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Link Building In Ultra Competitive Niches

Posted in: Link Building by Richard Hearne on April 20, 2009
Internet Marketing Ireland

UPDATE: GoCompare are no longer ranking for their brand name

Link building is tricky. I’ve worked in some farily competitive niches, and link building does become more and more difficult as you ascend the competitive ladder. One niche I do like to watch (primarily due to the wonderful Insider’s View blog) is the UK insurance/financial services market.

Here’s an email that arrived from one of the largest comparison sites in the UK, GoCompare.com:

Hi – I`m Alex Jones, Website Manager at gocompare.com. We are one of the UK`s leading insurance comparison sites, with over 90 insurance companies on our panel.

I was searching the web and came across ******.TLD. We have a constantly growing range of information and advice surrounding insurance and repair themes. This relates to both motoring and household insurance. As such we are looking for good quality partners that have a motoring, automotive, general household or lifestyle theme . . . so I have an idea which I hope you will find useful.

We can have our editorial team research and hand write some unique content for you to add to a page on ******.TLD. We will agree a subject with you that is relevant to both of our sites. The content will contain a single unobtrusive text link in it back to a relevant page on our site. You would benefit from some unique, relevant content to which the search engines seem to be attributing ever more value. We would probably obtain some long term benefit from the link to us — which, as a relevant outbound link, would also be potentially helpful to you from a search engine perspective. We are not currently in the position of being able to exchange or return links so we thought this could be a good alternative.

There are of course absolutely no costs for you in us producing this content.

I have found that email isn`t always as reliable as everyone thinks plus I`m either out or in meetings most of the time. We have therefore created a simple and quick-to-use response page that provides detailed information and answers to questions on the various options and allows you to send messages to our team . . and much more! You can access it here:-

Page: http://www.gocompare.com/secure-reply.aspx
Your Access Code: ******

Of course I know that some people prefer to reply via email which is absolutely fine and I`ll reply as quickly as possible.

If you feel I should not have sent you this email, I`m really sorry – please just reply with REMOVE in the subject.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Thanks and kind regards – Alex Jones
Website Manager

I’ve redacted any info that could identify the site. So what’s wrong with this?

Sneaky Link Building at Site Owner’s Expense

Link building is extremely tough in competitive niches. I’m generally pretty white-hat when it comes to SEO, but when you’re heavily involved in SEO you know the reality of competition – all the sites in this niche are up to no good. Take a read of Insider’s View and you can see how often sites get penalties and bans. You’ll also learn just how much money we can be talking about, and why the returns often justify the high risks taken.

Caveat Emptor

I have a problem with GoCompare.com’s email. They are preying on site owners who wont realise the risks of adding this “unique content”. GoCompare’s risk is negligible, while the risks to publishers are high. Alex Jones is disingenuous when he writes:

You would benefit from some unique, relevant content to which the search engines seem to be attributing ever more value. We would probably obtain some long term benefit from the link to us — which, as a relevant outbound link, would also be potentially helpful to you from a search engine perspective. We are not currently in the position of being able to exchange or return links so we thought this could be a good alternative. [Emphasis added mine]

What utter shite. Of course Alex fails to mention that such content on your site goes against Google’s TOS and risks a penalty for the publishing site:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

Worse still – site owners aren’t even offered payment for selling links to GoCompare. “There are of course absolutely no costs for you in us producing this content.” I actually had a good laugh at that. Site owners take all the risk while GoCompare take all the benefit. But then again perhaps GoCaompare learnt from previous bans that it’s better to pass the risk to someone else…

gocompare google ban
GoCompare banned from Google

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  1. Thanks for an interesting story! Looks like your link to Insider’s View blog is broken, you might want to fix it.

    Comment by Gleb — April 20, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  2. Thanks Gleb – link fixed now.


    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 20, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  3. [...] on from my recent GoCompare Link Building post, and the Conversion Rate Optimisation project I’m running here’s a quick post [...]

    Pingback by Insurance Quotes - Negative Point of Action Assurances Hurt Conversions? - Red Cardinal [.] ie — April 21, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  4. I got this email the other day. Had a good giggle myself! Where can I report them to Google?


    Comment by Nick — April 21, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  5. They must have been bulk sending this email – we work for a couple of insurance brokers, and some of them received this email too.

    Comment by Hannah — April 22, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  6. It’s funny, because I received this email and just dismissed it upon seeing it. I received that email on 3 different occassions. It wasn’t even subtle to disguise the automation look and feel of the email. Like you said, to those people who didn’t understand what would happen would indeed take on all the risk whilst they gocompare would take all the benefit.

    And to the blogger (sorry, I couldn’t find your name), but I loved the way you told it as it is. Kudos. Looking forward to another post!

    Comment by David — April 22, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  7. The actual email template seems to be default for the agency behind the app running this. I’ve received the exact same template from another UK company seeking links on another unrelated site I work with.

    GoCompare aren’t ranking for their brand today in Google – http://www.redcardinal.ie/search-engine-optimisation/22-04-2009/gocompare-penalised-by-google/

    @David – my name is Richard Hearne. I tend to keep a low profile, so it’s no wonder you couldn’t find my name.

    Rgds, and thanks for dropping by.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 22, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  8. Do they run any affiliate programs? I’m guessing anyone previously ranking at numero two is a happy bunny today. ;o)

    Comment by Paul Anthony — April 22, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  9. FairInvestment are loving the extra traffic. I suspect Gocompare are fuming!

    GoCompare ban

    Comment by Insurance Blog — April 22, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  10. [...] ban comes just days after bloggers published details of “sneaky link building” tactics being employed by the insurance comparison [...]

    Pingback by GoCompare penalised again — April 23, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  11. Don’t see how even the most ardent of whitehats can call these ‘paid links’ when there’s no money changing hands…

    Comment by Richard Kershaw — April 23, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  12. i really dont see it as a major issue, they are not buying or selling they are providing content with a view to get a link back, that would be a more aggressive version of linkbait…

    there are worse operators out there who demand a link from websites…

    Comment by david — April 23, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  13. “site owners aren’t even offered payment for selling links to GoCompare”

    Then how exactly would this be a paid link?

    Comment by Wiep — April 23, 2009 @ 9:08 am

  14. @Richard – the intent is clear. They are passing the content with embedded links. The fact that they aren’t paying just goes to show that they were really chancing their arm.

    @David – I’d agree that there’s far worse, but my issue with it was that they were giving site owners the impression that this could be beneficial to them, whereas the reality is that there was more risk than benefit to the publisher.

    @Wiep – what’s the intent? As I say above, the fact that they aren’t paying doesn’t make much difference in my book.

    @All – I’d agree that this isn’t exactly hardcore in terms of what goes on in that niche, but my concern is only for the small publishers who could be on the end on penalties for carrying this content. Would a human reviewer looking at these articles think “oh maybe they published this for free”? I doubt it.

    You could argue that syndicated content should carry a link to the source, but I think we all know GoCompare were carrying deeplinks to pages they ranted to rank. Again, it all boils down to intent.

    Thanks for commenting,

    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 23, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  15. Its a shame the seo company involved are so bad and what they do, they use cheap content writers and generally do a shoddy job.

    I dont feel “content for links” is spammy or unethical if its done right.

    The site gets good unique content thats its readers will enjoy and the link inserted should be a natural extension of the article.

    Thats the approach i take when building links this way

    Comment by Linktank — April 23, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  16. [...] relevant links by linktank // More news today arounf the blogosphere about GoCompare being penalised for spammy link building tactics, it seems the root of the problem is their offering of content for [...]

    Pingback by The content for links debate — April 23, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  17. “Alex Jones is disingenuous when he writes:” just an fyi but Alex Jones is a ‘she’. (I used to freelance for them)

    There are a few references to an ‘SEO company’, last I knew GC had taken their seo in-house. Is this not the case?

    Comment by J — April 23, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  18. They are all at it and go compare are not the worst offenders (although their article writing is rubbish) Look at these from the worst offenders of all!

    Good afternoon,
    I work for Moneysupermarket.com and I have recently checked out your site *******.com and thought it was really good.
    The reason I am writing is to see whether you would be interested in including a small text link to our car insurance site. The purpose of this site is to provide the customer with a service which compares over 50 car insurance companies quickly and easily online.
    In return for this link I could write a relevant article on a subject of your choice and submit this to a number of reputable online article websites. Within this article would be some links to your website which in the past I have done and has helped improve a website’s ranking and number of visitors.
    The reason I mention this option is because unfortunately we cannot offer a reciprocal link due to us not having a links page currently available.
    If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact me on the email address mentioned below.
    Thanks for your time and have a great day! :)

    Gill Critchley

    Marketing Department


    I work for moneysupermarket.com and recently found your blog the ********.co.uk and thought it was really good and informative, I was wondering whether you would consider adding a link to our car insurance comparison page?
    If there are any procedures or costs involved I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss this further so feel free to email me at this address. :)

    Best Regards,
    Andy Adams BSc (Hons)

    moneysupermarket.com Financial Group
    Moneysupermarket House
    St. Davids Park
    CH5 3UZ

    Cmon Google ban this lot!

    Comment by The System — April 23, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  19. I didn’t know that unique, relevant content for links is black hat..
    Wouldn’t it be the same if you write a guest column with a signature with a (followed) link?

    Comment by Martijn — April 23, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  20. Hi Martijn

    I’ll agree there’s a fine line here, but maybe the issue here was intent along with the fact that GoCompare dresses this up as something innocent when it wasn’t.

    I’d say a link to the originating site is one thing, but a deep link to a 3rd party page surrounded by copy that has been written around that deep page is perhaps the issue.

    If I was to hazard a guess though the problem was the way the email was deceptive about the purpose and consequences of publishing this content.

    Rgds, and thanks for dropping by

    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 23, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

  21. This will be Google flexing it’s muscles to set a warning shot across the bows of the others in their vertical. I’m sure Go Compare will be back soon.

    I’m sure manual reviews of all the sites in this industry will raise alarm bells but the exposure this brings will send our a message.

    Good call on this post btw…

    Comment by Jay Hands — April 23, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

  22. Loads of the larger “SEO” companies are doing this. It looks like they are selling link building services to clients, before realising they don’t actually have a link building service. So they’ve subscribed to an automated service which frankly insults everybody’s intelligence.

    Comment by Brian Turner — April 23, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

  23. LMFAO!
    We were literally bombarded with those exact same emails regarding our client sites. I saw straight through it as a ploy for backlinks from the less SEO savvy.

    I accepted one piece of “unique content” for a client, ripped the links out, changed a few things, Easy, cheap content for their site!

    It’s not exactly ethical, preying on smaller local sites with more to lose. Maybe the main reason for the drop.

    Second ban too. How many strikes before you’re out completely? It’d be in G’s interest to keep them out as long as possible. The longer they’re out, the more they’ll spend on Adwords!

    Comment by Search EnGenie — April 23, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

  24. Hi Richard
    Nice to see good exposure for an excellent post.

    This is a clear warning shot to put the fear of God into websites who don’t want to risk their rankings by doing *anything* that Google *might” decide not to like at some point.

    Yet clients still want to rank highly….I can imagine a typical conversation with a small-medium sized co in the near future:
    “How much are you quoting us to do SEO via 100% linkbaiting? €200K? Are you nuts?”

    Do you think most SEO clients are aware that until 2 years ago, Google’s terms said:
    “You may not use Google to increase traffic to your Website for commercial reasons”
    (And that the terms were changed so as to not terrify Googles’ own customers?)

    Google’s motto is “do no evil?” Maybe it should instead be “do our business model no evil”…..

    Read what US court-appointed independent expert Dr Alex Tuzhilin said about Google’s Adwords platform in 2006 when he was sent in to assess their anti-click fraud measures. Essentially it was “intent is impossible to measure so there is a fundamental flaw with the PPC model”.
    Funnily enough, the lads in Mountain View disagreed….

    We’re not talking about PPC here of course.

    We’re talking about a very real threat to the fundamental concept underlying Google’s market position and the billions at stake due to their current ability to limit manipulation of their search results.

    GoCompare were an easy target for Google to test with & were clearly on the “special watch” list – particularly as they were banned previously.

    At a guess, Google are TERRIFIED by this tactic because of it’s simplicity & their inability to determine the “intent” of the article writer.

    Unlike with the multiple footer text link ads on sites for which MoneySupermarket got hit pre-IPO (& which they’re still doing)

    I’m quite sure Google have discussed setting up a special “report hosted article links” form like they have for paid links as the best way to monitor it.
    Of course competitors would then rat each other out with fake reports which is probably why they haven’t ……

    You said on the EI list that you knew a few sites hit for doing this.
    I’m not saying you’re wrong but could you have been wrong? Might it have been something else?

    How can Google possibly work out the *intent* of a high quality article writer on an established, relevent content-rich website?
    They can’t. (To do these hosted article links well is expensive – eg £50 each – but done well, they work and are 100% untraceable)

    I think it might have been at the Vegas Pubcon 2 years ago where one of the well-known speakers said that they had a client’s incoming links analysed in depth by Matt Cutts with all his fancy tools and no red flags were raised – because the article links were done so well.

    Cost-effective SEO is about artificially making a site *perceived* to be extremely popular by Google for it’s target keywords.

    What all SEO’s do is artificial – unless you’re spending many hundreds of thousands on link-baiting in the competitive sectors like finance/insurance.

    No ifs or buts. Clients don’t say they want this. But that’s what they’re asking for when they ask an SEO to be 1st.

    I challenge anyone to list 5 simple, logic-based rules Google might use to work out if a hosted article containing a deep link is “genuine” or not?
    (I’m well aware that if Google can possibly learn something, it’s best to assume they will)

    I think they’re absolutely terrified of this tactic now made famous by GoCompare because not being able to work out or even guess the *intent* of the linking site, directly attacks the very heart of their ranking algorithm.

    If huge international companies like Vodafone are also doing this (not particularly well via Greenlight), all Google can do is sow fear.

    And don’t they know it.

    John Ring

    Comment by RingJohn Online Marketing — April 23, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  25. Interesting stuff but when it comes to intent, I’m not quite sure about the rights & wrongs of someone who sells SEO outing a brand that are using dubious, but hardly horrific, tactics. I guess that they’ll be in the market for a new agency now won’t they?

    Comment by Ciaran — April 24, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  26. [...] from this I would have thought they would learn a lesson, and not want to get hurt again. However some evidence has come to light (though I’d summise this is only speculation) which further leads me to the [...]

    Pingback by Google Hit GoCompate Hard! | Search Engine Optimisation — April 24, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  27. Re: “I guess that they’ll be in the market for a new agency now won’t they?”

    Hopefully not. If GL (whose dodgy network was banned not so long ago) were to improve the quality of what they’re doing for Vodafone, I’d tell Vodafone to stay with them. They won’t get much better

    It’s in all our interests that Google loses it’s total monopoly.
    This linking tactic being used is untraceable IMO if done smart.

    If GL were to improve the quality of their hosted articles, V would be crazy to change agency. What would be the point? GL are only doing what all the other top tier of SEO’s are doing – particularly in competitive spaces. (We’ve no affiliation with V or GL btw)

    Comment by RingJohn Online Marketing — April 24, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  28. Hi John

    I agree with what you’ve mentioned above – this tactic is a major threat to Google, and that’s why I imagine they’ve sent out such a strong signal.

    Hi Ciaran

    This wasn’t about me wanting to get at GoCompare. This was about trying to protect unsuspecting site owners who might fall foul of a Google penalty for publishing this content. I spend a fair amount of time over on the Google Webmaster Support Group and see a lot of penalised sites come in there. The tactics used by GoCompare show little or no regard for the site owners they are preying on IMO. That’s why I pushed this out. FWIW I see a whole lot of dodgy stuff going on and don’t go shouting about it. I believe GoCompare do SEO in-house, so I dont know that this will affect any agency relationship (apart from the company that offers this hosted content service). Thankfully I’m not in any need of new clients, so there was no self interest in me publishing these details.

    Thanks to both for dropping by.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 24, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  29. The risk is on GoCompare’s side not the publisher. The publisher is just deciding whether to add content or not based purely on quality. They are not being paid or swayed in any other way than if they think the article is quality.

    GoCompare is potentially manipulating the results if they are very specific with the link text, which is of course against Google’s rules, but that is not the publishers problem as long as they think the link is fair and justified based on quality.

    So its no surprise Google made an example of GoCompare, but if they were to punish the people who published the articles just cause they liked the articles that would be completely unfair. They’ve done nothing wrong.

    What GoCompare did wasn’t really that bad, they didn’t pay anyone, and left it up to publishers to publish what they want. Sure it helped there Search Engine rankings and they knew it. But creating a quality piece of linkbait and submitting to digg helps your rankings too. Is that wrong? Maybe it is.

    Point being we don’t know because Google is not clear and then publishes high quality and useful sites because their guidelines were not clear.

    Comment by Chris Tew — April 24, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  30. Very good post. Thanks. Heres to betting that guy just mas mails out that email to hundreds of sites!

    Comment by Shane — April 24, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  31. Hi Everyone

    Since we have been named in a number of posts in various places, we have just responded on Kieron’s blog at:-


    Have a great weekend.

    Thanks and kind regards – Simon & Kieron

    Kieron Donoghue & Simon Snelling
    Partners and Co-Founders, Content Now LLP

    Comment by Content Now LLP — April 24, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

  32. I have a hard time believing the publisher is at risk for posting a link like this, unless they are doing it over and over again for lots of different sites. I think it’s even less likely they are in trouble if gocompare is going after logically relevant sites. Who is to say I don’t send a link there because I actually think they have a good service.

    This is a very enlightening post and even though it’s a tactic I don’t personally do or plan to do, I don’t think it’s a shady tactic that should be penalized. I guess someday all links will have to be discredited because the line between merit and paid based links will to blurry to see.

    Comment by Andy — April 24, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

  33. Copy of my comment on http://www.here.org.uk/2009/04/content-for-links.html. Apologies for not posting it here first.

    I have issues with the original blog post, mainly:

    1. “Alex fails to mention that such content on your site goes against Google’s TOS and risks a penalty for the publishing site”

    What a ridiculous statement! Why on earth would “Alex” mention this? Has Google said it breaks their TOS? No of course they haven’t, so it is all down to individual interpretation of the “rules”. Perish the thought that this may vary from one person to the next!

    2. In light of point 1, it seems very strange to then complain “Worse still – site owners aren’t even offered payment for selling links to GoCompare.”

    Make your mind up, either you want them to meet the TOS or you don’t! And the actual sentence doesn’t even make sense – “site owners aren’t even offered payment for selling links”. That.is.because.they.aren’t.selling.links. Dear oh dear.

    3. “Site owners take all the risk while GoCompare take all the benefit.”

    Really? Not if all the speculation of a penalty is to be believed!

    4. “I’m generally pretty white-hat when it comes to SEO,”

    Only pretty white hat? So not 100% white hat then or the word ‘pretty’ wouldn’t be required. I question the credibility of the whole post in light of this.

    5. “I have a problem with GoCompare.com’s email. They are preying on site owners who wont realise the risks of adding this “unique content”.”

    These people aren’t complete morons, if they have a website and are interested in getting some unique content – at no monetary expense to them – then they are perfectly capable of getting online and doing a bit of research to find out if there are any potential pitfalls. They have a choice.

    There is an element of risk for all of us whatever we take for free or buy.

    Comment by King — April 25, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  34. @Chris Tew – I think many people are focusing on payments and exchange of funds when what’s important is intent. I think if GoCompare simply asked site owners to link back any way they pleased IF they felt the content warranted the link then a penalty would be hard to justify. I’m talking about handing content sans link and then letting publishers add them if they please.

    @King – thanks for posting your comments here. I’ll try to respond from my perspective to each point you make.

    1. Google states fairly clearly that participating in link schemes in against their guidelines. I agree that this is extremely vague, and likely purposely so so that Google can apply that guideline as it sees fit. In my opinion the email was disingenuous, and bordering on misleading. Obviously just my opinion, but then again most things in the SEO world are just opinions.

    2. Define sale:

    A sale is the pinnacle activity involved in selling products or services in return for money or other compensation. It is an act of completion of a commercial activity.

    No matter how you try and cut this, and you’re entitled to your own opinion of course, the intent is clear IMO – this tactic offers content for links, and is therefore a sale. It’s a fine line I’ll admit, but I think what pushes it over that line is the offer made to unsuspecting site owners that this is in some way beneficial to them. The content may have some benefit, but saying that linking out to one of GoCompare’s pages has an SEO benefit to their own site is not ethical IMO. Again, only my opinion.

    3. Perhaps that’s why Google decided to hammer GoCompare? To send out a message? Of course I’ll admit that some people are making arguments that perhaps the site refresh is the cause of their poor ranking. All I can say is that after looking at hundreds, if not thousands, of sites with Google issues I’ve never seen one authoritative (and uniquely unambiguous) brand rank so poorly for their own brand in Google.

    4. Classic ploy of shoot the messenger. Do you mind me asking if you have any affiliation with GoCompare? I’ve noticed you’ve been both vocal and defensive in your various responses online to this story.

    5. I have to disagree with you. Taken to an extreme your argument could be used to justify scams etc. The email is sent from the “web manager” of a well known brand – i.e. someone who is likely to be authoritative on web-related issues – and therefore less savvy recipients may be more likely to believe what they’re told. Again this is only my opinion, but you cannot defend all activity with caveat emptor.

    I appreciate you dropping by to post your own opinions on this, but I’d just like to say again that the reason I published this email was to get the message out that this tactic, in my opinion, carries risk. I’m not against GoCompare per-se, and have no hidden agendas to harm either them or Content Now. My only concern is that smaller site owners do not fall prey to any associated damage without being fully aware of the risk (I perceive) inherent in this tactic.

    I did notice you seem to have forgotten to repost the final line from your comment on Kieron’s very eloquent response:

    I deal in FACTS. These are my opinions.

    Best rgds, and thanks for re-commenting here

    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 26, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  35. Thanks for your response Richard. I have to admit to having a little chuckle here as the final line was actually mimicking you, as I felt that your original post was written as if everything in it were fact but actually the vast majority was opinion. However when I copied the whole comment across from here.org.uk I missed it – long day, bleary eyed. That’ll teach me :)

    I am not affiliated with GoCompare…sigh…I don’t actually care what fate awaits them in terms of rankings but I do think that when a site loses its brand terms the credibility of the search engine suffers too. What I actually care about is the quality of the information put out there and whether an argument can stand up to scrutiny. You’ll see that I am now embroiled in various discussions about Google’s TOS and what qualifies as a breach and what doesn’t. This doesn’t mean that I am affiliated with GoCompare, and it’s rather cheap to suggest that I wouldn’t have the same convictions were I not.

    Unlike the guys over at Insiders View, I am sorry that you can’t admit that there were flaws in your original post. I am not saying for one moment that you shouldn’t have posted it at all, or that it’s not added value or generated a healthy debate – as you can see I am all for that! – what I have said is that I have issues with some of the points you’ve made and regardless of what you’ve come back to me with I stand by this.

    Comment by King — April 26, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  36. Hi again King

    Reading my original post I can see nothing that isn’t factual. You and I might disagree over interpretation of Google’s guidelines, but that doesn’t make my interpretation factually incorrect.

    I apologise if you think I’m calling your conviction on this into question. That’s not the case, regardless of what side your on. I’m actually asking why you made a point of saying:

    Only pretty white hat? So not 100% white hat then or the word ‘pretty’ wouldn’t be required. I question the credibility of the whole post in light of this.

    What difference does the colour of my hat make to this argument? That’s generally a classic play of PR people wishing to deflect attention. Again, I’m not suggesting that’s your intent, but it seemed weird to me to defend your argument with reflections on me personally.

    I’ll happily hear what additional flaws, in addition to those you’ve made above, you think are in the post. I’m a reasonable guy, and will honestly hold my hand up when I get it wrong. Can you also point me to any information you know of that calls what I’ve written into doubt pls? I’m genuinely interested to know if there is info out there that can help me understand any errors I’ve made here.

    Rgds and thanks

    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 26, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

  37. Hi Richard
    I am definitely not a PR person, if you knew me you’d have a good laugh over the very suggestion! I don’t claim to be particularly eloquent in my arguments but I do like a bit of healthy debate!

    You admit that link building is tricky and that you’ve worked in some fairly competitive niches that become more and more difficult as you ascend the competitive ladder. You also say you are ‘pretty white hat’, I picked up on the use of the word ‘pretty’ as it wouldn’t be required if you didn’t dabble in some grey areas! You may not agree, but I feel that is an important point. Far from being a case of shooting the messenger, it was more a case of saying ‘are you really in a position to expose another site for alleged wrong doings when none of us know what methods you yourself use to acquire links?’. It’s not unreasonable to flag it IMO(!).

    You say that it is weird that I defended my argument with reflections on you personally. How is this different than the argument you made that reflected on Gocompare? In particular you ‘name and shame’ the person that sent the email whilst also saying they are disingenuous.

    And your post was flawed in that it made the following statements:
    “Site owners take all the risk while GoCompare take all the benefit.”
    “GoCaompare learnt from previous bans that it’s better to pass the risk to someone else…”
    “GoCompare’s risk is negligible, while the risks to publishers are high.”

    You yourself think that GoCompare have been penalised. With hindsight if you had to write the original post again I imagine (and I may be wrong) that you would probably balance out the level of risk a little more than you did originally. I’d honestly be really interested to hear of any publishers that have taken content from GoCompare and who have been penalised. I expect you would too.

    Comment by King — April 26, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  38. So something I don’t generally make much fuss over is that I’ve been active over in Google’s Webmaster Support Group for about 3 years helping site owners who come along with issues. I do this in my spare time. The only reason I posted this in the first place was because I genuinely believe there is a risk for site owners that is not being disclosed by GoCompare/Content Now. That belief is based on the many sites I’ve seen come in with penalties that are told by Google guides to check out the Guidelines in respect of link schemes.

    Any comments I’ve made about GoCompare are based on the email I received. I did approach them to ensure that the email actually originated from them, and had a short email exchange with their marketing manager before this blew up. The name in the email can easily be found in Insider’s View and I have to say he’s pretty much summed up my thoughts on this. I’m still happy to stand by what I’ve published, but obviously if it turns out that anything I’ve said is incorrect I’ll very happily apologise to anyone that was unfairly affected by my commentary.

    Thanks again & rgds

    Comment by Richard Hearne — April 26, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  39. Hi again Richard
    I am sure we both have better things to be doing on such a sunny day!

    Far from saying that you shouldn’t have ‘named and shamed’ I am simply using your decision to do so as a defence against your comment that my reflections on you personally are ‘weird’. They’re not, they are perfectly reasonable.

    TBH I do feel that what you have published is incorrect *if* GoCompare have been penalised. The reason that it is incorrect is that it presented a very one-sided level of risk that you laid firmly at the door of the small publisher sites, rather than with GoCompare also. As a no doubt well respected commentator, this bias will also be shared by a proportion of your readership because they trust what you say.

    You yourself say that while you may not be able to point at sites that have been penalised due to this tactic it doesn’t negate the risk involved. But you have already pointed at a site – GoCompare – in a subsequent post. Which does then change the whole original argument that the risk is all with the publisher.

    It’s just food for thought. Personally I think the TOS is vague, deliberately so IMO.

    Comment by King — April 26, 2009 @ 2:49 pm


    As of just before 10AM GMT this morning, GoCompare has begun to re-appear at #1 in the Google SERPs for its brand name. It appears to be ranking for some other terms as well. This isn’t totally consistent as yet because it takes a while to replicate around data centres so you may see it jump in and out of the results. Given that the drop in rankings for this site originally sparked this debate, I thought you would appreciate the update.


    Best regards – Simon :-)
    Simon Snelling BSc(Hons) MBCS CEng CITP
    Partner and Co-Founder
    Content Now LLP

    Comment by Content Now LLP — April 27, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  41. All I can say is go snoop on link profiles for people ranking in tough niches and 95% of them are doing something link wise that’s against Google’s TOS. This tactic shouldn’t penalize *IF* the content is great…and I don’t mean some pos 400 word article. In the large niche’s you’ll be watched by a human so you have to be careful in your link building efforts.

    I can see the problem with this method in the way they were going about it. Mass emailing a webmasters with a template is just bad for business.

    Comment by Ryan @ Linkbuildr — May 1, 2009 @ 12:27 am

  42. [...] to say in regards to going about this tactic. A lot of the chatter has been revolving around the Go Compare fiasco which has seen them up and down in [...]

    Pingback by Content For Links & Go Compare — May 1, 2009 @ 12:55 am

  43. [...] out all the stops to keep up. Recently there was some controversy caused by a blog post over at the Red Cardinal centered around GoCompare and their link building tactics. It appears GoCompare have a company who [...]

    Pingback by Building Links in Aggressive Marketings :: Link Building :: Searchbrat Blog — May 3, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

  44. With such a high profile case – will Google be keeping a closer eye (a human eye) on GoCompare, or do they just leave it up to the algorithmic detection?

    Comment by Design East Anglia — June 4, 2009 @ 9:53 am

  45. This isn’t black hat, and isn’t against Google’s TOS

    To be honest, it’s a perfectly fine method of link building.

    Comment by Jeff — June 30, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  46. [...] You can also subscribe by email for future updatesNot quite sure if there’s any connection to GoCompare’s Link Building I mentioned a few days ago, but it looks like GoCompare are having some issues with Google [...]

    Pingback by GoCompare No Longer Rank For Their Brand on Google.co.uk - Red Cardinal — July 25, 2009 @ 6:53 am

  47. Well, GoCompare.com is back up again. just searched for it and its appearing at #1 Google spot with impressive site links too.

    Comment by Code — July 29, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  48. Yup, GoCompare back in action. I imagine their SEO team had a rough time explaining how they “resolved” the situation. How do you remove hundreds of thousands of spammy links before a reconsideration request?

    Maybe just an apology was required?

    Comment by Dave Davis — November 29, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

  49. I’ve had success getting backlinks by offering a discount for a discount page. This way it’s truly a win-win for both parties.

    Comment by Michael Schwartz — December 23, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

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