That Time I Tricked Google With Its Own Data

Once upon a time SEO was easy

Exact match keyword domain? Boom.
Pages for every keyword? Done.
Ridiculous internal link building? Easy.
Paid link building? Cheap.
Link Pyramids? Get me more shared hosting.
Link Stuffing? Count me in.
Scraping? Now we’re talking.

Back in 2007, I was working on one of the first Online Reputation Management (ORM) systems out there. Like Google did for the web, I built a spider/crawl program. But in my case, it was for a very young ecosystem – social media. It was so old school I launched it via text message on twittr.com.

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The essence of the app was that a brand could enter a few keywords they wanted to track and the system would aggregate results from across the social web. Those keywords would likely be your brand or product. This was before Twitter had search functionality. Before they had purchased Summize (that $15M would have been nice though). So if you were Nike, you could see how people were talking about you online. Back then, this was new.

Soon after I built the foundation for this, Google made an interesting move with their Zeitgeist. You see, for a couple years, they released a so-called Zeitgeist of the top searches on Google for the year. This eventually turned into the Google Trends that we know today. It was mostly a marketing tool for them but then they released an RSS-based API. And that’s when the lightbulb moment happened.

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I then took the platform I had built to monitor brands on social media and turned its focus on Google Trends. Instead of humans entering keywords to monitor, what if it was automated from data via Google Trends? Interesting.

So I hooked up the Google Trends RSS feed to the Fresh Feeds product I had built and called it Fresh Trends. This was cool. It was kinda like Techmeme for popular topics (I went on to create many verticals like Techmeme using this product as a backend).

The final product was a WordPress website. Each Google Trend was automatically created as a category in WordPress and then I searched my Fresh Feeds platform for content based on that keyword. The system would post an excerpt from the article along with the keyword-rich title. This happened hourly via a cron job. So in the end, I had the most content available for a trending topic on Google search. As Google pumped out trending search topics, I would take that data, search my Fresh Feeds system, and post relevant content to a separate WordPress website creating a highly optimized website based on the most popular searches for that hour. Repeat.

It got indexed by Google as top results for very high traffic, trending search terms. It was shown on top of Google News results with trending topics. It was awesome. Alas, it didn’t last forever.

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And that’s the story of me tricking Google (the first time) with gray-hat techniques – in 2007.

Published by

Andy Brudtkuhl

Andy is a web developer, entrepreneur, bike commuter, seinfeld quoter, and daddy to two little girls and three dogs in Des Moines, Iowa.

One thought on “That Time I Tricked Google With Its Own Data”

  1. Interesting case, Andy, thanks for sharing! Back then it was much easier to manipulate with search rank, but as you said, nothing lasts forever.

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