If you've ever searched Google for reviews or complaints about a business, chances are you’ve seen Ripoff Report near the top of your search results. Since its launch in 1998, the website has become a behemoth in consumer advocacy online with nearly 2 million reports filed. Ripoff Report’s secret to success is search engine optimization (SEO). Its pages of rage, large ad dollars, and numerous lawsuits are all the result of increasing its visibility via influencing the signals that search engines look for. How is Ripoff Report so good at SEO and will it be able to keep up with the pace of change of search engine algorithms?
First, Ripoff Report does so well in search results because so many businesses have so little content written about them elsewhere on the web. If a business has little web presence, when a report is filed on Ripoff Report it seemingly shoots to the top of results for queries with that business name in it. In other words, the competition is just so low.
Secondly, Ripoff Report uses relevant keywords in all the right places. The site takes the user-generated complaint and optimizes the page for the business name, its location, along with "review" and "complaint" keywords. For example:
Third, Ripoff Report is good at appealing to curiosity. Its search results are so appealing yet vague that searchers feel compelled to click to learn more. This helps SEO because a higher click-through rate indicates a higher quality search result, and once people click they tend to stay on Ripoff Report a while to read the complaint. By sticking around, this is seen as a “long click” by search engines, another good sign. Searchers that click on a Ripoff Report search result don't quickly return back to the search results again.
Ripoff Report benefits immensely from Google autocomplete, the search predictions that might be similar to the search terms you're typing. When people begin typing into Google a business name and see as an autocomplete suggestion that business name plus the word "review" or "complaint", a good proportion will click on that suggestion to learn more. Ripoff Report is strong at ranking for these queries and is able to siphon clicks that would not have led to Ripoff Report if not for an autocomplete suggestion.
With so many pages, it's important for Ripoff Report to make it as easy as possible for search engine spiders to crawl its site and find and index all its juicy content. The website provides special pathways for spiders to do just that.
If Google detects a site constantly updates with fresh content, its spiders will visit that site more often. Ripoff Report makes it easy for their spiders to detect changes on its site and provides a pathway to crawl all the latest pages. This is why when a report is filed it shows up in search results so fast.
Last but not least, Ripoff Report has garnered a lot of attention and thus received a lot of link over the years. The quantity and quality of inbound links plays the largest part in search engine algorithms to determine if and when a website should rank for a given search query. Here are just a handful of the authoritative sites that have linked to Ripoff Report:
SEO has propelled Ripoff Report to great heights, but the house that Ed Magedson built is showing cracks. Large cracks. In fact, since mid-2014 Ripoff Report is losing organic traffic.
Part 2 - coming soon - explores the reasons why Ripoff Report hasn't been able to keep up with the changes in SEO that's leading to it's decline. Follow @cogneythinks on Twitter to stay updated.