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Author Topic: SEO Abuse on Google?  (Read 1748 times)
bingus_baby
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« on: January 30, 2024 @221.02 »

Posting this since Reddit took it down. This has been getting under my skin for months and I don't know where to turn. I'm going insane and need someone to hear me out. Here's the post that got filtered out:

"I hope this insane rant makes sense to someone. I've been seeing this odd phenomenon popping up recently with search results, mostly in the past year. Only now I finally grabbed some screenshots. Not sure if it's only Google, it seems to be, but this is the only place I could think to ask!

So the thing is that I'll be looking something, anything up. I'll be digging deep in the image results and find these... odd pages. It has the original image's page's name, image, and tacked on at the end some percentage "off" as if it was a product. But it never is!! I'm usually looking up a person, product, or something non-buyable when I encounter these. I tried to visit the page once, but all my ad blockers and safety features all blow up and sound all the alarms. (So I haven't been able to track down what these pages even are, I'd rather not get 20,000 malware and die.)

One last thing to note, is that all the websites are unrelated to the subjects they're showing off. So I think it's SEO abuse of some kind. Why else would a health related website be selling anime characters for half off?

If anyone can help me get to the bottom of this, or show me where I can, please let me know. Thanks!"

Below are the screenshots I nabbed as an example of this nonsense. To reproduce the odd phenomenon, search up any given character. Dig through the search results until you find a low quality or fan art piece, and keep digging and you'll start to find odd or less relevant sites. That's where I got these. Hopefully my insane ramblings don't get nuked off the site here like they did on Reddit :sad:

https://files.catbox.moe/8l79hr.png
https://files.catbox.moe/kqbcbz.png
https://files.catbox.moe/9mmvkc.png
https://files.catbox.moe/k3j426.png
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Greystar
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2024 @372.22 »

that's really weird! I've never come across that before but probably because I've never dug that deep into google images. Google images is a really strange place, it surprises me what it digs up especially when I look up my own info / my friends. Definitely seems like SEO abuse though, yea. Bunch of keyword tags in the metadata or something.
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TheFrugalGamer
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2024 @955.91 »

Ok, that's really bizarre. I was able to replicate your results by searching for Knuckles from Sonic (I tried a few other characters but couldn't get it to work with them). After scrolling for a few pages I found one labelled "pictures of knuckles from sonic for Sale,Up To OFF 67%," which leads to "ceat com tn \ kjyo.aspx?cname = pictures+of+knuckles+from+sonic&cid=94." (I've added spaces and backslashes to keep the links from being clickable for safety) That's only a redirect, though--it actually leads to this "www kathrynj shop \ products.aspx?cname = pictures+of+knuckles+from+sonic&cid = 94"



I believe this is a shop that is selling shirts using stolen artwork from around the internet. It isn't curated, either, it seems it was just scraped from around the web and put onto a product page, each of which has what I believe are fake reviews underneath them. Ceat.com.tn seems to be an architectural company that is registered in Tunisia, so I'm not sure what its connection is to the whole thing, but I suspect it's a server that's been owned and is now being used to funnel sketchy web traffic. If you take the query string off of that first link, it leads to a weird page full of links that it clearly being used to redirect traffic from around the web. They all redirect to that KathrynJ shop scam site, each showing products that have been pulled from the web. I won't link to that one directly, but I'll show a screenshot here:



Those numbers on the bottom go all the way up to 1740, and since it's not styled I suspect it's just a landing page for search results, not meant to be seen by users. Obviously the "why" is to sell what are most likely non-existent products, but the "how" kind of eludes me, and I'm curious as to how they set up so many hoops just to capture these deeply buried image result links.
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ThunderPerfectWitchcraft
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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2024 @14.04 »

You're probably as bored of it as I'm, but could it be that this is simply smb who set up an AI to create pages fitting to common search queries?
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TheFrugalGamer
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2024 @86.20 »

You're probably as bored of it as I'm, but could it be that this is simply smb who set up an AI to create pages fitting to common search queries?

It could be, but I don't think you'd need to go full AI in order to set something like this up. I think it could be taken care of with a number of python scripts running on a server somewhere.
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bingus_baby
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2024 @136.31 »

screenshot
This gave me whiplash. Some years ago, maybe two, I was looking up a really rare CRT model. Some clear one I think, and since the domain wasn't as sketchy as the ones in my first posts, I clicked it. And it looked EXACTLY like that one. I just replicated it, and surely enough, same "About Us" page as the one I read through then. But on this one the autofill didn't work very well...

"ksdlfkdldfsd.top respects your privacy and your online security is very important.In order to provide you with the best products,effective customer service and updates,we will record all kinds of information about your visit to our website.To better protect your privacy, we provide the following notices about our online information practices and the choices you can make about how to collect and use your information.Our security and privacy program ensures that every transaction on our website is 100% secure and guaranteed."

Anyways, back then I did look it up (on Reddit, because of their r/scams being pretty knowledgeable) and others noticed it then as well. But it's getting worse, back then it was cheap crappy domains, but now they seem to be using whatever they can get their hands on. Or maybe selling the SEO abuse as a service?

Also I agree on the Python thing. Since this started before AI was widespread, it's probably (relatively) older software and/or scripts.
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bingus_baby
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2024 @51.32 »

Bumping my own thread?! I’m gonna do a deep dive on this topic! Since it seems like no one else is lol, I’ll post my findings/rough drafts when I get more data and fact check it a bit more since I would like some feedback, but before that…

A big aspect of this scam is hacked Wordpress sites. If anyone uses Wordpress and/or has experience with a hacked site, do let me know! As many of the sites I mentioned above boils down to a Wordpress site getting hacked and redirecting somewhere else. As a Neocities user, I don’t have much experience with this as it sounds like Wordpress uses a lot of plugins that cause vulnerabilities that aren’t used as much on Neocities. Any info is appreciated! I’ve found a lot of info, but I’m always looking for more.
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bingus_baby
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2024 @135.34 »

Finishing up a script for a short video I wanna do on the topic! If anyone has feedback they wanna share, please lmk! I'm becoming numb to my script from reading over it and I want to know if anything could be more clear, or go deeper into a topic. It is a txt on my site, so if I update anything I'll update that too. I know reading a script without the visual elements isn't much, but the most important stuff is written out so I'll appreciate any feedback! I'm sorry in advance for the Gen Z humor. I hope you can see past it.

Google Images' Big Issue
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TheFrugalGamer
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2024 @640.42 »

I read through it and I think it's great! Super interesting topic to me, and I'm sure others as well. I have only two suggestions, and one is a little additional info for the Wordpress section. I've run several Wordpress sites in my time, and the barrier to setting them up is pretty low. This is probably why they are prime targets for hacking, because they can be easily run by people without in-depth webmastering knowledge. The other thing about Wordpress sites is that the plugins, and the platform itself, are all constantly updated to prevent hacking, but a good majority of the ones that end up compromised were set up long ago, and then never touched again by their owners. Once the plugins become too out of date, they are easy hacking targets since their vulnerabilities haven't been patched out. I've never had a site completely compromised myself, but I have had them get overrun with comment spam because I didn't stay on top of my filtering and deleting, and it's not hard to fall behind enough to become a target.

The only other thing that occurred to me is that in the section where you mention reading through the "About" section in the sites, you could mention the text that's copied and pasted across each of the sites that you mentioned up above. I'll leave that up to your discretion, though, because it might tip the scammers off to change it, given that changing text isn't difficult. Then again, they could have already changed it up with ChatGPT and they haven't done that yet, so maybe not. The one thing I can say about scammers like these is that, despite their high output, they still somehow manage to be lazy.

Excellent deep diving work!
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bingus_baby
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2024 @654.93 »

Tsym for the feedback!! I'll definitely make some changes in the section about the plugins!! I'll look into it even further, but do mind if I also list you in the credits?

And for the "about me" section, I was going to put on screen a couple screenshots since it was a bit too long and insane to read out the whole thing. And yeah... they really ARE lazy. The most egregious part was how so many website logos simply said "shopping" or were a little PNG of a shopping cart ;_; I'm not sure if my little dive into hacked sites will encourage the scammers to try any harder, and even if it does... I don't have high hopes. They might be clever, but they're not very careful.
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Gans
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2024 @457.04 »

In my own websites log files, there are many requests for the same thing over and over again... Wordpress logins! Heck, no Wordpress running here, but does a bot care? The most prominent request of that kind was for "wp-login.php". Whichever punks try to check that door if it's unlocked, well, older Wordpress sites certainly are a prominent target.
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TheFrugalGamer
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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2024 @870.45 »

but do mind if I also list you in the credits?

Sure, no problem! And thank you for the consideration!

And yeah that makes more sense with the screenshot, because it is a massive blurb of nonsense, LOL.
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grubbyfox
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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2024 @485.98 »

I have no idea what is going on with that or why it's happening, but Google search has been absolute garbled for me for the last like 2+ years.

For example, a few months ago I was playing RDR2 and I wanted to look up something about an area there, and the first "page" of results was just utter nonsense websites and "books". Like if I searched RDR2 manteca falls or something, there would be garbled URLs with utter nonsense texts, and a lot of "books.google" links to garbled sites.

Ive got loads of screenshots of random stupid searches that yield trash as the first results, where they would normally have very straight forward stuff before.

I've also heard that google has removed their features like, adding a +word and -word to remove or add words? and "word in brackets" etc. I dont know if it's true, but it may be. Also, Google does this annoying as hell thing where you'll write for example "ACNL REDD GUIDE" (animal crossing new leaf" - and google will just strong arm you and force your search to be "ACNH REDD GUIDE" instead by default, and then be like "if you ACTUALLY meant ACNL, click here" like WTF??????

Sorry, rant over. I'll dive into my screenshots and see if I can find them, they're not in the same genre as this SEO abuse, but they're def interesting within the google search topic.
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bingus_baby
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« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2024 @842.71 »

google will just strong arm you and force your search
Please share your screenshots, I'd love to see if anything could be another topic of discussion for my Google slander video!!!! (At this point I might as well make it a multi-part series lmao)

And yeah, what you mentioned is part of why I'm so fed up. The final straw was a while back. Irl I have an uncommon name, so when I used to look it up I'd only get my old Facebook profile and a few people with similar names. Now it gives me a lot of products with similar -but not the same- spelling, WITHOUT a "did you mean" button. You can't search my name online anymore!!! Big W for anonymity, but still. If I HAVE to break out the boolean operators for spelling reasons, something is wrong. They changed the search algorithm at some point (I believe it's been confirmed) and it shows. Really badly. I'd jump ship, but even with the pitfalls it still remains the most efficient search engine.
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grubbyfox
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« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2024 @423.22 »

Haha yeah I use Startpage and DDG on my laptop these days. I only use google if I have to search something in my own language (startpage and ddg arent so good with that yet) OR if I have a very specific query that they dont understand. But I feel like both these have come a long way these last 2 years. DDG especially. They only lack the "finesse" of Google (which google is losing anyway), and I do like the way I can ask google specific stuff like math Qs or to translate or whatever.

I will find the screenshots, hehehe I love google slander!!!


edit: i have compiled an archive of gibberish google results, is there any place where I can upload these images? something like imgur but not quite?
« Last Edit: February 20, 2024 @728.73 by grubbyfox » Logged

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