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So I was doing a bit of research this morning in Google under the query "affordable health insurance." I got the following result:
Now, bearing in mind that I'm searching on google.co.uk, I've been given 3 American sites in the top 5 - although on the whole the results are for relevant websites (even though I don't really need American health insurance). The most interesting, however, is site #4, Rochester Gentle Dental.
The name alone confused me as that sounds like the name of a dental clinic, not a health insurance provider, but it could be a small health insurance company offering dental insurance. There's even an address with the result, for a place in Rochester, NY, so I was expecting a clinic. I wasn't expecting a website, associated with an address in Google Maps for what appears to be a legitimate business, to actually be a cookie cutter spam site designed to push link juice to a bunch of other insurance sites.
As you scroll down the page, there's a single footer link to "insurance companies" which goes to an entirely different site, and a link to "old version" which takes you to a page of, quite frankly, gibberish:
Seriously, would a legitimate business actually put a site live that says "Health insurance napoleon and the prince with a lot of camellias are to have my dear!" about cheap health insurance? If you had (maybe by accident, or because your web developer had a weird sense of humour) and you did get some decent copy produced after the fact, would you leave that page online?
No, you wouldn't.
Not unless you were using the page to push link juice, via keyword-rich text links, to a different site - hence the footer link.
Someone's working hard to make that one link have weight because the home page has a PR of 3 - although they aren't being particularly choosy about the links they pursue. Yahoo delivers the following backlink profile:
So it's foreign language sites, sex sites, and general garbage. In fact, running Link Diagnosis on the site reveals just how bad the backlinks are - a huge proportion are .ru sites, yet this is a dental clinic in New York state?
From the WHOIS data it looks like the domain was originally purchased in 2005 and was renewed in February 2009 and has had 2 registrars.
I can only assume that the current owner must have bought an expired domain from the actual Rochester Gentle Dental clinic and has now registered a trusted domain by proxy using the following information:
This goes to show the power that domain age and trust must have, even months after a domain has changed hands and content. It also goes to show the power links - even incredibly poor links from bad neighborhoods - still have within Google.
What confounds me is that the SERP has 102 million results, which is competitive in any industry, and the insurance industry is one of the most competitive you'll find in organic search outside of porn, gambling, travel or real estate.
So Google, any chance that you're going to sort that particular SERP out, please?
And businesses...don't lose your branded domain name because if you do, it could spell a horrific reputation management issue if the wrong person gets hold of your expired URL.