Gaming Google

If you happened to do a Google search for news about iTunes expanding its song previews to ninety seconds in early November, you may have seen a host of results from a site called Red Label News. 

If you are not familiar with this particular news outlet, you’re not alone. How did this unknown entity make it to page one of the SERPs, behind only respected tech sources like CNET and PC World?

Red Label News is part of a company based in the US called 70 Holdings. Instead of news, those who clicked through to Red Label News, or any of the other 44 “news” related domains owned by 70 Holdings, visitors were greeted with unintelligible content surrounded by ads and links.  Through the careful use of these links to other news stories and keyword optimisation, Red News Label managed to “game” Google. While the keywords were sloppily done (in one sentence, for instance, the words “hottest Apple sales” appeared four separate times), it did work effectively enough to rank highly with Google.

Trending topics are common targets for blackhat SEOs. In the few hours after a particular event that causes a spike in searches, Google has shown itself unable to detect spammers. This allows 70 Holdings and other companies to interweave their laughable content with enough keywords to get noticed in order to draw clicks and ad impressions.

According to CNET: “Google has always faced this kind of struggle as it has grown into the dominant source of information on the Internet, and keeps the lion’s share of spam attempts out of Google. But if the company is unable to train its algorithms to detect this kind of news spamming strategy, one of Google’s greatest fears – that people will rely more on information curated by friends on Facebook or Twitter as opposed to search – could come true.”

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