Jeremy finished his experiment

In all the Bigdaddy posts, I didn’t notice that Jeremy finished his experiment on selling text links. Just like Danny is tired of talking about SEO contests, the discussion of text links and buying links is pretty picked over at this point.

But there were a couple new things that I’m aware of. One was a post by Tim Converse, who is sort of my analogue over at Yahoo. His take on Jeremy’s experiment is here, and it’s a good read. The other thing I noticed was something Jeremy said:

Now here’s the thing that surprises me. There are many folks out there who don’t care about buying PageRank, link juice, authority, or whatnot. Given the chance to buy a link that’s been tagged with nofollow, they’re willing to do so.

That doesn’t surprise me; I saw that happening during the hubbub with people buying text links on O’Reilly sites. In fact, one of the companies that was buying links back then, 3Genius, took at look at their link-buying and decided to switch to buying only nofollow links, which I applaud. They were the first company to really change to using nofollow. Now if you see a link to a 3Genius site like Hotels X, you know that that link is there because they’re interested in the traffic, not the link juice. And when I hear about neat things like their Hotels + Google Maps mash-up, I don’t feel bad about linking to them and saying “neat idea!” :)

35 Responses to Jeremy finished his experiment (Leave a comment)

  1. So, given that “nofollow” can be seen as a hallmark of authenticity in some way – those using it not, as you say, after the “link juice” – wouldn’t it make sense for a smart search algo to secretly use these *instead* of normal links to quantify Page Rank (or equivalent)?
    ;-)

  2. But it Jeremy gonna get back on your dwindling blogroll?
    No “link sale” PR penalty?
    Get to star on CSI Google?

  3. Philosophical question for you Matt,

    Is a link bad because it was paid for or is a link good because it is relevant and would be a good link to folow for the visitor?

    What is, in your opinion, the priority?

    In your opinion, should every link that was paid for, by definition, have the rel=”nofollow” atribute, regardless of it being a really useful link (or not) for the visitor?

    Peter

  4. Sebastian

    Hello Matt

    You seem to be facinated by googlemaps application just like me.
    My problem though is, that i live in Germany and there still are no maps for towns in in google maps for Europe. (except Great Britain, but that’s not Europe ^^)
    Maybe you could use your superduper-google-inside-connections to dig up some sort of release plan for worldwide/european/german maps?

    Thank you
    Sebastian

  5. rob

    I liked thehotel app..( if a bit on the slooooow side..)

    Google Maps rock, funnily enough, Ive been playing about all morning combining and adding value to a few pages here and there.

    The Google map api page has some pretty useful example code too. Didnt google have a ‘best of’ page somewhere, showing what people had done with it?

  6. Joe

    As far as i understand, using a no follow on a paid link is a decision made with regard to ethics and ethics only. Please correct me if i am wrong, but a paid nofollow link wont help your ranking but will send traffic, while a regular paid link will send traffic and a chance for link popularity for other more primitive search engines. Please correct my logic because I don’t see the advantage to switching to no follow if the only action is devaluation which you are guaranteeing by using no follow.

  7. Aaron Pratt

    Interesting question Peter.

    If I buy a link from a travel site to a new travel site, the site that sells the links can lose it’s PR transfer power correct?

    So how does a person building a travel site get backlinks? Nobody is going to blah blah blah about another travel site on their blog. A new travel site is not going to get any love unless it can do something extremely new and interesting. BUT if you do something interesting how is anyone going to find you without a little boost from an established site?

    It all seems like a dead end.

  8. Bozman

    Hi Matt,

    I noticed that you generously endowed the link to Jeremy’s site with a No Follow tag. This is the only link on the main page with that honor. Are you just being extra nice? Or is it more of an SEO thing? I can’t help but recall all the emphasis by Google and others to write pages for readers, not for spiders.

  9. Dude you put a link condom on your link to Jeremy?

  10. Aaron,

    It requires some creativity,. :) There is no such thing as a dead end. You´re looking at it from the chicken and the egg point of view. Which one was there first? But they both exist so it doesn’t really matter.

    You´re right about doing something interesting. And that little boost of an established site is helpful, the question is,.. how to get it. You assume the only way is through the search engines. Perhaps that’s where many people fail. You should never count on the search engines to get the exposure you need to get higher rankings. That indeed is a chicken and the egg problem.

    But think of this: Neither the chicken nor the egg was responsible for the existence of them selves. There was a third factor/party involved (evolution, God, or what ever you believe)

    So your rankings won’t start going up because of your website or Google. You need to trigger this process. Once the process has started, the chicken (website) and the egg (Google) can sustain them selves (though there´s still that issue with the need for a rooster (you) :) )

    In no way it can be the the SERP’s that will help you trigger the process. It´s always something else. You could get lucky and others do it for you, or you need to trigger the process yourself. How do you trigger this process? There are many posibilities,…. email, phone, news, etc. etc.

  11. You’ll never win the nofollow argument, Matt. It’s just no winnable by search engines. Better to use the energy on developing a radically new way of ranking pages ;)

  12. * scratches his head *

    I’m just not getting this.

    Why would they intentionally choose to buy nofollow-only links? What difference would it make to a Flash-based site what type of links they bought? They’re really not gaining anything in the end anyway.

    (And by the way, am I the only one who finds that site a corporate abomination?)

    How does the line go? It doesn’t matter if it’s good publicity or bad publicity, just spell my name right.

  13. wow you nofollowed Jeremy ? wtf ?

  14. nuevojefe

    I’d say my link was one of the more related thematically and the traffic was pretty poor, I was surprised at how poor with all the controversy. So, in spite of the major “but if it’s a quality site…” uproar not many checked to see if they were!

  15. Matt

    graywolf/webprofessor, Jeremy said that he expected to get a “WTF?” letter from me. I never sent that, so this is my little inside joke instead.

    I’ve only talked to Jeremy once in person, but after all this I’d feel much comfortable sending him a “WTF?” note. :)

  16. Let’s get real. A link is really only worthwhile if it brings qualified, converting traffic to a website. The business about PR, and link juice is just window dressing. From a visitors perspective, a link is only worthwhile if it allows them to find information, research a topic, or purchase a product.

    Ideally, both the visitor and the person buying the link get what they want (and the shorter the distance, in clicks, between them, the better). The majority of traffic to a website is not from a single search engine. Hence, the value of links for links sake.

  17. I think everyone fully expects Google to roll out a StumbleUpon like service to help QC the search results. Probably staffed both by hired help and a legion of trained and certified external web surfers doing the ratings and reviews. In addition there will probably be a dynamic weighting system that assigns higher weights to various “judges” based on their historical success in patrolling the SERPs. The weightings will be further refined by reviewer success when correlated to particular topic areas they excel at.

    However, there are disturbing reports of a recent Google acquisition of a genetics lab in San Jose, whose specialty is in the manipulaton of the intelligence gene in rodents and hamsters. A concerned employee of the lab snuck out this photo of a particular protege that is beginning to display remarkable acumen in judging the quality of a search result, by examining the web site’s keyword density and meta tags..

    Here’s an actual photo of the protege super hamster giving his opinion on a site that had an abundance of paid links:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/seattle_roll/45465925/in/set-640398/

  18. Apt

    It’s funny that you mention the hotels + Google Maps app here because I was one of the advertisers who bit on Jeremy’s link ads precisely because I was having a hard time getting notice for my Apartments + Ratings + Google Maps. housingmaps.com has sucked all the oxygen out of the media space (you’d think tech writers don’t know how to Google any other examples).

    Anyway, it’s a bit annoying that Jeremy never disclosed to advertisers that this was an experiment. If he’d been up-front, we would have passed. Does anyone know if he’s issuing refunds?

    Ironically, based on the traffic he sent (about 150 clicks for $300), the CPC actually wasn’t bad (not great either, but passable) for my industry. I would have likely renwed the link (yes, even with a no-follow), unless traffic started trending down. But it’s hard to know since this was all a big experiment for JZ.

    Btw, a more interesting experiment would have allowed advertisers to voluntarily choose to have NOFOLLOW added to their links. But that option was not provided.

    As an advertiser, I have to say, JZ’s lack of disclosure means I wasn’t able to complete MY experiment: to determine if people reading high tech blogs are interested in an apartments + ratings + Google Maps mashup.

    The great thing about finding a fixed cost blog sponsorship is that IF the audience and ad is right, your CPC has the potential to be way below the prevailing market rates. Not sure that would be good for Google, though.

  19. It seems nowthere is a better way of getting free links and thats buying expired domains.
    A lot of registrars are not resetting the creation date for a domain so Google now cannot tell if a domain is expired or not.To argue my case in point
    Check out these expireds and the nice nest of links at the bottom.
    http://www.exchangingbanners.com
    http://www.ebusiness-incorporated.com/
    http://www.echouroukelyoumi.com/
    http://www.artsight.net
    http://www.comsto.org
    http://www.ilpperformance.com
    http://www.gluw.org
    http://www.coloradodarkarts.org
    All works with great affect.This almost makes a mockery of Google’s bluff about catching out bought links.
    It also confirms the theory that google’s algo doesn’t care about related links.there’s no need to get links from related sites, if they are one way links.Which is why webmasters are still trying to buy links anyway they can.

  20. Ethics in using nofollow?

    You people have to be joking.

    I think the whole bunch of you have jumped the shark on this topic and if a few bad neighborhoods that just sell links to game the search engines ruin my decade old legitimate business before Google or MSN even existed I’m gonna be ticked..

    Made a bigger rant about it being SPAMMY on ThreadWatch and we’ll leave it at that.

  21. Dave

    IMO paid links are just fine and dandy so long as all you pay for is click traffic. All these linking schemes out there where x links are placed in the footer of pages are way out of date and do more harm than good.

  22. “That doesn’t surprise me; I saw that happening during the hubbub with people buying text links on O’Reilly sites. In fact, one of the companies that was buying links back then, 3Genius, took at look at their link-buying and decided to switch to buying only nofollow links, which I applaud.”

    You can argue they do that especially for the search engines which seems to be going against Google’s logic of “would you do it if search engines didn’t exist.”

    I guess no rule is 100%

  23. Joe

    We don’t buy links, but even if we did, I Still don’t understand why we would want to buy a no follow link. Why willfully buy a devalued link to avoid getting it devalued. :)

  24. Aaron Pratt

    HAHA – Those links put Matt’s blog 2 steps away from spam sites. Does this make his blog part of a bad neighborhood?

    I got my son home today and I made the mistake of clicking on one of those links, it opened a second window and another and another and I had to ctl + alt + del to get rid of the junk.

    Lame!

  25. While I’ve never paid for links or had anyone pay me for links, and believe links should develop naturally (yes I all ready have the chicken/egg thing going), I see how Matt’s desire to have paid links tagged as ‘no follow’ is naive (or maybe just wishful thinking). From the comments, it obvious we have all experienced a competitor abusing the currant Google guidelines and getting away with it for years.

    Now if Google ups the ante for white hat-ers by requiring paid links be tagged ‘no follow’, it will get even harder to compete. I think Google also knows this, since they are not recommending this action.

    However, be warned! Both Matt (unofficial Google) and Jeremy (unofficial yahoo) have given us ‘heads up’ at what may happen soon. Can Google or Yahoo pull it off (weed out the paid links from their domain link count)? They have to! And the one that does it first will be the better search engine for it… and people will notice.

    Since paid links, generally, abuse the ‘I linked to you because your awesome’ concept of ranking, paid links HAVE to go the way of the wind as a way of the SE to rank sites.

    How will they do it? Maybe with some fancy math. It that doesn’t work, they may update their webmaster guidelines so that paid links MUST have a ‘no follow’, with the application/threat that the ones who get caught get dropped. Right now, we are simply being warned to get our act together and stop using paid links to get better rankings.

  26. ” it opened a second window and another and another and I had to ctl + alt + del to get rid of the junk.

    Lame! ”

    Aaron, lame is not having a pop-up stopper.

    hehe

  27. “.. it opened a second window and another and another and I had to ctl + alt + del to get rid of the junk.”
    Sorry Aaron, I didn’t realise they had popups.I didn’t even realise that putting the www. domains on matts Blog would automatically create hyperlinks.:(

  28. Not a problem dude, it’s all good and gave me a chuckle just like this did.

    The atomic structure of Matt Cutts? :)

    (I did the no follow thing, I hope it doesn’t hurt me, can someone confirm this)

  29. ken

    So I take it this means everyone should be using paid links, and not using no follow?

    People say what you write is a unnoficial heads up on what google is up to, but you yourself say that its your personal blog, and what you write on it IS NOT YOUR EMPLOYERS OPINION. Therefore, google must WANT everyone to do what you say is wrong, otherwise it would be there opinion wouldn’t it?

    Perhaps its time some REAL clarification was given to people, either say what you write really is your employers opinion , OR categorically state that what you write has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH GOOGLE and stop writing about things that people are clearly taking as your employers opinion.

    Covering your back, but still claiming all the credit strikes me as you wanting your cake, and eating it too.

    Which is it, your opinion or googles?

    And if its NOT googles opinion, why do you not speak up and tell people clearly to stop using you as the official crystal ball / spokesperson for google?

    Its only confusing people, lots of people – and thats just causing people to guess, or panic, or worse.

  30. I gave up worrying about page rank ages ago. All I want are links that bring interested people – but hardly anyone ever links to my book reviews these days :-(.

  31. Aaron Pratt

    Dude, Danny, what are you bitching about you are #9 in Google for the phrase “Book Reviews” isn’t that alone a big thing?

    I got this cool SEO mouse-over thingy that you just rub over a page of links and see how someone is doing in Google, Yahoo and MSN.
    :D

  32. “Dude, Danny, what are you bitching about you are #9 in Google for the phrase “Book Reviews” isn’t that alone a big thing?”

    Ya… if you like getting 5% or less clicks for the term 1.9 sucks

    2.1 would be better… probably more clicks from people skipping spammed out front page.

  33. Hi Matt, i did buy some text links for traffic. I made sure they had “nofollow”
    but in less than one week after my links are live. bam google drops my keywords and my site is getting now traffic.
    I kinda thought these would be safe links.. as i didnt care about PR or messing with the SE’s
    I was simply looking for traffic..
    whats a guy to do these days…

  34. Matt;
    Not sure if you will still read this, but thought i’d try.

    Matt, I own http://www.MySolitaire.com and had over 30 sites (Mostly mispellings) that were not doing redirects, so since my traffic just went so much down since google penalized me.. i have done 301 redirects.

    Also, did reinclusion request, but still no where..
    Now i am starting to thing that i had bought 4 links from one site, and that might be the reason. Can you advise if buying links from site like http://www.hadeseh.com was a mistake. I was offered this link by a friend, and thought it would not only get my traffic up, but also my PR. Now, i have requested those links to come down and am still waiting to do so.

    Please advise, i am in any help that i can get.

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