I hope you’ve been following the saga of OJR.org, the former home of the Online Journalism Review. In brief: When USC allowed the domain name to expire, an Australian company named Oneflare snagged the domain name and proceeded to create a fake version of the “Online Journalism Review” — adding USC and USC Annenberg logos to make it seem legit, stealing dozens or hundreds of archival OJR stories to give it heft, and generally being scummy enough to act as if it was still the legendary site that’s been around since the late 1990s.
After my first story, Oneflare did its best to take down the legally actionable parts of its scheme — removing the logos, deleting the archives — but still carried on as the “Online Journal Review,” featuring links back to the main Oneflare website. This is a common if scuzzy search engine optimization strategy: Use sites with high PageRank sites (those Google considers highly legit) to generate links to your company’s website, passing some of the Google juice earned over 15 years of publishing to the new venture. After my second story, Oneflare removed all the content from OJR.org; it’s currently a blank site.
Thanks to a little birdie, we know now that there have been consequences for Oneflare’s actions.
This thread in Google’s Webmaster Central forums tells the tale of someone named “hubfub” who has recently felt the wrath of Google’s punishment for SEO bad behavior. His post from Sunday (U.S. time, Monday in Australia):
My website received a sitewide manual action for unnatural inbound links back in July. We were able to get this revoked in August by removing about 50% of the links and disavowing the rest.
We recently hired a new SEO agency to work for us and last week they advised us to buy an high PR expired domain and put a “quality blog” on there and use it to make a link to our website. They told us that this was 100% whitehat (obviously it’s not as we are now aware). ["Whitehat" = legitimate search engine optimization; "blackhat" = scammy stuff that Google will punish if it finds out about. —Ed.]
I think this blog triggered our domain for another manual review and we were hit again with another sitewide manual action. PCB circuit boardI was surprised because other than buying that expired domain, we hadn’t done any other spammy link building since the last manual action was revoked. However after looking into webmaster tools and going to recent links I noticed that there were tons of spammy links that were built 3-6 months ago that were recently being indexed by Google.
My question is, does the the new indexation of the bad links that were built ages ago still get counted when Google is considering whether or not to take manual action? Obviously we’ve taken down the new blog that was built but what else can we do to get the second manual action revoked?