How Swedish blackhatter was reported by competitor and what we can all learn from this

matrix79

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I discovered this post via SEroundtable and honestly thought there will be thread about it here too so I came to see what you all guys think. BUT there is no thread!

In short: Swedish blackhatter was ranking for payday loans terms in Sweden using his own blog network. He is a developer and thanks to his technical skills he could scale very fast. In fact, too fast.

White hat competitor who loves to repeat that he gives 3 percent of his income to children cancer charity wrote "Dear Mr Cutts" post and twitted it to MC. He even made a humorous video for Mr Cutts which, I hate to admit, made me laugh.

The result: all blackhatter's sites are penalized, even the ones that weren't ranking and the ones that didn't have any links!!!

In one day everything was gone.

Sebastian (blackhatter) goes into analysis of what he did wrong and how the whole thing happened. It became even more fun when hysterical competitor made an answer post. It seems like they decided to respect each other at the end and Sebastian definitely doesn't want anyone to troll his white hat competitor (some people will want to), but the whole thing is fascinating.

One of the things that surprised me is that apparently he had some serious footprints and it still worked until he was reported. Here is the link, grab your coffee, it's a loooooong read:

http://sebastianjohnsson.com/successfully-trolled-google-destroyed-entire-affiliate-business/

For those who read the post, what do you think? What's your takeaway?
 

Aussie

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Thanks to whois privacy in TLDs,we are saved from these petty cat fights in US/UK market.
 

SebastianJ

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Hey!

Seb here (the guy that got penalized). Been lurking here for a while so I guess this is the most appropriate time to actually start posting here :p.

Something that wasn't obviously clear in the blog post is that I was ranking my sites using two different techniques.

I had a set of more or less grey hat sites that ranked entirely using my private blog network + link exchanges with other people having private blog networks. These sites ranked for a very long time despite there being a lot of obvious footprints. The thing is that 95% of the people in this niche actually rank using this method so it wasn't anything special.

The thing that actually got me penalized was the trolling animal-theme sites that relied entirely on spam. Let's just say that I got my links from Russia with love :p.

Yes, I could be mad at the guy that reported me and that stuff, but there's no point. Whatever happened, happened and I feel it's just better to move on rather than dwell on the past.

I went from not knowing a lot about SEO to making a rather big impact in this specific niche in the matter of a year or so. Given that I still have all of my systems in place I don't think it'll take me that long to get back in the top positions again (of course depending on the method I decide to use).

If you have any questions let me know and I'll answer :).
 
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Hey!

Seb here (the guy that got penalized). Been lurking here for a while so I guess this is the most appropriate time to actually start posting here :p.

Something that wasn't obviously clear in the blog post is that I was ranking my sites using two different techniques.

I had a set of more or less grey hat sites that ranked entirely using my private blog network + link exchanges with other people having private blog networks. These sites ranked for a very long time despite there being a lot of obvious footprints. The thing is that 95% of the people in this niche actually rank using this method so it wasn't anything special.

The thing that actually got me penalized was the trolling animal-theme sites that relied entirely on spam. Let's just say that I got my links from Russia with love :p.

Yes, I could be mad at the guy that reported me and that stuff, but there's no point. Whatever happened, happened and I feel it's just better to move on rather than dwell on the past.

I went from not knowing a lot about SEO to making a rather big impact in this specific niche in the matter of a year or so. Given that I still have all of my systems in place I don't think it'll take me that long to get back in the top positions again (of course depending on the method I decide to use).

If you have any questions let me know and I'll answer :).

Is the guy that reported you know ranking up top or is he just using you as an excuse for being bad at SEO? Ha.
 

SebastianJ

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He's ranking #1 right now, and he pretty much did so back and forth before I went all black hat as well.

So I'm guessing he got a lot of motivation for writing his blog post and getting Matt Cutts involved since I pushed him down from like #1/#2 to #4-#6 :p.
 

mickyfu

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He's ranking #1 right now, and he pretty much did so back and forth before I went all black hat as well.

So I'm guessing he got a lot of motivation for writing his blog post and getting Matt Cutts involved since I pushed him down from like #1/#2 to #4-#6 :p.

He will likely report the wrong person one day, and he will go from 1 - fuck all.
 

SebastianJ

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He will likely report the wrong person one day, and he will go from 1 - fuck all.

He actually got attacked twice with negative SEO attacks, neither of them had any real or substantial effect.

Yes, maybe those attacks weren't that effective or maybe he's just been very good with disavowing stuff (which I know for a fact he has worked very actively with). And no, I had nothing to do with those attacks, they happened a long time before I was penalized.

He's been blogging/writing about a lot of people in this niche and a lot of people truly hate this guy. I personally don't see the point and I'd rather spend my time working on a new project rather than being stuck in a very negative mindset.
 

matrix79

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He actually got attacked twice with negative SEO attacks, neither of them had any real or substantial effect.

Yes, maybe those attacks weren't that effective or maybe he's just been very good with disavowing stuff (which I know for a fact he has worked very actively with). And no, I had nothing to do with those attacks, they happened a long time before I was penalized.

He's been blogging/writing about a lot of people in this niche and a lot of people truly hate this guy. I personally don't see the point and I'd rather spend my time working on a new project rather than being stuck in a very negative mindset.

Nice to see you here! Yesterday only one person replied when I started this thread so I was disappointed, now it's becoming interesting! I spent at least a couple of hours reading your post and his posts, it was informational overload so I wanted to see what everyone thinks.

I have no doubt that you will do even better in the future, what doesn't kill us usually will make us stronger. And here is one thing that stood out to me - you handled it in such a classy way, WOW!!!
 

SebastianJ

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Nice to see you here! Yesterday only one person replied when I started this thread so I was disappointed, now it's becoming interesting! I spent at least a couple of hours reading your post and his posts, it was informational overload so I wanted to see what everyone thinks.

I have no doubt that you will do even better in the future, what doesn't kill us usually will make us stronger. And here is one thing that stood out to me - you handled it in such a classy way, WOW!!!

Thanks for reading man. It became a very, very long post, a lot longer than I originally planned it to be. Given that the guy who reported me wrote a lengthy response to the initial blog post I had to respond to his stuff as well.

I do hope someone can take something valuable away from the countless mistakes I made. I definitely have :p.

Yeah, I'm very sure of that I'll be back on decent rankings again in a short amount of time. I'm going to try my best to achieve the top positions using strict white hat methods as well, that's the only method I haven't ranked in the top positions in this niche as of yet.
 

davids355

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very interesting read. sounds like he built some nice automation systems.
 

umerjutt00

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I guess you should continue to do the same thing i.e. fucking google :D
 

manny521

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Yeah, I'm very sure of that I'll be back on decent rankings again in a short amount of time. I'm going to try my best to achieve the top positions using strict white hat methods as well, that's the only method I haven't ranked in the top positions in this niche as of yet.

I'm curious to know what you think you will be doing to achieve high rankings using white hat methods?

You do realize if you build any links then its black hat? Or what is your definition of white hat and black hat?

I like to hear peoples responses to this question.

My definition to black hat is 'building links to manipulate your serps'...

My definition of white hat is 'people organically linking to you because your site/product/service is worthy of that link'...

The problem with google is that an algorithm can not tell the difference, but there are footprints that can be left that are easy to spot, as you learned...

Last thing, you say you were using 'grey hat' in your article, what you were doing was black hat to the core. Your article was great though and a good read!
 

matrix79

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I'm curious to know what you think you will be doing to achieve high rankings using white hat methods?

You do realize if you build any links then its black hat? Or what is your definition of white hat and black hat?

I like to hear peoples responses to this question.

My definition to black hat is 'building links to manipulate your serps'...

My definition of white hat is 'people organically linking to you because your site/product/service is worthy of that link'...

The problem with google is that an algorithm can not tell the difference, but there are footprints that can be left that are easy to spot, as you learned...

Last thing, you say you were using 'grey hat' in your article, what you were doing was black hat to the core. Your article was great though and a good read!

When I did strictly white hat I didn't do any links at all. I basically relied on keyword research and "throw it against the wall to see what sticks" method. It is a very slow process and even then you aren't safe. I lost rankings in Panda and was released one year later without doing any changes. My content was always good quality and unique so I am sure it was a false positive.

Unless you have a way of networking, you don't get good PR even after 3-4 years. If you play by Google rules very few sites will link to you. And even when they do they will link to one of your inner pages, not your homepage. Most of my visitors come to my sites looking for answers to their questions or a bit of entertainment. They don't have their own blogs or websites, how they are supposed to link to me? Facebook likes and Google +1s mean nothing, trust me. The good thing though that PR also means nothing for traffic. You can have tons of traffic and PR1.

I am done with playing by Google rules though. I do still have a few thousands daily on these white hat sites, but make no mistake, once somebody like Huffington Post or silly WikiHow will decide to write a couple of articles on my keyword I am a toast. And these days they write just about any subject!

Sebastian can build cool things though, so he has another set of skills. Maybe he will be more successful white hat or maybe it's different is Swedish SERPs, I don't know. Anyway good luck to him.
 
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SebastianJ

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I'm curious to know what you think you will be doing to achieve high rankings using white hat methods?

You do realize if you build any links then its black hat? Or what is your definition of white hat and black hat?

I like to hear peoples responses to this question.

My definition to black hat is 'building links to manipulate your serps'...

My definition of white hat is 'people organically linking to you because your site/product/service is worthy of that link'...

The problem with google is that an algorithm can not tell the difference, but there are footprints that can be left that are easy to spot, as you learned...

Last thing, you say you were using 'grey hat' in your article, what you were doing was black hat to the core. Your article was great though and a good read!

Hey manny, thanks for reading my blog post!

Yes, with the white hat-project I do not intend to build links. I intend to focus all activities on just building an awesome service that delivers value. That means focusing on design, functionality and content instead of spending time acquiring links.

99% of the affiliate sites in this specific niche/serp are really shit. They look shit, and don't really bring a lot of value to the table. That's something I'll be trying to solve if/when I decide to start with this new project.

Yes, I know white hat will be a challenge. This is not a niche people generally would personally write/blog about and thus not link to your site.

What I'll be trying to do though is creating a lot of valuable tools for people to use. I won't only focus on pay day loans but on the entire loan market and build a ton of tools and services that actually people will find useful. Different set of loan calculators, a massive comparison engine, a community where people get points for writing reviews and other stuff. The majority of my time will initially be spent coding/designing and then I'll share interesting data about certain things based on user behavior on the site (e.g. the most popular type of loan people are looking for, the most common sums people want to loan etc).

I've already managed to be #1 in this niche using grey hat and black hat, as a personal challenge it would be fun to see if I can do it also by adhering to Google's little guidelines.

In the article I described that I used two tactics, one I'd say is grey hat (private blog networks) and one I'd say is black hat (buying a ton of shitty & spammy links).
I never mixed these tactics. The PBN only linked to my more 'normal' sites and the spam links only linked to the animal-themed sites. Yes, they had a similar theme, but was the only thing in common (and also a very stupid and retarded mistake I made).

Yes, maybe everyone's got different definitions, but a lot of people seem to agree that PBNs are somewhere between white and black hat.
 
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manny521

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You may have already thought of this, but if I were you, I would sell the service of providing individuals their very own private blog networks. It seems you have this process down to an exact science, but without the footprints!

Hey manny, thanks for reading my blog post!

Yes, with the white hat-project I do not intend to build links. I intend to focus all activities on just building an awesome service that delivers value. That means focusing on design, functionality and content instead of spending time acquiring links.

99% of the affiliate sites in this specific niche/serp are really shit. They look shit, and don't really bring a lot of value to the table. That's something I'll be trying to solve if/when I decide to start with this new project.

Yes, I know White Hat will be a challenge. But as I said in the blog post, I already have managed to be #1 in this niche using grey hat and black hat, as a personal challenge it would be fun to see if I can do it also by adhering to Google's little guidelines.

In the article I describe that I used two tactics, one I'd say is grey hat (private blog networks) and one I'd say is black hat (buying a ton of shitty & spammy links). Yes, maybe everyone's got different definitions, but a lot of people seem to agree that PBNs are somewhere between white and black hat.
 

allensh

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Hi sebastian
i just finish reading your blog post, first i would like to say that you are awesome :) and what are you doing is great
i don't blame the other guy for reporting you , it is normal , this is buisnes
i am like you in a way , i like to automate stuff a looooot , and this is one of the reasons i didn't succed in IM yet, but when i read your story i got inspired i'll try again and again until i reach my goal

i think if you stay off the radar and target some other niches is better, they don't have to be profitable as payday loans, but if you dominate some 10 different niches you'll make more money then you were, after all you said that you found a way to beat the system
good luck next time
 

SebastianJ

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You may have already thought of this, but if I were you, I would sell the service of providing individuals their very own private blog networks. It seems you have this process down to an exact science, but without the footprints!

Yeah, I've been thinking about it to be honest.

I'm not really fond of the idea of managing tons of servers and doing a lot of system admin work though, but that's probably something I can hire someone to do as soon as/if it takes off.

Thanks for suggesting it, I should probably take another look at it.
 

matrix79

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What I'll be trying to do though is creating a lot of valuable tools for people to use.
This might make a huge difference. If merely adding a random YouTube video helps rank a page with no links, adding tools, calculators etc should be even better! Google talked about this, bringing something different, adding in a way that others don't, but you can go only that far with just content. Not everyone has sufficient technical skills or enough resources to build custom tools. If you can provide something different than other 9 competitors on page one, you have much better chance. Hope you will beat that guy again using white hat methods and he will have nothing to say...lol
 
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