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Some insight into manual actions.

Hi all. I've been hesitant about posting this, even in this closed forum but I've been grateful for the help received over the past 2 years here, so am just sharing this information in case it benefits anyone. It only really applies if you are at risk of manual actions (not algorithmic). If you are dominating a niche with some Google-owned ventures in it as I was, it's only a matter of time before they come knocking, and I always expected it.

Quick background: I had 6 sites (5 UK and 1 USA) in my niche and in October 2014 all of them were completely killed off by Google in one day via 'unnatural inbound link' manual actions. They weren't linked in any way (IPs, GWT, etc). After a few days of feeling depressed, since then I've been trying with some success to get the ranks back with new sites. I know a lot of people would have given up at that point - my traffic dropped by 95% in 2 hours and hasn't fully recovered - but I felt it would be a good situation to try to learn a bit about how Google's webspam teams work. I'd entered their shitlist and it would be too good an opportunity to pass. I figured that if it didn't work out and they win then at least I'd have tried.... thankfully they have only managed a ;partial; victory as my sites recover for a few months then get killed again but I'm still making more money in a month than most people make in a year :)
So f**k you Google :)

Few things to note:
- Install Clicky if you don't already, it hides Googlebot visits so you can only see real human views from Google workers that come onto your site.  Setup an alert for this, the ISP name is always 'Google' for their USA based team, so it's easy to do. I will update this later with the Ireland ISP name  when I find it (it's a business ISP I forgot the name of). I have 2x alerts and they notify me as soon as either visit my sites.

- My developers setup a custom XSS script that tries to grab actual referral information that Google masks and no stats software shows, whenever their webspam team visit my sites. I'd really love to take screenshots of their screens via this method but are not having much success, not sure if it's possible, but got a few other ideas here.

- Google has 2 webspam teams. One in Ireland and one in Mountain View, California in the Googleplex. They may possibly have one in India but I've never encountered them.

- The Ireland-based ones aren't concise and are pretty 'entry level'. I can share the ins and outs of how I know this if anyone is interested. Their Adwords and Adsense Europe teams are in the same IP range so I suspect the same office in Dublin.

- The USA based webspam team are pretty clever. They follow your 301s, visit your old sites, obviously have custom scripts and software that show all link information for any site. They require a good degree or even PHD to work there:

- They can see 301s, 302s, they follow multiple redirects, and the rest of it. They can spend hours analyzing your site, coming back and forth across them all.

- The USA webspam team work afterhours and use their phones in the evening. One of my sites was visited on Christmas Eve by one of their staff (sad cunt). You can't redirect at certain times of the day and hope to fool them, they are there 24/7.

- Google log and use your IP Address information if you ever sign into GWT and Google Plus/Gmail then forget it,once you enter their shitlist. They will probably whack your site within 24 hours. There's an in-depth study I saw recently where someone said they use 'safesearch' in Firefox to log the sites you visit, what you search for, and store it against your IP - so disable it. Don't use Chrome ever. If you don't have dynamic IPs use a VPN.

- I've found ONE way to hide a 301 redirect but I won't share it here yet as I'm still testing it. There's only 1-2 mentions of this method on any BH forum ever, so it's quite unknown. I was surprised Google didn't log it, maybe they do and I'm just lucky so far.

- Once you are on their shitlist, they will delist your site with zero links. Yes, zero links. The reason will be given as 'poor quality content' or even 'unnatural inbound links' even though their own link tools show no links/redirects and I've not built a single link to it. I filed one reconsieration request in my life as I got the 'unnatural inboud links' notice when there were zero links, and they never responded. They don't want you to rank at all once you piss them off enough.

- I got direct correspondence from someone inside Google last year. It basically confirmed the above in a typical Google 'generic' answer. I Google'd the person's name, as they don't ever give their full name, but it was unique enough name to find them on LinkedIn. No prizes for guessing they worked in the webspam team and yes they had a degree in Computer Science. If anyone is interested in how I managed to get that, let me know.

- A few hours before my sites are eventually killed, I always see 1-2 visits from the USA webspam team. They visit at the same time, around 4pm their time, every Monday, so they must have a calendar or reminder setup.

Finally, a good tip. Use a VPN like iPredator and load up Chrome and enable it's auto-translation tool and hit up some of the Russian BH forums. Those guys are 2-3 years ahead.

I will share more if people want, but have been quite reserved, walls have ears etc. If anyone has any other insights please do let me know!

Best Answers

  • SvenSven Accepted Answer
    Well this is really good stuff. It's not the usual stuff you can read everywhere. At least this is completely new to me. I enjoied reading it.
  • 2Take22Take2 UK Accepted Answer
    Some really useful info there (read it all twice) - thanks for sharing. :-bd


  • edited February 2015
    I forgot to mention the main thing, don't make the mistake I made (although I'm glad I did as I've learned a lot). If you get hit with manual action on more than one site at the same time, it means they've found you and they know what you're doing. Wait at LEAST a month and then rebuild/301. If only one site gets hit then it should be okay to rebuild instantly.

    Basically, don't make it personal with someone at Google as I've done. I got all my original rankings back within 2 weeks by 301-ing/spamming but they were already tracking me and have been since :D

  • SvenSven
    WOW that are indeed some great insides. Thanks for sharing it.
  • Thanks. I wasn't sure if it would be useful. I have much more to share if people want
  • Once you've got a list of Google IPs that the webspam team use (if you want them PM me, I have about 10 specific IPs) you can then have some fun redirecting them via .htaccess to a page saying your website has shut down, redirect them to a competitor's website as I do in the hope they whack that site, etc. You could I suppose even redirect them to a malicious website hosted in Russia using zeroday malware exploits.. But I'd never do that...!
  • Sounds like fun - that's not how you pissed them off in the first place is it?!?  ROFL

    If you fancy sharing the IPs via PM that would be great, cheers.
  • Nah, I haven't actually done that yet, but I might do if it continues :)
  • Really interesting Spunko. GBot was all over my sites when I redirected a finance one to another finance one - totally legit as the affiliate I was using went all pissy, so I've redirected the site to a larger finance site. 

  • Lots of cool stuff, thanks. 

    About "hit up some of the Russian BH forums. Those guys are 2-3 years ahead." part. I thought that was completely other way around...?
  • edited February 2015
    ^ It depends if Russian = SAPE to you. To me it did, until I took a deeper look. I remember what piqued my interest: a Russian person was ranking for 'online casino' in the UK at number 1 for weeks on end, and pretty much every other related KW. He must have made shed loads.

    Eventually they got noticed but it set me off into researching it over a few evenings last year and I found loads of new methods that I haven't seen many 'English' BHers use. You can see a lot of them ranking in gambling niche even now. Worth saying that a lot of it is illegal or at best immoral.
  • Great post. Any sites you can recommend?
  • Russian BH sites, that is...
  • edited February 2015
    Off the top of my head, / / / if you can get access. Lots of others are private so getting in is hard/impossible if not a fluent/native Russian.

    And the SAPE forum... The Google translations are shit but you soon learn what the word 'should be'.
  • edited February 2015
    Another small tip to update this, I will try to do 1 a day. I've noticed Google-owned addresses hitting my sites at several times but not carrying the googlebot useragent - and not being in Mountain View or Ireland. The IP addresses are all in the range 104.154.x.x

    If you look on the above link it says they are used by Google Cloud. I don't know what this is, but I suspect given the way this user/bot behaves it's checking or following redirects, as they always enter my sites through a 301 and never come back direct to the main site. Plus, they only ever visit previously slapped sites. I've never seen this IP range visit one of my unslapped properties, ever. So I redirect this range too.

    I don't know and it might be completly innocent like a favicon or screen grabbing bot - but I suspect it's more than that and err on the side of caution and block the range also. Call me paranoid but I supsect it's some sort of 301 tracker that hits up slapped sites to check for any new changes or new redirects. It's only been visiting my slapped sites for a few weeks. You'd think that Google would use the Googlebot useragent for this, so take with a pinch of salt, but I prefer to block it to be safe.
  • Just to update... 23rd of the month came round again and many of my sites were slapped. But not all of them this time - although they are all BH so it's a slow victory.

    So, next month around the 22nd I am going to de-list some of them from Google using 'remove from index' in GWT..  They should be completely gone by 23rd across all data centers. Does anyone know if I then re-submit my site to the index on 24th, will it regain its original ranks in a few days? Or is it the same as starting all over again?

  • Just my opinion but I think you need to stop using GWMT.

    However, I have been 'visited' by Googlebot way too many times in the last month I'm not sure what is coming....this is why I'm working at 9pm organising for the imminent future...
  • I've tried not using gwmt for sites before, still got slapped...
  • edited February 2015
    @JudderMan by the way, if they visit your site but don't kill it within a few days, you're probably going to be okay, in my experience. You may get a partial penalty, I've had a few of those in the early days from the Irish guys (how thick must they be?!). I block Ireland as a country just to be safe via firewall, maybe a bit OTT for most though.

    If you have Clicky, setup two alerts-  for Organization 'Google' *AND' Organization '' as they spoof the useragent sometimes. It's not a bot, it's a real person and Clicky hides the real Googlebot so it won't create false flags. (I don't have a clue how Clicky knows, I asked them, they wouldn't tell me!)

    To add: 3 of my sites that were hit yesterday just got visited in quick succession (homepage only) by a Googler in Mountain View. Again this points to an automated task, it's 24 hours to do the dot after they whacked the same sites yesterday. It's always good to keep your whacked sites up for a few days just to see how often they visit.
  • Hmm very interesting thanks. I have had one of my sites slapped recently, but not visited by GBot. I'm not surprised that it has really, it's my spamtastic site I've had for 4+ years....which has Adsense on it.....multiple times. I basically run it to piss them off and to see what I can get away with. It's been more than worth it money wise and for learning.

    New host, new theme, tweaked content, shuffle the pages, aged domain and I'll fire it up again ;)

    I don't use Clicky (or Analtyics just in case you think that), but am warming to Clicky after your reports on it so I'll give it a go. I like that they wouldn't tell you stuff, sounds like they take their shit seriously then :)

  • edited February 2015
    If the slapped site is targetting the UK or Europe, rather than the USA, it's likely their Irish team killed it. You could go through the Irish visits if you get any stats software installed, give or take a few hours before it was killed and see what you find. As I said above (unlike the USA webspam team) the Irish webspam team use a business ISP not their own one, so it's harder to spot. I'm on mobile now so can't check it.

    A good way to find out the Irish Googlers ISP information/IPs is to put in a call to their AdWords team (if you use it) on the main UK phone number, tell them your ads have stopped getting clickthroughs and they'll go on your site. Then just filter Irish visits in the past 10 mins.  This may worksfor AdSense as well if they offer phone support, I assume they are in the Dublin office, but never used AdSense so not sure. I'll do this tomorrow and report back if I remember.

    BTW I'd definitely recommend Clicky it's pretty amazing, their Knowledge Base example on setting up Organization Alerts uses 'Google' as the example, lol. I thought i was the only one using that trying to spy on them but i guess loads of other SEO people are.
  • Ha love it mate, that's class.

    The site in question is one of the few pointing at the US, gonna have a dig around now and see what happened as rankings just tanked yesterday. Some are still in there but like 90% of the 40-odd ranked keywords have gone. Not bothered though, like I said it's purely to annoy and learn (and make a bit of money at the same time).
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