How Does the Casino Bonus Spam Work?

Note: just like the previous one, this is not an outing post and is only intended to study the mechanisms of how things work in Google rather than out specific techniques (which, btw, have likely been already burnt by this specific spammer for the reasons of getting too careless and/or too greedy and/or too lazy. I will explain later why. I am not paid by Google so there is no way I am doing their job – let them do some digging and fixing on their own, they employ enough people to do that without me volunteering.)

A bit of pre-history: a couple weeks ago, I have spotted something interesting in the “online casinos” UK SERPs. Somebody had 6 out of 10 results all redirecting to the same target site. These were really long (but varied) EMDs with apparent common elements in the link profile. I looked at it all, made some conclusions and just kept them to myself. Those domains have been banned from Google since but today another set of SERPs has been brought to my attention, this time “casino bonus” (those in the gambling industry know how profitable both of these keywords are). This time, the same person’s redirecting domains are occupying 8 out of 10 first page results – but what is this? This is now so obvious you don’t even need to see they all redirect to the same site…

casino-bonus-serps

Upon further investigation, it appears that all of these domains have been registered on the same day (February 18th, 2013). So how did they get onto the first page so fast all together?


In MajesticSEO Bulk Backlinks report, we can see approximately the same (high) numbers of low quality links, and the timeline for their acquisition always looks approximately the same:


The bulk of the links have been acquired in the last few days. The following screenshot from the MajesticSEO Clique Hunter tool shows further similarity of the sites’ link profiles:


Same links from same sources going to all the domains. OK you must be asking by this point, so what are those links that allowed this bunch of domains jump right on top of these very competitive SERPs in a matter of a few days?

Why, they are mostly comment spam on a specific platform (which I am not going to disclose as it’s rather irrelevant here, and those who are not lazy can just go and look themselves in the MajesticSEO backlink report for any one of these domains – it’s all there, you see, it’s impossible to hide anything, it’s only a matter of people willing to look). But what’s interesting about this specific case of comment spam is the following. See the screenshot of the SearchStatus link report for one of the spammed pages:


That’s right, this is over 8,000 external followed links… But, you are asking, isn’t this totally against everything we know about Google and backlinks and Pandas and Penguins? Only, it’s not really. The logic behind this is as follows:

1. The links are followed hence they are crawled and pass link value;

2. The page is frequently updated (with tons of comments added all the time) so it’s getting crawled frequently. Moreover, this is fresh (and unique!) content all the time;

3. The amount of originally posted comment on the page in this case is a bit over 800 words. The amount of text added as comments is over 113,000 words! By now, you can forget what the page was initially about as, say, the keyword combination “online casino” alone appears 233 times on that page – there goes relevant on-topic content that the links are inserted into!

4. How does this, erm, content end up being so relevant? Well, the majority of comments has been posted by our casino bonus spammer, linking not only to the main sites he was pushing but also to other places linking to his sites, places linking to those places, etc. Most of you reading this do not have the tools for implementing this rather complex multi-layered setup anyway so I am not going to get into too much detail. Let’s just say that it works, as we apparently see in those SERPs.

Is this a short term strategy? Yes and no. On the immediate level of the sites getting ranked, appearing in the SERPs and getting banned, it is. This time that the guy got so cheeky and unimaginative as to register exactly the same domain name with just different numbers added to it, it will likely be even shorter term. On a larger scale of things however, this is as long term a strategy as he is willing to put up new sites as the main site receiving the traffic never gets even indexed by Google, thus avoiding any risk getting banned, and I doubt the casinos it funnels the traffic to would object much to the way it’s done. The key here, however, is to stay below the radar – but that’s a delicate balance between greed and precaution.

As for Google, can they do anything to stop this from happening? TBH I highly doubt, as it looks like they would ahve to roll back all the updates to their algorithm done over the last few years, and even then there is no guarantee this would stop something like this ranking. If I have ever seen a backdoor, this is one.

  • galileo

    Nice

  • fantomaster

    Nice find, great analysis. Plus, it illustrates (once again) that the perennial black hat SEO approach can’t be beat – as long as it’s all about exploiting the very sytems set up to prevent it from prevailing.

    “Backdoor” is right – only that such backdoors aren’t mere regrettable glitches i.e. singularities: they come inextractably with every system and may thus be deemed part and parcel of it. No exceptions. There’s actually a philosophical term for it. It’s called dialectics. And it’s a great leveler, allowing the smart guy with puny resources prevail against the well stuffed mega corps as, in this case, Google.

    Pretty? Not really. But effective, which is all that counts in a technocrats’s world (or, for that matter, hell).

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      Pleased to have you commenting here Mr. Fantomaster.
      >dialectics
      Exactly, and the essence of good SEO, be it blackhat, so-called whitehat or anything in between, is to work within these dialectics – this is the only way one can be successful with it.

  • Tomasz Stopka

    Great post and Good analysis, as Fantomaster said. I read whole article and it’s reaaalllllyy interesting! Good Job!

  • Richard Hearne

    I have a really strong feeling in me waters that some of the anti-nSEO stuff they had to bake into the algo also makes some of this stuff easier in the short term. They don’t seem to want to punish link spam too quickly in case it’s abused is my recent take on things.

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      Richard, this is pretty much a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t thing for Google, close your eyes to spammy stuff and get spammy sites ranking, punish for spammy stuff and get negative SEO.

  • http://www.elevatedsearch.com/ Steve Peron

    Turn and burn .. rinse and repeat …

  • http://twitter.com/MyAlcoholicDad Jack

    Can you please clarify “as the main site receiving the traffic never gets even indexed by Google”. My chrome add on shows that this site is indexed.

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      The site that those ranking sites redirect to – I rely on a manual site: search in google and it does not appear indexed for me

  • Ben B.

    Interesting analysis, but the article did not exactly deliver what I expected from the title. You did not explain the 302 redirects, nor the Wikipedia page cloaking. I guess the link building is only a part of how the [casino bonus] spam works.

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      Like I said, this is not an outing post so don’t expect me to disclose everything there is

      • Ben B.

        Fair enough. I can understand that you don’t want to disclose everything there is. However, you might want to use less sensational titles for your posts. The current title implies that you explain how the [casino bonus] spam works, all you do is showing where the links come from. Still a great post though!

  • seoslava

    Most likely done with SEnukeX and/or Xrummer.
    Most likely links were purchased on sape.ru
    Most likely done by guys in Eastern Europe, looking for a quick buck.
    As far as I understood, links are from Drupal blog comments.

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      I don’t agree, most likely custom software. Not much evidence of Sape links.

  • Richard Hearne

    Gone now.

    Check out this beauty at #4 for me – cloaking and sneaky redirect:

    bestonlinecasinobonusliveblackjackukcasinosslotsroulette.co.uk/

    Smashing domain name there…

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      same owner apparently

  • http://lostpr.es/ David Iwanow

    So isn’t part of the problem that if he/she didn’t push so aggressively they might not have got noticed so quickly and had so many people in the industry pouring over how they got their results so quickly? How many similar site profiles are out there just below the radar?

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      I don’t think it worries him much – he will just push the next batch, it only takes a few days to rank them.

  • http://twitter.com/TheModernSEO TheModernSEO

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve seen this flagged so many times recently but no-one has taken the time to write some a decent post. This will be wide-spread across all verticals I assume, he can’t be the only person playing Google.

    Certainly makes SEO more interesting when you watch people just “raging against the machine”

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      Of course he’s not the only one – just specific tricks used differ

  • Pablo

    Cool post.But I dont understand why G would ever want to rank a brand new domain for a valuable keyword so fast, when would that ever happen naturally? I thought this was the whole idea of the sandbox (which doenst seem to exist here?)

    P

  • http://www.neobytesolutions.com/ Dan C

    same strategy with payday loans websites on serps

  • Spook SEO

    How much money could such site generates in one day anyway? I had a client that insisted to be given a blackhat service for a niche that he claimed to be extremely lucrative, he didn’t care if it only ranks for 2-3 days and then disappear cause he would already made tons of money by then and more than enough to start creating a replacement site. So if this niche pays well, I don’t think these people even consider if it’s a short term or long term strategy, a few days on top would be enough for them.

    • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

      Considering the niche, lifetime revshare…