Practical Ecommerce

SEO Report Card:

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the SEO Report Card. During this time, I have received many kind words from both readers and report card recipients — words of gratitude and encouragement — for which I am grateful. I hope to render even more assistance in 2007.

SEO report card for

Now that you know Google’s tough stance on text-link-buying, the unwelcome scrutiny from Googlers who might be reading this article probably wouldn’t be what our eager volunteers had in mind when they put their name in the hat for a review. Therefore, I’m going to pick another site, one that has not solicited my help.

In Googler Matt Cutts’ classic blog post “Tell Me About Your Backlinks,” Matt regales his readers with his analysis of websites of brave attendees during Q&A at his session at PubCon and their dubiously “earned” links. He alluded to the powerful tools he has at his disposal when logged into the Google VPN (Virtual Private Network). Given how easy it was for me to quickly spot link buys without the benefit of Google’s sophisticated tools, obvious link buys such as the ones I am about to point out are probably on, or soon to be on, Google’s radar, and thus in danger of being completely discounted.

So, without any further ado, let’s sneak a peek at underwear etailer and a small sampling of its backlinks.

Some of the links are obviously paid links due to the nearby “sponsored link / ads” verbiage (e.g.

Some are obviously paid links due to other link ads on the page being completely off-topic, commercial in nature and of the “red flag” type — casinos, pharmaceuticals, mortgages, fantasy football, etc. (e.g.

Some of the paid links are on dodgy, R-rated sites (e.g.

Some of the paid links come from questionable link neighborhoods, where the link sellers themselves have acquired many dubious links (e.g.

Some links are cleverly folded into the body copy of pre-existing relevant articles. However, those pages were of the static and unchanging variety, so the sudden introduction of paid links into such pages after years of stagnation probably sticks out like a sore thumb to the engines. (e.g.

Somewhat surprisingly, is absolutely dominating in the Google SERPs (that’s SEO-speak for Search Engine Results Pages) for highly sought-after undie-related terms, like “panties,” “bras” and “underwear.” However, their extensive, questionable link buys, along with over-the-top keyword-stuffing in href title attributes on the home page and in the body copy on internal pages like, leads me to think that is in a very precarious position.

Regardless of whether Cutts or his Google colleagues on the Webspam team read this, I imagine’s kingly status is only fleeting. Improvements in Google’s spam-catching algorithms will eventually catch up with their site and render those hard-bought links impotent; perhaps all this will earn a penalty for the keyword-stuffing in the process. Time will tell.

SEO Report Card

Home Page Content: C

Inbound Links and PageRank: C-

Indexation: A Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure: B

HTML Templates and CSS: C

Secondary Page Content: C

Product Page Content: A-

Keyword Choices: A

Title Tags: A-



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Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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  1. Legacy User January 9, 2007 Reply

    I have been reading your articles from the start…I always enjoy them.

    What is it that you mean when you say "hard-bought links"?
    Please be specific.

    Thank you

    — *Michael*

  2. Legacy User January 9, 2007 Reply

    I think hes making a play on "hard-earned". Being ironical, because they werent earned at all but bought. Except that they seemed to have spent a whole lot of effort in acquiring them so they were "hard-bought".

    Ive read many stories like this: "These people are doing all these black hat SEO tactics. They seem to be doing really well on the SERPs. But–theyll probably disappear because of it. Real soon now."

    Would you be willing to revisit this very site in 6 months and see if they are actually doing badly or if they are still in fact doing quite well despite their obvious buying of text links?

    — *Emma*

  3. Legacy User January 9, 2007 Reply

    Its amazing how the whole link phenomenon has evolved over the past few years. From guest book signatures, to reciprocal links, link farms, paid links, etc.

    I wonder if Google has begun to look at backlinks on a page by page basis versus a general domain basis. For instance, perhaps the "paid" links point to the homepage while the pages that are ranking so highly in Googles SERPs have quality in-bound links pointing to them.

    Problem is that you can research this forever and never find a conclusive answer. Needless to say, this kind of analysis is very interesting.

    — *Silvilla*

  4. Legacy User January 23, 2007 Reply

    You're right Emma, it was tongue-in-cheek… a play on "hard-earned." It will be interesting to see where they sit in 6 months. It could be that this article does them in, because a Googler read it. That wouldn't make me very popular with the folks at FreshPair!

    — *Stephan Spencer*

  5. Legacy User January 27, 2007 Reply

    Uh-oh! Looks like Stephan better stock up on his underwear needs NOW! ; )

    — *Beth M.*

  6. Legacy User February 5, 2007 Reply

    You gave them an A for Keyword Choices, what about this ( Bali baly,bally,bale,balee) is this good? Is that spam or not?

    — *Mira*

  7. Legacy User February 16, 2007 Reply

    Hi Mira. Good question! No it's not good the way they keyword stuffed "Bali baly,bally,bale,balee" and dozens of other words (57 in total!) into the Bali page ( It's way over the top and I think it qualifies as spam. You asked why I gave them an A for Keyword Choices; the reason was because they were clearly very savvy in the area of keyword research. Nonetheless, I did dock them elsewhere for the keyword stuffing – under Secondary Page Content and under HTML Templates. The keyword stuffing is rampant across multiple secondary level pages and HTML templates. Hope that clarifies!

    — *Stephan Spencer*

  8. Legacy User February 27, 2007 Reply

    "You're right Emma, it was tongue-in-cheek… a play on "hard-earned." It will be interesting to see where they sit in 6 months. It could be that this article does them in, because a Googler read it. That wouldn't make me very popular with the folks at FreshPair!"

    I can't help but feel uncomfortable with this post… My sites ride that "edge" (because I buy links like it was my job)…trust me: this is nothing. I'd be suprised if a googler banned freshpair after reading this, but having said that, I wouldn't be happy if It were one of my sites anyways…seems a bit unprofessional.

    — *Todd*

  9. Legacy User May 13, 2007 Reply

    Oh, you forgot to mention in your article that you do SEO for …. and looking at your SEO case study on your site:
    Looks like you should be worrying about your client…they don't seem to rank very well for underwear or bras like your case study says they do. Perhaps if you spent more time doing SEO for your clients, rather than bitching about other clients your clients would do better.
    Oh, and some of the backlinks for look like paid links too.
    Oh, and it looks like it's been nearly 6 months and freshpair is doing just fine still.

    — *Jack Peterson*

  10. Legacy User November 29, 2007 Reply

    Whatever your thoughts, you have to give it to them, they have worked hard to get to where they are and I only hope my website at gets there too

    — *Giggleberries*

  11. Legacy User April 25, 2008 Reply

    I'd like to know what shopping cart software is using. This is also an important factor when considering rankings.

    — *John*