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Old 09-21-2005   #1
wiltonbiz
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Selling organic positionss - does it violate G's TOS?

An enterprising company called LocalCatering.com, enjoys some high organic placements on page 1 of Google for a wide variety of key industry terms (combined with local geographic modifiers). eg: New York Catering. What they are doing is, they are actively selling these spots by creating a subdomain of their main listing, and reselling it. They call it their "search engine placement program." I have not seen this ploy before. I actually think it is quite clever. However, it seems to me that it may be violating Google's TOS, or, at the very least, G would not see it as a cool move. I have reprinted their pitch letter below. What do people think?

Quote:
LocalCatering.com is currently offering companies an opportunity for their website to appear on the first page of major search engines like Google. This is an excellent opportunity to establish an online presence.

By becoming part of our search engine placement program your website will increase it’s exposure on the web and we guarantee your website to appear on the first page of Google immediately within 10 minutes.

To view an example of a search term we have already sold, go to Google and type in the search term “New York Catering.” You will notice that the first returned result is the LocalCatering.com New York portal. Under that is a subcategory listing for LocalCatering.com. That subcategory listing is actually for one of our members, a catering company in New York called “World Yacht Events”. By clicking on that link you will be directed to World Yacht Events website. That company has exclusive ownership of that key phrase. All key phrases can only be sold once.

The following key phrases are available in your market:
(phrases removed to protect source)

wiltonbiz

Last edited by wiltonbiz : 09-21-2005 at 07:55 PM. Reason: Title Change
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Old 09-21-2005   #2
earlpearl
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Its a variation on a doorway page I suppose. Its for google to determine ultimately. I suspect the spirit of its application for effective serps violates googles purpose.

Incredibly effective,though. Bet they are selling these for BIG BIG bucks.

Has to have taken a lot of optimization work to set it up.

There are many variations on this including topical directories though they don't take you directly into the site like this site does. Additionally, in the catering world partypop is out there selling its high rankings for various local catering phrases for an ad page that is bit like the yellow pages. They sell the links as redirects. If you confront their sales staff they will turn it into a hard link.

Wonder how effective they are w/these phrases for other cities. I'm aware of at least a few cities where some webmasters have done a good job in optimizing local catering sites.

Dave
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Old 09-22-2005   #3
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Of interest philadelphia catering and chicago catering have local sites at #1 for the phrases w/ this big devil tailing them at #2 and the local business that bought the position being #3.

A well localized local operator can evidently get #1 for its city. gotta work at it though.

Dave
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Old 09-23-2005   #4
wiltonbiz
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This company is certainly making it harder for small operators to rank in the SERPs. Normally, that would be fine --- all's fair etc... Regular directories succeed like this all the time. However, it seems to me that these guys go a step too far in their "search engine placement program." With a regular directory, even one that charges, it is fairly random whether a certain website within that directory shows up at a given point in organic SERPs. In this situation, the company is directly reselling its organic position. I can't believe it is something Google would think is cool. I certainly don't.
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Old 09-23-2005   #5
Chicago
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If I were competing on these SERPs, I would buy. In doing so, I would:

negotiate first - short term contract
make sure to obtain solid links back
mix up my business decriptions from my current site
optimize my page content


If these guys occupy your money serps you can either decide to be there or you can let your competition be there

Join em and then continue to optimize your site.

This model has been around for a decade. Many today are simply better at it, while their target markets are more receptive to taking advantage, thus helping to monetize the model.

Make no mistake about it however, any model, innovative or not, that relies exclusively on their performance in the G/Y algos is flawed from a long term perspective. Diversification of inventory and strong qualitative content to promote utility and destination is key to these models. Most will fail ~including the big boys > they have the money to keep on trying until they get it right though.

Last edited by Chicago : 09-23-2005 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 09-23-2005   #6
earlpearl
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Chicago has good points...though possibly in a Monday morning context...as the top term for your industry/geo region is now taken.

I'd look hard at the NY catering site and see if you can top it naturally.

The short term contract idea is appropriate. The site is not hitting #1 in every city.

It is very important to diversify. The algo's change, PPC can be very effective, you can hit dozens of 2ndary terms to get significant volume etc.

Dave
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Old 09-28-2005   #7
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I think the idea is great and stands to cash in pretty well. But how many local companies are THAT sophisticated in their local search marketing?

If I were a local company, my first concern is getting local traffic to my business. Referrals, newspapers, phone directories, and local ads. Those will drive my traffic and business.

If a website has top rankings and is willing to sell some of that benefit to me - and I have the budget - I would seriously weigh the virtues of doing that. Why? Because I could get some "instant" benefit right away. Short term is definitely a way to go - test it out, etc. And if these guys are good, a few months payment for visibility could be enough to drive traffic and business to my local company.

I don't think this is a bad idea and may be frowned upon by Google, but I think it's legitimate.
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Old 09-29-2005   #8
incrediblehelp
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I dont see to much wrong with creating a localized directory and then selling ads on the website to local websites.

I think a problem could arise with them framing all of their advertisers on their website:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=world+yacht+events

http://www.worldyachtevents.com/

http://www.localcatering.com/caterer/worldyachtevents/

The techniques used are kinda spammy with all the links at the bottom of each page. If I was them I would try to associate internal links a little better than just internally linking a San Fran Office Space page with a New York Catering page.
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Old 09-30-2005   #9
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For more hits to your site I would say it can drive more traffic, but from a branding prospective I would say it wouldn't be worth it. It seem to me that all they are going is redirecting your URL from there rankings. I dont think it can hurt.
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Old 10-05-2005   #10
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I don't see anything wrong with LocalCatering.com. Their site, unlike many of the yellow page-style sites, seems to offer useful content in addition to local vendors.

I do believe that having all of the links at the bottom of the page - non-relevant links - probably isn't a good idea. But I have seen (and work for) companies who have advertisers, and naturally they want to be listed on the search engines as well.

In our case, we're a magazine - mostly advertorial - but we also provide content and articles. Our publication is in many different cities around the country. While we want to be listed as a national company, we want to be listed in our different markets, as well. We follow a similar approach to LocalCatering.com (but we don't sell our rankings as they do.)

I wouldn't compare their techniques with the likes of Traffic Power tactics. I think its fairly legit and completely fair.

Just my 2 cents - great thread!!!
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Old 10-05-2005   #11
wiltonbiz
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LocalCatering.com scheme open to competitor attack?

I don't know how LocalCatering.com prices its placement in the SERPs for its clients. However, if it is based on a per click charge, rather than a flat fee, then a competitor can freely, and legitimately, rack up the charges. There is nothing wrong with clicking on an organic search listing, over and over and over.
WiltonBiz
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Old 10-05-2005   #12
Robert_Charlton
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Just quickly looking at the site, it's a variant of a lead generation site that I've seen in many local vertical market areas. With their more or less global site-maps, these disproportianately rose to the surface after the Google Florida update, when onpage anchor text seemed to be magic.

I still see them a lot, which is perhaps a sad commentary on the quality of local business websites, and also a commentary on SE algos. I would imagine that any semi-competent SEO with a modicum of effort could blow such a site out of the water for a particular local area. Depends on the algo of the day, though. These folks certainly have it covered for internal anchor text. Not much in the way of unique content on any one page.

I wouldn't be surprised if the template around which this site is built has been cloned for many different vertical niche markets.

Chicago's undoubtedly right that if you can make money by being listed, you should be listed. Be really careful about their duping your content, and have that prohibited contractually.
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