool?). Through this they likely found the agency I work for and proceeded to penalize the main site. What is strange about this penalty is that we recently had a partial manual penalty removed from our site. Google’s spam team specifically said that our site is worthy of having a penalty removed, the penalty was removed a month or two ago. We hadn’t built any backlinks to the site in those months, but yet Matt Cutts has now deemed the site as violating the Google T&Cs, so the question is, does Matt Cutts not trust his Spam team? Or does he go as far as abusing his power and disregard his own T&Cs in a personal vendetta?
In the tweet he specifically pointed out a site I sold on Flippa, I don’t really understand the purpose of his tweet, more than likely a “your card is marked” type warning, but it does indicate just how they will look past the information they know about you in their system and take an interest in what you do outside of Google’s own properties. Judging people by what they do outside of Google doesn’t seem like something Google should be interested in, but we are learning the true depth of how they operate here and the barriers they cross.
Domain contact information
As far as I can tell, only one site was hit which didn’t have my contact information in the domain and was not in my WMT account. I don’t believe domain privacy hides your information securely, it is unreliable. I would bet my left testicle that Google has managed to record the domain contact information somehow and will be able to track all online properties with your name. Using web 2.0s as moneysites and dropping in iframes or faking the domain contact information may be the only ways of stopping an attack if you’re targeted.
What was not attacked
Whether he found these sites or not is hard to prove, it could be that he simply eased off going full retard, but there is a pattern in the attacks and it is fairly simple in essence. All of my sites which ticked these boxes were hit with manual penalties;
- Domain contact information contained my name – including privacy
- Was present in one of my webmaster tools accounts or analytics
- Was connected to my name in some way
Sites which did not have my name in the domain contact information(including those without privacy) and sites which I did not have Google analytics or webmaster tools installed and sites which did not have a connection to my name were not hit.
What this proves is that Google DOES track your your webmaster tools accounts and will put effort into attacking you on a level beyond their own services by searching for your name online, which includes your activity on sites not related to Google. Most seasoned marketers may already feel they knew this, but it is important to get the facts on these things and see just how far Google has come.
I did a full blog post about what I found on my blog, I am hesitating to post the link though. I'll see what the mods say first.