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Jason Calacanis may be one of the most recognizable internet entrepreneurs in the United States but that doesn't mean that is current startup, Mahalo, is above using questionable SEO tactics to boost its SERPs.
Mahalo is a human-edited web directory that some have criticized in the past as being nothing more than a link farm designed to take advantage of search engines. Which is ironic, given that Calacanis has in the past been critical of SEO.
While Mahalo's past behavior may have been debatable, SEOBook.com has discovered a new technique Mahalo is using that is, for lack of a better word, abusive.
Mahalo is employing a spammy blog widget in what is clearly an attempt to 'funnel' PageRank to Mahalo through popular blogs.
The popular technology blog, Hack a Day, for instance, features the widget, which contains 27 links to Mahalo pages using spammy anchor text. Here are some of them:
- How to Make Your Computer Run Faster
- How to Switch to Digital TV
- How to Customize Your MySpace Profile
- How to Use Handbrake
- Street Fighter 4
- Street Fighter 4 Achievements
- Street Fighter 4 Alternate Costumes
- Street Fighter 4 Characters
- Street Fighter 4 DLC
- Street Fighter 4 Gameplay Video
- Street Fighter 4 Joystick
As SEOBook.com's Aaron Wall points out, the links do not use the nofollow attribute, are "repetitive and spammy" and are lacking in contextual relevance. He points to the Google guidelines which Mahalo's widget seems to clearly violate and goes on to write that Mahalo is also developing a blog network "that cross links to other Mahalo promoting blogs and exists for the purpose of flowing PageRank into high paying Mahalo pages."
In my opinion, the widget alone is damning evidence of a clear and concerted effort to manipulate SERPs and it is unbecoming of any legitimate website.
The question: will Google take action?
In the past, Wall has argued that Mahalo meets Google's internal criteria for 'spam' on the grounds that it provides no original content but obviously Google hasn't seen things the same way.
But Mahalo's spam widget clearly violates Google's public guidelines on link schemes and if Google fails to take action, legitimate operators and SEOs will have to wonder whether there's a double standard between black hats who break the rules and legitimate-looking companies with millions of dollars in VC funding, including from the same VC firm that financed Google, Sequoia Capital.
While I don't think there's a conspiracy here (even though some have suggested that Mahalo might have Google's favor because of the Sequoia connection), I do think it's important that Google treat all abuse the same, regardless of whether it's coming from a small-time black hat who hides in the shadows or a prominent internet entrepreneur with big name investors.
With little question about the nature of Mahalo's tactics, it's Google's credibility that's on the line here.