Google Blogoscoped

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Another Paid Links Service Disguised As Hit Counter is a site dedicated to offer coupons for stores such as BestBuy or They rank quite well in Google: entering best buy coupons, I can see them occupy the number 1 spot. Entering circuit city coupons brings them up in the top spot as well.

How do they manage to rank that well? I don’t know exactly, but one thing that we can see is that a lot of sites are using a hit counter which also links to, using keyphrases like “Circuit City Coupons”. The hit counter originates at, which in their terms state that as a condition of using their service, “you are required to include the sponsor link without modification.”

Here is such a counter snippet, taken from a PageRank 4 page of the Arkansas State University:

<a href="" target="_top">
<img border="0" src=";c=681343" alt="Circuit City Coupons Discount Deals"></a><br>

<small><a href="" target="_top"><font color="#999999">Circuit City Coupons</font></a> <a href="" target="_top"><font color="#999999">Discount</font></a> <a href="" target="_top"><font color="#999999">Deals</font></a></small>

(Another counter-including site is e.g., which I suppose is just as unsuspecting of the implications of paid text links.) Different coupons-related domains are linked to from above counter snippet, though it’s likely they all belong to the same group... because checking the whois entry for, and, we always get San Diego and the same PO Box number. Other domains, like or, are part of this farm as well judging from whois data and site layouts.

I tried creating an “amazing counter” myself using a sample domain, and received a snippet including a link to with the link keywords “Healthy Weight Loss Diet”. A Google search for weight loss diet help returned that site on top. Indeed, (the whois of this PageRank 0 domain reveals an address in Lexington, Kentucky, USA) doesn’t hide the fact they’re in the text link advertising business:

[O]nline advertising is booming again, and it’s a result of the great success and popularity of text ads. This is the main reason why we offer text advertising.

Even though such a scheme goes against the Google webmaster guidelines as these ads aren’t using the “nofollow" value, Amazing Counters continues to explain:

[S]hort text ads allow our hit counter members to easily integrate the counter and ad to their site, without disturbing their graphics and layout.

When you buy a text ad from Amazing Counters, you are paying a one time fee to have your ad in the HTML counter code for one customer.

The spammy SEO tactic offered by AmazingCounter, and paid for by sites like (some of them spammy too, I’m sure, though perhaps not all), isn’t new. But it’s always interesting to see it’s still successful for most parties involved. Successful except for the user searching Google, that is, as they’re getting lower-quality results – and potentially even hurtful for users including the counter, as they may be pushed into a “bad neighborhood” lowering their own site’s rankings.

[Thanks Anonymous!]


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