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10 Websites That Tried to Fool Google (And Failed)



10 Websites That Tried to Fool Google (And Failed)

SEOs have been trying to outsmart Google for as long as it has existed. Sometimes, they win; other times, their attempts fail.

Here are 10 extraordinary examples of websites that failed to fool Google. 

Overview of Conch House, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
At its peak, on August 19, 2022, Ahrefs reported that Conch House received an estimated 6.7M organic traffic.

Key stats 

  • 2,794,551 keywords ranking, August 2022
  • 255,527 pages, August 2022
  • Estimated traffic: 3.6M, August 2022

Conch House is a review site that ranked for over 250,000 “best+[product]” keywords and acquired 14,000 number #1 rankings. 

This huge rise in organic traffic meant the website became notorious in certain SEO circles.

Value of pages, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We can see there is some serious money at play here, and this didn’t go unnoticed on SEO Twitter.

How did it fool Google?

It used an authoritative expired domain and created content targeting “best +[product]” keywords. 


It also used dynamically created pricing tables on its landing pages to encourage visitors to click through to Amazon and maximize its income. If a user bought a product, it would earn an affiliate commission.

Shockingly, for a few months, this setup was good enough to fool Google.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


There was speculation that the site used AI to create its content, but it might have been much simpler than that. 

It might have used concatenation to stitch sentences together and insert product titles to slightly differentiate each post.

Take a look at some of its posts:

Content built at scale, via CH blog

From the website, you can see several stock phrases it used to build content at scale quickly. 


  • Are you looking for the most reliable and efficient [product title]?”
  • If so, congratulations!”
  • What is the importance of [product title] to you?”
  • The service we provide will save you time from reading thousands of reviews.”

It also used dynamic pricing tables like the one below to supplement the content.

AAWP pricing table

If we jump into the code, we can see this is a popular table plugin called AAWP.

AAWP pricing table, via inspector

This plugin allowed the site owners to: 

  • Create best-selling product lists at scale for all of their posts dynamically.
  • Geo-target multiple locations.
  • Get automatic updates of product information via Amazon’s Product Advertising API. 


I mentioned earlier that this site used an expired domain—let’s look at it.

Let’s go to the Top pages report in Site Explorer:

View on, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
  • Click on the downward facing caret ▼ next to the homepage URL 
  • Click View on

We can see the site’s history:

Wayback internet archive, via Wayback Machine

Surprisingly, the domain has a continuous history back to 1996, one of the things the new owners might have been interested in. With history also came links and a degree of trust from Google.

Conch House Marina Resort 1996, via Wayback Machine
How the website appeared in 1996. 


Having a continuous history this far back in the Wayback Machine is not that common. Most domain names and websites have changed digital hands many times. (1996 was two years before Google was released—making this website older than Google.)

How did it fail?

The site got serious traction for about three months. But then the traffic suddenly plummeted, and the domain was auctioned off.

The site has had three significant dips in organic traffic in its lifespan:

In a further twist, Glen Gabe, who was following the site, tweeted that he believed it was not impacted by the HCU.

What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

In terms of organic traffic, it’s much lower than it was previously, with no hope of returning to those previous levels. 

However, you could argue that the site owners successfully exploited a gap in Google’s algorithm at the right time to make money. If that was their only objective, then they achieved it.

Overview of Find This Best, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
On August 27, 2022, Ahrefs reported that Find This Best received an estimated 1,951,727 organic traffic at its peak.

Key stats

  • 2,794,551 keywords ranking, August 2022
  • 255,527 pages, August 2022
  • Estimated organic traffic: 3.6M, August 2022

Just going by its homepage, this is a website that, in all honesty, doesn’t look that bad. 

Find This Best homepage

But this website may remind you not to judge a book by its cover.

How did it fool Google?

This site scraped content word for word from Amazon product listings and targeted “best +[product]” queries. It also likely used some dodgy-looking high Domain Rating (DR) links to try and fool Google. 

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


When it came to great content, this site didn’t disappoint. Somehow, Google didn’t seem to pick up on this site, but it didn’t go unnoticed by SEOs on Twitter.


Let’s look at the site.

Looking at one of the highest traffic pages from the Top pages report in August, we see the formatting of the page looks like an Amazon product page.

FTB product page
High-traffic product page on the site.

Let’s see how it compares.

If we copy and paste part of the product description into Google, it immediately brings up the equivalent Amazon product page for the same product in the search results. 

Amazon product page
Equivalent Amazon product page.

If I paste the content from the Amazon product listing and the equivalent from this website into Diffchecker, we can see that the two files are identical.

Comparing the text, via Diffchecker

Using Ahrefs, we can get an idea of how many of these types of pages exist. 

Let’s go into Site Explorer’s Top pages report and add a URL filter containing “best-” to filter for any “best-” keywords. 

Ahrefs' Top pages report

We can see that this site was targeting ~77,809 “best” keywords at its peak.

If we add a “Position” filter to filter out only the number #1 ranking positions, we can see that this site had ~4,583 number #1 ranking pages at its peak.

This is what it looks like in Ahrefs’ Top pages report.

Top pages report filtered by position and URL, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Using this level of low-quality scraped content, it was able to reach huge levels of traffic, even in 2022—albeit briefly.


Let’s plug this site into the Wayback Machine to see its history.

FTB history, via Wayback Machine

As it’s a relatively new domain from 2020, we can probably assume to get these traffic levels, it’ll need some high DR links. 

We can look at the domains by going to the Referring domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. We can see that this site has some dubious-looking high DR URLs pointing to it. 

Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Here’s an example of an unconventional-looking DR 81 site.

DR 81 website

We can see the link if we open the inspector and search for the domain name. 

DR 81 website with inspector

How did it fail?

The site had two sharp drops—one in mid-June and the other steeper one in September. 

The organic traffic drop rebounds slightly in early 2023, potentially suggesting that this is not a manual penalty. 

FTB's Performance chart, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

It’s impossible to confirm what exactly happened here. But based on the timing of the second drop, we can speculate that this site was hit at least by the HCU. 

What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

For the most part, yes. But judging by the most recent organic traffic graph, the site appears to be trying to resuscitate itself.

Overview of For Noob, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
At its peak, on March 15, 2022, Ahrefs reported that For Noob received an estimated 1,706,557 organic traffic.

Key stats 

  • 604,926 keywords, March 2022 
  • 82,611 pages, March 2022
  • Total traffic: 1.3M, March 2022

This next site is a basic-looking blog loaded with lots of display ads.

Can you spot the content?

For Noob homepage

The site had quite a good run compared to other sites mentioned here but experienced a slow death for almost a year.

How did it fool Google?

One of the problems this site may have had (apart from its low-quality content) is the sharp increase in unnatural-looking links.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


The website describes itself as: “The place to answer many questions in life, study, and work.” If we head to the About page, we don’t get much more information—just four lines of content surrounded by ads. 

Not a good start.

For Noob's About page

The content appears to be a mix of People Also Ask (PAA) spam, forum comments, lists, and reviews. Most pages are no longer live. But if we look at the Wayback Machine, we can see how it used to look.

For Noob pages, via Wayback Machine

If we look at one of the articles, we see it isn’t helpful or high-quality content.

For Noob low-quality content, via Wayback Machine

This content could have been scraped from a forum or somewhere like Quora.

And here’s another example:

For Noob low-quality content, via Wayback Machine

These examples indicate that the content standard, on the whole, is very low.


Looking at the Referring Domains report, we can see some potentially dubious-looking links. 

For Noob's Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

The same DR 81 site we saw linking to our second site also links to this website.

DR 81 site, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

At least two other sites in this list also seem suspicious. We will come back to these later.

How did it fail?

If we go back to Overview 2.0 and switch to the “Referring domains” graph, we can see a significant increase in referring domains in December. This looks suspicious to me.

Referring domains and organic traffic graph, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

The huge spike is probably a red flag for Google’s algorithm.

As soon as the sharp increase in the graph starts to fall, we see a much more dramatic plunge in organic traffic. 

Performance report organic traffic drop, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

These updates appear to have killed the site completely, and now the organic traffic is flat-lining.

Did it really fail to fool Google?

Yes. Undoubtedly.

Bike Hike overview, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
At its peak, on May 1, 2022, Ahrefs reported that Bike Hike received an estimated 1.3M organic traffic.

Key stats 

  • 4,047,559 keywords, April 2022 
  • 523,455 pages, April 2022 
  • Total traffic: 1.3M, April 2022

When you come across a website called Bike Hike, you’ll probably assume that it has something to do with bikes, cycling, or even hiking. 

However, in this case—you’d be mistaken. 

At its organic traffic peak, this site’s top keyword was “slurp fish.” Make of that what you will.

And here’s a Twitter reaction to the site:

Tweet on website

How did it fool Google?

This site used an expired domain and created People Also Ask (PAA) spam content. It also 301 redirected several expired domains with high DR to its domain. 

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


Let’s start by going to the Organic keywords report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and see what terms this site was ranking for at its peak.

Organic keywords report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Looking at the URL column, we can see that this is probably a People Also Ask (PAA) spam site—as all ranking keywords appear to target these low Keyword Difficulty (KD) and unrelated PAA questions. 

Let’s go further and filter the domains to include only those in position #1.

Organic keywords report filtered for domains in position #1, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We can see that many PAA-style keywords held the top spot in Google in April 2022, near this site’s peak. 

It’s safe to say that none of these landing pages are on a consistent topic. And it seems they were designed to exploit Google’s algorithm.

Looking at one of the pages, we can see that the content is never longer than four lines and is followed by a heading.

Potential no context scraped content

Once we put a few lines of this content into Google search, we can see this content is likely scraped from multiple websites.

Scraped content check, via

Looking through some of the other top-performing pages, we can also find they follow the same content format. I believe this site scraped PAA questions and answers from multiple websites for content and turned them into articles.


When it comes to links, one of the tactics used was to 301 redirect expired domains with (DR 93) links to its website. 


We can see this in Ahrefs using the Backlinks report and adding a “Referring page domain” filter:

High DR BBC domains redirected to Bike Hike, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Looking at the Anchor and target URL column, we can see that the ultimate destination for all these links is Bike Hike. This looks like an unnatural and unlikely pattern. 

Adding to this, the site was built on an expired domain. We can see this using the Wayback Machine.

Bike Hike history, via Wayback Machine

The site doesn’t have a continuous history, and the most recent owners likely bought the site in 2021.

Let’s go back in time and see what it used to look like.

Bike Hike homepage, via Wayback Machine

Bike Hike 2018 looks like it had something to do with cycling. From what I can see, it used to be a legitimate site. So it seems that the recent owners of the domain revived it to exploit this site’s past authority and links.

How did it fail?

The sharp fall of this site’s organic traffic graph looks like a site hit with a manual action


The only way to confirm if there is a manual action is to check the site’s Google Search Console. As we don’t have access to this, we can only speculate that this happened based on the sharp drop in the organic traffic graph.


What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

Yes. (Once a site receives a manual action, it’s usually game over.)

Overview of Asia Work, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
At its peak, on March 29, 2022, Ahrefs reported that Asia Work received an estimated 720K organic traffic.

Key stats 

  • 1,397 keywords, March 2022
  • 957 pages, March 2022
  • Total traffic: 664.6K, March 2022

From the domain name alone, it feels like this site could be a legitimate business. But as you’ll see, when we look at the content and the links on the site, it becomes clear that this website has changed from its original intended purpose. 

How did it fool Google?

There are examples of paid link placements on the blog, and it looks like the site is trying to rank for betting login pages. 

When it comes to links, there are also a few suspicious ones there. When it comes to content, it appears to not be the best either.

So what happened?


Let’s start by looking at the history of this domain through the Wayback Machine.

Asia Work history, via Wayback Machine

The history of this website looks continuous back to 2008–2009, but the domain expired around August 17, 2019.

Domain expiration, via Wayback Machine

This is how the site used to look in 2009. Even though the design is old-fashioned, it still looks much more legitimate than the present site.

Asia Work homepage 2009, via Wayback Machine

We can see the difference if we compare that with the current site version.

Asia Work homepage 2022, via Wayback Machine

Even though the images aren’t rendered properly, we can see how the text content has changed for the worse. 

With the focus of the content changing to topics like “casino,” “gambling,” and “loans,” this immediately looks like a red flag. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the articles on the site to see what we can find.

Potential paid link example

Selling links is against Google’s terms of service. But the above is an example of a link that was probably paid for, with no attempt to hide it.

Here’s another example—this time for a different type of service.

Potential paid link example

You can see the pattern that is emerging. 

It turns out that almost every article in the blog has a single exact-match keyword anchor text link within a body of text, which leads me to believe that links were likely being sold here.

The final nail in the coffin is the website categories—when you see dating, loan, and casino in the same category as SEO, you know that it’s likely links were sold here.

List of categories

If we turn our attention to the Top pages report in Site Explorer, we can see that one of the primary purposes of the site was to rank for login pages of betting and cockfighting sites.

Asia Work's Top pages report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This shows the website’s intent and doesn’t look like a typical website’s top pages.


As we have seen above, the site is an expired domain that has been revived, so it has gained a decent amount of links and authority in that period.


If we look at the Referring domains report, we can see the type of high DR links that this site once had.

Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Here’s an example of a directory link (DR 72) from a website called the Link Centre. 

Example of a DR 72 directory link

Here’s another example of a DR 72 website with a non-related link to our website on the profile page.

DR 72 link with non-related link

With two university links in the top Referring domains report, you wonder whether these were compromised sites as well.

How did it fail?

Taking a look at Overview 2.0, we can see that there were two critical Google updates in this period. 

Close-up of Performance graph, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
  • The first is the Product Reviews Update, which occurred on March 23, 2022. The second is the May 2022 Core Update. Although there isn’t an exact correlation here, these updates could have impacted the site.
  • As I suspect they were selling paid links, this could have been another factor. But the gradual fall of the organic traffic chart doesn’t align with the typical look of a manual penalty.

What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

The website didn’t reach the heights of some of our other sites mentioned here, but it did manage to fool Google for around a month. 

The site hasn’t been resurrected since, so it’s fair to say that it didn’t fool Google.

Fmsppl overview, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
At its peak, on August 22, 2022, Ahrefs reported that Fmsppl received an estimated 63,880 organic traffic.

Key stats 

  • 33,679 keywords, August 2022
  • 26,844 pages, August 2022 
  • Total traffic: 59.1K, August 2022

This next website was created by someone who hated vowels in their domain names. 

The main idea behind the site seems to have been to create a database-driven site targeting “people named [insert name]” searches.

If we add an “Include” filter into Keywords Explorer, we can see a lot of low-competition searches for this type of query, almost 22,000. This is probably why they decided to create a site around this particular topic.

Include filter for "people named," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

How did it fool Google?

One of the problems with this site is that most of the content was scraped, and it had several dodgy high DR links pointing to it that didn’t look natural.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


If we go to the Top pages report on August 19, we can see that the top page is “People named Dick.”

Top pages report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Let’s look at what this page looks like on the site.

Famous people named Dick

You can see there isn’t that much information here, and most of the content is ads.

Even when we scroll down the page, we can see that it’s a list of people with some key facts about them and nothing more.

Dick Cheney profile

I’ve decided to click on the profile of the number #1 Dick—Dick Cheney.

Pasting the text of his detailed profile in Google brings up a match for Wikipedia.

Quick copy check in Google search, via

Checking a few other profiles on the site using this method also brings up Wikipedia, so it seems reasonable to conclude that this site was scraping at least some of its content directly from Wikipedia.

Returning to the homepage, you can see the general strategy of the site is quite basic. This is what the site owners did for country selectors:

Country selectors homepage

And when it came to birth years, they did something similar.

Famous people by birth years

Overall, the content standard is low, and we see a lot of scraped content on this site.


Looking at the Wayback Machine, we can see this is a relatively new site that was started around 2021.

Fmsppl history, via Wayback Machine

We can assume that it needs some powerful links to get this site off the ground. 

There are several suspicious high DR links linking to this site. 

To look at them, we can jump into the Referring domains report. I’ve chosen to take a quick look at the DR 82 link, but there are many examples of high DR links with spammy content here.

DR 82 link in Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Here’s an example of a DR 82 website linking to this website, and this is what one of the links looks like.

DR 82 link
“OK, Google, is this great content?”

We have just scratched the surface here, but it’s likely that this is not an isolated case. It’s probably fair to say that this looks like a website designed to exploit search engines rather than inform people.

How did it fail?

The website appears to have been hit by two Google updates. With neither the content nor the links being that great, I can’t say I am surprised. 

I believe that this site was hit by the following:


Even after the October Spam Update appears to have crushed the site, it seems there was an attempt to build more links to the site.

Fmsppl organic traffic and referring domains details, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

Yes. I imagine this site’s traffic will be flat-lining shortly.

YT5S overview, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
On October 21, 2021, Ahrefs reported that YT5S received an estimated 20,018,059 organic traffic at its peak.

Key stats 

  • 22,852 keywords, October 2021
  • 195 pages, October 2021
  • Total traffic: 8.3M, October 2021

This website allows users to download YouTube videos by simply entering a URL and then hitting the download button—you can see why this type of website would be popular.

How did it fool Google?

The website used an interesting tactic to stay at the top of the search results and try to fool Google repeatedly. 

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


The murky world of YouTube download sites is often filled with ads, surveys, and random floating buttons. 

YT5S is, by contrast, a fairly minimal site, which may be how it became popular early on.

YT5S homepage

When it comes to content for a YouTube download site, there usually isn’t much on the page—this site doesn’t have a blog, for example. 

So its main focus is on content to assist people in downloading YouTube videos. Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar shows us it has just 818 words on the page. Not a lot. 

YT5S content, via Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

If we look at its Site structure report, we can see that there are many subfolders with numbers at the end. 

Site structure; subfolders list, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Clicking on the en variations often results in pages that are 301 redirected to the latest version. 

As this is such a competitive industry, certain subdomains will get penalized for various reasons. When a subdomain loses traffic, it will be redirected to a new number subfolder. 


We see a pattern emerging if we overlap the organic traffic charts for each subfolder.

Average organic traffic of YT5S subdomains
The above shows the diminishing success rate of redirects to different subfolders over time.

The site’s owners appear to be 301 redirecting the entire website to a new subfolder once the old subfolder has lost traffic.

This site is not alone in this tactic. Looking at the Position history in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, we can see that some of the other websites in this category have cottoned on to this strategy and are doing a similar thing, judging by some of the names of the subfolders.

Position history, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer


With a site on this topic, it will be shared widely and linked to naturally. Most of the links appear to be relatively natural.

How did it fail?

The cut-throat nature of this SERP means that it’s highly competitive. The site owners thought they had found a way to get around the loss in traffic by redirecting the website into a new subfolder. It worked for a while. But over time, the impact diminished.

Did it really fail to fool Google?

Yes, for now. But this method will continue being used to try and fool Google in the short term.

Board Games Tips overview, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
At its peak, on January 16, 2022, Ahrefs reported that Board Game Tips received an estimated 3,934,996 organic traffic.

Key stats

  • 6,347,025 keywords
  • 698,643 pages 
  • Total traffic: 3.8M 

In case you were wondering, this site didn’t have much to do with board game tips. 

Despite this, it reached 3.9 million organic traffic during its peak through low-quality content and some dubious-looking high DR links.

How did it fool Google?

It seems to have taken PAA scraping to the extreme, sometimes veering way off topic in the process on some of the posts. 


From my research, it also had some suspicious-looking links from some unlikely sources.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


Using the Top pages report, we can look at some of the articles.

Let’s highlight a section of the “Organic traffic” graph to select the top pages between two dates.

Board Game Tips's Top pages report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Let’s click through to the Wayback Machine again and take a look at one of the URLs. (I’ve picked a random URL with Wayback history.)

Board Game Tips's table of contents, via Wayback Machine

Even from the table of contents, we can see that this is PAA spam. The subheadings wildly switch from deploying parachutes to shotguns, tasers, and guns.

Scrolling down the page further, we get the familiar three or four lines of text followed by a heading.

PAA-style content, via Wayback Machine

If we paste the content into Google, we can understand whether it’s scraped.

Pasting the content into Google to see if it is copied, via

It looks to me like this answer came from this site.

Turning to Twitter, we can see that we are not the only people to have discovered this.


We can conclude then that the content standard for this site is again incredibly low. But it was enough to fool Google at one point.


There is a horror show of links from this site.

Our old friend, Grid Server (DR 82), is linking to the site again.

DR 82 link in Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Here’s another reference to a broken link to this DR 81 domain, which you may remember from earlier on.

Board Games Tips's Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Finally, here’s a dubious-looking link from an unlikely source—Swansea University (UK) (DR74). It’s one of the domains we saw also linking to our third website.

DR 74 link, via Swansea University

Should these other academic sites be concerned?

.ac. domains filtered, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Referring domains filtered for domain name containing “.ac.”

How did it fail?

This site has it all—bad links and scraped content. As the organic traffic drop doesn’t tie in with any specific Google algorithm updates, the website may have received a manual penalty.

What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

Yes. The site owners tried to 301 redirect their old domain to a new domain. Looking at the new domain in Overview 2.0, we see that the new website worked for a while and likely got hit again by a few other updates.

Your Games Tips overview, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Answer To All overview, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
At its peak, on March 13, 2022, Ahrefs reported that Answers To All received an estimated 2,214,447 organic traffic.

Key stats 

  • 4,046,226 keywords, April 2022
  • 911,725 pages, April 2022
  • Total traffic: 1.9M, April 2022

This next website only lasted for a few months, but it did fairly well considering the standard of content and the type of links it had. 

How did it fool Google?

As the name suggests, this was a low-quality PAA spam site. It also had some dubious links pointing to it. When the site tanked, the site owners tried to 301 redirect it to a new name, but that site also had issues.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


You can probably guess what type of content this will be with a name like this. Let’s look at one of the pages to see how bad it is.

Answers To All content, via Wayback Machine

We’ve seen quite a few of these examples. But if I paste the first two lines of content into Google, we can see that this is likely scraped from Quora. 

Scraped content check, via

The flow of the content on the page follows the familiar pattern of two or three lines of text followed by a subheading. Scrolling down the page, we see the topics become less related.

PAA spam content example, via Wayback Machine

Checking a few other pages, I see the content has also been lifted from other sites. It’s relatively safe to assume that this is another PAA spam site.


When we look at links, we see a few of the same culprits again. 

Swansea University’s website is back, along with 38 other academic domains. 

Suspect link, via Swansea University

I didn’t check them all, but they could likely be spam. Some more familiar faces in the links department include our favorite DR 81 website.

Potential spam link

As well as Grid Server’s DR 82 links.

Potential spam link

It seems reasonably clear that this activity is not normal and may be designed to manipulate rankings.

How did it fail?

Looking at the Overview 2.0’s “Performance” graph, we see that the drop in organic traffic occurred before the May 2022 Core Update

Performance overview zoomed in, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This update may have contributed to the drop, but it doesn’t appear as though it is the main reason. 

It’s clear from this quick analysis that bad links and poor content are present. It may be likely that this site received a manual action for its links, although it’s impossible to confirm this.

What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

Yes. I can’t see any way back for this site.

MCE Zone overview, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
On April 25, 2022, Ahrefs reported that MCE Zone received an estimated 10,838,951 organic traffic at its peak.

Key stats 

  • 79,543 keywords, April 2022
  • 1,204 pages, April 2022 
  • Total traffic: 5.2M, April 2022

This website describes itself as the “world’s best news site”—a bold claim. 

Sadly though, it doesn’t appear to have the content or the links to back up this claim.

How did it fool Google?

It mainly focused on providing information to the Indian market about popular movie torrent sites. 

When it came to fooling Google, it used suspicious-looking links combined with fairly low-quality content that was just about good enough to fool Google for a short period.


Let’s take a closer look at what happened.


Going to the Top pages report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, we can see everything’s not right here. 

Rather than providing news content, this site seems to contain content about movie torrent sites for the Indian market.

Let’s look at the top-performing landing page that got an estimated 4,276,681 organic traffic on April 25.

Mce Zone homepage

The top-performing page appears to be an instruction manual for downloading movies from this site.

Running the text through an AI detection tool—GLTR—it seems from my tests that this content may be partially AI content or just badly translated.

AI content test, via GLTR

Either way, you’ll probably agree it’s not the type of content you would expect from the “world’s best news site.” 

This is low-quality content by most people’s definition.



When it comes to links, I noticed the website has many Blogspot links. 

If we go to the Anchors report and add the following settings, we can filter the Blogspot domain anchors. As they are all very specific, it seems likely that this was part of a low-quality link building campaign.

Blogspot domain in Anchors report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

If we click on the links to target for the second row and filter by Dofollow, we can see around 50 links with exactly the same, tediously long anchor text.

Exact match anchor text across many domains, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Again, this type of link building doesn’t look great.

If we head back to the Referring domains report, we can see Grid Server is mentioned again.

Grid Server mentioned in Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Finally, to top it off, it has a DR 67 link that redirected a domain into its domain from this site below.

DR 67 website, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

And here’s what this site looks like.

DR 67 spam site

How did it fail?

Looking at Overview 2.0, this site was probably hit by the May 2022 Core Update

Performance report zoomed in, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What do you think happened?

Did it really fail to fool Google?

Yes. Looking at the organic traffic, it’s nowhere near the levels it used to be. The site isn’t completely dead, but it’s fair to say that it won’t fool anyone in the future that it’s the “world’s best news site.” 

How did you find these sites?

Here’s how we did it: Internally, we call this the “Content Explorer Hack.”

Content Explorer hack, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer and start an empty search
  2. Go to the Websites tab
  3. Filter for high traffic and low DR

And that’s it!

Final thoughts

As we have seen, what Google can giveth, it can also taketh away. 


The methods used by these sites to rank in Google are obviously not replicable for businesses, and I don’t suggest you try any of the methods above.

Many SEOs like to think that the days of paid links, trashy content, and shortcuts to ranking are long gone. But clearly, from these examples, it’s still possible to get significant organic traffic by breaking the rules—but only if you are willing to risk everything.

Got more questions? Ping me on Twitter. 🙂

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Reddit Post Ranks On Google In 5 Minutes




Google apparently ranks Reddit posts within minutes

Google’s Danny Sullivan disputed the assertions made in a Reddit discussion that Google is showing a preference for Reddit in the search results. But a Redditor’s example proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten of the search results within minutes and to actually improve rankings to position #2 a week later.

Discussion About Google Showing Preference To Reddit

A Redditor (gronetwork) complained that Google is sending so many visitors to Reddit that the server is struggling with the load and shared an example that proved that it can only take minutes for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten.

That post was part of a 79 post Reddit thread where many in the r/SEO subreddit were complaining about Google allegedly giving too much preference to Reddit over legit sites.

The person who did the test (gronetwork) wrote:

“…The website is already cracking (server down, double posts, comments not showing) because there are too many visitors.

…It only takes few minutes (you can test it) for a post on Reddit to appear in the top ten results of Google with keywords related to the post’s title… (while I have to wait months for an article on my site to be referenced). Do the math, the whole world is going to spam here. The loop is completed.”


Reddit Post Ranked Within Minutes

Another Redditor asked if they had tested if it takes “a few minutes” to rank in the top ten and gronetwork answered that they had tested it with a post titled, Google SGE Review.

gronetwork posted:

“Yes, I have created for example a post named “Google SGE Review” previously. After less than 5 minutes it was ranked 8th for Google SGE Review (no quotes). Just after, 6 authoritative SEO websites and’s overview page for SGE (Search Generative Experience). It is ranked third for SGE Review.”

It’s true, not only does that specific post (Google SGE Review) rank in the top 10, the post started out in position 8 and it actually improved ranking, currently listed beneath the number one result for the search query “SGE Review”.

Screenshot Of Reddit Post That Ranked Within Minutes

Anecdotes Versus Anecdotes

Okay, the above is just one anecdote. But it’s a heck of an anecdote because it proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank within minutes and get stuck in the top of the search results over other possibly more authoritative websites.

hankschrader79 shared that Reddit posts outrank Toyota Tacoma forums for a phrase related to mods for that truck.


Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to that post and the entire discussion to dispute that Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums.

Danny wrote:

“Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums. [super vhs to mac adapter] I did this week, it goes Apple Support Community, MacRumors Forum and further down, there’s Reddit. I also did [kumo cloud not working setup 5ghz] recently (it’s a nightmare) and it was the Netgear community, the SmartThings Community, GreenBuildingAdvisor before Reddit. Related to that was [disable 5g airport] which has Apple Support Community above Reddit. [how to open an 8 track tape] — really, it was the YouTube videos that helped me most, but it’s the Tapeheads community that comes before Reddit.

In your example for [toyota tacoma], I don’t even get Reddit in the top results. I get Toyota, Car & Driver, Wikipedia, Toyota again, three YouTube videos from different creators (not Toyota), Edmunds, a Top Stories unit. No Reddit, which doesn’t really support the notion of always wanting to drive traffic just to Reddit.

If I guess at the more specific query you might have done, maybe [overland mods for toyota tacoma], I get a YouTube video first, then Reddit, then Tacoma World at third — not near the bottom. So yes, Reddit is higher for that query — but it’s not first. It’s also not always first. And sometimes, it’s not even showing at all.”

hankschrader79 conceded that they were generalizing when they wrote that Google always prioritized Reddit. But they also insisted that that didn’t diminish what they said is a fact that Google’s “prioritization” forum content has benefitted Reddit more than actual forums.

Why Is The Reddit Post Ranked So High?

It’s possible that Google “tested” that Reddit post in position 8 within minutes and that user interaction signals indicated to Google’s algorithms that users prefer to see that Reddit post. If that’s the case then it’s not a matter of Google showing preference to Reddit post but rather it’s users that are showing the preference and the algorithm is responding to those preferences.


Nevertheless, an argument can be made that user preferences for Reddit can be a manifestation of Familiarity Bias. Familiarity Bias is when people show a preference for things that are familiar to them. If a person is familiar with a brand because of all the advertising they were exposed to then they may show a bias for the brand products over unfamiliar brands.

Users who are familiar with Reddit may choose Reddit because they don’t know the other sites in the search results or because they have a bias that Google ranks spammy and optimized websites and feel safer reading Reddit.

Google may be picking up on those user interaction signals that indicate a preference and satisfaction with the Reddit results but those results may simply be biases and not an indication that Reddit is trustworthy and authoritative.

Is Reddit Benefiting From A Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop?

It may very well be that Google’s decision to prioritize user generated content may have started a self-reinforcing pattern that draws users in to Reddit through the search results and because the answers seem plausible those users start to prefer Reddit results. When they’re exposed to more Reddit posts their familiarity bias kicks in and they start to show a preference for Reddit. So what could be happening is that the users and Google’s algorithm are creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Is it possible that Google’s decision to show more user generated content has kicked off a cycle where more users are exposed to Reddit which then feeds back into Google’s algorithm which in turn increases Reddit visibility, regardless of lack of expertise and authoritativeness?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Kues


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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”




WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).


The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”


See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.


How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress


See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices




10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.


1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.


Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.


Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:


Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.


Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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