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Expedia.com: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes [update +250%]

Bartosz Goralewicz
Bartosz Góralewicz specializes in link audits. He does consulting mostly for corporate customers and large sites. You can find some of his case studies or interesting posts at https://goralewicz.com

58 Comments

  1. Nenad on January 24, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Hi Bartosz

    I was reading some article on your blog few days ago and I liked one article and wanted to comment, but for some reason this was not possible…anyway, I was now checking where the visitors are coming from (to our site) and noticed a link from this site, so I came to see what is it about and saw this great article.
    I am glad that you covered all these tactics cause this is exactly what i found out, I especially like that blackhat Free WP themes site. Imagine, free themes with premium support, and all they want is a footer link to stay intact.
    When I was checking out these links I saw (among others) “Galvestone Hotels” and when you search for that KW Expedia is either 2nd or 3rd spot on the first page.

    The agency that was doing this for Expedia was so sure nobody is going to follow their works that they didn’t want to hide their footsteps. And they were tapping each other on the back all the way to the bank for the last 5-10 years.

    Google webspam team is a major Joke

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on January 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Agency mentioned here is pretty “strange”. They are impossible to find, no backlinks (only from non-indexed staging sites). No SEO done in SEO agency? I think they are somehow connected to Expedia, but no idea if its true.

      Good job starting this whole thing Nenad!

  2. Dan on January 25, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Excellent analysis. I’ll be looking forward to the link detox part 😀

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on January 29, 2014 at 1:31 am

      Thanks Dan, its live now 😉

      • Christoph C. Cemper on January 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm

        Thanks Bart!

  3. James on January 25, 2014 at 2:41 am

    Dude, this is fantastic. It’s like baseball, if players don’t do steroids, it won’t be a level playing field. Same thing in highly competitive online marketing.(travel, education, IMO,MMO etc….

    I’m glad that Google is standing by their terms.

    Props on this post!

    James

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on January 29, 2014 at 1:33 am

      Thanks James, I am affraid, that this whole niche should be “cleaned” by Google a little bit.

      • Michael Korolishin on February 4, 2014 at 10:13 pm

        Hopefully they take on the Fitness and Health industry next…I have an inkling it’s just as bad, if not worse than the Travel and Hospitality industry.

        By that, I mean it’s currently a full-blown fucking mess.

  4. eldy on January 25, 2014 at 3:37 am

    will seo specialists receive salary bump? they are like the key man for a raise and down in a company, like we see in rap genius and expedia.

  5. PackmintonR on January 25, 2014 at 4:05 am

    It is about time. There were times when I felt the hand of injustice from Google. Big names have always got free of the penalties while little ones suffer.

    I guess this is sending signals out to other big names to review their link building strategies.

    Thanks for this post and the analysis.

    BTW. Cemper’s tools are awesome but EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE!

    • Michael Korolishin on February 4, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      While I agree that Google needs to come down on some of these big brands using questionable tactics, as well as make it easier for SMBs to recover when they are hit with an automatic penalty, I think we should take into consideration the actual impact of some of these manual “penalties”.

      Rap Genius is a great example, because the entire thing felt like a manufactured PR stunt from both parties – I still believe it may have been one. I mean, let’s think about what actually happened. That Google penalty lasted for barely 2 weeks, hardly the experience shared by many SMBs who are hit with automatic penalties. On top of this, the sheer amount of press around the even actually lead to Rap Genius’ organic link profile GROWING..at a rate faster than they had ever experienced in the history of the company. Now Rap Genius is using this wave of free press to launch their own App, and they are firmly back at the top of Google search results, even after running the single most asinine link building scheme seen this side of Expedia.

      It’s important to remember that Google is in the business of providing the best platform for advertisers, everything else is ancillary to, or a direct result of this fact. Rap Genius was too big, and too popular for Google to keep off the web for long because of the amount of PPC related to the keywords they rank for.

  6. Johan Hedin on January 25, 2014 at 4:43 am

    Interesting case study. Just like any other big site like BMW that was penalized many years back, came back very quickly. I think it will be the same for Expedia. It’s amazing that Expedia got all these low quality back links and they did not even know it. Did they ever check their GWT? If it was a not a negative attack, then I guess they have learned a lesson not to use cheap SEO tactics.

  7. Amit on January 25, 2014 at 6:33 am

    It will be really interesting to know about Expedia’s Link management and Link cleaning strategy.

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on January 29, 2014 at 1:35 am

      There is a massive clean-up going on now, but I doubt they will talk about it. 🙂

  8. Rick Lomas on January 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

    I have a handful of clients that I am trying to recover at the moment – mostly Penguin 2.0 and 2.1 drops. The weird thing is that they have mostly been sold SEO services that said “White Hat Penguin Safe Tactics”. Clearly risk management and knowing your battlefield is more important than ever now. I’m always stunned by how huge companies like Expedia, Interflora and Direct Line can manage their risk so badly. It’s all good new for LRT Associates Like myself though 🙂

  9. Steve on January 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Nice work Bartosz! Not a good idea to have the same listing in a few hundred directories then?

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on January 29, 2014 at 10:45 am

      It depends – if you got a short term strategy, that might work well (for a short time) 🙂

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on January 29, 2014 at 10:48 am

      If you got a long-term SEO strategy, then I wouldn’t do that.

  10. Matthew Boley on January 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    That will teach them… I am surprised that they didn’t get hit long ago. It’s amazing though how many companies I run across when researching why a company is on top are actually performing black hat. The financial or loan niche is the worst out of all of them I have found. Great write up, I am glad I don’t use any of those tactics lol.

  11. Rotimi on January 26, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Great work Bartosz,
    I am shocked to hear that you still have more digging to do on this matter.
    Talk about being in-depth and thorough.
    Kudos to you on your efforts.

    I hope to read more SEO reports from you in the future. And thanks for this one.

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on January 28, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Thanks Rotimi,

      Actually there was a lot more work, and I hope it’s more clear to see in the full version. I’ve spent hours and hours researching Expedia’s backlinks. When I found one thing, it was like opening the doors with many other doors behind it. I think its and endless research, so we tried to focus on the main problems here.

  12. Magnus Strømnes Bøe on January 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Great effort to show what actually happened.
    Looking forward to the results of further digging.

  13. Jerry on January 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    What might be really interesting is to see how the bounced back from the penalty. I can still see them rank highly for a few keywords.

  14. Abdul Wahab on January 28, 2014 at 5:06 am

    Interesting findings. Most interesting point is Google took action after nanad’s blog. Its a question mark to Google’s algo.

    Waiting for next findings in this

  15. Krzysztof Furtak on January 28, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Brawo:)

  16. Brett T. Smith on January 28, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    I’m glad that Nenad exposed what Expedia was doing. Big brands need to be treated with the same slap that a small business site would receive. Unfortunately based on what I can tell, these big brands can get away with this type of stuff. Another example is GoDaddy http://goo.gl/ARoX3Z (thanks to @ViperChill)

  17. sourabh rana on January 29, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Hello Bartosz,

    Thanks for this case study as a travel company we also aware & cautious about these kind of link building programs. Last year cheapoair.com also penalized like this but this is really pretty big penalty.

    I checked his total link profiles they have 92crores external inks acc. to majestic seo database. ( very very huge)

    YES, we are waiting will google give them ranking again in just few days like google did with other top brands in past like rap genious & interflora.com

  18. Massimo Fattoretto on January 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Great Analysis

    Thanks:)

  19. Charlie @ ClickProz on February 3, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Yet the author of this article has a dofollow signature link in his author bio. Interesting.

    • Bartosz Góralewicz on February 3, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      Matt Cutts said it many times. It is the end of “low quality” guest posts blogging. He even mentioned that it is targeted towards paid guest blogs and you should only let someone you trust do a guest blog. I don’t see this case study as a way of getting 1 do-follow no-anchor link to “fool” the algo 🙂

      It is important to see a difference between spammy WP template with hidden links, and 1 no-anchor do-follow link from a quality post. IMHO links like the one in my BIO are exactly ones that Google should consider as a quality ranking factor. Not the other way around.

  20. Chande on February 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Hahaha. I’ve been doing travel for years and this is nothing new. But now SEO community backfired to the hypocrisy of Google and sank Expedia. I would not like to be the manager who approved spamming for them. But I guess with so much $$$ in the pockets, they’ll clean up and get the rankings back.

    With manual tweaking by Mr. Cutts and “no-spam” team.

    Poor guy will be the collateral damage. VPs will still earn big checks. Investors will regain faith once the results are up.

    Time to invest in expedia stock.

    What a joke.

  21. @mmeisner on February 4, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    http://t.co/CFg7UxylKi: the FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes [250%+ update] http://t.co/ZxPKUjyR4A very detailed expose

  22. @stuartdmcleod on February 4, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Expedia has been hit hard with a Penalty and lost 25% of its visibility, find out why –
    http://t.co/kwrwhAUSWr

  23. @ben_beck on February 4, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    THIS –> http://t.co/zdlBr3J5es: the FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes http://t.co/YEY058R4J9 http://t.co/Q8LzSih1nI

  24. @jonaslindblom on February 5, 2014 at 2:35 am

    Spännande länkanalys kring vad som hände med Expedia #svSEO http://t.co/FLkyY44v6C

  25. @815seo on February 5, 2014 at 5:37 am

    http://t.co/vlbH7DBD5p: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes [update +250%] http://t.co/yGKiUAh2Jm via @cemper

  26. @iamjoona on February 5, 2014 at 10:52 am

    This was an epic read of sneaky stuff that big sites can/could get away with: http://t.co/kiwUxmdbST #seo #fuckthisshit

  27. @alfina87 on February 5, 2014 at 11:46 am

    http://t.co/AxZrclobWR: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes http://t.co/1hYGZp6fWL via @cemper #blackhatseo

  28. Victoria Lennon on February 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Brilliant article and very thought provoking!

    I wondered if you had any thoughts/opinion as to why Expedia managed to get away with using these out-dated techniques for so long (and why other brands are too)? Surely some of it would have been penalised after Penguin? It’s depressing for those of us who are adhering to the guidelines!

  29. @bart_goralewicz on February 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    “@alfina87: http://t.co/mmGeh1G6LO: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes http://t.co/2W05UhKXoJ via @cemper #blackhatseo”

  30. @kwaimind on February 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Wow! In Depth case study – http://t.co/UtW1jQ3vWw: the FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes – http://t.co/xOXz6qDZEd

  31. @tomyches on February 5, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    http://t.co/zftN3vAEp1: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes [update +250%] http://t.co/IRt8a48USq vía @cemper

  32. @JakubMovic on February 6, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    http://t.co/7wSYoix8nX: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes [update +250%] http://t.co/iZLdqV9ndh via @cemper

  33. @wkaczanowski on February 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    as always great case study from @cemper : Deep-dive into Expedia´s Unnatural Link Schemes http://t.co/UF7j7apxJj

  34. @samsonmedia on February 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    This is a WILD story about Google’s smackdown of Expedia and why. Reads like a whodunnit. http://t.co/uSIia8skoP

  35. @samsonmedia on February 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    This is a WILD story about Google’s smackdown of Expedia and why. Reads like a whodunnit. http://t.co/uSIia8skoP http://t.co/qUxM3sBsp3

  36. @kesbutters on February 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    http://t.co/T8o9tpJVfA: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes [update +250%] http://t.co/vnkuMis7OW via @cemper

  37. Durant Imboden on February 8, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Mind-boggling analysis. Good work! Now, if only a whistleblower could supply an analysis of how these schemes were allowed to happen (and of how high in the company the corrupt SEO schemes were approved).

  38. Spook SEO on February 11, 2014 at 7:12 am

    All of this was MMG’s fault why Expedia drop down this last January. That was the Expedias major breakdown.

  39. Jonathan Hatton on February 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Absolutely superb analysis.

    Very interesting to see the level of work put into link building they have done.

  40. @Pro_Ice on May 25, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Очень интересное чтиво — расследование использования Expedia грязного SEO с WordPress-темами: http://t.co/ItlhHeyowT via @cemper

  41. @KarineHeyden on June 19, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    @NinaHendy Google it? SEO fraternity? Ever seen this http://t.co/4OuuwhAYWg or this http://t.co/Rnsa2wXFd6

  42. @joannavaiou on July 17, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    http://t.co/tZIcBWdN4f: FULL deep-dive into Unnatural Travel Link Schemes [update +250%] http://t.co/EtvMUuZko0 via @cemper #seo #seolinks

  43. Valentino Mea on December 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    This is a complete analysis on the of Google penalty. Unfortunately, many brands use techniques to the limit, as Amazon for example, but are not penalized.

  44. Giuseppe Pignataro on October 20, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Excellent work Bartosz, you made a really deep audit! Definitely a bad idea to have the same listing in a few hundred directories

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