How many bloggers and webmasters have forgotten to renew domain names and ended up losing them to somebody who grabbed them as soon as they were available? Add to that list the Online Journalism Review, which, according to a story written by Terence Huynh for TechGeek, lost the 15-year-old domain name OJR.org to an Australian startup called Oneflare, which acquired it as soon as it expired.
Similar look, different purpose
What’s even more bothersome about the lapse on the part of University of Southern California Annenberg, which owned the actual OJR website, is that Oneflare allegedly created a similar-looking site, but repurposed for spam, while at the same time using the logos of the university and most of its old content.
A later update reveals that after the story became public, Oneflare decided to donate it back to its original owners. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that someone did try to mislead people by retaining the look of the original site and using a lot of its original content just to get higher rankings in search engines.
Hiring a dodgy SEO firm
In its defence the company claimed it was unaware of what happened, as it was their SEO firm that had hijacked the OJR website. This example shows pretty clearly how you can get hurt in multiple areas by hiring a dodgy SEO firm: not only do you eventually get penalised by Google (yes, the oneflare site did), and you get very bad publicity.
I find it odd, however, that the company’s CEO is the person directly named, complete with company address, in the hijacked domain’s record, and not any SEO company. In any case, the general advice remains: beware which SEO firm you are engaging. Do they have strong business ethics? Are they transparent and tell/show you what they do? Make sure you’re not hiring a dodgy SEO firm – instead ensure you follow the Google guidelines,generally do what your customers would expect you to do and you should be fine.
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