moneysupermarket banned by Google for spamming?

Google SpamAs commented in the uswitch post, moneysupermarket have been dropped by Google for the term [car insurance]. Have Google finally realised that moneysupermarket are spamming the index and manipulating the results? Moneysupermarket (also seen as insuresupermarket) have occupied a top ten spot for the coveted term for as long as I can remember. One of our diligent readers (thanks Creased) noticed the change in results and let us know.

I’ve got a feeling some heads will roll over this. We’ll post back updates as soon as we find out more…

Update #7 23rd May: 16:00: They’re Back!
Moneysupermarket are back appearing at #1 spot for [car insurance].

Update #6 23rd May 11:50: The UK Press has Picked this up:
The Daily Mail, SEOChat, mortgagestrategy, searchenginewatch, marketingchat,
evilgreenmonkey and ioun

Update #5 16th May 16:20: Moneysupermarket Look for a New SEO Team:
Moneysupermarket are looking for an SEO Analyst and a Link Builder!

 Principal Responsibilities Include: Approaching third party websites and obtaining links

Update #4 16th May 10:30: Traffic Levels are Hit Hard:
Alexa traffic stats for MoneySupermarket 20070516Alexa is already reporting traffic levels are way down. Alexa stats are normally rubbish but this gives us a fairly good idea of a trend. Now that MS have removed their ‘links’ are we going to see Google remove the penalty? We’ll keep an eye on those graphs.

Update #3 14th May 14:30: The Debate Is On:
Discussion over at SEOChat.

Update #2 14th May 13:20: 40% of Traffic is from Natural Search:

Moneysupermarket organic paid splitThis statement from Hitwise suggests that organic traffic is at 40% versus 60% for paid.
Almost 10% of traffic is down to the [car insurance] key term.  I would like to be a fly on the wall of the MoneySupermarket offices today!

Update #1 14th May 11:10: An Official Response from MSM:
(or is that an unintentional, unofficial response)

 Wouldn’t banners on university sites just be classed as branding rather than SEO.

Related posts
GoCompare number 1 in Google
GoCompare Banned
Confused Banned

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{ 92 comments }

M A L May 24, 2007 at 9:17 am

@Jones

Seem latitude aren’t being entirely honest with anyone…

http://forums.seochat.com/google-optimization-7/why-did-this-site-get-banned-132038-4.html#post455462

M A L May 24, 2007 at 9:20 am

Jones,

Seems Latitude are heavily involved in the dp ad network.

Check the end of this thread

http://forums.seochat.com/google-optimization-7/why-did-this-site-get-banned-132038-4.html

M A L May 24, 2007 at 9:22 am

I’m not seeing MS on some DC’s again…

M A L May 24, 2007 at 9:28 am

@Jones

Call me cynical, but is your first name Kevin?

Do you work for latitude? I’ve been contacted by a “Kevin Jones” from latitude over five of my largest websites trying to buy ad space for the digital point ad network.

Plus Ocean are mentioned all over the latitude website as being a client?

So my questions are.

1) Are you Kevin Jones from latitude?

2) Why are the so called ethical seo company latitude buying into ad networks?

Jones May 24, 2007 at 10:24 am

All getting very personal isn’t it…

Jones May 24, 2007 at 10:25 am

Were MoneySupermarket’s ads always served up by DoubleClick (recent Google acquisition) ?

Tron May 24, 2007 at 10:27 am

@Mal – I think one of the benefits of a forum such as this is anonymity. We work in a very incestuous business, and anonymity allows people to be open and honest.

It is up to moderators if they wish to divulge IP locations in the event of a person posting extreme bias and or indeed touting for business.

I think the danger otherwise is that we find ourselves in a witch hunt type scenario, and all descends into mud-slinging and bitching. Having siad that, a sniping war could be entertaining or amusing… Perhaps should be on a different thread though?

M A L May 24, 2007 at 10:37 am

Tron,

I have no intention of being malicious or personal.

Just fair.

It is unfair however for an individual or group of people to slate clearly their competitors for their so called underhand techniques on one hand while on the other hand buying in those very same links or using those very same tactics.

Perhaps, the lesson to be learnt here is that people in glass houses should not throw stones? I’m sure those same people would not like this posted anywhere else than among their peers here.

(ps: I never expected a reply to the questions; in fact it is the silence to them which is deafening)

Tron May 24, 2007 at 10:59 am

@Mal – fair enough, I wasn’t trying to have a dig, just sharing my thoughts.

Anyhow, shall we try to get back on track?

– Money Supermarket have hit number one spot simultaneously on a series of high profile and very high demand key phrases.

– Prior to hitting these spots they previously were no where to be seen on any of these key phrases.

– Some of these new position one rankings are completely new to MS.

– Looking at the cached versions of the various pages suggests that Google have not crawled for several days despite an obvious re-index.

So, what is going on? Have Google cowed to MS’s PPC spending power? Kudos to MS for pulling it off if this is the case.

To be fair though, talking about it on here is all very well and good, but how do we address this situation with Google?

Andy May 24, 2007 at 11:39 am

@Tron

Can you give some specific examples of the new top positions MS have gained?

Tron May 24, 2007 at 11:47 am

@Andy

They have not been at top spot on either Mortgage or Mortgages for some time now, nor indeed Credit Card. I am afraid that I am working from memory here, so those are the only ones that I am certain about and sorry they are not really insurance related.

z May 24, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Pretty impressive for MS to jump back so quickly. I am interested to know if anyone ( concentration being on google) knows or remembers if they ranked anywhere in yahoo before. After checking around a bit ( please correct me if I’m wrong) they don’t seem to be in Yahoo! anymore ( or were they never there?)

Jones May 24, 2007 at 12:44 pm

MoneySupermarket are Google UK #1 for:

loans
mortgages
car insurance

These three are some of the highest volume, valuable and competitive keywords there is.

@Tron
Very interesting that the pages haven’t been reindexed, so only a late-night meeting in a lonely undeground car park and a brown envelope could have sorted this out… ;)

Google are just messing with us, the powerful devils that they are.

Jones May 24, 2007 at 12:47 pm

MoneySupermarket are Google UK #1 for:

mortgages
loans
car insurance

They should see a trickle of traffic for these terms if they’re lucky.

Jon May 24, 2007 at 1:36 pm

@mal

I think you know who really does oceans SEO at the moment, and I would be suprised If you are not associated from your reaction and finger pointing.

So far no one has named which agency does Oceans seo at the moment, and I think it would be much better for all if no one did.

Ernest May 24, 2007 at 1:48 pm

@ALL

Good to see some discussions develop.

Happy for people to digg around if they want to work out who each other is working for and it’s obviously up to the individual to divulge that information – but let’s keep it constructive.

….ding, ding …game on!

Ernest May 24, 2007 at 1:56 pm

@ALL

Lots of talk about which SEO company is working for which brand and how much paid link activity they’re undertaking.

But, is it not more worthwhile to take Google’s (documented) approach and highlight the linking rings and networks of sites. That way, you can not only trace the main offenders who are paying, but also those who are hosting. Makes no difference to me which SEO company is advising clients to buy links – it ain’t mine and I ain’t doing it!!!

M A L May 24, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Hi Jon,

Welcome to insiders-view.

// So far no one has named which agency does Oceans seo at the moment, and I think it would be much better for all if no one did.//

I don’t do Ocean I’m one of their competitors.

//..trace the main offenders who are paying…//

Yes I agree. And I pointed it out. Latitude are buying into an ad network. So, I’ve traced one for you.

Which is fine, they are entitled to do as they wish.

However when they bash people with the ethical stick in one hand they need to ensure they are not being unethical with the other.

It’s called being hypocritical.

Jones May 24, 2007 at 2:54 pm

why?

Jon May 24, 2007 at 3:03 pm

but to theorize, reasearch, play is wahtwe all do.

Any company that gets a site banned without warning there customers of the risk involved need is open for public criticism, but we dont know what converstaions going on behind close doors.

Did the company who did oceans seo warn ocean of the risk with automated link networks? did coean know of the risk involved? We dont know if they were igmnorant the company is liable to critisim ( if not lawsuit ).

If the company is up front about risks with the cliebnt and they want to proceed, everyoen in this game balances risk vrs reward. Especially in the financial sector.

M A L May 24, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Why Kevin?

Are you joking? You are going around telling people how unethical their seo is on their sites.

You are doing this while simultaneously buying in links for an adnetwork that by your own admission will get people banned.

Sorry are you saying you are not attempting to buy links for an ad network? I have the emails with full headers…

That my friend is hypocritical.
You can’t be the cop and the robber mate.

Tron May 24, 2007 at 3:54 pm

@M A L
//You can’t be the cop and the robber mate.//

Did you never see LA Confidential?

@Ernest
//Happy for people to digg around if they want to work out who each other is working for//

I bet that is a lot more fun when you can follow IP addresses!

@All – has anyone used the sponsored link reporting facility. Do you think this is what triggered the shift at the top, irrespective of MS bouncing back with improved rankings?

z May 24, 2007 at 4:36 pm

I know Yahoo! is a small engine, but them not appearing in there at all must show that they are doing something wrong? or are we ignoring Yahoo! on the whole now?

Tron May 24, 2007 at 4:53 pm

@Z

Last month Google generated about 30% of all their traffic, compared to less than 2% from Yahoo. I don’t know how they previously ranked though.

Ernest May 24, 2007 at 5:34 pm

@Tron

//I bet that is a lot more fun when you can follow IP addresses!//

Being the honest chap I am …we can indeed see some IP addresses for posters. Sometimes the whois info doesn’t lead us to anywhere useful and if people are really that bothered they can post from home, on their mobile or through a proxy. Makes no odds to us. As long as there’s discussion and points of view, there’s room for you all here!!

Also, even when the IP gives a company name, it doesn’t necessarily mean they agree with the actions of that company. That’s why the posts are more important than the name supplying the salary cheque.

George May 25, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Following an email conversation with one of the commenters, we use Akismet on this blog. This means that in some rare cases, comments will be labelled as spam. If this happens, they may fail to appear or may experience a delay before showing up.

Insiders View does not ‘screen’ comments on this blog…at this time….

Marcus May 27, 2007 at 12:45 pm

looks like confused.com have been dropped for the term [car insurance] maybe Google have their next victim. What do we make of the activities of confused.com?

Ben May 27, 2007 at 1:57 pm

It looks like a different situation to Moneysupermarket, the cache seems to be missing, could be some kind of glitch.

Ernest May 27, 2007 at 5:39 pm

I can hear the russtling of a brown paper bag being prepared as I type!!

The conspiracy theorist in me is whispering a counter complaint from MS!! Realistically, nearly everyone there or there abouts for [car insurance] is very close/breaking the Big G’s guidelines to some extent so it shouldn’t be a surprise if any of them drop.

However, if Google applied the same rule across the board, they wouldn’t be delivering the brands which customers want to see. Maybe they’re doing this to test people’s reactions – hoping to shock them to taking the white road.

…don’t think it’ll work in an oligopoly market such as insurance.

Rich May 27, 2007 at 6:45 pm

My money is on it being a glitch, i’d expect to see it back within days, if not hours.

Knatt May 27, 2007 at 6:48 pm

One wonders how much of an impact a few days of de-listing and a slap on the wrist will have on a giant such as MSM. I can’t understand why the FSA didn’t whip their arses long ago; most of the top insurance quotes returned don’t match user specification amd people are not being insured properly as a result. This worries me far more than black-hat SEO!

Rich May 29, 2007 at 9:44 am

Just to chip in again on confused – noticed that they have acquired confused.co.uk (wonder what they had to pay for that?), anyway it’s a replica of confused.com – so might be some sort of duplicate content issue, either way I think they’ll get it sorted…

Ernest May 29, 2007 at 10:35 am

It would be good if someone from confused came on here to comment!

Kevin May 30, 2007 at 11:31 am

@Ernest

Having previously been part of Confused.com from it’s lauch to very recently, I’d frankly be amazed if they’d noticed that they’d been dropped from Google until the following day and even more amazed if they’d ever read I-V.

Also, confused.co.uk was acquired last year for nowhere nearly as much as people might think.

Kevin May 30, 2007 at 11:53 am

The reason I doubt if they’d notice, is more to the fact that in terms of their quote numbers, the majority come from natural searches for the Confused.com brand and not through random searches.

The marketing team at Confused, while being extremely effective, have rarely needed to be heavily hands on with Google. I’d guess that this contrasts hugely with say moneysupermarket and definetly Gocompare.com.

This in part is due to the length of time that they have had high rankings on Google but mainly down to their reliance on their SEO company.

A lot of companies rely heavily, maybe too heavily, on their SEO companies to get high Google rankings and don’t understand what is really involved in attaining those positions. I appreciate that naievity (sp?) is no excuse, but maybe Google’s first port of call to cleaning up the rankings should be to consult with the SEO agencies as to what will happen if optimisation methods aren’t corrected (this may already have been done).

Ernest June 11, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Looks like Money Expert’s link buying exploits have earned them a strong listing on [car insurance] to go alongside their top positions on [loans] and [mortgages].

I wonder whether Google will bother to clamp down on them? It’ll prove whether the Confused and MoneySupermarket issues were a warning or a sign of treatment which all link buyers should expect.

Ben July 4, 2007 at 6:38 pm

Whilst doing some investigation it’s become evident that Money Supermarket are technically cloaking quite a few links to their top ranking pages.

They have a large number of links from sites like the http://www.timesonline.co.uk. These appear to link through to the relevant Times Online branded page on http://www.moneysupermarket.com, however if the browser or spider does not accept cookies and cannot run JavaScript they are permanently redirected to the Moneysupermarket version of the relevant page complete with the moneysupermarket URL. (which is the one currently ranking in the search results.)

So as an example this URL contains several links to MS.
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/money/insurance/

The link with the text “Life Assurance” links through an intermediate script:
http://www.moneysupermarket.com/link.asp?Section=term&Source=TIM

This script accepts two parameters, the first appears to be the source of the referral in this case “TIM” (times online) the section parameter appears to be used to tell the script where to permantly redirect to on the MS site.

This is the interesting part :) If like the majority of internet users you accept cookies and run JavaScript you’ll be 301 redirected to this URL:
URL 1: http://www.moneysupermarket.com/Termassurancep/Default.asp

If however your a search engine spider or user without cookies and JavaScript you’ll be permantly redirected to this URL:
URL 2: http://www.moneysupermarket.com/termassurance/

This of course means the cache of URL 1 actually shows the content of URL 2:

http://209.85.135.104/search?sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&q=cache:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.moneysupermarket.com%2FTermassurancep%2FDefault.asp

Forgive me if i’m wrong here but that’s cloaking for search engine benefit, and it’s not cloaking in order to keyword stuff the page it’s cloaking to gain links.

George January 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm
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