Google Penalizes Social Video Advertising Site Virool

Google PenaltyVirool is the latest to be hit with a Google spam penalty. Virool, which received $6.62 million in seed funding last year is a self-service social video advertising platform, however what it essentially does is markets itself as a way to buy YouTube video views.

It's also yet another company that has been penalized based on the work of an SEO company they hired. As of this writing, Virool has been removed completely from Google's search results. And in an interesting twist, it follows closely on Google's announcement that they were going to step up in their crackdown of inflated YouTube views.

Alexander Debelov, co-founder & CEO of Virool, told Search Engine Watch that the first noticed a problem 4-5 weeks ago, and discovered the extent of their problems once they logged into Google Webmaster Tools. They have already contacted the site owners where the bad backlinks originated from, and have disavowed the rest, so they expect to be reinstated in the search index within a week or two.

Debelov also revealed that they thought they were doing enough research into SEO companies before they decided to contract a company that claimed it was "white hat only."

The on-site optimization was OK, but it was the off-site optimization, with all the bad backlinks, that ultimately caused Virool to be penalized. The backlink profile showed a high number of links received in a short period of time, and many of those links were definitely suspect and would raise red flags for anyone doing a backlink audit.

SEO companies using unethical and black hat SEO techniques in order to get clients ranking is nothing new. Usually, such techniques are done without the clients knowing (or being informed) that the tactics being used are against Google's webmaster guidelines, or that it comes with the possibility of being penalized by Google.

Google has been very active in handing out penalties recently, including another seed-funded company Rap Genius, as well as multiple link networks.

It can be difficult for the average person to know whether an SEO company they have hired is ethical because a lot of the unethical ones claim that they only do white hat SEO – after all, not very many people are going to hire a company that strictly does black hat SEO, unless it's for a churn and burn site.

This is the latest reminder to be careful when hiring an SEO firm, because the last thing you want to do is get stuck trying to clean up a mess and recover from a Google penalty.

Update April 29: Virool filed a reconsideration request and their site has been returned to the Google index.

About the author

Jennifer Slegg began as a freelance writer, and turned to search engine optimization and writing content for the web in 1998. She has created numerous content-rich sites in niche markets and works with many clients on content creation, strategy, and monetization. She writes about many search industry and social media topics on her blog, JenniferSlegg.com and is a frequent speaker at search industry conferences on SEO, content marketing and content monetization. Acknowledged as the leading expert on the Google AdSense contextual advertising program, she runs JenSense, a blog dealing exclusively with contextual advertising. She is also the founder and editor of The SEM Post. She is known by many as her handle Jenstar on various webmaster forums.