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John Chow vs. Google – Guess Who's Winning

Back in December of 2006 John Chow started a very aggressive link back campaign, in which he would give a link back for every review of his blog when the text anchor ‘make money online’ was used. John now has over 870 links from various sites as a direct result of this campaign. This has proved to be very successful for John, because since inception of the link campaign his blog income has grown from $2790.05 in December of 2006 to $12,569.61 in June of 2007, an increase in revenue of $9,779.56.
Link campaigns haven’t attributed completely to the growth in revenue, and in the below image you can see the differences in advertising since the beginning of the link campaign.
johnchowadv John Chow vs. Google   Guess Who's Winning
The largest increase came from ReviewMe, because the cost for a review from John has gone up from $100 to $400. John has also added had a huge increase in affiliate sales. If you are like me, you are probably wondering how he is charging for subscriptions. Well it appears he is charging to allow people to have no-follow tags turned off in the comment section.
The aggressive tactics which have resulted in such high revenue growth have come at a high price. It seems that Google is ‘manually’ punishing John and has dropped him to the 51st result for the term “John Chow,” and his “make money online” campaign has been dropped to 57th. While John himself doesn’t show up in the first several pages, others have been quick to profit from his misfortune:
msaleem jcpunished John Chow vs. Google   Guess Who's Winning
While John has stated that he does not live by Google traffic and the drop from Google doesn’t seem to concern him, it appears that Google isn’t the only one mad at him. He is known for purportedly stirring up trouble at Digg and at one time was banned only to be allowed back later and have the majority of his articles buried. Furthermore, while Technorati has John listed as number 55 out of the top 100 blogs indexed, if you look at the top 100 page there is no mention of him at all.
I was able to ask John (via email) what he thought of Google dropping him so far, and why he thought Technorati did not show him in the top 100. He had this to say,

“Google dropping me down in the search result is disappointing. However, that’s the way it goes sometimes. You can cry about it or you can continue to build. I have always advised readers to never put all their eggs in Google’s basket and this is a good example why. If all my blog traffic came from Google, my blog would be dead right now.
I have no doubt that Google will eventually rank me back higher. Search engine follows people and when people visit a site without the help of a search engine, it gets their attention. Google’s job is to give the most relevant search results. Right now, they’re not doing that with the search term John Chow and that makes them look bad.
Technorati seems to hand select blogs for inclusion in the Top 100. How they select who gets in and who is not, nobody by Technorati knows. It doesn’t effect me financially by not being in the official Top 100 list. As long as they ranked me correctly, I’m fine with that. “

So my question to our readers is do you think it is ethical of John to pursue the link back campaign, or do you think Google is in the wrong for dropping John so far in the search results? Who do you side with and why?

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62 thoughts on “John Chow vs. Google – Guess Who's Winning

  1. Good post Chris. I don’t think it was necessarily un-ethical, although Google may frown upon it for artificially boosting his popularity. Much as I love reading his blog, I think some of John’s techniques are borderline Black Hat.
    Your key point is that it looks like a manual ban from Google – perhaps if John persued this strategy on a low-key basis he’d avoid penalties. However, by sharing the information on his blog and potentially engouraging others to do the same, maybe Google had to make an example of him.
    Just conjecture on my part….

  2. I agree with John when he said:
    “Google’s job is to give the most relevant search results. Right now, they’re not doing that with the search term John Chow and that makes them look bad.”
    John is using his link back campaign to rank for terms for which his site is very relevant. He is actually helping Google’s results become more valuable because his is providing information that people searching for his keywords are actually looking for. I think Hawaii SEO may have a point that it may be that John is being penalized for openly selling links. Although I don’t completely agree with Google’s stance on the issue they have been clear in the past that they don’t like the practice.

  3. According to Google webmaster guidelines:
    “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank”
    That is EXACTLY what he was doing. EXACTLY. Why shouldn’t he be punished for breaking the rules? Why should he get away with it while others work hard by playing by the rules?
    I do agree with John in so far that I have no doubt that his rankings WILL return, probably better than ever. But that will not be for a long time.
    He got what was coming to him.

  4. Although I might not be totally 100 percent agree with John’s aggressive link campaigns – I don’t really see why Google should play God. Perhaps it because they “do no evil”. What it shows is that there are weaknesses in Google search ranking method.

  5. He got what was coming to him. The campaign to get people to link to him with a specific anchor text is one thing but charging people to remove the nofollow tag? Despicable.

  6. What’s the difference between forbidden “Link building schemes” and overall “normal” blog-functions, like trackbacks? It’s people who put the links online, I think Google is making a mistake here. And John is definitely not some fake trying to sell his a readers a worthless but expensive piece of seo-shitbook; instead, like passenger 57 wrote, his tipps (and his free book) are pretty great.

  7. Unfortunately, John didn’t abide by Google’s guidelines so it’s touch to say that Google is in the wrong. They hold the assets, so they make the rules.

  8. John did what every SEO does – acquired backlinks. He just did it so openly and arrogantly that I’m sure it pissed off Google and Technorati to no ends that he was just gaming their systems in front of everyone. But what he did is no secret. I’m sure it also didn’t help his case that he was selling text links, especially for such unrelated sites (male enhancement =/).

  9. Everyone has started their own “review and get a link back”. But John is only successful in that and achieved what he wanted. Just because he succeeded, no one should penalize him.
    And BTW, when I searched Google for “John Chow” 10 hours ago, it gave the same result as you have given above. But when I searched now, the same site has changed the wordings to “Let’s hope John comes back soon,

  10. Everyone has started their own “review and get a link back”. But John is only successful in that and achieved what he wanted. Just because he succeeded, no one should penalize him.
    And BTW, when I searched Google for “John Chow” 10 hours ago, it gave the same result as you have given above. But when I searched now, the same site has changed the wordings to “Let’s hope John comes back soon, in the meantime check out blogstorm.”
    Did they visit this site? LOL.

  11. @ Chris,
    Yeah. They are really funny. Waiting to see what they say the next time I search. Great post man.
    P.S: My previous comment was submitted twice by mistake. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  12. I think that the whole concept of asking and getting backlinks isn’t wrong. Otherwise the whole SEO business is illegal. Creating and submitting articles etc.
    Dave, “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank” is pretty ambiguous. I don’t think it’s unethical for Google to “punish” John. It’s Google’s site – they can do whatever the hell they want. Luckily for us, they have a “do no evil” policy.
    I like John Chow’s attitude about it. I just hope that he really has enough of a “following”, and other resources to rely on for traffic. I have to say, I think his attitude is 100% correct.
    The only time this will change is if the Government steps in to regulate it, which I hope to high heavens that they don’t. I’m sure that they will, and hope to have about 20 years to get settled in before that happens… :)

  13. @ Chris,
    I searched technorati for performancing.com. It showed the rank to be 35 the first time. Again I searched it, it showed 31 as rank. When I saw top 100 blogs, it was not there. Please see if this is true.

  14. @Chris
    Welcome and Yes I see that. This seems pretty interesting. Wonder how many more blogs are not in top 100 but yet given a rank less than 100. Pity of the blog owner.

  15. Shouldn’t Google feel embarrassed not offering the most relevant website (www.johnchow.com) within the top 10 results when searching for “john chow”? Is that that more of problem than Google giving a website a hand job for simply trying to build links. Ridiculous.

  16. “do you think it is ethical of John to pursue the link back campaign”
    I really can’t tell but it was a very smart decision.
    I think internet does forget, it has indeed a very short memory. And it pays off to be bold.
    Besides having bad aesthetics, which may lead to think it was non-ethical, it shows the core of the real game. Not living by the rules can make the difference if you are willing to face the consequences.
    And Google is just doing its part in the play.

  17. Hi Chris
    I don’t think it’s unethical, but if Google allows everyone to manipulate their rankings as openly as he was, it will be hard for them to make a penny selling Google ads.
    Hamlet

  18. Thanks for the informative article Chris! I’ve been thinking about launching some sort of Link-back campaign, but I didn’t know the consequences could be so rough. I’ll think about whether it’s truly worth it now.

  19. Thanks for info, john was one of my idols, well he stil are, but it seams that it is better to have lower income, and god reutaton, istead of the more agressive attitude. But he now lot of stuff, so i will still look in his direction i the near future, thanks again, best regards michael

  20. I think once again the big G has proven his lack of fairness. “Don’t sell links, don’t go to John’s site, don’t build links”. Seem G is using too much its power to rule the Internet. Anyway, John is great and I don’t think he relies on G to survive. Regards. Thibaut.

  21. I like John. He’s like the P Diddy of bloggers (Mo money, mo problems). We should call him J Diddy.

  22. That’s really interesting. I agree that you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and what John was saying was pretty insightful.

  23. It was only a matter of time. I warned him months ago, both via email and in comments, that the way in which he was running his link back campaign was going to catch Google’s unfavorable eye.
    It was Google bombing essentially. It would’ve been so much smarter to give people a variety of choices when it came to the anchor text to use when linking back. And then perhaps there’d be no issue.
    Of course I’m sure selling text links didn’t help much either. And I’ll bet that some of the people who hate him reported him for it. Heck, Matt Cutts makes it very simple to report such things to Google:
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links
    It’s a shame because all of this stuff is so easy to avoid! I mean, jeez…he gets banned from Digg, AuctionAds disabled his account for cookie-stuffing (Shoemoney even stepped in to comment about the severity of it), issues with Technorati and now Google. And all over things that are so easily avoided if you do things right. What a shame. Isn’t it time he steps up to the plate and lead by example? The Internet is already too full of nonsense and tricksters taking advantage of things. I wonder how he’d feel if people started gaming his Tech Zone business? I’m sure he wouldn’t like it.
    BTW, really great post Chris!
    Shine on,
    Aaron

  24. It was only a matter of time. I warned him months ago, both via email and in comments, that the way in which he was running his link back campaign was going to catch Google’s unfavorable eye.
    It was Google bombing essentially. It would’ve been so much smarter to give people a variety of choices when it came to the anchor text to use when linking back. And then perhaps there’d be no issue.
    Of course I’m sure selling text links didn’t help much either. And I’ll bet that some of the people who hate him reported him for it. Heck, Matt Cutts makes it very simple to report such things to Google:
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links
    It’s a shame because all of this stuff is so easy to avoid! I mean, jeez…he gets banned from Digg, AuctionAds disabled his account for cookie-stuffing (Shoemoney even stepped in to comment about the severity of it), issues with Technorati and now Google. And all over things that are so easily avoided if you do things right. What a shame. Isn’t it time he steps up to the plate and lead by example? The Internet is already too full of nonsense and tricksters taking advantage of things. I wonder how he’d feel if people started gaming his Tech Zone business? I’m sure he wouldn’t like it.
    BTW, really great post Chris!
    Shine on,
    Aaron

  25. It was only a matter of time. I warned him months ago, both via email and in comments, that the way in which he was running his link back campaign was going to catch Google’s unfavorable eye.
    It was Google bombing essentially. It would’ve been so much smarter to give people a variety of choices when it came to the anchor text to use when linking back. And then perhaps there’d be no issue.
    Of course I’m sure selling text links didn’t help much either. And I’ll bet that some of the people who hate him reported him for it. Heck, Matt Cutts makes it very simple to report such things to Google:
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links
    It’s a shame because all of this stuff is so easy to avoid! I mean, jeez…he gets banned from Digg, AuctionAds disabled his account for cookie-stuffing (Shoemoney even stepped in to comment about the severity of it), issues with Technorati and now Google. And all over things that are so easily avoided if you do things right. What a shame. Isn’t it time he steps up to the plate and lead by example? The Internet is already too full of nonsense and tricksters taking advantage of things. I wonder how he’d feel if people started gaming his Tech Zone business? I’m sure he wouldn’t like it.
    BTW, really great post Chris!
    Shine on,
    Aaron

  26. It was only a matter of time. I warned him months ago, both via email and in comments, that the way in which he was running his link back campaign was going to catch Google’s unfavorable eye.
    It was Google bombing essentially. It would’ve been so much smarter to give people a variety of choices when it came to the anchor text to use when linking back. And then perhaps there’d be no issue.
    Of course I’m sure selling text links didn’t help much either. And I’ll bet that some of the people who hate him reported him for it. Heck, Matt Cutts makes it very simple to report such things to Google:
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links
    It’s a shame because all of this stuff is so easy to avoid! I mean, jeez…he gets banned from Digg, AuctionAds disabled his account for cookie-stuffing (Shoemoney even stepped in to comment about the severity of it), issues with Technorati and now Google. And all over things that are so easily avoided if you do things right. What a shame. Isn’t it time he steps up to the plate and lead by example? The Internet is already too full of nonsense and tricksters taking advantage of things. I wonder how he’d feel if people started gaming his Tech Zone business? I’m sure he wouldn’t like it.
    BTW, really great post Chris!
    Shine on,
    Aaron

  27. I admire John Chow more after saying reading this:
    Google’s job is to give the most relevant search results. Right now, they’re not doing that with the search term John Chow and that makes them look bad.
    On a personal note: I think google should give a second change to people whom they consider as “rule violators” though people commit mistakes… we are just human…
    Human understands more than the computer or search engine crawlers…

  28. Ha John made no mistake, he knew exactly what he was doing and now he is paying the price. Google have been warning us for a long time about this so…

  29. I agree with John when he said:
    “Google’s job is to give the most relevant search results. Right now, they’re not doing that with the search term John Chow and that makes them look bad.”

    I agree with Google. If it allows anyone to manipulate it’s search results, who is anyways going to trust it. In this case it’s only one term “John Chow” that’s throwing wrong results, in other case that would be a whole lot of terms that would show mmanipulated results.

  30. Spam Spam Spam.
    I can’t wait to see John Chow go down.
    First he got big by spamming Digg, then Google/Technorati/etc.
    This dude is such a freakin clown I don’t know why people think he’s such a genius at making money online.
    ShoeMoney, you, etc are where it’s at.

  31. Yeah…i’m with Google. Well they give you the best possible result based on their organic algo which is wonderful. Abusing it is really not called for any day!
    So, he did wrong and got the punishment!

  32. google google.. what are you doing???
    Chris.., i have a question.. Its about search for “link: ” in google.. Should i post here/ mail you or use contact form?

  33. It’s part of Google’s TOS. Totally fair. Q: Want to rank well on Google’s search engine? A: Follow their webmaster advice and don’t disobey their TOS…

  34. What’s more important to you ranking number one for John Chow on google or having numerous blogs writing about your website and your actions. I bet he has been getting tons of backlinks from all of this and when google changes their mind or forgets about the whole thing his site will right back at the top!

  35. What about links obtained for SEO contests? If John’s getting over 870 links between december 06 – june 07 for “make money online” is wrong, then what about SEO contestants who build up thousands of same keyword links pointing to their sites in again something like 5-6 months? Does Google give way to contest sites because they are building links on meaningless keywords instead of something meaningful like “make money online” ??

  36. Obviously I have been doing something wrong! I get about 4000 uniques a day and I make a paltry $50 per day on http://www.speedmonkey.net
    I have spent most of my time (and money) advertising and using SEO, but I think I should go to the John Chow – Or even “Cow” school of linkbaiting and get a degree in “How to beat Google at their own game . . .And Win!
    Speedmonkey.net

  37. Is it temporary or permanent? If John Chow’s linkbaiting is not an approved method of link building, why Google took so long to figure that out? Maybe John Chow didn’t pay enough Adword $$ to Google last month?

  38. well i think that if you doo wrong and get cought you will pay the price. but this doesn’t hurt chow because he already has a following look at how many people posted here just about him

  39. Look Google can do what they want John can do what he wants. I don’t see why Google dropped him though. He had a good ranking and he was providing links for reveiws. Big deal. He was benefitting others as much or more so than himself. Besides with Googles advance algorithims it should pick up that these links are garbage. John’s goal was to drive traffic to reviewers from his site, it is just subsequent that Google would then be driving traffic to the reviewers site as well.

  40. Look Google can do what they want John can do what he wants. I don’t see why Google dropped him though. He had a good ranking and he was providing links for reveiws. Big deal. He was benefitting others as much or more so than himself. Besides with Googles advance algorithims it should pick up that these links are garbage. John’s goal was to drive traffic to reviewers from his site, it is just subsequent that Google would then be driving traffic to the reviewers site as well.

  41. What John Chow does in term of SEO is more interesting than the content he produces.
    If you agree with that premise it is right that sites that discuss John Chow should rank higher than John Chow’s own content.
    What is interesting is that Google does not follow this logic with more mainstream celebrities and that searches for Paris Hilton or David Beckham for example return the ‘official sites’ first and not ‘Hello Magazine’ or ‘OK!’.

  42. It’s funny how you didn’t link to his site, I guess a free backlink to him would cost him right?
    I wish him good luck, he seems to be doing well. So all his income is just from one site?

  43. I’d like to attend it very much. I am 14 years old and got into affiliate marketing when I was 12. I’ve been an affiliate since then. I’d like to meet all those super affiliates and get some super tips from them. But I’m in India and I don’t think I can attend it.

  44. What’s stopping Chow from starting a second website and correcting his mistakes? I doubt it’s impossible to run another site along with his own.
    Although mentioning this, he may already have in which we don’t know about so he doesn’t get that banned… again.