John Chow Creates SEO Experts
Update: Turns out I was right! Skip to the end if you want to know the secret.
You’ll have to pardon me if this post sounds a bit like a rant because… well… it pretty much is. However, I think it’s both necessary and addresses an issue many of us have dealt with at some point. Rather than jumping right in, I probably should provide at list a bit of background info so I don’t leave you wondering what the hell just happened here.
For those of you who don’t know who John Chow is, he’s a self proclaimed “dot com mogul” who has earned millions online. His personal blog, johnchow.com, has become a sort of case study on how to earn money online and has become quite popular. In fact, his site now ranks #1 in Google for the phrase [make money online] beating out some pretty hefty competition. One of the most visible methods John used to obtain that ranking was his review exchange program. John leveraged the popularity of his blog (highly ranked in Technorati and currently a PageRank of 6) to generate reviews of his site. The rules were pretty simple; you review johnchow.com and link back to the site with the anchor text of “make money online” and John would link to you and 9 other sites in one of his review batches. The offer was very successful and garnered John at least 780 links with ideal anchor text.
This is where the problem starts. Since John ranked #1 for his target phrase, hundreds of his loyal followers began to do the same thing. Then, tragedy struck. John dropped out of sight for the phrase for a few days (I think it was a total of 4 days). John commented on the drop in his post about Google Updating their Algorithm. In it, John states:
I can only assume the changes are designed to discount all the waves of review for linkback, technorati trains, alexa trains, etc. Google didnâ€™t get to be the number one search engine by staying still.
Despite the fact that John is admittedly not an SEO, his readers took his assumption and ran with it. The review craze was over! John Chow got caught Google bombing! Google decided to bomb him back! And these are just a few examples. People on blogs that I normally love to read, had suddenly become instant SEO experts. The fact that Google bombing involves ranking a page for a term that’s not on it (miserable failure is the popular example) didn’t seem to matter. The fact that John uses the phrase “make money online” in as many posts as possible and has it no less than a dozen times on his home page didn’t phase them.
Then, just as quickly as he dropped off, John was back atop the rankings and was going to tell everyone how he did it in a later post. Of course, in typical evil (that’s a compliment in this case) fashion, John decided NOT to disclose his actions and has stirred everyone up once again. To be honest, it was a brilliant marketing move and is no doubt great linkbait (I’m linking to him aren’t I?) however, it’s had some unfortunate consequences. By not revealing what actions he thinks got him back to #1, John’s left the door wide open for speculation. In fact, one supposed search marketer has already claimed to have “exposed” John’s “secret”. According to Hamlet Batista, John’s problem was that he had TOO many links with the anchor text of “make money online”. He states:
I guess he emailed several of the reviewers and ask them to change the anchor texts.
The changes look very similar to what I suggested he do. It is also interesting to note that in the latest batch of reviews he is not asking people to link back with â€œmake money onlineâ€ as anchor text. I guess itâ€™s better to let people link to you first and send the back an email with the specific anchor text you want.
Sure… that makes sense… John emailed several of the reviewers (none have mentioned receiving any such email), they changed their links, Google crawled them and updated their SERPs accordingly all within 4 days. I hope you’re catching the sarcasm because I’m laying it on pretty thick. The best part is, this guy proclaims to be a search marketer himself! Not only is John still offering the review exchange with the same instructions (link to his site with the anchor text of “make money online”) but he has since published another batch of reviews! Also, no reviewer has made any mention of John asking them to change their links nor would John be foolish enough to think he could keep something like that a secret.
So, what DID John do to get his rankings back? To be honest, I have no idea. The possibilities of what caused the drop and what he did to remedy it, are nearly endless. Without having studied his site or followed his rankings before this I can only speculate as to the problem. Issues with his robots.txt or .htaccess file jumps to mind, but again, that’s simply speculation. However, I’d be more than willing to bet it had nothing to do with his review exchange offer and I’d certainly never give out SEO advice on guesses based on assumptions.
Look people, I’m not saying I’m the top dog when it comes to SEO. I’m also not saying I’m never wrong or that I never speculate or make and educated guesses. My point is, if you want expert SEO advice, go to an expert. John was smart enough to contact Aaron Wall when his rankings dropped, so if even the dot com mogul himself has to ask for expert advice, what makes you think you’re any different? A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing and there’s a reason people say “I know enough to be dangerous.” This is a perfect example.
UPDATE: Found it! Here’s a cached version of JohnChow.com’s robots.txt file as found by Google on May 30th (right around the time of the drop).
Here’s the file as it exists today… See any differences?
This is just as simple as telling google to crawl your site more frequently.
This certainly matches why he recommended Google’s webmaster tools, for its robots.txt analysis. Too bad. I rather likes the idea that Google had changed its algorithm to discount his review scheme, rather than simply John made a mistake.
I would imagine that as his page extensions are .php having the following in your robots.txt would be a bad idea:
Hence in the new version it is no longer present.
– Martin Reed
Not only is the older longer, it also kept Google and others out of virtually his entire site. If robots are greatly limited, they tend to visit less often. When he opened up his site, the bots came back. SEO rule #1: the more often bots visit, the better the chance of higher rankings. :)
I think you are right. Well done :)
I actually don’t think that the real reason why John Chow’s was out of the SERP for 4 days is because of his Google Bombing activity. Considering Matt’s declaration before, I forgot what’s the address on his blog, sometimes the real reason why the site is not included on the SERP is because Google is still updating the data about that site.
Remember that John Chow’s blog before was just on the 3rd or 4th spot of the SERP and then eventually, became the first of the SERP.
I was actually expecting to be like that. When I learned that John Chow’s blog was out of the SERP, I immediately thought, that when it reappear on the SERP, it would be on the top SERP.
This just proves what I have known for years. Being good at one thing does not exactly make you an expert in the field. I do not follow John’s blog at all but I would assume that this little wake up call has helped educate him in the world of SEO.
Haha well done, I was just looking at the cache to see the difference too… now what do you think the reason is for the difference in files?
Could it be this perhaps:
Around 24/05 he changes his robots file to reduce the number of supplemental pages…. and now changes it back….
Imagine if he had paid $4000 to some guy who said…. “undo your last optimization!!!”
Jhon Cho has not even made 50.000$ with his blog yet…so he did not made MILLIONS of $$…
I didn’t say he’s made millions off his blog. However, he’s made millions online. He has other sites you know?
John’s other sites probably generate 300K a year gross maybe. He has a shopping.com co-branded which is limited to roughly 200 companies (I happen to have one as well). TTZ media doesn’t have a lot of syndication (they are syndicating shopping.com results). The problem is that you have no idea how much John makes and you claimed he made millions online. I can assure you if John Chow had made as much money as you claim, he wouldn’t blogging. He makes a very nice living with his media properties and started the blog as one more source of income.
Brian, aside from the fact that how much money John makes wasn’t really the point, you’ve got a few flaws in your comment.
First, you have no idea how much john makes either. However, even if your estimate of $300,000 gross is accurate, in just over three years that’s a million bucks made online. Sure that’s gross income but he’d still have made millions online.
Also, your comment that millionaires don’t blog… you’re WAY off base on that one. Guy Kawasaki is the first name to jump to mind. I’d be willing to bet Shoemoney’s a millionaire although I have no real evidence one way or the other. But the point remains, rich people still blog.
And really, as I said, that wasn’t my point at all.
Shoe no doubt makes some serious parking cash. You can make quite a bit of money off the right domains and he owns 9,000 or so. He was the first person to do anything interesting with ringtones as well. As far as John goes a million gross over three years isn’t “millions.” You clearly implied that he was some kind of Pierre Omidyar. Guy Kawasaki has always leaned toward pundit. People seem to forget he is a columnist for Entrepreneur in addition to having some pretty successful startups. I know plenty of guys who after selling their company couldn’t be bothered to blog. It really depends on the person.
It’s clear John screwed up his robots.txt file and then didn’t want to admit it because that would conflict with his “Dot Com” mogul image.
The question that comes into my mind is, does the robots.txt (the first one) had anything to do with the ranking slip? Cause it I suppuse he had been using it for quite some time without problems.
Don’t forget about that guy that owns the Mavs…I think he has a little money. Anyways, who cares who has money.
Skitzzo, great observation on the Robots.txt. I wonder if that was the sole factor. Seeems like the new version would make him go supplemental more than just than the old version.
I only have one question. If googlebot retrieved the new robots.txt file, thereby correcting John’s mistake, then why hasn’t the cache been updated? It is still reflecting the old version.
@Daniel, remember, it wasn’t just a rankings drop, his index page was not indexed at all for a while. That would most definitely be due to the robots.txt file. I’m not sure when he made the change. He mentioned using the robots.txt file to help get some of his pages out of the supplemental index but he could very well have changed it without writing about it as well.
@WebStractions, realizing it’s there isn’t the same as caching it. Now that they are not blocked from crawling the site freely, they do so. In terms of the txt file, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have updated their cache with the new version yet.
WebStractions, Google tends to decide when they’re going to update the cache and when they don’t. Personally, I don’t pay much attention to the cache.
But, this is definitely a good find–not sure exactly if this is the reason he got banned…might be due to the link selling/buying? Didn’t Google come out once and say that they were going to start cracking down on paid links?
Bill, they did say they will be cracking down on sold and purchased links, however, John is still displaying the purchased links and wasn’t banned. He’d have lost all his PageRank etc, if he had been banned.
Did none of you guys read this:
JC CHANGED his robots file BEFORE his SERPs dropped.
Then he changed it back again and his SERPs went back up again…..
Very well written. You have another reader :)
Yeah you right, There are no SEO expert know everything. Mostly SEO expert know if they already have experienced. but Sometimes we do wrong think since only google know exactly how google search engine work.
I also learn so much from your experienced. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks man, you give me an insight about robots.txt.
I reach your website through John Chow. His blog is widely spread on the net recently. Btw your articles about SEO is useful too. You get another reader :)
Whatever is said about John Chow it doesn’t seem to be hurting him. My thinking is that John relishes in the attention as it likely brings him more traffic and more business.
like what they always say in showbiz. “any publicity is good publicity”. so john chow is actually benifiting from it.
Your article have exposed that how people are proclaiming themselves as SEO Expert even though they are not and when something goes wrong, they claim it as fault of google by updating their algorithm.
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