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Dec. 16, 2013, 1:31 p.m.
LINK: www.theawl.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   December 16, 2013

This piece by Brendan O’Connor at The Awl notes the boomlet in requests by spammers to unspam the websites they’ve spammily spammed.

To summarize: Some on the scummier side of the SEO business filled up the web’s comment sections with links to their clients in an attempt to game Google. Google changed its policies and made those old links, in some cases, harmful to a site’s prominence in search. So now the spammers (or their successors) are left trying to clean up a mess of their own creation.

As is often the case, one SEO person is undoing the previous work of long-gone SEO people…

“We needed to delete all of the bad links,” he said. “It was a big list—a few thousand, even ten thousand links. We just moved one by one: this is a toxic link, we need to delete it; this is a good, natural link.”

In the comments, Danny Sullivan has a useful corrective to some problems with the article — as he notes, this attempt to clean up the spammy mess has been going on for a while now, thanks to some past Google policy changes — but the real reason I’m linking is this section:

My favorite are the emails from OneFlare.com.au.

“We have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website have used a variety of questionable techniques to secure links,” Selena Le wrote on October 20th. “These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings.”

“We have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website have used a variety of questionable techniques to secure links,” Nick Chernih wrote on December 5th. “These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings.”

You don’t say.

“The presence of these links is harmful to our site’s good standing with search engines,” the good people from Oneflare.com.au each wrote. “Unfortunately, retaining them may also be potentially harmful to your own website’s reputation.

Oneflare! Recent readers will know that Oneflare, an Australian startup, is the company that purchased the expired domain name of the Online Journalism Review (OJR.org) and turned it into a spamblog, stealing OJR’s archives and lifting the logos of USC and USC Annenberg in order to make it seem legit. Eventually, after my stories ran, Oneflare apologized, blamed it on a black-hat SEO consultant they’d hired, and donated the domain back to USC. And hey, good on them for that.

But this would indicate Oneflare got deeper into the search-gaming sphere than I knew about. On October 20, the company apparently knew enough about what had been done in its name to go on a link-cleaning spree. But as of November 1, OJR.org hadn’t yet been turned into a spamblog. That only happened sometime later that month. (I noticed it on the 15th, but it may have been up for a few days before then.)

So Oneflare built the OJR spamblog after it had already started sending out “we screwed up, please undo the SEO damage for us” emails to websites.

If you’re curious, this appears to be the Nick Chernih mentioned; his Twitter bio says he’s an “Aspiring SEO-er from Sydney,” and his feed has links related to link-spamming:

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