Iglu Cruise recently took over from cruise dot co dot UK as the number one cruise travel agent website in the UK within Google search pages for terms like Cheap Cruises, but will they stay there?
I feel I need to add that as a Travel SEO, I have done some work in the past for a competitor of Iglu Cruise; namely Adore Cruises who have the sort of issues caused by having a link profile that used some techniques mentioned below.
Not everyone knows this, but Google likes to update its algorithm around ten times a week; added to this are periodic major updates; recent ones include the Exact Match Domain; Panda and Penguin updates.
Google is trying to stop low-quality websites from appearing high in their index or Search Results Pages, often shortened to SERPs. They are also trying to prevent people from manipulating the search results via the improper use of link-building.
What we need to consider here is Google’s history. Initially called BackRub, Google works on the principle that if someone links to a website, it is a vote of confidence in that site. The more that people link to it, the more, in a kind of way, likes it has.
However, Google soon found out that people would manipulate links for their websites to rank high. Hence, the regular updates to the Google algorithm.
To help those responsible for looking after websites, Google created what is known as Webmaster Guidelines. These guidelines indicate what not to do to try and affect the SERPs.
Why did I start with “Will Iglu Cruise Melt?”
One of the biggest no, no’s in Google is paid Links. A link is a vote for a website if you think about it. Those with the deepest pockets will win if you can buy links (votes). Buying votes is against Google’s initial concept of a backrub for good work.
So, where does Iglu Cruise fit in with this? They are at or near the top for almost every conceivable cruise elated search term. Yet they appear to be ignoring Google’s guidelines by buying links.
What Google has said is; that it is OK to buy links if the sole purpose is to generate traffic and not try and manipulate the search results. So that webmasters can make money from their websites, Google allows them to add what is known as a no-follow tag to pay for links which say to Google, “don’t pass on any of my link juice to this website; I am not vouching for it!”
However, like many before them, Iglu Cruise has links from websites, often under the guise of an advertorial (paid-for content) that does not have this rel=”nofollow” tag and, therefore, these links pass on link juice which will affect the SERP’s.
Should Google look into this, there is a very high chance that they will lose a lot of first-place results and, therefore, traffic to their website and thus loss of revenue and… Need I go on?
Examples of Paid for Links
As an example, I will now show four places where Iglu Cruises have bought links. I have emails from two of these companies (covering three of the websites) letting me know how much it would cost for these links. One is $150 for an advertorial; this company has two websites, and I have no doubt the other commands a similar fee.
The website that sparked my short yet informative search is http://traveltweaks.com/; they charge $150 for an advertorial such as “Summer 2011 is coming: Time to Cruise” (http://traveltweaks.com/summer-luxury-cruise-1766/).
The website does not add nofollow via the robots.txt file, nor does it add a meta tag. When you check the link to the Iglu Cruises’ Princess Cruises page, it is a full follow; clearly, a paid link designed for gaining rankings in SERPS and not traffic.
Although not specified, the website is hosted in the US and appears to target US consumers; Iglu can’t sell cruises to US citizens (I believe this to be true and apologise if incorrect), so they will not benefit from any traffic gained. Blatantly bought link?
Mirror Communications run Travel Tweaks, and they have a second travel website where Iglu have a post; http://travel.prwave.ro/greece-finest-islands/. Like the first, there are no nofollow attributes, and the website is a .to, which is Romania.
I will say that it is not only Iglu who is abusing the Google Webmaster Guidelines with this company; so are Thomas Cook http://traveltweaks.com/last-minute-cruises-5446/.
The second company costs between £1,000 and 2,000 per month, depending on how many places you want your articles to appear. Some articles appear on their main website; some of these break the guidelines. I have not checked out the network they use.
Their main website has at least placed some nofollow links on some pages; however, there are numerous articles where these do not appear; it is these articles that Google will punish them for if they don’t do something about it.
One of these articles is (please note the site is no longer in operation and is now being redirected to a different domain name) (www.)travelbite(.co.uk/travel-directory/iglu-com/article/how-do-cruise-lines-cater-for-families). This may be an oversite, but they are paid-for links as they stand!
Talk Talk is the third company that deserves to be put to the sword by Google for selling paid links. I have not had confirmation that these are paid-for links. But I bet if a million of us asked for the type of link, none of us would get it for free.
If there was ever a blatant attempt to try and manipulate the SERPs, then this is it! The travel page on Talktalk (https://www.talktalk.co.uk/travel/) has links to other companies’ websites. These are paid for links and are full follow links.
They will probably tell you that the links are redirects from a referral name and number, but; redirects, if 301’s, will pass on a percentage of link juice, affecting the SERPs.
Talk Talk, Tut Tut
But where I have a significant problem is the sitemap page for TalkTalk (it appears that Talk Talk has now removed the offending sitemap). Iglu’s website is not on their website. It is a different website altogether and therefore has no place in the sitemap for TalkTalk! Only pages on your website should appear in a sitemap; unless you are trying to manipulate it…
Some will say that because the page linked too from the sitemap has “Talk Talks” frame around it, it is part of TalkTalk. Copy the source code from that page and compare it to the source code of Iglu Cruise on another browser. Use something like https://www.diffnow.com/, and you will see that there is no difference in the source code. Therefore, all the pages on Iglu’s site gain from Talk Talk’s sitemap link.
Now I will leave it there as I doubt anyone will read this post, but I will say that there are many other places where companies buy links that should have nofollow tags; a lot of these are with major publications such as newspapers similar to this https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/8269450/Cruise-holidays-deals-of-the-day.html.