This is a guest article by David Minns, the founder of Platform Dating & ooOo owner dm³ LTD.
- Is your dating business search dependant?
- Are you reaching your potential of organic traffic?
- What would happen if your search traffic just stopped?
These questions are the life blood of many dating operators from white label platform end users, app startups and free-based platforms. They can also be important to paid sites, especially the ethical ones.
Google is king when it comes to search, if we lost all our organic Yahoo and Bing traffic overnight I wouldn’t care, the volumes are tiny in comparison to Google. Paid search traffic in my opinion is overpriced. The price is inflated by the following factors:
- Large players can command the market by paying high prices.
- Unethical sites have a high ROI as they are essentially defrauding their user base.
- Startup companies can be naive and throw investors’ money into adverts with no return.
Generating a large volume of free organic search traffic from Google is essential. Creating this is hard work and requires the production of very high quality content that has high engagement rates and is so appealing that other sites are willing to give you a link. Additionally, your site needs to be built correctly so it’s lightning fast and compatible with all device types. The topic of SEO is vast, but I want to discuss some of the other things that you have to battle with when you do become established.
- Google search updates
- Site hijacks
Several times a year, Google makes major changes to its search algorithms and small adjustments are happening all the time. A few weeks ago their was a major change, denied by Google as always but it seemed to target sites with low quality inbound links. The theory is that some sites were buying expired domain names that still had some authority, and placing articles and blog content and linking back to their main brands. This way they would artificially boost the authority of their main site.
I monitor my main search competitors in a tool by MOZ and my two rivals for the search “Adult Dating” were totally wiped off the search results. Their link profiles were likely to be made from almost all artificial authority. Unfortunately for me, I lost about 15% of my own search traffic as some of the people that had linked to me were also wiped out, so a big PR push is the core focus at the moment.
The main types of dating sites that have seen a huge drop in their positions are:
There are networks of adult dating sites run by a few operators that have virtually no female members. They run their own in-house profiles, which is stated in their terms and conditions so they are easy to spot.
Fake review sites
Again there are a network of these sites, likely run by a handful of people, they could even be run by the unethical brands. They write fake reviews of adult dating sites. They give negative reviews to some brands, which are made up. They then give positive reviews to sites that they earn an affiliate commission from.
On the whole, this latest Google update has been good for the industry and should allow the better run brands to creep up a few places. But it doesn’t stop there. There will always be search position battles with cheats but let’s step it up a notch and discuss what the criminals do.
Did you know it’s possible for someone to knock you out of the search engine rankings? It’s even possible to steal your search engine traffic.
Site hijack mechanisms are quite complex but essentially a criminal (hacker is too softer word) makes copies of your site on a network of domains. These sites redirect to your site with a 302 redirect which is a temporary redirection. This tells the world that your site is a copy of the cloned site, even though the truth is the reverse. This network does nothing for some time, while the criminal builds up the authority of their fake by linking to it from more hacked sites – often open source system like WordPress which are very insecure and easy to breach. The final step is to knock your site offline which is done by sending junk traffic or finding a MySQL weakness and sending a command that slows your server to a halt. If your site is busy, Google will de-index you in about an hour and the fake site takes its place.
The fake sites generally point back to the unethical sites via an affiliate system. If these brands don’t care about defrauding the general public they certainly don’t have any issues with paying a criminal affiliate income from illegal practices.
Check your site now
To see if your site is in the queue for a potential hijack try the follow.
Step 1: Take two consecutive sentences from your home page.
Step 2: Paste them into Google and ensure you enclose them in quotes for an exact match search
Step 3: Look at the results. You also need to look at the Google cache as the site can appear differently in real-life.
Here are some examples that are live at the time of writing:
eHarmony: Site cloned and masked on the domain appsforapps.xyz and corsetliner.xyz
Saucydates: Site cloned and viewable on online-dating-game.xyz, mingle2-com.znnnr.xyz and kingsport- singles.xyz (these have now be shut down following a DMCA notice)
What can you do?
Set up a Google Alert for sets of sentences from your homepage and get the offending sites shut down as soon as they appear. Taking a site down is usually quite simple by one of the following methods:
- Locate the hosting company via the “who is” database and serve a DMCA notice.
- Contact the domain registrar and request the domains are revoked.
- File a DMCA with Google for the domains to be de-indexed.
Making a dating brand and telling the world about it is a tough job, one that is made even harder because of unethical companies, SEO cheats, hackers and criminals. Good luck out there!