An online casino affiliate has been accused of hacking numerous higher education websites to boost its Google search results.
Last week, web marketing agency eTraffic published a report indicating that an unidentified online casino affiliate site’s surge to the top of Google’s search engine rankings appeared to have been the result of some seriously ‘black hat’ optimization techniques.
Between January and September 2016, the affiliate site in question had gone from Google keyword rankings in the 40s and 50s to top-10, including number one rankings for traditionally pricey keywords/phrases like ‘real money slots,’ ‘online slots real money,’ ‘real slots,’ ‘real online slots’ and ‘play real money slots online.’
eTraffic notes that one of the key factors Google employs when ranking search results is the number of backlinks from top level domains like .gov and .edu. The affiliate had 76 such backlinks from major educational sites in the US and other countries, including New York University, Dartmouth College, Duke University and Stanford University.
The articles in which these backlinks appeared could be several years old, yet eTraffic found that the links had been inserted this year. The articles themselves had nothing to do with gaming and the keywords had been awkwardly inserted into the middle of sentences. Finally, the linked words were neither underlined nor displayed in a different color, presumably in a bid to evade detection.
eTraffic declined to identify the affiliate but a quick check of the cited articles – many of which remain online in their altered form – reveals that the affiliate is mobileslotcash.com.
eTraffic says the hack has exposed the lack of emphasis that Google places on the domain or page relevancy of backlinks from high-trust sources. Google’s supposed lack of tolerance for backlinks with partial or exact match anchors also appears to be less concrete than previously imagined.