Online casino affiliate hacked major university websites

An unnamed online casino affiliate has been accused of hacking several prominent university websites in a bid to improve its search results in Google.

The dodgy movements were revealed by web marketing agency, eTraffic, after suspicions heightened as the casino affiliate suddenly surged to the top of Googles search engine rankings. Their research revealed top-rankings for typically expensive positions for hot keywords like ‘real money slots,’ ‘real slots,’ ‘real online slots,’ ‘online slots real money’ and ‘play real money slots online.’

Casino affiliate hackBetween January and September this year, the affiliate went from having Google keywords position in the 40s and 50s, to suddenly gaining number one positions for highly sought after keywords – those which typically attract the highest PPC. This prompted eTraffic to delve deeper, assuming that the affiliate was employing some seriously ‘back hat’ search engine optimisation (SEO) practices.

eTraffic published a report on its website revealing a detailed hunt into how “an innocent backlink & anchor text research led us to a mind-boggling discovery involving Google, a gambling site and prestigious universities in the US, including some Ivy League ones.”

The report explains the importance that Google places on backlinks from high level domains (for example, sites back-linked to .gov and .edu domains) when ranking search results. eTraffic’s investigation revealed the casino affiliate had over 70 backlinks to major universities in the United States and worldwide, including the University of Washington, Stanford University, New York University, Duke University and Dartmouth College.

There was nothing smart about the way the backlinks were inserted, with the affiliate randomly adding keywords into academic articles to create sentences that made no sense. Because the keywords were not underlined or highlighted, they slotted right into the articles undetected, helping the affiliates websites to rank higher in Google without being noticed.

The eTraffic report exposes how little importance Google places on the domain or webpage relevancy when back-linked to a high trust source. It also shows that Googles touted lack of tolerance for such black hat practices is not as solid as previously imagined, and could open up a can of worms for other affiliates to follow suit.

eTraffic concluded its report with a somewhat heartfelt statement:

“We published this analysis because we felt that applying this kind of SEO strategy is aiming a bit too low. It’s taking advantage of educational websites that are the last online resort free of exactly these kinds of manipulations. There’s no other way to put it – this is just wrong.”

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