Hacker News Re-Imagined

The top-ranking HTML editor on Google is an SEO scam

  • 1743 points
  • 7 months ago

  • @caspii
  • Created a post

The top-ranking HTML editor on Google is an SEO scam


@LoveMortuus 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I personally think that SEO is kinda a waste of time. Because why would we have to adapt to a bot, a program. When the program should have to adapt to us.

The problem is that people will always try to game the system :/

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@mtnGoat 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

ive learned that almost any keyword related to sale-able products has been gamed on Google. all i see are affiliate links and people that keep track of which format to build their website in, that google likes this week.

more importantly, what ive also learned is that Bing search results are less of an affiliate link cesspool because fewer SEO spammers are working at gaming Bing's results.

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@didip 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

The old Google would have hunted these down mercilessly (Panda update in 2011). What happened to Google these days?

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@shmiga 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

SEO is so broken, it's not about website content or website quality. It's about how much money you pay to some punks - "SEO experts" who are hacking a system. I'm so sick of that.

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@Giorgi 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Ok, that's ultra-smart. Something you would think "how come I never thought of that?"

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@progx 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

google search is garbage, that's it.

We had a compititor who spams his page full with SEO garbage Words, our Software is used 100 times more than his software, more people search for our software, click it and use it, link it, but who is on 1st place in search results? Right, the SEO spammer, with the slower page, full of shiny SEO words that has nothing todo with the software.

@google i wait for working AI that detects such garbage sites!

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@superasn 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Google really needs to come up with a better way than backlinks to rank sites.

It's 2021 and surprisingly for all the billion dollar A.I. it can still be gamed with a bunch of unrelated links with little or no connection from the article to the site.

Also it's pretty unnatural and shady to get these backlinks. For my own SaaS site almost every blogger I contacted for a review just straight up asked me money in exchange for link. What the software did was of no consequence to this exchange. Most sites which have these "list of 10 XYZ" are just similar money making scams yet they rank so highly on Google.

P.S. And likewise I too get dozens of emails daily with "offers" from free article to actual dollar amounts just for putting a paid link. These SEO guys are just relentless because such shenanigans are working great at beating Google so far.

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@helsinkiandrew 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

What I don't understand is why does Google continue to use metrics that are so easy to fake and game.

Surely some kind of fairly trivial NN/Not very deep learning system can classify HTML content so that out of context links (like "Learn how to solve a Rubic Cube" in a Seventh Day Adventists sabbath lesson) and content that is copied is ignored or marked down.

Whilst I'm sure GPT-3 could be used to create more realistic looking fake content - this would eliminate 99% of the script kiddies creating low value SEO spamming sites.

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@jmspring 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

The problem with an algorithm, you can find ways to game the algorithm.

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@jrochkind1 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

> The creators of Scorecounter also made an online HTML editor

Or paid the entity running the malware HTML editor. It's probably injecting links to a variety of sites who paid them for placement.

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@tcarambat1010 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

The site has been hammered down by google now and will be unranked since this story broke.

https://html-online.com/editor/

In case you cannot view it the banner across the site says now "Goodbye!

This site has been penalized for unnatural link building and will be removed from Google Search

Please bookmark if you wish to continue use of the site.

We are sorry and are working on fixing the problem to recover from the penalty. "

They are only sorry they got caught

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@ra33o 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Begin to make your own content and make it public... Oh, like a blog. Like in the old days.

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@shanecleveland 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Could it be that Scorecounter is paying for their links to be embedded, as opposed to them being the owner/developer of both sites? If so, and provable, can they be flagged in some way?

Doesn't say much for Google's ability to determine relevancy in linking or recognizing suspicious link growth. Or perhaps it just takes some time ...

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@dalbasal 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

This is apropos...

Google's old link-based authority algorithm, pagerank, isn't alaysing the same web anymore. I think there's barely any signal in links these days.

The first major event was Google itself. Once you use something as a metric, it becomes currency. SEO vs anti-spam became a defining cat and mouse game. This kind of stuff was born then, and antispam was meant to curb it.

The second major event was user generated content. The old link pages and blogrolls die slowly. Comments, twitter, and such become the way links are shared. High signal, but extremely spam prone. Google tapped out of this early, and mostly ignore user generated content.

The third major event is facebook, and facebook like ways of doing things. This made most regular people's content unindexable. Search for esoteric keywords used to return a lot of forum results. Still does, to an extent. The thread is usually years, or decades old. What's left on the open web is a subset, a non random subset.

Wikipedia is one of the last sites that does "hypertext" the way pagerank assumes the web works.

In any case, I feel like search (or what search used to be) is in decline. There isn't as much web to search anymore, in a sense. The broad brush way of doing antispam (eg user generated content is just ignored) makes more sense. Why deal with all that noise/spam, just to search what's left of the old web.

What's left? User behaviour, a la analytics. That's makes for more feedback loops and winner takes most dynamics. Localisation became localisation to your bubble. Meanwhile "officialness" measures aren't against google's ethic/aesthetic anymore. They got burned by the "fake news^" crisis, and the quick fix was officialness. In for a penny. In for a pound.

Meanwhile, web search is increasingly just another thing that google search does. It searches "your" data, content of your devices, search history and NN generated whatnot. It searches news, ads, returns answers to questions, does math... There's nothing new about seo scams, antispam just isn't Google's primary solution anymore. Just default to other ways of returning results.

I'm calling it. Web search is dead. Long live the new websearch.

^Circa 2015 usage, not the current

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@chrischen 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Similar to “my ip address” https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27415897.

Google just seems to give way too much weight to domain name matches with the search keyword.

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@qeternity 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I have little to no experience in SEO. Does Google have a history of weighing in on situations like this and manually penalizing bad actors? If so, I would love a link to read about.

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@ziftface 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

While I think this is extremely shady and will avoid ever using a tool like this in the future, does it actually break google's TOS? It seems like a valid defense could be made.

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@bluedino 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Plus google returns results that link to shit like http://edva.implantologiadentalecroazia.it/somewhat-related-...

And then you get re-direct to some prize-winning spam site.

I love getting a search result that includes Google Books because those are usually useful. That’s what Google was best at, bringing in things that weren’t regular web pages.

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@ChrisArchitect 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

so lazy/terrible developers were using random tools online and not noticing injected spam links into their pages. Whatever man, you're getting beat because of it, better find a new strategy. There's tons of link spam and stuff out there but google's results are still good for real content for the most part if you build it up

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@Wronnay 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙



@billyharris 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

This isn't the only website which is ranking on first position using such blackhat SEO tactics but if everyone mention them like you do, then they will surely not going to remain at top for long.

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@alphabetting 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

It's worth noting the scam site is the top result in Bing and DuckDuckGo as well

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@thar327 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

How does ahrefs.com get the information of any websites backlinks? This is more interesting than the original article itself

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@gitgud 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

> Now if you are feeling very magnanimous, you could argue that the editor is a freemium tool, and that added links are how you pay for the free version.

Well, unfortunately this is basically how every freemium tool works. They have some way of advertising, in exchange for free use of the tool.

Even reputable CMS tools like WordPress include back links to wordpress on a new site and themes.

Although, this is much less common with open-source free tools, as the community resists these kinds of changes.

No such thing as a free lunch!

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@baby 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Same story for chrome a while back. I formatted my father computer because he had a bunch of malware. The first thing he did was to google “chrome” and download the first result. Which was an ads. Which was a malware.

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@CR007 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I believe that Google search quality has degraded a ton. Not surprised here.

By the way, I develop proprietary software. Hope that someone reads at Google and stop indexing all those pirate websites where people steal from others. Not torrents, talking about those websites where they even sell you paid access to stolen stuff.

Serously Google? You can't filter "nulled"?

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@joeyoungblood 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

SEO professional here, I can't see the article due to the wide-spread outage but have reviewed the comments here, comments in closed FB groups, and injected links on sites from this tool, as well as the tool's admission of such links on their site. This tool is most likely owned by a publisher attempting to steal SEO link value from user websites, it is also possible they are selling these links outright or via a PBN system. This type of link building was a common practice in the early 00's used by CMS theme developers and tool makers alike to gain link value. Google took a stand against "widget links", which is likely what these would be classified as, and as recent as 2016 even warned against their usage: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2016/09/a-reminder...

A year later Google's John Mueller, a trends analyst who often also acts as a liasion between Google and the webmaster community, stated that Google might automatically apply a 'nofollow' attribute to these types of links, effectively killing their ability to siphon SEO link value to improve themselves: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-auto-nofollow-widget-lin...

We have noted in our agency research for clients several similar usages over the past few years that appear to be giving websites positive value instead of either being ignored or penalized, including a WordPress plugin that injects links on government and collegiate websites. The way Google assigns value based on links has changed quite a bit over the past 5 years and there is a chance they no longer penalize for widget links (unlikely) OR that their ability to detect them has degraded significantly (my guess is the later).

One thing is for certain, Google absolutely retains the ability to manually devalue links and penalize a website for violating their guidelines. They do not enjoy negative press or communinity discussions on search quality like this one and in the past have taken swift action when such issues arised in the media.

At our agency we advise clients against this type of link building as it has no long-term value for a brand and could cause long-term pain instead. SEO should be used to help new brands gain a competitive advantage against more established incumbents such as a startup taking on Amazon or a new SaaS tool providing valuable data to an industry.

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@dmje 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Every time I think about developing a product I'm put off by the hell that is SEO. The whole landscape is just horrible, full of snake oil sellers. It's not like the end result is any good either: man, Google results are so fkn bland these days. You stand zero chance of finding anything interesting, it's all just MONETIZED in such a boring way. Yes, I want the old web back.

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@trungdq88 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Sorry for the plug, but this is the exact reason why I build https://devutils.app

Developers paste their data to online websites too frequently these days.

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@przemub 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I am a programmer but it gets harder and harder to find good results for anything outside my niche, not to mention outside programming. Maybe there are any alternatives being worked on? Googling increasingly feels to be a complete waste of time.

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@mpva 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

You should report this to google, its clearly a huge violation of terms of service.

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@clydethefrog 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I have been thinking, it almost seems we are going back to the old way you would browse the web - with homepages and a page with relevant urls to other places of the web. Except the homepage is now your instagram account and a linktree in the bio.

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@FranchuFranchu 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I wonder how many similar tools are also like this. We can't trust search engines anymore.

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@lopatin 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Sorry in advance for off topic, but seeing as how both this website and Reddit is currently down with the same 503 Varnish cache error currently, I wanted to ask how that would be possible? Surely Reddit uses their own infrastructure and not some shared hosted server where this could happen across the board?

Edit: Wow, this is much bigger than just those two sites. Looks like half the internet is down. https://downdetector.com/

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@vagab0nd 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

This sounds like something a reinforcement learning agent would do to maximize income.

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@lumpa 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Amazing how such a simple approach can achieve content injection on a diverse network of unrelated websites, to the point of raising the profile of the vector and increasing the chances of further spread.

I hope someone figures out which other campaigns were run with these tools. Also, whether you can find output with the link injections in source code, like on GitHub or distro packages.

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@mjthompson 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Just an observation: your competitor site is using AMP pages,* while you don't appear to be. I suspect without knowing that Google take this into account in ranking.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerated_Mobile_Pages

* forgive my RAS syndrome

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@FridayoLeary 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Several points; the title is slightly misleading, i initially thought (in my ignorance) that OP was referring to a company employee, also this article is surprisingly open in 'naming and shaming' his competitor.

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@HelloNurse 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Lately I've seen many automatically generated trash pages in high-ranking Google results, typically copied or "AI"-generated plausible text and spam links, suggesting that gaming Google ranking algorithms is a solved problem.

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@napolux 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Worked with SEO until 2020. It's really a scam. I know people making 1000$ per month by just generating a bunch of interlinked domains with semi-random text like: 'phone number $randomNumber'.

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@diveanon 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Easiest and most effective google SEO is to just buy ads.

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@joeyoungblood 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

This HTML editor site has now been penalized by Google for unnatural link practices as I had assumed they would be.

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@janmo 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

It probably started with the guy adding something like "Edited using XXXX Editor tool" to make himself some publicity. Seeing that it worked he started selling those backlinks a fortune.

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@ilamont 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Same story for various Wordpress plugins and widgety things that live in site footers.

Google has turned into a cesspool. Half the time I find myself having to do ridiculous search contortions to get somewhat useful results - appending site: .edu or .gov to search strings, searching by time periods to eliminate new "articles" that have been SEOed to the hilt, or taking out yelp and other chronic abusers that hijack local business results.

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@cybice 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

As webdeveloper I have a strong feeling that we are writing web for google bot and not for people. For any website I created I have a list from SEO what to add. Like 200 links at each page bottom, different titles, headers, metas, human readable urls without query params, all that canonical urls, nofollow rules etc. Most of this things invisible to users and created only for googlebot.

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@raverbashing 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

So people edit html using these "online tools" (because <p> is hard apparently) and then nobody cares to proofread, and even whole paragraphs are added without anyone noticing.

Great.

Nobody cares about the content apparently. Nobody checks if the generated HTML makes sense. It's all about spinning the wheel.

Sigh.

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@slugiscool99 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Honestly kind of a brilliant SEO strategy. Makes me nervous to use any free online tool

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@kaltuer 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Google cannot see these frauds, and even warning works. There are ten sites on the internet and have separate domains with every term in the sector. In a SERP, you may thus observe all of its web pages that practically replicate and rephrase each other. I reported these websites, and I didn't even receive a single response.

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@funman7 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Don’t the kids say nowadays first link on google always sus

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@stefan_ 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I'm so happy the author is an ethical SEO scammer and will not stoop to these tactics.

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@imaginamundo 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Well, that is unfortunately.

In 2015 I was fired because some issues on a site that I was working on because some friction with the company owner. Two months before I was fired I reported that some links to others sites non related to our service was on the initial page (some porn and some scams pages). After that I heard from my ex-coworkers that a manager from another area from the company told that I was fired because I was linking porn on some pages from our service. I didn’t knew at the time that those tools existed, but only today I realized that it is an option.

I was really sad with that manager and didn’t understood the reason to lie to my friends the reason of my demission. But is nice to know what may have caused the issue. Better late than never hahaha.

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@DaveExeter 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙



@RileyJames 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Totally agree with all the comments here, seo broke google, and they don't care. Probably sells more adwords in the end.

I found uBlacklist from this thread, and the subscription functionality enables some collaborative effort.

So I've started making a list, but unfortunately there aren't many uBlacklist subscription lists out there yet.

Be interested to see how far this could go: https://github.com/rjaus/awesome-ublacklist/

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@marcodiego 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

If you're using google to find adequate tools, you're searching the wrong place. Wikipedia (even stack overflow) seems way better and has curated lists of open source tools for a particular purpose. Of course, wikipedia can be edited but IME, it is way better than google to find adequate tools.

If you're decided on googling for a suggestion of a tool, at least include "open source". Even if you're searching for proprietary tools, you'll probably find the traditional "it has better X, Y, compared to proprietary tool W" review.

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@dataviz1000 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I'd put my money that they included 'online scoreboard' as the first phrase in the `<meta name="description" content="Online scoreboard"> tag per Google's recommendations for SEO which put them ahead.[0] Also, to this one point of many when searching for `online leaderboard` you get the top spot because leaderboard is not included in the other website's description.

The network tab in devtools isn't loading Google Analytics on you site. I think the bigger conspiracy is that Google isn't giving high search result rankings to websites that don't include Google Analytics. Part of the reason is they use time on site after following through a search result link as a dimension of quality for that search result. If that makes sense? They give 10 search results and their algorithm can tell if the search result satisfies the end user's request if they don't go back to the search results but rather continue on that site.

Lastly, clicking through a search result to your site might not give the searching user what they are looking for. Amazon discovered every time a person has to click they are far less likely to purchase an item so they created one click. Your competition makes it visually clear what their site does. You probably would get far more retention on the original click to your site if you have an image of what the end product looks like in a hero, front and center (with all the meta tags described in Google's document on SEO of course.) That way people won't click back to the search results page which Google is tracking as a dimension.

[0] https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.dk/en/...

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@tartoran 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Do away with google. Problem fixed

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@lurquer 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

No great fan of Google, but a large component of the problem is the Library of Babel phenomenon: there’s just too much crap being published.

Let’s face it... the early internet was interesting because the only people who could use it (and publish on it) were smart eccentrics. That was its charm. The technological hurdle served as the curator: you might have been a crazy white supremacist, anarchist, conspiracy theorist, or ‘expert’ in how to grow radishes or some other bizarrely eclectic field... but all of them were necessarily a bit smarter than the average bear just by virtue of knowing how to host content and access it; not a trivial task in the late 90’s.

Maybe it’s time to think up some convoluted alternate network that is a royal pain-in-the-ass to use. Perhaps there the eclectic and useful content creators will once again arise (and searching their trove will be a snap as most everything there will be fresh, unique, and interesting.) It will exist, I suppose, for a few years before tools are made to enable grandma to easily use it.

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@codehawke 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

We need an open source Google, yesterday.

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@munk-a 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Imagine my surprise to find that the scammy site at the top of searches isn't w3cschools - that cesspool of terrible references.

Once I discovered that everything I would ever need was better explained on the MDN my life as a webdeveloper strongly improved.

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@kontxt 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙



@31tor 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Google is getting worse and worse. It's harder than ever to find real information. All you get is seo scams trying to lour you in and sell you stuff. It's tragic. I miss the old internet.

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@bredren 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

> Now if you are feeling very magnanimous, you could argue that the editor is a freemium tool, and that added links are how you pay for the free version.

This unknown exchange of value for “free” products and services is what everyone from Facebook and Google down to malware-like browser extensions do to extract difficult-to-acquire resources.

People don’t understand how their personal data, internet connection (residential proxy network node), or in this case, publicly displayed website are being monetized or used indirectly for monetization.

People don’t know or are tricked into allowing themselves or their resources to serve as an ugly cost externality to some other clean-looking business endeavor.

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@nostromo 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I've heard so much about how PageRank isn't that important to Google anymore -- but there are many reports of SEO tricks that get people on the first page of Google for common queries. It seems like it's still quite important after all.

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@mastrsushi 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

>Some highly-ranked online tools for editing or “cleaning” HTML seem to be secretly injecting links into their output to push themselves and affiliated sites up the search engine rankings.

You can't pretend this isn't funny as fuck lol.

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@lifeisstillgood 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

SomInjust tried one of these sites - and I cannot reproduce the scam - my output from htmltidy.net seems to work fine and I cannot find any weird back links.

Any notes on how to reproduce?

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@fnord77 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I searched for my local USPS store today. Every result was some SEO crap. No usps.gov result on the first page.

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@Mauricebranagh 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

WTF is a html cleaner and why would you use one.

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@fogof 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

> and my personal favorite: a blog post on Kaspersky.com

Wow, embarrassing for Kaspersky as a computer security focused site to be a victim of this.

When I searched for "Rubiks" as it said to do, I couldn't find it though. Has the Kaspersky post been changed?

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@commandlinefan 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

I suspect this will only get worse over time. There was a time when, if you wanted to put a site online, you (or somebody that represented you) made a point of understanding everything that went into it. But, even as what's considered a professional web site has gotten exponentially more complicated, too many people see setting up an online presence as something like printing a brochure: details irrelevant. Somebody who does understand the details is going to use them to their advantage.

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@sova 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

While Google still has market dominance, I wonder if privacy-centric search engines will be the future. I am considering putting substantial effort towards such a goal, you can sign up to learn about when at puubl.com [1]

[1] https://www.puubl.com/

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@forgotpwd16 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

Scummy but pretty smart setting up such a network of sites. Even more reverse figuring it out. Bravo to the author.

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@ricardo81 7 months

Replying to @caspii 🎙

On the positive side I suppose, at least it was just regular HTML, could've been injected JS.

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