By the way..

By the way, in case it isn’t clear from my previous post about hidden links and disclosure of paid links, I agree 100% with Matt Mullenweg’s post about sponsored themes in WordPress.

41 Responses to By the way.. (Leave a comment)

  1. I would also caution people about hacked WordPress themes and plugins that are starting to show up out here. There are hackers gaining access to servers via hacked free WordPress themes and plugins. THIS will become a major issue in the near future if it is not already.

    How do I know? My WordPress blog got hacked by someone looking to rank for viagra.

  2. Why can’t people just hack a theme or make their own? It’s easy. Even Pratt figured out how to do it. ;)

  3. Adam – Yeah, the problem was I hacked a hacked theme that came with many helpful plugins claiming to help me rank well. I am sure one of them put the files on the server, oh well live and learn. :)

  4. Multi-Worded Adam, please be polite to Pratt. I like the fellow. :)

  5. I installed a theme recently and I had to delete a ton of links going to some guy’s site. I thought I had most of them but even the 404 pages had the links installed. The site I have it on still doesn’t rank well for some reason… I may have missed some. I wish Google had a way of showing all the outgoing links on a site. That would be useful.

    Anyway. My problem was annoying. Aaron’s problem is bad. Hope all worked out with the site Aaron.

  6. Hmm.. Aaron, you’re lucky.. all my spam is for enlargement pumps / patches.. I’m beginning to get a complex :P

  7. Jim

    @ Nick – I think the original Nick here

    MSN has that feature by using the command LinkFromDomain:yoursite.com
    It’s nice but if you have a site with too many outgoing over the years it’s hard to track the bad links, of course you can use more complex queries but still it is impossible to cover all the possible combinations.

  8. Graeme

    The problem with things like WordPress themes is that it is difficult to know where to draw the line. Consider the following scenarios:

    1) Paying someone to place links in a WP theme
    2) Placing links to your own sites in a WP theme you design yourself. Same as 1), except you expend effort rather than money – I do this
    3) The links to developers personal sites in the WP default blogroll. Many users retain these, effectively as a way of tipping developers.
    4) Software distributed under a linkware license, like Forest Blog.

    Only 1) involves the the exchange of money, but all involve the exchange of something for links.

  9. SearchEnginesWeb has another viewpoint -it is important that other perspectives be shared and not deleted out or intollerance of other viewpoints.

    • Paid links are REVIEWED for quality…

    • Paid links are a way for Free Directory Webmasters to immediately filter out Good Websites from a ton of free submissions…

    • Paid links are the only way the average Webmaster of a commerical service can get some rankings and exposure…….The small biz owner does NOT have the clout of the large firms offering similar services and products………If Google is going to penalyze small Websites – then are they going to penalyze Large Firms who get their Press Releases published in HUNDREDS of blogs and Websites within DAYS of release????
    Will Google penalyze large Websites for making Deals as Advertisers in order to get a REVIEW from some columnist??????
    What will happen will Google succesfully kills off any opportunity a small website has of being competative – and just have SERPs of nothing but large firms engaging in Advanced SEO and selling everything under the sun?????
    Large firms get links constantly – from Rumours, from changes in Executive Personnel, from High Profle Hirings, form Link Bait, from MULITI-MILLION DOLLAR PR CAMPAIGNS that have nothing to do with the quality of their products of services, from make a deal ‘ADVERTISING’ campaigns, from…………………………………… and …..and ….

    There has to be a balance. This is the ONLY WAY a small commerical site can get some business. Even informational sites are doing this to get noticed. There may be some who take it to the extreme – but it does NOT reflect the realities of the masses who are doing this to survivve and thrive.

    And the rule about ‘if you have something good, someone will find it’ – no longer holds true in this very crowded webspace (look how many lost gems have been discovered by DIGG or REDDIT top members in the past two years ) What if there were no Digg? And these are informational sites – WHO IS GOING TO Submitt and DIGG a commercial sites unless THEY are paid to do it????????????????????

    Is this advocacy a real attempt by Google to force as many small websites as possible to use ADWORDS because they will no longer get rankings on Google.
    GIVE US your money to place on our SERPS, we will make it useless for you to give any to others!!!! :-o

    Even small companies can NOT compete with the Search Marketing budget of Large Companies – so they can always be outbidded and out marketed :-(

    Will Google really be happy and feel like it has achieved something – once the little guy has run out of every conceivable way to thrive and compete over the Web – and throws his hands up and says ...That’s it- we can not survive on our Web business anymore!!! :-( …………. Well,..well, …will it?!

    Please listen to SearchEnginesWeb

  10. - Some people may review paid links others may just take the money and run.
    - Paid links are an easy way for “free” web directories to separate those who have money from those who don’t.
    - Paid links are the only way for web sites with little content and next to no relevancy to search terms to get some rankings.
    - I don’t have any paid links anywhere yet all of my websites show up within the first page of search results for most of the keywords and phrases I would hope they would.
    - The highest “PR” site I have has a grand total of only 54 inbound links, none of them paid.

    Paid links or not, I really don’t care as my experience tells me that content relevance trumps all sorts of artificial link building methods.

    That said, were paid links discounted across the board, it would reduce the separation between those with money to burn and those without.

  11. Multi-Worded Adam, please be polite to Pratt. I like the fellow.

    Sorry, Matt. I like the guy too. No malice was intended (heck, I told him about it right after I did it so he knew that)…it’s just good natured fun. :)

  12. By the way, SEW, are you sure you posted to the right topic? Seems that this should go in the Paid Links part.

    Your question mark key is stuck again. You might want to look into that. I’d suggest a Q-tip with some Windex on the end.

  13. Nick – I think the original Nick here, I think that’s a good suggestion. Jim, does MSN still provide that feature, or did they turn that one off too? Okay, I just checked, and it looks like they turned linkdomain: off. Bummer.

    Craig, I’d agree that were paid links counted less in scoring, it would tend to level the playing field more for smaller/mom/pop sites.

  14. Jim

    Matt actually it still works example, you just have to remove www

  15. Ah, very cool. Thanks for the tip, Jim!

  16. Thanks Jim, that’s a really cool feature. Unfortunately it doesn’t show all the links from the site but it’s a good tool. I wish I knew about it when I first setup the site. I could have checked for any additional hidden little links.

    It’s so annoying. The site is about technology and related issues but it doesn’t do well at all. I think I should go over the code one more time.

    Thanks again.

  17. Rae

    Sorry Matt, but I gotta do it…

    So, you trust Matt Mullenweg’s opinion on wordpress theme links and think we should all read his post and chew on his words, but don’t trust that he apparently felt no need to have a “machine-readable” disclosure on his paid links on his sidebar?

    For anyone who doesn’t know me, I have no problem with the way Matt M’s links are listed. I just find it humorous that Matt pointed us to a post to “back up” one viewpoint he has that is so obviously not heeding another.

  18. Hi Matt

    I would love to hear your thoughts on author attribution links – the links added by many coders and designers (not just WordPress) who produce scripts and themes for distribution.

    In your eyes should these be nofollowed, or is this a legitimate link?

    Thanks – pilks

  19. Quoting from Mullenweg’s code (where the ads are displayed, bold added by me):

    <div id=”ads” style=”padding-bottom: 12em;padding-left:0.5em;padding-top:0.5em;”>
    <p>
    <a href=”http://text-link-ads.com/”>

    Would the assignment of the “ads” ID not qualify as machine-readable disclosure? That’s not a rhetorical question either; I’m just trying to get a better idea behind what the exact definition is, and I tend to think this is pretty straightforward.

    Judges, a ruling?

  20. Good question Adam, I think disclosure is a good start no matter how it is done. Seems like even a title like “blogroll” or “ads” in the code gives Google something to ID but yeah, you got all kinds of good questions here.

    Just having a url to text link ads and other known “paid” stuff in your sidebar could also get the entire thing ignored correct? ;)

    Rae – Good point.

    graywolf – No even relevant.

  21. @aaron Yea I could never see why someone like the American Dental Society would name a class on their website ADS

  22. I can’t see why they would by itself. ADS-logo, ADS-content, etc. They would be naming elements associated with their layout, not their business.

    And if they did…well…they’d have to learn.

  23. Multi-Worded Adam, I don’t have any code like that (or ads) on my site. Weblog Tools Collection is a community news site where I did a guest post because the discussion was happening there. I hope in light of the discussion they’ll reconsider selling links on their site.

  24. “Multi-Worded Adam, I don’t have any code like that (or ads) on my site. Weblog Tools Collection is a community news site where I did a guest post because the discussion was happening there. I hope in light of the discussion they’ll reconsider selling links on their site.”

    That pretty much defines the problem, thanks Matt. ;)

  25. My bad, Matt M. But I was responding in this case to the implication that the machine-readable disclosure wasn’t there. In my opinion, it is. I just assumed it was your site based on the way Matt C. described the links and the response Rae gave (mostly the latter).

    Having said all that, I’m with you and Matt C. 100% on this issue. (Dammit, one of you two is gonna have to change your name. I don’t care which one, but this is getting like Lasnik and I.) ;)

  26. the Wandering Author

    Matt, I’m not even using WordPress right now, but I blog, I’ve thought of moving to WordPress, and I’m a writer, not some HTML expert. I’d have no idea how to tell if a theme had hidden links; if I messed with the code that much, I’d just break the theme.

    I don’t buy or sell links; I link only to sites I believe are important, or as references. I don’t make money with my blog, either, but I would like people to find it. I’d really appreciate it if Google could figure out a way to keep from penalizing people like me, caught in the middle between spammers and Google, with no time or money to fight the spammers.

    Maybe if Google made a policy; detect a spammer, they’re out of your index altogether for say 3 years – all sites that have the same WhoIs information. The only way to really fight spam anyway is to make it hurt so bad to try it isn’t worth it. They make everyone else’s life on the Web hell – it’s time Google really made their lives hell.

    (And, yes, hidden links are spam; worthless junk that exists to screw everybody except the guy getting rich off them. If it isn’t spam, you don’t need to hide it.)

  27. I hope in light of the discussion they’ll reconsider selling links on their site.

    Will you be telling Alex King to do the same, or simply removing his site from the WP default blogroll?

  28. Bryan

    This is another example of a small number of spammers potentially ruining a progessive means of advertising. If I had a site that sold parts for classic corvettes for example and paid a gifted designer a lot of money to create 5 excellent wordpress templates that are classic corvette themed and also included a link back to my site. And then posted them for free distribution across the internet, what’s wrong with that?

    As far as I’m concerned that’s creative, outside the box advertising. The end user gets an excellent template that they would not have had the option of getting without my money spent. And I get a link from X number of blogs that may likely be themed similarly to my market. Who loses here?

    Yes hidden links are bad. But that has nothing to do with free wordpress templates. Don’t baby the bathwater here. Designers have every right to get paid for their work, adverisers that pay the designers have a right to control the product produced, and the end user can chose to use or not any template they please. If they choose to use mine, there will be a link attached to my site as the sponsor of the template.

    That’s called marketting and there is nothing spammy or underhanded about it.

  29. Well said Bryan,

    At the beginning of last year (well before sponsored links became an issue), I added links to two or three of my sites in each of three themes I did back then. It seemed a natural thing to do.

    Neither of the two Matts have said whether they consider these sponsored links.

    If not, they have not said how they will tell them apart from cases where money has changed hands.

    Incidentally, did you notice that Matt Mullenweg’s post is on a site that has paid links on it, AND takes part in a link exchange network?

  30. The problem is not with sponsorhip itself but with out of control sponsorship.

    Human nature is to abuse a good thing and so it is with sponsored themes.

    The debate rages on over at WordPress Extend Ideas.

    Some sponsorship helps the designer and allows the commercial web to give back to the non-commercial web.

    I think it is a case by case situation with paid links. Often the paid links are relevant advertising. Google should not be allowed to dictate what links are allowed and what links are not allowed. If some filters are installed to credit in content links better than footer links so be it. But to tell others that the only allowable paid links are AdSense is nonsense.

    Matt Mullenweg and cohorts alas are really in a hypocritical position in regard to link spam. Not the first time.

    Here we have a clear case of whose hand is in what cookie jar.

  31. @ the Wandering Author: The issue here is not hidden links. We are discussing visible links on WordPress themes.

    No-one at WordPress is refuting the right of the theme designer to put a link back to their site in the theme. I commented above asking Matt (Cutts) his opinion on designer links, whether they should be nofollowed or if they are legitimate, but so far I (like Graeme above) am frustrated. Matt’s comments so far appear to relate to paid links only, paid as in $ not as in beer.

    If a company (for this example, lets say a travel company called ‘Happy Travel’) has a blog about travel deals with a unique theme that has been custom designed for them by a talented young designer called ‘Tom Thumb’ who works for a web design company called ‘Cool Designs’. After a while the altruistic management at Happy Travel decide to release the theme to the public through the themeviewer and the codex. Who gets the link?

    * Happy Travel?
    * Cool Designs?
    * Tom Thumb?
    * All three?
    * Nobody?

    Answers on a postcard please…

  32. So the question is this:

    Is Google going to penalize wordpress.com and wordpress.org because they embed this type of advertising in each installation of WordPress by adding their links into the blog roll.

    Much of the PageRank for wordpress.com/org is probably due to those links from various blogs. Since it is really advertising for WordPress they should be penalized or at least have the value of the links discounted right?. I sounds like Matt is suggesting that they should have “nofollow” attached to them.

    This seems a little odd to me. If WordPress made a product they should be able to benefit from links when people decide to use that product, both in the form of more attention from search engines and click through traffic.

    So how is that different from someone paying for a theme and including a link?

  33. DevilzOwn

    The whole discussion is ridiculous!

    It looks like that if some guys pay Google to promote wordpress themes created by others including Andreas Viklund with his own links embedded in the footer or embedded Adsense ad codes, then every thing is okay!

    I am getting really pissed with this latest furore. Look at it closely and it seems like Google doesn’t want anyone else to get paid for ANY kind of adverts unless it is through their very own Adsense.

    Seems like rather than going after competitors like Yahoo and MSN (that can give Google some, if not too much, real competition) and fight for their ad spenders, Google wants to make small sites a soft target and take away their revenue stream if it is NOT Adsense! Want to save breath, eh Mr. Google?

    Why don’t you ever really focus on the issue of warez sites displaying adsense ads or similar other shady sites and adsense farms? Even after people like me report such sites time and again, these sites stay up forever. Maybe ‘coz they get tons of traffic, loads of impressions and thousands of clicks and the advertisers are too dumb to note where the clicks are coming from or is it that these advertisers “request” for such traffic, eh Matt?

    And you want everyone to look at “paid links” on their sites and let Google know that they are being paid for their hard work from someone. Since when has Google taken up this self proclaimed role of the “Web Inspector”? Care to throw some light on it, Matt?

    Lastly, will my comment be even approved, Matt? Or will you kill it because I have digressed from the REAL issue? ;-)

  34. It was mentioned above that paid links are reviewed links, and typically will lead to quality sites. A response was that some of those paid link reviewers don’t actually review the links, but only take the money are run. Here’s what I’ve noticed. Many of the sites that offer free links(those are the good kind in the eyes of Google) do the exact same thing. While one site owner goes through and spends his/her valuable time reviewing the site and verifying that it meets to their quality standard, another site owner might just accept the link without so much as clicking it first. Canada’s directory (I think it’s Canlinks or something along those lines) automatically accepts all links without even so much as a chance for a human to verify it.

    I am in the process of building a link directory. I have every plan on charging to place links on my premium directory. Why? Because it takes time and effort to visit and review each site that is submitted, and I will not place links to low quality sites or sites that I don’t think are appropriate for my visitors on my site. Am I charging for links? No. I am charging for a review process that cuts into my daily schedule. If a site owner decides to purchase a link from me, I’ll know that 99.9% of the time, their intent will be to gain better Google PR, or result page rank. But the reason that 99.9% of site owners have this intention has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with all of the hype that has been put into Google’s search results and Google’s seemingly worthless PR values.

    If Google wants to offer better results to it’s users, then Google needs to figure that out on their own, and stop trying to strong arm the websites that make up 95% of what Google is by telling them how to process their links(ie the nofollow attribute) or how they’re allowed to create revenue.

    About the nofollow comment I just made. I think that nofollow is a great tool, but it has it’s place. The reason that Google came up with it in the first place was to combat spam. Now site owners are being told to use it on sites that they link to if the link is sponsored. Here’s a crazy idea, if a site doesn’t approve of a particular site, for whatever reason, then maybe they should just not link to that site in the first place.

  35. I would strongly Agree with jumpenjuhosaphat.
    I have a directory as well (and are planning on creating a couple more of them.) While I do have a free link submission I still review each and every site that is submitted. I have refused a number of them as they were of very poor quality. But I am planning to stop the free service as it does cut into my day. I have a number of other sites to maintain and the only reason I will charge is because it takes my time to verify links before approving and each day I verify that all the links work properly.
    It also begs the question whether Google considers the sites that advertise in their search results. I mean the sites that pay google to be the featured sites in the search results, but have actually nothing to do with the search terms or simply are spamming sites. If it’s okay for Google to accept those why a webmaster cannot accept money for their work?

  36. Danny

    On the internet almost nothing isn’t free .So you want to have something good and free.A developer work many hours to do a script or something else for people to you use free.But he have to eat so a promotional link about who created the script I don’t think is wrong. So how many of you work for nothing?
    Look at phpbb , they don’t worth a backlink?
    Good developers will never use viagra or other junk links.

    Mark said:
    ‘Much of the PageRank for wordpress.com/org is probably due to those links from various blogs. Since it is really advertising for WordPress they should be penalized or at least have the value of the links discounted right?. I sounds like Matt is suggesting that they should have “nofollow” attached to them.’

    Well if google do this will be many angry users and will be few developers that will make free software .
    Google need to know that his users make him to have so much money and if they don’t think on user interest they will folow Windows Live search path.

    Google is too commercial at this moment

  37. @ Matt
    If wordpress.org is not penalised, then nobody should.
    It’s one of the most stupid ideas ever heard around – I deon’t speak about having 3-4 links, but 1 doffolow link – why not? I spent my time on that.
    Why can’t I leave a dofollow link if I design or buy a theme?

    @ Craig, if Paid links are the only way for web sites with little content and next to no relevancy to search terms to get some rankings – than what would you suggest if you sell 25 000 products, that are editions of the same product – you suggest to write 25k descriptions? This is not for shops, at least not for those, who sell the same products which differ only little.

    @ Alec
    whose hand is in what cookie jar :) Correct.

    @ DevilzOwn
    Google doesn’t want anyone else to get paid for ANY kind of adverts unless it is through their very own Adsense – this is not new. Not at all. That is the path Google has chosen. And it’s a pitty Matt does not ever answers in this topic.

  38. Did someone above write that I pay Google to promote my themes and that my themes include AdSense links? If so, it is way wrong and quite an ugly claim. I have never placed AdSense ads in any of my designs, and the only big sin I am guilty of is to have sold sponsored text link ads on my site – something I have quitted long ago since I learned that it was not a good thing to do.

    My themes contain a link back to my site, and that’s it. I have never paid a penny to promote them. However, other companies have used my generous free use policy (basically “do what you want with my designs”) and added various kinds of ads. But I can assure you that you will never see me promote a theme that someone else has added ads to.

    Now, this was posted a long time ago and I have dropped this topic months ago. But if anyone have any doubts at all regarding my work, my themes or my view on online advertisements, just ask. I’d be happy to tell you how I work. Or just download my designs, that should give a good hint as well. :)

  39. lazar

    Matt,
    What’s about affiliate banners and affiliate text links? A website owner is not getting paid for placing them, but is getting paid either for clicks or for sales from these clicks. Are affiliate links [even if they are relevant] viewed by Google as paid links and have to include rel=nofollow?

  40. The key here is that Google considers _anyone else_ making money as evil.

    Google making money is good; You and I making money is bad.

    Google making money is altruistic; You and I making money is greedy.

    Google’s search engine makes money off of all of our hard work creating billions of pages of content.

    And yet if we try to make money off that content — outside of the AdSense program where we make money for Google — Google slaps us down.

    This feels less like an internetwork and more like Stalinist Russia.

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