UTube, Google Killed YouTube Download Software in SERP’s

Try searching for UTube ripper! Google buried UTube, the video downloader deep it almost is like Google doesn't want me to find YouTube video download software program. RIP UTube.

With more than 9 years of e-commerce SEO behind my belt, I tend to think I have some experience in optimizing large e-commerce websites for search engine rankings. In the years at eBay I was busy counting the billions of visits, rather than millions. Mainly due to the size of the website, and maybe a little because of my influence on how the product was getting built.

Now, working for Geeknet, I’m learning new verticals and how to optimize SEO for sites that I’m responsible for. For SourceForge especially there is a lot of opportunity to gain more free traffic through SEO. But stay tuned around that in the coming weeks/months, we have a lot of plans in the hopper.

Although the raw material at SourceForge I get to work with is of high quality, there are other factors influencing my ability to be successful getting more traffic through SEO. In the case UTube outlined below it’s a huge factor: Google Search Suggest.

Google Search Suggest Getting in the Way

While doing traffic analysis for a project on SourceForge, I identified the root cause of traffic fluctuations on the exact match keyword traffic for this project was Google Search Suggest. I'm not the only one who is seeing a decline in traffic due to the Search Interception of misspellings. The Google Support Forums is full of website owners who have seen their traffic decline after the most common misspelling traffic was rerouted to Google suggested search results in "the right spelling". Let me explain the story that I found...

When searching for UTube, Google automatically suggest the search results for a different query: YouTube. And with Google Instant Search, the results are already displayed on the page, which show YouTube as the dominant website in the top websites ranking. Now I understand the confusion in the Google Suggest algorithm, as YouTube and UTube are such similar queries, and the majority of the users actually misspelled their search for YouTube. (Google even has been sued for driving up the bandwidth cost for the exact match domain UTube.com back in 2006 according to this article on Techipedia).

As you can see, the two links at the top of the results should explain what search results you actually are looking at, and how you can navigate to your original query. 

Google Search for UTube gives you YouTube

You could argue that the search suggest for UTube is aimed to prevent people in search for online video’s to accidentally take down the server again for UTube.com. However, you don’t have to be afraid anymore the Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corporation is going bankrupt on high bandwidth costs. Their original domain is now full with advertising, while the company moved their official website to a new domain: utubeonline.com

Search Instead for...UTube

But what if I did want to search for UTube and I do want to see those results for that UTube query, you would think I just would need to click on that link which says: Search Instead for utube. Wrong...! I tried to navigate through that top link to the right search results for my keyword, but even when the keyword was displayed correct in the link, it failed to serve me the right result set. Multiple times I got different results which did not include the right websites to satisfy my search. The dominant results I got were for the keyword utu with this URL:


Why do I get results for UTU when I search for UTUBENormally, you could claim the changes Google is making here are aimed at providing a better user experience, at least, this is the normal PR talk Google puts forward. This way, people who are searching for online video's are not ending up on a website of a totally unrelated company because they didn't know the exact name for The YouTube! This case, the story might have some more to it! And as I'm an SEO, I might be conspiracy theorist:

Thin Foil Hats SEO

Thin Foil Hat SEO's

From the page on SourceForge you cannot really learn a lot about UTube. The project description is very limited, which is one of my tasks to start enhancing in the coming weeks.

About UTube: Utube Ripper is an application written in Gambas that works exclusively on Linux. It's useful to download and convert Youtube videos in a simple and efficient way.

In other words UTube ripper, the open source software project, makes it really easy for any consumer to download video's from YouTube. Have you ever wanted to download video from YouTube but don't know how to? Where would you go to find information on how to rip a movie from YouTube? Right, most people would type in the question into...Google. And who owns YouTube.... Right...Google!!!

There are plenty of people searching for solutions to download a video from YouTube, as Google Suggest is showing it must be a popular query:

Download YouTube video in Google Search Suggest

For every search I did with UTube in the query, this keyword was replaced for YouTube. Was Google doing this to hide the UTube ripper, so less people would be able to download video's from YouTube? I doubt it, I rather think that the replacement of UTube for YouTube is a hardcoded query based on the earlier mentioned lawsuit in 2006. The fact that I get search results for a different query when I click on the search instead for... link might be a bug in the system, who knows..?!?

I'm still stuck with a page for which it's super hard to grow the traffic, as the search traffic, even for branded queries, is intercepted and rerouted somewhere else. Even if I do manage to get the SourceForge page higher up in the rankings, how will I ever be able to stimulate people to search for UTube Ripper, the Open Source Software project which allows you to download video's on YouTube?

Google killed UTube ability to grow search traffic. R.I.P. UTube, Coldblooded Google Killed YouTube Ripper. R.I.P.

Hidden Internal Link for BlackHole SEO

New York Times company aggregator pages indexed by GoogleBlack Hole SEO, large popular websites are all jumping on the Internal Linking optimization strategy using aggregator pages for all stories on the topic, usually companies. This is either done in plain site, or through a bunch of Hidden Internal links within the content, using CSS to make these links appear as normal text. Only a mouse over will trigger an affect that shows the word is actually a link.

For one of the worse offenders in Black Hole SEO, just check any story by the New York Times on a large tech company, they don't link to the website of Apple, eBay or Google, but rather link to the page which aggregates all the NYTimes stories on those companies. This way, The New York Times has added more than 3,000 pages into Google which do not add a lot of value other than the information which is probably available on the corporate websites of these companies already. As was mentioned by SEObook here: "The New York Times, seems reluctant to link to anyone but themselves. This is especially annoying when they write about websites. "

Screenshot on the right: New York Times company aggregator pages indexed by Google, currently more than 3,000 pages indexed.

Although I would rather see The New York Times link out to the companies they are writing about, I can see the need for the Newspaper to drive more pageviews for its survival. At least The NYTimes is using visible links where everybody can see their Black Hole SEO strategy.

Hidden Internal Links for the WIN; Ultimate Black Hole SEO

When reading Techmeme, I came across a story on a popular tech & business media site, which is using the Black Hole SEO strategy, but hides their internal links from the public. While these links do not fall under the definition of hidden links in the Webmaster Guidelines from Google, I wonder why the internal links to the aggregator pages are hidden with css, instead of just being in plain sight for any of the users. The Google webmaster guidelines say this about hidden links (emphasis is mine):

Hidden links are links that are intended to be crawled by Googlebot, but are unreadable to humans because:

  • The link consists of hidden text (for example, the text color and background color are identical).
  • CSS has been used to make tiny hyperlinks, as little as one pixel high.
  • The link is hidden in a small character - for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph.

If your site is perceived to contain hidden text and links that are deceptive in intent, your site may be removed from the Google index, and will not appear in search results pages. When evaluating your site to see if it includes hidden text or links, look for anything that's not easily viewable by visitors of your site. Are any text or links there solely for search engines rather than visitors?

Here is a screenshot of the source code of the site (I removed the actual domain name of the website):

Hidden links in Content for Internal Black Hole SEO Link Juice

 In total 9 different hidden links to internal aggregation pages about companies or technology platforms or products. These include (in order of appearance):

  • Android
  • iPhone
  • iOS
  • Samsung
  • iPhone 5
  • Motorola
  • Google
All other links, which are visible for the users by the underlined blue text, are also going to internal pages, articles written in the past. Why are so many websites afraid of linking out? Afraid of giving competitors more SEO juice? I believe linking out to other websites is a key feature of how the web works. I'm happy if I can link websites I like, where I found interesting information or companies from which I enjoy their products. And although me or my website do not make such a big difference, then more authoritative websites like the ones mentioned above here, I'm happy to help build the Internet.
Be part of the Internet, or I will start ignoring you! Linking out to original sources, company homepages and product pages is, IMHO, part of your journalistic duty!
Suggested readings:

Thanks Hackers for the extra Traffic

Back at the end of August, Linux.com got hacked, Kernel.org got hacked. The sites were compromised and the Linux foundation took the whole linux.com site down to make sure no visitors were getting infected. Kernel.org was also taken down where the site showed a note with the following text:

'Earlier this month, a number of servers in the kernel.org infrastructure were compromised. We discovered this August 28th. While we currently believe that the source code repositories were unaffected, we are in the process of verifying this and taking steps to enhance security across the kernel.org infrastructure.'

It was silent for more than a month, until finally on October 5th it was reported that Kernel.org was back up. During that month of the site being down, Google actually took the site out of the index. The right thing to do, as there was nothing on the domain. A search for the exact domain did not return the homepage of the site? Or should have been there a link at the top of the SERP for the Kernel.org website, where a note was displayed discussing the situation.

Google SERP, Kernel.org removed

The two top stories showing up in the SERP because Google removed the Kernel.org domain were from Slashdot, where a lively discussion about the situation was being held. I was just focussed on the extra traffic on the Kernel.org keyword we were getting, which is clearly displayed in the traffic graph below here. You can see when Google took out the domain Kernel.org, and when the site got fixed.

Slashdot traffic on Keyword Kernel.org

So many times I've been happy I had taken the effort to make a screenshot of the SERP when I saw a peak in Keyword traffic and found the reason after a little investigation. How many times does it happen to you that you would like to explain something weird in the SERP's, and you forgot to make a screenshot of what you just have witnessed. Hard to explain my story on the Kernel.org position 1 & 2 if you only have this screenshot in which Kernel.org dominates the top of the SERP (Although the fresher story from Slashdot of Kernel.org being back online does make it to the first page):

Kernel.org dominates the first results on Kernel.org

As I have done SEO for a large e-commerce site for so long, I gain new insights into the SEO for News sites, where the story  is only relevant a short period of time, and your traffic volume is highly dependent on the competition for the positions in the SERP's, the search volume and the quality or your content.

Demand Media Stocks Plunge

Not sure if this is a direct consequence of the recent roll out of Panda/Farmer or the decrease in US state solvency, where new confidence metrics were published today. But it seems Demand Media stock has taken a beaten over the latest news, either of the two…

Demand Media stock fall more than 10%

In the press, demand media is trying to safe their image as being one of the victims of the Google Panda/Farmer update. More to read here:

I wonder how the year will end for Demand Media…will the stock recover of go further down loosing all the value because of loss in reputation..?

Levi’s Jeans Sold for $60,000 Traffic Outburst

Years ago, an old Levi's jeans was sold for $36,000 on eBay. This was not a Levi’s 501 as reported in conflicting stories, but rather a Levi’s Strauss 201. The Jeans was sold for so much money because it was made between 1890 and 1900. I wrote about the Levi’s jeans from 1890 some time ago.

Levi's Jeans Sold for $60,000 story made it to Twitter

My interest in this story was peaked again through a sudden break of the normal traffic trend on that old post (at the bottom of this post I posted an image of the traffic). Here it is, the story about a vintage Levi’s Jeans from 1890 being sold on eBay for $36,000 finds its way to a tweet:

Someone actually spent $60,000 on a pair of Levis that were made in 1890! I didn't even know Levis had been around that long. That is nuts!!

Tweet about the Levi's Jeans sold for $60,000

How Content Farms use Old News to Generate Traffic

It looks like the Tweet was inspired by the intro from a story ran by the Atlantic, which was featured by the Yahoo Finance section on March 31st. See screenshot below here, where I have to say this is probably not an attempt to be funny for April 1st fool day!

Yahoo Finance brings Atlantic story with Levi's Jeans sold for $60,000

The tweet was picked up by a Cincinnati Examiner blogger, who wrote a story about the Levi’s jeans that was sold and the history of Levi’s. The $60,000 Levi’s Jeans is used to write an intro for a piece of text which reads more like a history of the Levi’s company than some real journalism. Just look at how the author is jumping from the story of the $60,000 Levi’s Jeans into the history:

Could you ever imagine yourself or anyone for that fact paying $60,000 for one pair of Levis 501 jeans from 1890?

The world's most expensive blue jeans went for 60 grand and were sold by a man named Randy Knight to an anonymous collector in 2005 on eBay.

And then…

In fact most people are not aware that the Levis jeans company has been around since 1873. In 1853 a 24-year old German man by the name of Levis Strauss came to America

The story continues to mention some random Levi’s Strauss facts and company history, where it is ended with a random quote that Levi’s Strauss is one of the most popular denim brands in the world.

Low Quality, Factual Wrong

Not only is the whole article just a written form of historical facts about Levi’s Strauss, it also contains facts that are plain outright wrong. I checked the original listing in the eBay database (item # 160264665680)! The mistakes in the story are:

  • The Levi’s Jeans sold on eBay was not a model 501, but a 201
  • The Jeans was sold for $36,000 rather than $60,000

One might wonder why the editor of the story is using old news to create new news? IMHO the whole story smells like a Farmer. I don’t mean farmers smell bad or something, but more refers to the Content Farms!

According to the Winners & Losers from the Farmer/Panda update from Google articles, the Examiner was one of the sites classified as a Content Farm by the Google Algorithm. According to the Sistrix research the Examiner website lost 56% of its rankings after the Panda update (I still like the Famer better as a name for this update!).

I guess they are fitting that Panda/Farmer profile perfectly with the post about some old jeans being sold on eBay!

Traffic Outbreak

For a short time I got an outbreak of traffic on my old post about the pair of Levi’s Strauss Jeans sold on eBay. The outbreak was probably due to an increased interest from readers making searches on Google, where my article was ranking high on a number of keywords like: 1890 levi 501 jeans; levis 501s from 1890; 1890 levi 501 jeans sold on ebay.

I say was ranking high, as the SERP’s is now polluted with scraper sites, echo chamber blog posts and other “News” sites posting about the Levi’s Jeans which was sold for $60,000…

Levi’s Strauss Jeans sold for $60,000 image

Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering what a Levi’s Jeans from 1890 might look like, here is the image which went with the eBay auction back in 2005:

W0QQ Removal Case on SMX

Two days ago, I presented 3 eBay cases on SMX West in the session around Industrial Strength SEO. One of these 3 cases was based on the W0QQ legacy issue I blogged about 2 years ago. (full presentation only available for attendees of SMX West, or contact me)



If you don’t know what W0QQ is, I recommend searching for it on Google, and you might find:

W0QQ sniplet WTF

Essentially, the problem was that I wanted to have the W0QQ removed out of the eBay URL’s for longer time already. However, changing the URL’s on multiple really large sites is a huge project which is difficult to pull off. As described in my post from 2 years ago, the W0QQ URL’s were used as an example of what not to do:

Last week on SMX West a Google rep presented on URL structures (can somebody get me those slides). One part of her presentation was about MAVRICK URL's

Essentially, I got my job done by making a fool out of myself on an industry conference. It took only two months after I used the story how our URL’s were being used as an example of what not to do to make the necessary changes. Sometimes it pays off to be embarrassed in front of your industry peers…

Engadget Black Hole SEO

Every morning I usually start with reading the headlines on my favorite TechNews aggregator Techmeme. It has become an obsession for me to get up to date on the News and stories which broke over night. This morning was not different at all, and with the Jetlag from Europe kicking in, getting up at 5.30 am does give me plenty of time to read, analyze and investigate here and there.

I was amused to see a story from Engadget featured on the homepage with eBay in it. (full disclosure at the bottom of this post). When I clicked through the story, I could read that Barnes & Noble was selling it’s Nook Color on eBay for $249, where you could get an extra $50 off to get it for a total of $199 with free shipping. (see the original item here: Nook Color on eBay for $199)

A great story and exposure for both eBay and Barnes & Noble, however what triggered me to write about it is not the deal or the fact that Engadget was not the first to break it, nor the fact that Techmeme highlighted Engadget as the first one where they clearly were not. I was interested in the fact Engadget did not even once linked to eBay nor the Nook Color which was for sale!

Instead, the three links in the story are all internal links, leading the readers to internal Engadget pages where an aggregated list of stories on Engadget are displayed. Here are the links with the Anchor text (links to tag pages are nofollow):

  1. Barnes & Noble; Links to a tag pages for all stories about Barnes & Noble on Engadget http://www.engadget.com/tag/BarnesNoble/
  2. Nook Color; Links to a review of the Nook Color on Engadget http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/16/nook-color-review/
  3. eBay; Links to a tag page for all stories about eBay on Engadget http://www.engadget.com/tag/eBay/

This technique is called Black Hole SEO

Photo credit: thebadastronomer under CC2.0

Black Hole SEO

To my knowledge, one of the first people who called out Black Hole SEO as a technique gaining traction Eli on BlueHatSEO.com to describe various aggressive SEO techniques. A good description of Black Hole SEO is given by Quadzilla from SEOBlackHat.com. He describes the technique as:

Black Hole SEO employs a technique that causes the normal laws of Google Physics to break down. Link juice flows into a massive body, but can never escape. When employed on a massive body, it tends to dominate the SERPs.

A number of people in the SEO industry have written about Black Hole SEO, where Aaron from SEObook.com describes the technique to be used by large sites:

  • Uber-black hole, The New York Times, seems reluctant to link to anyone but themselves. This is especially annoying when they write about websites.
  • Wikipedia no-followed their links some time ago, thus forming a PageRank variant of the black hole.
  • The mini-me black hole, as practiced by TechCrunch. Rather than directing you to a site mentioned in an article, TechCrunch would direct you to their own CrunchBase entry instead.
  • Aaron always brings a great perspective to the table, he describes why linking out to sources for more information will bring you an advantage over time and is keeping the foundations of the Internet alive. (you can read the full entry about BlackHoleSEO on SEOBook.com).

    What Does Google Say?

    Google has spend a great deal of time describing how to link from and within your site. You can find the following advice with regards to your internal linking structure in the Google Webmaster Guidelines:

    Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.

    Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.

    About getting links from other sites Google has dedicated a whole section:

    Your site's ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.

    The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. The more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it. Before making any single decision, you should ask yourself the question: Is this going to be beneficial for my page's visitors?

    Especially that last paragraph is important. Is this going to be beneficial for my page’s visitors?

    Engadget User Experience

    Now, in the light of that last paragraph, let’s look at the user experience on the Engadget page:

    Imagine you are a Nook Color fan, and stumble upon the story on Engadget. You would like to have a quick look at the offer on eBay, where a link to the actual item for sale, or the daily deal page where the item was featured is actually in the body of the text. However, since there is no link, you would be forced to find the deal yourself!

    IMHO this is a very bad user experience and counter productive in making the reader a happy customer. It also shows the nature of the business AOL, parent of Engadget is in;

    SERP domination using established brands with domain authority through Black Hole SEO

    Black Hole SEO Violations of Quality Guidelines?

    If you read the quality guidelines with regards to the Link Schemes; you can interpret these in different ways;

    …some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites.

    If you would rewrite this you can see what I mean:

    …some webmasters engage in link exchange hierarchy schemes and build partner internal pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites.

    If you reread the above paragraph, slightly re-written, I would argue that linking out to original sources of information or in this case to the eBay item would add value to the end user, and should be seen as valuable both from an user experience and from a SEO perspective.

    Is Black Hole SEO for you?

    The question remains, what do you do on your own site, and can you create a big enough brand to engage in Black Hole SEO yourself?

    A couple of times the AOL brands have been called out for SEO tactics which push the limits, with The Huffington Post in particular as an offender. I tend to agree with Vanessa in this particular case, and actually as well across most of the AOL content sites!

    Huffingtonpost spam tags

    The tags under the Nook Story on Engadget do not all seem to be that relevant, but are creating automatic pages which serve as extra content for the search engine to display.

    I see the techniques from the AOL brands as spammy, and would not be surprised if at one point the auto generated tag pages would be looked at as a spam tactic which can hurt you. Linking out is generally good where it makes sense and the site you link to is providing more information and value for your end user.

    Last piece to pay attention to:

    Avoid Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web

    Future for Engadget as Quality Journalism

    The question is how long the Black Hole SEO strategy will continue to work for sites like Engadget. Two reasons might be causing a fall of the success bandwagon for these sites to embrace the technique:

    1. Google will put an end to the Internal value of sites that don’t link out, or raise the value of site that do link out to credible sources. I’ve seen an increase in specific thought leaders in the SEO space starting to link out much more over the course of the last couple of months.
    2. The editors working for sites like Engadget, who see themselves probably more like journalists than bloggers, cannot find themselves in the strategy of the company they work for. The result might be that the leave to chase new opportunities. Quality of editorial content deteriorates which causes the site to decline with an eventual loss of traffic

    As two of the editors from Engadget already left in the first quarter of this year, there is a sign the second of these two reasons has already started. Specifically one of the two, Ross Miller, called out that the ‘AOL Way’, was simply not his way.

    Aaron Wall from SEObook.com ended his post on Black Hole SEO with a quote from Tim O’Reilly, with which I agree;

    Tim O'Reilly put it well:

    "..... The web is a great example of a system that works because most sites create more value than they capture. Maybe the tragedy of the commons in its future can be averted. Maybe not. It's up to each of us".

    PS> Come on Techmeme, you can do better to link to the original source of the story about the Color Nook on eBay at a discount. Here are some sources if you follow the daisy chain links on the story on Engadget:

    Update: This is quite embarrassing. As Ryan points out in the comments, there is a link to the Nook store on eBay (actually the item, but as I already link to the item above here, I added a link to the actual store). However, I still think that Engadget could have done a better job in taking a customer centric approach and link within the story to the actual Nook for sale.

    Disclosure: This blog and the content on this blog are my own and contains my opinion and observations. These do not neccessarily reflect those of eBay, or its community, investors or clients.

    Google Re-Inclusion request

    Here is why you should cover all of your bases cleaning up anything you might have been doing which violated the Google Webmaster Guidelines, before you do that re-inclusion request.


    To B.B., the SEO/domainer on Westfield Avenue in Elizabeth, New Jersey: do you really want to be on my radar that much? Maybe not. :)

    You don’t want to get a manual review from Matt Cutts himself! If you have anything to hide, stay under the radar!

    Source: Twitter

    Great SEO people, Thomas aka Thos003

    Did you ever wanted to get a black shirt with your quote on it just before a conference for you to wear? Just make sure you get on the good side of Thomas, aka Thos003. First time you meet, he will tell you he is killing bugs. No, not the bugs in software, but rather the real deal. Thomas is the SEO for a pest control company, Bulwark Extermination.

    A couple of weeks ago, I was in Florida for the BlueGlass conference in Fort Lauderdale. Thomas made me a shirt with a quote I used in a panel on SMX advanced in-house session. A few weeks after the SMX advanced in Seattle, Thomas asked me what the acronym was I used on the board. I figured he wanted to use it in some internal presentation, so I shared it on Twitter:

    Thomas: @TheNextCorner What was that acronym you used for #SEO priorities?

    Me: @Thos003 LUMPS > Links, URL's, Meta Tags, Page Content & Elements, Sitemaps

    Little did I know he would had something else in mind; Thomas brought to Florida my own quote printed on a t-shirt! Check this out:

    To show off in the office, I put on the t-shirt the  first day I got back from Florida. Posing in front of the eBay logo:

    Black Shirt SEO via Thomas, aka Thos003

    Link Building through Syndication, Venturebeat example

    The popular technology blog Venturebeat has been in a content syndication partnership with The New York Times for several months already. Every post on Venturebeat is re-published in the Technology section of The New York Times. Venturebeat is not the only one as syndication partner, also GigaOM, ReadWriteWeb and IDG are partners.

    Venturebeat is the only of these partners who is fully taking advantage from the partnership when it comes to link building. All syndicated content contains links at the bottom which cover: 1) Tags about the post 2) Companies mentioned in the post 3) People mentioned in the post. See image below on this article.


    All these links go directly to a very clean url on Venturebeat, with a keyword rich anchor. On the pages on Venturebeat, the posts for that specific tag, company or people are aggregated. Below here the page for Jeff Bezos and Amazon, where you can see that the content is not always the same, but slightly different.


    You can say Venturebeats takes full advantage off the syndication partnership with The New York Times. The links at the bottom of each article are not only great access points for crawlers to discover the Venturebeat content, these also carry some good SEO value from a trusted source of The New York Times.