• http://www.adigaskell.org/blog Adi

    You couldn’t make it up. Politicians really are slimey buggers.

  • Hillz

    Breaking Google’s TOS isn’t against the law, and in all honestly i don’t feel pitty for Google when people spam the sh#t of them any more. If Google is willing to burn you regardless of whether you follow their rules or not. Then call it collateral damage when they destroy legitimate sites. It actually makes financial sense to become a spammer.
    It costs a lot less to loose a bunch of spammy sites, than it is to loose ONE quaility site that was killed for no good reason. Im not a spammer like this politician…but i totally see the appeal:).
    And no…please don’t tell about cleaning up the web… yadda yadda yadda. Google is a big boy and they should clean up the mess they created themselves!!

  • Kevin

    Haha.. I like how Danny uses link condoms on certain questionable sites. No chance he’ll catch any unwanted diseases :D

  • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick

    I have long suspected that the “anything goes if you can make a few dollars” variety of spam slimeball would typically be a conservative. Spam Google, trick some unsuspecting buyers, make some money – run for office.
    That reminds me – wasn’t there a rumor that Bain Capital bought BMR and Linkvana?

  • http://www.glocalseo.com/ SeanPaul

    Thank you danny. I just bought copy TPM.
    Please find something better to write.

  • robthespy

    Why is this Important?

  • http://www.SmartInternetBusinessSolutions.co.uk/ Tarjinder S. Kailey

    I agree with Google regarding the practice of scrapping and spinning. It may seem an easy work but on the other hand, even though the scrapped info from Ezine for example is being distributed into several spun articles, you can really tell the thinness and lack of substance of the articles because the originality of the content is already sufficed due to the act itself.

  • Maurice Walshe

    An “brave” choice (to borrow a line from sir Humphrey
    Appleby) a business man from the dodgier end of the business world. A bit akin
    to having a chancellor of the exchequer who came from a pay day loans company.

    Having said that the Party chairmans #1 job is fund raising for the next election
    and a MMF merchant might be good at smoozing the SME business men into donating
    to the Tories.

    Interestingly enough Google has “friends” in high places too Rachel Whetstonefor

    It a risky appointment as I could certainly write up some lines
    for Ed to use in speeches painting Mr Shapps
    in a negative light which would go down well with the traditional labour supporters
    disenchanted libe dems and a fairly large rump of Tory voters who dislike the more borrow boy element of their
    own party.

  • http://www.facebook.com/quenton.fyfe Quenton Fyfe

    >”Perhaps UK prime minister David Cameron, the Conservative leader who >ultimately gave Shapps his new position, wasn’t aware that Google wouldn’t like the >type of business that Shapps (or his wife) run.”

    Or perhaps the democratically elected prime minister of the UK didn’t think he needed Google’s approval of his reshuffle?

    Looking at the other side of the political spectrum – has any current labour MP ever started any business?

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    What a non-story. It’s not illegal to write spun content, or sell tools that create spun content. Google are just a private company like any other company. They aren’t the internet’s policemen. Just because they police their own index on their particular search engine doesn’t make them moral arbiters of what is and isn’t good content.

    It’s also not surprising that the Guardian and “Independent” make a story out of it since they’re left-leaning media outlets. It’s just political football, and Danny’s fallen for it.

    And before anyone accuses me of defending a right-wing politician, Danny – here’s a REAL story for you – investigate why the prime minister and also chancellor of the exchequer of the United Kingdom regularly make visits to Google’s London office for undisclosed reasons – there’s a REAL story for you.

  • Scott Boyd

    Nice write up.

    Shapps has been playing the dark side for a while. A few years back he setup a sock puppet Youtube account, and posted messages to the Lib Dem pages posing as a supporter (he ended being outed because he forgot he was logged in with his own account when he posted…something he later blamed on a weak password and his account being hacked). He’s also been slated for using automated software and slightly dodgy tactics to raise his twitter following.

    The media seem to be focused on the “Google TOS violation” angle, but realistically if this software is sold on even a small scale, it could have a significant economic impact from raising PPC costs and displacing organic listings of legitimate businesses. All from an MP who penned a book on “how to bounce back from a recession”.

    Suprised his golf site (at least) hasn’t been banned from the index yet though.

    Watched the guy on the BBC’s political program earlier and he hinted at the possibly of running for the leadership of the Tory party. Black hat Prime Minister…tax reliefs for links anyone?

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    “if this software is sold on even a small scale, it could have a
    significant economic impact from raising PPC costs and displacing
    organic listings of legitimate businesses.”

    Really? If crappy spun content outranks legit, quality pages, that’s Google’s ineptitude more than anything else. Also, as has been pointed out many times, Google doesn’t owe anyone a living – no matter how good you think your website may be, it’s not Google’s job to agree with you and rank you highly. People will vote with their clicks anyway, so if Google’s index is full of crap ranking highly, then people will stop using their search engine. That’s how consumerism works.

  • Scott Boyd

    Google’s ineptitude perhaps, but an exploit that takes money from advertisers nonetheless – Google isn’t the one being ripped off – in fact, Google does quite nicely from Adsense spammers ensuring a higher percentage of online sales involve a paid click somewhere in the purchase funnel. Not illegal, sure. But certainly a significant level of hypocrasy for an MP who has authored a book on beating a recession.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.ollington Steve Ollington

    Strange that some comments about the article are so negative, I think it’s ideal at this point in time. Cameron’s reshuffle has given seats of power to a fair number of morally bankrupt people who don’t know the meaning of the word ethics (as Andrew Copson has put it:
    https://twitter.com/andrewcopson/status/242943313752244224 ) and this article highlights just how little Cameron has thought about his choices. It’s totally relevant… why would we in the UK, who want to see an end to politicians whose main characteristic is greed, want a minister who will do something so low to make money? I think we can all agree that no matter what Google thinks, Shapps knew exactly that he was pushing a crappy product with no value to make a quick buck!

  • http://twitter.com/IanLockwood Ian Lockwood

    No, it’s not illegal. You might not say it’s immoral for that matter. But selling software for hundreds of pounds a time knowing that it is actually a load of crap and will likely get your website kicked out of Google, that’s immoral if not illegal. Then using a pseudonym and claiming that you have nothing to do with the business you are in partnership with your wife running (how exactly does that not benefit a spouse?), that suggests that you know it is dodgy and you want to disassociate yourself for fear of being tarred as the slimeball you most definitely are.

    It’s a trust thing. Why would you trust a politician happy to rip people off, never mind deceive you about his popularity by using TweetAdder? Not illegal, but hardly the moral fibre a caring politician is made of (yes, I appreciate that is pretty much an oxymoron these days).

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    David, see the link in the last paragraph — it covers the Google visits (plus Google’s explanation that they aren’t unusual compared to other companies).

    I also disagree it’s a non-story. The Advertising Standards Authority might, looking at that golf page alone, find it’s misleading to pretend that it was written on a particular date (when it wasn’t), written by a particular person (which is really a made up name) with a story about how the golf guide was found (which is probably entirely made-up). All that from a company that the co-chair of a major political party founded and still received, at least indirectly, money from?

    Yeah, that’s a story. What’s a story is how he was a minister before this without any attention being focused on it.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    He clearly doesn’t. But it is perhaps not the wisest of moves to have one of your party co-chairs be responsible for a company that pushes a product designed to spew out 1000s of crappy pages in a matter of hours.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yes, I mentioned Whetstone at the end of my story.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Awesome, Sean Paul. I’m sure the clients looking for those guaranteed first page results that your company promises will be reassured that you’ve found a better quality of tech to use, one that matches the ethical approach to SEO on your home page. If that’s indeed your site. If it is, then I suggest you read your home page again, because covering this should be exactly the type of thing you’d want.

  • Andrew Redfern

    Excellent Post Danny.

    A recent guardian article asked the question “Grant Shapps: style over substance?”
    Sounds a lot like his software.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronjames.kocourek Aaron James Kocourek

    Danny, once again, chill on the worthless political articles and get back to what you are good at, writing about link building! @least you are keeping your private enewsletters clean of this garbage.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    In the UK, we’ve already been through a cross-party expenses scandal (look it up in Google), and countless instances of politicians using tax payer’s money for their own personal greed. I don’t think anyone’s too bothered if you uncover an MP having a sleazy SEO business that’s entirely legal, if lame. As to advertising standards, well if we apply that to the SEO industry as a whole, then most services would close down overnight. In fact, never mind SEO, I work in web design and development, and this industry is entirely an unregulated wild-west.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    We already do NOT trust our politicians. They lost our trust a LONG time ago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.ollington Steve Ollington

    Why? Do you claim to speak for everyone that reads the articles?? I like this article, I find it very interesting… a lot more-so than most of the stuff that gets published on SEO blogs. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean others in SEO can’t have wider interests than just link building. This wouldn’t have had 229 tweets if people didn’t want to read it, as they wouldn’t want to share it.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    So you’re saying Google isn’t responsible for how it ranks its organic listings, but spammers are?

  • Jon

    I’m amazed that no-one has brought this up before. Grant’s main business was in printing but he built HowToCorp as Michael Green and was one of the UK’s most successful ‘internet marketing gurus’ before he became David Cameron’s sponsor and, subsequently got great jobs in the Tory party – funny how one follows the other!

    Anyway, considering the number of SEO and Panda experts here, how come no-one has run to the bottom of any of his sites like http://www.howtoachievetheswingingolf.com/ and done a ‘select all’ to see all the hidden links? He’s had these links there for years and years and Google, with their mega-brain algorithms, never noticed hidden links. His sites used to be PR6 and they still have Page Rank today.

    You will even see links for his offline printing businesses.

    I spoke with him just before he became an MP and he always only spent two hours a day on his internet biz. The guy may be a spammer (who’s never spammed in any way?) but he’s a genius organiser and outsourcer who built his businesses and made a ton of money. Who could be better to be high up in government in the UK? After all, to be in USA government finance, don’t you have to have worked for Goldman Sachs?

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.ollington Steve Ollington

    I totally disagree… because of those scandals the people want to see a clean, transparent government that is not motivated by personal greed to do things that are untoward. To me, this is a signal of Shapps’ attitude and it’s not good enough that Cameron is putting people with such “red flags” into their positions of authority.

    I want genuine decent and ethical people making policies, I suspect most do!

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    You think an article about a major political figure not worry about Google rules isn’t relevant? I certainly think it is, or I wouldn’t have spent the time on it. We’re in the middle of one of the biggest battles that Google has ever waged against spam, to the degree it even banned an SEO firm from its listings temporarily for selling links, but this business seems to be untouched? That’s noteworthy, regardless of however you land on the Google spam fighting debate.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Thanks for the comment, Jon — interesting to hear.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I think others in the SEO space would like to be informed of this. And no, I disagree. There is a difference between SEO and making actual claims.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    “I want genuine decent and ethical people making policies, I suspect most do!”

    That’s a nebulous statement. Wanting something and describing reality are two different universes. If you want decent and ethical people making policies, then the only way to achieve this is to overhaul the entire political system. The political system itself encourages corruption and deceit by making all politicians unaccountable for their actions. Calling out an individual MP for having a naff and sleazy (and legal) SEO business is a non-story compared to looking at the vast majority of MPs who legally avoid paying taxes, and use tax payer’s money for their own personal “expenses” by lying about the kind of expenses they need to perform their political duties. This kind of corruption is cross-party and it’s caused by the system itself.

  • http://twitter.com/thebigfixer Richard Thomas

    Thanks for sharing this info – cant believe some here are dismissing this as irrelevant?

  • Maurice Walshe

    Allan Shgar sits on the labour benches in the lords you might have heard of him :-) and there are more Labour MPs who have had jobs outside of polatics than Tory or Lib Dem – John Robertson MP was a LCM in BT (for US readers manged a team of telco linemen)

    We could certainly do with mor eMP’s that have had real jobs and less lawyers and professional polaticians :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.ollington Steve Ollington

    So you’re saying that due to a lack of integrity we should all just give up completely and allow it to get worse?!

    Whilst there is unfortunately some corruption in the UK government, it’s nothing compared to what some other countries must put up with. That, is down to free speech, freedom of the press, and people’s willingness to push for change. Just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean we should all stop trying to improve it, or complaining about the issues. It may not improve dramatically and instantly but the shifting moral Zeitgeist is clear, and doing or saying nothing not only hinders that, it allows it to slip back!

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.ollington Steve Ollington

    Not all, we have Evan Harris… lost his seat (ridiculously, due to a slur campaign by the Daily Mail) but he’s still in the mix, and he’s actually totally honest and competent.

  • http://twitter.com/cgmcgiffen Chris McGiffen

    I would be surprised if Google can’t detect this sort of fluff, just look at why these pages don’t read very well – there are words following words that you won’t see on any decently written English language page. A comparably simple task for Google to detect this language use, and flag the culprit pages as low quality I reckon. I can see why Google would index them, they could just be in poor English, but at the same time why they would never rank for any reasonably decent query.

  • Scott Boyd

    Looks like Google’s taken action: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/sep/07/google-blacklists-websites-grant-shapps-family – the Golf site, amongst others, has been completely removed from the index.