Behavioral Factor Scaling in 2020: What Should You Beware of?
Behavioral factor recruiting is expected to have a rapid impact, to reach the top for keywords, and to improve the ranking of the site. For this, as a rule, technologies are used to automate traffic. The enormous scale of click-fraud using thousands of IP addresses and VPN servers is hopeful, but usually in the short term.
Despite this, the number of sites with behavioral factor scams is growing. Some of the risk-takers continue to use black promotion methods. They manage to manipulate search results and often avoid sanctions. For marketers looking for quick answers to emerging issues with the promotion, the scam may seem like a panacea, but, according to recent reports, the incidents have become much stricter.
New penalties for impersonating users’ actions caught up with Webmaster posts in late September 2020 (see screenshot below for the text of the post). Vitaliy Podovzhniy (OverLead) and Elena Kamskaya (Siteclinic) published posts on Facebook about penalties for PF cheating. For Elena, what was going on reminded her of the situation in December 2014, when sites were massively pessimized for PF scamming. Thus, the text of the message about sanctions has not changed, but there is a sense of deja vu in 2014 and ambivalence.
The expert notes that official steps are finally being taken to address the problem of cheating. Many people will certainly think about the probability of being banned for 9-12 months, there is a question about the cost of losing a year of business, despite the first positions in the HF. The flip side: while Yandex is resorting to sanctions, it seems that its attempts to level out cheating at the level of algorithms fail, and this, in turn, causes regret.
As a result of the September bans, position losses are in the dozens: sometimes from 1-3 to 50-60+. Recall that in Yandex the ban lasts from 6 to 12 months, in Google – up to six months.
Anyway, the recruiter sometimes manages to reach the top for keywords in a short time, and the response of search engines is still unpredictable. However, the scale of click-frauds is disastrous and greatly affects the perception and image of the SEO industry.
Opinion of an expert
Alexey Guberman, head of search engine optimization at Ashmanov and Partners:
“Nuckrutators work in niches with high demand, in topics that imply a quick monetary return on promotion. It does not end with sanctions on the site alone: while the site is under the filters, a mirror of it is quickly “lifted” in search by another address. Less attention is paid to factors that ensure credibility of the site and the brand.
What to choose: SEO “long term” or quick “results”?
Brands with a history and large, stable companies understand that there are working rules and effective practices in the search space – they help achieve specific goals and manage the promotion process – instead of tweaking statistics for narrow and quick gains. If a company plans a stable and long-lasting presence on the Internet, the issue of tweaking is usually discouraged and will fall away on its own.
The site does feel better in the first positions, but projects with tweaks are more likely to have problems with sanctions, audience and demand. Remember at least 2014 (vividly fresh in my memory). Then there was the most large-scale event in the fight against cheating: Yandex filtered more than 4000 thousand sites at a time, resulting in 85.5% of extensions changed. For many people, the change came as a shock: for a certain period, cheating went into the shadows. Since 2018, manipulation of behavioral factors has intensified sharply. Numerous click-through services and educational courses on them have become a trend.
On the contrary, long-term SEO strategies more often bring sites to the top of the results. Using an example of 2 million keywords and data in the top 10 for each of them, Ahrefs estimated* that only 22% of the pages that are now in the top 10 were created within a year, and just over 1% of them are in the first position in the rankings. About 80% of pages are 2-3 years old or more; 5.7% of “happy pages” in the top 10 have achieved results for at least one keyword within 61-182 days. (*Ahrefs research, 2020).
Professionals who are actively using click-throughs rely on the recognition of their own techniques and views on SEO promotion. This is how “working schemes” and “author algorithms” of behavioral factor tweaks are formed, trying to leave behind truly effective strategies and search engine recommendations for the professional community and businesses. Toxic “black” practices caused by looking for flaws in search engine algorithms have nothing to do with the real work of professionals and experts, who share the principles of transparency and responsibility for the consequences of their promotional decisions.
Opinion of an expert
Denis Shubenok, executive director of “Ashmanov and partners”:
The issue of recruiting behavioral factors (BF) is frankly cyclical in nature. If you look in retrospect, even the promises of recruiters literally “mirror” each other: all the same promises of unique technology, not subject to search engines, promises to bring the site to the top in a couple of weeks, if not faster, and with a minimum budget. Of course, in reality, all is not as successful as it sounds. Let’s look at a specific example among SEO-agencies (by the way, most often they use black SEO, oddly enough).Statistics show that most of those who now have zeros in the column for 2020 – punished by search engines. They showed an unnatural spike in growth over the summer, which reinforces the suspicion of tweaks. Over the next 3-6 months, they were sanctioned accordingly and dropped out of the top ranks in search engine rankings. For clarity we added a site that grew naturally (ashmanov.com) to the comparison.
But the fact that these sites fell out of the top, does not mean that there are no cheaters now. Let me remind you, PF as a ranking factor began to be taken into account in 2009. In 2011 we had our first cleanup from clickers – the so-called “Clean Search” operation. The ingredients were the same: unique technologies, black techniques disguised as white, and guarantees of protection from filters. As a result, affected more than 1000 sites, many of which are still (!) Not back to the top and lost credibility. Some only had to re-qualify themselves (e.g. the Userator acceleration service).
The situation repeated itself in 2014 – when Seopult announced yet another P.F. boosting service, claiming the purity of the method and uniqueness of traffic attraction technologies. As a result, all clients of this service were banned. Thus, history repeated itself.
What do search engines say about it? Search engines are struggling with scammers. Perhaps not as often, quickly and successfully, but it goes. And it is only a matter of time. Punishing a site requires long checks – due to the responsibility for the content that search engines give out, they can’t punish sites en masse without checking the facts.
MYTHS ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF BLACK SEO
To date, there are a number of myths associated with the false possibilities of the method of promotion itself – let’s look at them in more detail:
MYTH #1: Better position in the top – more conversions
First positions in search do not guarantee loyal customers and increased conversions. Users tend to spend longer on a site to research it thoroughly and then make a purchase. Full-fledged SEO optimization requires quality improvement of internal parameters and external ranking factors, feedback from visitors, positive experiences from the interaction with the resource of different users.
MYTH #2: It’s better to boost than to invest a lot of resources
The site will not last long on the first positions of search results without proper attention to the value of the resource for users, reflecting the current information about products and services, as well as – quality service. Large and medium-sized projects require a detailed analysis of business tasks, regular analysis of technical data and work log, serious competence of specialists and a prompt response to negative incidents – and therefore, more resources.
MYTH #3: Search Engine Algorithms can’t detect spoofing
Promoting a site in competitive niches requires constant attention to sensitive metrics (%TOP5, %TOP3, %TOP10, %Ptraf). If the site has dropped sharply in prominence, you need to check whether the site was not committed to a third-party action. Botnob traffic to your site from ill-wishers and competitors can worsen behavioral factors and give a bad signal to search engines. In this case, you should immediately block traffic from bots and contact Yandex.Webmaster or Google Analytics support. In 2019, Google received a patent for “Changing the ranking of search results based on implicit user feedback” to protect against behavioral factor tweaking. This algorithm gives less weight to the statistics of users who constantly select results from the top 3 and enter multiple queries in the same topic. In Yandex, judging by recent events, the situation with mass behavioral factor scoring is under tight control. Thus, there is a more thorough filtration of cheated traffic with a significant loss of position of unscrupulous resources.
HOW TO BEWARE OF CHEATERS?
Search engine analytics systems are quite good at detecting automated traffic and provide an option to block access to a particular IP-address. No single system or software solution can completely block all robots and bots.
Yandex.Webview encourages you to pay attention to the behavior of visitors on key pages of the site: login, registration, with a search form, product catalog, payment, etc.
Google allows you to filter out traffic you’re not interested in based on geography, by excluding the IP addresses of individual computers or networks.
“It is possible to detect resources that fake PF only by analyzing user behavior on the site and additional metrics: browser, location, time to visit the site, the keyword for a transition, etc. Now imitation user behavior is increasingly difficult to distinguish from real visits. Perhaps the only clue for search engines remains the factor of reaching the target action. Fortunately, it is too time-consuming and problematic for the recruiting robots to make real orders at the moment. Although in the future, perhaps recruiters will come around to this as well.”
WHY BLACK SEO METHODS ARE STILL ALIVE?
What contributes to the flowering of black promotion schemes in 2020? Let’s take a further look at clickstreaming in action and answer the question of why many projects continue to click on behavioral factors:
Huge attention to the importance of behavioral ranking factors
Most specialists and experts share the opinion that behavioral factors are increasingly influencing a site’s position in search engine rankings. There are tools and technologies for black techniques, sometimes there are “cases” of black promotion of niche projects. The snowball effect usually affects beginner marketers and projects looking to get quick results with minimal effort.
Vulnerability of search engines and a kind of wait-and-see attitude
Both real users and software are involved in promotion tasks, and sometimes some of the traffic passes robotality filters. Often only manually suggest a possible incident of cheating, the facts are difficult to prove. It is important to communicate with search engine support and identify incidents in time. Schemes use multiple sessions from the same IP network, an empty User-Agent, repeated visits and, as a rule, the same type of actions are performed on the site to manipulate the statistics. This is done both to increase a resource’s position in the rankings, and to quickly push a competitor out of high places.
The growth potential of neural networks and learning algorithms
Advanced bots can mimic more complex user behavior: surfing the site, scrolling, choosing items to cart, making direct visits, and even creating a search engine account. This reinforces confidence in invulnerability and encourages risk-taking, but the cautionary point was and remains the sanctions.
WHO TO TRUST SEO-PROMOTION?
As experts in the market, we can assure you with confidence: only with the help of “white” promotion methods is the website from a purely marketing tool able to move to the state of an authoritative resource and become an integral part of your product. Otherwise, you will lose your site and more than likely lose confidence in your products and services. Thus, the choice is between a full-fledged work with SEO or unjustified risk – it’s up to you to decide.
To comply with the rules call not only for search engines, but also for experienced agencies that emphasize a transparent relationship between business and clients, with expertise, effective methodologies, their own technologies, working cases. Bad examples are more often contagious, but behind a successful experience is more resources, time and achievements. To be confident in the SEO-strategy and to prevent your website from being tampered with, you can get advice from experts of “Ashmanov and Partners”, an express audit of your website or your current contractor – to do this, leave an application here.
Opinion of the expert
Denis Shubenok, executive director of “Ashmanov and Partners”:
The search for the golden bullet will always be relevant among recruiters: the opportunity to do nothing with the business and get traffic looks attractive to many. But it is impossible in the long run. Because search engines always catch up with scammers, and the punishment for them is most often harsh, as are the consequences for business. The history of PF cheats and search engines is somewhat eternal, as the struggle between good and evil. But the main thing is that with each new technology of PF cheating search engine algorithms are only getting stronger and smarter.