How to report paid links

Update, 3/2/2009: Use this authenticated paid link report form now.

One thing I heard at SES London was that people wanted a way to report paid links specifically. I’d like to get a few paid link reports anyway because I’m excited about trying some ideas here at Google to augment our existing algorithms. Google may provide a special form for paid link reports at some point, but in the mean time, here’s a couple of ways that anyone can use to report paid links:

- Sign in to Google’s webmaster console and use the authenticated spam report form, then include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report. If you use the authenticated form, you’ll need to sign in with a Google Account, but your report will carry more weight.
- Use the unauthenticated spam report form and make sure to include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report.

As far as the details, it can be pretty short. Something like “Example.com is selling links; here’s a page on example.com that demonstrates that” or “www.shadyseo.com is buying links. You can see the paid links on www.example.com/path/page.html” is all you need to mention. That will be enough for Google to start testing out some new techniques we’ve got — thanks!

Update, May 12th, 2007: I finally got some time to circle back around to this subject. I wanted to add an example or two of the sorts of reports that we’d be interested in getting, and try to answer a few questions about paid links. Let’s start with some questions.

Q: Can you give me some more background on how Google views paid links?
A: Absolutely. Start with this post from 2005. It’s a pretty good review of our policies at the time (e.g. link sellers can lose trust, such as their ability to flow PageRank/anchortext. Also, we’re open to semi-automatic approaches to ignore paid links, which could include the best of algorithmic and manual approaches.). You can also read about panels at search conferences where we did a site review and how much paid links stood out in a site review. I even mentioned earlier this year that paid articles/reviews/posts should be done in a way that doesn’t affect search engines. Here’s a post from January, for example, where I said:

Yet another “pay-for-blogging” (PFB) business launched, this time by Text Link Brokers. It should be clear from Google’s stance on paid text links, but if you are blogging and being paid by services like Pay Per Post, ReviewMe, or SponsoredReviews, links in those paid-for posts should be made in a way that doesn’t affect search engines. The rel=”nofollow” attribute is one way, but there are numerous other ways to do paid links that won’t affect search engines, e.g. doing an internal redirect through a url that is forbidden from crawling by robots.txt.

So this post shouldn’t be a surprise; it’s inline with our previous discussion of paid links. Some people wanted a way to report potential paid links and that was the main reason for this post.

Q: Now when you say “paid links,” what exactly do you mean by that? Do you view all paid links as potential violations of Google’s quality guidelines?
A: Good question. As someone working on quality and relevance at Google, my bottom-line concern is clean and relevant search results on Google. As such, I care about paid links that flow PageRank and attempt to game Google’s rankings. I’m not worried about links that are paid but don’t affect search engines. So when I say “paid links” it’s pretty safe to add in your head “paid links that flow PageRank and attempt to game Google’s rankings.”

Q: Can you give me an example of the sort of things you’d be interested in hearing about?
A: Sure. Here are some paid text links on a site dedicated to Linux:

Example paid links

There are a few interesting things about these links. If you take off your webmaster hat and put on a user hat for a minute, you quickly start asking yourself questions like “Why is a Linux site linking to a bunch of poker, pills, and gambling sites?” Users often consider links like this spammy or low-quality. I’m sure some people will happily defend links like these, but in my experience people who search on Google don’t want links like these to affect Google’s search results.

There are a couple other interesting things about these links. First, you can’t tell it from the image, but the “Sponsored Links” text in the example above is actually an image, not text. The rest of that site is very text-heavy, so the choice to make the “Sponsored Links” be an image is potentially trying to avoid detection of these links as paid. I can’t be sure that’s the reason, of course — maybe they just wanted that phrase to be pretty. The second interesting thing about these links is that our current approach to paid links worked quite well in this case. Our existing algorithms had already discounted these links without any people involved. However, our manual spamfighters had detected these links as well.

Q: So in addition to algorithms, Google has people who take action on spam?
A: Algorithms and algorithmic spamfighting are an essential way to improve Google’s quality, but Google does reserve the right to take manual action on spam (here’s a reference from 2004 where GoogleGuy, a search engine rep, said that Google can take manual action on spam). For example, if someone reports off-topic, keyword-stuffed porn for someone’s name, we do reserve the right to take manual action on that. In my personal opinion, Google’s philosophy on webspam is to look for scalable, robust approaches that improve our quality (with a heavy emphasis on algorithms). I did an interview last year with John Battelle where I gave my personal opinion in more detail.

Q: That paid link example was helpful. Can you give me another example?
A: Sure. This one also has “paid advertising” as an image, but our existing algorithms still discount these links:

Example paid links

Q: Okay, that example gives me a feel for the sort of paid links you’d like to hear about. What will you do with the new reports you get?
A: There are several ways that we intend to use the data. Our current algorithm detected the paid links above just fine, but these outside reports are a great way to measure (and then improve) the precision and recall of our existing algorithms on independent data. Next, the reports help build datasets for future algorithms. So the data helps us build the next generation of algorithms to improve quality. It also lets us work on new tools and techniques to improve how we detect paid links. Finally, we can investigate and take direct action on many reports that we receive.

Q: This is all well and fine, but I decide what to do on my site. I can do anything I want on it, including selling links.
A: You’re 100% right; you can do absolutely anything you want on your site. But in the same way, I believe Google has the right to do whatever we think is best (in our index, algorithms, or scoring) to return relevant results.

Q: It’s Google’s job to return clean/relevant results regardless of what people do on the web, so I don’t intend to send any feedback to Google.
A: You’re right, it is our job. If you’d rather not send any feedback to Google, I respect that decision. The primary intent of this post was to enable the people who did want to send us reports to do so. I appreciate when people do send us feedback, because that data helps Google improve its search quality and helps Google design new algorithms to give better results.

Q: Are you getting pretty good reports in response to this post?
A: Definitely. We’re getting a nice quantity of reports — I believe that we’ve gotten more paid link reports than there are comments on this thread. The quality is also high, in that many of the reports are pretty detailed. It’s also cool that (at least from a quick glance at our reports), a majority of the reports appear to be going to our authenticated form. I’m glad to see people using that form, because we can give those authenticated reports more weight.

Q: I’m worried that someone will buy links to my site and then report that.
A: We’ve always tried very hard to prevent site A from hurting site B. That’s why these reports aren’t being fed directly into algorithms, and are being used as the starting point rather than being used directly. You might also want to review the policy mentioned in my 2005 post (individual links can be discounted and sellers can lose their ability to pass on PageRank/anchortext/etc., which doesn’t allow site A to hurt site B).

Q: Are you interested in things like affiliate links? Are you interested in hearing about directories in this report?
A: Nope, I’d be most interested in feedback like the examples that I mentioned above, or things like paid posts that might affect search engines. If you’re still unsure what sort of reports we’d like to get, that’s okay. Fortunately, the vast majority of people sending in reports are on the same wavelength and are sending in solid feedback like the examples above.

Q: Hey, as long as we’re talking about directories, can you talk about the role of directories, some of whom charge for a reviewer to evaluate them?
A: I’ll try to give a few rules of thumb to think about when looking at a directory. When considering submitting to a directory, I’d ask questions like:
- Does the directory reject urls? If every url passes a review, the directory gets closer to just a list of links or a free-for-all link site.
- What is the quality of urls in the directory? Suppose a site rejects 25% of submissions, but the urls that are accepted/listed are still quite low-quality or spammy. That doesn’t speak well to the quality of the directory.
- If there is a fee, what’s the purpose of the fee? For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort for someone to do a genuine evaluation of a url or site.

Those are a few factors I’d consider. If you put on your user hat and ask “Does this seem like a high-quality directory to me?” you can usually get a pretty good sense as well, or ask a few friends for their take on a particular directory.

Q: Google’s quality guidelines say “Make sites for users, not search engines.” Put that in context for me; how does that interact with buying links?
A: If someone is buying text links to try to rank higher on search engines, they’re already doing something intended more for search engines than for users. If you finish that guideline, you’ll see that it’s talking about doing radically different things for engines versus users (for example, cloaking or creating doorway pages). It would be a misinterpretation of that guideline to think “Okay, I can only do things for users, I can never do things for search engines. Therefore I can buy text links, but not in a way that doesn’t affect search engines.” That same philosophy would mean that you wouldn’t create a robots.txt file (users don’t check those), never make any meta tags (users don’t see meta tags), never create an XML sitemap file (users wouldn’t know about them), and wouldn’t create web pages that validate (users wouldn’t notice). Yet these are all great practices to do. So if you want to buy links, I’d buy them for users/traffic, not for PageRank/search engines.

Q: Suppose I didn’t want to read all the comments on this post. Did you post any other nuggets that I should be aware of?
A: Hmm. Well, someone did mention AdSense spam and so I reiterated how to report MFA or AdSense spam. I’ll quote that for folks that are interested:

If you see a spammy or made-for-AdSense site, do the following:
- Click on the “Ads by Google” link.
- At the bottom of the page, click on the “Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw” link and fill out the form.
- When you fill out the form, at the bottom you’ll get to a section that says “Add additional information here:”. Include the word “spamreport” all in one word to make sure that the webspam team can see the feedback.

I don’t want any Google user to encounter spam, so please feel free to use Google’s authenticated spam report form for any other type of spam. We can also handle authenticated spam reports in several different languages.

Q: I kinda liked that nugget. Got any other interesting nuggets?
A: One rule of thumb is that if a link seller is talking about how hard it is to find a paid link or how paid links are made so that no one will know, that’s probably a bad sign to Google. For example, someone forwarded me an alleged email from one link seller that went like this:

Matt says they will try to find the links. This is where our service really cleans up ALL the competors! Google may be able to find the competition very easily (sitewide links are easy to spot), but our ads are too hard to find. Here’s why…

1. I have removed all identifying “buy here” items (ads/html/divs), making our ads hard to find.

4. Our service is not high profile, not flashy, not well known… making our ads hard to find.

Personally, when the link seller is talking about how a paid link is hard to find, that would worry me. (Yes, this was a different company than the post I did about undetectable paid links and spam earlier this year.)

Q: I don’t think paid links are the biggest threat to Google’s quality. I think technique X is having a bigger impact; why aren’t you tackling that?
A: It’s a safe assumption that Google’s webspam team is working on several different things at once. The posts I did in mid-April were mainly to reiterate Google’s stance on paid links and provide a way that people can give us feedback if they want. I hope that the examples above give an idea of the sort of things that people want to tell us about, and that we want to hear about.

885 Responses to How to report paid links (Leave a comment)

  1. Ash

    So is Google saying we can not sell links? or?

  2. Dont think thats a great idea. So does that mean I can go on adbrite, text-link-ads, payperpost, and reviewme then go report all those sites?

    There needs to be a difference between selling text links for the sake of PR or SEO vs selling text links for advertising. This wont be easy to determine so I think its a horrible idea.

  3. mad4

    Heres one for you to start on.
    http://www.forbes.com/mesothelioma_attorney.html

    What is Google going to actually do to people who buy & sell links and forget to use nofollow? Penalties? Devaluing of all their links? Discounting of only the paid links?

    I think we need to know where this is heading before people start firing off reports on who just paid $10 for a blogroll link.

  4. I don’t think this is a smart idea for a second.

    Why? Well simply put online businesses will now be able to knock out the competition just by making some false reports.

    There needs to be a better way for this. Selling links isn’t necessarily spam, either. =

    Your own company does it through it’s advertising network! :o

  5. Jeffrey

    Cool! I will quickly buy some links for my competitors on text link ads and then denounce him. Good idea, thanks Matt.

  6. JohnMu

    How can I tell if a link is “paid”? What if it’s just a helper for a friend (paid in form of a beer)? Are links on a web-designer’s homepage to their clients paid? Are general links to your clients paid (eg “buy my service/product and I’ll link to you – your site will be better off”)?

    What will happen to the person with the links on their page? Are we getting the publisher penalized or are the links just going to be ignored (“penalty” for the advertiser)? There’s a big difference and I’m sure it will matter. If the publisher is going to get penalized many people (especially those reading your blog :-)) will think twice about reporting such a link. If the link is just discounted then it’s a whole different story.

    I’m kinda worried about this move …

  7. wow ,

    is this another 1th of April fool day joke ?

    Things are starting to be messy over here :)

  8. How many more trojan horses Matt? Nofollow was supposed to help us point out links we can’t vouch for, now Google wants us to use it on paid links. Now, the spam report – which we thought was supposed to be used for reporting spam activity – is to be used to report “suspected” paid links?
    What’s next? Asking us to share our Google Analytics data so you can weed out the pages that users don’t find interesting?

    With all due respect, this is going too far!

  9. is this another 1th of April fool day joke?

    It has to be a joke. There’s no way Google would take someone else’s report of legitimate advertising on a site as spam. I’ve seen the rumors on what kind of intelligence they look for when hiring Google employees. Like we’d actually believe that someone smart would come up with an idea like that!

    Heh! Good one Matt! I mean, it’s a little belated, and you probably should have just stuck with the “my blog’s been hacked!” gig, but kudos for trying to pull one off 2 weeks after the fact.

  10. Jeff Selby

    I agree how will you tell if there paid or not, and is there a penalty on this or is the link just ignored. Just as an example the yahoo directory is all paid links so what happens with them.

  11. If the links are relevant to the readers, and are clearly marked as sponsored links, I don’t understand what the problem is.

    I’ve got a travel website and are currently running paid links (via Text-Link-Ads) which are linked to an airfare website. The links are under a heading reading “Sponsored links” so it is clear that these links are paid advertisements – I’m at a loss as to why I should be penalised for something like this.

    If I ran the links for free would I still be up for a penalty?

  12. I have submitted my site to a few paid directories :( am I gonna get banned coz of that :(

    I read at google itself that directory submission was alright and it did say submit to yahoo directory which is paid aswell and I can still see that text there ..

  13. BigBadWolf

    I have to admit that sounds pretty stupid to me… So people will just look at their competitors High PR backlinks and “guestimate” that they probably paid for them and everyone will be reporting everyone else that ranks higher than them. Yippee back to kindergarten and tattle-tailing everytime someone is beating you in the rankings.

    IMO Google needs to get its act together on more important features like the REAL spam report, I have reported (weeks ago!) a group of hackers that are hacking several unmaintained sites and some governmental ones too dumping hidden links on them to boost their casino affiliate site but no one at Google seems to care….

    Regards

  14. Hey Matt,

    I was one of the many people lucky enough to meet you at SES London. In fact I was one of a number of people who specifically mentioned the subject of ‘paid links’ to you.

    I’d just like to say that it is great that yourself and Google actually listen to mere mortals like us and take action to improve your services where possible.

    Thanks again.

  15. Ash, there’s absolutely no problem with selling links for traffic (as opposed to PageRank). At http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/hidden-links/ I mention a couple ways to sell links that Google would have no problem with.

    Aaron Nimocks, I believe AdBrite constructs their links with JavaScript so that links are being sold for traffic, not to affect search engines. Things like JavaScript, the nofollow attribute (or meta tag), or doing a link through a redirect that is robots.txt’ed out would be techniques to sell links for visitors/traffic, as opposed to trying to influence search engine rankings.

    Justice McCay, these spam reports won’t directly cause a site to go down. We’re going to use these external reports to test out some new techniques.

    JohnMu, we’re looking to collect data for a new approach or two that we’re exploring, so I’m happy to receive pretty clear-cut reports right now.

    Chaaban, nope, definitely not an April Fool’s joke. :) We’ve got a lot of data within Google already, but I wanted to put out a call for external reports to widen the set of data that we can test on.

    Andy Beal and Michael VanDeMar, in the old days some people objected to the idea of a spam report form altogether. Over time, the spam report form became less controversial as people grew more comfortable with the idea of reporting problems and giving feedback to a search engine. Google has often used specific keywords in the past to let people report issues via the spam report form.

  16. Jeff Selby

    One question so will the buyer or the seller of a link you think is a paid for be penalized or will the link just not be counted? I can understand not counting the link or passing rank but penalizing is another thing.

  17. scott

    Matt,

    OK, so what you are saying is you want to shut down every paid directory and all forms of advertising except for Adwords. On top of all that, you want us to do the work for you?

    Isn’t that just shooting ourselves in the foot if we decide to help you? I mean all the work we put into our sites to get quality links would end up being just wasted time, as those links may not count now.

    Why is it only OK for Goog to get paid for advertising and no one else? The people buying advertising or selling advertising will now be penalized for maximizing their revenue, but that is how Goog makes its money. I am sorry but this is hypocrisy.

    If you are so worried about the quality of your index then may I suggest you use something other than links to judge relevancy and quality of the website. Perhaps content and up to date material should count more.

    Just be straight with everyone and tell us that you only want us to advertise using Adwords.

  18. BigBadWolf, is there a specific string/keyword/phrase you used in reports that I could use to look up the spam report you did?

    Golfer, happy to help. I enjoyed talking to folks at SES London. :)

    Jeff Selby, right now I’m just looking to increase the size of the dataset that we’re running some tests on.

  19. JohnMu

    I’m still not certain – you want us to report every instance of sold links (eg paid banners, footer links, etc) that we can find? You might as well search for “powered by phpbb” or any of the other common easy-to-use CMS systems. Soooo many sites have paid banners in some form or other. If we do report them (because they’re clueless and won’t read our mails) and they get deindexed, should we have a bad conscience? (maybe :-) – but for them it’s serious). Can we expect some official communication from Google about this that we can send them as a link?

    If I have an open-source project and link to the contributor’s websites (even if they’re unrelated), is that a form of a paid link (work for link)?

    (I have to admit I find this whole idea more than a little bit frightening)

  20. Nikhil Jogia

    The other thing is, what if a business sponsors a forum and gets a link out of it? Should we say that this link hasn’t been earnt the same way that “writing good quality content” earns a link?

    Without the sponsorship that allows for hosting to be paid for, that in turn, allows people to create quality content, there would be no content for Google to index.

    I know one forum I frequent has no advertising except for a link to a web host. This forum is very large (150000+ members, 11,000,000+ posts), and without the support from the web host from the very beginning, there’d be nothing.

  21. bwb

    Big sigh, this is not a good move.

  22. I think this is a good idea. It will help make the results so much better. There are these issues though: How will you be able to tell paid and non paid links apart? How would could you stop someone that didn’t like you from posting a link then reporting you?

    If you can solve those two issues then this will work out great for the search results.

    Scott

  23. BigBadWolf

    Matt you can contact me via the email that I’m using to post here and I can send you all the details you need, or I can post the URL here if you like. :)

  24. sammie

    is it just me or did anyone else spot matt skipping this post?

    #
    Jeffrey Said,

    April 14, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

    Cool! I will quickly buy some links for my competitors on text link ads and then denounce him. Good idea, thanks Matt.
    ———————

    what about this? this is going to get Google neck deep in angry webmasters
    and it is the webmasters that keep Google in business.

    or is google planning to be the only one to sell links on the WWW
    sammie

  25. JJ

    “Golfer, happy to help. I enjoyed talking to folks at SES London – Matt”

    Ok then let’s start reporting people selling text links from London :)

  26. SEOs will be out of a job without the ability to buy links. Not a good move Matt :D

    “If I ran the links for free would I still be up for a penalty?”

    Obviously not. But more importantly, if you weren’t getting paid, would you still be running those links on your site?

    I thought not.

  27. Sheesh with all those people you guys keep hiring and companies you keep buying I wouldn’t think you’d need to exploit people for free, doing the work your algo is supposed to be doing. It’s not like Google doesn’t have the cash lying around.

  28. Matt, We know how to report you paid links. You showed us how Google reduce the impact of googlebombs, but ¿What do you think about the SEO contests like habitaquo?
    http://www.technorati.com/wtf/habitaquo

    Thanks.

  29. I should get used to writing comments outside the form again. I jut lost the content I wrote because a windows up decided to reload the page. Anyway, I will not write everything again, but maybe it is better this way, keeps it shorter.

    Googgle’s shift of the discussion from “purpose of the link” to “is it a paid link or not” is a step backwards IMO.

    If you would have to rate each link on a site by the following three properties that express intend on a sliding scale, then you would get a lot of combinations back, which would actually reflect the real intention of the Webmaster more accurately.

    I kept relevance out of it on purpose, because that is a different issue IMO. You can use the results of the determination of the relevance to check if it does not conflict the values determined or specified for the intention of course.

    (B) Personal Benefit: 0 – 10
    from 0 = don’t see a dime, over 1-9 = get commission/some sponsorship to 10 = get paid a chunk of money for the location, target and anchor text of the link

    (S) SEO Intention: 0 – 10
    from 0 = “SEO, what? Google, who?” over 1-9 = “it helps a bit with the SEs” to 10 = “SEO Baby, yeah”

    which are both being offset by

    (E) Endorsement: 0 – 10
    from 0 = “no endorsement/not reviewed yet (links added by others)” over 1-9 = “does not hurt to check out/advertising/good stuff” to 10 = “Love it. Best thing since sliced bread”

    Some results should make the link being ignored completely and even reflect poorly on the webmaster, some should get full voting power and even extra power for B=0, S=0, E=10 ratings for example and everything in between depending on decisions made by the SE.

    How to get the ratings is the tricky part, “nofollow” alone will not cut it. Forcing the addition of “nofollow” to a link that has a high value for Endorsement, but also a value for Personal Benefit and or SEO Intention would be wrong and dilute the accuracy of search results, make them less relevant, because they have the word “lie” and “censorship” written all over them for a large number of search terms, especially commercial terms that are related to online services and e-commerce.

    If you go on with “threatening” webmasters and force them to do something that does not reflect their opinion, be at least clear about what you want to impose on them. A 100% clear definition of “paid link” would be a start. Is a link that generates commission for referrals a paid link? If you link to a sponsor who supports your cause financially, is it a paid link? etc.

    Webmasters that boycott this and rather express their opinion honestly than lie about it, only to make Google happy, would like to know what ethical perfectly okay action is getting them banned.

    It would be bad enough if your answer to my questions above is yes, because you effectively deny webmasters the right to state that a link is an endorsement and vote for the linked to page, by threaten them to get them banned if they don’t deny the vote, because they also get financial benefits from the link as well.

    All this to just make it easy for you to “fix” some of your problems in figuring out the webmasters real intention, is bad.

    I am painting the worst case scenario here, because blind believe that you don’t have to fear anything from Google if you don’t do anything “wrong” does not cut it for me anymore.

    That trust got lost over 2 years ago.

    That is what you get, if you are avoid being very clear and specific and issue vague warnings that have a too much room of interpretation and makes people that believe they do the right thing think that you are talking to them and not just to search engine spammers.

    You have now the change to clarify some of the items and provide some insights about Google’s reasoning and position to those things.

    Note: My tone is harsh, but I want to make clear that this is not meant personal or that I don’t even imply that you are doing or not doing things. I respect you professionally, but there are some problems that needs to be discussed, straight forward and honest. Avoiding and/or ignoring them does not help anybody.

    Thanks Matt.

  30. Craig

    Correct me I am wrong, but where did Matt or anyone from Google say that sites that buy paid links will get a penalty. I just thought they would not have the link counted. If this is the case why the silly comments about buying links to competitors sites to get them a penalty?

  31. JohnMu, this is a feedback method that people can use, but I wouldn’t worry about using it if you’re unsure. This is to help people that do want to give feedback. Several people have asked for this, so I wanted to provide a standard way that people could use.

    Nikhil Jogia, I’m most interested in directly paid-for links right now. I’m happy to hear about other types of situations though.

    BigBadWolf, I dropped you an email.

    “SEOs will be out of a job without the ability to buy links.” I don’t agree with that, Halfdeck — I think you might be joking a little bit, too. :) SEOs add value in a ton of ways. A good example is Neil Patel getting a 20% bump in Calcanis’ traffic just by doing good old-fashioned SEO: http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/calacanis-seos-next-evangelist0307.html
    None of that involved buying links, I believe. :)

    graywolf, I think other internet companies benefit from their users’ interactions. Yahoo has got Yahoo Answers, people write reviews on Amazon, people rate sellers on eBay. If anything, I’d say that Google should be doing more to help users improve our quality.

    logadmin, we definitely pay attention to SEO contests. Personally, I think it’s interesting to see which techniques people try to use. The SEO contests that I like the least are for actual words, as opposed to made up or nonsense words.

  32. I dont think this is true,but if it is then google are starting to control
    all webmasters by telling them what to have on their own websites and what not.

    I know we all wish that google gets stronger competition from eithor
    msn or yahoo and i cant wait for it

  33. Moe

    Matt I’m a first time poster to your blog. Basically the story is like this. I have a small website that I’ve sold some links on before originally to pay for hosting bills, as the site rose in ranking for a term I now admit to make a some money off of.

    When I accept payment for a link, it is for a review of the site. I never accepted poor sites or spam. Only quality related theme sites that I wouldn’t mind linking to and showing to my visitors. I also always placed them as Sponsers Links. Any site I believed was spam I would not list and refunded the payer’s money

    I just have some questions, sorry if they were asked before:
    Now are you saying these type of links that I have accepted are spam and that my site can recieve a penalty? How is this different from directories such as yahoo? Is the penalty a drop in rankings?

    I’m probably willing to try the redirect to a robot.txt, but I don’t have one of those, (how do you set it up? robot, redirect, etc) and the reason I’m a bit hesitant because as I learn more about seo I have learned the advertisers I’ve accepted probably does advertise for other reasons besides traffic, and if I add a no-follow they might leave.

    Thanks for your time

  34. This is one of those “enough said” moments, thanks Matt!

  35. Dave (Original)

    I certainly hope Google can soon detect paid links and take appropriate action.

    RE: “A good example is Neil Patel getting a 20% bump in Calcanis’ traffic just by doing good old-fashioned SEO: ”
    ==========================================

    Matt, how do you *know* that no link buying was/is invloved? I ask as they advertise one of BIGGEST link mongers out there (Text Link Ads) it would seem all was not white hat. The fact alone they adertise them speaks volumes IMO.

    Text Link Ads prominetly promote their service as;

    “Text Link Ads are served as static links that can help your natural (organic) search engine rankings”
    http://www.text-link-ads.com/textlinkads.php

    SEW and many other popular “SEO” forums (who know full well that’s it’s against Google’s guidelines) are proudly $affiliated$ with Text Link Ads and MANY other link mongers & black hats.

  36. Joseph

    Why would anyone want to be a rat for Google? An unpaid rat at that…

  37. Hey Matt, email me your address. I want to send you a crash helmet for your birthday or Christmas. That way, when you read all of the drivel and nonsense that’s bound to come out of this and you start bashing your head off the wall, you won’t hurt yourself.

    To everyone else: do you not think you’re all jumping the gun just a little bit here? Stand back and look at the situation objectively for a second.

    What information do we have? Google wants to know where we see paid links.

    What other information do we have? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Bupkes.

    So…what do we do? We all assume the worst gather around like a bunch of bloodthirsty sharks to circle around Matt and whoever else might get caught in the crossfire.

    Nobody said that people would get banned for advertising.
    Nobody said that Google was going to start major revisions of the algorithm that would make the world fall off its axis.
    Hell, no one even said anything would happen at all!

    Not only that, who says that Google doesn’t already have a large portion of this information gathered? It wouldn’t be that hard to pick out a common affiliate link or an ad network script or whatever from the code. If they haven’t already gotten this stuff, it wouldn’t be all that hard for them to get some of the more common stuff…and that’s assuming they haven’t already gotten it (which Matt said they did, and I tend to believe him.)

    Matt: what exactly are you looking for in terms of paid links? Affiliate links? PPC links? CPM? Pay $30 for the year and your link will be featured on somedirectorysite.com? Silly schemes like the v7n.com one? Legit stuff? Illegit stuff? Both? Does it matter?

    I’m thinking if you listed off some of the examples of things you were after, it might clear things up…it would for me, anyway. The problem with paid links is that it covers a fairly broad spectrum of advertising ideas and techniques.

    That, and not having the spam form used for this if it’s not a spam technique…that’s just a geek PR (as in Public Relations, not PageRank for the search-engine-optimization-obsessed, or SEOO for short) disaster waiting to happen.

  38. Aaron Pratt, I just wanted to be around in case people had questions, but I’m about to go get dinner. :)

    Dave (Original), Neil talked about the specific changes that he did here:
    http://www.webpronews.com/blogtalk/2007/03/29/patels-calacanis-challenge-update
    It was mostly things like tweaking post titles and meta descriptions.

  39. @Carsten Cumbrowski – that was the short version…?

    @Matt – I am not against the spam form, or reporting spam. However, if you were to take the number of legitimate results that are being unjustly lowered due some webmasters purchasing links for ranking benefit, and then compare that to the amount of real spam that Google currently has in it index, then it should be apparent that spending any time, and I do mean any at all, on this issue means that your priorities are, well… whacked.

    Honestly, Matt… and if your legal team won’t let you answer this, then I understand, but if you are allowed to answer then I (and I’m sure others) would really, really like to know… as the G algo stands now, exactly how much off balance would you say it is due to the insidious act of buying and selling text link ads? How many man hours have you spent combating this crime against humanity, and at what cost? And is it seriously skewing the results that much, that all the efforts spent on it were, and continue to be, justified? Is the algo that fragile?

    The other main reason that I disagree with this idea is that you think (or appear to be implying, anyways) that Paid Link === No Human Review. This not the case 9 times out of 10. You should know that.

  40. RogerJ

    “…it should be apparent that spending any time, and I do mean any at all, on this issue means that your priorities are, well… whacked.”

    I can’t think of a single situation where a paid link should pass PR. For that reason I see this as a good step towards better serp quality.

    You seem to imply it has a minimal impact on serps. Do you think people would be shelling out thousands of dollars for PR8+ links if that was the case? The only people who would complain about this enhancement have a vested interest in buying or selling links as far as I’m concerned, as there is nothing but benefit for end-user searchers.

  41. Michael VanDeMar, be nice to Carsten. :) We prioritize what to look at in search quality and webspam the best we can.

  42. Longterm link awareness
    If a website is built to last, which most should be anyways, couldn’t you argue that legit outbound links today shouldn’t be affected by the decision to sell links in, let’s say, 5 years? – It seems to me that by disclosing that you sell links in 5 years, that Google may not able to decipher which links have been paid for and which ones aren’t. Granted Google knows the age of links, but by simply saying on your site that links are paid for, this seems like it would discredit all outbound links in a general sense.

    Site structure issues
    Websites have changed in structure over the past few years; consider a static website vs. a blog. Many years ago, someone may have sold links on their home page or a category page, while today someone may sell links within a blog post. To me, those are 2 separate things, and is Google smart enough to know that a paid link within a post is different than my next blog post with outbound links to my new favorite website?

    PageRank vs. Traffic
    I recently bought a link on a well known site’s subcategory that relates to one of my sites, undoubtedly others buy links on that site as well. The difference is that I bought the links in order to get on-theme, and targeted traffic, while others may have bought links simply for the PageRank Boost. How will Google know the difference? – will my site be penalize just because someone submitted a report that the site is selling links?

  43. Dave (Original)

    Matt, it seems to me that ANY site would increase in rankings IF they have no Meta descriptions and non-descriptive/non-relevant page Titles and then fixed it. Bit like saying an example of a good mechanic is one that puts some air in your flat tyres :)

    While I cannot prove it beyond doubt, it would seem to me that all the links to the site is what really got the site 90% of the way, the tweaking was simply some icing on the cake. Again, while I can’t prove it, I would say the site owner has/is buying links for ranking.

    Why doesn’t Google put a 6 step guide to long term ranking in Google? In my mind it would be something like;

    1) Content. Write good content for your target audience.

    2) Ensure the page Title accurately & concisely describes your page content.

    3) Ensure the page Meta description accurately & concisely describes your page content in a slightly longer form of your page Title.

    4) Contruct pages in logical manner for human reading.

    5) Don’t be afraid to link out to other relevant pages (your site & others) if the linked page will be of use to your visitors. If unsure, use nofollow. We (Google) link to over 10 billion other pages :)

    6) If you get an email to exchange links and the site is not within your target audience, delete it. Only exchange links with relevant pages if they will be of use to your target audience. If unsure, use nofollow and never expect any boost in ranking from exchanging links or other forms of self promotion.

  44. Harith

    Matt

    I’m very glad to see you pay much needed attention to Backlinks Merchants.

    You may wish to consider adding a specific line under “Tool” to report paidlinks. Something like:

    Tools
    Download data for all sites
    Report spam in our index
    Report Paid Links
    Submit a reinclusion request

    That will be a big help to webmasters to see where exactly to report paid links. And it will have additional value; signaling that Google is serious in fightingback on paid links.

  45. Harith, that’s a good suggestion. We’ve talked about doing something like that.

    Dave (Original), that’s a pretty good list for beginners; I’d imagine that the first several points there are completely uncontroversial. We do provide some info along those lines at http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/

  46. Good move, matt. I think Google should have acted a bit early. The paid link schemes have already polluted search results in many cases.

  47. Dave (Original)

    Thanks Matt. While they are mixed and spread about on the pages your mention, it would be nice to have a single page that those who frequent SEO forums can simply link to.

    My reasoning is; those who offer black hat advice can be contradicted without any doubt by the OP or others who read the Threads.

    I also believe it would go some way torwards letting unwary Webmasters (the vast majority) know that SEO is not rocket science and most SEO have a vested interest in promoting and charging as such.

  48. Dear Matt,

    I’m going to be very direct and hope you can appreciate what I am about to say.

    I find it quite interesting that Google is trying to tackle the “paid link” problem, yet for 3 years I have complained and submitted spam reports regarding some blatant violations (3 different URLs ,owned by by a publically traded company, with the exact page content on all URLs – ie: styles,graphics,copy) and have yet to see ANYTHING done about it.

    Furthermore, your PageRank (PR) algo is completely flawed. Although the intial concept was valid and remains such,”the importance of a page”, Google has managed to create a commodity out of PageRank. People buy and sell links based on PageRank “vanity”. I see MFA sites with higher PRs than sites owned by govermental bodies or associations. I can’t understand how your algo can’t differentiate between MFA sites and sites of governing bodies in a particular niche and assign PR based on their true merit and status.

    Additional, as back-links are a major factor in the Google SERPs algo, Google is once again creating a commodity. There are literally dozens of schemes and networks out there promoting link building (paid and free). Folks are gaming social sites in order to game the Google algo. Unfortunately I can’t see it changing for the better. Do you have any idea as to how many useless link directories are out there and being launched daily? Thats a dirrevative of the Google algo! How about Tags/Cloud sites?

    Spend a little time on Yahoo … you will see that their SERPs are substantially better now than G’s SERPs!

    If you are so inclined to investigate the issue discussed in my first paragraph, please feel free to email me.

  49. Matt, I humbly request that you please change the language of your request for people to report paid links, to “report automated paid links” or something more along those lines.

    I understand that the goal is to allow everyone – from the small mom-n-pop hobby site, to the large corporate mega-sites – to have an equal chance at showing up for a search query on Google.

    However, it is my view that this assumption is fundamentally flawed. Here’s why:

    #1 Large corporate sites already have a huge advantage over smaller sites, no matter how good the content on the smaller site is. Their brand recognition alone makes it more likely that they will receive more incoming links. So giving smaller sites the ability to purchase a human-reviewed, page-rank-passing listing actually levels the playing field more than dissalowing the practice completely.

    #2 If someone asks you to link to them, it is reasonable for you to request compensation for the time and effort it takes to review their site and consider linking to it. Nobody likes to work for free. And just because you do not work for free, does not mean that you don’t “vouch” for the site should you end up linking to it from your directory, sponsored link section, or even within the body content of one of your pages.

    IMPORTANT: I am referring to human-reviewed links from websites that actually take the time to check out the quality of the submitting site. The submitting site doesn’t have to be a big name, have the best content, or a good design. The point is that someone has looked at it to make sure they are not trying to rip people off, serve up meaningless content (as in incoherent scraper sites), promote illegal goods and services, or utilize spamming techniques.

    If a website is serious enough about the success of their business to pay a listing review fee, and the reviewer finds their content to be of some value, what the heck is the problem with passing page rank through on the link? The link buyer is being proactive like any good business person, and the seller gets compensated for their time, bandwidth and other assets, such as their own hard-earned Page Rank. So again, what is the problem?

    Please change your language so people understand that buying and selling human-reviewed links is a legitimate way to increase traffic, brand awareness and, yes, even Page Rank.

    By the way, unwise webmasters who have a rubber-stamp policy when it comes to reviewing links are hurting the reputation of their own website, both in the eyes of the visitor and the search engine. If they want to do that, let them. It is their business mistake to make, and I would hope that your algorithm can at least see this type of site for what it is instead of punishing everyone for the misdeeds of some.

  50. “I understand that the goal is to allow everyone – from the small mom-n-pop hobby site, to the large corporate mega-sites – to have an equal chance at showing up for a search query on Google.”

    I should have added “…as long as they have quality content and provide useful (or at least entertaining) information, goods or services.”

    The point is, we all know that you want a site ranked on its merit, rather than how much money it spends on links. I would like my President to be ranked on his merit, rather than the money he spends on a campaign. We both know this isn’t going to happen, so let’s stop being idealistic and start tacking the problem realistically.

  51. Matt, check my blog if you want to read the long version of this.

    The beauty in all of this is that each of us thinks we can do a better job picking a good website than the google algo can. Google has as its roots using links as a/the major way of determining the quality of a site. But what is the truth? How easy is it to manipulate that? What other options are there. More on my blog. If you put a link here to my site, I will send you one of the below,

    A) ten bucks,
    B) a ford festiva,
    C) thank you card,
    D) catnip.
    E) a link
    F) karma

    Question: Which of the above would be considered payment for a link?

  52. Claus Lampert

    I want to report a site: http://www.google.com:

    - They receive A LOT of money to display ads in front of all other found sites in their search engine even if the paying site itself isn´t relevant. Spent enough money: 1st place in the search engine!!! No SEO neccessary!

    - Google “spam” nearly each and every site on the internet displaying paid text links (they call adwords).

    OK, what´s wrong with paid links? In my opinion: NOTHING. In “real life” companies pay much money to advertise on tv, radio, newspapers and so on. That´s ok. Now: how many tv- or radio stations will survive without paid ads? That´s what YOU think about!!!

    Without google adsense, amazon and paid links I can close my site! That´s what google want´s? DO NO EVIL!

  53. Harith

    Dr. David Klein

    Read your said article on your blog. Very interesting indeed. However when it comes to selling links for the purpose of boosting PageRank of the buyers sites, its mostly done for more than ten bucks or a catnip ;-)
    We are talking about say around $800 a month for buying a backlink from a ite of PR9 and a round $2.000 per a month for a site of PR10. No thank you card and no karma as you see :)

    In real life those PR-Backlinks sellers are a big problem not only for GOOG, but for decent SEOs. When a site owner see his compititor achieving higher PR value by buying a PR-Backlink from for example a site of PR10, that site owner will for sure press hardly his own SEO to do the same, though the SEO is a white Hat decent person.
    In fact what Matt is doing is helping those SEOs to continue on the Whaite Hat path.

    From now on a SEO can refer to Matt’s current post(s) to show that its a risky business, if the site(s) owner is pressing to purchase PR-Backlinks for the only purpose of boosting PR.

  54. Michael

    That’s nice idea. We’ll soon see the followers of Pavlik Morozov (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavlik_Morozov) reporting his relatives to NKVD for the sake of Communism ideas, ops, sorry – reporting to Google for the sake of Page Rank purity!

  55. x

    What happens when webmasters can no longer buy relevant links? They will spam for them.

    Don’t open that can of worms.

  56. Harith

    Claus Lampert

    “OK, what´s wrong with paid links? In my opinion: NOTHING.”

    Agreed! provided the paid links are for the purpose of advertising, generating traffic, branding, web promotion etc..
    In that case there should be no problem at all, neither to to sellers or buyers, in adding a rel=nofollow to the paid links.

    But its wrong if a site offer/buy paid links for the purpose of boosting PR value. I.e manipulate PageRank aiming to achieve better ranking on the organic listings on Google serps.

    As to AdWords and AdSense, they have no whatsover influence on the advertising site’s ranking on the organic listings of Google serps or the PR value of the said site.

  57. Christian

    And don’t forget: ebay is never spam!

  58. Martin Avis

    If this really is all about Google trying to stop people manipulating their site’s PR by buying paid links on higher PR pages, and if PR has no other particular value to us as webmasters, then surely a far simpler solution would be for Google to stop displaying PR in the first place.

  59. Claus Lampert

    @Harith Said: I have only about 10.000 Visitors a month (Niche-Site with, as I think, interesting and actual content, Pagerank is 5). Paid Links double my revenue compared to adsense and amazon earnings. And that´s not much, trust me :-)
    Do You really think that someone will pay me a single buck for a “rel=nofollow link”? Do You really think that someone shares a link with me for the sake of visitors?
    Selling links for the sake of giving PR to other site is ONE possibility to maintain a website (concerning “income”).

  60. Down this road madness lies….

    On the other hand, I did look at the custom t-shirt business (very briefly), and can assure Matt that the top two or three results in Google were dominated by paid links, and other interesting techniques at the time. I suspect the same is true of most big product categories.

    Some of the paid links were text almost(?) randomly place in peoples blog pages.

    T-Shirt hell also has an affiliate scheme, which is totally different, but also offers recompense for links, be it less directly. Does that count?

    These days the T-Shirt hell links, seem to be dominated by advertising links from a company called “blogspot.com” (suggest you block em from the Index and see what happens ;-). Also noticed a load of links from totallyfree, which don’t seem to appear in the content served to my browser.

    Despite all this, my automatic T-Shirt idea generator, with few links, mostly “no-follow” links, made it to page two in Google for “idea t-shirt”, with little effort on my part.

    I’ll know Google has cracked something when Googling “click here”, tells you something about Web Page design, instead of the Adobe, Quicktime, Realplayer and Java downloads. That should have gone with the Google bombing code surely?! Except no doubt they had “click here” on the linked page somewhere.

    But I think the paid link thing is madness. For starters the smart folk already did a lot of different text in the links, as that allows you to cover a lot of key words. And payment for a link is such a vague concept, I found a paid review linking to a T-shirt site, is that a paid link? Clearly it wouldn’t exist but for the money, but I think paying someone to review your site is a reasonable transaction, and a review without a link is pretty pointless.

    I know my chess club took a paid link from a chess equipment supplier, that along with other such links distorted their Google rankings, but if they contributed as much to the other clubs as they did to ours, I think they deserve a good ranking, as it will encourage competitor to be as generous. I don’t think you meant this to put up the price of chess club memberships, but perhaps I’m wrong on that.

  61. Okay..
    Let me figure this out.
    Google wants us to create an awesome quality site and then wait for 10 years to get..ahem.. quality backlinks and visitors. Because According to google, we should not exchange links and we should not buy link ads either.

    So now is there anyone going to tell me how are supposed to advertise our sites??
    Yes answer is not difficult one.. there is Adwords always, isnt there.

    And what if I go and buy my Competitor a handful of paid links or some of the spammy sites of the first degree and then report those links to google?

  62. sq-

    then please do not sell PAID LINKS on YOUR results pages. This is a free market – anyone can sell whatever they want. You’re starting to be funny. Hope that this will end soon.

  63. sq-

    I do not to be understood badly.
    I’m not buying or selling links personally, but I think that for instance Yahoo or Adwhatever are selling links – clickable, visible links, and this is not spamming technique but Ad technique. I am of course against hidden/small links.

  64. A2

    @Matt Cutts:
    What do you think about Link-Vault and other automated link exchange programs? Is it spam? The links aren’t only for search engines, but also for users.

  65. My concern is, how on earth can Google determine whether a link is paid or not paid for? If it is exploring new technologies, then they surely must be working this into the algorithm now.

    But what if lets say you never sell links but for some reason the algorithm determines that your site is providing them. How do you prove otherwise? And it allows too many opportunities for the competition to try and knock you out with penalties.I don’t see how this can be fair. The way that Google has made it’s algorithm (i.e. made the rankings a popularity contest) has been conducive to the situation we have today and penalising paid links is not the answer.

  66. JohnMu

    How can we tell if a site is relying on paid links as the vital element of their SEO strategy? It’s no use reporting paid links if they’re not doing anything useful :-).

    Do you have any location to send mass reports to? If anyone is reporting these things, they’ll soon have 1000′s of sites to report…

  67. Seems to me like if person A can report person B for selling/buying links this is opening a can of worms thats going to entail a whole bunch of work monitoring as their will be a whole bunch of people reporting sites for the wrong reasons.

  68. Neeraj

    I will give you a simple solution Matt…but you won’t like it.

    Just don’t disclose pagerank and most link buying /selling done for manipulating search engines will stop.

  69. Has google ever considered that perhaps telling webmasters what kinds of links are good, bad and netural?

    Also, I can tell you that im not a nofollow supporter. Why? Because it hasnt stopped anything. True spammers are still spamming like they always did. All Google accomplished was to greate a little more work for me.

  70. I have to wonder what will stop companies in competitive industries from :

    a) reporting false paid links

    b) buying blatantly paid links against competitors

  71. avecfrites

    Let’s not read more into this than there is. I’m eager to have paid links reported. Many of my competitors have been beating me on some terms for years using paid links. These are links that are easy to see are fishy when looked at by a human, but perhaps not so obvious to an algorithm. They are typically at the bottom of or off to the side of the page, and without surrounding text that ties them to the page on which they are on. But they are not labeled “sponsored” and don’t have “nofollow” tags. And there are lots of these, and they pollute the SERPs. So if these sorts of links aren’t filtered out, should I start buying these too? Or just be content to be at a disadvantage?

    Of course these sorts of links should be filtered out; the site to which they link shouldn’t be punished, though, because that would allow competitors to buy links to sites they don’t own just to report them.

  72. Harith

    I guess it will be of great benefit for further discussion , to recall a previous relevant post of Matt:

    Text links and PageRank

  73. With this move–i can see the end of Google as the dominant SE in 2/3 years time as it will create havoc and confusion among webmasters and internet surfers in general.

    While I do not support SPAM, lots of people will loose interest in creating high quality websites of free information to surfers as getting natural links are not a matter of joke.

    Google must understand –it thrives for two things– Content based Search Results and PR.

    Can you answer Matt– how I’ll provide high quality informations to the internet community by spending hrs of my time developing it and earning $100/month from Adsense? Thats not on. I must earn some more revenue by selling links –that is what every webmaster looks for -aspire for. Isn’t?

    Google is getting outrageous/ too overconfidence –complacent with this policy and mark my words –soon there will be some-one to seize the oppotunity if you leave this ground.

    Analyze your policy –why Google is the most favored SE now? If you know this answer you will not dare to implemet this policy.

  74. Inbound links are uncontrollable, therefore, the only thing Google can do is prevent site that are selling links from passing PR.

    What prevents me from making myself pass on as a Markeeter of site X, buying links all over the place in the most obvious manner, and then simply report myself to Google? The motivation for doing something like this is rather blatant.

    In conclusion, Google is going after the site’s that are selling the links, neutralizing them by making it impossible for them to pass PR and link weight.

  75. Matt, thanks for a way to report link buying – it is not a practice I do but my competitors do a lot.

    My competitors have a ton of money to buy links which I don’t have so it is nice to see Google trying to level the playing field for the small guy like me.

    Thanks!

  76. @Dave: I think is quite the opposite, buying links could be a method for you to get your site noticed and a lot cheaper than AdWords.

  77. What happens when webmasters can no longer buy relevant links? They will spam for them.

    I’ve got news for you, dude…they already do. Have you looked in most webmaster or SEO forums and seen the number of link exchange requests lately? Or have you gotten the random spam from RedAlkemi at least once a week for a three-way link exchange? This is going to have little to no bearing spamidity (my word).

  78. when i first read matts post i reacted like most people did.

    google obviously want their results to be relevant for users etc and as much as we all buy and sell links for seo purposes, the fact remains we did this because google put so much emphasis on them.

    the search engines set the rules and webmasters do everything they can to promote their site within those rules and every few years it seems that the search engines change the rules to keep everyone on their toes.

    whilst i understand googles position, i also hope think they appreciate how much this kind of advertising revenue is part of the industry now. there is a high % of websites and blogs that just wouldnt make any money because they arent directly selling a product.

    the internet still lacks regulation which is why we’re seeing the major search engine on the web also being the biggest advertising network on the web.

    i think that its something they will find hard to control. whats stopping any webmaster putting ‘friends sites’ lists on their site and just removing any reference to advertising from their site so that all info is sent via email.

    i agree with claus in this comment : http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links/#comment-101593

    why would anyone want to use javascript based advertising company like adbrite or google adsense if they can get the same traffic benefits from a regular link and have the seo benefits as well

  79. Maybe google should have done this one silently.
    Too much of sweeping thing to do and businesses and incomes will be destroyed for you killing something that was happening even before google.

    Although its fun to see all the panicing white hats who have been buying links for years without realising.

    There is going to be fun on the forums with scared people ;)

  80. Harith

    After reading the 118 comments on this post and the previous one (Hidden links) I’m surprised to see so many friends defending Sell/buy backlinks. It seems we are dealing with a whole Paid Backlinks Industry.

    But as in most things in life; you can’t have both way. Soooooo…. Add rel=nofollow to those fancy paid backlinks of yours ..or else :)

    To all of you happy Paid Backlinks fans, few words of comfort from Matt:

    “What if a site wants to buy links purely for visitor click traffic, to build buzz, or to support another site? In that situation, I would use the rel=”nofollow” attribute. The nofollow tag allows a site to add a link that abstains from being an editorial vote. Using nofollow is a safe way to buy links, because it’s a machine-readable way to specify that a link doesn’t have to be counted as a vote by a search engine.”

  81. Although its fun to see all the panicing white hats who have been buying links for years without realising.

    Don’t you mean panicking black hats? Just wondering.

  82. Amateur

    I found your post here via an unpaid link.

    I don’t pay anyone for links, but I do trade links to sites related to my own. And I remove links for sites that don’t reciprocate.

    My paterank is 4, so I must not be paying enough attention to what’s going on with Google.

    I’m spending more time on adding content that’s relevant to my visitors than I am to anything else.

    But it just seems very hypocritical of Google to want to be made aware of who is paying for links, when your own business model is based on this very thing. The more links you sell, the more your shares sell for, the more revenue the shareholders paid.

    But, others are not supposed to follow your example.

    Do as I say, not as I do. Is that the message here?

  83. For all the people posting here that think paid links are not spam, read

    http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=48187

    “A New Age Of Seo – Link Buying Taken To The Extreme, Who says you can’t buy the Google #1 spot?”

    Yeah, it only takes money and a span of 2 weeks to buy your way into #1 for “car insurance.”

  84. So, first Google creates some sort of arbitrary site ranking system that is heavily based on backlinks.

    Then it gets outraged that people start selling links to get better PR because Google has told us this arbitrary measurement will impact how sites are ranked in the SERPs.

    Can anyone who came up with the original idea of PR, honestly say this wasn’t a predictable result?

    Google has turned PR into a commodity and now decides that they don’t like that people are making money. Too late guys, that genie’s out of the bottle. A link to a site with a No-follow is a red flag to me that the link is not really honored by the site displaying it. It’s like saying, I’m putting this link because I have to, not because I believe in the site.

    I believe that many paid links are nothing more than traditional advertising like has been done since the first newspaper was ever printed. How exactly does a site visitor know exactly what transpired for link placement and whether or not it is paid for? A website owner has every right to sell advertising on their site, just like every printed magazine, newspaper and even book does. Product placement has made millions for the movie industry by simply showing an actor using a particular product. Does a movie about WWII have any connection to Coca-Cola? Were the movie a website, would they need to be reported as a spammy site for having an advertisement for Coke?

    There is a big difference between someone paying for a relevant link in a directory category or blog article and those who paid for placement sitewide on unrelated sites (regardless of the PR of the page the link appears on). I can only hope that this “spam reporting” of sites that accept/purchase paid links is targeting the obvious abuses of this rather than those that are simply part of doing business on the web. Why shouldn’t webmasters sell their website’s page space?

    Should a high PR site on pets sell a sitewide link to a site selling umbrellas? Not really. If that’s the type of things Google is looking to make some changes in the algorithm to combat – I say go get ‘em. If Google is looking to end the ability for site owners to sell links on their pages – Google is being hypocritical and the entire page rank concept should simply be disbanded.

    I agree with another poster that there needs to be some way to get true authority sites, like government and manufacturer’s higher in the SERPs. I am so tired of having to wade through all the hotel, city information, and other generic (and I have no doubt, highly profitable for Google) websites that ultimately have nothing of value about that small town of 500 I am looking to find information about. How can a generic city site be a more authority site than the town’s own government page or their Chamber of Commerce? Are we expected to believe that if site owners make the paid links to the bigger websites No-Follow that this will change? Or is this simply a way to go after the little guys selling advertising on their websites while those with huge budgets continue business as usual?

    The fact that the reporting is to be done through the spam reporting section of Google is why so many are seeing this as leading to sites being somehow penalized. Again, how could the folks that make these decisions at Google, fail to see how many webmasters would interpret this placement?

  85. David

    ok – I admit that I didn’t read every comment here, just most of them, but I didn’t see a comment or question about sites like http://www.prweb.com. Look at these press releases and I bet you find that 60% or better were placed, at least in part, for the purpose of getting links.

    So once you have your data Matt, just how do you propose dealing with such situations? We all know that whatever you do on this one you’re going to pull some of the weeds, but not all of them – and others will grow in the cracks.

  86. Claus Lampert

    @Halfdeck: “Yeah, it only takes money and a span of 2 weeks to buy your way into #1 for car insurance.”

    With enough money you can do that IMMEDIATELY via adwords. With a different background-color and surely in front of all other search-results!

    What´s the difference? Buying and selling LINKS is “evil”, “adwords” [tm] and “adsense” [tm] is not???

  87. Kris

    Thi is my first spam report about paidlink. The adress of website where allways selling many links is http://adwords.google.com :)

  88. I don’t see where this is going to help.

    Site ” A ” buying links ( with a large marketing budget ) is going to approach other websites offering to pay for a one way link.

    Site ” B ” selling the link will never display on there site they sold a link.

    So problem will still exist. Big budget guys will over run the algo. Small guys will be nailed again.

    Honestly I think the whole backlink thing is one of the worst factors in SEO since it is so easy to manipulate it. ” blog spamming, auto forum posting software, guestbook spamming ” etc.

  89. mobrik

    All links are paid links. Period.
    The web is a market which is driven by that invisible hand where each webmaster/publisher/blogger takes care of her/his own interests. That is, you place a link on a page because you either get something for it or intend to get something (money, return link, fame, fortune, whatever).
    This is a natural behavior. Live with it, or rather build an algorithms that lives with it and still provides value.

  90. Happy to help, Jayson Joseph. At least there’s a way to provide feedback now.

    Dave (Original), it would be nice to update our html documentation and add more examples, plus concise one-page guides that people could check out. One issue might be getting good translations of that info into lots of languages, but in general I’d be a fan of that idea.

    LaCabra, I responded to you on the other post, but I dropped you an email to get some more info about the same content on different urls. Sometimes that happens by accident (e.g. the Chicago graduate school of business had the same content that could be reached at two different urls), but I’d be happy to ask someone to check it out.

    Everett, we definitely agree on the “we all know that you want a site ranked on its merit” part. But I do think that different approaches to paid links can be realistic.

    Dr. David Klein, this is a response to requests that I got at SES London about an easier way to tell Google about paid links. I’d be most interested in the “I’ll pay $X for a link that affects search engines” type of stuff right now, whether it be via a link that passes PageRank or a paid post/article that isn’t disclosed as paid. That’s the data that would be most useful right now.

    Claus Lampert/sq-/Amateur/Kris, I appreciate your suggestion, but Google uses robots.txt to exclude our search results and ad redirects, so neither of those links passes PageRank or affects other search engines (unless they ignore robots.txt).

    Harith, part of this post is to let people know in advance that Google is looking at some new ways to approach paid links that affect search engines, so it’s true that this post serves as a place to point people to. Google wants to hear about paid links that pass PageRank or potentially affect search engines in the same way that we want to hear about things like hidden text or keyword stuffing.

    Michael, if you’d prefer not to use the spam report form that’s of course your choice, but I wanted to provide a mechanism for the people that are interested.

    Martin Avis and Neeraj, I’ll pass that suggestion on, but lots of people who aren’t webmasters enjoy seeing the PageRank bar, so I wouldn’t expect that to change.

    Simon, it’s cool that your site started to rank for custom T-shirt stuff. I would be interested to hear more details about the paid links you saw.

    The Webmaster, there are lots of creative ways to let people know about a site other than paid links, from providing useful information to a new idea on a service. techmeme.com was registered less than a year ago, but think about how quickly it has become daily reading. Aaron Swartz use to run the #1 ranked site for [google blog], then he decided to go off and make this little site called reddit.com. Of course not every site is going to be a reddit.com or a techmeme.com, but there are lots of sites that do well by finding a creative angle or hook.

    Ivan, there are lots of creative ways you could approach the issue (there was a fun comment in Scoble’s thread, for example).

    JohnMu, the authenticated spam report form is the best place. Next best is the unauthenticated spam report form. We’ll look at better mechanisms down the road, but I wanted to provide a way to do it now.

    Joeychgo, Google’s algorithms and scoring relevancy definitely benefit from the additional data that disclosure provides.

    avecfrites, well said. :)

    Glad you mentioned that post, Harith. I’ve been saying this for a long time:
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/text-links-and-pagerank/
    The only new information from 2005 is that there’s a way to directly communicate about this, and people have some advance notice that Google will be looking at some new approaches on paid links.

    John Rang, I think Google does well and is able to provide relevant search results right now partially because we continually focus on search quality and webspam. Or at least I hope it’s not all just the holiday logos. :) I think competition in search is a good thing (whether it be a start-up or Microsoft/Yahoo) because it keeps every engine focused on delivering quality search results in the best way that we know how.

    “My competitors have a ton of money to buy links which I don’t have so it is nice to see Google trying to level the playing field for the small guy like me.” Happy to try to help, Dave Dugdale.

    Michele, I do think that disclosure of paid links is important, and I do think many people would agree (see Dave Dugdale’s comment or avecfrites’ comment, for example).

  91. The logical next step: Weed out those “Get two back links for one article submission” sites. Mostly irrelevant content, targeted link texts, passing PR is the only reason theses sites exist.

  92. eddytom

    Say I buy a text link which displays my keywords, which is what I am ‘advertising’ and it is featured in the left column menu in a list of 20 other external text links. Is that a bought text link that could penalize me? I have in many circumstances bought such a text link and never received any hits from it, then that site (months later) reaches the top of the search engines and starts to get a lot of hits, as a result it gets me a few hits, therefore it was worth the money I paid for it. Is this site, and my site, going to be penalized as spam for this?

    I am in an industry where one hit could mean thousands of dollars and I don’t think I should be penalized if I want to buy 150 paid text links on different sites that never gets me any hits. The potential of a hit here and a hit there is worth it for me to buy those ‘paid text links’, but I don’t think it should hurt my own site’s SEO.

  93. I would classify this as one of those “good, but half-baked ideas” that will probably/should probably be discussed come those Monday morning chit chats at the ping pong table or over Wii Tennis.

  94. Robert Wetzlmayr, I’ll take that feedback under advisement. I’m always open to feedback on what Google to do to improve results quality.

    eddytom, it sounds like you’re most interested in the actual visitors; something like a link that goes through an internal redirect that is robot’ed out would let you get all the visitors without worrying about search engines.

    Hagrin, using the spam report form and giving a keyword to report specific issues has been a pretty good way to let people give us feedback. Keywords like “gilligan” and many others have been used in the past. :)

  95. See, it’s pretty simple. Google don’t do evil.

    So if you are a competitor, trying to sell links, you are taking away Google’s potential revenue, cos if you didn’t sell links directly, they’d put AdWords on your site and sell links that way.

    But if you put links on your own, and you keep the money for yourself, that’s just plain selfish.

    So Google will punish you and the people who buy from you.

    This isn’t evil Google stifling the competition. It’s just them playing the right hand of God, so don’t go bitching all you “shady SEO”s!!!!

  96. JasonK

    If we have to login with our account to report the paid links does that mean you’ll penalize the the sites of the owners who submit false claims?

    To me it just seems that many web site owners are going to get penalized and not even know why.

    I think the sites you get on this first page that are just full of google adsense and other links need to go first.

  97. To be honest Matt, this is kinda a big subject for a lot of people.

    I find it somewhat funny that this post is relatively short and nondescript. On top of that, it’s buried behind 3 other posts on the same day – a review of spicy food, some funny pictures and a short clickbot post. One might be forgiven for not catching this post first time round.

    I think if there is going to be a witch hunt on paid links, then you / Google needs to give us more information.

    For example…

    Google needs to clarify in much much more detail what a paid link is. Are you just talking about Text-Link-Ads, or are we talking about every paid link which is not nofollowed?

    What does that mean for paid directories such as Yahoo directory? I really hope that Google isn’t saying it’s ok for them to sell links but not for the rest of us.

    What does this mean for links traded for a box of beer or some other non-cash goods or services?

    What does this mean for WordPress template footer links? Surely this is an example of link bait – provide a free template in exchange for links – surely that’s ok right?

    What does this mean for paid reviews where the post is clearly marked as paid, but it includes a natural link. In the grand scheme of things, surely a post about company X is a natural place to expect a natural link?

    What about web designers placing a “Web design by …” link on their client’s sites? The client has paid for the site, and included in that package is a link.

    And then…

    What happens when a website is reported – pray do tell us?

    -Does the whole site get deindexed by Google?
    -Is the ability to pass PR stripped from the whole site?
    -Or is the ability to pass PR stripped from that page?
    -Or is the ability to pass PR stripped from those paid links only?
    -Do you tell site owner when said penalty is applied?
    -Once the paid link is removed or nofollowed, is the penalty removed 100%?
    -Some website owners have contracts in place for links, and can’t legally change the links for several months. Is there a grace period?

    Matt / Google – please, please give us more information. This is a serious change to how a lot of site owners do business, and I find the lack of specifics somewhat insulting actually.

  98. Blog Owner

    Matt,

    It’s a bit coincidental that my blog was de-indexed straight after this reporting thing was created by your team. I won’t mention the url here. However, you can see the url through the email address I used to make this comment.

    Is it de-indexing that will happen to those who have been reported? Or is it something else that may have caused my blog to be de-indexed.

    I was getting a nice amount of natural traffic from Google search until this happened.

    If you could provide an answer through here or privately through email, I would appreciate your honesty and comments.

    Thanks,

  99. Harvey, Google is going to try out some new approaches to paid links; that’s why we wanted to collect reports to get feedback and see how well some of these techniques work. I’m most interested in the “I’ll pay you $X for a link that affects search engines” reports for now, whether that happens via a direct link or paid posts/articles. I discussed the idea of WordPress sponsored themes in the post before this one, but I’d read Matt Mullenweg’s post for his perspective as well.

    I’ve talked about our current practices for a while now; here’s a post from 2005 with more background: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/text-links-and-pagerank/
    Google (and I’m sure most search engines) have algorithms that assess the trust to put in individual links, individual pages, and entire sites. The data that we get from people that want to give us feedback will help us assess several new things that we’re looking at (both algorithms and tools). I’d also like us to look at additional ways to communicate about paid links down the road, but right now I’m more interested in getting some additional data to compare against the internal data that we already compute.

  100. I read a this post and the comments with great interest and several thoughts come to mind. Firstly, is this not going to start a wave of webmasters title-tattling on each other and worse still turning on each other? Somehow, this does not sit well, in the past I have seen many ideas come out of here some of them bordering the fantastic and others more mediocre. This idea of telling tales on each other is not one of the better ones, in actual fact all I can see it doing is causing friction amongst webmasters.

    Secondly, why is Google asking others to do its job, isn’t this something that the Google algorithm should be figuring out without having others resort to reporting their competitors and other websites unrelated to them?

    Yes, we all want our sites to rank high, it’s given, our businesses depend on it. To this end some of us are working damn hard to produce unique and compelling content that will be naturally linked. But, it is appearing more and more that no matter how much you play by the rules or try and keep it reasonably in the guidelines that the goalpost moves again and again . This time it could come at a high price.

    I am wondering how far this is going to go, will it affect link-buyers who buy just a few links or purchase them in the hundreds, will this turn into a kind of purge on a mass-scale or will each report be independently judged on its merit and the ‘offending site’ in question be thoroughly investigated by manually before action is taken or will it become an automatic decision based on a scant glance beca8use of the large amounts of reports coming in?

  101. hey matt- would you mind addressing some of the things that I mentioned in my previous comment on this post?
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links/#comment-101551

  102. Good job fending the questions Matt!
    This may have been the spiciness to go with that chicken sandwich! ;)

  103. Ain’t this statement,

    Matt Cutts Said,

    April 14, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

    Ash, there’s absolutely no problem with selling links for traffic (as opposed to PageRank). At http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/hidden-links/ I mention a couple ways to sell links that Google would have no problem with.

    just a bit circular? I doubt people are getting links for PR simply because that green bar looks pretty on their site. Is not everything webmasters do designed to bring traffic to their sites. Very few of the high PR sites don’t have a nice flow of traffic, just as very few high traffic sites have low PR. What good would be having a high PR site if no-one ever visited it?

    How and who is going to decide if a paid link is for PR alone and not ultimately for traffic? I can tell you 100% of my backlinks are for getting more traffic to my sites. I have only one “paid” link – the webmaster owed me money for some writing I did for them and actually gave me the money to buy the link to test their payment system. I didn’t pay for my link on that PR0 page (at least at the time) – but there’s absolutely no way anyone else is going to know that by looking at either the page or code. I guess I “paid” for the link by doing some testing for the other webmaster – how will Google or anyone else be able to differentiate those links?

    And like someone mentioned on the hidden links post, what happens when a directory turns from free to paid? Are the free sites grandfathered in as being permitted PR links or must they now be nofollowed?

    Additionally, if I have two very different sites that are related by topic and I put a banner on one to the other – what’s to keep someone for “reporting” both sites as exchanging paid links? Do you plan on checking the domain records? And just because webmasters traditionally pay for banner placement does not mean that’s always the case. Does Google plan on bothering to ask webmasters if a reported link is indeed a paid one? Several webmasters have freely linked to a site of mine with banners (some I made available and some they made) because they like my site – how does a visitor to that site or some algorithm know that those banner links were or were not paid?

    Since the Internet began, long before there ever was a Google, people have been trading and selling links just like any other advertising medium. I have always told my clients that links are no different than those referrals you give to someone you’ve done business with. So, under this new policy if say a Realtor has a link to a carpet cleaning service on their site and that carpet cleaning service gives the Realtor a 10% commission the Realtor needs to report to Google that the link is “paid”. Sorry, that’s not Google’s or anyone else’s business if that Realtor is getting a commission or not. And how exactly does Google plan to ferret out that dastardly Realtor and make sure any compensated link is a no-follow or rel=paid or whatever?

    Is Google going to be able to differentiate between a sitewide footer link that has been paid for vs one from the ultimate owner of the site? I have a tutorial site where every page’s footer links to my business site. How do you plan to differentiate between that sort of link and one’s that are paid for by a third party? The rationale for the link is obvious – I sell my writing services and that entire tutorial site functions as a great big writing sample – why shouldn’t one site link to the other? The direct traffic from the tutorial site to my business site has been negligible, but, they are certainly not there for PR.

    It’s these types of questions that drive me nuts about your blog. You throw out something that has major consequences for all site owners and yet you fail to truly explain what is changing. I do understand that you won’t put a step by step explanation of how the various algorithms are going to handle links, PR, and SERPs; but, yet again you have posted a somewhat threatening (like how else could we take this) post about what Google deems acceptable without giving the webmaster community enough information to comply.

    If I have read all the of your replies here and in the other thread correctly, if any “paid” (a term not completely defined by you) links are not identified onpage and in the code then _________________ happens. What that something is seems to be left up to our imagination.

  104. kay

    it seems to me that Google would have the common sense to not effect a penalty against a site when the offense could easily be replicated by a competitor. otherwise well, you wouldnt even have to pay for a link, just set up a bunch of spammy sites that not only link to your competitor but sit under a great big fat H1 called “THESE LINKS PAID FOR BY SHADY SITES”.

    how the mighty will fall when this one hits – i know a number of large corporations using external SEM agencies that spend a fortune maintaining paid for links. It will be interested to see the effects on those.

    i thought i should be worried about this at first but then then realised i dont need to be since i dont pay for text links, when i started freelancing and not being forced to tow the line with an agency i decided to hold back on paid for links and applied good old fashioned seo. it works too, the ranks are achieved and it converts! And guess what, they can even take a break from seo for a while and see no major change…because there are no paid links to maintain!

    if you are whinging about this potential development ask yourself if your REAL concern is that you wont be able to hold you clients over a barrel anymore when they want to leave by threatening removal of their ‘quality’ links and drop in ranks. shock horror, maybe you will have to learn about onsite SEO and how to attract genuine IBLs.

  105. Matt,

    Can you please let us know if this has something to do with all the dropping sites.

    I just had 2 sites drop out. I made all the links connecting them nofollow and one cam back but the other is still buried. I even did the reinclusion request but still nothing after 2 months.

    I would love to know if my main site will ever come back.

    You can even email me if you want. I would love to know why that site is not ranking or at least know I’m going in the right direction.

    Thanks,
    Bob

  106. Okay, I’ve kept my mouth shut in here for a while now, but this is just getting silly.

    Everyone who has their shorts up in a knot about this should read what avecfrites posted. (S)he nailed the whole issue; there are things that would appear fishy to a human, but not necessarily be detectable via algorithm unless someone pointed the links out and then big G could react accordingly. There are an almost infinitesmal number of ways to code pages, hyperlinks, etc., and by extension ways to code pages, hyperlinks, etc. in order to deceive users and search engines. So Google’s approach is perfectly logical in this case, since they’re looking for feedback that they might necessarily see themselves (they can only see so much) and going from there.

    If you’re buying links purely for traffic purposes, then this really shouldn’t make a bit of difference to you. You bought the links so that users could find your site from another site, and SEO benefits have nothing to do with it. Furthermore, if you bought the right links (i.e. ones that will send you traffic), anything big G is doing will have a minimal impact at best.

    There’s nothing wrong with buying links, but if you’re really that upset about this, then you’re not buying links for the right reasons and quite frankly, you need to look at how you’re doing this.

    There’s no threat. There’s no bullying. It’s a warning of possible things to come. At least this time, you’ve got plenty of time to fix the situation (if you think you’re in it) before it becomes one.

    Would you guys who are complaining rather see Google implement something like this, maybe give a few hints after the fact, not ask for our input, and do it in a heavy-handed fashion? Or would you rather have time to know about the issue, contribute to the issue in such a way as to help provide an increase in relevance, and deal with it in advance? I’ll take the latter any day of the week.

  107. Whoops…forgot to close the <strong> tag after users. Not trying to resemble SEW or anything…just an accident.

  108. So – the links that come default in the WP installation (as an example) – what are they considered?

  109. Steve

    Matt

    This seems to opening a bag of worms as who how and why will PAID LINKS be decided
    Surely a better way would be to stop displaying PAGE RANK on toolbar and no backlink command available , backlinks would only then be displayed in G Webmaster Tools to the Webmaster of the actual site , or Y’s equiv if at the same time you could work with Y and MSN to go similar route so no backlinks displayed on any SE

    The problem could be cut back

    This would leave webmasters to sell advertising even if they were links according to traffic which would seem more relevant at the same time as supplying what links / advertising were supposed to achieve in the beginning

    This seems like the opposite of Do No Evil as it appears to be saying only G can provide advertising

    PS I do not sell or buy links and never have , but have bought advertising based on traffic that advertising may supply

    steve

  110. Divide and conquer is not the answer. The answer is to change PageRank and Search engine results, not to change Webmasters and Business owners behavior.

    This is a historic post. 10 years from now we will remember this blog post.

  111. Vermut

    Hi Matt,

    a simpler solution: stop displaying PR.

  112. eddytom

    matt – if I pay for a link that is for traffic, yet it appears in a section that looks like a ‘bad’ paid link, I have no control on whether that person puts a nofollow tag or a redirect to my page. And I will not link to an internal page of my own (that is robotted out) to redirect to the real page I want it going to because, then, aren’t I creating something for the search engines instead of for the user?

    multi-worded adam – the real fear here is that I could have a link on a site that someone else reports as a paid link, yet it is for traffic, yet google somehow perceives it as ‘bad’ paid link and penalizes me and my entire livelihood is ruined because, although I make pocket change off of the paid links, my big money comes from great search results which I have earned by working fairly for the past five years of my life. So I can understand many white hat people here who have just been following all the rules set forth by Google being a little scared and writing angrily.

    That being said- I also feel we should not be getting on Matt Cutts for reporting this, it is a good thing, but I think our responses are hugely important and everyone here should continue to state their concerns so that Google can take our opinions into consideration before it moves forward with implementing anything.

  113. Steve

    Matt,

    I’ve been following your blog pretty much since you started it and I’d have to say that you have for the most part done a great job in educating the webmaster community out there on why Google doesn’t like you to do certain things and how to avoid making obvious mistakes.

    In running a blog like this, to gain trust there will need to be give and take, this is very much a take subject, in that you are asking us to grass or file reports on other sites that ‘may’ be selling links, you will then use this information to create algorythms which will in turn create more penalties and as a result many sites will get whacked.

    My fear is that innocent sites will suffer as a result, on the whole the SERPS may appear OK bit there will be consequential losses, pretty much in the same way as the ’950 penalty’ where large quality sites that should rank for a term or phrase or bounced right back to the end of the SERPS because of the phrase ranking penalties, which in many cases may kick in due top the same site wide navigation links, you should really write up something about why this happens and how to avoid it if you want to win trust from the webmaster community.

  114. I’d fully support a rel=”paid” attribute on paid links. That way, optional browser extensions could highlight the paid links in another colour, which would be nice for users.

    Nofollow says “I don’t vouch for this link”. I don’t like the idea of using this on paid links, because most of the time I do vouch for the links, paid or otherwise. I really think a link deserves juice if it’s relevant to the page – paid or otherwise.

    Using Javascript or redirects on links for the sake of it flies in the face of usability, accessibility and web standards in general. I don’t consider this a reasonable alternative either.

    I’ll be doing some housekeeping on my sites based on this post, and that’s ok. But I really think the focus here should be more on relevant/irrelevant or quality/rubbish vs paid/unpaid.

    Thanks for your response Matt – I understand Google is just testing the water here, but I think we can all see where this is heading. I’d really like to see a bit more detail from Google regarding this kind of stuff because links are so fundamental to the web. So rather than a hidden penalty that webmasters don’t know about, let people know what they need to fix.

    eg in Webmaster Tools something like this…

    WARNINGS…
    1. Your http://www.domain.com/links/resourses-254.htm appears to have low quality links on it. This may be effecting your trustrank.
    2. The link to http://www.mesothelioma-cures.com on your homepage appears to be a non-relevant paid link. We have devalued this pages ability to pass PR until this link is nofollowed / removed.
    3. Your entire site is supplemental because of the 10 sitewide footer links. These appear to be paid and non-relevant.

  115. raj

    It’s interesting that you consider this more important than sites that display AdSense and link directly to pornographic sites. And even after I’ve submitted a report to the AdSense team twice about one blogspot.com blog, a year and more later, the site is still running Adsense.

    And what about all those porn and pharma sites that keep linking to my legit sites? How are you fighting this sort of thing? Isn’t that more important than having unpaid masses report what might or might not be a paid link used for SEO purpose or not?

    What about reports that Google plans to offer link ads? If that happens, then the exercise you write about turns out to be hypocrisy.

  116. I agree with the comments that stated that Google would do better to root our the real spam that is still polluting its index, and to pay attention when one reports real spam sites.

    Putting the spotlight on paid links is simply going to foster/grow/explode a subculture of informal link selling & buying networks. You are just going to drive it further underground, you will never stop it.

    To be honest Matt, why should you care if good and valuable content is bumped up the SERPs a few notches by purchased links? You should care and do something about it if crap or spam content is benefiting from paid links.

    Root out the spam sites and the sites that do not add any value to anybody, and the question of paid links should become a moot point.

    It is very annoying when one reads stuff like this post of yours and you troop off to do a search on Google and find half of the sites on page #1 are spam sites. I think many people do not even bother to report spam sites any longer, because from those that I reported absolutely nothing has happened. They are still happily sitting on page #1 displaying their AdSense ads on pages that contain nothing more than scraped content and/or links.

    Here’s an idea: Why don’t you offer webmasters something like a bump up the SERPs or a link from a PR 6-8 site for their bona fide sites for every X number of bona fide spam reports that they make and that you agree with are spam sites? That will kill two birds with one stone.

  117. Matt,

    Was out for the last weekend of snow skiing with wife and kids (they crushed the black moguls! ;-), but got a chuckle reading this thread as I re-enter the online world Sunday night.

    As far as “examples of paid links”, these have been plastered on the main web pages of the mainstream media outlets in my (decent-sized) market for quite some time. I just spent about 10 seconds per site, and of the 3 TV stations (ABC/CBS/NBC) and 2 major newspapers, I’ll bet you a $100 (at 10-1) that at least three of ‘em are selling text links – it’s so obvious by the keyword rich text links used. I don’t want to mention where I live, although obviously you can geo-locate my IP and figure it out.

    But look at any major US market (I’m sure international as well) and you’ll see these all over the place – heck, even look at the bottom of the Stanford Daily (Google’s alma matter) and it appears they are selling keyword rich text links … again! ;-)

    I.e. tell me with a straight face these aren’t trying to game the search engines – wedding favors, mortgage rates, long distance cheap calling card rates, etc.

    Sure, all these guys put a “sponsored/paid links” block around the text/links, but do you really think the advertisers are targetting Stanford students for long disance cheap card rates?!?

    So would be curious how Google plans to handle examples such as this?
    alek

    P.S. Don’t mean to give you/Google a hard time – like it or not, page rank has become something of value, so people naturally capitalize on it. And while I don’t buy/sell links (really!), as a free-market type of guy, I can’t fault folks like the Stanford Daily for trying to make buck.

    I.e. the genie is out of the bottle and you can’t put it back in!

  118. Having waded through the rest of the comments, I want to agree with LaCabra that in many cases it is easier nowadays to find what you’re looking for on Yahoo! Search than to find the same thing on Google.

    I’m finding myself using their search more and more, not because I like or dislike one company above the other, but simply because I find what I’m looking for easier and quicker with their search results.

  119. Ooops … forgot that my Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease allows folks/cpmpanies to “buy” text/advertising links … if they make a donation (directly) to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research … so guess maybe I am a text link seller … but hey, at least it’s for charity! ;-)

    Another random thought is you will eventually want to algorithmically automate this text link buy/sell process – not just detection, but perhaps also the downgrading of link mojo by domain. How would either “offending” party be aware that this has happened? Yea, in many cases you don’t want to disclose due to “secret sauce” concerns (plus obvious gaming of the system) … but false positives do occur and this would cause accidental collateral damage to innocent parties.

    Maybe consider notification via Webmaster Tools … although realistically, even that leaves out the Mom-Pop sites that don’t spend their Sunday evenings reading search engine blogs … ;-)

    P.S. Speaking of collateral damage, you might check the URL in my signature which got totally clobbered by Google by whatever algorithmic tweak was done on April 10th. S*it happens … but I bet if you dig into it you’ll say “ooops, our changes had a minor unintended consequence that unfairly de-ranked some legit web sites” – if nothing else, it was nice to rank #1 for my first name for years … now, I’m just a nobody! ;-)

  120. Chris_D

    So Matt, are ‘free hitcounter’ links also classed as paid links? How do you detect those?

  121. Should I go ahead and switch to “image only” ads to make sure I’m covered?

  122. Dave (Original)

    Those with nothing to hide, hide nothing :)

    Why is it when Matt posts something with nothing more than scant details there is always the vocal *minority* screaming foul based on…..NOTHING but their own imaginations?

    If you see ANY site selling links, either report it or don’t. Let Google worry about whether the site is selling PR, or not. I would think common sense (which I guess isn’t so “common”) should state that Google want a VERY broad range of sites (selling PR, banner ads, using nofollow, not using nofollow etc etc etc) so they can TEST their new idea. If they only get the sites they wish to target then the test data would likely be useless.

    For those who cannot see any difference between AdWords and sites selling PageRank……what can I say?

    1) Google doesn’t mix AdWords into it’s organic results.

    2) Google clearly identifies AdWords as advertisments.

    3) Google own PageRank and last I heard it’s not for sale and buying AdWords wont get you any.

    4) AdWords has no bearing what-so-ever on Googles organic results.

    5) Google wants its organic results to stay “organic” and be objective NOT subjective.

    All of the above add to 1 thing. Better search results for the World!

  123. Kaediem

    Here’s a novel idea.. What if the search engine rankings relied on the content instead of how many people linked to it?

    The first web site I ever built was for the company I work for which manufactures and sells a small piece of hardware (I don’t mention the product name here as I don’t want this page beating us out in the serps!,). Anyway, I built the site and that was it – I didn’t know anything about SEO or how to rank in search engines for a key word or pretty much anything.

    Some time after the site went up, maybe 6 -8 months, one of the owners came to me and said “How come when I search our product on Google I can’t find our site?”

    Thus my intro to SEO. I found out that we didn’t rank anywhere in google so I determined that I needed to submit the site to some directories and buy a few links.

    Within a month or so we were ranking 82 in google for a search on our product. Keep in mind there are approximately 1/2 a dozen major manufacturers of this product world wide.

    After purchasing one link we finally made it to the top 20 and then, finally, to the front page.

    The web site is all about the product, it’s mentioned in every page, it’s what we do but other sites that mention the term in passing on a sub page still out rank our site.

    If I had never purchased a link, would we have ever made it to the front page? Should we not be there purely from our content?

    There have got to be billions of websites out there, without the ability to buy a keyword link that will give the search engines a clue that they exist, how will they be found?

    Just don’t base page rank on links.

    look at the relationship between the link and the content of the page, look at the relationship between the anchor text and the content of the page and use that information to decide if it belongs in a relevant search for that term, base the page rank on the content of the site.

    Lisa

  124. Everyone is way overreacting. They’re merely testing a new system.

    Also, there is no way to differentiate from a paid link and a real link if its not done in a spammy way. IE not crammed in the footer with 20 other links, or not identically dispersed to thousands of sites. If you use the cheap/quick/easy way and go buy links in a standard way from sites that sell links in bulk or use a broker, yes, you might not receive any benefit from those links. However if you put the effort into buying paid placements within content at individual websites, no one will ever know.

    Also, SEO is far far more than buying links. If an SEO needs to buy links to stay in business, maybe they shouldn’t be in business.

  125. Mark

    We do advertising for our company’s blog as well as our site as a whole (AdWords, StumbleUpon, BlogAds), and we bought 17 links from PayPerLink when they first started, as an experiment. We haven’t repeated it, mainly because we only used it to promote a couple of special posts in our archives to bloggers in our niche.

    We find that bloggers — nice people that they are — are not really professional publishers (obviously), and making individual contact trying to get promotion can eat up a lot of time we don’t have to spare. For example, they may never have been contacted about an ad before, and they want a lengthy back and forth e-mail discussion, or they don’t have a realistic conception of the market value of their blog as an advertising vehicle, and we don’t have the time to educate them. PayPerPost seemed like a good way to get promotion in a hitherto inaccessible media — just place an order, as with any other ad.

    At any rate, are these old, forgotten blog posts going to dock our entire site in the rankings? Dock just those pages? Simply nullify the link-value of those links without affecting more “legitimate” (in the eyes of Google) inbound links? Are you telling companies like ours to go out and do a search-and-destroy on old links like these in people’s archives, who don’t necessarily care about our rankings and are not motivated to spend their time purging their blog of a post, which for all I know is bringing them traffic they’d rather not lose?

  126. Kaediem

    “For those who cannot see any difference between AdWords and sites selling PageRank……what can I say?

    1) Google doesn’t mix AdWords into it’s organic results.

    2) Google clearly identifies AdWords as advertisments.

    3) Google own PageRank and last I heard it’s not for sale and buying AdWords wont get you any.

    4) AdWords has no bearing what-so-ever on Googles organic results.

    5) Google wants its organic results to stay “organic” and be objective NOT subjective.”

    All true, but for the average joe searching google for Angelina Joli or whatever do they REALLY see the sponsored links as being any different from the number 1 search result?

    If Google is truly interested in ‘organic’ results then why show paid advertising at all?

    When it comes down to it, I can have a great website with wonderful content but my choices are limited in getting it noticed. Without the ability to obtain a link on a more “important” site (as determined by google) my other alternative is to pay google to show my site at the top of the page.

    Seems somewhat along the lines of microsoft including IE with their software ;)

    Lisa

  127. Wow, talk about throwing in a red herring! Is this your way of stopping all the yip yap Pagerank Update squawkers?

  128. Reader

    I’m starting to understand the reason for this and the using nofollow tag for all advertising to prove that it’s not for PageRank reason. I took a look at techcrunch just to see what the big sites are doing and they do indeed have “nofollow” tags on their advertsing along with “TechCrunch Sponsors” heading above it.

    I suppose if we were all doing it for the right reason (sending traffic to sites), we wouldn’t worry about this anyway.

  129. Dave (Original)

    RE: “All true, but for the average joe searching google for Angelina Joli or whatever do they REALLY see the sponsored links as being any different from the number 1 search result?”
    =========================================

    *perhaps* not if it is their 1st time on Google and/or they don’t see the colored “Sponsored Links”, other than that I would say most certainly.

    RE: “If Google is truly interested in ‘organic’ results then why show paid advertising at all?”
    =========================================

    I guess they need to foot the bills for all their hardware, employees etc and make a profit. Anyway, it’s not *only* organic results Google wants, but they likely don’t want people to be able to buy their way to the top of them. Many a SE has tried that and users do NOT want might is right search results, they want objectivity and relevancy.

    RE: “When it comes down to it, I can have a great website with wonderful content but my choices are limited in getting it noticed. Without the ability to obtain a link on a more “important” site (as determined by google) my other alternative is to pay google to show my site at the top of the page.”
    =========================================

    One should NEVER think like that. If you think your “choices are limited” then they will become limited. Heard the saying “we create what we fear”?

    If you know your subject matter and are not narrow minded in researching and linking to other pages (even if you don’t agree with them), you will in-time attract TRUE votes from “important” sites.

    Also, keep adding content perputually so you are not reliant on a few pages, but rather a few thousand! Forums etc are a great way to keep your user coming back and adding content for those phrases you never thought of.

  130. Blog Owner, you said “It’s a bit coincidental that my blog was de-indexed straight after this reporting thing was created by your team. I won’t mention the url here. However, you can see the url through the email address I used to make this comment.” and you said that it was okay to give feedback here.

    So I checked out the blog from your email, and your issues started before I even did this post. Blog Owner, I’d recommend asking a friend to take a look at your website with a critical eye. Yes, there certainly do appear to be paid links sprinkled throughout your posts (nearly all of them, in fact), but my favorite was one post that stopped in mid-sentence. That seemed strange, until I found the article that you’d copied wholesale from an article bank. The original article stopped in mid-sentence, so your post did too.

    Okay, so not great on the quantity. How about quantity? Dude, you wrote thirty-four blog posts in one day? I wrote maybe seven this weekend (cuz I won’t get a chance to blog much during the work week) and that took pretty much the whole weekend.

    It looks like perhaps you didn’t write those 30+ articles by hand. Searching for a long phrase from one of those posts returns 400+ other results. In fact, coincidentally enough, several other people wrote an identical blog post, down to the last word.

    Blog Owner, my advice is to focus less on any paid links you have and look at the larger picture. Right now, your site doesn’t even look like it was written by a human. What value does your site add compared to the other dozens of sites with the same content? That’s the question I’d recommend looking at for your site. You said you’d value honesty, so that’s my honest feedback. That’s the sort of site that causes people to complain to us. :(

  131. Matt said, “Lots of people have been asking for this.”

    Hell, I’ve been asking for why my AdSense is taking a crap since 4/1. I’ve been asking why our indexing fluctuates 30K pages overnight. I’ve been asking for a more accurate assessment of keywords for AdWords campaigns.

    Who ARE these people? Are they the same people asking for more sex and violence on TV? Are they the same people asking for higher gas prices?

    This feels like one more meaningless “exhibition of power” from a company that holds my family’s livelihood in the palm of its hand, and yet remains distant, aloof, and unavailable / unaccountable.

    Matt, I enjoy your writing, and I love your blog. But it’s a SHAME that those of us who attain our PR through legitimate means are being lumped in with those who would “scam” the system…

    Doesn’t it all come out in the wash anyway?

  132. Dave (Original)

    I don’t subscribe to the;

    Stamp out link buying for ranking and more will use AdWords either.

    It simply makes no-sense. There is only ever going to be 10 pages on page 1 of any Google SERP. For every page that drops, another rises. The one that rise may be using AdWords and thus stop using it.

    The ONLY reason that AdWords is a sucess is because Google’s *organic* results are what the searcher wants, not what the Webmasters want.

    If Google turns a blind eye to Webmasters manipulating their results there will be less and less users using Google. If that become the case, there will be no more link mongering at Google’s expense (and even their own customers) and these low moral people will focus on destroying another business for their personal gain. Who knows, it could be yours!

    If Google had not come along I truly believe the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft would totally dominate information retrieval and it would become like a business directory , where you can buy your way to the top.

  133. Eric Chaffin

    May I report Yahoo? They are selling the links in thousands !!!

  134. I’m not sure on this, but we may have just seen Matt punk out a webmaster for the first time ever on this blog. And I gotta say that it’s about time! That kind of smackdown has been so needed for so long and today, it finally happened.

    Matt, you gotta do that more often, dude! That’s some quality snarkitude right there. Seriously, that kicked ass.

  135. Sorry, I only added my one cent – here’s the other:

    I completely concur with the following suggestions for Google -

    1) pay attention when someone reports real spam sites
    2) rely on the content AND consistent TRAFFIC instead of how many links a site has

    Why is this a “big deal” for us? Well, for almost 2 years now, we’ve watched a similar site, with one-tenth the daily traffic, one-half the content, and one-hundredth posts per day consistently hog the #1 spot in Google for “Nissan forums”.

    Meanwhile, we bust our tails to be #1 through superior content, useful and helpful resources, 24-hour spam removal, quality outbound links, and continual marketing.

    Yet, inquiries to Google are met with vagueness, placating and “try harder” rhetoric… With some of the best and brightest employees, I’d hoped they could do better.

    I hope someone at Google has the forethought to step on the brakes and say, “Let’s fix the foundation before we get crazy fixing the minutiae”.

  136. Is Google going to penalize this kind of sites in the near future?

  137. Dr. David Klein, the only down side is that a few people aren’t reading all the comments, so some questions are getting repeated.

    BobR, any recent changes in ranking aren’t related to this. I’m just providing a way that people that want to give us feedback about this can. This post from 2005 gives a fair amount of background info on how we’ve handled paid links for quite some time: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/text-links-and-pagerank/

    Multi-Worded Adam, I took my best guess about where you’d want the strong to close. I agree that one S.E.W. is enough for any blog. :) You may not have much luck with your message though.

    Marcel, collecting reports and feedback from the outside world is part of the way to test out new approaches/algorithms for paid links.

    Vermut, I already chatted a bit about that back here:
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links/#comment-101651

    eddytom, if you’re buying the link, but only wanted traffic from it (not to affect search engines), I think most sites would be happy to use one of the techniques I’ve mentioned to prevent confusion. I agree that it’s better for Google to give some heads-up that we’re looking at this issue, so that people can decide how they want to proceed.

    Steve, thanks. I do hear from people on a pretty regular basis who want to compete but feel that some sites are trying to spam by buying links. I may try to do a post about your third paragraph at some other point, but stuff like that would be algorithmic scoring.

    Harvey, I liked your mock-up text. Certainly the trend I’d like Google to be going in is toward more transparency along those lines.

    raj, there are already ways to report any spammy AdSense publishers. I’ve talked about at webmaster conferences before, but I’m happy to reiterate how to do that. If you see a spammy or made-for-AdSense site, do the following:
    - Click on the “Ads by Google” link.
    - At the bottom of the page, click on the “Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw” link and fill out the form.
    - When you fill out the form, at the bottom you’ll get to a section that says “Add additional information here:”. Include the word “spamreport” all in one word to make sure that the webspam team can see the feedback.

    Webspam uses that data, and Google has ramped up on kicking publishers that violate our quality guidelines out of AdSense. I’ll talk more about that ramp up in the future, but I hope that repeating that guidance helps.

    Dewald ama-Canuck, hopefully the feedback I gave to Blog Owner shows that we do focus on sites with duplicate/spammy content as well. :) I would be happy to hear about which topic you were talking about though.

    Eric, a good rule of thumb if you’re buying links for the visitor traffic (as opposed to PageRank) is to buy them in a form that doesn’t affect search engines.

    Kaediem, there were many search engines before Google (e.g. Northern Light) that judged results primarily by page content, but users tended to prefer search engines that included both topicality (e.g. on-page content) as well as reputation (e.g. PageRank)

    Well said, Dave (Original).

    M.W.A., I don’t do it that often, but I have done it once or twice. Blog Owner asked for an honest opinion and if B.O. couldn’t see any issues with that site, they needed to hear that assessment. It also helps to let other people know that Google does continue to work hard at improving search quality and that we focus on a lot of different aspects of webspam.

  138. Hey all, I blogged and responded to comments pretty much all weekend, so I’m going to try to earn husband bonus points by doing the kitty litter, taking out the trash, and spending the rest of the evening with my wife. This is shaping up to be a busy week, but I’ll try to stop by when I can to respond to comments.

  139. i definitely not agree about this.Large corporate sites already have a huge advantage over smaller sites and no matter how good the content on the smaller site is. Their brand recognition alone makes it more likely that they will receive more incoming links. So giving smaller sites the ability to purchase a human-reviewed, page-rank-passing listing actually levels the playing field more than dissalowing the practice. Seriously,this pumping my heart fast!

  140. Matt,

    i think it is a good initiative, but can’t see how you can properly police it. The only people that can rank for competitive terms are those that have huge marketing resources. The barrier for entry for the web is becoming difficult and something needs to be done for the manipulators.

  141. Jens

    Hi Matt,
    I cannot understand, why google is pushing with Adwords buying and Backlinks? – Type in google search: “buy links” and you will find a lot of linkbrokers on top and on the left side…

    Now you are coming and you tell the people here, that google do not like that… I think that is a kind of bad joke in my opinion!

    First google has to clean in front of their own doors…

    My site http://www.erfolgreich-praesentieren.de has been banned from the google index, without any blackhat stuff or paid links – other sites like http://www.click2day.com have had hidden text, this site was back on index after 2 weeks. Thats the truth and that is not fair!!!

    The other thing that pisses me of at the moment, are these nph-proxies, which seams to destroy a lot of websites (they get banned) at the moment: http://miproxy.com/cgi-bin/nph-proxy.cgi or http://www.gizliweb.com – they should get banned from the index.
    But even Spamreports won’t get them out of the google index – what a shame. These proxies have worked on about 10 of my websites – all get banned by google!!!

    Jens

  142. Neeraj

    enjoy seeing the PageRank bar?

    ha ha ha..

    the fact is – every Google user would enjoy more, if the search results became more relevant and didn’t get dominated by those sites which managed to buy the high PageRank links.

    Google has lost the plot somewhere…it was never about appearances…it has always been about usability and relevance..

  143. Michael: Why am I always being ask that? :) Anyhow, “short” is maybe wrong word, lets call it “incomplete”.

    I spent quite some time about the problem in general and if I link to the individual posts that address the individual parts in detail. It’s a very complex topic and fundamental for Google, because it is about the core element Google relies on the most since they started, LINKS.

    Google (tries) to combat any attempt of using linking to game Google. Google’s strength is also it’s biggest weakness.

    Progress was made in some areas e.g
    - boilerplate stripping (so if the same sponsored link exists on most pages, chances are, it will not be counted)
    - FFA link farm detection
    - artificial link networks (at least to some degree)
    - contextual irrelevant links (still in it’s infancy, “pills” promoting links on authority .edu domain show that they still have a long way to go to make that work)
    - unnatural amount of reciprocal linking

    Google has a problem if a link is
    - is contextual relevant
    - is not reciprocal
    - is not part of a linking scheme
    - is not a boilerplate

    Links can be placed (paid or not paid) to be exactly that for SEO
    reasons. You could argue that nothing is wrong with that, because links are added to sites by webmasters that follow the same pattern without them knowing anything about SEO.

    On the other hand are links counted by Google and boost a sites ranking where the webmaster who placed the link did not intended it at all, quite the opposite, and would remove it, if he would know what he has done. I am talking about linking to something bad, something you want to make people aware of and see with their own eyes (and proof that what he says is true = reference).

    Google might want to read this Wikipedia guide about referencing sources (Citation).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:CITE

    But, obviously is Google not that good yet at the determination of all the factors I mentioned above. Specifically the determination of relevance.

    This is the only explanation I have why they are going after paid links so badly that they don’t care about the collateral damage they would cause if they don’t care about relevance and user experience.

    It seems that Google is okay with simply “shooting” anybody who dares to put links on the site that can be crawled by SE without excluding them (nofollow, js, etc.) if he gets something out of the link himself (got sponsored, commission for referrals, freebies as thank you, advertising money etc.). Then put up a system where webmasters can go and defame each other to make the internet a happier place, right.

    Maybe “10,000,000″ casualties are acceptable to safe the world, to use an example that is popular when it comes to political decisions that include military involvement.

    The part of “webmasters” being encouraged to defame other webmasters and report “paid” links (whatever “paid” means. Keep it vague that you can use it for or against anybody) is the one that bugs me the most. Being born and raised in East Germany, I do know a thing or two about how this works.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stasi

    East Germany had about 15 million people left in 1989 when the wall came down, down 2 million within a few years before that.
    Almost 400,000 were either full time working (25%) and the rest (75%) were inofficals or informants. That’s over 2% of the population! Get the picture? Did I mention how many people got “problems” in east Germany because of wrong defamations?

    Matt: I hope this reference is better than my last one. Again, I don’t compare Google with the East German Stasi, but I point out the direction things could lead in the worst case. Tendencies must be shown and stopped before it is too late. Everything started “somewhat harmless”, but had the “seed” for the disaster already planted in.

    I hope Google can do better than this. Did the engineers run out of ideas? C’mon.

  144. VSDan

    One can see where this is going to go. Cut-throat competition in the market place will drive many unscrupulous paid listing directory owners to report their competition to drive them out of business. This will become a very effective marketing strategy. It may even become a web-based cottage industry as companies line up to provide a service to report your competition to Google. Who loses? The small-time directory owner who makes in one year what Google makes in a matter of seconds. Who wins? The unscrupulous paid listing directory owners.

  145. Oops, incomplete sentence :)

    “if I link to the individual posts that address the individual parts in detail”
    …people would not read it, but complain about the number of links.

    I posted a bunch of stuff over at Loren’s SEJ about Google, Linking, nofollow, paid links, Google and affiliates etc.

    corrections (english is my 2nd language and I think a lot faster than I write hehe).

    “is not a boilerplate” … on a boilerplate of course

    conclusion to links Google has a problem with. If a link meets all the criteria I mentioned, the fact if a link is paid or not paid should be irrelevant, because it is a relevant link, relevant for the user.

    Since Google can not make that assessment very accurate yet, are they using the factor “paid” as criteria to play down their inability to determine how relevant a link is or not.

    Reference to the “400,000″ in East Germany does of course mean “400,000″ worked for the Stasi

    sorry for that :)

  146. Matt,

    I’m with you all the way on this one. However, when is a paid link a paid link?

    There are so many transactional mechanisms. How we simple SEO folk know what is legitimate practise and what is not.

    I see lots of dubious SEO practises that go unpunished. Paid links is one of the lesser problems.

  147. Blog Owner

    Matt,

    In regards to your response at http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links/#comment-101746

    I understand I submitted 34 articles in one day. However, that is my whole business. I write articles (or reviews). Some clients supply an article for me to publish and they pay me to do so.

    Are you saying my domain was de-indexed because of this? If so, then down goes all “Review” companies such as PPP, Blogsvertise, Reviewme, Blogitive….the list is endless.

    There’s no difference between what I am doing and what they are doing. Providing reviews for customer’s businesses.

    Let’s take a different angle here. Take for example, a company such as an online newspaper like http://www.theage.com.au

    If you take a look at their Business section they have a number of ads displayed by various companies. You can be fairly satisfied that those companys would have paid $$$ or $$$$ to have their ads or “links” to their web site.

    How is this any different to how my business operates?

    I can understand if PR was to be invalid as a penalty but to de-index is confusing.

    If you can confirm my domain was de-indexed for this reason then why shouldn’t the big guns sites be de-indexed along with mine? Fair question?

  148. Do this policy also include web directories that want money for listings?

  149. *************************************************************************
    The Webmaster, there are lots of creative ways to let people know about a site other than paid links, from providing useful information to a new idea on a service. techmeme.com was registered less than a year ago, but think about how quickly it has become daily reading. Aaron Swartz use to run the #1 ranked site for [google blog], then he decided to go off and make this little site called reddit.com. Of course not every site is going to be a reddit.com or a techmeme.com, but there are lots of sites that do well by finding a creative angle or hook.
    **************************************************************************

    Thanks for the Answer.. But Matt Are you 100% sure or can you guaraantee that neither techmeme.com or reddit.com or any site for that matter never bought a paid link ?

  150. JLH

    I submitted my spam report and wrote about it. Too long for a comment, so I blogged it.

    http://www.jlh-design.com/2007/04/i-submitted-my-spam-report/

    It’s amazing the blatant spam you can find if you look for it…. :)

  151. Jason Stet

    Dave (Original) said:

    “Those with nothing to hide, hide nothing”

    So, you are saying that Matt should give more information? I agree.

    Why would I run around gathering data for someone when they won’t tell me how it will be used, and won’t compensate me for doing that work?

    What’s really funny… this data could affect all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. If I were running a SE and I wanted to identify people who were overly concerned with affecting their own rankings, it would be those people most eager to turn people in for something.

    Know why? Because those are the people who are looking. The people trying to influence their own search engine rankings are the people who are paying attention. You listening?

    I have several websites, and I don’t know what my rankings are… don’t really know who the competition is, either. I’m busy running websites. Know what else? I’ll link to who I like, how I like, without fear, because I’m running my website the best way I know how.

    Trip over yourselves trying to please Google, spend your time telling them that YOU are a search engine manipulator by saying “Hey, look at me and what I can tell you”, and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, Google or not.

  152. John Doe

    Good lord. So now we’re suppose to all spy on each other and turn each other in? Is this another ‘pinko’ scare?

    Frankly, I hope this backfires on you guys. G has too much power (which is scary) but its getting oppressive. We’re not allowed to promote our businsses anyway without fear of getting in trouble with the google police?

    PS – this is the kind of stuff that is going to get Google regulated by the gov’t when the Dems come back into office in ’08. Its *GOOGLE* who should be watching their step with this crap.

    Grumble

  153. I have a site which uses text-link-ads for revenue.
    I approve about 10% of the ads – the rest are off topic and not appropriate to my audience.
    Should these links be marked as nofollow?
    Am I not exercising editorial review?
    How should I indicate to Google that this is happening?

  154. I was a fool who had links on my site that were paid for obviously google kicked me in the nuts with the 950 penalty, once those links are removed how long do I have to wait before kissing google’s ass will get my site indexed again?

  155. Dave (Original)

    Matt has answered that many times. If you buy links use nofollow and never expect or pay for PR. If you sell links let your customers know upfront that you use nofollow.

  156. Interesting.
    How, then, does one join the exhalted company of Yahoo, who accept money before putting links on their site, and are apparently encouraged in this activity, because they do something called ‘using editorial discretion’ and refuse some links?
    I can’t see a difference between what I do on that site and what Yahoo does, except in scale.

    Actually, I think I am better – I refuse their money if I won’t be linking to them.

  157. Ste

    short circuit.

    if paid links are only for users and if google wants to give value to websites useful to users, you must evaluate paid links as normal links.

    better said (?), if i sell a link that have to be only for users, i’ll put rel=”nofollow” attribute. but then google has to evaluate them.
    or do we have to wait Google buys Text Link Ads?

  158. Google can do anything they want to, so can Yahoo. Just because someone has bought links doesn’t mean their content is crap. Only a fool will channel money into a bollocks site and expect it to stay.

    As soon as the new “rules” are released there will be a new market in how to get around them. For example instead of text links we will have links in content. Perhaps the over the counter link selling services will have to close shop, but the “black market” will never be stopped.

    All prohibition has ever done is create an underground that is impossible to police. Read the history books. Money is like HIV – the virus will evolve to get around the attacks of the host, requiring new host attacks. Eventually the host becomes consumed in a web of complexity find itself significantly changed from its original self.

    Caution is warranted – a heavy handed approach will surely harm public relations. The White Hat Public relation campaign should be strengthened.

    Ah, what to do?

    At least we can play a game.

    Personally – I see this conversation has been going on since 2005.

  159. Gordon Ma

    I agree that Google needs to find new and innovative ways to stop people spamming search results …. but I really fear that the proposal as described could be used by webmasters to spark a war whereby people seek to undermine competitors by reporting their links as spam.

    Think of it another way, today some search results are over-stated through people buying links; tomorrow it could be that some search results are understated by people undermining their competitors. The upshot could be poorer search results, not better.

  160. Dave (Original)

    Lea de Groot, not sure what you asking or getting at now? However, you seem to be assuming a paid link in the Yahoo directory will boost rankings in Google. While we never know for a fact, I would guess it doesn’t. Nor should it IMO.

    In others words, Google can likely automatically identify Directories and other forms of self-promotion and act accordingly.

    RE: “if paid links are only for users and if google wants to give value to websites useful to users, you must evaluate paid links as normal links.”
    ========================================

    Why and what logic do you have to make that statement? Are you saying those who use Google mostly want sites with the deepest pockets to rise above those without?

  161. Viz

    There are PLETHORA of reasons why someone would report a shady link to Google. Few of us will report sombody; unless he is a competitor

    Ther is too much of fuzziness in this idea – I am afraid

    Cheers

  162. Thanks Matt for providing feedback.

    My concern is –todays phenomenon has been a by-product of Google itself. Due to Google’s present search algo that Contents and links ( read PR) are the major determining factor for SERPs -so the link market has grown now into a multi-billion dollar industry. Google created this market!

    On the other hand – you said good OLD fashioned SEO still works out good. What does it mean? Let me give you example of a blog –seems that it will get minimum PR7 by this update from its present PR6 because I checked its backlinks and it has following backlinks. But as Google treats BLOGs favorably —this BLOG has 90% chance to be PR8.

    Backlinks: 93030 (766 Domains » 677 different IPs)
    PageRanks: 296xPR0 19xPR1 51xPR2 118xPR3 135xPR4 92xPR5 40xPR6 11xPR7 3xPR8 1xPR9
    LinkStrength: 448.38 [A score calculated based on all PageRanks that link to http:// ?????]

    Do you practically think — this amount of high PR backlinks are possible naturally for even the best sites to get FREE? There must have been some money exchange or link exchange ( which is also bad according to your policy).

    Please just mail me any domain of a commercial website that comes into your mind–and I’ll work for you and show you which links have been bought by which way -either banner or text links or other way.

    There is another way that I buy links. — Lots of Freeware development companies and organizations need funds to carry on their noble causes. So they ask the online community to donate. In return they display the list of contributors. What do you do with that? Yes I Pay money -and get link-backs –but is it a paid links?

    As I mentioned before – the magnitude of the link market is as big and varied as Google itself. If somehow Google implements a ban on sites which have bought links and sold links – then Google’s search will result into empty results as my rough guess is that above 80% websites are involved in paid links by one way or the other.

    So do I support random link-buying? NO. I think Google should change its whole concept of ranking sites slowly and slowly . It should strengthen its algo on finding links only from related sites and give the desired ranking for it either by SRPs or PR. As long as the algo will maintain its basic characteristics of SERPs ( and PR of course) on the basis of Contents and Votes by High Qaulity sites ( Google’s webmasters guide language) – the link market will thrive in one form or other.

    It has been a long post.
    Thanks for your patience.

  163. Ste

    Dave (Original), let me say i never bought a link. and i have competitors buying links, so i’d be happy seeing all those links not evaluated by Google (though i already rank better, of course).

    but there’s a short circuit, and you cannot see it.

    follow me in this example: i have a popular blog. i receive a request to link a website for money. i accept and put that link with rel=”nofollow”. humans see link and click on it. (remember they don’t know it has nofollow, unless they use search status extension for firefox or some css to highlight nofollow – both very uncommon situations). so, that link is for users. but what the hell does google do if not giving users relevant page? and since that nofollowed link must be relevant, if i don’t want to lose visitors, google should evaluate that nofollowed link. short circuit.

    i think they should look at the problem by another point of view. and i’m sure they already have many other point of views. but paid/free link doesn’t make sense to me.

    relevance is much more important thing to watch (and i think after tons of paid-link reports they will be sure about it).

  164. Dave (Original)

    RE: “But as Google treats BLOGs favorably”
    ================================
    I doubt that very much.

    I also doubt Google will ever “ban” any page or site for buying links. It seems clear to me that Google would simply ignore paid links and not treat them the same as true votes. With “votes” being the keyword.

  165. Dave (Original)

    RE: “follow me in this example: i have a popular blog. i receive a request to link a website for money. i accept and put that link with rel=”nofollow”. humans see link and click on it. (remember they don’t know it has nofollow, unless they use search status extension for firefox or some css to highlight nofollow – both very uncommon situations). so, that link is for users. but what the hell does google do if not giving users relevant page? and since that nofollowed link must be relevant, if i don’t want to lose visitors, google should evaluate that nofollowed link. short circuit.”
    =========================================

    Not so, as it’s not a vote in the spirit that Google intends for PR. It’s simply a paid advertisement. Like I keep saying, Google cannot afford to see sites with the deepest pockets as being the most relevant. I’m pretty sure 99.9% of Google users would agree.

    IMO, if you buy a link and/or can add the link yourself, it’s simply shouldn’t be counted toward PR. By all means do so, but do so for click traffic, not a ranking boost.

    Google is unlikely to ban or punish any site that *self-promotes* paid and/or free. However, it certainly cannot afford to see sites/pages that do the most self-promotion as being the most relevant. It simply makes nosense.

    You have to think in terms of *objectivity”.

  166. Hi Dave
    Although Matt mentions about a new technique — is it clever enough or should I say sophisticated enough to differentiate which one is paid and which one natural?

    I believe humans are the most intelligent entities so far and if humans find it difficult how could they make an program as you suggest?

    I aslo mentioned I buy links –by way of donating to freeware sites — what about those? Do I buy?

    About “rel=nofollow” — has not this concept come to stop spammers on blogs and forums? Has this technique worked? The answer is NO. I get more than 50 trackback comments on my BLOG -with links to nude and drugs sites. I have got fed up to delete them everyday -so just ignore them. I have Spam Karma as protection.

    My suggestion to Matt and Google is to rationalise the whole thing. They have given birth to this phenomenon (Internet Frankenstein given birth by Google) and now they want to stop it! I wonder if its already too big and lucrative a market and out of their control.

  167. It will be interesting to see the results of these new techniques in filtering out the paid for links.

    It would also be interestign to hear what exactly is a paid for link. Lots have used yahoo directory as an example. I know of noone that gets pays the 200 bucks to get traffic. I have never seen traffic from the yahoo directory on any sites i own or manage.

    There exist 1000´s of examples of spammy purchased links. But a clear response on the yahoo example would help use not so clever SEO´s draw the line.

  168. I have always assumed that Yahoo does carry weight because the Google Webmaster guidelines say “Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site” … “Submit your site to relevant directories such as … Yahoo!”
    I take that as saying that a Yahoo listing will assist your ranking.

    Now that Google is becoming really serious about paid links, I am bemused that they are still giving Yahoo special status. Perhaps the guidelines should be rewritten? Something like ‘assume if you pay for a link that it may be useful for traffic, but not for improving your rankings’?
    Or perhaps Google would like to put some thought into broadening the rel scheme – I don’t like having to mark the links I have carefully reviewed as ‘not worth following’. :(

  169. D’oh ! I just paid for a link on a PR7 site…

    I may as well pack it all in! :)

  170. T

    google drops the ball again, what a terrible idea

  171. seoguy

    Dude, you’re getting into Anti-Trust land.

    My brother-in-law is an Anti-Trust attorney, and he said that one of the signs of anti-trust is a business that discourages competition by limiting the business practices of another under threat of duress or retalitation.

    Google is the biggest web scraper in the history of the world that sells text links for a living, and you’re telling others not to do the same thing or you’ll punish them.

    Shame on you, Matt.

  172. I can always put my competitor’s link on a large number of websites available on many sites like text-link-ads and report it? What its gonna do?
    I think this reporting this is just bullshit.

  173. Hi,

    First time here for a non-SEO person who looks after his own site. I have a query about Googles own “Webmaster” Guidelines which specifically suggest that you:

    “Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.”

    So, DMOZ and Yahoo I did – the latter costs $299 per annum. Is this a paid link? Following these guidelines I also submitted to directories both paid and free – where there is a specific category for my niche.

    So, my question is should I or should I not be submitting to directories, some of which charge a review fee – which seems fair – given that Google actually suggests submitting to Yahoo (which costs $299)

    I’m confused now as to what is considered “legitimate” and what is considered “link buying”?

    I trust this is a fair question from a “mom and pop” website?

  174. Ste

    never forget Google invented Pagerank, not links.
    Pagerank was a great intuition, considering a link as a vote. But if it’s not true anymore, Google cannot pretend anything, because, as far as i know, Google is an important (the most one, likely) part of Internet, but it’s not (yet) Internet.

  175. Bad idea, in general terms.

    How are you e.g. trying to estimate, wether you have a paid entry with better position within catalogues or a regular one? Different layouts mean different programming, which will be a hell of work to distinguish, if possible at all.

    Greetings

  176. Tom

    I suggest you read the following thread at Digital Point:
    http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=300412
    One of many showing the dissatisfaction of webmasters at the oppressive, arrogant way Google think they can dictate how we manage our sites. Yahoo is looking more and more popular by the day. I would encourage everyone to ditch AdSense and AdWords (48% of Google’s revenue) as soon as YPN become international.

  177. Why not just stop page rank 100% so then people stop buying links to improve page rank, if you remove the PR rating then people wouldn’t buy links just for pagerank. I think your doing the wrong thing here but who am i to question what Google do? What about Yahoo’s directory isnt that in Google’s recommended sources for submitting links too.

  178. should i report a site that pays Yahoo for a link from the yahoo directory?

  179. This is madness. Surelly if company X can aforde to pay for links over company Y this means that they are more important and should be reflected in the SERPS as such. This really strickes me as Google trying to focus people more and more through PPC.

  180. Multi-Worded Adam, I took my best guess about where you’d want the strong to close. I agree that one S.E.W. is enough for any blog. You may not have much luck with your message though.

    Nice guess. That’s exactly where I wanted it. ;)

    I don’t expect to have much luck with my message; as long as I have some luck with my message and at least one person who saw it the other way before sees what I’m saying now, it’s worth it.

  181. Matt,

    I thank you for taking the time to answer me.

    I know this is off topic and should be deleted but could you please post something about all the dropping sites?

    At first it was a trickle but now it’s like the Nile River and still no comments from anyone at Google about it.

    Thanks,

  182. RF

    I am a big fan og Google and you Matt…but this is stupid and unfair to the very people that have helped make Google what it is. I’ve been using Google since 2000 and this makes me feel betrayed. Please don’t become another Microsoft.

  183. Ian

    If you’re buying links for the visitor traffic (as opposed to PageRank) is to buy them in a form that doesn’t affect search engines

    There’s no way that the marketing people for every company out there (especially non-webby companies like high street stores or mom/pop sites) ought to know this – for them, they’re just buying advertising exposure. They might not even know that it will help/hurt their ranking in search engines.

  184. Reading all of this page, I’m wondering what will happen to paid web directories?

    They are usually human edited and can provide relevant listing and I do think paying to be listed is fair and can even help search engines!

  185. just some guy

    Thanks for the easy way to report paid links! :) Just reported craigslist for having posts that contain links.

  186. fred weiss

    Hi matt
    Just curious. If i have a Women’s Clothing news site and a designer offers me money for a direct link (yes for PR). Does it matter? Assume that the designer’s site is decent with original content.

    Matt, are you saying selling links for PR is not “allowed” or is it still a matter of whether the link is on topic and the destination site provides topical, unique content? If i reported a link like that, even sent in a copy of the receipt for the purchase, does it matter for a “good” link?

    I guess, i’m asking:
    Is a good link, always a good link?

    thanks matt.

    Loved your efforts a PubCon last nov. very helpful

  187. If Google goes ahead in implementing this and is successful, I think that would be great! There are lots of webmasters out there who cannot buy hundreds of links and keep getting more. This way, only the big sites were getting more and more big and getting more backlinks, which was in a way unfair to the smaller sites out there.

  188. Jeff

    Matt,

    I hope you’re finished doing your chores.

    Google should be commended for taking this step to end the chaos they started when introducing Pagerank. I Giggle when I hear people brag about the PR of their website, while it lacks any hint of quality. That’s like Uwe Boll going out and buying an Oscar for one of his movies.

    But the thing is you CAN’T buy an Oscar, but you CAN buy PR. So until you guys get that fixed, I’m off to buy me a big juicy link :)

    PS @ Multi-Worded Adam
    “Would you guys who are complaining rather see Google implement something like this, maybe give a few hints after the fact, not ask for our input…”
    That IS giving input and NOT complaining

  189. Art

    We never ever bought links for our clients’ sites until we realized that in the competitive markets it was impossible to rank high, without buying text ad links. The “old fashioned way” of using metrics to choose keywords, on page optimization, content syndication, press releases seem to take a back seat over buying from PR 8 sites. I guess Daily Cal has already been “outted” on this forum, but how many here think that Aaron Swartz’s excellent site has ANYTHING to do with payday loans(except that the payday loans guy would like to get a reference from a PR-8 site). I love reading his “raw thoughts”, heck I even contribute to it when I have something to add. Matt Cutts even mentioned Aaron’s sites in his blog posts….which leaves me confused.
    Ultimately, the SEO’s are judged by results. If paid links are “policed” and can be done fairly(IMO an extremely difficult job), then all’s fair. Webmasters will learn other ways to find an edge(which may even entail honest hard work :-) ). Otherwise, it’s just tattling and beggar thy neighbor at best and witch hunt reminescent of Gestapo and KGB in the worst case. Even if Google uses the data to automate the process of paid link detection, the algorithms will be skewed to include the sites that have been tattled upon, while others will work around(by detecting what works and what doesn’t). It may take a few weeks or months, and on a micro scale some offenders will suffer, but there’s too much money at stake for people to not try and game the system. And game they will.

    Final thought for Google: Be careful what you ask for! If results become more relevant, people will reduce their usage of PPC.

  190. Heather Paquinas

    Bah, who would pay for links?

  191. I will immediately report to the form and report the google search page for paid links due to adsense. Heil Matt.

  192. nsh

    http://laughingsquid.com/ have been selling links for a while now (via text link ads). As you can see, the links such as “Moving Companies I-mate PDA prices Great Fundraisers Compare Prices World Phones MySpace Layouts myspace layouts”

    Interestingly, the “great” bit of fundraisers is in black text (hidden/invisible text).

    I have complained to google about this issue a few months ago, but they never got back to me.

    From this its quite clear that big sites are allowed to use hidden text and sell link ads.

    Frankly, I’m disappointed, I think it’s time Google stopped talking about such issues if they are clearly going to turn a blind eye to high profile violators.

  193. I look forward to the day when we get some competition back into the search engine market. Google are going the way of all before them and turning into the bully of the internet.

  194. SimonM

    This scares me – what proof is needed for you to decide that a site has been buying/selling links? Do you take the informants word for it? Does the site owner get to defend themselves if reported? Will you inform sites if you take action against them? What penalties will be imposed?

    There are a lot of sites selling links that are very careful not to advertise the fact that they’re doing this so surely this won’t solve anything, just make people extra careful when buying and selling links.

    I have a “sponsored links” section on one of my sites – none of those links are actually paid links but are link exchanges with other sites that I like and are relevant. However, other people may see this and decide that someone must have paid me to put the links up..

    Also, what happens to directory sites which charge a review fee?

    Anyway, I’m sure a lot of people are going to have concerns over this, some clarification would be nice..

    Thanks..

    Simon

  195. Justin Cook

    I work for a technology company. We haven’t bought any links yet, but I know that two of our major competitors do.

    I could simply go out and report the sites they’re buying links on to ‘bring them down’.

  196. Matt, can you comment on directories asking for paid review/inclusion, Yahoo directory & BOTW?

  197. Tom

    He can’t is the answer because this idea is ill conceived and inherently flawed. How on earth can Google tell the difference between which links are paid, which are there as link-exchanges and which are there because the webmaster is genuinely interested in the content of the target site. They can’t is the answer. The only way this will work is by tit for tat tip-offs by competing webmasters.

  198. Moves like this seem to indicate the flaws / limitations in the entire concept of “inbound” links and “citations” being among the more important factors in determining relevancy/ ranking.

  199. Why ndon’t we look at the paid link argument in a couple ways?

    1). Philosophical
    It could be argued that every link is a paid link. It’s a question of degree and intent. If I obtain a link from a non-profit site for a professional association because I am a paid member of that association, and they have a links page for paid members, then technically that is a paid link. But my intent was not to fool search engines. Then again, some folks will pay to be members in such associations just to get the .org link, in hopes of improving rank. Same link, but with two different motives and intents. This scenario isn’t as blatant as others, so I could see where Google could consider both of these “paid” links to be acceptable. Now if a company chooses to join 40 professional associations just so they can obtain 40 inbound links from .org sites, then something just -feels- wrong.

    2). Practical
    If Google’s objective for the searcher is to provide a satisfying search experience, then Google has every right to do whatever they want to ferret out any scenario that attempts to circumvent Google’s objective. At the same time, I can envision scenarios where the searcher’s experience was in fact -better- because of some type of “compensated” link strategy performed by the sites appearing in the results. These two scenarios conflict, and I see no possible way for an algorithm to determine
    human intent with 100% accuracy.

    3). Realistic
    An algorithm today has to behave both as a lie detector -and- a resource discover. Google has been up front with us about what they do and don’t like for years. Google’s cards have always been on the table. They have not equivocated. They do not like it when people buy links as a way of affecting Google’s results.

    It has been my experience that people rarely buy multiple high value links
    by accident. I’ve seen it happen a few times, but it’s the exception for people to be SEO/SEM victims. Don’t be coy. You know what you are doing is a gamble, but you gamble anyway :) Ultimately we only have one choice to make. We either follow Google’s reco’s or we don’t. Nobody is forcing anything on us. Like the speed limit, we can -choose- to drive faster, and usually don’t get caught. Like the speed limit, we have no right to act shocked if we are pulled over.

    -ew

  200. What about link exchange reporting then?

  201. General question and a comment with lots of unanswerable questions:

    Question: Does anyone have positive experience gaining traffic from Text Link Ads/Brokers? By positive, I mean that the channel drives conversions that provide more than 200% ROAS?

    Comment: I really dislike this idea. I feel that it will promote additional black hat linking techniques. It just seems too difficult to determine whether they are truly paid or not. If my competitor has a great link, what keeps me from telling Google that they paid for it? How does Google determine whether I’m lying or not?

  202. Hi Matt
    a few months ago I got a pn at abakus forum:

    “hello einfach , I have had paid for a list at ebay , the boy promised me links from your domain, …. where is my link?””

    My eyes are bigger than the moon and the next galaxy. I know that I whether sell links nor buy for it – ( no adwords for ‘my’ webdesign ) –
    [ I am not mother theresa, only a poor webdesigner . I have had not enough money to promote at this way and this days I don't need it ;)]

    Many phones and more than one pn and I got the guy from ebay.. a 14 year ‘old’ boy – his mothers name was in the impressum/about ….

    My kids are older than this 14 year old guy -…
    a very long phone -mother to mother …

    but after this post here: I know I have to bring an action against the mother of this boy: slander /libel

    But I can’t bring an action against anonym *spam reports* ……

    I can’t do nothing if a competitor jealousy of my first place this times fill out a spam report like : Monika sell links, Monika buy links ….

    If PR is ‘credit’ for a website – nofollow is discredit for the website – I can’t do that, because I’m using a dot de Domain. A german judge have said: all internet user are contend – because all of them would like to have ‘internetuser’.

    If I’m using nofollow —- does google pay the expenses for disuasion?

    Judas got 30 Schillings for his *spamreport* – ……….

    I’m mad about this, because I feel helpless about all the negative possibilities.

    PR is like the jewelz for the houswife or like the biggest car in the wall streets of the whole wide world…

    google will discredit his own status symbol ….
    this made my laughing ….. “””sorcerer’s apprentice”””

    insane world

    regards
    Monika

  203. Matt… Google says it doesn’t do no evil but I got to say that facilitating evil is the same thing as doing evil.

    What is to stop competitors from making false reports regarding paid links? You probably answered this one already but I just got to add my 2 cents (albeit Candian 2 cents worth 1.72 cents US).

    At the bottom of my site I carry links to other sites that look like they could be paid links but they are not. I try to give 1 way links to sites that I think my readers might actually enjoy. So now I have to worry about how those might get reported as “Paid Links”?

    As I read through this post and comments I couldn’t help but sing an old South Park song from the episode where the boys meet up a family of Mormons. For those who don’t kow the show or the episode I am referrinf to… The song would sing about some historical references in Mormonism and the chorus would then ring out “Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb” before breaking into more Mormonisms.

    I think a parody of Google by South Park is long over due, perhaps a show similar to the “Walmart” episode would be appropriate.

  204. Hi Matt
    Sorry to bother again. I just forgot to mention that — the example I gave above about a BLOG and its backlinks is very very well known to you and perhaps you know the owner too ( did little bit research on you). Naturaly – I avoided posting the URL — to avoid great embarrasment for certain people.

    As it stands — I just analyzed the first 6 backlinks – 1 Free PR9 -it is very temporary -manipulated just ahead of PR. It will be no longer a backlink after few days.( I personally know how to get them to– but I don’t do it)

    The next 2 PR8 backlinks are of the same type — manipulated.

    The 3rd PR8 backlink — comes from a BLOG — and either it is a paid advertisement or a link -exchange scheme -both of wihich are illegal according to Google -or so it seems.

    The next PR7 – it is possible to get it free if the BLOGGER is a friend.

    The third is –either paid or exchange.

    So long — for white -hat SEO of Google and your known BLOGs.

    If you want more analysis – please just drop me an e-mail — I’ll send you a list of site of renowned status ( Google’s Webmaster Guide language) -only PR9 & 8 which are selling links by way of either banner or paid advertisement. I’ll send you detailed proof of my claims.

    So — I stand my by argument that if Google takes any repressive action against sites involved in paid links and somehow finds the audacity to BAN them — Google’s search result will return skeleton results. First they will have to ban – dir.yahoo.com second — they will have to ban Lycoz -because it offers paid listing in their directory.

    Good luck

  205. I suspect Matt has released a shot in the dark to gather some feedback, before the spam team really starts to tweak on an automatic way for the detection of paid links. IMHO is Google at the moment manually flagging the crowd, who is selling or buying links and (no, I am not a G worshiper) I guess, they know what they do, at least from the technological side of it. All our rants and flips here are just food for the next brainstorm session, titles “How to decrease workload from the paid links flaggers” in the Plex.

    From the scientific point of view, that problem “in not just managing the worlds information, but RANKING it” is a very serious one. It is like a cheerleader group stampeding through your wafer microprocessor factory, while you try to create the new 16 core processor. It is only, that tricky webmasters are stampeding through the algorithm. But honestly, I believe these efforts are in vein, because I saw the first sites today, which offer an article exchange with links – as an answer to Matts posting here! Now, these links placed in 1 page articles do really not look like paid links, but they are. The question, I have asked about 2 years ago over at WMW stands: Is a paid link not the sign of a quality site? Who the hell would pay for a link to a stupid site? If the site is converting more visits into money than it costs to buy links to pump it up, it might be a good one or the guy will stop buying links in 6 month anyhow!

  206. Hmmm, I see bh’s using this against true wh’s as an easy way to further manipulate the serps.

    Gathering the information is one thing – how you will use it and training your algo to recognize the difference and act accordingly is another.

    Either way a very risky element.

    GaryTheScubaGuy

  207. Back in 2000 when i first build a website.. I tried to provide the user with as much information as possible on the subject of the site. The user typed in a keyword found my site and the information they were looking for was all related. I continued to build the site with the latest information possible. Site grew at a decent pace and visitors were happy.
    Then came the backlinks into play, site dropped in serp and instead of spending hours and hours a week building quality content, I had to work on backlinks to get back in rankings. It was impossible to do both and provide the same quality contents as before. I never bought links but had to search and spend tons of hours trying to get links just to get some rankings.
    Sites that use to give links to sites they thought had good information quit doing this as they felt they were getting penalized for to many out going links. So getting rid of paid links I think is awesome. More level playing field even though I would prefer the serps were based on quality content and not backlinks.

  208. Matt has answered that many times. If you buy links use nofollow and never expect or pay for PR. If you sell links let your customers know upfront that you use nofollow.

    That’s bullshit. As Lea pointed out, if you don’t endorse the site then you are interfering with your users experience by allowing them to go to a site that you would recommend them not going to, and if you do endorse it then there is no reason to nofollow it. Usually is it isn’t about PR, and many times it isn’t about the quantity of traffic that a paid link will bring, but rather the type of people who would then become aware of your site.

    The nofollow suggestion, as has been pointed out, is one of Google’s biggest hypocrisies, and in direct opposition of their instructions on this page:

    http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769

    Quality guidelines – basic principles

    Make pages for users, not for search engines.

    @Lea – maybe people such as us can include a box around the ads with a fieldset tag stating: “Personally Reviewed Sponsored Links” :)

  209. JB

    Matt

    You’re asking for a specific type of feedback here on link buying.

    Does that mean you feel happy you have a system to tackle the well known link network that so many (some big) companies participate in and also the buying of links from the well known link brokers, again which a lot of big corporate companies seem to be doing these days, in fact there aren’t many that are not!! (Except those that don’t rank highly!)

    These two examples, I would of thought, would be the easiest to spot via the algorithm, but I see so many sites which consistenly have ranked highly for a long time, using such methods and continue to do so.

    It takes me less than a minute to spot this type of stuff.

    Any thoughts you feel able to share on these issues would be welcome.

  210. Tom

    I dont think this is a good ideals :( This is another way said not to Abrite :)

  211. Mark

    Hi, matt. I submit spam report for this site: https://adwords.google.com/select/Login http://dir.yahoo.com/ and more …

    Google now use SS methods … ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel ) Great…

  212. Michael VanDeMar, there are other mechanisms such as robots.txt which fall in the same realm as the nofollow link attribute. Users don’t directly interact with robots.txt, but it’s a tool to help search engines understand your site better, who in turn are working to serve their user bases. I don’t see a real difference. Yours and others’ argument that rel=nofollow goes against the ‘make pages for users, not for search engines’ doesn’t ring true for me. Do users typically directly interact with META tag data?

  213. You know Matt, with all your spam hunting you seem to lose focus on neutrality. Also you (Google) are being extremely vague. If you don’t approve of buying links then why are sites that sell links still indexed?

    You obviously have some kind of rule as to what is a bad paid link and what is a good paid link.

    It´s pretty normal to pay for advertising, but for some strange reason Google seems to think you´re not allowed to pay for a link. Only if it’s hidden in a javascript (Adwords) you´re allowed to pay for it? Well I am actually sure that Google doesn’t think like that, but you have to realize that it certainly looks like that.

    So you (Google) has a problem with detecting the intention of a link, because that´s really the issue here. Is the link there to simply give a visitor somehwere useful to click on or is it a useless link.

    I don’t understand why you (Google) think that it being paid or not has anything to do with it being a useful link. Sure, there are paid links that are of no use to the visitors of that page. But then again, there are many links that were not paid for that are also completely useless to a visitor. The same way there are perfectly useful links that were paid for, just like there are perfectly useful links that were not paid for.

    Just for informational purposes. I don’t buy links, nor do I sell links. I have no interest in a reduced focus of Google on paid links. I just think Google is starting to get blinded by its own arrogance because its been the best and biggest search engine in the world for way too long.

  214. Jules

    People complain about google becoming / have become the internet police. This isnt the case, they simply have a popular website and as such can do pretty much as they please with it.. Im sure that in time some other web2.0 (ridiculous sounding) site will rival the great G but for now, you want to be indexed with Google then you obey their rules – no matter how aloof, detached and superior they choose to become..

    Personally i think its all gone a bit far now with this “content is king” guideline for webmasters. For what they really mean is “ONLY unique content will be tolerated, syndicate any information on your site at your peril”.. IMHO 2 years from now google will simply have achieved a self fulfilling prophecy, the epitomy of an MFA site with supplemental blogger listings on page 12.. Great, then we can all get back to building sites that float our boat instead of worrying about something as irrelevant as PR and the reporting of black hat PR manipulators to the teacher..

  215. @Mark
    >Google now use SS methods … ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel ) Great…

    That’s clearly out of line, politely put.

  216. What made google great was giving us a better search experience through innovation. For 5 years they’ve relied on one over arching principle whose time is up. They need to innovate, not try to monopolize mind share with outdated principles – bandages like getting people to report who is using payperpost.com will and should fail.

    Google has created a monetization for ‘page rank’ and published their popularity index. Website owners should not be penalized for capitalizing on their own fame. Some people do this through paid links – the quality sites will have full disclosure about sponsors and users know when they are being sold the Brooklyn Bridge.

    One last thought on this topic, Jason Calacanis you are the poster child for full disclosure, shouldn’t that include your relationship with everyone on your blogroll. The giant ad for ThisNext on the side of your blog? Would you really have that on your site if it wasn’t your buddy Gordon Gould’s product? Not all sponsored links are paid, actually the most insidious are nepotistic. Google how are going to hunt that down? Are we going to have to add yet another tag to every outbound link. Don’t try to police the web through scare tactics and informants — please go back to innovating.

    More about this on my blog.

  217. For those sites that are marked by google as ones selling ads, how do they remove this blackmark or penalty once they remove paid adds or implement nofollows on them?

    I am sure there are some people who may decide to give up paid ads after the contracted time with a particular advertiser is finished. Will there be a reinclusion type scenario for this?

    Also, how well does this your spam protection work?

  218. Words like “arrogance” are sprinkled throughout these comments as well as in related discussions elsewhere.

    The undertone I’m reading into it is that the webmaster community is hungry for a viable alternative to Google. All it will take is one competitor led by someone who has the necessary oomph to kick down a few doors and get things done, and people will abandon Google in one massive exodus. It will start with a trickle, then as word spreads it will become a stream, and by the time it becomes a torrent you at Google will be reduced to spectators. Then you can start calculating your net worth based on $10 per share because you’re sharp enough to know what even a sniff of an exodus will cause on the stock market.

    I trust that people at Google are smart enough to see the red flags waving. They might not be many right now and they might not be large red billboards. However, ignore them at your peril.

    Perceptions of Google arrogance are fueled by many of the objections raised here and elsewhere.

    For example, you spend employee bandwidth on things that really should be low priority side-issues until such time that you’ve solved the real spam issue.

    You also give the impression of insulting inconsistency with things such as allowing cloaking by a well known media outlet, paid links by large companies, to name just two, whilst you clamp down, devalue and often kick out of the index completely the smaller players who are no guiltier than the larger players.

    You’ve created a commodity (PR) that any nit-wit could have foreseen would be commoditized, and now you bare your teeth at anybody who dares to commoditize it.

    The smaller players are the jackals that will destroy the Google vineyard because they will the ones that will start the exodus. The big guys will hang around a bit but they will always follow the money.

    Even though it would also invoke an avalanche of criticism, I think the best course of action would be to close the curtain of secrecy. Remove PR completely, have a few different ranking algorithms that you switch on and switch off at random intervals, and don’t tell anyone what criteria you use or how you rank sites for relevance.

    In other words, don’t create another commodity.

  219. One addition to “closing the curtain of secrecy.”

    If nobody knows how to “optimize for Google SERPs,” everyone will spend all their energy on optimizing their sites for human consumption and popularity.

  220. For some reason my earlier comment seems to have been lost. I’ll repost it here.
    ——–
    Words like “arrogance” are sprinkled throughout these comments as well as in related discussions elsewhere.

    The undertone I’m reading into it is that the webmaster community is hungry for a viable alternative to Google. All it will take is one competitor led by someone who has the necessary oomph to kick down a few doors and get things done, and people will abandon Google in one massive exodus. It will start with a trickle, then as word spreads it will become a stream, and by the time it becomes a torrent you at Google will be reduced to spectators. Then you can start calculating your net worth based on $10 per share because you’re sharp enough to know what even a sniff of an exodus will cause on the stock market.

    I trust that people at Google are smart enough to see the red flags waving. They might not be many right now and they might not be large red billboards. However, ignore them at your peril.

    Perceptions of Google arrogance are fueled by many of the objections raised here and elsewhere.

    For example, you spend employee bandwidth on things that really should be low priority side-issues until such time that you’ve solved the real spam issue.

    You also give the impression of insulting inconsistency with things such as allowing cloaking by a well known media outlet, paid links by large companies, to name just two, whilst you clamp down, devalue and often kick out of the index completely the smaller players who are no guiltier than the larger players.

    You’ve created a commodity (PR) that any nit-wit could have foreseen would be commoditized, and now you bare your teeth at anybody who dares to commoditize it.

    The smaller players are the jackals that will destroy the Google vineyard because they will the ones that will start the exodus. The big guys will hang around a bit but they will always follow the money.

    Even though it would also invoke an avalanche of criticism, I think the best course of action would be close the curtain of secrecy. Remove PR completely, have a few different ranking algorithms that you switch on and switch off at random intervals, and don’t tell anyone what criteria you use or how you rank sites for relevance.

    In other words, don’t create another commodity.

  221. @Taltos

    >For those sites that are marked by google as ones selling ads, how do they remove this blackmark or penalty once they remove paid adds or implement nofollows on them?

    I guess a reinclusion request would suffice. It’s just a question to regain the ability to pass link love, not to remove a penalty, so perhaps Matt will recommend something else. I could think of an improved algo detecting removed or nofollow’ed formerly undisclosed paid links properly, reinstating somewhat trust in linkage automatically. Works this way with hidden text and such stuff.

  222. Blog Owner

    #
    Dave (Original) Said,
    quote/
    April 16, 2007 @ 3:51 am

    RE: “But as Google treats BLOGs favorably”
    ================================
    I doubt that very much.

    I also doubt Google will ever “ban” any page or site for buying links. It seems clear to me that Google would simply ignore paid links and not treat them the same as true votes. With “votes” being the keyword.
    /quote

    Wrong! My site has been de-indexed straight after the announcement of this post. Matt pretty much confirmed it a few dozen comments ago.

  223. One last thought for the day, as an alternative to closing the curtain of secrecy.

    Instead of trying to play the role of the god of relevance judgment, give control to the web surfer.

    On the Google search page, give people a few choices, like:

    1. Show me everything you got.
    2. Show me the results but exclude those that were artificially attained.
    3. Show me the results with your toughest spam filters applied.

    And so on…

    Then nobody can accuse you of being biased, prejudiced or inconsistent because you will give people the choice of what they want to see. Your filters and algorithms will then be a service to the web surfer as opposed to a bone of contention.

  224. All of you should stop worrying about buying links or working on building links. All you have to do is create a free counter and get it placed on a non-english forum that generates thousands of non-english pages with a link to your site through the counter. Once that is done, you can achieve top 5 positioning for highly competitive search terms.

    I hope you are all staring and blinking right now, but that is exactly what is happening for results for “website design” (without quotations).

    Austinecom.com is sitting at #5 for the above search term, and they only have 11 pages in their entire site, but they have over 1800 links from the non-english language forum from a counter placed at the bottom of the page. Consult with the Yahoo site explorer.

    I am sorry, but this kind of crap really pisses me off…

  225. wlodi

    Hi Matt,

    paid links you say?
    can you get tripadvisor.com out of google SERPs for buying links within 7 days?

    Here is a sample of their rankings by Yahoo!
    http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/advsearch?p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tripadvisor.com&bwm=i&bwmo=d&bwmf=u

    I know these guys are good in travel, but they obviously buy links.

    Once I see them banned I will start to trust you. In the meantime, I will go back to buying my links.

    cheers,

  226. Quote Mark
    >Google now use SS methods … ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel ) Great…

    I have to support Sebastian here that this comment by Mark was completely inappropriate. Before you make comments like that, make sure that you got your history knowledge straight.

    Gestapo would have been the reference, if you want to pick something from the 3rd Reich that is at least somewhat related. It would have at least demonstrated that you know what you are talking about. However, even the comparison to the Gestapo would be inappropriate, and off the mark.

    On a side note: I referred to the East German Stasi, but I did not compared Google with the Stasi, but how that system worked. Over one in hundred people was an unofficial informant and a lot of them defamed other people for the wrong reasons. An environment of mistrust was created, which worked well for the establishment for a while until people figured out who to trust and who not and got organized without being exposed early by false friends that spied on them and then reported back to the MfS. The rest is history.

  227. are you saying Google is the only one allowed to sell text link advertising?

    what happened to Do No Evil?

    -kpaul

  228. Kyle Williams

    Matt, seriously… address paid directory issues.

    Enough people are asking about this.

  229. Wow,

    Now I understand why no one was pointing this out when I comment on another article here:

    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/hidden-links/#comment-101916

    Yes, I agree entirely that even bringing this up looks bad for Google.

  230. Hmmm, this doesn’t appear to be an insignifican’t can of worms?

    In one corner, there’s people that would quite rightly be upset about the stiffling of free enterprise.

    In another corner, there’s the argument that well… “why should the rich get richer”, particularly when your trying to be fair to all content providers – that applies to webmaster’s selling links, and webmasters that are in a position to buy links. Clearly.

    Conversely, marketing is a major expenditure in most businesses. Whether thats sponsorship (e.g. like in sporting events, and even sponsoring of TV programs nowadays), direct TV advertising, publications, etc…………and links. Should marketing in certain “legal” ways be penalised? Should a search engine have that kind of influence or authority? Is that entirely constitutional?

    Many response comments here have commented on the enforcement, and abuse of attempts to enforce policy’s targeting this topic – and they seem like reasonable points to me.

    The final perspective, as it appears to me, is of course that of Googles. Why wouldn’t they want to improve their search results, and prevent anyone from attempting to manipulate the system/index. Actually, I’ve often wondered why the PageRank of any page is displayed in the toolbar if you didn’t want to invite webmasters to attempt to abuse it? To that end, for developers, there’s actually lots of components available out there that you can buy to enable you to determine the pagerank of any URL – and lets face it, there’s a very short list of reasons why anyone would want to do that. Isn’t there?

    It’s entirely understandable why Google, as would anyone, want to protect and improve their systems and results. Afterall – it’s their “raison detre”. At some point though, there must surely become a responsibility to the people and businesses that rely on the service provided – as well as to the users of the service. Again though, a line must be drawn, and in fairness it probably shouldn’t be a very thin, faint line. It probably should be clear and unmistakable. The problem might be though, where to draw that line such that it’s fair to search users, publishers, and of course to the provider of the search service.

    It’s a pickle and no mistake.

    I can’t even decide if I think buying links, if you can afford it, is entirely a bad thing at all? I can’t decide if selling links, if you’ve worked hard to achieve your rank and position, is entirely a bad thing?

    I guess, as others have said here, the thing that concerns me most is how to determine if a links was paid – and is the problem that the link was paid? Should in fact all links just be dismissed? I have a small number of links on our site that might at first seem to be suspect (not sure I should bring attention to that here – but er…??), but they aren’t. But who would know…other than me, as the webmaster? And who is to say that I’m wrojng to “vote” for the sites that I link to without nofollow? At the end of the day, I am linking/voting to help them increase their pagerank – of course I am – but not because I was paid, but because I genuinely want too, for my own personal reasons. E.g. 1 site is another site I am building, and the others are great services run by a close friends/ family, in which I totally believe and would do anything I could to help them.

    It’s a real pickle.

    I would love to know the details of how the anti-spam team are planning on experimenting with this issue. Actually, thinking on that, what I’m really thinking is that ignorance is bliss. My reading this thread is actually the result of a post on an SEO forum I follow, and probably like most people commenting it’s not exactly made my day. Not so much because I disagree with the thinking behind it, not so much that I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing; not so much if I think Google is taking too big a step to protect and improve its results, and not so much for any other reason other than it concerns me that decisions (automated or otherwise) might be made about my intentions behind personal decisions I have made that might effect either my site, or sites that I freely choose to link too – or my future ability (should I decide to go in that direction) to make a few bucks as a result of my hard work.

    It’s a pickle.

    I kinda wish I hadn’t seen this thread now to be honest. It’s given me more to think about than I was hoping for at this time of night, and makes me wonder whether or not I should consider a career move.

    I have to admit, I don’t like that webmasters try to manipulate the system, let alone the so called “SEO’s” that provide the *cough cough* expert advice. I am astonished at the time, money, and effort that some people put into their attempts to manipulate the system, that could so easily have been put to good and legitimate use, and would actually have had the desired and honest effect as the nonsense they attempt.

    I would love to buy the world a coke, and all sit around like hippies singing about peace and harmony, but thats not going to happen. Measures do have to be taken to ensure that we all play fair. Sometimes those measures won’t be effective, and sometimes the ignorant will suffer for their lack of informed advice.

    The internet isn’t just about search results. It’s actually all things to all people – commercial, hobby, personal, relationships, work/study, reference, shopping, etc… the sooner we get rid of the spammers, the utterly useless “content”, and the fraudsters, the better. I wouldn’t like to see an end to free speech/spirit/legitimate enterprise, but it must be so difficult (sometimes) to spot the difference.

    It’s a pickle!

    Anything that can be done to improve the lot of the honest webmaster (and SEO!) is a good thing. A level playing field for all, irrespective of marketing budget is surely a good thing. If that weeds out 80% of the worlds so called “SEO’s” in the process, I think that can only be a good thing too. If you have the answer, and it works, I wonder if you’ll follow the spirit of sharing on the internet and provide the insight to your competitors so as to level the playing field for you too? hehe ..?

    Please keep us all updated on progress?

    Best of luck!

  231. Some of the largest blogs on the web with very high Google PR’s sell text links off their site. How are you going to decide which ones you penalize for it? Depending on whether or not you like the site?

    Take a look at the homepage of TechCrunch, they sell text links.
    “Want to buy text links on TechCrunch?”
    Text Ad $301.00 for one week:

    Is it just that Google does not want anyone else making any money from text links?

  232. Brad S.

    Wouldn’t the easiest solution just be to not disclose pagerank? If it’s a value that only Google knows, then there’s no buying links to game the system.

    Afterall, we all know there are PR7 sites that get no traffic, and PR2 sites that get thousands of visitors a day.

    I don’t think anyone really likes paying for a PR7 link that doesn’t send traffic or help make sales on whatever product or service they offer.

    Sites owners that are willing to spend their money to buy traffic (not just links) probably do have more to offer and probably have spent more effort developing good content, products and services that they believe visitors would find useful, or they wouldn’t waste their money advertising (if PR wasn’t a factor).

    My 2 cents — hide PR and you will change the landscape substantially and for the better.

  233. Blue

    Hi Matt,

    I run a free directory and only add sites that I review and like, but I also have one paid sponsor link in each category, they are clearly labeled “Please visit our sponsor” and they’re image links.

    So do image links like that also need a rel nofollow or it that just for text links?

    Also, will the site that I link to with a rel nofollow suffer any negative effects? Because isn’t that like saying “I don’t trust this site.”

    One more, some of my sponsors are also in my free directory, so will google think it’s weird to link to the site once with rel nofollow and once without?

  234. Dave (Original)

    RE: “So, you are saying that Matt should give more information? I agree.”
    =========================================

    Oh no, Google has a LOT to hide. Besides, if Matt did spill the beans that he know about you and I would be far from the only ones to know.

    RE: “Why would I run around gathering data for someone when they won’t tell me how it will be used, and won’t compensate me for doing that work?”
    ==========================================

    You will be compensated. Those who now buy their way up the SERPs will fall back x positions making room for those who abide by the guidelines to prosper.

    RE: “What’s really funny… this data could affect all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.
    =======================================

    Data doesn’t affect anyone. ALL Google is trying to do is level the playing field for those without deep pockets.

    RE: ” If I were running a SE and I wanted to identify people who were overly concerned with affecting their own rankings, it would be those people most eager to turn people in for something.”
    =====================================

    No doubt some that turn others in for spamming are the real black hats. However, it would be ludicrous to focus on those who do report spam!

    RE: “Know why? Because those are the people who are looking. The people trying to influence their own search engine rankings are the people who are paying attention.”
    ==========================================

    Nope, it most cases site owners and searchers are sick of black hats buying links and all other forms of cheating their way up the SERPs. This is all about Googles end users and little to do with site owners.

    RE: “I have several websites, and I don’t know what my rankings are… don’t really know who the competition is, either. I’m busy running websites. Know what else? I’ll link to who I like, how I like, without fear, because I’m running my website the best way I know how.”
    =======================================

    I run one site and stay within the SEs guidelines. I too link to many sites, most of which ARE my competition. I also use AdSense to advertise my competition. When I 1st uploaded my site many years ago, I requested link exchanges (Google wasn’t number 1 then) from as many similar sites as I could. For about 1 year the links were my number 1 traffic bringer. I now just link to sites that I feel my site visitors would find use in. My forum members probably link to similar sites about 20 times a day! It’s silly to think any site visitor will not search, so why not make it easy for them from my site? (rhetorical).

    RE: “Trip over yourselves trying to please Google, spend your time telling them that YOU are a search engine manipulator by saying “Hey, look at me and what I can tell you”, and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, Google or not.”
    ========================================

    I use to think that way many years ago. However, after reading the 3 major SE guidelines it became apparent that these guys are seeking out what their users want. Sooooooo, the best way, IMO, is focus 90%+ of my users.

  235. Dave (Original)

    RE: “Hi Dave
    Although Matt mentions about a new technique — is it clever enough or should I say sophisticated enough to differentiate which one is paid and which one natural?”
    ========================================

    I guess only time will tell.

    RE: “I believe humans are the most intelligent entities so far and if humans find it difficult how could they make an program as you suggest?”
    ==========================================

    I don’t think humans do find it difficult to spot paid links for PR. It’s simply not practicle or viable.

    RE: “I aslo mentioned I buy links –by way of donating to freeware sites — what about those? Do I buy?”
    =======================================
    IMO Google can already idendify most self-promtion type sites such as shareware sites, directories etc

    RE: “About “rel=nofollow” — has not this concept come to stop spammers on blogs and forums? Has this technique worked? The answer is NO. I get more than 50 trackback comments on my BLOG -with links to nude and drugs sites. I have got fed up to delete them everyday -so just ignore them. I have Spam Karma as protection.”
    ======================================

    It was never intended to stop spammers. The intention is to tell SE’s that you are not sure that the site being linked to is a ‘bad neighborhood’ or not. When used, Google will NOT see the link as a vote.

  236. Dave (Original)

    RE: “I have always assumed that Yahoo does carry weight because the Google Webmaster guidelines say “Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site”…
    =======================================

    IMO the keyword there are “find” and “index”. The fact that the suggestion of submitting to Yahoo etc is under the heading “When your site is ready” sort of re-enforces that. Also, it is 1 point and another point under the same heading suggest site maps. However, we will likely never know.

  237. Dj

    Does this mean that you will finally be penalising the major newspapers.

    I have noticed that they have been selling links and banner ads for years without impunity and without penalty. And they have the nerve to call it advertising.

    And only those with deep pockets can afford it.

    Although this may cause some trouble, as I hear that BMW advertise quite a bit in this way. lol.

    Don’t you think this will cause major problems as to the ethics of paid links and advertising. If you allow advertising in newspapers and such, then surely this will defeat what you set out to do, and “only” the rich will be able to afford it.

  238. Brian

    Matt,

    So, content doesn’t mean squat to google now? The results your turning up are NOT the best results for an inquiry. You have results coming in from 2002 for goodness sake on certain search terms and NONE of these results have CONTENT!!!! Do a search on Caribbean Cruises, other than Royal Caribbean-who obviously was PUT in position 1, the rest of these sites have little or NO caribbean cruise content. Look at cruises.com-a simple, one page search engine?????? And not 1 reference to Caribbean cruises. Sorry, but you turned the dial a little too much this time and it is COSTING everyone-including Google.

  239. Dave (Original)

    RE: “My brother-in-law is an Anti-Trust attorney, and he said that one of the signs of anti-trust is a business that discourages competition by limiting the business practices of another under threat of duress or retalitation.”
    ========================================

    I haven’t any threats or such? IMO, Google wants to idendify paid links simply so they are not confused with votes. Besides, I’m quite sure Google has legal advice and backing :)

  240. Dave (Original)

    RE: “I can always put my competitor’s link on a large number of websites available on many sites like text-link-ads and report it? What its gonna do?”
    =========================================

    Besides waste a lot of peoples time it may boost your competitor’s site above yours…………for a short while, or a long time. At best it will have no bearing at all.

  241. Dave (Original)

    RE: “I’m confused now as to what is considered “legitimate” and what is considered “link buying”?”
    =========================================

    My guess is that Google simply wants to differentiate paid links from votes, the latter passes PR, while the former shouldn’t.

    Unless you sell links for PR and/or rank boosting you have nothing to fear. Those who do have a LOT to fear……….and about time IMO :)

  242. Dave (Original)

    RE: “I suggest you read the following thread at Digital Point:
    http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=300412 One of many showing the dissatisfaction of webmasters ….”
    =========================================

    LOL! Oh I bet most members there are kicking and screaming. The sooner John Scott and DP get off the Web the better off 99.9% of Internet users will be!

    RE:”.. the oppressive, arrogant way Google think they can dictate how we manage our sites.”
    ======================================

    You can run your site anyway you see fit, Google has never dictated anything to Webmasters. It has guidelines for FREE inclusion in it’s Index, the choice is yours.

    I hope the days of piggy backing off Google PR and Webmasters buying their way up the Google SERPs are behind us.

    IF another SE becomes are big as Google the black hats will simply target them. It doing so the SE (whoever that is) will fight back as well.

  243. Dave (Original)

    RE “That’s bullshit. As Lea pointed out, if you don’t endorse the site then you are interfering with your users experience by allowing them to go to a site that you would recommend them not going to, and if you do endorse it then there is no reason to nofollow it. =========================================

    Why do you think you must endorse a site to have a link to it on your own site? Directories don’t endorse sites, forum & blog links are rarely endorsements. Paid links are certainly not endorsements….they are advertisements.

  244. Dave (Original)

    RE: “Wrong! My site has been de-indexed straight after the announcement of this post. Matt pretty much confirmed it a few dozen comments ago.”
    =========================================

    Are you buying or selling links?

  245. You know, Dave, you can use <blockquote> and </blockquote> . ;)

  246. Dave (Original) – Personally, I generally struggle to determine what point your trying to make in your comments, but it’s a giggle to see you have so many opinions, humble or otherwise. hehe

    The comment about anti-trust is misguided, but I do understand the thought process behind it, and lots of people have commented on it here. Clearly many people rely on the business that search traffic provides them, which puts Google into a very reasonsible position. Finding the most appropriate way to deliver accurate search results, and continually improve the service, is the aim of the game for the nice people at Google. Sometimes their policies/measures will make them unpopular, I assume, but it’s all supposed to be for the greater good. Paid links are another form of marketing, but I can understand why they probably shouldn’t count towards PR. However, if that is removed from the equation, what will be the impact on people that sell links as a form of revenue (for some it’s probably their core business) ? Presumably less people will want to buy links, and even more will be far less inclined to pay through the nose for them. Again I have to say, I think that probably is a good thing – but it does worry me how it will be determined that a link is a paid link, as opposed to an honest link & vote.

    Some sites that sell links clearly identify them as sponsored links, so I guess thats fair enough, but not all sites do that. But what about the sites that display links in an ambigious way, such that it could be argued that they look like they might be paid links? What then? Assume they are… or not? Draw up guidelines for how to create links, and how to display them? Any solution that Matts team are working on is likely to be based on mathematical probability. I assume some kind of scoring system to identify the likelihood of links being genuine or paid, and he’s asking us here to provide feedback which can then be used to determine how successful their probability scoring system is. In order to accurately guage such a system will need LOTS of feedback, but they’ll need to be sure the feedback is accurate in the first place – but I’m not sure they can? Can they?

    If a system is put in place to make determinations about links being “paid” or not, it will most certainly have an impact on many businesses, and business practices (for some), but not really detrimental to Googles competitors though. It would actually be good for them all. I suppose.

    I don’t see how such a system could possibly be accurate though? Surely?

  247. I hate to be a drag b/c I love almost anything that involves Google and I think they’re a great company in general – but this method of “filtering” out will be abused by exactly the same people that Google doesn’t want indexed, let alone selling links.

    Just watch the sabotage take fold.

    Peace and love,

    Kyle

  248. Dave (Original)

    You know, Dave, you can use

    and

    Sorry, bad habit :)

  249. Dave (Original)

    BSolveIT, I have no doubt your struggle….in many areas :)

  250. I think it would be interesting to see the whole pagerank info go away.

    If pagerank info was not available publicly it would be difficult for sites selling links based on their pagerank to prove they would affect the sites purchasing. This alone may reduce the number of paid links for search placement.

    I am not sure what benefit comes from it being public other than I wonder why mine dropped resulting in time spent trying to figure out how to get it back up.

    In 2004 my webiste was one of those that new pages would show up within 48 hours of publishing, all pages were indexed, and a large number of our pages were #1 in the search results on the related subject. We have been somewhat clueless on the whole SEO thing and designed our site based on what we felt was best for users so this type of ranking was a pleasant surprise. When people would ask how we did it we would shrug and tell them just design a clean, good site.

    Somewhere around late 2004 to 2005 we started getting bumped by competitors that were working the backlinks heavily (many of which are purchased or part of huge trading schemes). We were’nt as we were still too busy working on a quality site versus SEO stuff. As a result, we started looking at SEO more (which is how we found this blog) and it became a real temptation to start buying links to keep up with these guys. We have not done any of that (other than adding to directories such as bussiness-dot-com) but it is sure tempting based on our reduction in traffic.

    Now in fairness, we also made some changes to our pages and were clueless about the 301 redirect that we have since discovered and that probably hurt us as well but that happened after we saw traffic on a downward spiral.

    So I say, dumping public PR will reduce this kind of gaming to some degree.

  251. Matt

    I think it’s perfect that a page you reference for its all natural seo techniques (http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/calacanis-seos-next-evangelist0307.html) has a link to “buy relevant links” at the bottom of the page.

    This article bothers me on so many levels.

    Let’s say for example, that I am a new local car dealership and I have the largest collection of new cars in town. My website is brand spanking new, and is created with a limited, yet honest, knowledge of SEO. I don’t have time to write reviews for every car ever made, because I’m too busy outside polishing what should be your next dream car, so link building is difficult. The problem is, you never found it because I purchased some links to help give my start up website a little boost and now my site is dead because my competitor, that has one tenth as good a selection, but has been around since the model T and has had time to build links naturally, is feeling threatened and is looking for every excuse he can to hurt my business.

    This is an effort to help keep results clean and natural, but I think it requires some more thought. This may stop some bad people, but might also hurt a lot more good people that don’t have the time, knowledge, or resources to build links naturally?

  252. Blog Owner

    Re: #
    Dave (Original) Said,

    April 16, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

    RE: “Wrong! My site has been de-indexed straight after the announcement of this post. Matt pretty much confirmed it a few dozen comments ago.”
    =========================================

    Are you buying or selling links?

    Selling Links

  253. muckoda

    Hey Matt,

    I want to report to google about the paid links for a site.

    what about my identity ? Is the site owner able to see who report about me or not?

  254. Dave (Original)

    If you report a site the site owner will never know who did the spam report. Not from Google at least.

    Just be aware that spam reports are reviewed by humans at Google but action (if any) is dealt with via algos.

  255. Hey Matt,

    Someone else also pointed this out, Google recommends getting listed in the Yahoo directory which takes payment. How does lie with regards to aforementioned “link buying = no good”:

    http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769

  256. Mukesh

    Matt, why do your strategies always revolve around the SEO community? It’s high time you realize that there are people out there who don’t know what SEO means. They own websites too and they have every right to own a website. What happens when they sell paid links? Did they do anything wrong? Of-course they don’t use nofollow cause they don’t know wat that means.

    This is not google, it’s google’s monopoly speaking. But nothing lasts forever.. keep tat in mind: “This Will Also Pass Away”

  257. Blog Owner, you write one blog post about stopping foreclosure, then prefabricated steel buildings, then debt consolidation loans, then electric scooters, then … You did the same post twice right next to each other and just changed the anchortext between the posts. No offense is intended, but we get complaints about sites like yours a lot. Please put on your user hat and take a fresh look at your site.

    BobR, this isn’t as much the best thread for that, but I’ll see if I can talk about that in the future. The best for us is to see concrete sites mentioned, because it’s much easier to debug.

    RF, I provided a keyword that people could use to give us feedback, because some people were asking how they could tell us about that. I wanted to get the data as well. I want clean search results and a level playing field for sites, so it was a good time to take another look at this issue.

    Carsten, I’ve said before that when you compare people to Nazis, I don’t feel inclined to respond to you. That also applies to your holocaust post you did a few weeks ago.

    SEO Reloaded, your opinion may not be very popular on this thread, but I’ve heard similar sentiment many times. Well said.

    Jeff, I did email all day, but wanted to circle around at least once before heading to bed.

    muckoda, your identity would be confidential. Although I do have to say thanks to the one person who has send 39 different/useful reports in already. I appreciate it, A.

    Dewald ama-Canuck, I was enjoying one version of an interface like that earlier today. One issue is that regular users often think that they want super-duper control with lots of dials to twist, but in practice what an average user wants is a dial that’s set to the right level for them. I like your suggestion a lot though.

    Just to reiterate, I’d be most interested in reports of sites that appear to be trying to game Google’s rankings via paid links that flow PageRank. I appreciate the many responses that we’ve already gotten; the feedback and data that we get will be helpful as we take another look at this issue.

  258. Hi Matt,

    I hope you won’t consider this as spam. I’ve so many things to say that I thought a blog post would be more approriate -
    http://www.larrylim.net/seo-online-marketing/google-wants-paid-links-reported-death-of-the-seo/33/

    Appreciate if you could comment on what I wrote.

  259. Just to reiterate, I’d be most interested in reports of sites that appear to be trying to game Google’s rankings via paid links that flow PageRank. I appreciate the many responses that we’ve already gotten; the feedback and data that we get will be helpful as we take another look at this issue.

    Matt, out of interest, why does Google publish the PR of URL’s? A few have suggested that this has invited at least part of the problem. Would Google consider not publishing it anymore?

  260. Dave (Original)

    BSolveIT, I see you are now “struggling” with Matts posts :) He already answered that

    Martin Avis and Neeraj, I’ll pass that suggestion on, but lots of people who aren’t webmasters enjoy seeing the PageRank bar, so I wouldn’t expect that to change.

  261. Why don’t your people not clean up the house first, before trying to ban
    paid links which is the bread for many webmasters which work many hours in making pages which have very good content, but also need some income.
    Have a look at: http://www.fuckgoogle.org and tell me why are you placing adwords on this site?
    Check out http://www.ctv.es/USERS/ross2/mueble.htm and tell me, why your fine robots can’t detect as much hidden text?

    And the list can go on and on. DON’T BE EVIL !!

  262. Harith

    Matt

    “Just to reiterate, I’d be most interested in reports of sites that appear to be trying to game Google’s rankings via paid links that flow PageRank.”

    Power to you and to friends at GOOG quality team.

    Question: honestly, Matt. Have you expected so much “frustrations” from the paid links fans and from the paid links industry as a whole. Aren’t you surprised of the repsonses on TW, for examples ;-)

  263. Dave, it’s always the way isn’t it? The people with the least to offer have the most to say.

    I’m aware of that comment, which isn’t actually an answer to the question. It’s a throw away comment/rebuttle – even if it is perfectly true. I too enjoy being able to see the PageRank of pages I visit, but is that the sole reason that PageRank is published? If it is, then presumably somewhere along the line someone will need to weigh up whether the benefit outweighs the cost, in terms of those that attempt to manipulate the system. What was the original thinking behind publishing the PageRank system though? It always struck me as an utterly brilliant marketing strategy, as it would inevitibly encourage people to track it and try to improve their score – even to become obsessed with it. And many people do seem to be. No other search engine publishes such a thing that I’m aware of, although my understanding is that they likely do have some such scoring mechanism, of sorts, that they use internally.

  264. Thanks for the opportunity to help us clean up google matt! This really is great news. A lot of my competitors have links from directories which all offer paid links. Now i will go and report all of them to google. I will have to automate it of course, its far to much work to do manually. I think maybe some perl would come in handy.

  265. Dave (Original)

    That’s the answer Matt gave to the same question as you asked, like it or not. Why you feel the need to keep repeating it is anyones guess. I guess some will keep asking until they hear what the answer they want.

    The people with the least to offer have the most to say.

    Apparently :)

  266. Dave

    Neither Martin Avis, or Neeraj actually asked the question I asked at all. Perhaps you could check and report back? I would appreciate it actually if I could send you my comments prior to posting them on here so that you can correct my mistakes, point out my errors, and keep me on the straight and narrow.

    Matt did make a passing comment about it, and quite possibly thats as far as it will go – although I am still curious to know the answer. It’s likely Matt actually doesn’t know the answer, but if he does… you know?

    I must say, we are all so lucky that we have you here as Matts spokes person. You do a bang up job, and I really enjoy your wit – well half of it anyway.
    :)

  267. PR

    Hi Matt,

    My first post here and an interesting subject.

    My question would be this.

    I have partnerships in place with various sites, where my site a will link to their site b, and my site b will link to their site c.

    How will google know if this is a paid link or not? I honestly don’t see how you can make this work, but I’m all ears. :-)

  268. Asher

    Google effort to clean it’s serps and gain control of it is legitimate.

    I am afraid of two things:

    1. The people who will suffer most will be these mum & pop sites that were requested to sell links buy cheesy webmasters and thought that it would be nice to have an extra income. They probably have no idea what is going on here.

    The one’s that depend on selling link and build a career out of it will definitely find a way to overcome this, as they always do.

    2. I hope that what ever action Google will take against link sellers, it will not be applied to link buyers as this will cause webmasters to buy 1$ links to their competitors on http://www.destroy-your-competitor-on-google.org

    Link buyers will be effected anyway without direct action since their bought link will not credit them anymore and that is welcomed.

  269. I do think that if Google is trying to find paid links to be able to ignore those when ranking sites, I don’t have any problem with that. Not as a site owner nor as a Google user.

    The question you should ask yourself is; If Google could eliminate all paid links while calculating SERPs would the SERPs be better or worse?

    The only penalty aginst paid links I’ve heard Matt mention is just that, the link would not benefit your position in the SERPs. As paid links are “artificial” that seems just the right thing to do. Look at the SERPs as election results, should the site buying most votes win or the site that most people voluntarily votes for?

  270. Matt,

    Thanks again for answering.

    Feel free to use my site in you post. I have lost all my targeted keywords except for one area of the site. By lost I’m at the bottom of the results.

    I have tried everything from keyword density to reinclusion request and have not been able to get out of the bottom for my main keywords.

    Thanks again for reading this and I look forward to your post.

    Bob

  271. Very intheresthing discussion, I think the SEO sea will be more difficult to caught fish, even with the tools.

    I will follow the threads

  272. Doug Heil

    Oh my. Simply tooooo darn funny. What a great thread and a very “revealing” thread.

    If everyone is soooo up in arms with this, why not simply use javascript links if you are selling links? LOL What’s the big deal anyway? If you are really selling links because of the traffic and new customers a site may get from your website, what is so hard about making those “paid” links in javascript so the problem is immediately solved?

    Or maybe you know darn well you are only selling the links to others, knowing they know they may get a boost in Google for that link as well?? hmm.

    That’s the point people. Why would Google, or any search engine worth their salt want to reward websites just because they have some money to buy a link? Google wants to minimize the impact of this link buying stuff and for very good reasons. Go with it. Live with it. If I were Mr. Google, I’d be doing the very same thing.

    If you are a site wanting to get relevant visitors to your site; what’s make the difference where they come from and how they come? Why would you care if the link was “direct” or thru a redirect or thru a javascript link? Are you not buying that link for the great and relevant visitors, or are there other reasons you are buying that link? hmmm? :)

    As far as all of these text link sellers goes; their “only” reason for having a site is to SELL links for Google. I know and you all know why they exist in spite of what they may say. A few of them were mentioned early on in this thread. Guess what? They can simply start selling javascript links….. problem solved.

    I love the new way of reporting paid links. Nice job. This will help Google immensely in many ways.

  273. A few people have mentioned the paid directories already, but I would like to specifically point out a few to make a point.

    1. You can pay Yahoo a couple of hundred dollars and have your site reviewed and indexed in their directory. This was one of the first SEO practices recommended to me when I started webmastering, because Google respects Yahoo so much that it reflects very well on your site. Will links from yahoo’s directory be limited?
    2. Similarly for PRWeb.com, a great Press Release website which you pay to produce a press release for you. The whole process of submitting a press release with them revolves around SEO and producing the ultimate search engine friendly article you can. Now of course the goal of that is to also make that press release itself search engine friendly, but no doubt the links from that article to your own site are incredibly valuable (coming from a highly reputable website and an incredibly content relevant article)

    3. The converse: Free Website Directory submission. Now there are thousands of directories out there, and I can start working my way through them all, submitting my site to every single one of them. Free. And no return link. Aren’t these links even more artificial than paid links?

    Thanks for your dilligence in your replies, I appreciate all the work you are doing here!

    Shane

  274. Niraj

    Google wants to know which sites buy links…?

    I have a list of 2000 paid directories..

    each must be having at least 50 unique sites listed..

    thus the list has 100,000+ sites that have bought links..

    should i forward the entire list to Google?

  275. Matt Said: “Just to reiterate, I’d be most interested in reports of sites that appear to be trying to game Google’s rankings via paid links that flow PageRank. ”

    Powerful stuff Matt!

    But you still haven’t explained the relation between the “paid” part and “gaming Google” part.

    You can’t say that if there is no “nofollow” used that it therefore is trying to game Google.

    Doug Heil said:
    “If everyone is soooo up in arms with this, why not simply use javascript links if you are selling links? LOL What’s the big deal anyway? If you are really selling links because of the traffic and new customers a site may get from your website, what is so hard about making those “paid” links in javascript so the problem is immediately solved?

    Or maybe you know darn well you are only selling the links to others, knowing they know they may get a boost in Google for that link as well?? hmm.”

    The big deal is that Google shouldn’t be dictating what people do on their websites. In their logic for example, a newspaper isn’t allowed to charge or even place ads in their newspaper because it makes companies that can afford it look more popular. This is rediculous. A company that wants to determine how popular companies are should simply decide which factors they include in their calculations. They have to decide if they use ads in newpapers or not. But they can’t tell a newspaper how to show what is an ad and what is not.

    Some paid links are obvious ads, other paid links are not. Google’s ability to detect it is THEIR problem and not the webmasters problem. They can’t dictate how a website codes a link. And it seems they want to punish websites for not doing as they dictate. That´s dictatorial behaviour and I hope I don’t have to explain how wrong that is.

  276. Harith

    Peter

    “Some paid links are obvious ads, other paid links are not. Google’s ability to detect it is THEIR problem and not the webmasters problem.”

    Wrong..very wrong assumption. Manupolating PageRank by paid backlinks is affecting both Google and the majority of webmasters who aren’t able to pay those high rates for paid links.

  277. Dave (Original)

    Sorry BSolveIT, you’ll have to play semantics solo.

  278. Dave (Original)

    Powerful stuff Matt!

    But you still haven’t explained the relation between the “paid” part and “gaming Google” part.

    I would *guess* they want what “you” interpret as “gaming Google”. This is test data, so no doubt they want a brooooooaaaaaaad range.

  279. I have re-read this entite post and as Matt clearly stated:

    “there’s absolutely no problem with selling links for traffic (as opposed to PageRank)”

    So I think, speaking as a mon and pop site, this is a fair and clear objective for Google to want to dis-incentivise buying/renting links on high PR sites – just to “gain Pagerank”! (Sad).

    .My worry was “am I doing wrong submitting to directories” – and I think now – having read all this again – thats ok ala the “Webmaster Guidelines”. Of course it must be very easy for Google to indentify a directory listing and classify it as it see’s best.

    I also think it is unfair to criticise Adwords – which is structured in an obvious and transparent way and does not give a “link” anyway.

    Google will not be daft enough to try create a monopoly that risks cutting off the hand that feeds it!

    So, I’m fine with all this!

    I’ll also carry on gifting links to worthy sites and seeking relevant links in my niche. No problem there!

  280. Dave (Original)

    The big deal is that Google shouldn’t be dictating what people do on their websites.

    Not from what I’m reading! IMO, all Google is attempting to do is NOT pass votes, in the form of PR, to bought links.

    The only ones that SHOULD REALLY worry are those who are piggy backing off Googles PR and stuffing up their method of ranking pages (knowling).

    Those who have bought links for PR will likely end up round-about where they were in the SERPs pre the link buying. Assuming they ever got the boost they paid for.

    This a GREAT thing……………..for the ALL Google users and the overwhelming majority of site owners, especially mom & pops!

    Give me a level palying field every time!

  281. Dave (Original)

    Great post Ray Burn! Common sense & logic is not dead after all :)

  282. Matt,

    Thinking about the user control options a little more, I want to offer the following additional thoughts.

    When one reads something like I quoted below, you realize that a fight against paid links will probably always be a losing battle. As I noted earlier, if you announce a war against paid links, those who pay for links will simply do it more covertly. Hence, instead of banning it, legalize it but give users an option not to include it in the search results.

    Six out of 10 marketers are planning to increase both their paid search and natural search budgets over the next 12 months (http://www.e-consultancy.com/news-blog/363080/search-returns-still-high-but-google-power-spells-risk.html)

    As an alternative to distinct “views” or “categories” you could have a 1-10 Confidence Sliding Scale. If the user selects 10, she will see results with all your filters at full throttle. At a 7 she might see things like paid links included. At 1 she will see the mish-mash of everything you’ve ever spidered.

    With this approach Google does not need to de-index any sites, which could affect and have adversely affected legitimate small businesses through false positives. In addition, with this approach you do not have to justify or explain what criteria are used. Users will be able to view the result set in Google’s preferred view of the world (10), and they will also be able to view the result set as they would like to see it.

    I think this approach will also defuse a lot of the contention that you and your colleagues have to deal with. If sites want to slug it out in a dollar fest for the #1 SERP, wish them well and let them fill their boots. They will have a home somewhere on the sliding scale where they can do that. In addition, you won’t appear to be dictating to webmasters what they can and cannot do. In fact, with this approach they can do whatever they like. Their sites will always be indexed but will just not be shown depending on the end user choice.

    I believe that these “choices” need to be very visible on the main Google page. They will serve very little purpose if tucked away on an Advanced Options page. You could preselect the recommended setting that you believe is most appropriate for the average user.

  283. Dave (Original)

    RE: “those who pay for links will simply do it more covertly”
    ====================================

    I believe that would be half the battle won.

    I like your sliding scale idea though. Not it would be viable though??

    I think by identifying paid links and not counting toward PR, will be viable…..if Google can pull it off. Give me a G..O……!

  284. Google cannot completely eliminate paidlinks, and I’m sure they are as aware of that as the brown-trouser brigade.

    What they must be aiming to do is:

    1. Make it clear to all that paidlinks are not White Hat SEO.
    2. Destroy the open market in paidlinks.
    3. Ensure that it is not so widespread that new webmasters think ‘it’s ok’.
    4. Reduce its effect on the SERPS.

    If they get 75% of that, then they have done a great job for search engines, honest site owners, searcher, and The Internet.

  285. I think this will encourage the bad competitors to abuse the authenticated spam report?

  286. The big deal is that Google shouldn’t be dictating what people do on their websites. In their logic for example, a newspaper isn’t allowed to charge or even place ads in their newspaper because it makes companies that can afford it look more popular. This is rediculous. A company that wants to determine how popular companies are should simply decide which factors they include in their calculations. They have to decide if they use ads in newpapers or not. But they can’t tell a newspaper how to show what is an ad and what is not.

    Not that I necessarily agree (not that I don’t either), but I do like this analogy.

  287. If Google implements something like this, it will be a web-two-dot-oh-ified version of Google that puts control of the search results in the hands of the end user.

  288. Google is constantly faced with a dilemma. On the one hand it is a commercial enterprise that has every right to responsibly do whatever they like. On the other hand it performs a vital community service by being the launching pad into the web for more than 60% of web users.

    The average user expects to see in the search results a relevant selection of the entire inventory of web pages out there. We know that is currently not the case because there are millions of web pages that Google deindexed. Hence, the only choice that users have today is a relevant selection of a Google-selected subset of the web. From the standpoint of their right as a commercial enterprise that is fine. From the perspective of their community service that is not fine because they are not making all web pages searchable and findable.

    Indexing everything and giving the end user a choice of what to include or exclude nicely serves both their commercial rights and their community service.

    In addition, I have always asked myself, “How does Google expect my site to accumulate natural backlinks if it includes only the main site page in its index or does not include it at all?” It’s usually the deeper content pages that contain the keywords and content that will spark interest in a site. I see my suggestion as a potential solution for this issue as well.

  289. Brad S.

    Why was my comment from last night deleted? In short:

    It would seem the easiest way to stop people from buying links simply for PR is to stop making PR for sites publicly available. This is a genie that Google let out of the bottle, and one that can be bottled up again by simply not releasing PR.

    We all know that PR goes up and down, so after a few updates to the google algorithm, nobody will know what PR they really have, and selling links strictly for PR will dry up.

    Any link sales will then be based on traffic, which I don’t think Google can tell webmasters they don’t have a right to purchase. People have web sites to sell products and services, and Google would have a hard time telling webmasters that they can’t try to sell those products and services to the largest audience possible.

    As I said last night, we all know that there are PR6 and PR7 sites that get no traffic, and PR2 sites that get thousands of visitors a day. No webmaster really likes paying for a PR7 link that sends no traffic. Stop publishing PR and you will stop high PR/low traffic links from being sold, which will benefit the majority of webmasters.

    Why shouldn’t paid links (for traffic and not PR) not hold weight in Google. The Internet is long past the days of being non-commercial, and I would guess that the majority of links between websites are the result of advertising or link trades, not out of simple goodwill from a fan of a site. The Internet is business, and by ignoring those links, Google is truly ignoring the real nature of the Internet.

    If I want to know what the most popular brand of soda is, I can tell from tv ads that it is Coke and not RC Cola. If RC Cola had a product that many people found to be likeable or useful, they would have higher revenues and be able to sink more money back into advertising. It’s a self-reinforcing system…better product = higher revenue = more advertising = more visability. Again, the system starts with having a good product that generates revenue not with the advertising itself.

    Maybe Google needs to consider that sites that are able to advertise are relevant on the topics they advertise on.

    Sites that have bad products or services that people don’t necessarily find useful may try to buy links to advertise to make sales, but if that initial burst of traffic doesn’t convert, they won’t generate revenue and the advertising will stop and the links will fade away. Maybe Google should place more weight on how long links are up, even commercial links, to measure the relevancy.

    Again, my 2 cents, and I hope this comment is deleted as well.

  290. Mike

    This is bizarre. Can anyone think of another form of paid advertsing that will negatively impact your existing business?

    If placed a newpaper print ad for my gas station, the ad wouldn’t affect my standard walk-in traffic. However, if I buy an internet text link from the same paper, my internet traffic will cease? Google is really out on a limb here.

  291. Doug Heil

    [quote]Why shouldn’t paid links (for traffic and not PR) not hold weight in Google[/quote]
    They do and they should. Do you think they don’t? If you don’t think so, pay for a few links in the “quality” directories out there. I can think of just a few of them:

    http://www.goguides.org
    http://www.joeant.com
    http://www.gimpsy.com
    http://www.yahoo.com
    http://www.websavvy.cc

    Those are “directories” that you pay for a link. I can guarantee you that they will help you in search engines.

    So now you ask; What’s the difference between paying for a link in a “quality” directory and paying for a link with text links ads.com?? Why gee; it seems quite obvious to me.

    You cannot compare a good quality directory who happens to take some monies for a “review” by HUMANS before they list you, and other sites out there who simply take your monies automatically and list you somewhere. To do so is very naive.

    This is all really, really simple.

    Sell links for the great and relevant visitors your client will receive and use javascript or nofollow or both when doing so.

    Buy links on relevant pages in order to receive the great and relevant visitors you will get from those bought links.

    You do either/or and both of those things, and you will be very, very safe from any link buy spam reporting.

  292. Harith

    Friends lets keep focus on the main issue in all this.

    Paid Backlinks Merchants are reluctant to add rel=nofollow to those backlinks.

  293. Vessel

    Although I like Google and their products and services I think that the anti-paid-link policy will not serve its intended puprose. I personally have never either sold or bought links.

    Still I think Google has to be careful about marking practices that are not obvous spam as spam. If one manages to create a good enough non-spam site and puts some irrelevant payment links on it – well I guess they are free to dilute their contnent. There are better and more reliable ways to evaluate content quality – the newly widely implemented click tracking for example or journey data from the Google bars.

    And of course Googlers have to remember to do no evil . What will you do when you get a report:

    google.com and all its content partners are selling links; here’s a page on adwords.google.com that demonstrates that”

    “www.google-adwords-customer.com isbuying links. You can see the paid links on http://www.google-adwords-customer.com/path/page.html

    Punish them for spam? or drop them from the index althogether. ;)

  294. Brad S.

    Doug Heil, you wrote:

    “You cannot compare a good quality directory who happens to take some monies for a “review” by HUMANS before they list you, and other sites out there who simply take your monies automatically and list you somewhere. To do so is very naive.”

    My point was that if PR wasn’t a factor in link sales, and sales were based just on traffic, you effectively would have an amount of human review determining if a site was relevant.

    If I start a website that sells a product or sevice, and it’s good, visitors to my site will make purchases. I may try to give my site a kick-start by purchasing links that send me traffic. If my site is good, and the rush of visitors coming to my site through purchased links find my site relevant to whatever I’m offering, I’ll make sales and will be able to afford long term advertising, meaning my purchased links will probably stay up for a long period of time, if not perpetually.

    It I start a website that sells a product or service, try to kickstart it by buying links for traffic, but that rush of traffic does not like what I offer and does not convert into sales, I will not generate any substantial revenue, likely will not want to shell out any more of my money for advertising, and my paid links will disappear.

    My point is that if my paid links exist for a long period of time, it is because visitors to my site through those paid links found my site to be relevant and useful, which is why they made purchases which continue to allow me to advertise. They are the human reviewers, who review my site en masse, and provide me the means through their votes for my site (through sales) to continue advertising. I would trust their votes showing my site is relevant more than a single directory owner with unknown motives.

  295. Doug Heil

    Brad; yes, I agree with you totally. I’ve been screaming at Google to get rid of the silly PR Bar for a very long time now. LOL

    All your points are good ones, but I do believe Google and other major se’s “know” which directories exist for good reasons like for the betterment of the internet as a whole, and which exist for google adsense and for the lining of the pockets of the directory owners, and for a boost in Google. It’s pretty easy to review a new directory or any directory and decipher if you want to pay to be listed in it because it’s of “quality” and you will get quality visitors.

  296. Hi Doug Heil,

    you say: So now you ask; What’s the difference between paying for a link in a “quality” directory and paying for a link with text links ads.com?? Why gee; it seems quite obvious to me.

    Well thats what initially concerned me – cos I don’t want to do bad stuff re: directories – but won’t (can’t afford to!!) pay for a “PR” link.

    Then it stopped concerning me – as per my two earlier posts:

    It’s simple as I see it – if a “quality” directory has a category for your niche then list – it helps the web as a whole understand your niche and the Search Engines may grant/ not grant/ or ignore weight to that listing for PR – but surely not penalise it!

    However – if your “widget” site “crops up” on a “totally not about widgets site” – that happens to have a PR7+ – does this:

    a. add value to the web?
    b. Stike you as a relevant link?
    c. Be a rightful candidate for being ingnored for ranking (PR) “votes”

    Or, to put it another way – rightly or wrongly – I would value 10 links from relevant sites with little or no PR that were “bang on” my niche than one PR8 “widget link” from a totally “not about widgets site”.

    Also, this post got me looking around – don’t really juicy sites that now have “not so juicy” links appearing look less appealing than they did before?

    PS Dave (Original) – cheers!

  297. Sofie

    Matt says:

    Let’s say for example, that I am a new local car dealership and I have the largest collection of new cars in town. My website is brand spanking new, and is created with a limited, yet honest, knowledge of SEO. I don’t have time to write reviews for every car ever made, because I’m too busy outside polishing what should be your next dream car, so link building is difficult. The problem is, you never found it because I purchased some links to help give my start up website a little boost and now my site is dead because my competitor, that has one tenth as good a selection, but has been around since the model T and has had time to build links naturally, is feeling threatened and is looking for every excuse he can to hurt my business.

    Can you say “HIPOCRITE”? So take links out of the equation…that same cat can signup with adwords and do the exact same thing through google and get the same result; at the top of the results. Only difference, the money goes to google pockets.

    It’s all about money. “Better results”??? Oh please. Get real. Google will be gamed as long as it exists. I think the majority of link buyers put links on sites similar to their own, so its no different than paying for Adwords, except they don’t get the money.

    Doug Hell states you can pay a directory because “HUMANS REVIEW THEM”! Mr. Hell, I would suggest you catch a clue because places like TLA also have HUMANS that review links. You’re a hipocrite and a brown noser I would assume.

    Google’s new motto, “In Evil & Fear We Dictate” ?? Catchy.

  298. I think it is a great idea. I will start reporting every site with AdSense on there starting today ;-)

  299. Does this mean that link directories offering the ability to pay for a featured spot will be a thing of the past? Obviously it seems we can still sell ad space on our site – so long it is scripted – so that the robots don’t see it.

    This is surely a confusing thing! Thats for dang sure!

  300. I’m happy to see so many people disagreeing. Maybe this will help make a change in this (in my opinion) excessive policy.

  301. Seriously, Matt. That’s not a good idea.

  302. luke

    What does this mean for sites such as ReviewMe, PayPerPost, Blogative, etc.? They are not necessarily selling links primarily for SEO value, but they are most likely getting this as an added bonus.

  303. Doug Heil

    As a publisher who is supposedly selling links to others for the traffic they receive, let me give an example as to what NOT to do:

    accessify.com

    Scroll to the bottom to view the “paid” links there. That is the very type of publisher that se’s should be targeting, etc, with the links NOT counting at all. It’s total BS. The links are not there for the sites visitors and not even meant to be seen or discovered by the site’s visitors. Gee; what are they there for? And why did those sites buy the link? And why is that site selling the links??

    What “not” to do.

  304. Costa

    Matt this is the biggest complete pile of crap Ive heard. I hate Google and their monopolistic actions with a PASSION. This is a double standard. If Google doesn’t like the way paid links influence search results, then eliminate Pagerank once and for all! Google is just a search engine. Links are not evil and payment for links is not evil. The Web is based on links, link-trading and advertising, which of course is payment for links.

    How does Google make money? PAID links. Now you guys bought Double Click and what happens to the publisher info and privacy concerns? “Your slogan of “Do no evil” is becoming old news.

    I seriously despise monopolies and I certainly I am tired of Google dictating what constitutes business practices since they are self serving to Google’s bottom line. I pay $10,000 in Google paid ads every month. I am seriously going to give you guys zero cents if this monopolistic, anti competitive, self serving stuff continues. I am sure more people will follow.

    Google will NOT tell me what to do Mr. Matt and how to run my websites.

  305. Matt,

    Human nature is to try and game the system. Buying links is easier than exchanging links with competitors. The trouble is one way links are fickle and have little meaning. A link exchange between competitors is an exchange of trust.

    It used to be hard for scam sites to gain respectability, dishonest webmasters found it hard to build a link exchanges with other sites as they lack integrity and tend to delete links. Now they can just buy instant Googability.

    Steve

  306. Capitan

    Hi Matt, I´m form Argentina, sorry for my english

    How will google know if some link is a paid link or not? I have some websites nautical tourism and I have too many links to Instructors, boat constructor, maintenance. Some links are FREE because are friends, others are CHANGE for service or backlinks, OF COURSE have some of them than PAY ME !!

    I need this money, I live with my websites revenews, IT¨S ADVERTISING; pay for ads in my site. WHATS THE PROBLEM with this links ? How can Goog find the difference among a link of publicity, one friend link and another paid link with SEO SEARCH intention or spam?

    PLEASE I try understand all this messages, my english create more confusion but today for my it´s a day of BAD NEWS, because many clients can tell me ” I no longer want to announce in your website”

    and now……. grrr grrrr

  307. Matt
    I am a bit disappointed you have not answered my specific concerns–

    #1. I gave you data of a BLOG — you personally endorse. I raised some questions –you ignored. I am not giving the URL here –because I don’t want to see you embarrased on a public platform like this — showing all the people how Google knows nothing and just make judgement. I have definite proof that –that site/BLOG is involved into something which you are trying to stop and why this long page is all about!

    Why? Are sites known to Google’s big-shots have special treatment?

    # I also said – I personally buy paid links for my sites!

    How?

    I pay donations to some of the most renowned sites ( according to Google’s parametres- PR). In return they give me link backs. How are you going to deal with this? They are not selling links — they are just showing gratitude for my contributions by giving me link-backs. If they don’t give link-backs -there will be very few contributors and whole thing will suffer.

    I have also been collecting backlinks stats of PR9/8 sites — and 99% of them are involved in link selling –some way or the other.

    How is Google going to deal with these points?

    Or is it Google taking this step because they want to monopolize the whole link market/ ad market? Is that the policy behind this destructive policy? That is the discussion going on among webmasters and some have already switched from Google AdSense to Yahoo or others out of disgust!
    Google will loose more than gain with this move and I can see a Grand-Handshake for the Google guy who first proposed this move to the board in few months time! :D

    I hope you answer to my first two points raised. Or more better would be to show the people of how Google guys live in a dream world of their own –by posting the evidence here of a site endorsed by you as Good involved in same Game. Or do I send it directly to Mr. Larry Page?

  308. Gotta admit that I don’t like this idea although not for the reasons stated up above but I feel it would be a waste of time. I already send in complaints about splogs with Google Adsense on them. Those never get dealt with by Google’s staff.

    Of course I just spent 4 months trying to get Google Adsense to approve me for their Adsense program. I’m deaf and can’t use a phone but no one there could understand that that was an issue.

    I think Google’s time would be better spent on dealing with the issues that they have inhouse. ie Splogs with Google Adsense on them, all the splogs with the search database, the problems with blogger.com and all those splogs and hackers and security issues, and customer service.

  309. Alex

    This is blatantly a call on users to contribute their time in order to further establish Google’s monopoly on internet advertising. Paid links are the most basic form of online advertising and what Matt is suggesting here is that we should go and report on people who sell advertising on their website in circumvention of Google’s coffers.

  310. I am afraid webmasters or site owners will abuse this feature of google and they will report their competator of selling text link to through them away from the SE battle arena.

    Why selling text link or even buying text link is not good, why google trying to stop webmasters to make some cash from selling some ad space in their site? Does google consider them as threat to adwords?

  311. I hate snitching, but do think that something needs to be done. For one thing the difference between paid ads, displayed in prominent places and links, that are nothing more than ads disguised as information links need a clear line. It would seem, however to be an impossible task to make the distinction between the two in some cases. The thing that troubles many of us is that” Jim” may have a wonderful idea, that is buried deep in the search results, and will never be seen, while “John” has a really stupid one, that is seen by the entire world, because he bought some links for the purpose of gaining page rank, which increases his ability to earn money from ads, and his ability to buy more links,etc. John goes higher, Jim , lower.

    I have often wondered if we need revolving rankings, to give the guys at the bottom a chance to be heard!

  312. I dont think it can be tracked. How come Google or anyone who wants to report can determine, either link is paid or just a link exchange.

    If this happens i think it will be very dis-appointing for guys having high PRs and making good money now.

  313. Whitenight

    Matt,

    Just let us know when G stops ranking:

    Yahoo for “autos” – 99% Paid Links
    Amazon for everything – Affiliate links are paid ads
    Proflowers for anything flower related – Internet powerhouse with 99% paid ads
    Any site “advertising” on ClearChannels Network of Sites (very expensive btw)
    Netflix
    etc

    By the way, it doesn’t matter if those site are 100% relevant for their search terms and deserving of their ranking… Their link power is paid for, plain and simple.

    In fact, if G really, truly, wanted to avoid “paid for links”, simply pick out the top 100 internet companies, do a simple backlink analysis and see if their links are “legit” or paid for in some way. And crackdown on the “sources” of those links.

    On a side note, Is Google advertising, err, sponsoring a Pontiac Car commercial spammy or just not relevant?

  314. In my opinion Google should focus in other ways to improve algorithms. I don’t think that improving the link value will bring any additional improvement to user queries. What has a better service, the bank with no advertising money or Wachovia? Nevertheless you only hear about the great service provided by Wachovia. Why? Because money in any industry is important. Links should be bought for the purpose of Page Rank… well, links are being sold and will continue to be sold for PR. Adobe has paid for links… are they going to loose their Page Rank because of the changes in the new Algos?

  315. I honestly think that Google has lost it’s edge… We don’t even try to market to Google anymore because it’s wasted effort. This might bug you… but honestly… from our perspective… other search engines provide better results overall… it’s a rare day when I can find what I am looking for easily from a keyword search anymore except for videos, blogs, images, etc.

    The crazy amount of sites that are listed in the top 10 (for lots and lots of searches) that have auto-installing spyware or worse is appalling and then I read this conversation… :P I think that Google needs to get back to basics and quit worrying so much about the stupid ranking algo and worry more about what it’s ranking… after all.. you constantly hammer that it’s about value content but you rank garbage sites so much that the search has grown unreliable in my opinion. I am not saying the results have no value… there are still relative results… however, the results are poisoned by garbage that does not derive from paid links… In this context… I think that you are barking up the wrong tree. Stop what you are doing and fix the spider… I see all kind of porn sites on .edu domains for example… I don’t have a problem with porn sites… but the ones I have been finding on .edu domains are installing fake codec trojans. Since when is a porn site ok on a .edu domain?

  316. What happened to “Do no evil.”?

    Is this really Google’s ideal or are you just testing the waters?

    This makes me so damn mad I can hardly see straight. Disclaimer: I have some paid links on some of my sites. But that’s not the point.

    The point is that Google STILL has not found something to replace linking that makes a big part of ranking sites. WTF is wrong with your programmers? We don’t have hidden text as a usable method, why do we have links? TAKE THEM OUT OF THE EQUATION, PLEASE!!! They can and are being used to manipulate search results.

    DON’T start trying to police who is using questionable linking methods or (GASP!) buying and selling links. If you do you will be hurting many sites that are NOT buying or selling links and therein lies the danger and the evil.

    The whole (semi-static) ranking concept sucks anyway!!! Other sites ROTATE search results that “rank” the same based on content. I don’t know why the Hell Google and others are not already doing this? Rotate the results and give a small amount of weight to clicks. This is fair and while it will end the link sales industry as well know it, we will all be better off in the end.

    And I’m STILL waiting to hear about Google offering a “flat-rate” advertising option. Site target was a great start, but fraud is still massive and flat rate ads will remove that slime-infested mess as well.

  317. God, I tried to read all of this and just couldn’t. Being a new, small site with no advertising revenue, I think that this is good for me… Of course if I was a popular site with a lot of traffic, I would hate this. I have to say, I see both sides, but Google owns the search, so they can do what they want.

  318. Hah! Very good point about all those directories and search engines that require a payment for being listed. I guess we need to report those and all those pay for placement listings in Yahoo? Oh, that’s right, there’s no way to tell which ones those are…

    Google created the paid link industry. Doesn’t it make sense that THEY should find an solution and not bother us? Take away the incentive for linking that goes beyond the original idea of getting traffic from the sites on which your link is listed.

  319. Matt. I love you, but you guys have lost your mind. Turing Web masters into paid informants of paid links is a little too close to Google having their own Internet spy agency. The kind of culture your creating with this type of thing is counter productive to the Internet. Your only going to encourage more of the negative behavior that you are trying to prevent. And additionally, you guys trying to mandate to the entire Web that no one can pay for links because it screws with your algorithm, comes across as exceedingly arrogant to many parties and really undermines the kind of branding of your company that you have fought so hard to try to create (aka, Do No Evil). One begins to wonder what kind of BRAVE NEW WOLRD you guys are trying to create with this type of program and where it might lead. I understand the legitimate business concerns that are involved here, but I don’t believe that this is a good solution. Since none of my clients pay for any of their links, this program really doesn’t affect me personally, the company I work for or our clients, however, I don’t like it on the principle that I don’t believe Google should use its enormous power to control the way the Web works just to improve its search results. Rather Google should improve its search results based on the way the Web works. Just my 2 cents Matt but I really don’t like this program.

  320. How can Google police something like this though?

    Some times you link to a site because you like it or you’ve read something and sometimes you might get paid (although not often enough) but regardless of the reason surely Google can’t determine that reason as good or bad … as it’s up to the individual.

  321. I believe Google’s decision to look at this information more closely will potentially have the ability to create higher quality rankings for the viewers to use, and more accurate information for the end users if Google uses it correctly, and the way I would assume them to.

    I would normally do more research before speaking, so correct me if I’m wrong here Matt, but I don’t imagine Google is going to try to monopolize all of the paid ads, which would seem to not be a smart business move in the long term for themselves, and Google strikes me as doing intelligent business. (I mean, we all know that people put up with monopolies as long as they are fair, if not, they find new solutions …) My guess would be that they just might rank them differently in their algorithms. You know, for a basic example: an informational link gets a score of 1, a legitamite paid link gets a score of 2, a website that is set up with garbage ads on it for the sole pupose of links gets a score of 3, and free links that are garbage gets a score of 4.

    I think Google is smart enough to realize it helps their business to let other businesses promote themselves.

    But in my own competitive research analysis, I have found many examples of websites that seemed to have been set up for the sole purpose of boosting a company’s link rate, and appear to have been created ONLY for that purpose. They are duplicated over and over again under different pseudo names, and don’t appear to have any new content in them or they simply rotate the names of the websites listed there. Others are fake websites that just have paid ads placed there. Most of these would not seem to have any real content viewers(unless they also somehow have some system set up to automate clicks on them or they dupe people into clicking on them by advertising as if they are real sites). I haven’t said anything so far to anyone yet, but I did think it could create an environment that is unfair to honest businessmen who are want to promote an ethical and moral way of doing business online, and gain their reputation fairly. It also seems unfair to the viewers out there who are searching and want to find an honest company to help them or provide their services, someone who has truly gained their reputation and not someone who made up a pretend one and figured out how to trip the system.

    Whether legitamite paid links should be rated differently is up for a whole nother discussion and I will refrain from posting my opinion on the matter at the moment. I do think there are a lot of issues to think through before making a move like that, and should be done very intelligently if done. There are a lot of things to be taken into consideration, and fairness on all sides needs to be considered. Matt, you can contact me if you want to flesh the idea out further, or get more feedback, but my guess is Google has some great minds looking at it already, from what I’ve seen of their work so far.

  322. In my opinion, USER EXPERIENCE is no longer represented in by the number and weight of links and we all know it. It used to be so in the earlier days when people linked to your site when they liked it. Until here I can agree with Matt. Now, after 295 comments on this subject, may we conclude/agree that it will be very very hard (if not impossible) for Google to find out what is paid for and what is not? If you agree then link-based pageranking is nearing a dead end.
    In my opinion it is about time to go back to the roots and use USER EXPERIENCE again(?) for ranking. With so many google toolbars installed it should not be too difficult to substract user experience for each website!! Am I wrong?

  323. 1. Nothing is wrong to buy links for referral traffic from other websites. It’s exactly same as buying or bidding on link positions on Google Adword.

    2. Google’s ranking method basing on link popularity of sites is 50% or more out of date as ecommerce grows. In eaary years of internet, yes, if one liked a website, one would link it from one’s own website. There was no money concern then. But now internet has been ecommersized, and an ecommerce owner won’t send one’s traffic out by linking to other site. There is no such thing that I like your site and then link to it in ecommerce world at all.

    3. Don’t stuck yourself on link popularity but look for new ways to rank websites, especially to rank ecommerce websites.

  324. Harith

    Catfish

    “The kind of culture your creating with this type of thing is counter productive to the Internet.”

    Talking about “counter productive” ……

    Tell me about your backlinks :)

    Site Created by BusinessOL.com: A Search Engine Optimization Company
    http://www.anatechusa.com/thin_film_coating/default.html

    Web Design By BusinessOL.com: A Search Engine Marketing Firm
    http://www.masterspring.com/request_for_quote/default.html

    Site Created by Business OL
    http://www.smith-systems-inc.com/products_and_services/application_specific_design/overmold_protection/

    Site Design by BusinessOL
    http://www.acidesign.com/products/ACI_showcase/default.html

    Site developed by BusinessOL.com: Internet Marketing Company
    http://www.kaltenbachusa.com/about-us/default.html

    etc.. etc…

    Oh well ;-)

  325. I for one love the idea. Call me strange, but I think the Web is more about content and information rather than link farms and Adsense showcases for content scrapers. I would rather wipe out those who who set up 20 crappy blogs and websites that are there for no other reason than making money. I could care less about those people and their efforts.

    I would rather some form of ethical standards come into play, and Google is stepping in the right direction. It will save them money, protect their brand from becoming associated with poor quality content and spam, and make their primary business of search more efficient. If it becomes impossible to wade through a sea of crap because of their own advertising offerings, then their search will take a hit.

    I’ve already quite using Google and Yahoo for search except in rare cases, and I know I am not alone. I’ve had others tell me they are tired of Google and Yahoo’s focus on ads and irrelevant and otherwise poor search results. That’s specifically why so many small niche and vertical search companies are sprouting up. Ads are secondary to search if you’re Google, and though it makes them a lot of money, it will also bite them in the rear if they aren’t careful.

    This will make SEO and SEM more efficient and weed out those whose idea of SEO is simply spreading scraper sites across the net. As to those worried that this will hamper business models because ‘what if ads in message boards are considered violations’ and so forth… If Google’s army of PhD’s can’t figure out something reasonable and that makes use of common sense, I would say their company is doomed anyway. Either way, I’m not worried about it. The only people who really should be are those who don’t have the foresight, ability, or inclination to produce quality content or to create a business model with multiple revenue streams.

    I for one hope they stick to their guns on this one and don’t wuss out.

  326. Gaara

    Is Adsense in such a state of decline that you are now reduced too scaring webmasters so they will not sell advertising themselves? Thats what this seems like, at least in my opinion.

  327. the com in .com stands for commercial.

    The webs growth and existence was built on a free market economy where anyone could start up business with some HTML knowledge. The web wouldnt be what it is today if people couldn’t make money using it? Since when is a hobby or laymens opinion (content) more valuable than a professionals?

    There is nothing wrong with commerce, the web is used for business. There is nothing wrong with paid advertising or paid links.

    No other medium works without commerce, look at newspapers, magazines, radio, television – all media is delivered by commercial interest, theres no reason to punish a website for being commercial, especially if its a dot com!

    Every commercial search engine sells links! Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, ad infinitum. I have bought links on Google, Yahoo and MSN – am I in trouble now?

  328. mosxu

    Let’s not forget that Google’s algorithm is based on the human review of listings. Against these reviews webmasters charge a fee. Is this paid links? Because the webmasters/directories will no longer make money and Google will not benefit from human edited links?

    If this is the case Google is dreaming of an ideal world where they are making money and webmasters who provide the content should not benefit from the organic search at all.

    By the way, when is Google going to deal with real spam like link exchange and then offering a link somewhere else, get away with one way link etc…? Because if directories will not work then 3 way. 5 way …15 way links will be hot.

  329. Kiddo

    You have a website (google) and you put ads on it (adwords) to make money.
    I also have a website and i want to make money through ads ads. Why you have a problem with that?

  330. Well, the problem is that not every paid link is being bought to manipulate Google. People do pay for advertising and many of those advertisements do help with Google rankings as well. Are we no longer allowed to buy or sell advertising?

    Mike Dammann

  331. Nearly everyone gets some form of advert or link income but especially the big three, of which Google is the biggest.

    The currency for text links is often the slow to change, old sites are best, measure called “PR”, which, change by change, is slowly moving away from (in my opinion only) relevance. This seems to have changed as older and public sites now seem to stuff the top search slots in my town, while new boys are ignored, so how can you do it without high visability ads that can generate real traffic. Maybe its all designed to be adwords or bust, or maybe they should admit that PR is part of the problem.

    Steve

  332. Doug Heil

    Mike wrote:
    “Well, the problem is that not every paid link is being bought to manipulate Google. People do pay for advertising and many of those advertisements do help with Google rankings as well. Are we no longer allowed to buy or sell advertising?”

    hmm. I think some have missed all the points made in this thread. Of course not every link is bought to manipulate Google and no one said they were, did they? Please read all the posts above. If you are “paying” for advertising, why do you care if the link is a direct link or a javascript link or a nofollow link? You shouldn’t care about that if you are buying quality visitors, right? I don’t get the problem with any of this.

    Before Google, sites linked to other sites just because they liked the site and were “voting” for that site, right? That IS/WAS what the web is all about. So what’s the difference now? Don’t blame Google for the link crap monger mentality. Blame yourselves for thinking that you just have to have all these incoming links from any and all sites who fall for the same trap. Buy a link like it was always meant to be bought since the beginning of time. Sell a link in the very same way. You do that and you will first off; Sleep at night; and second; do extremely well in Google for your troubles.

  333. eddytom

    What about the sites that have ‘Sites I Like’ sections where they just list 10 or so text links in the left/right module under their menu? Are they okay if they aren’t bought? You say they should put nofollow tags on them? Why, if they like the site, it deserves a ‘vote’ to strengthen pagerank and thus strengthen serp positioning. And if you still stay that is penalty, can’t we just put links to Wiki and Google in those ‘Sites I like Section’ to make it seem like they are also bought links? This whole issue is such a gray area. And in order for white hats to compete we have to walk the line of the gray area without going over to black, then you guys change the gray area. It’s not fair. As far as I could tell you guys were going in the right direction and your serps, I thought were producing very good results, but this latest move is an enigma to me.

  334. Here is what I predict: Link sellers and buyers will report other link sellers and buyers and this will turn into one big “snitch fest”. Just like the Google Spam Report where the reality is that people don’t bother using it unless they think they can get a competitor out of the way.
    There is too fine of a line here. If Google doesn’t give a lot of people the benefit of the doubt, many innocent bystanders will get hurt.

    Sure, the hardcore link buyer, I can see Google wanting them out. If you spend all your energy on buying links while your site has no value, you have no business being on top.

    But generally speaking, a lot of new webmasters try stuff and follow somebody’s advice. And many of them will flood the forums wondering why the heck they can’t get ahead in G (and God knows we have enough of that already … )

  335. Actually, after I wrote the above post, I checked out their tool to see for myself what they were asking for. They are not in fact asking people to report on regular paid links at all. They are asking for people to report spam links!

    This is a list of the pages they are asking people to report:

    Hidden text or links
    Misleading or repeated words
    Page does not match Google’s description
    Cloaked page
    Deceptive redirects
    Doorway pages
    Duplicate site or pages
    Other (specify) (site that is misbehaving)

    This doesn’t sound at all like the snitching operation or a hostile takeover that was being written about. It’s just due diligence, quality control. I’m a little surprised by the emails I got on it today (the first time I heard of it,) even moreso because this is an industry that thrives on both analytics and research. We are all the time looking at what other users are doing, as well as spending our time in research so as to correctly gauge a given situation.

  336. I don’t know why my last post was erased, but look at the thing inside. Google specifically is only asking for the spam links to be removed!

  337. Matt,

    Wow – it’s coming up time and again. Whilst we can all see the desire to protect the algo/PR system, given it’s apparent importance, the only way to achieve it is likely to be unfair, at least to some – if not many, and some feel even immoral – or at least flying in the face of generally accepted convention.

    Also, I had to smile and nod to myself at the suggestion of “A BRAVE NEW WORLD”. Largely in the same way that you, Matt, were pleased that someone had already submitted 34 (Do what!!!!??) reports. Someone must have been in their element!! hehehe

    Rather you than me. I don’t know that I would cherish the support of the monster raving loony party, even if they did agree with me.
    ;)

  338. mosxu

    Google can not live without links. Google exists because webmasters provide links and content.

    Some webmasters need rankings because they provide a quality website. Good content, useful information and links into their website. These webmasters should never be compared to big companies that have all the money in the world to pay per click but they do not necessarily have a quality website.

  339. Well, here is even more evidence that Google Sux! When one company is allowed to have ALL THE POWER this is what happens. Greed, Corruption and stupid A$$ decisions! I will be sure to add this article to http://www.google-sux.com

  340. Wow, 300 replies..

    THIS. IS. SPARTAAAA…
    ;)

  341. Doug Heil Said,
    April 17, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

    Mike wrote:
    “Well, the problem is that not every paid link is being bought to manipulate Google. People do pay for advertising and many of those advertisements do help with Google rankings as well. Are we no longer allowed to buy or sell advertising?”

    …Before Google, sites linked to other sites just because they liked the site and were “voting” for that site, right? That IS/WAS what the web is all about. So what’s the difference now?

    Basically it is a 2007 versus 1985 but the main difference now is that there is 1000x1000x1000x1000 more websites out there.
    Dough Heil, are you saying that brand new site with a great content will get more than 1 visitor ( 2 if you married) without any advertising?

  342. I think this will do more harm than good.

    I was looking for scraper sites linking to mine, I found my link in the footer of several sites and I have no idea why it is there. The only thing I could think was when I paid my seo guy as a share of adsense, he must have added links to my site. I’m not sure how to get rid of them, but thinking about it getting me in trouble I thought, heck, why would I get penalized? Surely worst case scenario they just get not counted as positives.

    Many, many webmasters are likely getting punished for a lot of things they are ignorant of. I hate to think you are punishing people and their websites because their life doesn’t revolve around seo and google and what is or isn’t okay.

    Focus on the ones you know are doing wrong, and are doing it blatantly. Many of them are using adsense because it’s easy to do and quick. That’s a big list, but it would be a good starting point to look for the bad guys…

  343. Amateur

    It never fails…soneone gets power, and sets about abusing it. They usually become the experts on what everyone else should do to conform to their own view of the “world”

    Google has diligently set about fulfilling this model by setting themselves up as the internet “police”. Do things the way they say they should be done, of face their consequences, which are….

    Sort of the online “Patriot Act”…with unpaid “anonymous informants” thrown in for good measure. Hmmm, I think the real world police use “anonymous informants”, too, don’t they?

  344. Serhat

    Hi Matt, long time reader first time commenters (Sounds like a radio call)

    Anyway I don’t usually like a lot of stuff that Google try to make the webmaster do (or not do) in the name of SEO (and in parentheses I agree with most people here that there are double standards involved). However I have to admit I don’t understand the fuss about this.

    Paid-Links don’t have value to the end users, they are there because somebody paid for them and got nice keyword rich link text so that they can get some nice SEO support. We are not talking about real Web Directories like Yahoo here, we are talking about that School Newspaper, nice PR Wiki link supported niche content sites (and can not really make money out of Adsense anymore), Widget sites and things like that. Please do not make that case about Google says Adwords, Yahoo sells directory listing etc.. argument, I don’t think you believe in that even while you are posting.

    In the SEM community all of us know that, yet why we are making this a Freedom of Speech subject, I don’t understand. I guess there is just too much at stake, maybe that. Or.

    Maybe Paid Links became the ultimate SEO tool for most professionals. So they feel like if it is gone, will be like going back to arrows from gun powder. I don’t know, but I can not understand.

    Of course I am not saying we should also spy for link sellers, but just like any other SPAM , there is no harm in reporting the SPAMer. I will just be happy if Matt you have people in Google that checks those SPAM and reinclusion requests once in a while for a change.

  345. Amateur,
    That is quite extreme. The fact is Google provide a service, and they are abused if that service isn’t great, and when they put an idea out for a way to improve that service, they are abused. If you don’t like the way they do stuff, then stop using their service. Its simple. They can’t set themselves up as the internet police any more than I can.

  346. If you don’t like the way they do stuff, then stop using their service. Its simple. They can’t set themselves up as the internet police any more than I can.

    I hear you, but given their dominance and the reliance that so many of us have on their search traffic – it’s really not that simple. Therein lies the problem you see. Who among us can afford to say stuff it to Google and it’s search traffic? Who would want too? We are all at the mercy of their policies, which in fairness are there to genuinely improve the service – it’s just the implementation of this latest idea that worrys a bunch of us on some levels.

  347. The word penalty is used a lot. I don’t think Google will penalize us for using links. They probably will just not count those links in their formula.

  348. That sounds like a great way to confirm antitrust claims by Microsoft and others.

    hmmm

    Step 1 Acquire DoubleClick so that Google takes a majority market share of the marketplace

    Step 2 Compile a database of customers and competitors that do business outside of Google

    Step 3 Act on database using the might of the largest internet advertiser in the world to squash competition

    Step 4 Rake in the money for years

    Step 5 Start fighting off the anti – trust claims in 10-20 years

    Step 6 Buy off a presidential election and bring one of the Bush daughters to the White House to appoint an Attorney General that will provide a favorable settlement to Google

    Step 7 Send the Bill Gates a Christmas card to his vacation home on the moon, thanking him for the business strategy advice

    Step 8 Remove that line from the Google Cache and mission about doing no evil

    _________

    Now to be sarcastic, where do I report the sites (including my own) that are running Adsense again???

    _–__–_-__

    To go back to being serious. Have you run this concept by your legal department??? As a Google Shareholder I don’t like the smell of this and don’t want to see a devaluation from a class action or an anti-trust suit.

  349. Brad S.

    This is the nature of the beast that is the Internet. Company A comes along with a great service, everyone jumps on board, Company A soars.

    Just when Company A is convinced they rule the world and stops responding and starts manipulating, little old Company B comes along and the followers join that bandwagon.

    How many companies has this happened to? AOL, Infoseek, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Go, Netscape, MS (depending on your point of view).

    When Google starts enacting policies that the majority of webmasters find intrusive and counterproductive, other companies offering competitive products with better terms of service will pick up supporters.

    Google came out of nowhere, and there’s nothing stopping a superior competior from doing the same. When Google starts losing searchers, paid ad displays will drop and Google revenue will suffer. Plain and simple.

    How many people thought that Infoseek, AltaVista, Excite and Lycos and all of the others on the search engine scrap heap would die as quickly as they did?

  350. Dave (Original)

    Turing Web masters into paid informants of paid links is a little too close to Google having their own Internet spy agency.

    They have had Spam reports for a long time, this is just adding yet another black hat method to the mix. Also, I think you should actually read what Matt has requested. It’s test data for a “new idea” and not what you elude to.

    The kind of culture your creating with this type of thing is counter productive to the Internet. Your only going to encourage more of the negative behavior that you are trying to prevent.

    On the contrary! Ensuring SEs return the most relevant results in an objective manner is a GOOD thing.

    I often liken ranking in the SEs to playing cards with your mates for money. If I see someone cheating, I aint going to turn a blind eye.

    And additionally, you guys trying to mandate to the entire Web that no one can pay for links because it screws with your algorithm, comes across as exceedingly arrogant to many parties and really undermines the kind of branding of your company that you have fought so hard to try to create (aka, Do No Evil).

    From where I sit Google are ONLY mandating in regards to their business.

    Anyone can still buy or sell links as they see fit. However, if you sell links for PR don’t expect Google to favor you in their SERPs. If you buy links for PR, don’t expect to get what you pay for.

    One begins to wonder what kind of BRAVE NEW WOLRD you guys are trying to create with this type of program and where it might lead.

    I would guess a level playing field, objective and unbias search results.

    I understand the legitimate business concerns that are involved here, but I don’t believe that this is a good solution. Since none of my clients pay for any of their links, this program really doesn’t affect me personally, the company I work for or our clients, however, I don’t like it on the principle that I don’t believe Google should use its enormous power to control the way the Web works just to improve its search results.

    Google IS the Web?

    Rather Google should improve its search results based on the way the Web works.

    That’s EXACTLY what they are trying to do! By identifying links bought to game Google’s results they can ensure no PR is passed for these links.

    This IS good for ALL Google users and 99.9% of Webmasters.

  351. Nate

    Matt, interesting idea with the links. I have been under a penalty from google for over a year and I am wondering if it was incurred in any way by links? I don’t link to bad neighbourhoods, or participate in any link farm/schemes, however there are 1000′s of spam/link farm sites that scrape my content/titles/info that I fear might be hurting me.

    I would be grateful for any input into this, how it may be affecting MY penalty, and/or any advice you can share with me. Unfortunately, no one on any of the major forums has any idea why I am penalized, however perhaps it’s links somehow!

    Thanks for any advice in advance.

  352. “Ray Burn Said,
    April 17, 2007 @ 6:38 am

    I have re-read this entite post and as Matt clearly stated:

    “there’s absolutely no problem with selling links for traffic (as opposed to PageRank)”

    wow,. that must have taken a couple of hours,. :)

    But if that is what Matt said somewhere, then I am very happy about that. But I most certainly hope that it means there is no obligation to use the nofollow.

    Maybe this whole issue has been blown out of proportions, though I have to say that Matt and Google aren’t trying to prevent that. But maybe that´s also a marketing technique. :)

    Somewhere else I read that Matt also said that the only “penalty” on a paid link is that it won’t count. I hope that is also true.

    By the way Matt, why is an exchanged link not so agressively hunted? Does it really matter wether you pay dollars for a link or pay with a link back?

    I hope, Matt, that these tests at least make it possible to not rely on “nofollow” anymore. If you can achieve that, (and publically say: We will ignore “nofollow” from now on) you may be as proud of that achievement as the Google founders may be on the development of PageRank.

  353. Fuck Google!

    Fuck Google!

    Your no-sense algorithm sucks.

    You force Internet people to advertise with your Adwords!

    You are the Evil in itself, what you do is a disguise of an Evil!

    I love Yahoo!

  354. There are two points I wouldl ike to make.The first is that its perfectly normal for webmasters to build links to improve thir web sites ranking on the search engines and Google recognises this. I dont see anythig rong with this either. wHAT i do have a problem with howeve is the automatd submissions of link spam that I get to my forum and to my directories. Could we not mkea distinction between link spam and link building?

    Scondly PR is a sick joke. Everyone knows its an artifical measure Google use to to fuel Google Mania and this is what has twisted the onrous task of lnkbuilding out of shape and what has given rise to link pimping and the credibility to corrupteditors on “authoriy” sites like Dmoz.

    Google could easily pop this link pimping by turing the industry it has become on its head and endorsing an emerging skills empowerment programme where individals are ENCOURAGED to charge fo reviewing sits submitted to their directories and whre they are accountable for the lisings they maintain.

    And no its not impractial. It could be made to work………..with the right attitude.

  355. My comment here was starting to get too long, so I posted it in my blog at http://www.rehuel.com/2007/04/18/is-google-going-to-penalize-paid-ads/. I don’t like leaving my link this way in comments, but this is the only way I can get my opinion through.

  356. Dave (Original)

    There are two points I wouldl ike to make.The first is that its perfectly normal for webmasters to build links to improve thir web sites ranking on the search engines and Google recognises this. I dont see anythig rong with this either. wHAT i do have a problem with howeve is the automatd submissions of link spam that I get to my forum and to my directories. Could we not mkea distinction between link spam and link building?

    Google has never been about individual wants and needs (particularly Webmasters) and has always been about delivering objective, unbias and relevant results from a level playing field.

    “link building” is nothing more than a euphimisim for link spam. Both are pursued to better ones SERP positions. Neither make a page more relevant to a said topic.

    Links should be ONLY be pursued for click traffic, or the site is new, to also be indexed by SE’s. If your site is really what users want, it will likely naturally be on page 1 of the organic results and will get there with the help of TRUE link votes.

    Organic results and fertilizer (paid links being counted as votes) simple doesn’t add up.

  357. Carlos R

    First I don’t care if this comment gets post or not, I just want the Monopoly Master…I mean Google to know what a regular small business owner and web surfing fanatic has to said.

    A lot of people was telling me about Google bad business practices, and I didn’t want to believe it… So, I did my own research on every step that Google has made and keep making for about 6 month, and my conclussion after that generated the new name for Google, the “Monopoly Master”

    Which is actually the name of the free report created by me, 10 college teachers, and 25 college students that reveales to everyone how to take your business to the top and then how you can use that power to try to tell you customers or users how to run their life, or what time you want them to use the toilet… Which is exactly what Google is trying to do, they are telling you how they want you to run your business, soon they may tell you that in order to achieve to monopoly engine ranking you need to change your business name from “Main Street Crapy Video Store” to “Main Street Google Video Store”

    Microsoft was a good monopoly school which was put on check by their mistakes. Google is the Monopoly Master, simple because they fool people and the media with new tools, new betas, new software, new maps, etc… but, keeping their monopoly related policies on a low profile.

    I thought the government was the only organization that can said how our business can be run not a computer full of codes… After the research I saw the best web search tool still the one that was number one a while ago.

    Now Google is going into the Microsoft mode, where a lot of those monopoly master plan are turning into their worst mistakes.

    You just a search company not the goverment, not a chamber of commerce, not even a non-profit organization trying to help someone, not the IRS, not the President of the US or any other country…

    You want me to report what?????? A few more years and we are going to be reporting are income to this people, or even worst how many times we when to the bathroom on that year. Come on!

    Now about the links issue… there is no issue! Matt and his team did a good job on writing a post that puts the word Spam together with paid links…

    But, what Matt is trying to said is: We want to become a number one Monopoly in the world, and to do this we need to cut are competition, with the help of the users, remember that’s what the all Web 2.0 or social networking is all about.

    Come on this smell like a MONOPOLY all over….

  358. oh well, they sell links from adsense ))

    this can bу a very bad idea. you can raise a storm that can bury someone ((
    and almost every site have a paid links in some way. you can prove that some one SELL link only if you see the money.

  359. Mick

    This idea is ridiculous. Paid links are a form of advertising. Are you saying Google is the only place you can advertise on the Internet?

    my main concern is advertising in directories.

    If i was to buy a paid advertising link in a relevant directory what would happen?

    Would every link in the directory be devalued or would every link to my site be devalued, whether paid or not.

  360. malls

    Matt:
    [QUOTE]“Example.com is selling links; Google.Adsense that based there – is a paid links. You can see the paid links on http://www.example.com/path/page.html” [/QUOTE]“

  361. “link building” is nothing more than a euphimisim for link spam. Both are pursued to better ones SERP positions. Neither make a page more relevant to a said topic.

    Wow Dave, I can tell you’re pretty qualified in all this.

    I hope someone has told this to Eric Ward, he doesn’t seem to be as knowledgeable in this area as you. Or to Matt, where he endorsed Eric’s work with the following quote:

    “Eric follows the right link building approach. He’s interested in links that are given based on merit, and those are the links that stand the test of time —Matt Cutts”

  362. There are no absolutes in this world and to try and pretend there are is just being naive and impractical. At the risk of repeating all that has been said before Google is a business like any other business and Google created the mess it now wants to clear up. As such it should be looking for real wold solutions and if it cant come up with more than the big stick maybe they should save us all the time and bother and close their doors now rather than later.

    Webmasters have always built links for one reason or another and Google does not have the perogative to dictate what we should or should not be doing . Intead what I am saying is that they should take the initiative and turn the market on its head by undercutting all the link pimps. All the have to do is to recognise a few genuine directories that charge a nomial fee for a review and the maket will implode all on its own. Problem solved.

    The only reason anyone still pays any attention to the Dmoz myth is because its being propped up by the fact that a link from Dmoz carries so muh more………..So why cant they rather divert that faith and dirty money into the emerging market and the pockets of webmasters who work hard and maintain credible lists?

  363. Dave (Original)

    Wow Dave, I can tell you’re pretty qualified in all this.

    I hope someone has told this to Eric Ward, he doesn’t seem to be as knowledgeable in this area as you. Or to Matt, where he endorsed Eric’s work with the following quote:

    “Eric follows the right link building approach. He’s interested in links that are given based on merit, and those are tEric follows the right link building approachhe links that stand the test of time —Matt Cutts”

    Care to link to where you quoted Matt? You appear very confused by the CONTEXT of which Mark Allen used the term “link building”. That isThe first is that its perfectly normal for webmasters to build links to improve thir web sites ranking on the search enginesI believe the context Matt has used “link building” is when a site links to another based on the merit of the sites content (a true vote). Not link exchanging, not by buying links, not by email spam requesting a link etc.

    BTW, we all know sarcasim is the lowest for of wit, but there is no need to prove it.

  364. Dave (Original)

    Oops, got the tags wrong.

    Wow Dave, I can tell you’re pretty qualified in all this.

    I hope someone has told this to Eric Ward, he doesn’t seem to be as knowledgeable in this area as you. Or to Matt, where he endorsed Eric’s work with the following quote:

    “Eric follows the right link building approach. He’s interested in links that are given based on merit, and those are tEric follows the right link building approachhe links that stand the test of time —Matt Cutts”

    Care to link to where you quoted Matt? You appear very confused by the CONTEXT of which Mark Allen used the term “link building”. That is

    The first is that its perfectly normal for webmasters to build links to improve thir web sites ranking on the search engines

    I believe the context Matt has used “link building” is when a site links to another based on the merit of the sites content (a true vote). Not link exchanging, not by buying links, not by email spam requesting a link etc.

    BTW, we all know sarcasim is the lowest for of wit, but there is no need to prove it.

  365. Dave (Original)

    At the risk of repeating all that has been said before Google is a business like any other business and Google created the mess it now wants to clear up

    No they didn’t. The link mongers did. All they did was devise an algo that returned the most relevant results of any SE. It is the link mongers who have exploited this.

    To say Google “created the mess” is like saying Henry Ford created fatal car crashes, or Samuel Colt created relover shootings.

  366. sammie

    i own 8 sites and i am going to use the one site thats PR4 and the oldest as an example.
    on the site (sexual health site) i have 14 site wide links in a block that is titled “visit our friends”
    the links:

    link #1 PR6
    a site i worked for as sexual health advisor for 3 years, and still write for today, (unpaid) 20 articles with my sites link on each, i place this site on my close friends list and will always support it. so given a link to it. (no payment either way)

    link #2 PR0
    Infertility, IVF, Women’s Health, a site i looked at and thought worthy of a link as it deals with some of my sites content and other natural options of pain relief for pregnant women. i was asked if i would have a link to it and paid a token sum, the site offers more options than i do so felt it was a good site to allow association with my site. (reviewed site accepted token payment added link)

    link #3 PR0
    paid for link enough said.

    link #4 PR1
    a hosting site that provides me with free hosting for 2 of my sites. (link free to say thank you to a friend)

    link #5 PR4
    a friend in canada that has a huge site on dogs, link to a friend. (free)

    link # 6 PR4
    HIV site, i think that speaks for its self with my sexual health site, (free)

    link #7 PR4
    a friends blog on pregnancy (you meet lots of people online in 6 years) (free)

    link #8 PR0
    a site i bought for my girlfriend to put her stories on, (free)

    link #9 PR2
    sexual health, (paid link)

    link #10 PR0
    my new site for women only, (free)

    link #11 PR4
    a Dr i have known for 4 years, being a nurse we have built up a friendship and exchanged links over the years he deals with mental health and that covers some sexual health issues too. (free)

    link #12 PR3
    health for the over 50′s that covers some sexual issues at that age, (free link)

    link #13 PR3
    a friend that looks after my sites updates and tech side of the site, i use his scripts (free link)

    link #14 PR4
    female lifestyle and health, great site i use myself when i look for something new to read, it’s like Cosmo online, it has my vote (free link)

    unless i told you what sites paid and what sites i own and what sites have some special meaning and intrest to me, can you please tell me how Google can sort out what is paid and what is not?

    i write 20 articles for a site i worked for for 3 years and have my sites link in them, and i am still a member of that site and i place a link on my site as my vote of approval, yet you will accept anyones spam report saying i have paid links or been paid for writing the articles when i worked for them from 2002, i find this a little strange.

    i think google might be trying to control who gets paid for links and ads, and it’s no-one but google than can take payment for links.

    thats how i feel
    sammie

  367. Dave (Original)

    sammie, I think you’ll find Google simply wants to see that paid links provide only direct click traffic, not PR.

    Most that are screaming are either very confused and/or buy/sell links for PR.

    IMO it’s all a storm in a tea-cup.

  368. Adrian Hall

    “Ash, there’s absolutely no problem with selling links for traffic (as opposed to PageRank). At http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/hidden-links/ I mention a couple ways to sell links that Google would have no problem with.”

    I think there is no problem in selling links for PR either for anyone except Google. This is a Google problem, and I don’t see why webmasters should have any interest in solving it.

    Links are generally bought for both reasons, and adding nofollow tags is adding form before function – it’s bad HTML.

    Work with what there is, Matt, not what you would like there to be.

  369. Doug Heil

    Sammie wrote;
    “unless i told you what sites paid and what sites i own and what sites have some special meaning and intrest to me, can you please tell me how Google can sort out what is paid and what is not?”

    They don’t have to. You state “site wide”. Why would you do that? First off; linking out to others as “votes” means you want to incorporate links into your content on the page, and not have them in a spammy footer at the bottom of your page. A huge red flag under any circumstances. NO ONE should put outside links down there at all. See my example in a post above. I would simply discount “every” link in that box. No need to decipher which ones are paid as they are all suspicious because they “site wide”.

  370. ti

    real nice!

    should only google be the advertising site #1 ?

    all sites, who have costs in relation to the count of visitors, must add advertising content. Why not. And why not text link ads ??

    “To indicate” sides at Google and to exclude therewith out of the index meant,
    that Google wants to censor (like chinese pages) now also the whole (internet) world.
    That corresponds to the typical “world-police” jobs of the bush-government !

    And it is Interference, utilization of the monopoly position and promotes Denouncement !!

    Yups: “Don’t be evil” !!

    ti

  371. sammie

    Dave my site is 4 years old, 3 years as a .com site, the link #1 hosted my site as part of their site while i worked for them for the last year, thats how i feel i still have a close relationship with them and still write for them. how is google going to work out what is paid and unpaid, what is worthy of a link and what is not?
    i think google need to have limits set, and look more at the big boys, who have the mega bux to spend on links, where the little guy (girl) like myself is spending time and money (hosting) on a well made site, and can not afford to buy links, i bought 1 link in 4 years and i felt guilty about it and have never paid for a link since.

    i have a few paid links that come to $100 for them all for a year, that covers the $99 a year hosting, i make $1 wow lets party.

    google wont allow adsense on a sexual health advice site, they class them as adult content, when clearly they are not. so how can i cover my costs?

    if i was making a living from selling links i would agree, but i am clearly just covering costs.
    my worry is how is google going to see links that people report as paid links, when the only people that know 100% for sure is the 2 site owners.

    i have ads space on my pages for sale, i have not sold one yet in 3 years.

    now i have made 7 other sites than adsense will allow me to use on them. so maybe i’ll just worry about being banned from adsense more than links now.
    sammie

  372. I’d like to report all the sites using adsense.

    I know what you’ll say they don’t count towards rank, fair enough but they do allow google to make money.

    Is no one else allowed to make money? it’s a dark road your on here, one that started in china.

    It used to be
    “All websites are equal”

    “but now some are more equal than others.”

    Google has lost its way here Matt and to think of you sat there with your cat contemplating world domination just like a baddie in Janes Bond is a far cry from where this all started.

    Whats next ? Only allow history you like, or how about report a terioist site, your not far from witch burning here.

  373. Why does Google have to publish its PR? Remove it fom the tool bar and surprise surprise its problem solved.

    I build links to get my site seen. Its hard work. Its takes time but I am diligent and stick to it because I am serious about what I am doing. I am also very aware of my obligations and the responsibility I have to the wider community. Why does Google resent this?

    Why have you totlly ignored the suggestion I made? Is it really that dumb? What I said if you didnt hear me the first time is that Google could turn this whole thing around and ensure that the lists that are out there are credible without getting themselves and everyone else into a blind twist. All they have to do is open their eyes and look for a simple solution that grows our internet experience.

    Have never liked the big stick nor the type of people who constantly lick their lips.

  374. Dave (Original)

    Matt has answered the Toolbar PR question before, in this post too.

    build links to get my site seen. Its hard work. Its takes time but I am diligent and stick to it because I am serious about what I am doing. I am also very aware of my obligations and the responsibility I have to the wider community. Why does Google resent this?

    They don’t.

    Have never liked the big stick nor the type of people who constantly lick their lips.

    Neither of those are being conveyed by Google.

  375. Mark Allan – spot on.

    There has to be a better way to determine the quality of a site than links. Seriously downgrading the emphasis on links can only help improve the web. The whole link business is manipulated. People are now paying others to blog for them or to vote for them on social networking sites. I bet a large percentage of social networking is now done by webmasters.

    Can Google find a way to measure the time people spend reading a site and which pages they read? Surely that it the real determinator of quality.

  376. Jose Luis Reyes

    I don’t support paid links, but this idea is generating a storm.

  377. Brad S.

    Dave (Original) — I think I missed where Matt spoke previously about suggestions to stop making PR visible. What was his reasoning for not doing that?

    That would seem to be a much easier solution than turning every webmaster into an undercover agent reporting their competitors.

    And we all know that will happen. Someone will be upset that their competitor shows up 2 spots higher in the rankings and will report their site because they use 5 words to many in their meta tags (which probably are worthless anyway), or their alt tags are a little long.

    You can look at virtually any website and find something that is reportable. It’s unlikely that a random web surfer will take on the role of reporting violations. It WILL be webmasters doing opposition research who can personally gain if those they report lose their listings.

  378. Niraj

    actually link selling for PR is big business now…many sites earn much more revenue from selling links than from advertising.

    look at all those bid-for-position directories coming up nowadays.

    I agree with brad S… a normal user is unlikely to report any kind of violations…only webmasters report them..

  379. How much of this plan to identify “paid link sites” is financially driven vs. quality driven?

    Wouldn’t the #1 offender to Google’s stakeout be Yahoo?

    In the b2b environment, it’s very common to have to pay for links (aka advertising) on industry directories run by traditional trade publications, associations and other organizations. Those links are valuable and important to the advertisers for the purpose of reaching an already-defined audience.

    So does your plan make those companies choose whether to buy links that specifically target their markets or get good position in Google? That doesn’t sound like a plan to improve Google’s index – it sounds like the way you run every potential competitor out of business.

  380. Joe

    This is great. I can go to Google and find the definition of a monopoly. I personally think this is an effort to find a way to push competitor media advertisers out of the way. Or more to the point, a way to get rid of all other forms of advertising besides Googles way of advertising, so Google makes more money. They are just doing it sneakily saying “I’m just giving people what they asked for”.

    Paid links are in direct competition with adwords and if Google devalues paid links then they are in fact monopolizing the media advertising market. Paid links would be virtually useless.

    I dont wanna hear about click through traffic, thats BS. Noone goes to one site in an effort to find another site. They go to Google to find the site they are looking for, not from Google to another site to another site.

    On the flipside, I understand Google wants to find a way to rank sites without manipulation by site owners. This cannot be done without real artificial intelligence or Human edited results. Instead of getting people to change thier sites by adding nofollow tags or finding ways to devalue competition and other such nonsense, find a way to make your algorithm better.

    Define:Monolpoly

    Any commercial process in which one seller controls prices and supply of a product.

    When a single company controls a market to the exclusion of all competitors, it is said to have a monopoly on that market.

    A market in which there is only one supplier. Three features characterize the market. First, the firm in it is motivated by profits. Secondly, it stands alone and barriers prevent new firms from entering the industry. Thirdly, the actions of the monopolists itself affect the market price of its output – it is not a price-taker. …

    the domination of a market by a single company. More frequently in contemporary capitalism, monopolies over specific markets are held not by a single company but by a group of companies acting together to standardise technologies and techniques, and to fix prices. …

  381. And we all know that will happen. Someone will be upset that their competitor shows up 2 spots higher in the rankings and will report their site because they use 5 words to many in their meta tags (which probably are worthless anyway), or their alt tags are a little long.

    I got news for you…that’s already happening.

  382. @Matt
    >”Carsten, I’ve said before that when you compare people to Nazis, I don’t feel inclined to respond to you. That also applies to your holocaust post you did a few weeks ago.”

    Is my English really that bad or do you read my stuff always at bad times?

    No, seriously. I was yelling at the jerk (Mark) who was comparing Google to the SS. I showed him that he has no clue what he is talking about at all, when I said, that IF he “has to” refer to the 3rd Reich in this debate, the Gestapo would have been it and that the SS is completely off topic. It also demonstrated his poor knowledge about history. If you do stuff like that, you better get your history straight.

    The SS was formed to “protect” Hitler and was directly under his command and not under the Wehrmacht, Police etc. The members of the SS were making an oath to only obey to the “Fuehrer” and to die for him, if they have to. If Google is the SS, who is the Fueher? We are talking about people talking other people off for something they might did not do and might get in trouble and punished for no or wrong reasons. It creates a atmosphere of mistrust and fear. And that was the Gestapo responsible for in Germany. It was the secret service and was hunting opponents of the system down, often with the help of denunciators who also used the atmosphere to tell of some people they did not like and accused them of high treason.

    It is a bad comparison, because it is a bit too strong, but the same principles are at work, so it would have been a bad comparison, but at least not off topic.

    With things like that am I very serious. I could have just said:

    “Mark, you are an idiot to compare Google to the SS. That is not very helpful for a debate that tries to solve some problems. Please restrain yourself and watch your language”, but didn’t, because I wanted to teach the guy a lesson as well. You don’t just go around and use words like that, if you don’t know jack what it means.

    Like using the word “crusade” in combination with sending western (christian) troops into the (Islamic) middle east. They were used, unfortunately…. different story.

    I should not have put guy his place, but you did not respond to the tasteless accusation by Mark. Only Sebastian and me did. You might want to check the comments again and search for ” SS ” (leading and trailing space)

  383. There are a lot of people kicking up a fuss here but surely this will only affect the people who have actually bought links??

    Paid links for PR gain go totally against what the Google algorithm is all about so I’m all for this clamp down.

    If you want to rank well in Google then play by the rules or move on. There are other search engines out there….just not as good as the big G.

  384. Brad S.

    I got news for you…that’s already happening.

    I’m sure it is, especially with things like hidden text, copying trademarked words for keyword spamming, etc.

    But I don’t think other webmasters should be given the power of trying to determine if a link on a site is one that the site owner personally endorses, one that the site owner put up to help a friend, or one that the siteowner sold. I’m pretty sure most webmasters will just assume that links on competitors sites were sold and report them.

    Don’t forget, there are millions of mom and pop webmasters builiding sites with out of the box software like frontpage, that no nothing about no-follow. If they sell a few links to cover their hosting costs, to another mom and pop site that is just looking for a little boost, should they really be penalized?

    God forbid one of those mom and pop sites somehow jumps over a pro in the rankings, and their site ends up reported.

  385. That was the other Mark you are talking about I hope. But why has no one bothered to slag me off for suggesting that Google would ever consider acknowledging that its the architect and thats its still the principal player in the links spam market? Why has no-one pointed out that Google couldnt give an damn abut the emering market and is not the least bit interested in mentoring third world users and particularly those running directories that they perceive as being a threat to their global monopoly?

    I thought it was an interesting idea and one worth considering.

  386. Carla

    Matt,

    Was a little stuck on the Math problem, eventually figured it out. You see I have one finger on each hand….rest fell off through snitching on my competitors.

    It appears to me that Google is trying to redefine our business models. Hmmm!!!! that is what happens when one opens Pandora’s box!!!

  387. It is hard to read motivation, even Googles motivation, but there seems to be two distinct sides on this issue, and neither seems to have actually read what Matt said. One side SEEMS to be motivated by the fear of loosing page rank due to losing traffic from paid links. The other side seems to be hoping to gain traffic from the others who lose it. If my site is getting better search results in an artifcial way, it deserves to go lower in the ranking. If it is using links to gain that popularity, it has become like the kid in junior high school, who tries to become popular by associating with the popular kids. If you are doing this, by advertising on the popular kids site, that is fine. Just make sure that everyone can distinguish between the two. Matt obviously struck a nerve, and it must have already been a tender spot for a while!

  388. Jim W

    Somewhere else I read that Matt also said that the only “penalty” on a paid link is that it won’t count. I hope that is also true.

    Yes, I remember that too. Can we have that confirmed please? I agree that Google should do that, it is totally logical.

    In my understanding of this I think Google wants to separate the links that are ads (paid) and the links that are votes (natural recommendation). There is however another factor to this and it is the viewpoint of the visitors. Does the link provide any real value to the visitor? I think that is the most important question in all of this as we make the sites for the visitors.

    So what about a link that brings good value to the visitor (relevant, high quality) which really deserves a vote but it was also paid for? At least I will not place any undeserved nofollow on such a link.

    I think the real problem is when money is used to bypass the editorial check of link quality, relevance and added value to the visitor. Those links should be marked as paid to visitors as well as devalued by the search engines as those links does not deserve a vote IMO. If Google have a problem detecting such links and want us to put a special code (nofollow) on those I see no problem with that. But to require people to submit a SPAM REPORT on web sites that do not use this code on ads I think the line is crossed.

    How many web site owners know about the nofollow attribute? 1%? Probably not even that. People were buying and selling links even before Google existed.

    I also want to mention that Google should adjust itself to the web and not adjust the web to Google.

  389. Is this a joke?I have reported yahoo directory.Lets see what happens

  390. Andy

    Who came up with this idea? let me guess.. was it the people who cant afford to buy paid links and they arnt doing so well for their keyword.

  391. Zeeshan Syed

    Hello Matt!

    This is my first ever post in your blog. I am NOT a pro SEO but I do know a thing or two about it. Google has a lot of money and I am pretty sure, soon, we will see Google having a monopoly on the internet advertising/search. So I guess there is not a lot that we can do to stop Google from doing this. Might as well learn how to go along with it.

    My question: How do you (Google) differentiate between a Paid Text Link and Non-paid text link?

    Thanks
    Zee

  392. In principle this is actually a good issue to try to tackle. Google’s principles are set against artificial link building. The value of a link should be held because someone has decided to link to your page for good reason. Paying someone to link to you is artificial and bias towards the big guns in the SEO world with large marketing budgets…it doesn’t help the searcher/customer.

    Putting it into practise is going to be extremely difficult and that it what everyone is actually moaning about – not the principle…

    …but why do you think Google are using an existing tool and flagging up reports? …so they can see what sort of activity and information is out there/how they may handle the reports and follow things up/how competitors may try to take advantage etc etc etc.

    Well done Google. Let’s hope you can learn something from the feedback and deliver some good results – a robust method of reporting this feedback and clear guidelines on how it may be applied.

  393. Matt, if a site owner mustn’t trade links, and we know people won’t just link if you ask them to any more, our selection of sites we can buy links from without worrying is now reduced (I mean – what if they’re using nofollow but remove them later, or something?), can’t get links from any small webmasters because they do just ‘use frontpage’ and have no idea of nofollow or javascript, can’t accept links from friends in case it implicates us or them, can’t link drop in forums or blogs because we immediately delet or nofollow her and call her a spammer. Can you suggest how they might get some of those links which you have to agree are vital to rank in Google?

    Not in detail, we’ve all had those discussions. Just what type of thing should I tell someone like Auntie Flo to do? Should she video herself topless and hope it goes viral on YouTube? (is geriatric porn a payment in kind?) , spam Digg with her own blog article about the menopause? Ask the WI to start a webring for members?

    How does the combined marketing expertise of Google suggest new websites about not very exciting but still useful things now make sure people know about them, without damaging the Google algo? It does seem to be linkbait or, erm, linkbait nowadays.

  394. Ankit

    Consider this case.

    I have a PR7 website about computers.I know a guy who just made a new website about computers. I think this new website is really cool and it should be first site in the list if I search “computer” on google. So I give a link to this site so that he may get some PR and do nicely on google search. This guy was very haapy to get link from my website so he gave me 100$ as a token of appreciation.

    should I be penalized?

  395. Gurtie said: How does the combined marketing expertise of Google suggest new websites about not very exciting but still useful things now make sure people know about them, without damaging the Google algo? It does seem to be linkbait or, erm, linkbait nowadays.

    This is an extremely important question for many webmasters. Not all sites lend themselves to linkbaiting. Not even all sites lend themselves to acquiring natural backlinks, but because of the Google algo those webmasters are forced to somehow acquire backlinks.

    I run a site that I know for a fact will attract very few natural backlinks. My site is buried somewhere on page five-million-plus-some. The only option I have is to drive traffic to my site with AdWords. One of my direct competitors has purchased several site-wide links. Not even covertly, the sites where they purchased the links advertise the fact that they sell text links. Their website is #1 in Google and has PR6. Without those paid links, their site would have been right next to mine on page five-million-and-one-plus-some.

  396. Mr. Cutts,

    Your writing is very interesting and it makes me to think about every aspect of the S.E.O. techniques I know and use. Please permit me to ask you the followings:

    1. Those sites which sells links [on their or on other sites' pages] offers a non Google-friendly service? How Google relates to these sites? A well-known example is http://www.text-link-ads.com [which intermediates link sales].

    2. How appreciates Google the web directories’ role in the S.E.O. practices? To put it in another way: what is Google’s opinion about link building through the web directories?

    3. How should a S.E.O. professional think about S.E.O. in order to his S.E.O. activity to be 100% Google friendly and ethical? He/she should NOT offer paid links [which results from link trading] for his/her clients?

    Thank you!
    Respiro
    http://www.RespiroMedia.com

  397. Matt, please confirm your are speaking as an official representitive of Google in this discussion.

  398. jamie

    lol they are getting a little out of hand…

    first they use the ref=nofollow = no pr for you… on this section of google to avoid passing sites any pr

    http://toolbar.google.com/buttons/gallery?keyword=Entertainment&hl=en

    where if you notice the little check marks means google checked these sites out then added them here….

    but you need a google account… like this isn’t hard to create a false one

  399. Matt,

    by all the respect that I always had for Google you guys seem to be going for your very end right now.

    Your algo concept has proven to be not able to secure the best available content on top. You are requiring “informers” to help you right now what is an obvious proof to the big failure of your concept.

    Google will only remain on top, if you can ensure the best available content on top.

    At this time any junk can rule your No1. position for any relvant keyword and that is why you seem to believe in “fighting paid links”.

    This world and the Internet is way too complex to get framed into any of yor algos.

    Human beings with proper education and morals are required to define what is the best available content are required. All you algo experts have ZERO chance against any IT savy Grandma when it comes to define the best
    sites for a keyword.

    There are a million smart heads out there to manipulate any of your results as loads of examples do proof.

    Google would obviously do better when hiring “HUMAN INTELLIGENCE” to sort out, what deserves to be on No.1 rather than leaving it to algo experts.

    Not only I could send you loads of examples where your rules violating “Junk” is sitting on top of your suggestions whilst quality sites are cut off from Google traffic 100%.

    Your algo based on links and “report” paid links policy” is a dead end street.

    Hope you will have the guts not to delete my statement and to discuss it with your top ranks.

    Anyway, I have a great respect for Google, but this has to be expressed.
    Be honest and say bye to your algo concept at least for the first few result pages.

    Buck F* Wild

  400. Well after a good read I thought I would see what my members on my forum thought about this, and looking at it they all thought it was a very daft idea and it would never work

    http://www.mkpitstop.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?t=3962

    Have to say one member did go a little of the trolly Matt sorry lol

  401. Brad S.

    I run a site that I know for a fact will attract very few natural backlinks. My site is buried somewhere on page five-million-plus-some. The only option I have is to drive traffic to my site with AdWords. One of my direct competitors has purchased several site-wide links. Not even covertly, the sites where they purchased the links advertise the fact that they sell text links. Their website is #1 in Google and has PR6. Without those paid links, their site would have been right next to mine on page five-million-and-one-plus-some.

    And what’s even worse, is that even if your site stays totally focused and is optimized perfectly for what may be a very specific and unpopular topic, you’ll still remain at PRO because you have no backlinks.

    And higher PR sites that have absolutely nothing to do with your topic, but might mention 1 or 2 keywords or phrases similar to you, will end up way above you in results for your exact search phrases.

    Small sites on unpopular topics will never be found without paid links.

  402. Brad S. said: And higher PR sites that have absolutely nothing to do with your topic, but might mention 1 or 2 keywords or phrases similar to you, will end up way above you in results for your exact search phrases.

    The competitor’s site is #1. The manufacturer’s site is #2. The rest of the sites on page 1 are mostly cookie cutter sites that display a product image and a login button, with almost zero text. More paid links.

    All the sites promote an affiliate product. Mine is about the only one that is completely customized with my own marketing copy of considerable length, contains none of the duplicate content found on the other sites that are ranked so high, and I spent quite a bit of time on the on-page SEO of my site. Logically, by relevance, it should rank very high, but it doesn’t. And logically, those cookie cutter sites should have even fewer backlinks than my site. Yet, when you analyze their backlinks it numbers in the thousands.

  403. spamhound

    Have to agree, this is a pretty slippery slope and the collaterlal fall out is going to be massive.

    If I buy a link for advertising on a site that is directly related to mine, and they don’t use the nofollow, then if I’m reading this correctly at most I won’t get any value other than traffic from the site. OK, so what is the problem with that. If I do get some extra value then it’s a bonus.

    The reason Google is asking for examples is because they cannot accurately figure out what is and what is not a paid link and since the beast they created depends on links and has actually spawned an entire industry , they have a problem with no real way to fix it.

  404. JLH

    Anyone remember Vaction? Sorry folks, the parks closed, the moose out front should have told you so.

    Matt tends to stop commenting on these big posts after a day or so. (see old cloaking discussion) I believe he’s said his part.

  405. Why are’nt we calling a spade a spade here. There are large link selling networks selling links to improve Google rankings. I have seen some of the e-mails these guys send out its pure spam. They should not be doing that. It is against Google guidelines and it gives an unfair advantage to sites with deep pockets. If I were Google (I wished) I would absolutely be trying to find ways to make these links ineffective. These sites do not deserve to rank higher than sites with better content and no link dollars. This whole deal is not about hard working webmasters who try to do everything right its about link mongers who have destroyed organic SEO and made it virtually impossible for a decent site with no money to rank for even a remotely competitive term.

  406. And another thing what is all the fuss about they have been saying for a long time that they were going to render these links ineffective did everybody think they were kidding or something!!!. Every SES I have been to for two years Matt Cutts has said “dont buy links” and the link mongers snigger and say “No way they can never catch us” They have wall to wall PHD’s if they say they are going to do something they have the brain powere to do it.

  407. Doug Heil

    Very good Fionn!

    It amazes me that very few saw any of this coming two years ago when the nofollow tag was introduced. I saw it. I know of a few others that saw it as well. Why is this all the sudden some kind of big issue with many others? It’s all common sense and something that Google has had from the very get-go, and are just now starting to use what they’ve had for two full years now.

    I have to post this. I hope Matt allows it as it’s very revealing as to what is “now” happening, and what many of us knew would eventually happen. It’s not even a stretch to understand totally. Why would Google want to give a boost to “any” site just because they have some monies to buy links? Come on everyone; I know you all can sit back and truly think about the big picture. I know you can.

    The forces of nature are at play. Someone above posted about Mom and Pop and how some sites cannot simply get “votes” from other sites. That’s BS. If you site is “good”, you can acquire links to it. Period. No need to buy them at all. Here is a thread from “two” years ago that discusses nofollow and the link buying thang. It actually tells you what will eventually happen, and IS happening right now….. long overdue.

    http://www.ihelpyou.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=17582

    It is an interesting read. Notice how things are being discussed “for the future”…. and the future is now here.

  408. i apologize if i’m repeating prior sentiments, but i could not read through all 350 responses carefully. i agree with Aaron Nimocks that there’s a different between purchasing paid links (static links) for seo vs for traffic. i’ve purchased static sponsor links for traffic, but i also buy adbrite links for the same traffic…how can you possibly differentiate the intent if it’s assumed i bought the static link for seo?

    and i also agree with Joseph who asks “Why would anyone want to be a rat for Google? An unpaid rat at that…” The only case I could see this being worthy of my time, is if I’m ranked #2 for “women’s shoes” and I gather all back links of my #1 competitor and report all their paid links. any large competitor can knock out all their competition if they have a large enough team reporting competitor links. but again, some of those links could have been bought for traffic purposes…

    food for thought…i know matt prob won’t even read this whole comment

  409. Sonny

    As it has been mentioned earlier, this is now getting beyond stupid.

    Google basically tries to hold onto its failing PageRank algorythm, and along the lines tries to control link buying industry that it generated.

    Hypocrisy lives on. So if one creates a Britney Spears website with nude photos, there will be plenty of links. But if one sells Green Widgets, simple green widgets that everyone buys weekly but nobody cares to gossip about, he should go out of business or by AdWords. I guess this is the official version coming from an outfit that just bought a competitor and now controls 80% of internet advertising.

    “Report paid links” – I report. Google.com is selling links. Yahoo! – ditto. AOL – both buys and sells. Any shopping comparison engine – merchants buy it. Directories, blogs, forums. Etc. etc. I bet you will be hard-pressed to find a site that doesn’t buy or sell links (and I use the term loosely meaning not only monetary, but other compensation as well). Those will be in the “disconnected” cluster, I presume :-)

    Matt, seriously, stop this nonsense.

  410. Dave (Original)

    That would seem to be a much easier solution than turning every webmaster into an undercover agent reporting their competitors.

    Matt said

    Martin Avis and Neeraj, I’ll pass that suggestion on, but lots of people who aren’t webmasters enjoy seeing the PageRank bar, so I wouldn’t expect that to change.

    I would say people report each-other all the time already. If it’s geniune, then that’s a good thing. If it’s not, they are simply wasting some Google employee time along with their own. Regardless I bet EXTREMELY few sites get banned as a result of legit spam reports. I would guess 95%+ of spam reports are things they have been seeing and dealing with since their advent.

    I would guess Google’s existing algorithms neutralize most spam to keep the playing feild level and their results objective. Google does want to ban or penalize a perfectly relevant page when they can simply neutralize any spammy elements. It makes no sense.

    That would seem to be a much easier solution than turning every webmaster into an undercover agent reporting their competitors.

    Rather dramatic take on things! ALL Matt requested (because Webmasters asked for it) is some data to test a new idea Google has. Like most spam, they will no doubt deal with it on an on-going basis via their algo.

    But I don’t think other webmasters should be given the power of trying to determine if a link on a site is………….

    They haven’t been given any powers.

    Don’t forget, there are millions of mom and pop webmasters builiding sites with out of the box software like frontpage, that no nothing about no-follow. If they sell a few links to cover their hosting costs, to another mom and pop site that is just looking for a little boost, should they really be penalized?

    Who said they would be penalized?

    Most here appear very much victims of their own run-away imaginations. Why not all calm down and apply some common sense & logic?

    IMO;

    Google’s objective organic results are likely being compromised by those buying links for PR.

    At present Google likely cannot determine algorithmically (at least not to the degree they want) the difference between a bought link and true vote. The former shouldn’t pass PR while the latter should.

    Matt requested some data to test “some ideas here at Google to augment our existing algorithms”.

    If they can pull this off, those who buy links will no longer have those seen as a vote (neutralize), if they ever were. No penality, no ban, no late night door knocks, no black helicopters, no jail time etc etc.

    Then, in time, those that sell links for PR will no longer have a viable service or product to sell.

  411. Doug Heil,

    True enough. It was inevitable; popular or not.

  412. Dave (original),

    Is it true that your now manufacturing ” I Matt C ” T-Shirts, with “I also love the sound of my own voice” in small print on the back ? hehe

    Most of your posts, and lets face it there’s too many of them, don’t seem to be any form of discussion of the issues, more a defense of any and everything Matt Cutts has ever said.

    We have a TV program in the UK called “Mastermind”. The contestants answer questions on general knowledge, and also on a specialised subject of their chosing. I can just imagine you on that show:

    “Dave, your specialist subject is ‘Every Word every uttered by Google Engineer, Matt Cutts’, and your time begins now…”

    What are YOUR feelings and thoughts on these issues. And by the way, right or wrong has nothing to do with it.

    Seriously, are you able to sit back, take a long deep breath for a moment, and just openly discuss your thoughts without making reference to anyone else? I’m sure thats something I would enjoy reading, and I know you’ve got tons to say. But at this point, if Matt said “Black is White” or “Night is Day”, you would be here shouting the odds defending it. I bet Matt has a really good chuckle at us all from time to time, but even he must be baffled by some of the fanatical behaviour – entertaining as it is.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to pick on you, I just wish you would consider a fresh approach, as you clearly do have passion and plenty to say.

    All the best!
    :)

  413. I ‘d agreed for the most commenting here, and what is Matt said to us just put the rel=nofollow for each paid links we have. cmiiw, like what Matt do for the comment’ link here.

  414. MrRex

    True or not, inevitable or not, I don’t think this is necessarily well thought out.

    Like Fionn said, there’s a bunch of smart people over there. Why don’t they find another route other than having everybody nark on one another? This will only make an uglier situation uglier. There is no honor code. People will rat on people for doing stuff not they’re not doing. And paid links, or advertising, is a part of life. Don’t tell me those patches on NASCAR suits are for fashion!

    And like Gurtie pointed out, what does that leave us with? Are we going to start seeing National Enquierer style headlines in the SERPs now?

  415. I think this is a great idea. I’ve fallen way down on several of my key words because my competitors are buying write-ups in blogs. They aren’t just buying links or ads, they are full page sponsored write-ups.

  416. I never should have told Dave about blockquote. :)

  417. Dave (Original)

    I also keep getting the “uo” back-to-front :)

  418. MidnightSunbeam

    First place you should look, is the adult category at dmoz.

  419. MidnightSunbeam

    Oh ! Silly me! No-one can prove all the 1000′s of quality, unique, content rich porn sites listed in dmoz are paid listings. Better forget it then!

  420. Dave (Original)

    Those with half-a-brain and some common sense, that want a good laugh, watch the youtube rant below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdNA2OZmaUk

  421. Ash

    FIne then, i will just spam everywhere, this is out of order, you have gone too far.

  422. Dave (Original),

    “IMO it’s all a storm in a tea-cup.”

    I agree – if you read what has been actually been stated – thats obvious!

    “I believe the context Matt has used “link building” is when a site links to another based on the merit of the sites content (a true vote). Not link exchanging, not by buying links, not by email spam requesting a link etc.”

    Dave, regarding “link exchanging”. I agree to an extent but would like to comment on this by way of example:

    1. If you sell “widgets” in the UK and get enquiries from US customers but don’t export – you can add value for your visitor by having a page of “US based widget sellers” – likely a reciprocated link ‘cos the US based widget seller gets UK enquiries from time to time.

    2. If you sell say “recycled wigets” you might swap a link with the guy that sells “recycled teapots”.

    3. And in and amongst you might have one way links out on the same page – to relevant stuff such as your trade assocaition.

    I have such links on my site – ‘cos they are relevant to my visitors.

    I don’t really care if they count as a “vote” from the SE point of view, or if they cancel each other out, but to my eyes I am “voting” or at least “vouching” for the other guy, and vice versa – so don’t think the “nofollow” is appropriate in this instance.

    I would be concerned if this was viewed as “link spam” though – surely not all reciprocated linking is bad!

    If I removed those links altogether I would be removing stuff my visitors find helpful.

    Totally agree though that sites with links pages stuffed full of irrelevant reciprocal links are naff and spammy.

    One thing here Dave

  423. Toydestroyer

    Oh dear google are becoming highly retarded and this’ll hurt the webmaster community who have supported google since it was a tiny company. Its obvious that G is turning into the new M$ and its pretty sad that I can’t sell links to pay for my hosting anymore!

    If paid links are such a big deal why doesn’t google just scrap PR, would be the sensible thing

  424. Dave (Original)

    would be concerned if this was viewed as “link spam” though – surely not all reciprocated linking is bad!

    I doubt most “reciprocated linking” is viewed as “link spam”. Probably just the opposite if the 2 sites are related in content.

    About the only time it maybe seen as spam, is if the site being linked to is considered a “bad neighborhood” by Google. Even then, unless you are part of the “bad neighborhoods” link scheme you likely have nothing to worry about.

    In a nutshell, link exchanging is a good thing for all when done with your site visitors in mind and NOT search engines. If in doubt, use nofollow.

  425. Dave (Original),

    Thanks for your slant on this, thats how i read it too.

    I just love this entire thread – if any mon and pop site wants to understand the best way to launch a site, get it indexed and thrive honestly then everything you need to know can be found on this page and cross referencing Google’s “Webmaster Guidelines”.

    You just need to put your “hysteria filter” reading glasses on first!

  426. I think instead of reporing paid links Google should stop considering backlinks to determine the PR :-)
    It will be helpful for the Publisher’s like me for whom purchasing these links is not affortable…

  427. Steve

    Where has Matt Cutts gone? Has he stopped replying? Come on Matt this debate is much more important than your latest posts. You have opened up a can of worms and people are asking you a lot of very important questions.

    Why has a site like text-link-ads or linkmetro not been banned yet from google, all of this makes no sense at all.

    I think you need to clarify the position for everyone.

    Thanks

  428. Craig Bullock

    My first comment here,

    Not a good idea at all mate,

    Who is Google to tell people what they can and can’t do, people just WANT TO MAKE MONEY just like Google does.

    And maybe some like me, who don’t actually make money from there site just want people to enjoy what I have created.

    This is a dirty tactic. Disgusting.

  429. It all sounds so difficult to implement in practice and those in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones unless they are willing to pay the consequences. I wonder how many SEMPO Circle members will continue with the $5000 fee if they are not going to get the page rank benefits form that all important home page link.

  430. Kenneth

    Yea, Google pays me to put their paid text link ad on my site, so I should drop all google related ads, and delete google from my toolbar ???
    Man first Windows now Google , I’ve never used windows because they would not submit to industry standards but try to dictate them…
    I’ve acutually been deleting Google from toolbars for a while, when the do not list all searched sites but filter them with their suppmential index.. Which would make them Judge ,Jury and executioner..
    I’ll make sure I remove this data from any previous clients and any future clients. Thanks for the heads ups…..

  431. “…- Sign in to Google’s webmaster console and use the authenticated spam report form…”

    Thats great Matt.. but how do I go about finding out if the links are paid for or not? Inquire with every sites accounting department?

    And if so, whats the etiquette for asking such a question to find out if it’s a paid link for PR or SE purposes? I doubt your avg advertising department employee is that savvy to know.

  432. This whole thing of “paid links just for traffic” is nice and understandable, but there is one issue that nobody seems to care about.

    A link is a link and that it transfers pagerank is not the webmasters fault or responsibility. Just like Google is not responsible for who ranks in the top 10. (their only commitment is to ranking the best sites for a query in the top 10)

    So why obly webmasters to make sure the link doesn’t transfer PR? How can that be the responsibility of a webmaster? It may sound weird, but actually most webmasters haven’t got a clue about PageRank. Most webmasters don’t know it even exists, just like most users. Knock on a random door and ask people to show their browser. In most cases you won’t find a Google Toolbar.

    Sure there are people that buy links for PR purposes only. But most advertising is done just for advertising reasons.

    The only conclusion is that only Google can take care of their own problem.

    By the way, in my opinion, Google already has improved the PR algorithms to a level that just buying a link in a high PR site is pretty much useless. You need to make sure a link is related, has the right anchor text, etc. etc. etc. Adding it all up and you´re basically forced to do it the right way if you want any search engine benefits at all.

    This also happened with HTML code when Google just started. In the old days you had to create special pages for search engines. Then Google came along and the result was that all you really have to do is build a great site for the visitors and Google rewarded your efforts. (It does help to have an SEO help you with using the right tags, do some research as to what people actually search for, and help to optimize the focus of a page.)

    Google even forced the other search engines to pretty much apply very similar algorithms. In fact, the Yahoo! and MSN SERP’s pretty much look like copies of Google SERP’s. (but that´s just my opinion)

    The only thing Google needs to get rid of is the idea that webmasters have to tell you what’s a paid link and what is not.

  433. Doug Heil

    LOL I see you haven’t changed any Peter. :)

    My response is:

    Huh?

  434. I am shocked. This is pretty out there for Google to come up with. I don’t understand how you are even begin to stop competitors from falsely reporting sites, determine what is a paid advertisement from a paid link, and does this mean Web Master’s should not longer offer to sale text linking off their web site? As a small business owner, this sucks! I have worked for 12 years to build traffic on my community oriented web sites, with the business model of being able to capitalize off from selling relevant linking/ad.text ads off my site to clients sites. So basically you are going to now stop me from offering this on my sites or ban my sites?

    I agree with another poster above, the Google Adsense program is THE EXACT SAME THING as I see it. SO I see this as a potential move by Google to take away all right to offer the same service they are to a client or suffer the consequences on not having a listing on Google worth having. It is not right. So will I be penalized for running AdSense text ads on my site that are basically as I see it the same thing? Come on Google…

    Just my two cents worth and I really hope you read this and care about the little companies that made Google what it is today. Just my two cents worth and PLEASE this is a really bad idea.

  435. Dave (Original)

    RE: “The only conclusion is that only Google can take care of their own problem”
    =========================================

    That IS what they are doing. All they have asked for is test data so they can take care of it. This WAS by request of Webmasters.

    Keep in mind also, that Google’s problem of black hats gaming the SEs IS also the problem of ALL others. The black hats ONLY profit by cheating at the expense of ALL others.

  436. Dave (Original)

    RE: “A link is a link and that it transfers pagerank is not the webmasters fault or responsibility. Just like Google is not responsible for who ranks in the top 10. (their only commitment is to ranking the best sites for a query in the top 10)”
    ==========================================

    Of course Google is “responsible for who ranks in the top 10″ and you have said as much in the next breath. Google develop the algo to determine which pages are listed and in what order, nobody else.

  437. This one should be fine
    http://www.10000directories.com
    as it doesn’t really affect the SERP’s unless you happen to be looking for me. Maybe you should just review the policy on anchor text, not whether a link is paid for or not.

    What is the stance on sites that also use adwords?, going to ban them?

  438. What is the significance of being able to report paid links vs. unpaid? Is this to place value on paid vs. non? Thanks

  439. hmm, what happened to the ihelpyou forums? Did you all lose your passwords :)

  440. Doesn’t Google have enough money? No need to penalize hard working bloggers.

  441. Webmasters asked for this??

    Ok how about the webmasters that are un-asking for this.

    Just look at the overwhelming negative response to the idea of taking away our precious TLA revenue. Adsense sucks.

  442. So, essentially, Google needs to determine the intention of the purchaser. Unfortunately, I’m an honest person, so I will be punished. I want to admit that I paid for my yahoo links for the SEO, not just for the traffic. What’s more, I occasionally (read, before a dance) pay $300/month to sponsor my site, in hopes that it helps my pagerank further (which is does).

    There, I said it.

    Now, if my *intention* had been to buy it for traffic, then it would be fine, and if only I’d kept quiet then my site would pass unnoticed before the eyes of this emergent gestapo, but because I’m stupid enough to put my foot in my mouth, Matt should now summarily reduce the pagerank of my site to zero.

    Of course there *is* a permanent, real, solution to this problem. Google (the entity, not the people) doesn’t (can’t?) really understand it, or rather their business model is creating this problem and they (again, the entity) have no idea how to dig themselves out from under it (yes, it will get worse, and worse, and then a competitor will come along that undermines them and doesn’t need a hundredth of the money they have to do it – just like they did when Google started).

  443. So should I be reporting Google for all its sponsored links? ;-)
    Paul.

  444. Dear Matt

    I was astonished to see your post on paid links. Your entire business runs on paid links, but apparently if I do the same I am an evil spammer.

    The paid links on my site are clearly labelled sponsors, and I think google is displaying breath taking arrogance by asking me to specially code them for you. I dont care about page rank, because I think it measures nothing at all. My community site is large, full of useful information ( do take a look ) and has been up for over a decade, but last time I looked it had exactly the same page rank as a silly little site I put up to sell a bit of software.

    However, why shouldnt I try and recoup the hosting costs by selling links ? No one is being conned or mis informed.

  445. Dear Matt,

    I see a lot of times the name Text-link-ads popping up here. As far as my experience goes, they are one of the few link brokers that actually provide links that match your site unlike some other where I have to interfere a lot because they seem to deliver a lot of crap, which I filter out as much as possible. On top of that as a publisher you get the demand from Text-link-ads to actually make sure that the links are well placed so that they can deliver traffic. And they have asked me this since day 1 when I started working with them.

    I am a publisher like so many others who has made his hobby site earn a bit of money with adsense, paid links and so on. I would find it sad that we would be targeted as well with this, as we provide own content in which we invest daily a lot of time and energy.

    I think that Google will have to make a difference when it comes to paid links between well placed targeted links and links which are really garbage both in placement as in targeting.

    Just my 2 cents since I always have looked to deliver quality links to my readers and it would be a pity to see this extra way of financing a site gets thrown away due to some cowboys in the field…

    All the best,

    Bernard

  446. Matt, I hope you don’t post this comment.
    I’m writing because of an email we received from someone that was declined a listing in the above directory site. She did not fit the profile of a hand crafted site and was not charged for a review. She threatened to turn the listed site in for selling links based on this thread and included a link.
    The site is run by my wife and some of her friends and was never considered a money maker. After Katrina, the donations for a listing were all given to Habitat for Humanity.

    Does the http://www.craft-festival.com/ fall under what you describe as a link sell site rules. If it does she will drop the donation request and move on, we just don’t want to trip any kind of new filters that are being used.
    Thanks for your time.

  447. Thierry

    Hi!

    Selling cannabis is not OK.
    Selling a cigar is OK.

    Selling links is not OK.
    Selling SEO services is OK.

    Who decides where is the limit?
    That’s the problem of the World Wide Web : we are still in a World Wide Jungle, where the strongest decides on life and death of the smallest.

    I’m not sure if I will live to see World Wide Justice – and I’m young ;)

  448. KMull

    Google… the next Microsoft?

    Google sees competition in the link market. Google doesn’t like people not using AdWords to promote their sites versus buying a link from a high ranking site. Google changes algorithms to get rid of these buying sites. Google squashes small competition. Google wins.

    Just a thought.

  449. Is it too early to report Yahoo! and Business.com?

  450. Ted

    Who do guys think you are, Microsoft.

  451. Here’s an example that’s not a good user experience, it’s artificial, and it’s in everyone’s interest if search engines can reduce the effect of stuff like this:

    http://www.brianwhite.org/2007/04/20/interesting-link/

  452. That’s not fair!Google is making millions but we can’t sell a link!?!?

  453. Bob

    That’s funny.

    Last time I checked Google makes millions of of paid links. So now the little guy can’t even make a few bucks selling or buying legitimate high quality links?

    Gimme a break.

  454. Jim

    Just a few random, alarmist thoughts:
    1. If sponsored links are JavaScript only, won’t users just put on their tinfoil hats and turn off JavaScript every time they surf? Won’t Google Analytics and Website Optimizer yield less interesting data in that sort of world?
    2. How will visitors using screen readers / cell phone browsers / toasters to surf the web see advertisement links? Will their lives have less pizazz without advertising? (Yes, it sounds like a scary world)
    3. It seems like the only change this would make to the industry is more sneakiness. Instead of telling potential buyers what site their link will appear on, vague descriptions about the site will be given instead. I don’t think this change will end link buying, just force it underground more.
    4. How can one “Matt Cutts” answer all of these postings every day? Are you actually three people, and they send the friendliest-looking one to SES?

  455. Doug Heil

    Still there Peter. 7 years strong now.

    I just feel the need to stray over to this blog to help out with all the naivety I read about in here constantly. Matt and Adam and a few others can’t do it all. :)

  456. That’s right. I can’t speak for Matt, but I’m too busy being cool.

  457. Linda

    Let’s get real! Is Google really so paranoid and arrogant to think that everyone who buys advertising on someone else’s site is doing it to game Google???? There are plenty of sites that buying a link on will drive a lot of traffic, whether the search engine’s even recognize the link for ranking purposes. Come on, guys! Google isn’t the only place in town to get traffic.

  458. Dave (Original)

    Is the sky still falling?

  459. Alan Partridge

    I’d like to report a site.

    It seems to have millions of paid links. At the top of the page in a colored bar. And down he right hand side in little boxes.

    These paid links appear whenever I type in a search.

    Site is http://www.google.com

  460. Hi!

    Matt, I think this move will become a safety for your opponents.

    Not for this Machiavelli like call to denunciate.
    But for the try, to damage advertisement in the internet which doesn’t go the Goggle way.
    And now, instead going forward, you are willing to roll back large and long time developments.

    This attempt is like to expel satan with a demon.

    It shows to me, that Google has great problems with their PR-regulating link-system.

    So it seem to me, to be a much easier solution:
    to integrate a link announcement tool in the webmasterconsole,
    which I suggest here further.

    Google said often: our detectives are able to find click fraud.
    now this is a very dynamic problem,
    paid links are more a static problem,
    so you only have to rank all the announced links and add them to the PR-rank as you do before this bad idea.

    But I think the problem will be:
    your offer will work for you nice,
    for some time
    and then it will become more and more a weapon,
    used against each other.

    Greetings Karl

  461. Doug Heil

    naw. You cannot use this against your competitor. Why you ask? Because you will be logged in to Google, so reporting to Google about a site will also put your integrity in the spotlight as well. Don’t think for one minute that you will be able to fool Google by simply reporting sites for the sake of reporting them.

  462. This is the worst idea ever.. Who the hell are you to tell me how i can and can’t advertise? You seem to be under the impression that Google own the internet Matt, Get off your high horse.

    I guess we have something to replace PR as “Google stupidest idea ever”

    naw. You cannot use this against your competitor. Why you ask? Because you will be logged in to Google, so reporting to Google about a site will also put your integrity in the spotlight as well. Don’t think for one minute that you will be able to fool Google by simply reporting sites for the sake of reporting them.

    Yeah, And signing up for another Google account is impossible… oh, wait…

  463. Shouldn’t you concentrate on sites that demand reciprocal links first, before you attack those that sell links?
    I know sites that demand recip’s that are now PR6 becasue of that, and their results are all over the serp’s.

    If seems to me that paid links provide the most relevent results as they generally say what it is the website actually does and Google results are already the best because of that.

    Why attack something that has put Google where it is? just because of a few comments at a meeting in London???
    There are a lot more voices that are against this change then there are for it.

  464. Eric

    Google says it wants to reduce spam on the Web, but does not realize that one, if not the biggest source of spam, is due to its Adsense program. If you were more careful as to who you allow into the program, there would be much less sites going online.

    You allow spam sites to have Adsense accounts because it benefits you, but you disallow other sites to maximize their revenue streams. One day, this double policy will backfire.

    It is good that Google people try to do their best to improve their search engine, but going so far as dictating what webmasters can and cannot do is too much.

  465. Reporting others is at most a “feel good” action and won’t affect the SERP’s. But you do want to be careful with reporting others, for paid links or the usual hidden links type of reporting. The reports work great for Google but not always for you as a tool against competitors.

    I have seen one instance where somebody reported a competing site for hidden links and hidden text, and sure, the site was removed,….. for a while. Then the webmaster of that site cleaned up all the hidden links and the site came back higher in the SERP’s than it was ranking before with the hidden text.. Good for Google of course, but not so good for the guy that reported the hidden links and text in the first place… :)

    Obvious search engine spam that Google is very good at not noticing sometimes, especially if it is in niches, is easy to report and gets removed fast, but if it is a normal site that is just doing some (uneducated) stupid things, you wanna be careful with reporting.

    In my opinion, competition through trying to make your competition look bad is a very dumb and often expensive business. You´re much better of using that time and money to be and look better yourself.

  466. Calvin

    This bothers me. Sort of trying to create a bunch of little “tattletales.”

    Figure it out yourself.

    I think I’ll start using MSN for my search.

  467. JasonK

    How can you find out if your site has been wrongly accused, and you are paying the penalty for it by having your pages delisted or seriously dropped in the serps?

  468. Dave (Original)

    I see selective reading is still very much the flavor of the month for all the conspiracy theorist. They certainly wont let common sense or logic get in their way either.

    All I can say to all those with over-active imaginations is……Good Grief!

  469. judy

    I have 51 websites many subject that are unrelated to eachother.I tend to give my new pr0 sites a link from my pr6 sites.I own all these sites and not paying myself I swear .So when my pr7 technology sites gives my pr4 health blog a link how will you determine if it is paid for or not?by the way i have a server in canada and one in usa and all my domains are registered privately.
    I am more concerned with googles intention if they find unrelated link on a high pr and high traffic website.I dont buy links but i do buy high pr domains just to give MYSELF the pr links.
    If you ever owned a pr2 or less website you know it is next to impossible to get a link trade.I have a 13,000 page pr0 website , I sure hope google appreciates my efforts next update.

    Judy

  470. Sorry for asking, but isn’t this illegally?! isn’t this called discrimination ?! why to punish a guy because he only try to get some extra revenue by selling some text links?! Also people don’t do SEO just for Google, they also do seo for Yahoo/MSN … ,etc

  471. what the heck!!, I dont think this is a good idea :(

  472. Anyway … you didn’t tell us, will we get punished in some way for selling/buying links ?!

  473. It’s kind of funny how those into online advertising tend to not releate theirselves to the rest of the advertising industry. If you were to take the glance in which they are taking, and relate it to the tv commercial industry. Every network would get reported because they air commercials. Paying for an advertisement is the same exact thing as paying for a commercial. You are getting the word of mouth out there, in the exact same way. If an image has a hyperlink attached to it, it’s a link. So basically you are saying that some of these websites can not charge a fee for displaying an ad. Letting a search engine dictate how we can sell our ads is a little extreme. For those brains out there, it’s now time for you to create a search engine that does support these methods. We don’t want the internet to become yet another Sirius Satellite radio, with no commercials.

  474. Steve

    I, for one, applaud Matt and Google. As a previous poster said, if you don’t like it, go to MSN–maybe MSN will increase its market share with disgruntled SEOs, because it’s certainly not having much luck with real users.

    What Google is doing is preserving the integrity of what made Google successful in the first place–typing in a keyword and getting a useful page, instead of a page that’s whored itself to the highest bidder.

    Remember a great search engine called Altavista? Remember when we all discovered that repeating a keyword 1000 times in white text could get us to #1 in the search results? Wow, that was great. Until the search results were so useless that customers stopped using them–and went to a new search engine called Google.

    If you’re a true SEO person, try this. Come up with great, original content. Design fun and innovative applications that people will link to. Push the Web forward, instead of just gaming the system and giving Web searchers more and more garbage.

    I really thought link brokers were going to be the thing that makes Google “jump the shark”. I’m happy to see steps are being taken to counteract them.

  475. Hi Guys,
    This is my first post on Matt Cutt’s blog. Well that does not mean I am unaware of him and his blog. But I never posted before at his blog.

    This post is really getting interesting over time. I see lot of people opposing to Matt’s views. My apology to critics but I feel google has always been taking up steps to provide real data. And there is no doubt that webmasters try paid links for the shake of PR.

    I have been oberving that same questions are repeated again and again which makes me wonder weather people actually read the blog or just love to post.

    Basically what I conclude about his statement is as follows:

    1. Site engaged into trading of paid links would be penalized. (Dont ask him why is it not included in their algorithm. If its not there today then tomorrow it might be there. Indeed feel thankful that he is discussing openly. Also dont forget that google webmaster guideline always discourage link trading so I am sure those who are banned because of this reason are no innocent people)

    2. There is a simple rule for paid links. Text adds, banners, adwords, adbrite links etc. are not treated as paid links because they are meant for traffic and not for page rank because they are always inside a script which the crawlers would never follow.

    3. A link from a paid directory would also not be treated as paid link if it is with nofollow or withing a script which the crawler can not follow.

    Well I can write many other points but I am sure no one would bother to read a long comment.

    We can conclude that a link paid for traffic is safe and link paid for crawlers is spamming.

    Hey Matt, this is what I understood by reading your post. Please correct me if I am wrong and also please enlighten me if i am missing some point.

    Regards
    Dwarika

  476. Hey Matt,
    I have a small doubt after reading your another post :

    You said
    “The other best practice I’d advise is to provide human readable disclosure that a link/review/article is paid. You could put a badge on your site to disclose that some links, posts, or reviews are paid, but including the disclosure on a per-post level would better. Even something as simple as “This is a paid review” fulfills the human-readable aspect of disclosing a paid article. Google’s quality guidelines are more concerned with the machine-readable aspect of disclosing paid links/posts, but the Federal Trade Commission has said that human-readable disclosure is important too:”

    I just wanted to know that if a paid link page displays human readable disclosure then is it ok with google?

    Regards
    Dwarika

  477. Please forgive me, but this is a freakin riot!

  478. Blog Owner

    Matt,

    What would happen if I decided to post original articles from this point forward. Would this result in my blog being indexed again?

  479. f we are reporting paid links then are Yell.com and all the other directories that many web users find so useful now going to go out of business? After all, these are essentially just paid links so how does Google differentiate between the two? Both are designed to drive extra traffic to a paying customers site and both increase the number of links to the site so where exactly is the line to be drawn?

  480. Dave (Original)

    Unlikely IMO. You should start over from scratch and then request a re-inclusion via the right channel.

    BTW, I pretty sure Matt has given up answering questions in this post. Too many simply don’t read them and only read what they want to read.

  481. I run a couple of directories and charge $1 for inclusion which keeps them spam free, are they now under threat?
    (I still have to review everything that is submitted)
    Should I just make them FREE so I don’t have to add the no-follow tag and then sit here deleting spam all day?

  482. Dave (Original)

    There is no “threat” as you put it. Why not simply use nofollow?

  483. hans meyer

    Honestly – this is beyond reason.

    Ok its exciting to tweak your algos – but you do have no right whatsoever to continue your dictatorship on what a webmaster can do and what they must not to fulfill your policies.

    1. There is no way an algorythm could track payed links. Results (algo or submitted) would be faulty by more than 50%.
    2. Your interfere in business noone invited you to in the first place.

    Once again – youre asking people to report other people. Jeeeeeesus.
    Now what – are your algos that bad or do you simply wish to repeat one of histories most common faults ?

    A a webmaster I do have the right to sell anything on my website to whomever i want to – in any way i want to. What makes you think you could prevent that ? Who gives you the right to even think that ?

  484. Dirk

    Hey Matt,

    Is buying a review for a possible inclusion in a directory (e.g. Yahoo, BOTW, …) also considered SPAM?

  485. Doug Heil

    Very good posts Steve and Dwarika!! You too Dave!

    I also truly believe that most in here do not take the time to actually read what Matt said, or to actually read what many of us are writing. Why don’t ya all actually read the posts in here? Common sense and logic is very much lacking. I’m getting quite the shites and giggles from reading many of you.

    BTW: My firm is going to start “selling links” as well. It’s not implemented yet in our new website. Do you think I will be worried about “anything” at all with this new Google link thang? Not even an afterthought. I won’t be worried whatsoever. Zero reason to be.

    As Dave said above;

    The sky sure does seem to be falling.

  486. I run a couple of directories and charge $1 for inclusion which keeps them spam free, are they now under threat?

    Money doesn’t keep directory sites spam free…owners keep directory sites spam free.

    If you’re that worried about spammy submissions, put a CAPTCHA up. You won’t kill all of them but you’ll kill a good portion of them.

  487. I’m curious too about Google’s take on the yahoo directory. I’ve always thought of that as a good investment for the traffic but mostly for the association. If I were making an algorythm for search, inclusion in a directory that is edited and has a fee to keep out some riff raff seems like as good a quality indicator as anything.

    What about a blogroll. I have lots of friends sites in blog rolls, none of them compensate me. Could I be secretly undermining them?

    Lastly, are you sugesting that Google may penalize sites for buying links, or merely disclude purchased links from a given site’s link profile?

    (sorry if these have been asked / answered. I read the first couple hundred posts but then I skipped and just read what you said Matt.)

  488. @ Multi-Worded Adam,

    Sorting through 200 spam submissions per day takes time to see what is spam or not, sorting the few that pay takes moments.

    If I offer free links and you decide that you want to be listed above the other sites already listed, why shouldn’t you pay for that?

    There is ZERO SEO advantage to be gained as you could have just had the free link anyway?? I could even give you several if I want.

    For all I care, you could have a half page ad if you pay enough! It would be no different than the one free listing in terms of SEO gaming.

    To say that owners keep the directories free of spam is a really LAME reply, I would hide if I had posted that.
    I already do enough for charity, it sometimes leaves me enough tme to make a living.

    Apparently Captcha is not user friendly for visually impared individuals, .. so I heard.
    ___________________

  489. spamhound

    I did not see any mention of penalizing a site, only that you might be spending money for the wrong reasons.

    Meaning, you will get no search engine value for the link and if that is why you bought it, then you just wated your money.

    You won’t penalized but if you site is held together by bought links, you might surely drop once those links are discounted.

    By the way, MSN and Yahoo still love links. So if your disounted for them in Google, the other two eat them up.

  490. classifieds, that was extremely well done on your part. You managed to come up with the argument in all of this that shows just how flawed the paid directory business model is. For the sake of illustrating a point, I’m going to assume yours is a general directory, although the same logic applies to any niche directory.

    You say it reduces spam, and that may well be true (I don’t doubt it is for a second). But take something like Aaron Pratt’s site for example (his SEO Buzzbox one.) Would you deny him a listing solely because he didn’t hand you a buck? How about Matt? Would you deny him a link because he didn’t fork over a buck?

    Therein lies the problem with the paid directory business model…it creates economic bias and eliminates the listing of sites that would otherwise deserve but cannot, do not wish to, or should not have to afford to purchase a listing. The dollar amount really isn’t important…even a penny creates a certain bias.

    And by your own admission, your decision to charge still leads to spam…so it doesn’t keep your directory spam free. You have to go in and do something anyway. You have to do a lot less of it, but you still have to do it. So you, the owner, keep your directory spam free…or at least make efforts to.

    You can charge $100, $200, $300, $1,000,000, and eventually you’ll get a spammy request. The amount of requests will probably drop considerably, but they’ll still come in.

    As far as purchasing an advertisement goes, that’s a whole different animal. If I purchase an ad, I want to be able to measure my ROI as an advertiser. This is where search engines do need to improve…if they give an advertiser any SEO benefits, it to some extent skews the ROI measure for said advertiser since the traffic cannot be accurately measured. Personally, I’d be okay with a nofollow being used here (although I’d like to see rel=”advertisement” or something to accomplish the same purpose.)

    As far as CAPTCHAs go, they can be made accessible. Register for a Hotmail account and you’ll see an example (albeit not a very good one) of how to do so.

    So I stand by the remarks I made, and I’m not going to hide for saying them…there’s no reason for me to. You’re just upset because it has the potential to negatively affect you, and your bias is starting to show.

  491. Dave (Original)

    Classifieds,

    There is no “threat” as you put it. Why not simply use nofollow?

    Is your aim to make a good, useful unbias and objective directory, or a lower quality one that invloves less work on your part? I’m NOT saying there is anything wrong with the latter BTW.

  492. @ Multi-Worded Adam
    Thankyou for your reply.
    If all directories were only to be free then surely they should all just list every site on the web, except filter out the spam first? something that even the mighty Google cannot do.

    Regardless of whether we are talking about paid/free directories filtering out useless websites (aka Spam) takes time and drains resources (this is where the exchange of currency is introduced)

    I don’t understand your “different animal” surely ALL links are advertisements whether paid or not? If I re-phrase my question into a list perhaps it will be easier for you…

    1) You can have a link on my website for free.
    2) That is a standard direct link that would pass PR (if I had any!)
    3) You would like to pay to have it in a more prominent place on my website, possibly with more words or even an image.
    4) Then why on earth should I have to apply a no-follow tag just because you paid?

    (please answer no4)

    Free link >> Passes PR
    You pay for an enhanced listing >> Doesn’t pass PR

    …..that’s just plain madness.

    I have no bias on this, I am just questioning something that is PLAINLY absurd, maybe Matt was “sleep-typing” or someone hacked his PC and posted on his behalf :-)
    ______________________

    I concur with this quote from a forum….
    “Google results pages are currently regarded as the best, SEO’s currently try to game the results, obviously to some degree of success or they would all be out of business, therefore my opinion is that gaming the results and SEO actually aids Google’s results.”

    Applying no-follow to links that are paid, clearly reduces serious advertising down to the level of spam, we will all have to hustle around trying to game free links…. just like spammers.

    A better move on Google’s part would be to remove any importance of ANY LINK to or from a blog (the ultimate gaming machine)

  493. PR

    For Matt or Dave (Original),

    I’m far from a conspiracy against google merchant but can either of you just answer the simple questions below for me, so I know where I stand.

    Thanks in Advance.

    1. I know of sites where paid links are, but on the same site, there are links which are not paid for, so how will google know which are which?

    2. I have a few My site a will link to his site b, and my site c will link to his site d, deals, effectively one way links – how does google know if these are paid links or not?

    I’m baffled by how google will introduce this system, but if you could answer point 1 and 2, I would be grateful.

    Regards

    Paul

  494. Do no evil eh? Mmm. This all sounds rather as though the only paid links we can have are Google AdSense links. Monopolies come to mind?

    What’s ethical is that where advertising occurs we are aware of it. Newspapers have clear boundaries – so you would think – between advertising and editorial. But it is hugely blurred. Much of the information in newspapers leads to commercial outcomes (it’s not “news”). Yet it appears as “news”.

    It’s the same in movies – product placement influences what we aspire to and buy. Yet the film doesn’t have a warning saying “this bit is paid for”. Neither does the PR in newspapers and magazines.

    Google’s ethical stance on wanting to make an obvious difference between paid for links and the free links is all very honourable; but it’s not real world.

    True, where it’s advertising it should be obvious – but there’s a great deal of advertising outside the Internet which we are not made aware of as advertising. So why should people who want to pay for links be expected to behave differently online? They won’t.

  495. Matt and Dave are really learning from everyones comments here.
    They should be paying for all this feedback.
    But …. already infected by the greed of Goooogle

  496. Dave (Original)

    Hi Paul

    I have no idea how Google will determine paid links from true votes. I can assure you however that Matt, or anyone from Google, will never tell us.

    I also think we can rest asssured that Google cannot afford to NOT differentiate between them. They have the geek power, money and the most important factors of all…. determination, need and a driving passion.

  497. I have long been worried about the issue of buying links etc. Its great to boost your site up if you have just launched, without the years of wait.

    Now that goog has added value and unwittingly commercialised link building, independent operators with small budgets cannot compete with big time spenders, and there should be some way to monitor and penalise completely unethical link buying.

    But the way to enforce this has to be equally ethical.

    Take for example: http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=buy+links&meta= There are hundreds of link brokers who sell links and link strategies that work.

    Goog stands to benefit from the drop in link buying, by their adwords programme probably getting more budgets, and that is unavoidable. In which case, instead of planning to penalise link brokers, why not put together a range of “buying links” guidelines. The page http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769 doesnt give a clear view on link buying.

    Maybe encourage and finance an independent link brokerage review group or licence. The group will be responsible fo a “guild” of link brokers that follow set rules and regulations (eg the maximum links that a site can “buy”).

    I know that the suggestion above isnt ideal, but may add towards a “cleaner” policy towards link buying.

  498. Doug Heil

    Hi Paul; Dave is right. What you should be asking yourself is this:

    Am I linking out to another site because I think the site is useful to my visitors? Is that other site linking to mine for the same reason, and it also brings me good visitors?

    Or;

    Are we linking to each other because of other reasons as well?

    Believe me; Google wants to answer those same questions about your site and linking. They certainly are not going to tell you how to link out and why, but rest assured they want to figure out your reasons for doing so.

    Ask yourself those questions and then you can figure out whether or not your links will actually count.

  499. http://www.braintrove.com

    It seems like a pretty lame idea. If people can’t setup links between sites without fear that their Google rank is going to fall through the floor–then what’s the point?

  500. Dave (Original)

    Goog stands to benefit from the drop in link buying, by their adwords programme probably getting more budgets,…

    Only in that their SERPs are unbias and objective. Those who are now below those who buy links might be using AdWords. When Google level the playing field those may stop using AdWords.

    I’d say it would roughly even itself out.

  501. Doug, Dave and the others that are trying to become Matt disciples,

    Here´s a quote:
    [quote]
    1) Google is “perfectly fine with people buying and selling links” but prefers them to use the nofollow attribute when doing so.

    2) It is difficult for Google to identify a web site selling the odd link, or a blogger adding a contextual link, in exchange for payment.

    3) Google looks for are patterns that suggest money is being exchanged for links. A casino site buying a link from a blog about gardening, would raise a red flag, said Lasnik. As would an influx of links in a single day.

    4) Links from one relevant site to another, would not likely cause a reaction from Google

    Penalties for Link Buying:

    1) Punishments for buying and selling links vary.

    2) Sellers that offer lots of links for sale, could find their outbound links filtered on a page level, or site-wide.

    3) Buyers, purchasing links from dozens of locations, could trigger Google to filter out the value of their inbound links.

    4) In the case of linking schemes,the link seller to have their ability to pass PageRank stripped away.
    [/quote]

    If you read that properly, you will find that Google has no problem with the buying and selling of links and just prefers them with nofollow because it makes their live easier.

    It also says that relevant links are unlikely to be devaluated, paid or not paid.

    if you wonder where this quote comes from,…. http://www.searchenginejournal.com/adam-lasnik-of-google-on-paid-links-nofollow/4473/

    Seems to me that Matt and Google made it all look worse than it really is.

  502. @ Multi-Worded Adam
    Thankyou for your reply.
    If all directories were only to be free then surely they should all just list every site on the web, except filter out the spam first? something that even the mighty Google cannot do.

    Not necessarily…they would list those sites they deem to be worthy and ignore the ones that aren’t. In other words, the democratic nature.

    I don’t understand your “different animal” surely ALL links are advertisements whether paid or not? If I re-phrase my question into a list perhaps it will be easier for you…

    1) You can have a link on my website for free.
    2) That is a standard direct link that would pass PR (if I had any!)
    3) You would like to pay to have it in a more prominent place on my website, possibly with more words or even an image.
    4) Then why on earth should I have to apply a no-follow tag just because you paid?

    (please answer no4)

    Free link >> Passes PR
    You pay for an enhanced listing >> Doesn’t pass PR

    Man, Dave, you were right…give someone enough rope, and they will hang themselves. Lookit this guy danglin’!

    First off, classifieds, you’ve managed to reveal a mild case of PageRank Protritanopia. Please consult with an optician who can prescribe treatment at once.

    Second, most people purchasing advertising are purchasing it because they want to show up ahead of their competition in the eyes of users. Most of the time, they don’t even care whether search engines are involved or not. So it’s actually to their benefit not to have the link followed because it gives them a more accurate measure of their traffic…you know, the whole reason ads are purchased in the first place.

    If you still want to “pass PR”, give the advertiser the same free link he/she had beforehand and add the ad in as well. That takes care of both scenarios and is of more benefit to the advertiser since it places the link in two spots. It’s also reasonably user-friendly as well, as some users may only want to see free listings so that they know they’re not getting influenced by money, some will look to the sponsor listings first, and some will do a hybrid of both.

    Consider Google as an example…they run sponsored ads, and organic SERPs. Sometimes the SERPs will contain listings that match the sponsored ads. How many people would complain about that? I’d suspect very few…most people wouldn’t even notice.

    I concur with this quote from a forum….
    “Google results pages are currently regarded as the best, SEO’s currently try to game the results, obviously to some degree of success or they would all be out of business, therefore my opinion is that gaming the results and SEO actually aids Google’s results.”

    Okay…so because some people out there try to spam, manipulate, and screw with SERPs for their own self interests, they’re actually aiding Google? That’s like saying criminals coming up with new tricks aids the police in their jobs. This is just asinine, and whoever came up with that thought needs to give his/her head a shake.

    Consider the amount of time wasted by someone like Matt, who has to deal with all the spam reports and come up with ways to deal with the idiots who are trying to serve themselves at the expense of the user vs. coming up with ways to better serve the end user, such as improving the algorithm and making SERPs more relevant. Which would you rather see a Google engineer do, spend a week coming up with ways to block the latest contextual link spam exchange du jour or fine-tuning the algorithm in such a way as to make it more and more relevant?

  503. Dave (Original)

    Do no evil eh? Mmm. This all sounds rather as though the only paid links we can have are Google AdSense links. Monopolies come to mind?

    Who has ever said that? You can buy as many ad links as you like. However, if you are buying them for PR you will likely no longer get what you have paid for. So, the link monger is the ONLY one screwing you, nobody else. “Evil” would be to ALLOW their SERPS to be skewed toward the highest bidder.

    AdSense/AdWords has never, likely never will, pass PR.

    What’s ethical is that where advertising occurs we are aware of it. Newspapers have clear boundaries – so you would think – between advertising and editorial. But it is hugely blurred. Much of the information in newspapers leads to commercial outcomes (it’s not “news”). Yet it appears as “news”.

    So because other forms of Media sometimes blur the boundries, you think Google should turn their heads to it????

    True, where it’s advertising it should be obvious – but there’s a great deal of advertising outside the Internet which we are not made aware of as advertising. So why should people who want to pay for links be expected to behave differently online? They won’t.

    They may not, although I suspect most would, or do already, do the right thing. Why would anyone pay for PR if you longer get what you pay for?

  504. Dave (Original)

    Matt and Dave are really learning from everyones comments here.

    Not sure about Matt, but all I’m learning is the vocal minority have little or no common sense and suffer from severe overactive imaginations.

  505. @ Multi-Worded Adam
    If you still want to “pass PR”, give the advertiser the same free link he/she had beforehand and add the ad in as well. That takes care of both scenarios and is of more benefit to the advertiser since it places the link in two spots.

    Heh, that was just reply I was digging for. Glad you mentioned it.

    Keep the free link and add the paid one too….
    Should I still add “rel=advertisement” to the paid one? ;-)

    So your basically saying paid directories should offer a paid link AND with it you get a free link, having two links kind of defeats the object of blocking the paid links in the first place doesn’t it?

    Theoretically it would also be easy to just run a blog alongside a directory, specifically thanking the sites who paid to advertise/support the directory and ping it round all the social networking sites, again defeating the object of blocking paid links.

    Which would you rather see a Google engineer do, spend a week coming up with ways to block the latest contextual link spam exchange du jour or fine-tuning the algorithm in such a way as to make it more and more relevant?

    As mentioned before, I would like to see a penalty for sites that demand reciprocal links & also all blog links (in and out) removed from the index.

    Thanks for the feedback Adam.
    Regards,
    James.

  506. Do you want to apply this paid links for all Google search engine (all DNS)

  507. Dave (Original)

    I would guess most directories (free and paid) can be identified by Google and simply don’t pass PR anyway.

    I can think of no reason why a site that submits to the most directories should become more relevant with each submission? It’s simply a form of self-promotion & advertising just like forum signatures, paid links, banner ads etc.

  508. @ Dave (Original)
    Hi Dave,
    I agree to an extent, but you can add blogs, digg, myspace and all the rest to that statement. The very nature of the web is self promotion via links, paid or not. Either that or all links are useless.

    I think directories are great…
    “the search engines list the top websites and if your website doesn’t make it into the top 1 or 2 pages then chances are your website will not get seen. So some wise-spark decided to take all those sites that don’t do so well and put them all in a directory which suddenly started to appear above all those previously better ranked sites.
    Picture this: You have a website that sells telephone batteries but it doesn’t do so well on the search engines, why not list your telephone battery website on a directory that focuses on telephone accessories and gets 1000′s of visitors every day?”

    [quote]I can think of no reason why a site that submits to the most directories should become more relevant[/quote]

    They SHOULD be more relevent with each submission because generally they are listed in a relevent category for a relevent topic. I have never had a problem finding something on Google when I need it. Therefore I guess it is working just fine?, note: I don’t search for viagra so I can’t be sure about that one. :-)

    If you ask me they are a great resource much like some blogs focused on one subject can be (unlike ones just filled with peoples useless random ramblings which also pass weight)

    Maybe Google should take it’s top 50 or 100 results and just shuffle them randomly on each search. That would certainly take the stigma out of trying to be on page 1. ??

  509. Doug Heil

    Dave wrote:
    “Not sure about Matt, but all I’m learning is the vocal minority have little or no common sense and suffer from severe overactive imaginations.”

    hmmm. I actually think in our industry it’s the “vocal majority” that seem to have no common sense. LOL

    It’s totally amazing how people just can’t seem to get it. The huge amounts of email spam I get from so-called SEO’s and “link mongers” chasing PR is totally out of control.

    And here we have this thread that started out very innocent with some very basic common sense steps that Google is taking to make “their serps” more relevant, but some out there just don’t get it. I’m totally dumbfounded about why this seems to be so hard to understand. If you actually build a great site with great content people will actually link to you. There is NO NEED to buy a link because of Google and NO NEED to exchange links either. You can certainly trust me on that as it’s a “fact”.

  510. So your basically saying paid directories should offer a paid link AND with it you get a free link, having two links kind of defeats the object of blocking the paid links in the first place doesn’t it?

    Not really, no. You can still have the paid link…remember, it’s a link for the benefit of the advertiser, and it doesn’t interfere with the overall meritocracy of what a directory site should be. It helps both users and SEs, since it separates what effectively is two sets of content.

    As mentioned before, I would like to see a penalty for sites that demand reciprocal links & also all blog links (in and out) removed from the index.

    I agree completely on the first, but not the second. There are a number of blogs out there (this one included) that provide useful content to the end user…why should they be removed just because a relative few idiots decide to use them for spammy purposes?

    And here we have this thread that started out very innocent with some very basic common sense steps that Google is taking to make “their serps” more relevant, but some out there just don’t get it. I’m totally dumbfounded about why this seems to be so hard to understand. If you actually build a great site with great content people will actually link to you. There is NO NEED to buy a link because of Google and NO NEED to exchange links either. You can certainly trust me on that as it’s a “fact”.

    Sure there is, Doug. Obsessive-Compulsive PageRank Disorder. You forgot about that. ;)

  511. Doube D, (Doug and Dave)

    It amazes me how you guys are completely ignoring the quote I showed. You guys say that others are selectively using evidence but you´re worse your selves.

    When a GOOGLE EMPLOYEE says that Google has no problem with buying and selling links, you completely ignore it because it doesn’t fit your line of thinking. The quote even mentioned the fact that a relevant link does not get penalized, even when it is paid. Even that gets ignored…

    Please do everybody a favor and go back to your forum. You´re obviously not here to have a discussion but just to feel good about your selves.

  512. Why are trying to punish people for trying to make a living, this is supposed to be a free capitalist market right?

  513. I think reporting paidlinks is not a problem, even maybe a good thing to help good play with the algebra; but I think penalising a website for selling links is rediculous in any economy. It’s especially silly when the paidlinks are relevant and may just have easily been published if unpaid. Whether penalisation is enforced or not, I hope that Google’s humans manually check each reported site out, because, for example, my site’s ‘sponsored features’ are not for sale but may appear to be at first glance – and they’re relevant to my content so could just as easily be under a non-sponsored section.

    Now, if Google AdSense implements links on people’s sites saying things like ‘Advertise on this site’ then surely there’s a confusion of principles somewhere along the line?

  514. Matrix2007

    “Martin Avis and Neeraj, I’ll pass that suggestion on, but lots of people who aren’t webmasters enjoy seeing the PageRank bar, so I wouldn’t expect that to change.”

    Normal user trust page rank more than enjoying, and page rank extremely easy to manipulate, infact it influences most people who buy online. Isn’t it a misleading factor and good to be stopped (visual PR). Especially it does have anyother purpose as far as I know.

  515. Doug Heil

    Peter wrote:
    “When a GOOGLE EMPLOYEE says that Google has no problem with buying and selling links, you completely ignore it because it doesn’t fit your line of thinking. The quote even mentioned the fact that a relevant link does not get penalized, even when it is paid. Even that gets ignored.”

    Again; that would be a ……. “HUH”?

    So Peter; pray tell me where I stated in this thread “anywhere” that Google had a problem with it, and whatever about a link being penalized or not?

    Goodness Gracious. Have you read anything in this thread?

    For the record and for the purpose of trying to be even “clearer” than I thought I was prior:

    Google has NO PROBLEM with buying and selling links. You can buy and sell links all you wish. Period. My firm will be directly selling “links/advertising” in the future. For the record as well; I highly doubt a firm would be penalized for selling links “even if” deemed to be link spamming. Links “will be” discounted/ignored by Google though.

    In other words:

    STOP buying links “for Google”. STOP selling links and using Google for your reasons to sell links.

    This seems so easy.

    Yeah Adam; I forgot. I must have had a brain fart or something. :)

  516. Why this interest in paid links? There are so many spam sites out there and they are all raking in Google AdSense dollars.

    Check out my post:
    http://advertising-for-success.blogspot.com/2007/02/and-make-positive-contribution-to.html

    You do not need an algorithm to find these, a simple text search will do it.

  517. See Doug, you complain about others assuming you said things, but at the same time you assume that everybody that buys links does so for the sole purpose of PR.

    I never cared for having the highest PR, I care for high rankings. Buying links is not a strategy, but if you’re looking for good places to get links from (something Google encourages) you often get the reply: “Yeah, it will cost you $xx per month.” So now what? Don’t pay because Google doesn’t like it? I’ll never get links for Google, but I sure as …. won’t say no to a link because Google thinks dollars for links are bad. If I believe the link is good for a website (that means it is a place where it is likely that the visitors fit the profile of the site I work for) and the marketing budget allows it, then there is nothing wrong with buying a link.

    This seems so easy.

    And I don’t see why a link like that isn’t allowed to transfer PR. I´m sure Google’s intentions are good, but they present this one in such a weird way. It really gives the idea that Google is against honest advertising and then the obvious conclusion of many is that they want websites that want to sell ads in their site, should use Google Adsense. (not my conclusion by the way, but I do understand it when people think like that.)

    And it really makes no sense to hide these links in javascript, nofollow, etc. Why on earth is that necessary? Aren’t we suppose to never do anything just for the search engines? Hiding links in javascript, flash etc. because we don’t want to influence the SERP’s is completely the opposite of what Google wants.

    Maybe its difficult for Google to detect paid links, but they shouldn’t care about whether or not a link was paid for. What they should care for is relevance. And dollars say absolutely nothing about the relevance of a link.

    Let me repeat it again: “Dollars say absolutely nothing about the relevance of a link.”

    This seems so easy.

  518. Dave (Original)

    I agree to an extent, but you can add blogs, digg, myspace and all the rest to that statement. The very nature of the web is self promotion via links, paid or not. Either that or all links are useless.

    Yes, the “etc” would no doubt include these.

    IMO a vote is a one-way links from a simliar sites content page. No, not sitewide ones and/or those in the footer. I mean those in the actual content of a content page.

    They SHOULD be more relevent with each submission because generally they are listed in a relevent category for a relevent topic.

    I dissagree. Relevance can only come about from the content. Importance can only come about by votes. The 2 combined make a relevant and important page that should do well in the SERPs. Why should the one who buys some auto-directory submitter be deemed as more important and/or relevant? Why should the one who has won lotto and spends ten of thousands of dollars on paid submissions be deemed as more important and/or relevant? A non-relevant, poor written, and perhaps outright wrong article, should stay that way until the content is improved.

    IF Google deemed the 2 examples above as being more relevant, their organic results could never be touted as objective, unbias and coming from a level playing field. I also believe they would have sold out to the higgest bidder, whether for money and/or mass directory submissions.

  519. Russell

    Hi Matt, this thread was way long, im not sure if this came up. A site in my industry is running a promotion

    A Bloggers Grand Sweepstakes – Win $4999

    1.) Post an entry on your blog that is at least 150 words long.
    2.) Enter these 4 words/phrases into your post: “…..”, “…..”, “…..”, and “…….” Place each of them in a different sentence.
    3.) Add a link to your post that directs your readers to ……….
    4.) Fill out form when entry is placed
    1/28 chances of winning

    Send a spam report?

    Best

  520. Dave (Original)

    When a GOOGLE EMPLOYEE says that Google has no problem with buying and selling links, you completely ignore it because it doesn’t fit your line of thinking. The quote even mentioned the fact that a relevant link does not get penalized, even when it is paid. Even that gets ignored

    Yes and that is very much inline what I and others have been saying. I.e Google likely wont penalize or ban a site for buying links, they will likely discount them.

    Peter, you really should read what I and others have been saying. WE are the ones trying to put the common sense back into the “Google is dictating…”, “Google will penalize…”, “Google will ban…”. Please read and not ass-u-me.

    And I don’t see why a link like that isn’t allowed to transfer PR

    You don’t see why a paid link advertisement should pass PR (a vote)?? Please, tell me you are joking.

  521. Doug Heil

    Peter wrote:
    “Maybe its difficult for Google to detect paid links, but they shouldn’t care about whether or not a link was paid for. What they should care for is relevance. And dollars say absolutely nothing about the relevance of a link.”

    hmm. You can’t be serious Peter?

    No further comment is necessary about that statement. Goodness.

  522. It will be interesting to see how this pans out as there is so much to cover, but then what of free submition sites?

  523. Wes

    Matt, thanks for the heads-up, but I think Google has gone a little too far on this paid link and reporting thing. It appears as an older Communist country. Very scary.

    At this point I think you have become a little too powerful and I will be closing everything Google in my life (email, analytics and such) in addition to using alternative search engines as to not support the Google God. I hope (and know) others will follow.

  524. Rishi Lakhani

    “Maybe its difficult for Google to detect paid links, but they shouldn’t care about whether or not a link was paid for. What they should care for is relevance. And dollars say absolutely nothing about the relevance of a link.”

    OMG! The whole reason (IMO) that google would like to discourage this behaviour is to improve the quality of SERPs. Buying links is a manipulation and abuse of these.

    Earlier on I mentioned a regulated paid link industry… I take it back.

  525. CZ

    Don’t help GOOOGLE!!!!!!!!

  526. anonymous

    No no no.
    its ok. the only one who is able to make money with selling links is google. nice adsense/adwords system. nobody else should do that, thats right.
    yes should we ask the w3c to take the -tag out of the validator, because we can manipulate our pages with that tag…putting keywords into it, as the headline.. tztztz no one should be able to use it… google should be able…

  527. Interesting, and long discussion….