Need advice on converting a 'blackhat' site to 'whitehat'


Mike NCM

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Many many years ago when local search first became a thing, I did a lot of experimenting. One of those experiments actually turned into something I still care about today.

I created a simple website for one location based keyword. The name was 'Thing In Location'. Example would be AnytownVentCleaning.com.

I made the name of the site look like the business and just had the phone number come to me. I used a real address so I could claim the citations. I made it unit number 230 in a 50 unit strip mall...

Well, within 30 minutes I started getting phone calls from people looking for this service. So since I had a client who did that thing, I just ported the number to him. Figured he wouldn't really get much from it. A week later he begged me to let him keep it and pay me for it.

That site still churns out leads today and has for years. My client would be very disappointed if Google killed it from the index which I can't believe they have not done in the past few years.

The pages are so blatantly keyword stuffed and fake that it's shocking it's still there. Yet people call and fill out the form on the site regularly.

I am actually afraid to touch the darn thing. On the one hand I don't want to invite Google to re-crawl it. But on the other hand, if I don't do something it's just up there waiting to walk the green mile.

It still shows up in the 3 pack and is well ranked in the organics. Meanwhile the competitors are spending a ton of adwords money. Shocking to me that they have not reported the site to Google.

What I think I should do is create a DBA for the name of the website so it becomes an actual business. Then get a real address like a UPS box. Switch that info and fix the citations.

Then I'd re-do the website to remove the blackhat/old school stuff. Create content and do the proper SEO stuff. But again, I'm afraid to touch it. Feels like it's a house of cards and one wrong move will crash the entire thing.

So I am wondering if anyone here has any experience with converting a site from the dark side? I'd love some ideas/thoughts.

And I am totally white hat with my clients by the way. This was a looooong time ago and an experiment I never thought would work. Don't hate the player... hate the game.
 

chadkimball

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dont touch it! if it gets into trouble, then worry about converting it to whitehat. at that point you wont have anything to lose anyway
 
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It sounds like there's no way to convert this to a white hat listing, since it intrinsically is not a real local business. spammy local landing pages in the organic SERPS are a lot more of a gray area, but when it comes to actual local business listings, the rules are pretty clear.

Not every city and vertical has savvy enough competition to know how to do spam research, but you're right in thinking there's a ticking clock. It's going to take more than a UPS box to fix things though, UPS boxes are explicitly not accepted as an address, and trying to make the switch is just going to get you flagged. I honestly don't see how you could transition this to a white-hat listing without forming an actual, operating company. You couldn't even sell it to another business as a new location, since SAB's are only allowed one listing anyway. Sorry I don't have better news for you, but this really sounds like a listing that just isn't going to be brought in line with guidelines.
 

heckler

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My experience is it's best not the call the Google cops on yourself when you're doing some 'jiggery pokery'.

If you're OK with losing the lead volume, I'd say try some stuff; like 'moving' it, but I'd go into it expecting it to be summarily executed. ?\_(ツ)_/?
 

JoyHawkins

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Yeah everything James said is right so since there is no way to convert it, I would just leave it with the knowledge that one day it will most likely get axed.
 

JoshuaMackens

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If it's not broke don't fix it.

I speed read through this but why not tell your client this and offer to do his Local SEO for him? Create a new site for him, use his actual location, etc. so you have a backup plan if it does go down? Heck, you could even double rank at some point.
 

mborgelt

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I think Joshua's advice is great. Plan on a psuedo-rebrand for your client and let them know. This kind of disclosure with clients is the kind that makes a "client for life."
 

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