The events are sorted from the beginning of the project to the present. Neutral events are marked in blue, good happenings are marked in green and bad events are marked in red. The old domain name for SmslånOnline.se was BilligtSmslån.se which is probably good to know.
The first idea of the project.
Google has updated their algorithms in Sweden and become much better at eliminating spam. In my oppinion this is an opportunity for people who are really putting in a lot of efforts workingfor for real - not just building links. Transparency, honesty and good information is the key part in this idea and I wanted to be totally open with what I worked with: a payday loan comparison site. I wanted to use social media to make people aware of it.
That might not sound so extraordinary, but the fact is that the segment was dominated by spam and there was much false information. The players also had in common that they were anonymous. Until now, noone had ever ventured his name and reputation by linking together his name and business with a payday loan affiliate site, and most important: noone had never tried to actually try to create something useful and interesting in this business.
The idea was, as I see it, is perfectly timed with the development of Google's search algorithms. In the Swedish SEO-community there were different opinions if the project was a good idea or not. This simple tweet from December 30th 2012 shows my original thought and my opinions about the Swedish payday loan business at that time.
Decision to launch the project
The main goal is to create a good website about payday loans with high visibility without violating Google's guidelines. In short this means that no purchased links or link networks is allowed. SmslånOnline.se would create visibility through clear and accurate information, social media, and engaging articles, thus outcompeting spammy competitors dominating the segment. "Mission impossible" according to many, but in fact trying this in the payday loan business was news in itself which and that gave me a good start.
Of course I felt an urge to made people aware of why I chose to work with payday loans . Payday loans were and still are a quite ugly niche and I didn't want to explain my view on things over and over again to friends and relatives. For me this payday loans thing is not necessary something I have to be ashamed of; as long as you do bad things better and don't break any laws I see no reason to be ashamed.
The project has had a flying start and got quite a lot of attention from social media. It also got some "impossible" natural good links. Although the site "only" ranks # 22 for smslån (payday loan) I notice that both police and the court administration have visited the site(?). Of course I got a little bit nervous and asked myself "Am I doing everything correctly?"
To my surprise SmslånOnline.se has also been in the televised news. (Even though it was not about the site itself but just a quick intro slide in the beginning of the broadcast.) It really felt it was because of all social media attention.
First setback .
After reaching position 7 for payday loan as it´s best, the website has lost rankings. This happens at the same time as a filter update: Panda. The biggest reason however, is the fact that I have switched to a new server and some content from the blog is found at the new server and some content from the blog is found at the old server, which is probably seen as duplicate content. Not good, but I started working to fix the problems immediately.
I could have given up here (!)
SmslånOnline.se has lost a lot in rankings and the visibility for payday loans are actually worse than when I started even it is the most active and engaging payday loan site plus the fact that it has recieved links from people following the project. At this time, in my oppinion, I have worked really hard. The reason for the ranking drop is that the blog on SmslånOnline.se is lowering the relevance for payday loans at it contains a complicated mix of payday loans and Internet marketing. The more I blog - the less relevance for payday loans.
I decide to put the project blog on my domain SimonNystrom.com (me). At the same time I am redirecting BilligtSmslan.se to SmslånOnline.se. Some poeple see this as proof that I am using the same shady tactics I condemn, but that's not correct. There was never a penalty for the website shown in this picture* and the reason for the switch is mainly that SmslånOnline.se is a much better name than Billigtsmslan.se.
All in all there have been some quick decisions, some carelessness and I have worked way too fast which easily happen when the only one you report to is yourself .
I gave up blogging for a while. It didn't feel good at all when all only got from Google was s*it when actually trying to create something real and useful. The truth is Google probably just needed some time. It doesn't matter if it feels like you are working 150% and that things should happen fast - it just doesn't work that way and actually, I knew that, but it is easy to forget when you are busy working.
After the changes I made to the site SmslånOnline.se is stronger than ever before.
Top 10 for payday loans.
Top 5 for payday loans.
NUMBER ONE for payday loans.
I am donating 3% of gross revenue to Children's Cancer Foundation- no deductions.
All work has for sure created a strong website and now I can keep my promise to create "someting better", thus giving away 3% of gross revenue to the Children's Cancer Foundation. However, a limit of 10 000 SEK each month is set. I am still donating money each month.
I intentionally waited before I took this initiative. Reason: I didn't want people to feel I was using this initiative to aquire rankings for my payday loan business or use the Children's Cancer Foundation name for own purposes. But, of course that was much what happened anyway and the first reaction that came was actually negative. Humans. Swedes. Wtf. You should read the law of Jante and why we Swedes behave like that. (Well, actually people outside Sweden too!).
Google is still easily tricked by spammers.
I am writing about a competitor who is using a spammy technique to trick Google that is for some reason always seems to work, but I am not outing him. This person has systematized to spam completely crazy, take the top position, getting penalized and then move to a new domain repeating the procedure.
Sabotage attempt 1.
SmslånOnline.se is subjected for a sabotage attempt when a website with thousands of p**n backlinks redirects to the domain. The owner is not visible when checking whois, he is "anonymous" - at least he thinks so. However, too bad for the offender it is no more difficult than sending an email to .nu asking who the owner is and they send me information about the company who owns the site almost immediately. Good thing: the company has one owner, the disclosure is a fact and by revealing his name SmslånOnline.se's traffic is all time high. It also resultet in several strong backlinks from people who want to support me. Too bad for the attackers.
I guess that's the benefit with working transparency.
Sabotage attempt 2
This time it is almost thousand websites that is pointing to SmslånOnline.se. Over time some thousand domains more are added to the attack. When writing this it was about 4000 in total. Everything is put in the Google Disavow-file that will protect from these kind of attacks. Interesting is that my website completely disapperas from Bing (where you can't find an equally good disavow tool) but remains intact in Google.
A big bitchslap to the one who did it.
20 000 SEK reward to the one who will out the one who attacked me
A new big spam era within payday loans
From now on and during several months much of the project is about checking up on Google to see what they really prioritize to show for their users. The search results are uglier than ever and it is always extreme spam cashing in while the more serious websites have to stand back. I give attention to how ugly everything have turend out to be by creating a whole new section in my blog where I write about it. Sure, it gets a little bit tedious, but at the same time it is quite interesting because it is really junk dominating search in the payday loan niche. I am hoping that it will bring attention to someone at Google.
Apart from that, much time is put on new functionality of the website.
A fantastic illustrator
It is fascinating to realize the talent of some people online. In january 2014 I found a really great illustrator. The quality this guy delivers is amazing, so of course I use him to create some illustrations for SmslånOnline.se too.
The previous weeks I have been busy programming which resultet in the website and useful tool Lånesnoken ("The Loan Snake"). The snake is a tool and contermeasure which in turn is a direct consequence of spam and spam attacks against SmslånOnline.se. The snake started as a joke. I picked the name because loads of spam domains contained an animal name.
How it works:
- 1. The snake will find all domains ranking for specific keywords in the payday loan niche, typically keywords dominated by spammers.
- It organizes common data and combines that data with whois-data. This way it is easy to get an overview of for example, which person that owns the most websites within payday loans.
- The program also takes screenshots so you can check how all the owners sites looks like. This way it is very easy to spot if a person are massproducing websites.
It ended up with a humorous video too:
With this tool I had a very good weapon summarizing spam and make it easy to show other people how bad it really were. I wrote an open letter to head of Googles spam team, Matt Cutts, summarizing all the problems in Swedish Google in the blog post "Dear Mr Cutts - is this the way to get your attention?", hoping that someone would make him notice the problems (I didn't want to bug him myself).
A response from Matt Cutts!
It is interesting that the stuff you write quickly sometimes works the best. I don't think the open letter took more than 1 or 2 hours to write. All the screenshots were automatically generated via the tool and the script for the video was ready since earlier, I only had to translate it
That night I went to bed with 735 followers and woke up with 30 000 followers the day after. Loads of fake users though.
Spam in the payday loan business is eliminated
Google is removing the worst payday loan spam.
SmslånOnline.se takes the top
SmslånOnline.se is now in de absolute top and is stronger than ever before. Much on the work will solely put on the website itself to create better user experience, functionality etc etc.
And don't forget:
The effect of the loan snake is getting attention outside Sweden.
The effects of the loan snake is getting some attention in one of the world's biggest blogs about search engine marketing. The competitor who got flamed (btw a friend of the person who I could prove attacked me with negatiove SEO earlier in this article) wrote a lengthy post about his work with the spam network. What he doesn't say is that his "facts" about my project, my way of working is pretty skewed to support his version and therefore I chose to write a reply.
"How I successfully dominated payday loans with the white hat on".
This post is an in depth story about my view on things and how to succeed by doing something in a different way. For long I have been telling people that real work are underestimated. I guess this proves it. Payday loans are a tough niche and spam were dominating. People were saying: only links counts but I doubted that all the time.
You can work like me in a similar niche, just put in loads of time and efforts - it is worth it and more fun too. Maybe you even learn loads of stuff on the way! How I successfully domainated payday loans with the white hat on".