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Google Penalizes Social Video Advertising Site Virool

Google PenaltyVirool is the latest to be hit with a Google spam penalty. Virool, which received $6.62 million in seed funding last year is a self-service social video advertising platform, however what it essentially does is markets itself as a way to buy YouTube video views.

It’s also yet another company that has been penalized based on the work of an SEO company they hired. As of this writing, Virool has been removed completely from Google’s search results. And in an interesting twist, it follows closely on Google’s announcement that they were going to step up in their crackdown of inflated YouTube views.

Alexander Debelov, co-founder CEO of Virool, told Search Engine Watch that the first noticed a problem 4-5 weeks ago, and discovered the extent of their problems once they logged into Google Webmaster Tools. They have already contacted the site owners where the bad backlinks originated from, and have disavowed the rest, so they expect to be reinstated in the search index within a week or two.

Debelov also revealed that they thought they were doing enough research into SEO companies before they decided to contract National Positions, a Los Angeles based SEO firm.

“They were based in the US which was important,” he says. “They were on the Inc 500 fastest-growing company list and they said they were white hat only.”

The on-site optimization was OK, but it was the off-site optimization, with all the bad backlinks, that ultimately caused Virool to be penalized. The backlink profile showed a high number of links received in a short period of time, and many of those links were definitely suspect and would raise red flags for anyone doing a backlink audit.

It’s not the first time that red flags have been raised about National Positions and their SEO tactics. In fact, it was a cold call by National Positions that caused Virool to consider their SEO services, Debelov said.

SEO companies using unethical and black hat SEO techniques in order to get clients ranking is nothing new. Usually, such techniques are done without the clients knowing (or being informed) that the tactics being used are against Google’s webmaster guidelines, or that it comes with the possibility of being penalized by Google.

While National Positions hasn’t received a penalty for their work they did for Virool, Google isn’t above penalizing SEO companies that are engaging in black hat tactics for their clients, as they did with iAcquire in 2012. And Google has been very active in handing out penalties recently, including another seed-funded company Rap Genius, as well as multiple link networks.

It can be difficult for the average person to know whether an SEO company they have hired is ethical because a lot of the unethical ones claim that they only do white hat SEO – after all, not very many people are going to hire a company that strictly does black hat SEO, unless it’s for a churn and burn site.

This is the latest reminder to be careful when hiring an SEO firm, because the last thing you want to do is get stuck trying to clean up a mess and recover from a Google penalty.

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