AC Hotels has been banned from Google!

20 03 2007

I received 2 emails today yesterday telling me that the official websites of the Spanish hotel chain AC Hotels had been banned from Google! Well, this won’t be the first time it happens to a big company, in fact depending on the changes of Google’s algorithm during the so-called Google Dance, many websites can be left behind for usually two main reasons: Poorly designed websites (from a SEO perspective) and/or abuses of SEO techniques..

A lot of companies do not have a clue why they have been banned or penalized from Google index. That’s why I will approach the case of “AC HOTELS” from different angles that respect the following assumption: “Banned from Google= Not Spidered, Not Ranked, Not Indexed”

  • Are they still present in Google index?

Let’s see if AC HOTELS website is still indexed in google database with the simple command site:www.ac-hotels.com (same thing for the second website site:www.ac-hoteles.com)

Google Results

As you can see (click the link for a bigger image) the response from Google is negative. Google does not have information about those sites besides (part of) their backlinks.

  • Are still present in Yahoo and Msn?

Having a look at (the highly recommended) Yahoo “Site Explorer“, the same type of query reveals that their two official websites are indexed and it also gives us a list of all their backlinks (=inlinks).

Yahoo Site Explorer says:

  • AC-Hotels.com: Pages indexed: 26 / Inlinks for this url only (except from this domain): 2,576
  • AC-Hoteles.com: Pages indexed: 9 / Inlinks for this url only (except from this domain): 2,001

Msn Search says:

  • AC-Hotels.com: 16 pages / 4,533 Inlinks
  • AC-Hoteles.com: 20 pages / 1,176 Inlinks

AC Hotels Indexation

This screenshot shows us that there are very few pages of AC Hotels indexed in Yahoo and MSN (some of them do not exist anymore) . The good is that Yahoo gives us more information about the backlinks network of the site; this information is helpful in order to understand the “banning issue”. It really seems that Google, for its part, has decided not to index those 2 domains anymore for some reasons.

Why AC Hotels website has been banned by Google?

First of all let’s have a look at the 2 websites carefully.

It doesn’t take long to understand that the 2 sites are not “SEO friendly“! Indeed there are both developed with the exact same structure using Flash! This is a basic mistake of websites that totally rely on flash. Flash may look good for the visitors, but unfortunately Search Engine Spiders (automated crawlers like googlebot) are still not able to read precisely (or browse easily) Flash content. In this case googlebot does not see anything, not a single link or word.

Note: Google is able to read flash BUT it needs advanced SEO techniques to be able to position well a flash site in search engines. Most of the time webmasters reproduce the entire website in pure html “behind” the flash content just for the love of spider bots.

If Google missed the Flash content, it did not miss the Meta Keywords and Meta tags proposed by the page that loads the flash; keywords and meta descriptions are shown below:

Keyword and Meta of AC Hotels

Note: Those are the exact same keywords and meta descriptions for the two sites that also have the exact same title: “AC Hotels: Hoteles AC en España, Italia y Portugal”

Note2: It seems that AC Hotels is currently making changes to their sites, the Meta Description has been reduced as shown below:

Keywords and Meta descriptions

So guess what: Google sees all those keywords in the meta tags but unfortunately the spider is not able to locate any occurrence of those keywords in the content of the website (it’s a big no no!). People who put keywords into the meta tag that had nothing to do with the content of their site are severely penalized by Google.

The same applies for the following subdomains that redirect the visitors to the same flash frame with different keywords but still with no content for the spiders:

hoteles.barcelona.ac-hotels.com
hoteles.granada.ac-hotels.com
hoteles.madrid.ac-hotels.com
hoteles.sevilla.ac-hotels.com

Inbound links from same domain

A quick look at Alexa tells us that 4% of the traffic comes from directorio.ac-hotels.com. This subdomain does not use any flash file; it is a basic directory of hotels that spiders will sure understand and indexed. The use of the directory is obvious! There is no browsable sitemap on the rest of the site, thus there was a real need to optimize and help users (and spiders) to find the right path to the content. Interlinking webpages is not an abuse if it is done properly; according to Google it can be done if it really helps to guide the visitors to navigate the website..

Now let’s have a look at the IP who hosts those 2 main websites of AC Hotels. A reverse IP lookup gives us the full list of domain names hosted by the same IP; a total of 92 domain names all owned by AC Hotels.

A quick overview of those websites brought to my attention the fact that they all have the exact same structure, with a flash integrated into a frame and a background that are both hosted on www.Ac-hotels.com Same approach, same results! Spiders can’t crawl the content of the sites thus almost none of those sites is indexed in Google. I said “almost” because hotelcuzco.net is the only site from the 92 that is still indexed by google…

Is there any duplicated content? Indeed and it is a major SEO error; Ac-hotels.com, org, biz, info Ac-hoteles.com, net, org, biz, info and ac10hotels.com have the exact same content (meta keywords, description, content)! Ac-hotels.com has been penalized for not being able to determine a central main site inside a network of domain names to the eyes of search engines. For google it is duplicated content as Google think people intends to position as many webpages as possible in the pages of results to get better visibility. Also, the website of each hotel from the chain get the exact same structure and link back to Ac-hotels.com. That explains why every single hotel website has been penalized too.

Solutions?: Using the permanent 301 redirections on those 10 sites to the main site; and providing a different readable structure of each website, so Googlebot can notice they are indeed all different.

As a matter of fact Google intensively struggle against duplicated content since the beginning of 2006 and those 10 websites are no exception in Googlebot’s eyes.

Page rank? Even if google does not indexed anymore AC-Hotels.com, the domain name still has a Page Rank of 6/10 and a page rank of 4/10 for the asp page that run the Flash content. Usually Page Rank updates take a lot of time, so we can easily predicts that next update will show a 0/10.

AC-Hotels.com’s websites still have backlinks and still have a PR (as of 19/3/07) ; however we saw a lot of indicators that explain why Google algorithm has taken the decision to ban or penalize AC Hotels’ websites (duplicated content between domains, keywords stuffing, no spider friendly content, excessive inbounds linking from the same IP etc).

I would advise AC-Hotels to correct every single problems as fast as they can so they can then quickly file a reinclusion request to Google to be able to enjoy again traffic from a organic results. In my opinion there were no intention from AC Hotels to misbehave abusing SEO techniques but one may ask: Where is the boundary between optimization and SEO abuses? That’s a question SEO companies keep on asking themselves, and that’s why we pay them for.

PS: AC-Hotels can still count on other domain names to drive traffic from Google. Those domain names have a different design and are registered under a different IP. They are indexed by Google.

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27 responses to “AC Hotels has been banned from Google!”

20 03 2007
Listed at Travel in Blogs.com (23:47:49) :

AC Hotels has been banned from Google!…

This post has been submitted to Travelinblogs.com, thank you for your vote!

20 03 2007
Alex (23:47:58) :

Great post and analysis

I bet their PPC spend has gone through the roof while they try and sort this out!

21 03 2007
b-Make - Blog de Marketing, Publicidad e Internet » Blog de Marketing y Publicidad » AC Hoteles baneado de Google (01:17:32) :

[...] Podéis encontrar un gran análisis del baneo aquí. [...]

21 03 2007
AC Hotels, ¿eliminados de Google? » El Blog de Enrique Dans (02:39:10) :

[...] esta página, “Blog on travel: Decrypting the Online Travel Industry” (thanks, Joe!) se hace un muy interesante análisis de cómo los sitios oficiales de AC [...]

21 03 2007
Tim Hughes (07:23:14) :

Great analysis and a good mystery.

21 03 2007
SEO Tips and Tactics (08:44:50) :

Good analysis and great explaination of reasons and solutions

21 03 2007
Claude / Les Explorers (09:47:41) :

Thanks for this great analysis and all the tips for a good SEO

21 03 2007
Robert (10:49:40) :

Well, it’s amazing: A flash site with frames, a lot of interlinking, keywords stuffing in the meta although those keywords cannot be found by spiders and above all duplicated domains with no redirection! Let’s get back to basics, folks!…

21 03 2007
google.dirson.com (11:15:47) :

Cadena española de hoteles, penalizada en Google…

En blogontravel.com (en español, Enrique Dans y hotelblog.es) nos cuentan cómo el sitio web de la cadena española de hoteles ‘AC Hotels’ (’ac-hotels.com’ y ‘ac-hoteles.com’) ha sido eliminado de las páginas de resultados del buscador web de G…

21 03 2007
Isabelle Gorgue (11:30:17) :

Great analysis!
I once heard someone saying that the managing Director of AC does not beleive in Internet. Well here is the result!

21 03 2007
Surfeando - Blog de Miguel Angel Gaton » AC Hoteles eliminado de Google (11:53:30) :

[...] noticia está corriendo como la pólvora por muchas [...]

21 03 2007
Yours (12:25:03) :

The site is not yet banned. It still has PR 4 and the second site still has PR6. I think that google just suspended the site from their index temporally, and put the site under evaluation.
It may be banned or not depending the reaction of AC, if they react quickly and change things within their site, the AC hotels sites may be re-included in google index. The most important is that PR is still there, and the PR toolbar is not yet in dash-color.
I don’t think these guys were aware about the situation, and meant to smpa google.
If Ac Hotels people reads these post, I do suggest them to take measures quickly and to rsubmit their contents with in Google Webmasters section.
Not everybody is a Black Hat, it only happens that sometimes we makes mistakes and you have to learn from it.
Good Luck Guys.

21 03 2007
AC Hoteles “penalizado” por Google… en El Blog de Albert Barra (12:41:46) :

[...] magnífico artículo publicado en Blogontravel realiza un profundo análisis sobre las supuestas “tácticas de posicionamiento prohibidas” por [...]

21 03 2007
MM » AC Hoteles (13:22:38) :

[...] ¿eliminados de Google?. Enrique Dans parece que nos va a quitar el puesto a todos los SEO. – AC Hotels has been banned from Google!. Muy bien explicadas las malas practicas que venian haciendo, sobre todo con los [...]

21 03 2007
Telendro » Blog Archive » AC Hoteles - Web excluida de Google (17:26:15) :

[...] ello numerosas web relacionadas con el mundo SEO, con el mundo Hotelero y con el mundo de Google. (blogontravel.com, Enrique Dans, hotelblog.es) En algunas de ellas se lanzan hipotesis del porque de la penalizacion, [...]

21 03 2007
Ferran (21:34:59) :

Ac-hotels.com was making cloaking, showing diferent content to crawlers and to real users.

They removed this, and now you can’t see it.

22 03 2007
Jorge (16:26:16) :

Probably their agency Websdirect (www.websdirect.es/clientes.asp?eMenu=5) and Upposition (www.upposition.com) will be banned too. Too bad they are Google qualified and member of SEMPO. Time to change the rules because having a look at other websites of them cloaking seems their speciality.

24 03 2007
Blog on travel: Decrypting the Online Travel Industry » AC Hotels and Google - A learning experience (23:59:40) :

[...] the ban of many of its websites from Google index; I have covered this issue in my previous post AC Hotels has been banned from google but there is a need for an [...]

25 03 2007
Sylvain (00:00:08) :

Yours >> True, they still had a PR. It was a temporal ban. As a matter of fact, they did react pretty fast. See me last post for the update.

Jorge>> You will be amazed to see what I discovered in the version that was made for the spiders (see my last post). I haven’t looked at the other site they work on since it does not involve any hotel website (as far as I know).

Ferran>> The cloaking they used is the subject of my last article. Even if they have amended their sites, we still can see what they have done!

29 03 2007
w3 blog » Dominis redundants cap a logitravel.com (20:24:49) :

[...] paranoia amb el Google i les pràctiques fraudulentes s’ha vist agreujada arrel de la penalització imposada per Google a la cadena AC Hotels. El càstig només va durar uns dies, però va causar el suficient impacte com per que la cadena es [...]

29 03 2007
Sleek and Sexy - Marketing & Tecnología » Blog Archive » AC Hoteles baneada de Google (20:44:50) :

[...] ha sido baneada por Google por emplear técnicas “black hat” como cloaking y noscript. BlogOnTravel explica relativamente bien por [...]

10 04 2007
Impresiones, el Blog de Javier Velilla » Blog Archive » Posicionamiento web, nuevos nombres y Google… (08:36:40) :

[...] blog de Enrique Dans se hacía eco de la desaparición de la web de AC Hotels en Google (vía). Algo ya ‘reparado’. “Los sitios oficiales de AC Hotels, una de las más [...]

29 04 2007
¿Malas prácticas de posicionamiento en google ? en Marketing Hotelero y Turístico 2.0 por Albert Barra (02:40:57) :

[...] y SEO sobre la penalización temporal que sufrió AC Hoteles por parte de google. Se expusieron muchas causas que habían podido motivar la exclusión, y también se debatió sobre el hecho de que la [...]

24 06 2007
AC Hotels has been banned from Google! « SEO SPAM Cops (08:18:42) :

[...] Google in March 2007. “Blog on Travel: Decrypting the online Travel Industry” posted a good analysis of the case. Keep up the good work [...]

24 11 2008
Arrielle Green (11:33:08) :

good analysis and great explaination of reasons and solutions.

11 05 2009
glowzar (19:19:04) :

Very sad that companies dont get good assistance of SEO experts regarding the condition of their websites. They are not concious about the central role of their sites to expand their commercial activities further. Very good explanation of the case -one of the best I’ve read.

29 06 2009
Solo Traveler (11:22:52) :

Now this is know as analysis. The main learning from this article is how to put reconsideration request to google for reindex your site. Good work, Keep it up buddy.

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