A few weeks ago Cruiseabout.com.au was one of Australia's most popular cruise websites, but on March 20, it virtually disappeared from Google search results.
Nothing in the first five pages. Same story at Escapetravel.com.au, another popular website, also owned by Flight Centre, one of the world's biggest travel companies.
The game had changed – they were being punished for borderline SEO practices by perhaps the most important person in the modern travel industry: a tidy, bespectacled middle-aged man with a Masters of Computer Science who wields extraordinary power from an office in Mountain View, California, in the beating heart of Silicon Valley.
His name is Matt Cutts, the 'Distinguished Engineer' in charge of Google's "web search quality regarding spam", which he defines as "adversarial information retrieval".Matt Cutts
Adversarial – Matt and his team are in a never-ending war with 'black hat' web spammers who use every trick in a rapidly dwindling book to game Google and improve the rankings of websites they work on.
One increasingly popular strategy – until now at least – revolves around guest blogging.
In simple terms someone writes a guest blog for your site that includes links back to sites they are promoting.
To sweeten the deal, payment may even be involved.
Look in your junk mail, I guarantee there'll be plenty of offers.
In fact, Matt Cutts is even getting them.
Unfortunately, the SEO team at Cruiseabout and Escape Travel made the big mistake of ignoring a warning issued by Mr Cutts through his blog exactly two months earlier on January 20.Full Story