Have you ever taken some time to reflect on Google’s massive list of acquisitions and mergers?
It’s a bit scary if you do. Actually, it might make some of you go hide in the woods before the robots arrive and take over.
For the uninitiated, check out this list on Wikipedia and just scan through some of those prices.
Is this for real? Yup, they throw around gazillions of dollars like it’s monopoly money.
But that isn’t all, they invest in more than just this list of mergers and acquisitions. This is where “Google Ventures” comes in, their investment arm which allows them to dip into all kinds of cool stuff.
And that is where things can get a little sketchy. What happens when an investment is heavily fueled by organic SEO from their very own engine?
This is concerning to a lot of people in the SEO community, but let’s be honest, Google doesn’t give a shit about us.
The reality of the situation beyond just a bunch of whiny SEOs is the potential anti-trust implications, general shittyness, and hypocrisy from Google’s double dipping.
All was well, then they received a minor penalty. Shortly there after a full recovery. What’s troubling is this seems to be a reoccurring theme with companies getting outted for questionable SEO who are also backed by Google Ventures. The most recent case was with Thumbtack.com who has done very well with aggressive local SEO growth and also received $100 million from Google ventures.
These guys were doing some shady shit, no doubt about that, and once it came in the public spotlight from this post (quite similar to my RetailMeNot piece) it was only a matter of time until the hammer came down.
Sorry buddy, but been there done that, check my post date ;-)
Okay, maybe a bit of jealousy there because his post got shared by Master Fishkin himself and wound up delivering a straight KO punch right in Thumbtack’s gonads.
All pretty standard stuff so far, but then Thumbtack managed to get the fastest “get out of jail free” card in the history of Google penalties.
In under a fucking week!
That’s right, less than seven days and out of the penalty box with shitloads of new backlinks from us SEOs.
Have we been trolled? Kind of seems like it but before we start spazzing out we need an overview of all the Google ventures backed companies who have crushed it with SEO. We need numbers to dig deeper into what is actually going on.
The Great Big List of Google Ventures Backed SEO Sites
To get started I went to GV.com/portfolio (sorry bros, nofollow) and pulled all the outbound links.
But before getting there I noticed Thumbtack.com is not on the list of Google Ventures investments. Wait a second, there is another “investment arm”, Google Capital which has some interesting companies under its wing as well. Lendingclub, Surveymonkey, Thumbtack, Glassdoor, Credit Karma, and Auction.com to name a few.
So farther down the rabbit hole we go. There was one problem though, it was going to take me all day to download 200+ reports one by one. At this point I was forced to utilize the small amount of tech skill I have and use the SEMrush API. But wait, why not just send a quick email instead? Thankfully I have a contact over there and they helped me out. Big thanks you guys are awesome.
Here is the data I pulled, enjoy :-)
Google's Portfolio Monthly SEO StatsProvided by SEMrush
|Domain||Organic Keywords||Organic Traffic||Organic Cost|
Some interesting things to note about the data. The total estimated organic traffic cost is about $67 million per month and that is in the United States only. Certainly some of these domains are doing well in other countries so this number is actually much higher.
The next number I found interesting and rather low is the total amount of adwords spend. This is around $2.8 million, not bad compared to their estimated overall organic traffic cost, roughly 23 times the amount. Needless to say, their portfolio is reaping the rewards of their search engine quite strategically.
They’ve hit some of the most profitable industries: coupons, legal, loans, etc.
But hey, wouldn’t you do the same? Well you’re likely not a billion dollar corporation so the implications aren’t quite the same. The real interesting thing is what these properties have done SEO wise.
Let’s look at some explosive growth shall we?
Watch out, you might break the backlink checker with this one. Phew, how is the air up there guys?
Google loves them some Uber. Can’t really blame them, they got some big stacks invested there.
Now this graph might knock you out of your chair when considering they received a penalty.
Need a loan after all the money you wasted on blackhatworld PBN links? Well don’t worry G ventures has got your back. Just do a quick search for “loans” and you’ll find Lendingclub at #3 and Creditkarma at #1.
Shall we dig into the backlinks?
Before we start pointing the finger for anything sketchy, freaking out, and starting a riot let’s consider that most large sites are bound to have at least some spammy links from scraper sites or something similar. So the plan is each site gets the 5 minute Jacob King spam check (trademark pending). If I can find some shit in that amount of time then you can make your own conclusions from there. Let’s take a quick look at these sites hopefully without breaking ahrefs.
Well they are doing quite nicely. It must be the social signals pushing them to #1 for “credit score” ;-)
Or maybe it’s the 6k+ referring domains? Well I started the spam check timer and found some anchor spam at the 1:35 mark.
Take a peak at their anchor profile, the untrained eye might miss it.
Ah but wait, exact match anchor text? It couldn’t be, yup, yup it is.
Almost looks like some contextual link spam I’d throw out there, damn near the anchor text profile I’d build too. I’m not going to dig into the actual links as the spam check time ran out. I saw some weird site wide links for “free credit score” on realtor sites and figured I could call it good there.
This one is pretty tough, there are just so many links to look at in only 5 minutes. One thing I did notice that looked a bit strange was links to their geo landing pages with some uniform anchor text. I just randomly clicked to the 7th page of anchors, like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Wow, 32k referring domains, I thought my hair might turn grey waiting for this one to load.
No need to even spam check these dudes since their recent penalty has been posted about a tonnnnn. I’d like to get an estimate of how many new referring domains they picked up from news of their penalty but it’s tough to say with the link removals they did.
This one is just too perfect for a closer. So I started peaking at Lendingclub and nothing popped out at me. Then I decided to navigate to the top pages section and check some link building to specific landing pages. Noticed this guy here with a bunch of spam links and the top anchor “consolidated credit “. But wait, upon closer look that’s our friend negative SEO. It’s almost inevitable to get hit ranking on these big SERPs by some spitefull asshole. It’s next to impossible to drop them and if you’re blasting the main anchor it will probably just help them.
How did I know this was neg SEO? It’s easy when you spot these anchors:
“visit poster’s website” and “strona www”
The first is “visit poster’s website” is a default generic anchor text in the software GSA search engine ranker and the second “strona www” is the default from one of the comment engines.
What can we conclude from all this? Well obviously these sites have done incredibly well and some insights can be gained from them. Although Google has made statements before that an investment doesn’t provide an extra SEO edge or insider information, one still has to wonder.
Is Google double dipping? Is it the ultimate case of “do as we say but not as we do”?
You be the judge.