Google Bowling: How Competitors Can Sabotage You; What Google Should Do About It

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Have you heard about the latest “sport” in dirty online business? It’s called Google Bowling and it represents a gaping flaw in Google’s system that allows your competitors to sabotage your site to the point of getting it banned or penalized.

This can’t happen, right? I mean, Google would have us believe their algorithms are not easily manipulated and that your rankings are safely under your (and their) control. But in fact there’s a chink in Google’s armor that can have massive consequences for any web business unfortunate enough to have aggressive and unethical competitors.

Here’s the loophole, explained

It all began with Google’s aggressive attempts to curb link popularity manipulation by penalizing sites that purchase site- wide text link ads to get lots of incoming links in a hurry. (eg: If the ad selling site had 1,000 pages, the advertiser’s link would instantly be on 1,000 pages.)

Google began filtering sites that indulged in this kind of linkage and either penalized or flat-out removed the site from its database. Bad news for that business. Excellent news for their competition. Can you guess what’s coming next?

Certain scoundrels began thinking: “If buying site-wide text link ads en masse will get my site into hot water with Google, why not buy them for my competitor’s site instead? Then just sit back and wait for Google to solve my number one business headache… the competition.” (Cue evil laughter sound track.)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Google Bowling. Simple. Devious. Devastating. And not just in theory; it’s really happening out there.

Here at eTrafficJams.com, we are hearing from a lot of businesses whose sites once enjoyed great rankings (ours included) and now don’t even show up in Google for their own company name.

A small loophole has turned into a devastating black hole, sucking in and wiping out countless quality websites in the process. And it just may be their competitors sending them into the abyss.

Is your head spinning yet? I mean, it was bad enough knowing that with every Google update, your business may go up or down in the rankings depending on the whims of the Google geeks. But now add into the mix the fact that your competitors also have a hand in your search engine health and wellness… well, Houston, we have a problem.

Although this would be a fortuitous time for me to suggest that the solution to this problem is hiring a reputable SEO firm (like www.eTrafficJams.com) to watch over your rankings, I shall resist the temptation. Instead, I’d like to offer Google – as if they’re listening – a simple solution to this nasty problem.

Right now, Google hands out either rewards or harsh penalties for linking strategies – good rankings to reward good linking techniques, and penalties, such as the now-infamous sandbox, to punish un-cool, manipulative linking practices. But there isn’t any middle ground.

I say why not create a neutral response… a filter that simply ignores questionable links, neither rewarding nor punishing them?

1) Innocent victims of Google Bowling don’t get hurt.

2) If the dubious links actually were perpetrated by the business at the receiving end of them, Google would exclude those links and the site would gain nothing. It would simply be throwing ad money out the window (unless, of course, it was buying site-wide ads in vehicles that generated relevant traffic). And

3) Google’s reputation for delivering accurate and fair search results would be restored.

Google needs to do something soon to plug this loophole, not just for the immediate relief of its users but for its own credibility

Although being “Google Bowled” by a competitor and having your site removed from the database could ruin a small business, the consequences for Google could be just as dire. If chatter picks up that Google’s results are easy to manipulate and consequently inaccurate, users may be scared away to other search engines.

Fewer users = fewer clicks on ads = lower revenues. Well, I don’t have to spell that out for the financial wizards at Google.

But just think: a few stories on the big TV networks, say on MSNBC (*cough* think Bill Gates’ MSN Search, a major Google competitor), revealing how the new sport of Google Bowling is sweeping the nation… well, the average user at home may start to have doubts about Google and maybe decide to try out Yahoo! or MSN Search.

Is it really that far-fetched to speculate that someone like oh, I don’t know, Mr. Gates, might take advantage of this situation to solve his number one business headache… the competition?

So I suggest a simple solution to Google’s link bowling problem: neutralize suspicious links so they are neither helpful nor harmful. Problem solved. Sorry, Mr. Gates. 2005, Michael Pedone

Michael Pedone is the President / CEO of eTrafficJams.com, a search engine optimization and website marketing company <http://www.etrafficjams.com> located in Clearwater, Florida that specializes in getting targeted, eager-to-buy traffic to your site. You can catch him blogging at: <http://www.etrafficjams.com/blog/>.

Google Bowling: How Competitors Can Sabotage You; What Google Should Do About It
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  • Jason

    I think with time Google’s business model and algorithm will get bloated which means that there is going to be much more room for problems, issues, failures and so on.

    So far Google has been pretty incredible. Their search results have been the best in my opinion, even though at an odd occassion I have managed to find more material with MSN search.

    If what you are saying here proves to be true Google will be under major threat, however so far they have proved that they can deal with any issue, especially when it comes to fixing search problems and exploits.


    Jason Grant

    • Nick

      I thought that Google already does like Michael has advised. Because I was surprised to once find out that Google has a special form to report sites that sell links.

      And the first idea that got into my head was – it’s a safe way to kill any competitor. And as I am not super-clever, I think the very idea came to Google’s ‘head’ as well.

      And the best solution, simply not to count the backlinks from pages that are highly possible to be selling backlinks. It’s a lot easier than penalizing anyone.


    • http://www.motivators.com Rachel

      Unfortunately we have been a target of “Google Bowling” along with other friendly distributors in our industry. Is there a way to see where the links came from? Far fetched question that I am sure everyone has asked, but with the considerable the damage it has caused, I must!
      If not, what is the best and fastest way to recover from these attacks.
      Your reply would be greatly appreciated.

  • James

    SEO theories are often hypotheses. Are there other resources related to the issue? Did Google penalize for site-wide links or those links got penalized because of the irrelevancy to the links?

    Linking counter attack is not possible, IMO unless links are exchanged. No one can lower someone’s website ranking as far as I know. Rumors and “seemingly-right” theories are rather weak. I just wanted to know if there are any back-up information on this.


    • http://www.myexperienceonline.com/ Radu

      I know first hand the effects of automated listing in thousands of directories feels like. Somebody did that to a site of mine about a year ago. It was brand new at the time. 3 months later I decided to abandon the project. The only response from google readmision team was: get rid of the spammy links first. There was no way I could do that so the project eventualy died out.

  • http://btw73.blogspot.com Brian T. Whaley

    This is a great article. I have written an article called 20 Bad Ideas – Black Hat SEO Practices, at http://btw73.blogspot.com/2007/11/20-bad-ideas-black-hat-seo-practices.html and linked to this post as a reference. Take a look!

  • http://www.web-informatie.nl Yoni DB

    Wonderful read Michael, although somewhat in a thriller kind of way.

    I hope Google will fix the problem very soon (as I have noticed the effects of it on some very good quality sites of fellow webmasters) and your solution sounds like a good base for the boys at Google.
    It reminds me of an article I read a little back that explained that the only way Google can lose popularity (and kill itself) is by adding something unreliable and above all irritating to users that will scare everyone off.
    So all there is left to do now is crawl in a corner and pray none of your competitors want to screw you this bad.

  • http://www.amazingwishes.com Amanda’s Wishes

    That is a great solution… rather than penalizing.. they just don’t count sites that are marked as text link sales sites… then this whole google bowling thing would go away…

    penalizing for bad links isn’t the answer… because anyone can get links to any website.. they should just ignore!!

    then inevitably… people would figure out that its a waste of time trying to manipulate the algorithims and focus on making a helpful site lol

  • http://whitenoisemp3s.com download white noise

    Why hasn’t Google done anything about this yet?

  • http://www.vertaling-engels.nl Vertaling Engels

    For the previous readers, I think Google has already implemented his suggested strategy or something similar. Linking to a ‘bad neighbourhood’ definitely will affect your rankings, but not getting a link from one. You can control who you are linking to, but not who is linking to you.

  • Brass

    Even simpler…….why not implement a tool within webmaster tools that allow a site to tell google to ignore any links that a webmaster wishes!!

  • http://www.staysure.co.uk Staysure

    I don’t think Google Bowling is possible. I have seen no material that states that this will remove you from the search engines or apply a penatly. If anything those links are probably just ignored.  I think it would make no sense for google to penalise sites that buy links in. They probably reduce the value of sites that sell links though.

    Google Bowling in theory should not be possible.

  • http://www.artel-usa.com/ kapil

    ARTEL provides systems for pipette calibration, liquid handler verification and optimization, pipette technique training, certification, training seminars, multichannel pipette calibration integration and automation support for liquid handlers

  • http://cutewriting.blogspot.com Lenin Nair

    Indeed, what you said is very much scary. I would like to see Google not counting the suscicious links.  Even I had the same fear when the announcement came that paid links and sitewide links may get penalty. That’s quite unfair and very much deplorable.

    And as you say, crooks are not only in small firms, the large ones have huge amounts of money and any competitor arises against them, they can easily shower hell on them through this manipulative strategy, I guess. Also, by link building to the competitor from wrong neighborhoods like adult sites can be another headache right? I hope Google does as you say.

    Lenin Nair

    Creative writing blog

  • http://www.bodybuildingweb.net/blog/ Bodybuilding blog

    Good article. I wonder if established sites are more immune to getting penalized from a massive influx of backlinks.

  • http://www.paladinpi.com John Brewington

    Interesting stuff.  As a private investigator I have been involved with black hat, white hat and defamation.  Some of the people I track down even purchased the name John Brewington to build domains with scurlous and incorrect information in an attempt to get me to back off.

    I have been forced to learn the same game but this is not a level playing field.  I am compelled to follow rules whereas they are not.  Insiteful article.  You have to hope they done learn this little trick.

  • http://www.nicksremovals.co.uk Guest

    I have  rivals seo company activley trying to get my links removoved  is this illegal?

  • loan

    good information to because this is new information for me… thanks

  • http://www.seethrureviews.com/Sit-Stay-Fetch-Book-Reviews.html Secrets to Dog Training

    I think that Google has taken care of this problem. I was reading some posts on warrior forum and digital point how sites were getting hurt by participating in link farms which means you can go and put your competitors site on a link farm and wait for them to get dropped out of the serps but this is no longer the case.

  • http://www.gocompareremovals.co.uk/ Cheap Removals Manh

    Is there any follow up to this article as it is something i have always been worried about..?

  • http://www.clickpcrepair.com Computer man from Manchester UK

    Excellent posting. Very informative.

  • Aaron

    I’ve just launched a website about a week ago and I think I already got google bowled… I listed my site in an aggressive forum on a signiture and today its been completely removed. Typing in the full address won’t even show up. Its crazy because my yahoo listing still shows up.. This is a pretty shady way of taking out the competition and I aggree… I’ve only had the site up for a week and it has already been trashed.. Is there anything I can do to get relisted?


  • http://www.rcplinks.com Link Building Services

    This article is three and half years old now. ‘Google Bowling’ still exists ?!

  • whitey

    In an update to a comment I made earlier, I had a website that had been google bowled. And I truely think it had been. But, I was able to get my site out of the ditch by doing more link building. So, if this happens to you, just be sure to get back on track and keep link building.

    Super Sport Camaro

  • http://www.bargainsAvenue.com Levis 501 Jeans

    I’ve recently read some articles that a person can sabotage another person’s site – but temporarily. The use a proxy server to hide their IP address and then leave links on porn, gambling and other pretty bad sites.

  • http://www.drsimon.com Chiropractor Brighton MA

    I agree…and this article is old now. Google Bowling is pretty much dead from what I have read.

  • http://www.encompassrealtygroup.com milwaukee realtors

    has this issue been addressed now or is it still just speculation as to whats going on?

  • http://www.yhp.co.nz Ron Sayegh

    How can Google differenciate between a sponsor that has a logo accross all pages of a website, or a seal program accross all pages of a client and Google bowling? I don’t think that this article is accurate anymore – Google is way past the days of primitive manipulation and SEO terrorism. It all comes down to Trust, Relevancy and user experience – unless you are trying to rank for some uncompetetive keyword like paperclip in a tiny uncompetetive country like chile then anything will work.

  • http://www.speedcrete.co.uk Guest

    hi ..

    i see that many of these comments on bowling are now a few years old. has this been eradicated now by googles latest algorithms? I’ve only just learnt about this but it does seem rather worring

  • andreas

    We had a spam site copy our content (thousands of pages) back in september. the retards did not remove some of our header links, so now 1000s of spam pages are linking to 1000s of our pages. lo and behold, we were hit with a 90+ penalty late october. our site is 100% legit with minimal to no seo – needless to say, we went from 40k visits / day to 500 visits. now, we are trying to contact google, we logged dmcas, went through wmt but still almost a month after the penalty THERE IS NO WORD FROM GOOGLE. they are behaving in a way microsoft did in the late nineties, they are vain and w/out regard to the web community (they do have a fake one though – but honestly, they just care about them hitting the quaterly numbers to please the street) – it’s a shame and they will eventually pay the price, just like msft did, just like ebay did. the businesses that act in such ways will sooner or later be overthroned. and all that ‘dont be evil’ stuff – it’s rediculous. they purposely chose not to hire customer service so they can continue to enjoy redicoulous profits while us who work hard building a page after page suffer. GOOGLE IS EVIL.

  • http://www.fishygame247.com Alexander

    Google’s system prefers to penalize instead of issuing warning to reduce the number of such illegal tryouts.
    Imagine that if you try to rob a bank and get caught you just get a warning, you would try to do it again and again of course ? Obviously that Google does not have 100% solution for recognition of such cases, and according to their engineers it is far better to have small casualties and prevent real mess on the online market.

  • http://xn--ojqy06gsthbaa1f05a.tk ??

    Nice aritcle but out of date. said by ??

  • http://www.van-man-removals.com Removals Edinburgh

    I been exposed to this type of activity and had issue and still have

  • http://www.newspapernew.com Francis

    I think many of us have found out for the hard way this works very poorly. As you said, things have changed over time and become less cluttered, and this HAS helped the program to function more effectively. Unfortunately as the internet heads in its current direction, malicious ideals will still be prolific, so perhaps we will not be free of this any time soon
    Latest New Newspaper

  • http://dreamhousewebsolutions.net Louie Sison

    This is bad. Anyone who has a bad intention to ruin you name can be done in this way.

  • http://zoekmachineoptimalisatie.jaiku.com/ Bauke Roelenga

    I precisely had to say thanks once again. I do not know what I would have undertaken without the actual basics shown by you relating to my subject matter. It became a difficult condition for me, nevertheless coming across the well-written form you solved the issue made me to leap for fulfillment. I’m just happier for the assistance and then expect you really know what a powerful job you are always putting in training people by way of your web blog. Most probably you haven’t encountered any of us.

  • http://www.removalsbrighton.co removal companies brighton

    As far as I’m aware this problem still exist and this could be used against any of us I hope google will find solution for this !

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