Writing to Matt Cutts was cathartic.
To recap on Friday, July 21st I noticed that my site, Cheap-Phone-Sex.NET, dropped within the Google index from the 1-2 position to below 1000. Any SEO guru knows that this could mean a number of things. So I hopped over to Webmaster World to see what if anything was going on with Google’s data centers. There was a lot of whining and complaining and within the midst of it all were a few nuggets of good information.
As I implied in my letter I usually do not pay any attention to the various search engine updates. Why? That’s a long painful story:
When I first got into this business I use to read a certain adult webmaster board religiously. Back then circa 1999 anything you wanted to know about getting into the adult business was available on-line and most everything was discussed openly. Sure there were a few miscreants that liked to make trouble but for the most part, the owners/moderators of the boards kept things on topic.
Everything I learned about building websites I learned from that board. The technical stuff is always changing but the philosophy is constant – build for your customers not for the engines. Certainly, it is easy to lose sight of that philosophy and I believe that happened inadvertently sometime around the early spring of 2001. All the big players were being led around by this adult webmaster who was a self-proclaimed guru of search engine optimization (SEO). This guy had a lot of connections with the search engines and he was getting results. He would share his pearls of wisdom on the boards and even had a spot on one or two of the adult webmaster radio shows. Didn’t know we had radio shows, did you?
The guy came up with something called a spider thingy. The idea was to create a site and link to all your other sites thus creating a trap of sorts. Everyone and their mother jumped on board. Pretty soon every adult webmaster was creating traps and sharing links with their friends, etc. Note this was a good 10 months before the ‘mainstream’ caught on. Then one day late in the summer or early fall of 2001 the guru stated to be careful of spider traps. Oddly enough no one really paid attention until around January 2002. The next month a good friend of mine went on the boards …Now ‘going on the boards’ is a big deal. Normally when you have a problem with a sponsor, host, affiliate, etc. the professional thing to do is work it out offline. One only ‘goes on the boards’ when the situation can not be worked out AND the issue is so grievous that other webmasters ought to know.
Well, this webmistress had a lot of credibility within the adult community, and, she basically wanted to know what happened to all of her sites. I believe she knew that Google changed something and her building technique was filtered out. Sites began dropping left and right in February 2002 and again in March 2002. Most of the sites came back in April for a brief moment and were completely wiped by tax day April 15, 2002.
On April 16, 2002, I logged on and saw that every last one of my sites was out of Google’s index. I would estimate that at the time I had about 20% of the online phone sex market.
When I entered the adult business in 1998 there were several “big players” who knew the inner workings of the then-dominant search engines. They would game the engines in a way that I found questionable. I thought it useless to create pages and pages of keywords with a single link to an affiliate program. You see the point is to make the page so ugly and uncomfortable that the surfer is “forced” to hit a link.
The so-called big boys dominated Excite, Alta Vista and whatever other search engine was around then. I knew I couldn’t beat them and I wasn’t about to join them so instead I focused on a little known search engine named Google and I never regretted that decision until April 16, 2002.
After confirming that all of my phone sex sites were gone. I reversed engineered every site within the Phone Sex SERP. Then I researched every phone sex keyword where I had a top 10 listing. Then I read the adult webmaster boards. And then I did the unthinkable …I started doing research on ‘mainstream’ boards. Was Search Engine Watch around then? I may have actually bought a subscription. That’s huge. Because you know how cheap I am.
A month went by. I went without sleep trying to figure out what happened. Then every 3-4 days I would crash and do it all over again. Around August someone said to me: “Cheryl don’t let this beat you”, and then proudly handed me a box of t-shirts. The shirts displayed the following: “Fuck Google”. Sorry, Google Groupies, I laughed and more importantly snapped out of my funk.
When your site drop from the Google index you go through several phases:
Phase One: WTF?! This is when you confirm the obvious – that your sites are hosed. You make sure your host is still in business and comb through your server logs to look for any suspicious activity. Finding none you start checking every bit of information Google has on your website.
Phase Two: What did I do wrong? You haven’t found anything out of the ordinary with your sites so you ask for a second opinion. Board time! Without giving too much away you explain your situation and ask for advice. Good luck.
Phase Three: I am going to fix this. Not certain who to believe or who to trust you develop a plan – Operation Get My Site BACK on Page One. Warning if you haven’t mourned the appropriate length of time your plan may be undoable, nutty and/or damaging.
Phase Four: My site is so much better than … While you spend sleepless nights righting what your think was the offense you take comfort in knowing other people are suffering too. It’s the whole you are not alone mentality. But secretly you curse the people on the boards who say they are doing just fine and then you realize the real problem is that site who is now sitting where you use to be. Damn them!
Phase Five: What is taking so long? You have built the ultimate site and are now waiting for Google to notice (preferably yesterday) and place your baby, the site, in the top spot.
Phase Six: Google!!! (Say it like Rocky said “Adrian!”) You realize that you have no idea what you are doing and neither does anyone else except Google and guess what? Google isn’t talking.
Phase Seven: Build for your customers and not for the engines. Self-explanatory.
Unfortunately few people ever reach Phase 7. That’s where I am now. Realize four (4) years old it took me six (6) months to come to that conclusion. I think it took me about two years after that before I could bring myself to search for the words “phone sex” or “cheap phone sex”.
A couple of weeks ago to reach Phase Seven took a good night’s sleep. Three guesses what I wore to bed that night. Hint: It’s a t-shirt.
In 2005 the game had changed and Google among others had several tools to help webmasters understand how to build quality sites, how to communicate effectively with the search engines and lastly how to understand the information that was freely available. All of these resources are great, however, in my opinion, fail to address one common issue – there is not a place for adult webmasters to communicate and learn ways to build their sites as it relates to search engine traffic.
Just about every webmaster resource does not allow discussions involving web sites that are mature in nature. I understand the policy but find it odd that there is not a Mature Category within some of the largest resources. It’s odd because whenever I read an article about spam the word ‘porn’ soon follows. After the snafu in 2002, not a single adult webmaster board spoke openly let alone honestly about search engine optimization. In my opinion, there is not a resource for adult webmasters to learn how to do it right. And if there is a perceived issue, there is not a resource to ask a direct question.
I can not imagine what goes on now but back then some of my acquaintances would spend the morning churning out 1000s of doorway pages stuffed with keywords. And when doorway pages were passe those same individuals would develop scripts for the next new fad.
There will always be a ‘next new fad’.
For a long time, I thought that someone would step up to the plate and create a resource for adult webmasters to discuss search engine techniques openly and honestly. In 2002 I needed that resource and as a result, wasted a good four months doing my own research. Today I need that resource to ask a question or two.
A resource for adult webmasters discussing search engine traffic is not available and the ‘mainstream’ webmaster resources that are available refuse to hear my questions because my site, Cheap-Phone-Sex.NET, covers mature subject matter.
So, what’s a girl to do? I wrote my letter, published a version here and … Like I said writing the letter was very helpful to my peace of mind. Two months ago I noticed a few things. Over the years I have seen one webmaster in particular use the words “cheap phone sex net” on 100s of doorway pages. The page would appear to be a link list of sorts when in actuality the alleged links to my site, Cheap Phone Sex, went to a Full Page Ad (FPA) hawking a subscription to an affiliate program. Then I began noticing my text on non-adult websites. On a site selling baby products, I found my unique text. That portion of the text was not risque, however, the non-adult site linked directly to Cheap Phone Sex. Of course, whenever I found inappropriate links I attempted to contact the webmaster but the whois information was almost always false.
What else could I do?
In the early days, I use to spend hours tracking down the owner of a website and when not found the host and politely ask for the link to be removed, etc. To say the very least the entire affair was time-consuming. Now there are 100s of one type of trick and 1000s of another.
I am completely at a loss of what to do. One Friday night a friend of mine who works at one of the big ISPs stopped by and I showed him my research. He immediately started using the lingo as computer guys tend to do. Then he asked, “Who hates you?” By the time we sifted through all of the links, it was clear that whoever did it did so deliberately. S/he targeted not only Cheap Phone Sex but a few other phone sex sites within my portfolio.
It was good to hear from a guy who is paid to look into spam that I wasn’t being paranoid. Comforting but scary. We trotted across town to hang out with some friends and brought them into the discussion. One suggestion was that I should fight fire with fire. Before I listened to anything else I stated definitively that I would NOT engage in any “black hat” tricks. And I stand by that statement.
I am confident that such dirty practices will not be rewarded and that the search engines will figure out a way to discourage these activities. In the meantime, I am going to do what I learned the hard way four (4) years ago I am going to build Cheap Phone Sex for my clients and not for the search engines.
It’s a shame though that no one (at the moment) can find this site.
Cheap Phone Sex Updates: I updated the Pricing Page. I have included links so that you may pay by credit card and revised the prices for paying by check and via your telephone. The revisions reflect the fee I pay to provide a particular payment option. I am not raising my price but simply passing the processing fee on to you. As for the credit card buttons, they are roughly 30% higher than if you simply called and allowed me to key in your credit card information. Some guys prefer to pay online. So, the option is there only it is a bit pricier because there is a middleman involved.
Also, two months ago I began deeply ‘scrubbing’ the credit cards of new clients to Cheap Phone Sex. This anti-fraud prevention process is seamless for you. However, if for some reason I can not process your credit card then a good second bet would be to use the new credit card buttons OR choose a different payment option.
Last item, beginning today, except for those individuals who currently have a cheap phone sex package the price of the package goes up to $85.72 and can ONLY be purchased online. The exception involves individuals who have packages as of 11:59 PM ET August 11, 2006. These clients of Cheap Phone Sex may continue to enjoy a 10-call package or (if you have purchased one before) a 20-call package at the old rates.
Cheap Phone Sex with a whole lot of attitude
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