*Update* New links at the bottom to some really good cases against Rip Off Report
Before You Jump to any conclusions, I am not saying sites that warn consumers of true scams and rip offs are bad, I think they are very very good. I love the Internet because it levels the playing field for small businesses and individuals to compete with big business. Before the Internet that was impossible. However, I do not think that there should be a place in Google's search results for a company that does nothing to scan or proof read their "User Generated Content" and that also blatantly spams and violates Google's TOS. This Brings me to the current marriage of Google and Rip Off Report.
I am sure you are all familiar with Rip Off Report, it is by far the largest database of complaints about businesses, individuals and pretty much anything on the planet from religion to government all the way to Racist remarks. Rip Off Report has been accused of all sorts of shady things, racketeering, black mail and rip offs. I am not going to get into the lawsuits against its owner Ed Magedsonon or any of the many allegations of what appears to be shady practices. What I am going to get into is how they are being leveraged to manipulate Google's search results and how Google is fueling their questionable business.
Rip Off Report thrives off of ranking in Google's search results, I would say that the only reason they are so popular is because of the relationship they have with Google's search results. According to Compete.com Rip Off Report receives roughly 606,439 referrals from Google's search results each month. I bet you wish your site got that many referrals from Google each month, in fact I would say most sites on the net don't. From October 2007 until now (Jan 2008) those referrals have come from 5,761 different search keywords. Again this is according to Compete. I was curious about how Yahoo and Live treat Rip Off Report in their search results. I don't think that you will find the results surprising as Google can tend to favor and love certain domains where as Yahoo and Live don't play favorites as often.
I ran a ranking report on the first 89 keywords that Compete said where their top referring search terms. Here are the results you can download the PDF here
As you can see Google is definitely treating Rip Off Report different than Yahoo and Live. Live has dropped them from their results all together, so applauds all around for them. Something I found surprising was Yahoo has almost twice as many pages indexed (676k +) as Google, but ranks virtually nothing whereas Google pretty much ranks every single post in its index in the top 20.
Let Me Get to the Meat:
First I'm going to lay out how they are very much violating Google's Webmaster Guidelines. For those of you that aren't familiar with them you can view the page here,
Like I showed above Rip Off Report thrives, and virtually exists only because of Google's treatment of it. Look at what they say on the home page to encourage posting with them,
"By filing a Ripoff Report it's almost like creating your own web site
..And, it's FREE.
Your Ripoff Report will be discovered by millions of consumers! Search engines will automatically discover most reports, meaning that within just a few days or weeks, your report may be found on search engines when consumers search, using key words relating to your Ripoff Report."
They flat out say, we get your crap indexed and ranked in the top ten in a matter of days. That is music to the ears of a shady employee that just got fired.
1.)Technical Guidelines from Google:
"Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don't add much value for users coming from search engines."
If you search for Rip Off Reports search results pages in Google by doing this site:ripoffreport.com - intitle:"search results" it will bring back only the search results pages that are currently indexed in Google which on my results shows 49,400. That is a lot of pages that shouldn't be in Google's index.
If you don't think this is a big deal read this article from Search Engine Land and the main post from Matt Cutts of Google.
2.)Quality Guidelines - Specific Guidelines Section:
"Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content."
Subdomains - w3.ripoffreport.com Exact replica of Rip Off Report over 2,000 pages indexed in Google.
Domains - www.badbusinessbureau.com Exact Replica of Rip Off Report over 17,000 pages indexed in Google.
3 Google Cached Links of the same exact post on all 3 domains, there are thousands of cached Duplicates.
1 Cached on Jan 11, 2008
2 Cached on Jan 6, 2008
3 Cached on Jan 6, 2008
They are definitely up for Spammers of the Year.
3.) also from Quality Guidelines - Specific Guidelines Section
"Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords."
There was even a recent post attacking us
Check out the title tag,
"97th Floor It Is Better On Top Spy With Firefox 97th Floor social media scam spyware tracked users scam 97th floor firefox social media Internet Internet"
They mention 97th Floor 3 times, Firefox 2 times, scam 2 times, social media 2 times then Internet Internet at the end.
Common sense tells me that isn't the way Google would like title tags to be written. If I was Matt Cutts and I followed Rip Off Reports logic to title tags, my title tag would be like this compared to the original.
Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO
New Title based off of Rip Off Report Style Optimization:
Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Matt Cutts, Google Google and SEO Matt Cutts, Gadgets Internet Internet
Do you think the person that wrote the title for the post about our Social Media for Firefox ext. wanted it to rank in the top ten of Google? It was written on Jan 7, 2008 and indexed and in the top 10 of Google on Jan 8, 2008. Rip Off Report can I hire your spammer seo?
Most of the posts in Rip Off Report are totally stuffed full of keywords both in the Title and the body, it is so blatant it is a joke. This stuff makes BMW Germany look like a saint.
The validity of these posts are what brings me to my last points.
They State on their Homepage,
"While we encourage and even require authors to only file truthful reports, Ripoff Report does not guarantee that all reports are authentic or accurate."
Doesn't that contradict itself? I know that it is virtually impossible to guarantee that user generated content can be 100% reliable, but we all know the trouble that sites like Myspace and Facebook get into when things slip through the cracks, why should Rip Off Report be any different. What, they require that they post truth by putting it in the TOS, but never policing or following through. Here is how I know that the post about our Social Media tool is 100% crap or written by a brain dead idiot.
"Install 97th floor social media attachment for firefox and get tracked.
Way to go, database user info...Whatever would that before.
Nice way to use your add-on -build your business at others expense.
97th floor claims it was an error. Pretty big oversight. 97th floor catches it after it could be to late for most users who downloaded it. Social media firefox cheaters. Good luck next time.
97th floor ripoff - tried to scam and now caught?
Tmx wpb fl
west palm beach, Florida
First of all is that even English? Second here are the facts. There are only 3 sites that posted that I may be trying to spy on people with my new Fire Fox tool. Seo Scoop, Ekstreme, and Sphinn which was a link to the story on Ekstreme. All the stories had updates within 24 hours stating that the bug had been fixed and that I handled it well and that we were in the clear and that it was a super sweet tool. So all of the sudden a post gets added to Rip Off Report on Jan 7th 2008 about 5 months after I released the tool, and it says I am a scammer and all this stuff, but the only places the writer could of gotten the content were from sites saying, "Updated, 97th Floor is in the clear". So this was a blatant post to damage my companies Rep. and to rank in the top Ten for my name. As he even admits in the first post that we "clam it is an error" and that it was a "big oversight" so he read all the posts saying we fixed it and that it was a mistake, but posted it anyways. I wander if it is because on of our biggest keyword referrals from google to us is "Rip Off Report"
Look at the rebuttal which was posted a couple hours after the first post was made,
"Tmx wpb fl
west palm beach, Florida
Upon further review, the social media extension is legitimate. It has been modified and was a true and correct error. Will download again and continue to use."
The guy says he loves the tool and that he is going to use it again. The time frame is so close to the original post that it makes me think did he post it, wait to get the email that it is live, and then go post the rebuttal, all as an opportunity to make it look real and to have an excuse to use the term, "97th Floor" a couple more times. It just doesn't make sense to me.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page are in Rip Off Report and it is still bed buddies with Google?
Go to Google and type in "Sergey Brin California" you will see around number 8 this post (don't worry Sergey No Followed that for ya).
Claims that some guys named Sergey Brin and Larry Page where drunk and picking up teenage girls in a coffee shop in California.
"I am sixteen years old and I met Sergey Brin in a coffee shop in Santa Monica. Sergey started talking to me and my friend and told us that he was a big shot in computers or something. He wrote down his first name and cell phone number and asked me to give him a call the next day to go out.
My friend left because she had to go meet her mom. I stayed because I was bored and Sergey bought me a milk shake. He really knows how to talk to a girl. He told me that he can get me in at any concert for free. His friend Larry arrived, and him and Sergey had to go. When I called his cell phone the next day, a message came in: 'This is Sergey Brin, please leave a message.' That's how I knew what his last name is. When he called me back I asked him about the free tickets but he said that he wanted to see me to give them to me in person. I had a bad feeling about it, especially when I spoke to my friend the next day and she said this guy wants something. He is like thirty or even maybe older!
When i talked to him I told him I was sixteen and he said: 'I don't kiss and tell. He you want we can meet in a hotel, have a nice time and I'll bring the free tickets'. ' Then he said: 'Have ever had Vodka?' I thought I would talk about this guy here because he is way too old to want to go out with me. I am a virgin, I don't drink, and I am not meeting nobody in a hotel!
Beverly Hills, California
Then there is an update,
"I forgot to say that Sergey Brin was trying to hit on bothe my friend Maria and me at the coffe shop. He is really gross! His friend Larry introduced himself as Larry Page. Sergey Brin really smelled of liquor. BAD!! Larry seemed sober but he kept on looking at my boobs and my friend's. Then Sergey Brin was asking if they were real, and it made me laugh because he was funny.
I think he was really drunk. At some point he poured something out of a tiny bottle in a paper bag in his cup of coffe. That was after my friend left. He asked me if I wanted some. I didn't wanna sound like a loser but I said no. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing. Then like I said I talked to him on the phone the next day, but I did not make a date. He called me the next day and a few times after that. Sergey Brin sounded really drunk again! Larry Page sound like the same old pervert, but he didn't try nothing, because his friend saw me first I think and my friend left.
Anyway he is too old for me that Sergey Brin! He said he drives a really nice car and wanted to take me for a spin but I was afraid of what he'd try to do to me in the car. Thank you for reading this.
Beverly Hills, California
Then Meredith's friend Maria Velasquez pipes in (but it was posted by Meredith)
I was there what a creep this Sergey Brin and his friend Larry Page
"My name is Maria Velasquez. That Sergey Brin guy is really creepy. My friend and I was at the coffee shop in Santa Monica and that Sergey Brin Guy and his friend Larry Page wanted to pick us up. I left because I had to meet my mom. I told Larry Page no can do. I think he liked my friend Meredith better because he kept on looking at her boobs. They were trying to impress us because Sergey said that him and Larry Page worked for a big computer company or something. Larry got mad at Sergey when he took a phone call and said Larry's last name over the phone to someone. He said 'Page is here with me, you wanna talk to him?' That's how we knew the other guy's last name. Sergey Brin was just too drunk to care anyway. I'm not even seventeen yet and those two are way too old for me or Meri.
I LOVE JLO!"
LOL, "I LOVE JLO".... You can't make this crap up.
So to sum up an extremely long post, Rip Off Report is a scam and is spamming Google's index, and Google is currently letting them get a way with it. They know this and so do their users and as a result thousands of peoples lives are being ruined due to blatant lies and and made up stories. Again I am a lover of the Internet and as messed up as Rip Off Report maybe there is a place on the internet for lies and junk, that is the beauty of the net we all have a voice. However there is no place for this whatsoever in Google's search results.
All Links to ROR are Happily No Followed
I Love JLO
*Update Rand at SeoMoz is backing us up, and he brought up another TOS violation that ROR is engaging in. Read the post to get the full details but, it looks like ROR is not putting No Follow on Paid links and advertisements.
Also great post by Andy Beal and Distilled
And a new post diving head first into the legal side of ROR by Sarah Bird who is in charge of legal at SEOmoz