The search marketing agency, iAcquire, that was allegedly responsible for buying links for clients was just banned from Google’s search results.
iAcquire was cited as the agency behind Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation’s link buy request emails. For more on that see our story named What Can We Learn From The Latest Brand To Be Called Out For Paid Links?
A site command search for [site:www.iacquire.com] returns no results. Here is a screen shot:
iAcquire’s robots.txt file and source code has no signs of them manually requesting to be deindexed from Google. So this seems to either be a weird bug or an intentional penalty delivered to the agency by Google.
It also appears that the parties discovered in this investigation are all delisted from Google.
We reached out to Google for a comment but at the time of publishing this story, we have not heard back. If and when Google does reply, we will update the story.
Mike King, the Director of Inbound Marketing at iAcquire, responded to a tweet I sent him asking if Google delisted iAcquire. He said, iAcquire “sure was” delisted by Google. He then went on to explain that there was “no network” for Google to ban so they had a “hissy fit” and decided to ban the agency.
Here is his tweet:
@rustybrick sure was. There’s no network for them to kill so that’s them throwing their hissy fit.
— MyCool King (@iPullRank) May 25, 2012
I am not aware of another agency that was banned by Google for this practice. There were link networks and link brokers that have been banned but I don’t believe there was ever an agency that was banned for this practice.
We will update the story when we learn more.
Postscript From Danny Sullivan (May 25, 4:15pm ET)
As noted in the comments below, this is probably not the first time an agency has been banned because Google believes that it has bought or sold links — if that’s why iAcquire was indeed banned. We still don’t have an official word from Google on this, but it seems the most likely explanation.
However, it’s also likely the iAcquire was banned not for buying links but because Google believes it actually does control a paid link network or operates at least in significant part as a paid link company, despite iAcquire’s denials.
From my story yesterday, iAcquire said:
To be clear, we are not a link network. Every link we build is based on the very same principles touted throughout the industry. Our links are contextual and relevant through outreach performed by 40 actual in-house people that sit in our Arizona office and everything is pushed through strenuous quality assurance….
We are not a paid link company.
This leads to an important graphic from Josh Davis that connects iAcquire with companies that apparently are buying links (click to enlarge it):
The graphic, from Davis’s article here, explains why Davis believes the link request he originally received from a company called InternetReach.org is either owned by, controlled by or works in close association with iAcquire.
The companies in the graphic are mostly the same as the companies that DBBC listed in a letter it sent out yesterday to Google and DBBC’s SEO agencies, in hopes of getting the paid links removed.
InternetReach.org (where the original link request is said to have come from), MediaFinders.net and iOutReach.org all have the same San Francisco address listed on their contact pages, as does LinkBuilding.net (it’s LinkBuilder.net in the chart above, but that’s clearly a typo — Davis uses LinkBuilding.net in his story). MediaFinders.net and iOutReach both use virtually the same site template.
LinkBuilding.net has a Better Business Bureau logo on its site leading to a BBB listing for iAcquire, for its office in Arizona. That’s the connection between all four of the companies above to iAcquire. Certainly anyone might have added a BBB listing to iAcquire as some type of set-up, but this seems more farfetched than the idea that iAcquire has some assocition with LinkBuilding.net.
The story from Davis outlines other connections, such as things he was told when he called the number in the link request, that further seem to tie these companies back to iAcquire. By the way, InternetReach.org, LinkBuilding.net and DigitalPros.org all appear to have also been banned by Google.
In addition, there’s evidence that iAcquire acquired the paid link operations of Conductor, when it sold that operation last year, including three iAcquire employees having gone directly from Conductor to iAcquire, according to their LinkedIn profiles (see here, here and here).
I asked Joe Griffin, cofounder and partner with iAcquire, if the companies involved were part of iAcquire, subsidiaries or contractors and if iAcquire had purchased Conductor’s paid link service. I was told, similar to yesterday, that because of confidentiality reasons, iAcquire couldn’t comment on any of this.
As for an official comment on apparently being banned, Griffin emailed me:
iAcquire doesn’t take the position that Google is throwing a hissy fit. Mike mentioned that on Twitter to Barry, and perhaps he is right, but that’s not our position on the matter. Google has a job to do. This was a harsh lesson, but our position is to grow from this, make the required changes, get back in Google, and continue to offer world class WHITE hat services to our customers (financial compensation will not be considered in the outreach process).
We’ve also received an email from someone who said they were an iAcquire client and asked the company about the current situation. This is the email they say iAcquire sent back:
Thank you for the email. Rest assured that we have always followed best practice and as we don’t have a network and our publishers and clients won’t be impacted.
Going forward we will be ending the ability to compensate for new links. That said, our non-compensated link services are VERY good. This is a good opportunity for us all to evolve our practices and a powerful lesson for our agency, your agency, our clients, your clients.
Our outreach technology continues to be the best in our industry and we have been working on all white-hat options aggressively for the past year. While I understand your concern we have been evolving and have been performing incredible work.
Let’s use this opportunity to serve the greater goals we all have. We know how to deliver amazing white hat off-page SEO solutions – this pushes us all to focus on the right things. Feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions.
I’m set to talk with Griffin further on Tuesday, after the long holiday weekend here in the US, and I expect he’ll have more to share on the situation then.
Postscript: See our follow-up article, iAcquire: We’re Abandoning Paid Links.
Postscript 2: See Google Lifts Ban On iAcquire; Company Blogs Of Being Reformed