Spam Engine Optimisation – The New SEO in the Binary Options Industry

Google’s Penguin update on 24th April 2012 was designed to lower the rankings of websites that use spam techniques, which violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

However, rather then deter black hat SEO gurus from spamming Google, a new form of short-term spam has emerged, which leads to lower quality SERPs than before the original Penguin update.

The Penguin update did two things.  First of all, it removed long-term websites that engaged in link purchasing from their search results.  However, it also opened the door for more short-term, black hat SEOs to swoop in with their hacked sites, 301 redirects and one-page web2.0 sites to rank for high value keywords in the interim.

Analyzing the Results in the Binary Options Industry

The nascent rise of the binary options industry is the perfect market for spam sites with a high turnover.  With CPAs reaching up to $300 per customer, hundreds of black hat SEOs, or “rankers” as I call them, have flocked to this industry in the hope of quick rewards and fake G+ author profiles.

While the majority of spam sites seem to lose their rankings after 2-3 weeks, the low price of registering a domain combined with the scalability or spammy link building techniques means that this presents more then enough time scale for spammers to make a large profit.

After speaking to the Marketing Director of a well known binary options operators, one of these spam sites ranking on the first page of Google (with a fake Google Plus profile, of course) was earning more than $5,000 revenues per week.  Unfortunately, even if Google catches these spam sites out after 2-3 weeks, it makes no sizeable improvement to the search engine results: new spam sites simply replace them.  By the time Google’s algorithm catches up with spam, two new spam sites have replaced it.

The value of ranking on the first page for competitive terms, combined with the low cost of registering a domain for $10 (or even setting up a web 2.0 site for free) means that black hat webmasters can go on forever generating spam sites in an endless loop, while other white hat sites are left in their midst.

Case Study: Page 1 and 2 for Binary Options in Google.com

The search engine rankings will inevitably change by the time this article is seen, so here’s a screen shot used in Google Chrome (Incognito) on 03/04/13 for the search “binary options” in Google.com:

binary options serps page 1binary options serps page 2Below the first two results (which includes a Wikipedia article and a Youtube video), users can see a one-page web 2.0 site, a domain that 301 redirects to an operator using an affiliate link (registered only 4 days ago), a one-page website with a thin affiliate landing page, a three year old article with sixteen comments in the last month from spammers promoting their own products or websites, two affiliate sites which have 1000s of backlinks from low quality, irrelevant sources, and finally a broker with a similarly shady looking backlink profile.

Unfortunately, the second page doesn’t get much prettier.  It also includes a series of thin affiliate sites breaking Google’s Webmaster guidelines, in addition to a PRWeb.com press release, which has been pummeled with 1,350 root domain backlinks.  One of the spam results on the second page also links to one of the spam sites on the first page.

What Sites Should or Deserve to Rank Page 1?

Of course, it’s entirely subjective asking which sites deserve to be seen by users on the first page of Google’s search results.  In my opinion, I’d argue that the industry’s biggest and oldest forum (BinaryOptionsDaily.com), the oldest binary options news site (BinaryOptionStrategy.com), the biggest binary options strategy site (BinaryOptions.com) and the world’s first and only US-regulated binary options operator (Nadex.com) should be present on the first page.

On another search for “binary options strategies”, this thin web2.0 blog ranks in first position, well above the BinaryOptions.com Strategies page, which contains a table of links to 35 advanced strategies with thousands of words of unique content, images and charts.

How Can an SEO Agency and Consultant Handle Clients in this Industry?

The biggest problem for an SEO consultant working in the binary options industry, or any other industry filled with spam, is how to explain to his/her client why all of these spam sites rank above their own clients’ sites.

This is an almost impossible task for most agencies – unless of course your client is willing to sit through a three-hour lecture on why these other sites can spam and rank in Google but you can’t.  In the end it just makes you sound like you don’t know what you’re doing.  Furthermore, white hat campaigns take longer to see rewards then black hat, thus by the time your client actually sees results with his site you could be sacked.

Matt Cutts recently suggested submitting spam reports to Google’s website here.  Unfortunately, this comprises a full-time job for white hat SEOs working in the binary options industry.  Further more, it doesn’t lead to a quick take down of spam sites.  I hate to say it, but what Google really needs is deeper regulation for heavily spammed industries – or at least to make sure what they tell webmasters to do actually works.  Improve the algorithms to stop one-page blogs, thin affiliate landing pages and web 2.0 sites from clogging the user experience.

At the end of the day, clients don’t care about white hat vs. black hat or Penguin updates and Pandas.  All they want are measurable results in order to see that the service you’re providing is worthwhile.  In an industry like binary options, this seems all but impossible.