In a well-documented haze of online search engine manipulation it became apparent that the competitive nature of the 'car insurance' organic search results was simply too much for one company to ignore after it came to light that one site had mysteriously appeared on the first page of Google search results in an alarming period of time.
Thanks to Screaming Frog being alert to their own data tracking, the company were able to reveal that www.Citadel-Insurance.co.uk had seen a huge improvement in their search engine visibility for one of the most competitive online markets in the world and on taking a look at their backlink profile, it soon became apparent that something surrounding the site was not as it should have been.
Obviously working in the search engine field ourselves, we were interested in taking a look at what the site had managed to achieve in such a short period of time, so we took the chance to be able to take a look at what they were doing in order to warrant such a quick appearance organically.
One thing that we should maybe point out is that we do not believe that this domain is associated with Citadel Insurance in any way as the information that we are able to obtain seems to show that is not the case, as you can see from the two whois records:
With that cleared up, we decided that the reason for the unwarranted appearance within the search engine results can only have been down to the vast number of links that the site had seen forced into it as per the comments made by Screaming Frog on social networking site Twitter, so we took a look at what they had been up to.
Using Ahrefs.com as the backlink analysis tool, we could immediately see that the spike in the number of links began in the middle of June, with the number of total links coming to a peak on June 22nd, at which point Ahrefs reported that they had seen 205,513 links obtained from 6,763 referring domains.
This number has since started to decline and on trying to how the links were placed into the linking sites, we can see that the links are being removed already.
At the point of being found out, the site's backlink profile was boasting a huge number of referring domains with a variety of anchor text being used, although the highest percentage of those being 'car insurance' which made up 52% of the total number of anchor text being used on these backlinks.
Here is what the top 10 anchor texts were within the profile, with percentages that they made up of the whole backlink profile as well as the number of referring domains that the links came from:
Going back to the whois information that we pulled, there is a tell-tale sign that the owner of the domain operates in a completely different market, one that we already know is an industry that is prone to things such as these being done in order to manipulate the search engine results, payday loans.
Thanks to the notification of the site and the antics that it displayed, Google took action against the site and reduced their rankings drastically, as can be seen in the rankings that are tracked by SearchMetrics.com:
It would have been interesting to see how long the site (which is now no longer rendering any form of website) would have remained within the rankings should this have not been pointed out to Google but we would have presumed that they would have seen the site during their installation of their very own car insurance quotes box within the results
But that's a whole new post for another day!
Thanks to Malcolm Slade for his thoughts and contribution too!