A look at the blackhat spam techniques used by Pokerlistings.com – one of the World’s biggest poker
Super Affiliates Spammers
Online Gambling is big-business – and just like in every lucrative industry there are those who try to spam their way to the top of the search results. Perhaps they feel the rules don’t apply to them, or perhaps they don’t care.
In the niche of online poker, one of the biggest offenders is Pokerlistings.com, a website which has been killing it in Google, using every blackhat spam trick under the sun.
They have been getting away with it for years too – and to this day they still rank in the top positions for a lot of very lucrative poker-related keywords (e.g they are #1 for “how to play poker”).
When I say they are blackhatting like hell, I am not kidding. Let’s dig deeper…
Pokerlistings’ Backlink profile (March 2014)
Looking at the raw numbers, it’s clear to see they have been busy building links for years in an industry where people don’t generally give links away easily..
They wouldn’t be crazy enough to engage in spam would they? Let’s see what the data says …
Let’s play a game
I just pulled their backlinks today (5th March, 2014) – Download All of Pokerlistings’ backlinks (.Zipped Excel file ~ 27 MB).
So there’s over a million backlinks in that file of different varieties.
Find the clean links…
*Note – if you play this game, it may take hours…
- Download the backlinks zip and extract the excel sheet and open it
- Pick a number between 1 and 1,098,873
- Go to the row with that number in the backlinks spreadsheet
- Visit the page which links to their domain, and note where the backlink is (note, it may be hidden – if in doubt view the page source to find it..)
- Repeat this process until you find a link which is “clean” and was genuinely ‘earned’
I would be interested to see how long it took you to find a clean link.. 20 mins? 30? (it took me 20 minutes).
It’s pretty clear to see that at least 90% of the links which point to their domain have been artificially earned, that they are low quality, and that they have been acquired / engineered in order to increase pagerank and rankability on the pokerlistings.com domain and subdomains for targeted high-value keywords.
What kind of spam techniques is PokerListings Engaging in?
How long have you got? :)
Banners laden with links
One of the oldest kinds of spam – get the target site to host a banner which has some text on it. The text contains links to the ‘money site’.
I see a lot of these types of links going to a subdomain au.pokerlistings.com . Did they take this au.pokerlistings.com subdomain down because they spammed it so much, or were they just too dumb to 301 redirect it to their main site?
Article spam with exact match anchor text keywords
Directories are often Free-for all (no moderation) and therefore full of junk links / links to low-quality websites.
Pokerlistings of course weren’t happy just to game 1 link per IP address, they had to get links from 25 or more categories on each site while they were at it..
Homepage paid links
Very 1990′s – what worse thing can a webmaster do than channeling pagerank from the page on their site which (probably) has the most link equity? Money is no object of course, so garnering these links was a cinch.
Homepage footer + sidebar Links
Another link type which is generally not there for the user is the footer / sidebar link. PL has no shortage of these babies either.
- http://www.vidgrab.com/ (sitewide)
- http://www.havanaficionado.com/ (homepage + sitewide)
Embeddable Widgets with spam link
Dear webmaster.. why don’t you host our free poker odds calculator on your site (oh and and give us a link while you’re at it).
examples: (odds calc seems to be broken, but the links persist..)
links / partner pages
Of course like any good opportunistic spammers, PokerListings has gamed links from Valueless pages designed to manipulate PageRank and which offer zero value for the user.
Links styled to look like text<
Masking links in text (styled to look like text) is highly deceptive, but that’s been a part of their strategy too. Shady shady..
Guest Posting for links
Opportunistically garnering links from whatever sites they can get a guest post on:
The mind just boggles…
- http://www.maltaboxingfederation.net/news/malta-boxing/malta-boxing-news.html <--- and every innner page...
- http://www.havanaficionado.com/cgi-bin/webc.cgi/home.html <- get your cigars out
The ‘That was all ages ago’ – we’ve changed defense
That defense doesn’t wash.As recently as six months ago, Pokerlistings was incentivising people to link to their website for entry to a poker tournament. This is the epitome of a link scheme.
(amusingly, they even borked the html link code).
Is PokerListings too big to be punished?
It’s unusual for a site to persistently engage in blackhat SEO and general spammy behaviour without suffering the wrath of search-engines’ algorithmic penalties and manual action.
Who is behind this spam?
The good old boys and girls of Highlight Media Group seem to be running the SEO show here . Their core values seem to contradict their execution somewhat:
What do other poker affiliates think
Some say “that’s the way it goes in iGaming”, others are trying to do their own Gambling SEO as cleanly as possible, and hate the players that get away with spam like this.
Perhaps some poker affiliates will be clicking on the Google Spam report page after reading this post.
What do you think? Will this go unpunished? The data speaks for itself…