Aboutus.org spamming search results

Aboutus logoYou have probably seen search results from aboutus.com in the result list at Google when searching for some company or domain. I just noticed the listing the other day when doing some SEO for this site. A Google search for cominvent currently brings the aboutus entry up on third place.

So what’s so wrong about aboutus’s practice? Isn’t it nice if they help people find sites and companies out there? Well, not necessarily. There has been a lot of criticism about aboutus’s practice, a Google search for “aboutus.org unethical” returns 550 hits (such as this). There are several bad things:

  • They highly optimize all their pages to show up high on search results, causing them to steal traffic which should have come to your legitimate site. In turn they generate revenue to themselves, not to us as they claim themselves, by having people click their Google ads
  • If you have not blocked their bot in your robots.txt (here’s how) your site will be crawled and parsed as soon as someone search for your domain…
  • The information they crawl about your site cannot be removed once it’s in there – you can only edit it, as can everybody else. This is inconsistent, since they allow you to block their bot in the first place. You should protest about this practice to them!
  • Anyone can edit the page about your site, thus you get the same valdalism issues as for Wikipedia, although worse since there are fewer editors caring about the correctness of the info about your company.
  • Your page will only be fetched once, and after that the aboutus.org entry will not be updated manually, so it will pretty soon get out-dated. This, combined with the practice of not allowing deletions, is very very on purpose, to make you feel obliged to edit your entry, thus forcing more traffic and more usage of their own services.

Well, what I did, apart from adding their bot to my own robots.txt is edit my own entry, replacing all info with the text (removed by owner), inserting a text complaining about aboutus and inserting another link to my site.

Comments (16)

  1. Ted Ernst

    Couple of points:
    * People that build great pages on AboutUs.org about their site have found that the traffic to their website increases.

    * If someone is considering buying a product from you, they are likely to google you (just as you did to find that TechCrunch post). With a negative blog post (again, like that TechCrunch one), it lives there forever, without regard to how things have changed in the world. Talk about being out of date! But with AboutUs, the information can be updated and you are encouraged to take part in the conversation (AboutUs cannot take part in the conversation at TechCrunch in the same way). And, because AboutUs is not part of your site, not controlled by you, your potential customers are better able to trust what they find there, as a third party resource.

    * You say bot-scraped info cannot be removed, but then you link to the [link removed] No_Bot_Policy, which clearly explains how bot-scraped into CAN be removed. I’ve gone ahead and done that for aboutus.org/ComInvent.com . I didn’t do the second step of removing the history, but I can. Just ask (support@AboutUs.org).

    * The AboutUs community patrols every edit. You can also get [link removed] EmailAlerts when the page changes – no account necessary

    Please let us know if you have further concerns. We’d love to win you over and become an asset for your business!

  2. Hi Ted, and thanks for taking the time to comment (what’s your role at AboutUs anyway, i did not see that from your info page?)

    * I don’t say that AboutUs is bad for everyone. Internet is open and if people like your service, fine.
    * I agree that it’s better to have some influence over content on other sites than none. I love Wikis
    * But the very name itself “AboutUS”, is false, if the content is not controlled by US. You should call the site “AboutTHEM” if the goal of the service is as you claim to let OTHERS do reviews of what they feel about a certain site.
    * I did not claim that bot-scraped info cannot be removed – that is exactly what I’ve done in restoring the entry I posted first 🙂
    * Forcing people to send an email to get stuff removed is not friendly, nor secure, nor does it scale

    I am not convinced by your “advertising” statements. I feel AboutUS abuses my registered company name to drive traffic to themselves.

    My sole feature request is:
    * Let webmasters avoid being crawled and included (already possible through robots.txt)
    * Let webmasters who was unlucky to already be included get out by editing robots.txt and pushing a link “reload robots.txt” on their aboutus page

    The current practice is simply inconsistent

  3. Greenville Dance Lessons

    I think all the complaints about aboutus.org are not well thought out. I think the site is great for all small sites, and OK even for large sites.

    This is just the next step in the internet. Think of it as a combo of Google and Wikipedia.

  4. What is good about searching for your own company name and finding your own site listing on page 2 or 3 and a bunch of ads-stuffed spam-sites on top-10 abusing your brand to generate traffic and ad-revenue to to their own site?

    Sure, someone may love such sites and for some it may even generate traffic, but for the serious players on the net, it’s mostly noise, and it should be possible to opt out.

    Just randomly checked in to “my” entry again, and my last edits were gone, censored away according to new editing rules… I made another attempt to make my site’s entry reflect my opinion…

  5. disapointed

    I contacted the hostmaster on aboutus to remove the empty page they automatically generated ‘on my behalf’. They said they won’t delete the empty page, as their bot would just recreate it – even if I have their bot disallowed in robots.txt?

    Theres nothing usefull for a small sites, searching our keyword just brings up their listing, I’m surprised google even indexed the page considering theres nothing on it but ads.

  6. I honestly hadn’t even been to the aboutus.org site until a few minutes ago. I was trying some SEO out on deep links to sites and about us was coming up a quite a bit.
    But then on my own Free Resume Site I’m finding that people are googling their names and pulling up their resumes.
    My point is, as this job site acts as a middle man between connections, the about us site acts the same way, creating backlinks, providing referal links, and a conduit to your presense.
    Bottom line last thoughts, would you rather someone linking to you for which you have no control, or someone linking to you for which you do have control over.
    I know which one I’d take.

  7. Isn’t it interesting how those for Wiki always avoid the fact that a domain name holder already has the say and how they dance around the opt out completely? Are you people so stubborn communistic and just plain hard headed to realize that we the domain holder have the right to say and yet you still maintain things your way. Give us the opt-out or you have never seen such a flame that I shall help fan against your arrogance , if you do not. Now I have every right to be ill because you the Wiki aboutus.org owners are doing just what you want and for yourselves and there can be no other way to see that because that is currently the way it is, with you people holding the upper hand as far as what can be edited and or deleted. (As far as that goes) Now try this one on for size: Fix your bot to obey a black list, allow a owner to opt out when he puts your bot in his disallow robots.txt file then send that puppy home to that website owners Wiki page and have that bot delete it (completely) or carry a message home to the one or program that shall. end of problem.
    Or do nothing and continue to cause domain owners heart rates to go up , along with their blood pressure and see how you feel when someone actually sues you due to your arrogance in this matter! (Now try and twist that out of context, like you’ve done most every other suggestion and or complaint.)

  8. Jen C.

    The bottom line is that there’s only one question that governs whether or not a website like AboutUs.org is useful, positive, ethical, etc.

    *** Do they give you a choice about whether or not you want to participate? ***

    If the answer is no, I don’t care how much they could benefit persons XY or Z, their site is garbage.

    Since AboutUs said they won’t remove my website from theirs and when asked why, they stated it wasn’t a part of their policy and pointed me to the page that says…

    “We choose not to completely remove pages from our system because AboutUs aims to be a guide to websites, and deleting a page would make us that much more incomplete.”

    … I’m not a fan. If I can’t tell someone else to take my website off of theirs, I’d rather see them disappear than get bigger.

  9. Poker

    Well Internet is all about open world, no one controls anything else. If you have got brain then you know how to make aboutus.org pages generate more traffic than do harm for you 😉

  10. (I agree Jen C.)

    OK Poker, Who made that rule of open world ? And since when is having another site of any kind showing up above a domain owners site (in search results) a good thing? Enlighten us all on how adding them to my search key words and results is going to generate any traffic for me when I already have the upper hand on those key words without Wiki aboutus.org. For Example, if someone should type wiki into the search engine, am I going to show up? answer: NO! And if they need to type the domain in to get a response from Wiki, doesn’t that mean they could have just typed in the Domain and went there without Wiki Answer: yes, because obviously they would have it already or else they couldn’t type it in for Wiki. So where is the advantage to adding Wiki to my search terms? (Those closly related to the Domain name)- As far as gathering information other than that supplied from the domain itself, anyone can do a whois. And just about everything Wiki assoiates a domain with ends up adding that domain to a (URI) URL further trashing the results for the Domain added to the Wiki. Speaking of who is why would someone need to know what if any whois protection a party is using and why are those entries harder coded than other Wiki default entries.?
    P.S. Poker,for the record I have considered doing what you spoke of, but test proved to only strengthen the Wiki and cloud my results all the more , including Wiki showing up in the # 1 position instead of My own Domain.
    Peace friend(s) and thanks for your input

  11. dub

    aboutus.org is a scam. go to google and type in aboutus and you will see all aboutus.org site they deny us that right. by censoring us. 70 percent of americans think the first site they see is what ever site they say on the advertisement. im doing yellow page ads spending 2500 a month my revenuse went down 90 percent when i paid someone to do the research they said aboutus.org was sending my traffic to my competitors needless to say i lost my business foreclosed on my home and me and my wife divorced all because of aboutus.org. i think americnas should arm themselfve and kill the enslavers

  12. Amen to that dub; and because truth really is stranger than fiction, it is safe to say that your truth is shaded by this fact, in a manner not so different than the shading caused by about_us_org to our domains. Anyone that has half a brain can see that about_us is only out for themselves. Hey maybe that’s what the name really means, as in it’s about them!
    P.S. Sorry to hear about your misfortune and the parting of you and your wife. I have an idea! suppose someone give them a dose of their own medicine? with a dedicated serving with ever increasing dosages? Hey you know what they say; all’s fair in Love and war. Besides what would that someone have to loose, they’ve already made a connection to every domain out there. Now if that someone could make them wish they hadn’t, then just maybe, by their not being able to back off or do anything about it, then they too can know what it feels like to have someone take it upon themselves to step on their turf and to become berried deeper and deeper in an endless sea of domain names. Gee that feels good just thinking about it.
    Later folks

  13. There are thousands of similar sites on the Internet who also collect information about your site and business and keep it for ages. Just to name a few: whois.domaintools.com, alexa.com, archive.org/web/web.php, builtwith.com [links moderated] and so on and on and on… You cannot really prevent such things.

  14. spycurb-webmaster

    Gee fellow were have you been in this discussion? Those other sites don’t come grabbing at your domain name as soon as you register it, (just to name one BIG difference and as far as most others (although I do dare say you named a couple on my crap list)I can and have handled them just fine and as far as that goes I’d like to thank them for being a small pest while allowing me the opportunity to gather ways to shake them off. Or rather out or way down my search results. (search engine testing is one of the things I do and they inadvertently help)Even this very site/forum is a test, it just so happens that I like it! There is one big issue with aboutus and that is the fact that even after you put a bot in place , you are still in there for anyone to come along and shove a happy hooker link near anyone’s “not my Wiki by choice page” while you or I go about our daily business and neglect to check recent trashing of a good name (so to speak)
    Peace friend

  15. spy-curb-webmaster

    It has been a while since I checked back here and I see that there haven’t been any updates / post except for possibly my own. I’ll get to (A.U.) but first
    Since this is an SEO related site and since I can’t seem to find a better subject to post the following under, I am going to make this entry a combo with question: Why is it when I parked my domain(s) last month, I got more hits on one or two of them in two days than I had gotten in the last three months while up and running Online not parked?
    Maybe someone here at cominvent can shed some greater light on this one matter.
    Here are the facts
    1 while parked it was not possible for anyone to click anything other than ads or a site from another site containing an already present link to my parked site or had to have chosen my site in the search results.
    The ads had only my search engine standing and those few links , to bring in traffic (no other means were used to drive traffic.)
    2. If people were clicking my site while parked, in order to bring up the ads, this could only mean that earlier on and before parking , that those people were picking something else with in those results earlier on.(A huge coincidence) and giving them the traffic. Ok big boys I’m asking now and not blabbing. Also keep in mind that I had long since shaken all 302 problems off (yes this still exist and not only in G-gal but at least one other none major search engine.)
    Now I have an idea of who does get some of my traffic; but I am not going to express that here and it really doesn’t matter, nor would it help solve the above question because they would have still been getting it anyhow. ??? I am confused ??? Note DNS was pointing to the servers charring the ads at the time instead of my own server but under a newly generated number triggered only by someone addressing my domain name. Numerically Cnamed to point to it and IP’s in place of sub-domains (three A address records as none www)
    Now figure that out if you can.
    P.S. While I’m here: I’m not an AU. fan but just for the sake of those that may one day need to wipe someone or something worse than that. A.U. Wiki off or down the first search page results,(I can’t imagine who that could be.) Here is a tip in such a case.
    First bear in mind that this is assuming everyone knows you can’t get rid of them anyway (Not completely.) and only if they are not already at position 3. Updating and fine tuning the shortcuts on A.U.(org) with their high rank will help accomplish this . Example: Lets say Google demerit-ed or penalized you (naturally you really were innocent) and you aren’t in the search engine at all, it is this time and this time only that about — us — org might be of some use and possibly better than nothing, although I think it is safe to say that unless your users are loyal, they will get more benefit than you. I used this method to help a sites loyal surfers find them while they were out of the search engine altogether. (In other words these particular users weren’t going to be poking around and really did want/need a link to the good specific site)”some of these people didn’t even know how to make a desktop shortcut and many believed Google somehow killed the site and that the search engine was the only way to get there. “just so you get the full picture.”. A.U. is still showing up at 3rd place after the sites return to the search engine (I left them there due to that rare case of not imagining anything worse) because they pushed an offending site down at least one result. The specific desired site gets #1 position now that they are back but A.U. had nothing to do with that.

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