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Old 10th September 2007, 05:16 PM   #1
thejenn
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Default New Article - The Idiocy Of Google's Paid Link Crusade

Authored by: Jennifer Laycock

Full Text: http://www.searchengineguide.com/laycock/010581.html

A Snippet:

While the talk about paid links has been going on for quite a while now, it started reaching a fevered pitch during Search Engine Strategies San Jose last month. The show featured a heated session titled "Are Paid Links Evil?" that has generated a ton of new discussion and speculation about how Google might crack down on paid links and how site owners should (or shouldn't) respond.

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Old 13th September 2007, 08:41 AM   #2
James Burns
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I think everyone has missed the point about why Google is reacting against the paid links. The idea is that paid links skew the rankings. Up until fairly recently, it has been entirely possible for a site with no valid content to have huge page rank, and search engine placement. I suspect that that is why the link directories were the first to get hit really hard. I think Google wants to serve up accurate results, and that is hard to do when a site appears to be more important than it actually is. I think that in the fairly near future, the little green phallic symbol in the tool bar will be a thing of the past. It seems to be less important each day. I see sites with no page rank or very little, higher in the listings for the keywords in some industries, than ones with pr 6 or 7. It is not just that things are changing, things have already changed, and a lot of people are scratching their heads. When the time comes that some semi arbitrary metric like page rank disappears, the paid links will mean nothing. It is already happening. People who use this method may continue to try to convince others that it is still the way to go, but they will be trading among themselves in a currency that no longer has any value, and in a false economy. If your site can get to the top of the page for your keywords without paid links, and without pr what's the difference?

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Old 13th September 2007, 09:04 AM   #3
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What Google says has been misrepresented by many people. Of course, Google could say things more clearly. It's a classic debating technique to misrepresent what the other guy says and then blast him. Michael Gray did just that to Matt Cutts at SES San Jose. Matt was really steamed and I think he was justified.

Google's message should be, "You don't own your PageRank. If you try to sell PageRank, we will thwart you." Go ahead and sell links or buy links, but don't expect them to pass PageRank. If you tag them with nofollow, we'll probably trust you and leave it at that. If you sell links and don't tag them, guess what, we're probably going to disregard some of the links on your site. Perhaps you'd rather do the tagging yourself so we don't have to guess which links are paid and which aren't. Why leave it to chance?

This isn't about selling links. It's about selling PageRank in order to manipulate Google's rankings to the detriment of Google's users, and Google's shareholders.

Selling editorial links on the web is no different than if a newspaper includes paid placement within a story and doesn't disclose it. Yeah, you can do that because it's your site, but when discovered, your reputation may go down the toilet.


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Old 13th September 2007, 10:35 AM   #4
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Quote:
"You don't own your PageRank. If you try to sell PageRank, we will thwart you." Go ahead and sell links or buy links, but don't expect them to pass PageRank. If you tag them with nofollow, we'll probably trust you and leave it at that.
In much the same way, Google does not own the code on my site. I can code my site anyway I see fit, including allowing spiders to crawl any and every link on my site.

There are search engines besides Google.

As I see it, it's up to Google to figure out how to identify and discount these links if they want to discount them. It's not up to me to tag them the way they want them to be tagged. Why should I take time and money out of my pocket to make up for the flaws of the algorithm Google created?

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Old 13th September 2007, 02:22 PM   #5
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Go Jenn!

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Old 13th September 2007, 03:05 PM   #6
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My experience is that google is actually very good at identifying paid links, so I don't see it in the sense that there is a flaw in their ability to identify paid links with the algorithm when it comes to the nofollow option. They aren't relying on webmasters to control paid links, although i think the nofollow does provide webmasters an option to communicate if the intent of the link is to manipulate pagerank.

I'm not sure google has another option, and I'm curious what others think any other options might be. Should they just ignore if a link is paid or not? If paid links were allowed to freely impact rankings, I believe theoretically with time all/most natural listings would be based on payment. That is fundamentally contrary to the underlying principles of pagerank in my opinion.

The description of the paid link market as a "false economy" I think hits the nail on the head. My experience is all/most have a single intent in mind - link popularity to manipulate search engine rankings. That is a guideline that has been in place since the beginning, and this is just one more tactic on the long list (ffa, link exchanges, etc) that don't work well (at this point) and muddy the waters.

The issue isn't the paid links themselves, but I believe the number who use it to manipulate rankings. If there were just a few buying links, there wouldn't be an issue. The number is many more though - a very large false market imo.

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Old 23rd September 2007, 04:48 PM   #7
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The worst part is they are basically telling you how to run your business. Telling you you can only buy links when it suits them. Awful. They don't have a problem with you using Google Adsense do they? But you can't sell links.

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Old 10th October 2007, 01:28 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob123 View Post
The worst part is they are basically telling you how to run your business. Telling you you can only buy links when it suits them. Awful. They don't have a problem with you using Google Adsense do they? But you can't sell links.
so true, so true.

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Old 10th October 2007, 11:42 AM   #9
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Google isn't saying you can't buy and sell links. They're saying you can't buy and sell PageRank. That's different. Buy all the links you want. Sell all the links you want. Have a link-selling jamboree.

Paid links are advertising. If you're selling advertising on your site, that's fine. You own the space on your site and you can fill it with whatever you choose (within the bounds of applicable laws, of course).

But I also agree with Jonathan. You don't own your PageRank. So IMO sites that sell links based on the PageRank those links supposedly pass are potentially committing fraud. (IANAL, but I think that's the statute that applies to "selling something you don't own or have the rights to sell").

That's why the "Adsense issue" is a red herring. Because it goes through a script, Adsense doesn't pass PageRank. Basically, Google's ads follow the same rules they are asking webmasters to follow. Sending the links through a script is the alternative to using nofollow that Google suggests for coding paid-for links. So webmasters who don't trust the nofollow element for any reason have an alternative available. It isn't "nofollow" or die.

For that matter, you don't have to nofollow or script links you sell. But by the same token, Google doesn't have to list your site in their results, either. The way I see it, you want to play in their back yard, you play by their rules.

As Jenn said, it's your site code and you get to decide how you're going to code it. But as my wise mom told me many times, you have to be willing to accept the consequences of your decisions.

I guess I still don't see what the big deal is.

You can buy all the links you want. I haven't seen anything (at least, not yet) that Google is penalizing sites that buy links. I think for the same reason Google doesn't penalize you for links pointing to your site in general, they won't penalize you for paid links pointing to you.

You don't have control over whether the site owner on the page where the link appears codes the link with nofollow or a script or not. And penalizing the apparent buyer would make it trivially easy for nefarious competitors to knock you out of the results -- invest a few dollars in paid links pointing to the competition on a few "bad apple" PR-selling sites, and WHAMMO. Their site could be history.

I believe the folks at Google are smart enough to figure that out, which is why I don't think they'll penalize link buyers any time soon.

Besides, there are lots of legitimate reasons to buy links. Buy them for traffic. Buy them for exposure. Buy them for branding. Buy them to keep your competitors from getting those coveted ad slots. Buy them because you want to support the website on which they appear. Buy them because you've got too much money lying around and you need to get rid of some of it.

Just don't count on paid links increasing your PageRank in Google.

If you sell links, on the other hand, you have a decision to make. The folks at Google have pretty much laid out their position. Sell links for advertising, branding, traffic -- you're fine. Sell links to pass PageRank -- not so much.

It comes down to a question of intention. And it's pretty hard to gauge somebody's intentions in the absence of some kind of indicator. I think that's what Google's asking webmasters for -- simply to give them an indicator as to whether their intention is to sell advertising space (good) or to sell PR (not good).

So you can either use one of the methods they've outlined to keep those links from passing PR, or you can trust that Google will figure out your intentions on their own (and figure it out correctly). And if, having figured it out, they decide to penalize your site for selling PR (whether or not selling PR was your intention when you sold those links), you acknowledge you've given up the right to complain, because you chose of your own free will to keep them in the dark.

Of course, for some webmasters, the possibility of getting penalized or banned by Google might not be a concern. As Jenn says, there are other SEs.

My

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Old 10th October 2007, 01:57 PM   #10
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"You don't own your PageRank. So IMO sites that sell links based on the PageRank those links supposedly pass are potentially committing fraud."

Yes, but how does Google decide which is which?

I have sites I sell text ads on and guess what...they generate traffic. Why should I have to nofollow all my ads? It's not my job to make Google's job easier. Mark them as paid links? Sure...that's called disclosure to my readers and Google should work with that to filter them out.

But to penalize me for doing it? To penalize all the web site owners out there who sell ads without knowing anything about any of these issues? Not everyone reads Matt Cutt's blog.

Discounting paid links and outright PUNISHING the sites that buy or sell them are two vastly different things. One makes sense, the other says "excuse me, we are in charge, hit your knees and start doing some kissing."

On top of that, it's selective penalties that tick me off.

Got a problem with paid links? Then penalize or ban EVERYONE who uses them. This whole idea of hitting the sites small enough not to be missed by the general populace but large enough to be noticed and to terrify other webmasters reeks of terrorist tactics. (The big cities are well secured, so go after the small towns and terrify everyone in the country.)

I've been one of Google's biggest defenders in terms of "their engine, their rules" but in the last few months, my opinion has changed dramatically.

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