Selling links that pass PageRank

I’ve talked quite a lot before about buying or selling links that pass PageRank. Today I wanted to walk through a concrete example of paid posts and show why the major search engines don’t want to be affected by links within paid posts. The problem is best illustrated by a serious example: suppose you just visited your doctor and got a scary surprise: you or a member of your family have a tumor. The doctor is throwing around words like steroids, surgery, chemo, and radiosurgery. Much of what the doctor says washes over you, but you remember the word “radiosurgery” and resolve to find out more when you get home.

At home, you fire up a search engine and type “radiosurgery.” If you go to Google and search for [radiosurgery], the results give a pretty good overview of what radiosurgery is (focused radiation that targets tumors). In the first several results, you have balanced information from the International RadioSurgery Association, an overview page on Wikipedia, a great background page from RadiologyInfo, even an introductory-level essay on radiosurgery from the Mayo Clinic. If you came back from the doctor and wanted to get an overview of radiosurgery, I hope you’d find the results useful.

Now, think about how you would feel if your medical search was influenced by pages like this:

Screenshot 1

The posts themselves don’t mention it, but entries like these often turn out to be what are known as “paid posts.” That is, someone paid money in order to receive a review, and the paid review includes a link with the word “radiosurgery,” for example. There’s no disclosure inside these entries whether these posts are paid, nor do the posts use the nofollow attribute or some other mechanism so that search engines aren’t affected.

Now I’m going to ask you to put on your regular user hat. If you’ve just learned that you or a family member have a tumor, would you prefer that radiosurgery overview article from the Mayo Clinic, or from a site which appears to be promoting a specific manufacturer of medical equipment via paid posts? My guess is that you’d prefer the Mayo Clinic.

In the example above, notice that the post says “I myself had never heard of this treatment process until now.” On a subject as serious as brain tumors, it’s troubling if someone is getting paid to review and link to a site, especially if it appears that they weren’t aware of this treatment until they were paid to write about the subject. In researching this incident, we saw lots of people doing paid posts about brain tumors who admitted that they weren’t familiar with the subject beforehand. Sometimes posts were even more inaccurate:

Screenshot 2

“Is there any new medical breakthrough in the treatment of brain tumore [sic]?” If the paid poster had researched their subject more, they would have discovered that this particular treatment has been around for two decades. In fact, the promoted site mentions that one of the main reasons to use their technique is because it’s well-established, not brand-new. If someone doesn’t do enough research for a paid post to know that a treatment is well-established instead of brand-new, how can you trust their opinion about brain tumors? Here’s another post that claims this treatment technique is new:

Screenshot 3

“happy and proud to introduce the GAMMA KNIFE”? Again, this is not a new treatment technique. In fact, anyone who read the first page on the promoted site would have realized that one of the selling points of the device is that the technology is well-established. But there are more noticeable mistakes than calling the technique new when it’s actually been around for decades. Sometimes the posts don’t even get the name of the treatment right:

Screenshot 4

Notice that this post consistently refers to the “Lesksell Gamma Knife” treatment. The correct name is Leksell. I also saw one person call it the “Gama Knife” treatment, and someone else called it the “Gamma Knive” treatment. If you’re getting paid to write a review, shouldn’t you at least perform the basic research to get the product name right?

I have a lot more snapshots I could show, but I hope these examples help explain my point. For this very important (potentially even life-or-death) medical topic, we saw paid reviewers admit that they knew nothing about a treatment before getting paid to post about it, or who didn’t research the subject enough to know that a treatment was decades old instead of brand-new. We saw people writing about brain tumors who didn’t even spell “tumor” correctly, and we saw people who got the name of the sponsor wrong.

If you put your user hat back on, I hope you’ll agree that you wouldn’t want a serious medical search for brain tumor treatments to be affected by inaccurate or uninformed posts. In fact, if you stumbled across these entries on the web, you might not know whether someone got paid for writing these posts. In the same way that a regular surfer would want disclosure to know if a post were paid, all the major search engines also want to make sure that paid posts are adequately disclosed to search engines as well. Google’s documentation for webmasters gives examples of how to do that. I believe the vast majority of our users don’t want our organic search results for something as serious as brain tumors to be affected by links in paid posts.

I hope these examples help to explain the motivation for our quality guidelines, and how those guidelines ensure a better experience for users. To read more about this subject, you can start at Google’s quality guidelines. Where you see the guideline “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank” you can click on “participate in link schemes” to get more guidance. That page specifically mentions “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank” as being against our quality guidelines, and it’s also clickable so that you can read more about buying or selling links in our HTML documentation.

(Just as a side-note: I don’t normally send my blog posts to Google’s public relations or legal folks before posting. For this entry, I did get this post approved by Google’s PR/legal department first to make sure that what I said was an accurate reflection of Google’s opinion on this subject. If you’re concerned because this is a post on my personal blog, we also did an official blog post about this issue today.)

604 Responses to Selling links that pass PageRank (Leave a comment)

  1. By the way, at SES San Jose I got feedback about “buy PageRank”-type ads in AdWords. I recently chatted with AdWords policy folks, and the AdWords folks have disabled ads for many queries such as “pagerank 8″ that would have shown ads before. I expect that we’ll probably disable ads for more “buy PageRank”-type queries as well.

    Thanks to the people who provided that feedback at SES San Jose, and I’m looking forward to chatting with people more at the PubCon search conference next week as well.

  2. Shawn

    This seems like a very specific example, I hope all is well with you and your family Matt.

  3. Shawn, I did want to go through a specific example to ground the debate a little bit. My wife was out of town this week, so I got a little more time for blogging and to comment around the web. She’s back now though, so that will limit my blogging time a little bit.

    I am looking forward to talking to people at PubCon though. It’s a good chance to chat with folks and get good feedback, so I’m pretty excited about heading to Vegas next week.

  4. This is post is a master class – if you need to hammer home why a practice is bad – use a powerful example to illustrate it.

    Thanks for this Matt.

    Hopefully, those engaged in such practices might now “get it” – and hopefully hang their heads in shame at the same time.

    When I say “hopefully” I am being optimistic, but there was no better way that Matt could put this point across…

  5. Ray Burn, my hope was that a real-world example would help make the point. I’m glad you agree.

  6. I think it is very useful to have a non-trivial example like this to get people away from the debate about “Amazon’s copy of 7 Habits versus one from B&N.”

    So I think we can all agree that here this would be a bad place to have to wade through pages of *stuff*.

    But, the *general* reason Google wants people to hit ‘the best possible page’ is so that they can make more money in the long run. (Not complaining, just saying.) The reason that the paid link manipulators want to control the movement is to make more money.

    Unfortunately for the link manipulators, they’re playing inside the Matrix so they are usually at cross purposes to Google.

    Which doesn’t mean that, in all cases, either of you are right, of course.

    -OT

  7. Wow it’s a good thing google doesn’t use KW rich outlinks with people they are in financial arrangements with, because reading this post someone could certainly get the wrong idea

    http://googlecheckout.blogspot.com/2007/07/golfballscom-scores-with-google-product.html

    While links like “Titleist Pro V1 Golf Balls” may not be as life safety related the principal is clearly the same

  8. Dave

    If Google can’t filter out pages that are achieving their rankings through such tactics and it’s concerned people reading those pages will get bad info, then why is Google not warning it’s users?

    Maybe put something like this at the top of the serps “Warning: Google’s index can be manipulated. Don’t blindly trust site’s with high ranking. Use discretion.”

    Then the note at the top of the serps can be removed once Google can spot paid links not using nofollow. Because I doubt that everyone will adopt the nofollow tag for such links and that means it’s up to Google’s algo to spot them.

  9. graywolf, I appreciate your efforts to find some way to accuse Google of bad behavior, but that was a normal editorial blog post. I double-checked and the Google Checkout team linked with what they thought was accurate text, and no money was involved. They even offered to remove the anchortext if it would help.

    By the way, we also put redirects in place on that Enterprise search appliance testimonial page, just to remove even the chance that someone could claim Google was acting improperly in that instance as well.

    Maybe instead of looking for an anti-Google angle on this one, you could discuss whether doing paid posts about brain tumors is or isn’t the best thing for the web? If you were doing this search, would you want search engines to be affected by posts like the ones I showed?

  10. “But, the *general* reason Google wants people to hit ‘the best possible page’ is so that they can make more money in the long run.”

    Oliver Taco, I think this is an interesting point. I think Google has done a relatively good job of aligning our users interests with Google’s interests, so that doing what is good for users or people on the web in general is also good for Google.

    I can say that for me personally, I’ve pressed for a lot of things that would decrease revenue to Google, at least short-term, because it would make our users happier. I pushed pretty hard years ago for a blanket stance against Google doing pop-up ads, for example. I’ve also pressed to reduce low-quality publishers in AdSense, too. Either one of those choices might mean less revenue short-term, but happier users and advertisers are likely to be more loyal in the future. Google has taken stronger stances recently e.g. to kick spammy sites out of AdSense, and I think that is better long-term for users and Google.

    So for me personally, I’m glad that Google is taking this position because I genuinely think it’s the right one for the web and regular users. You’re welcome to believe me or not, but the ability to make a difference is one of the reasons that I still love working at Google. :)

  11. by the way, Google Adsense has at least one customer from the Gamma Knife business. When I search for “Leksell Gamma Knife”, a Google ad from “InternationalGammaKnifeClinic.com” referring to a website titled “Surviving Brain Tumors” is shown…

  12. zoran

    OK, Matt it is not 1999 or 2003. Machines are “smarter” and can dedicate more CPU for semantical analyze… as you do already. For many users who use “wordpress” or some other platform and have WYSWYG do not even know how to go into code and rel=”nofollow”

    Also it would be even more useful for both users and search engines if they would be treated the same way. What about simple human readable syntax that starts like this:

    Ad: This is (sponsored|paid) (review|article|post).
    Here post what ever content is paid.
    End of ad.

    This is much better way to think about both users and search engines and treat those links among Ad:.*end of ad.” absolutely like nofollow.

    nofollow is ok for non-moderated comments etc. or paied links that users put in template (who knows to edit template source knows to add nofollow).

    OK that is my feedback have good SPAM fight and thanks for posting my screenshots ;) :)

  13. >no money was involved

    You don’t think being mentioned on the Google Product blog will drive traffic to that website which will result in sales? Since they are using Google checkout Google gets a % of sale somewhere down the line.

    if you do a search for [brain tumors] the first he result is an unlocked wikipedia listing

    http://www.google.com/search?q=brain+tumors

    Since anyone, medically competent or not, sitting in front of a computer could edit that page I’d be more concerned about providing results with questionable accuracy more than anything else

    This just illustrates what I’ve been saying all along, other than the two parties involved, no one has any idea what the motivation was for the link.

  14. …and my wife just walked in the door. I’m going to be hanging with her tonight, but I’ll try to stop by this thread as well over the weekend. I’ll also enjoy talking about this subject more at PubCon with folks.

  15. Dave (original)

    Great example Matt, it certainly hits home with me! My wife uses Google daily to find information on my 5 year ongoing undiagnosed neurology problems. My Neurologist has even warned us about the miss-information out there on the Web.

    Searcher beware!

  16. oh and if you don’t think wikipedia medical pages have inaccuracies look at the rubella page, especially discussion and history

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubella

    The page claim rubella was eliminated/eradicated from the US which is incorrect a prominent US podcaster Cali Lewis contracted it earlier this year, which resulted in the editing war on the wiki where truth lost out to people in petty turf wars

    http://www.google.com/search?q=cali+lewis+rubella

    sorry for the link drops, just trying to illustrate my point

  17. Dave (original), I know someone who has been coping with a possible tumor and what the best treatment is too. That’s what really made this example catch my attention.

    graywolf, you’re welcome to view a Google Checkout blog post in a cynical way. I’m just telling you that I went and chatted with that team, and they didn’t see it that way themselves when they wrote that post. :)

    Now when I do a search for brain tumors, I see medical information above even the Wikipedia page, e.g. ”
    Treatment
    Tests/diagnosis
    For patients
    From medical authorities
    Symptoms
    Causes/risk factors
    For health professionals
    Alternative medicine” and I think that information is pretty high-quality.

    Regarding the Wikipedia page: yes, it’s true that anyone could edit that Wikipedia page, but in practice that’s a pretty helpful page for a regular user.

  18. ken

    Ok, so now we have something official :)

    I agree about paid posts, I have been spotting more of them recently, and started delisting some sites with the bad type from my directory, obviously its going to take a long, long while to check them all, and also some seem ok if they are clearly marked as paid posts etc.

    However, I rely on a handful of paid links at the footer of very few pages on my site in order to pay for the hosting. As the site operates on a free basis, and does not generate any income from its users, it is the *only* way I can afford to keep the site running.

    Non of the sites linked to are gambling sites, porn sites, brain tumour sites etc, they are all above board.I also check those links to ensure I vote for the sites, and if I dont agree, the link goes. I stopped running adbrite ads because they started publishing rubbish without my permission, but so far no footer links have been of the spammy variety, all sites I do not mind linking to. (to be honest, I find more objectionable adverts on the adsense ads I run on site!)

    Does this mean, I now face two choices

    1. Leave the links, but take a big hit from google
    2. Remove the links and have to close the site when the hosting I have already paid for in advance runs out? Adsense would not cover the hosting costs, and I cant afford it myself….
    3. Change the links, which may be in breach of the terms of the site that I got them through..
    4. Start charging users for submission, and hope people pay, and also do a diservice as it would give those with money a unfair advantage, the whole point of my site is it is open for all – rich or poor to be able to submit their blog. I am very reluctant to change that, as I know what it is like to have very little money.

    Also, when I started the site, googles main rule appeared to be design sites for the user, not the search engine. Having to change how you code or finance a site to suit a search engine seems to be changing that rule.

    Are you going after all paid links, or just the people who are putting them into posts (which I dont do), and the people that are putting them into content, and have them all over the place where you cant tell what is real and what is paid?

  19. Marc

    My aunt made a very expensive purchase via a recommendation from a blog.

    She was severely disappointed with the products and lost a considerable amount money due to shipping charges and restocking fee. Add to that all the time she wasted.

    It turned out the blogger does a lot of paid posts through a company called xxxxxxxxxx. Virtually all her reviews were paid posts.

    Being an online veteran, it didn’t take long for me to realize all her product reviews were fake. She didn’t actually have any experience with the products she was reviewing nor did she even do much research on products. My aunt had no idea.

    I hope Google’s relevance algorithm is doing something to those kinds of posts even if they do have nofollow tags.

    [Marc, I pruned out the name of the company. Please try to avoid calling out specific companies in the comments.]

  20. *** I have a very long comment. Feel free (of course) to trim it and link to

    I agree I wouldn’t give that post much weight. What if it were a pre-eminent brain tumor researcher that was posting while being paid by the Mayo Clinic (because they decided that was a good way to encourage publicizing content that would reach the public) and he suggested further reading at the Mayo Clinic. Then I would have no problem reading it and giving that content a high value and following his advice and reading more at the Mayo Clinic. The issue is the value of the content. Knowing the ways the author might be biased (who is paying them) is one valid thing to consider.

    The idea for Pagerank came from the citation of academic papers. Google’s current position would be that citations from those papers that are funded by other than the author should be ignored. That is not how citation value is calculated in the academic world. An I do not believe it would be an improvement to do so, though I can believe there is a minority that believes exactly that.

    And the same with ignoring the links recommended by lets say high authority sites that don’t exactly follow Google’s desires. Google could just choose to ignore the “votes” of those sites but if those “votes” are not of 0 value (lets say 100% corrupt) then Google would be throwing away valuable insight (by ignoring the votes of that site). Obviously that is Google’s choice but it seems to be pretty obvious that doing so is far from an ideal engineering solution. There is value (votes of an authority) being ignored. Too much ignoring of worthwhile information (even if that information is tainted by payment) and it provides an opening for competitors to make better use of that information to provide results. I just can’t see that as in Google’s interest.

    Much more at:
    http://curiouscatlinks.blogspot.com/2007/12/googles-search-results-should-factors.html
    ***

    [John Hunter, I did prune your comment after the link to your post. No need to include most of your post here when people can click to read your post. Thanks, Matt.]

  21. Matt, surely the blogs that are posting this rubbish (I believe that most paid posts are rubbish) don’t have enough authority to pass any PR anyway? Can’t Google just figure out which blogs are low quality and remove them from the index/stop them passing weight?

  22. Scorpy01

    Right. Except that Google targets only the little guy who can’t fight back. It’s okay for Arrington to pass link juice to his “sponsors” but not okay when I do it.

    Karoli (who hasn’t done paid posts for many months) explains it well:
    http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2007/11/30/behold-the-spirit-of-scrooge/

    Looks like Google is the new Microsoft. And I mean that in a really bad way.

  23. Another Matt

    I am currently being penalized by Google for paid links. I see how something like TLA could be “bad.” However, I don’t see a problem with a site selling links that pass pagerank when the seller is an authority and checks out the other site / product.

    I got rid of TLA, but I’ve kept my other ads. I have a long standing relationship with those advertisers and I stand behind their services. I think I am doing google and the rest of the web a service by KEEPING the links there.

    Would I link to them without being paid? Yes, but in a different spot on the site — In return for money they get nice pictures that entice clicks.

    I agree with you that mass buying of links promotes search spam. However, even advertisement links can be accompanied by trust. To analogize to the “real world,” you have celebrities who will endorse any old product, and you have those that will only endorse products that they believe in. In the long run, the ones that endorse quality products will develop a reputation for endorsing quality products. Why is this bad?

    I totally agree with your perspective in this post. However, there needs to be some way to endorse sites. You’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    P.S. I think this whole pagerank penalty has been handled extremely poorly from a communications perspective. If you penalize someone for something, you should tell them 1) that it happened and 2) why it happened. Why don’t you use webmaster tools for this?

  24. Dave (original) are you related to Matt? Everything he posts seems to have something to do with you.

    I think the site shown is fine, frankly I am genuinely surprised that it’s not showing adsense.

    So what do you recommend Matt? what is the answer that you are pushing for with all these posts?

    Every website sits and waits to build organic links? whilst it’s competitors are out there buying them and getting vast amounts of traffic (because you can’t get anywhere now-a-days without paying for exposure) – remember adsense?….

    Why do you sell links to all those crap sites?????????????????????????

  25. Matt, this is a great example and I appreciate the time and effort you took to clearly define the boundaries and set up the case for the seriousness of medical conditions. Its the same reason I work to keep my site up and available – to help during a scary medical time.

    Any luck finding out what might be keeping my indexed pages at 13K? Does Google ever limit a website’s pages in search results – especially since you have indicated to me that I haven’t been penalized? I keep scratching my head trying to make sense of this in why I can’t get the google bot to index more pages. Any help you can provide would be much appreciated so I can continue to help women with scary medical conditions. Thanks bunches!

  26. Matt –

    I applaud you for having long term vision – popups were probably as bad as PointCast (yes, I am old).. And I don’t think that making money is *bad* as long as the customers are satisfied.

    I buy my clothes at Nordstoms because of the service not because of the price. But I buy my groceries at Sams because of the price. So I understand both sides of the debate.

    I’m glad you guys are going after spectrum. I think you’ll be as good as being a regulated utility as SAS was at being a common carrier, but I think a lot of positives will come out of it.

    I’m not anti-google, but I’m also old enough to look past both the fairy prince and savior-of-manking cartoon figures and see a savvy company making money.

    -OT

  27. I definitely wouldn’t want those types of pages influencing search results. Not because they have been paid for but because they’re nonsense. Looking at the first example I wouldn’t expect a site posting about car loans, colon cleansing and sausage pizza to have any clue about brain surgery.

    In that instance whether the link/post has been paid for in my opinion should be well down on the list of priorities for how much value the search engines should give to any links.

    As a counterpoint perhaps you could comment on the following scenario. A site specialising in cancer and written by a medical researcher (we won’t go with a doctor because (s)he probably makes enough money not to need to take paid reviews) specialising in the field posts an article reviewing this site. (S)he treats it like any other article and spends considerable time researching the product and then posts their honest opinion. The only ‘problem’ though is that (s)he was paid to write the post. How should google treat the link?

    I like this scenario better because unlike the sites posted above besides the paid link issue it probably should be expected to pass ‘linkjuice’.

  28. Matt,

    What about paid directories like Yahoo! or any of the 1000′s of smaller ones? Would Google consider paid directories the same as selling links that pass pagerank?

    Thanks,

    Jim

  29. Dave (original)

    Dave (original) are you related to Matt? Everything he posts seems to have something to do with you.

    Try reading with both eyes open, or even reading period.

    John Hunter, from reading your post you appear to be suggesting that Google allow pages to buy their way up the organic SERPs?

  30. Matt that’s exactly my point I can certainly have an opinion about why I think Google wrote that post and gave those links, but how true that opinion turns out to be, amounts to nothing more than a best guess …

    One thing you happened to omit is the paid listing for Radiosurgery the first listing is a premium PPC slot. Why is it OK for that listing to pay to influence the SERP’s but it’s not OK for the person who paid for a text link advertisement you showed? The painfully obvious difference is that Google makes a profit in the “google approved” form of advertising and in the “google non approved” version they don’t.

  31. Matt –

    Thanks for this – mesothelioma cancer is even worse, 99% of the sites within this keyword are adword only sites or total spam, with adwords :)

    J -

  32. “Matt, surely the blogs that are posting this rubbish (I believe that most paid posts are rubbish) don’t have enough authority to pass any PR anyway? Can’t Google just figure out which blogs are low quality and remove them from the index/stop them passing weight?”

    Patrick Altoft, Google does reserve the right to take action to protect the quality of our index. In general, that can include removing the ability of a site to pass PageRank, decreasing the PageRank in the Google toolbar to show that we have less trust in the page/site, all the way up to demoting or removing pages or sites that are sufficiently spammy — for example, practically no one would want Google to keep those spammy .cn domains that host malware in our index. What I wanted to do was post on the official Google webmaster blog to state our policy in really clear terms, e.g. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/information-about-buying-and-selling.html and then to talk through an example in this post to give more background on why Google has the policy that we have.

  33. Dave (original), no need to be sarcastic. James, I don’t think we’re related. Lots of people have to deal with neurology and tumor-related issue. It’s amazingly stressful, and not to be taken lightly.

  34. Graywolf – I wholeheartedly agree with you. I would feel uneasy at being presented with questionable content every time I searched in Google. The larger Wikipedia becomes the more search terms it is starting to cover and thus, the greater coverage the site gets. Unfortuantely Google doesn’t see it that way. The fact there is a *lot* of Wikipedia’s content duplicated on the net doesn’t make it seem very trustworthy either. But, at the end of the day, as you clearly pointed out – money talks.

  35. Kathy, it’s good to hear from you again. I emailed folks in Google about http://www.hystersisters.com/ and it’s generated some good discussion, but no definitive cause for having a small number of pages indexed right now. Your case has been bumping around in the back of my brain, and I’m thinking a couple things:
    1. I might need to learn more about SEO for forums, or to ask someone at Google what things we could do to improve forum coverage.
    2. Some more PageRank on your site wouldn’t hurt. I’ve been meaning to do a “these sites are cool” post and thought I might mention http://www.hystersisters.com/ in that. I’ve been meaning to link to Robert Oschler at http://www.pleodinosaur.com/ for a long time too.

  36. spamhound

    Matt,

    Great post however you should also go after sites that are still selling paid links and actually did not budge as far as PR goes on the last culling.

    For example, these 3 sites all have great PR, Interlink and continue to sell paid links that transfer PR:
    (pruned)

    If your going to get up on the box about paid links, you really need to drop the hammer. Those sites have been reported and continue to do well it making one think that Google has turned a blind eye to specific sites or industries.

    [spamhound, I passed these on, but pruned the visible list. The spam report form is a better way to go. --Matt]

  37. Oliver Taco, fair enough. One of the big reasons I still like Google is that I feel like I can help make a difference, e.g. the change that the AdWords folks just did to disable ads for lots of “buy PageRank”-type queries. I try really hard to pull Google’s goals to be in alignment with users wherever I can, and I know lots of Googlers who work to keep Google from being just a random big company. But I’m sure some Googlers just think of Google as just a place to work.

    By the way, if PointCast makes you feel old, then I feel a little old too. :) Isn’t it weird how that “push technology” kind of came full circle with RSS and feed readers?

  38. “What about paid directories like Yahoo! or any of the 1000’s of smaller ones? Would Google consider paid directories the same as selling links that pass pagerank?”

    Dito, I feel like I’ve already answered that question before — let me look. Ah, here it is. Is it okay if I just copy/paste my previous answer to that question, from http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-report-paid-links/ ?

    Back then, I said

    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.

    I hope that helps answer the question of how (say) the Yahoo directory is different from the examples I showed in my post. I hope it also answers the question of why a “bidding directory” that just gives the top slot to the highest money bid might not be as trusted by Google.

  39. Matt, you told Kathy “Some more PageRank on your site wouldn’t hurt” – does that mean you’ll just laugh at my site? I’d even send myself cialis and viagra e-mails every day for 10 years for a PR5. Although admittedly I doubt PR will still be any real factor in terms of SEO. Although you have said countless times that PR is one of ~230 factors of a sites serp ranking, from what I gather the higher the serp you receive the higher the pagerank of that specific page will be (in comparison to a page on, say page 2). Or am I wrong, and Google have some devious plan to turn on our heads yet again?

  40. Aaron

    graywolf is trying desperately to find any angle to attack Google and/or MC’s post, and it’s making him look pathetic.

  41. Grant Glendinning, you may object to the fact that anybody can edit Wikipedia, but regular users do like Wikipedia. That said, if you want to exclude it from your own searches, just adding “-wikipedia” to your query should do the trick.

  42. Brent

    I was thinking the about this paid links discussion so prevalent across the web lately. At first I was on the side where I thought paid links should be allowed. But, as a small web site publisher, I thought again.

    How would I as a small website publisher ever be able to compete against large corporations with seemingly endless budgets? They could simply buy their way into the SERPs wherever they feel like and I woud be assed out. Even though I am an expert in the topic my site is about, I would wind up virtually invisible when it comes to search.

    I’m glad Google is against paid links. Remember the web is still very young. I think eventually there will be some sort of standard to indicate a link as being purchased.

  43. Matt,

    This issue seems more about the quality of the review than the issue of paid links. If a certain review is so piss poor, then it shouldn’t get the rankings that a well thought blog with competence should, sure. But to use this as a reason for broadly penalizing blogs who sell links seems a little irrelevant.

    What if I have an authoritative blog, and I want to review a product? Most services give me the option of taking on the review or not. As a blogger and user, I would only choose products to which I would be able to give a competent review. I would be paid, and I would give my honest review, link to a product that I whole heartedly believe in, and then receive a penalty, or at the least have my PR passing ability taken away. Hardly seems fair.

    What if I have a really authoritative blog on a subject, and am approached by another blogger getting into the game; I research the blog, love what I see, and agree to promote his blog. I like his site as a user, and would like to promote it as a blogger. So what if he pays me to do so? So what if giving him a great anchor text would help to move him up. I’m placing my name on it, and I like it. I’m trying to promote it for others to see anyway. As a user, I believe it should indeed rank higher. Isn’t that what you’re (Google) trying to do anyway? Return the results that we as the people want?

    I can understand the bad apples that blindly link to others for the cash and little more. But surely there is another way to take those issues on instead of punishing the rest????

    If the goal is to reduce spam, by all means more power to you. Google is the one to do it before the others IMHO, but I think the issue should be taken to without casting such a wide net.

    Just my 2 cents, as a blogger, AND a user.

  44. Dave (original)

    Dave (original), no need to be sarcastic.

    I disagree, in fact I believe was very light on what James is trying to imply!

  45. Hi Matt,

    Thanks so much. You are very kind to reply and let me know the Google brains are checking things out. Hystersisters.com used to be indexed quite well. Until my penalty. Since my reinclusion the indexed pages just haven’t been the same. (And I have plenty of forum owner friends who have 300+K pages indexed so I know that forum indexing is possible without tools like vbseo url rewrites) Is it possible that when I received re-inclusion I received a purgatory level instead of full grace? ;)

    As for page rank, this is a difficult thing too. Wiki article “hysterectomy” links to me as a resource. Other sites too like DMOZ and yahoo directory (back before it was a paid service) link to me. The main page of the site has been a 5 for years. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get internal pages to receive page rank but it eludes me. I don’t understand much about SEO but do what I can to maintain the site. I ignore the phone calls I get at my office almost daily with SEO offers for a price or those spammy emails. I keep trying to do what Google tells us to do: Add quality content and take care to address the needs of your visitors. SEO and PR should come naturally. I keep praying for a reversal with the indexing. :D

    Please let me know if there is anything I can do to get the googlebot to visit my site’s threads. I would appreciate it soooo much! :D

  46. James has a good point. If you legitimately have a useful site and want to increase it’s visibility, it makes sense to try to “prime the pump”, so to speak. I have a few sites like that – a volunteer project if you will, but also the same could go for commercial companies.

    If I have a company that manufactures “fuzzy titanium widgets”, I’d like for people to find my site above the crappy, ad laden blogs in the same vein what Matt cites above.

    The problem is that there are MANY people *cough* digitalpoint.com *cough* that basically attempt to make their living by creating such ad laden sites and employing all manner of legit and shady techniques to drive traffic, and since Google is the big daddy, everyone has their sights on gaming Google..

    But, that puts those of us who want to promote our legitimate sites in a position of needing to try harder to promote our sites, or be relegated to the back pages.

    So, it’s an arms race.

  47. “How would I as a small website publisher ever be able to compete against large corporations with seemingly endless budgets? ”

    I agree, Brent. Just to give you an example of your point, a few years ago there was a search engine that sorted purely by how much money someone was willing to pay for a certain term. If you searched for “Harvard” you would get test prep companies instead of Harvard University. I remember searching for the Red Cross on that search engine, and they’d had to create a fake $50 bid for redcross.org to make sure that the official Red Cross website would show up #1 for the query [red cross]. That’s just really awful, in my opinion. Very few people chose to go to that search engine, and it’s no longer a standalone business.

    I think one of the strengths of web search is that with enough creativity and insight, a small mom/pop business can compete very well in their niche. Personally, I’d hate if websearch moved in the direction of that search engine that was sorted by pocketbook, and where Harvard University was nowhere in the top 10 for the query [harvard].

  48. And how do you determine what constitutes payment? What about non cash transactions?

    If I say James took me to dinner, linking to james is that bad? Is it a paid link if we went to McDonalds? How about if we went for Kobe Beef, foie gras, and truffles? What if we just just got thrown out of Applebees?

  49. Dave (original), if James is trying to imply that we’re the same or even related, then he clearly hasn’t been reading here enough. :)

    Kathy, I checked a while back and after leaving behind that particular link exchange, you got full grace. :) It would be helpful if you would do a follow-up post on your site to talk about what you’ve done with vbseo type stuff. My best guess is that in the process of trying to do whitehat SEO or streamlining urls, some change was made in the site architecture that block some pages in robot.txt or causes other issues. So a post that says “my urls used to look like bla. Then I made this change and now my urls look like foo.” might help.

  50. >“How would I as a small website publisher ever be able to compete against large corporations with seemingly endless budgets? ”

    Eliminating paid text link advertising as option, isn’t going to drive prices down, when Google is the only place you’re “allowed” to buy advertising do you think the prices are going to go down and become more affordable?

  51. graywolf, was I so clear about paying money for links that you start looking for gray areas (points, coupons, dinner) instead? If so, I’m glad that the post was clear about buying/selling links that pass PageRank for money.

    You also said “when Google is the only place you’re “allowed” to buy advertising”. I’m surprised that you would make that claim when there are tons of non-Google places to advertise with no problem at all.

    In fact, in our post on the official Google webmaster blog, I addressed exactly this point:

    “Q: Is Google trying to crack down on other forms of advertisements used to drive traffic?
    A: No, not at all. Our webmaster guidelines clearly state that you can use links as means to get targeted traffic. In fact, in the presentation I did in August 2007, I specifically called out several examples of non-Google advertising that are completely within our guidelines. We just want disclosure to search engines of paid links so that the paid links won’t affect search engines.”

    graywolf, please don’t claim that “people can only advertise on Google” when we’ve specifically debunked that idea.

  52. Vic

    Matt,

    Here’s what I would like to know:

    If a site that hosts paid links stops doing so, can it get it’s pagerank (and trustrank) back?

    Thanks,

    Vic

  53. Dave (original)

    Graywolf,

    Google hasn’t nothing against paid advertising and never has, IMO. What is does NOT like is when paid advertising is used in an attempt to manipulate the organic SERPs. That is NOT paid advertising and it has an adverse effect on the millions of daily Google users. The Google guidelines are very clear on this…………all one needs to do is read them with a dash of common sense.

    Adwords don’t influence organic SERPs

  54. “oh and if you don’t think wikipedia medical pages have inaccuracies look at the rubella page, especially discussion and history”

    graywolf, I don’t believe I said that Wikipedia pages were perfect. What I did say is that they’re often helpful, users like them, and if you personally don’t want Wikipedia pages in your search results, you can add “-wikipedia” to your own query and you won’t see it any more.

  55. Peter Bird

    Matt, if you have a chance can you confirm that links that have been purchased and identified by Google’s algorithm as being purchased (eg on another site; in a bidding directory; etc) do not hurt the site that purchsed them?

    If not I will bid for some links in a bidding directory for some competitors sites.

  56. Matt,

    The problem with the internet is that it isn’t the way it was in 1999. People are hoarding page rank/link juice because they know that outbound links can gain them money. So, they charge for it.

    Take for example, the Audio/Video Home Theater industry that OneCall.com is a member of. We are one of the top rated Home Theater sites out there. We have great pricing to go with it. However, MOST sites won’t link to us unless there is something in it for them. AVSForum is a great example, HomeTheaterMag.com another great example. I have called these sites over the past couple of years to link to OneCall.com because we are one of the best online retailers in their niche. Will they link to us? Nope! Why? Because we have to pay for it. I have even offered up our affiliate program which pays more than anyone else in our industry. Nope! Why? Because they feel they can make more from Google AdWords instead.

    So why don’t I buy one of their links, banners, etc.? Partially because I don’t want to mess up the $600K per month we rake in from Google Natural search revenue by buying a link that may create a downturn. Also, the banner blindness that people have today is getting worse and worse especially among savvy internet users so paying for a CPM model is becoming too expensive.

    So, OneCall continues to do ‘okay’ in the SERPs but we are nowhere near where we should be based on our reputation in the niche industry we are in. We are playing by the rules. Following the Google Manifesto, partially out of fear of losing success we are having in the SERPS and partially because I truly believe that Google is Good and I still trust Google that following ‘the rules’ makes the internet a better place.

    But sites like OneCall.com are suffering because we follow the rules and that just isn’t right.

    Solution??

    I believe that this is more of an example of the internet needing to have some ability to officially cite sources more than anything. Humans believe what they read on the internet anymore as truth without question. Take for example all of the urban legend type of emails floating around about how this or that person is dying of xyz disease and everyone please pray for them, blah, blah, blah. If a user spends the time to look up the background 99 out of 100 times it’s a hoax. But people believe the crap and they send it around to everyone and their dog because, damn, it’s on the internet . . . it MUST be true!!

    Citing information within key industries (i.e. medical industry, law, etc.) should be nearly a requirement. The world doesn’t want some crackpot wannabe doctor posting wrong information on the web. Adwords forces you to get a pharmacy key to post ads about pharmaceuticals. I feel Google should institute a program where a website can display a badge of authority for key industries. If that badge is displayed (something like a AdWords professional type of badge implementation) then Googlebot gives it much higher credability. If it doesn’t then . . . well it’s just another person’s opinion not a professional’s opinion.

    The internet is serving several purposes today. Ecommerce, information, porn, social interaction, etc. etc. etc. For some of these industries we need to do more than just have an algorithm that tracks inbound link authority determine who is and who isn’t the professional. You point out that the medical industry may be the most important place to start.

    Brent David Payne

  57. “If a site that hosts paid links stops doing so, can it get it’s pagerank (and trustrank) back?”

    Hi Vic, we addressed this in our post on the official Google webmaster blog:

    “Q: What recourse does a site owner have if their site was selling links that pass PageRank, and the site’s PageRank in the Google toolbar was lowered?
    A: The site owner can address the violations of the webmaster guidelines and submit a reconsideration request in Google’s Webmaster Central console. Before doing a reconsideration request, please make sure that all sold links either do not pass PageRank or are removed.”

    The only thing I would mention is that I would not recommend removing paid links, applying for a reconsideration, and then add paid links back onto the site. That would strike search engines as very deceptive/spammy and could result in sites being permanently removed from Google’s index.

  58. Vic

    Thanks, Matt. The concern is not so much pagerank but that a further penalty may come down the road affecting SERPs.

    Vic

  59. “One thing you happened to omit is the paid listing for Radiosurgery the first listing is a premium PPC slot. Why is it OK for that listing to pay to influence the SERP’s but it’s not OK for the person who paid for a text link advertisement you showed?”

    graywolf, Google does have advertising on our site. Like the vast majority of advertising on the web, it is clearly marked as sponsored and does not affect search engines. In fact that ad most definitely *does not* influence Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). Google’s ads go through a url redirector which specifically forbids bots and other search engines from crawling, so that we don’t accidentally influence any search engine. In addition, we try very hard to make sure that our advertising helps our users. For example, the first ad that I see for the search “radiosurgery” is irsa.org, which is a very helpful to users.

    Now graywolf, I did a post with several screenshots of examples why paid posts can be bad for search engines and the web. You seem to be throwing up a lot of objections like “Wikipedia sucks” or “Google checkout looks like they linked to someone with keywords in the link!” But I think if you go back to the content of my post, most people would not want examples like the ones I showed to affect the search rankings for a serious medical subject like brain tumors.

  60. Matt, you’re not old unless you can remember front-panel booting a PDP-8 or paper tape.

    Single sided single density Kaypro CPM floppies with PIP don’t count.

    _OT

  61. >you can add “-wikipedia” to your own query and you won’t see it any more.

    Burying my head in the sand and pretending wikipedia doesn’t exist for the rest of the world just because I don’t see it is ignorant at best.

  62. Hey all, my wife is kidnapping me for a date night, but I’ll be back later tonight to check in on the discussion.

  63. I’ve got to run. Can someone hunt up the recent French study that discusses how much regular users like Wikipedia? If you can’t find it, I’ll hunt it down when I get back from my date night.

  64. Cool . . . have fun. I look forward to seeing a reply to my comment. I don’t think you have ever replied to my comments. Maybe they are too long. ;-)

    Brent David Payne

  65. Dave (original)

    Burying my head in the sand and pretending wikipedia doesn’t exist for the rest of the world just because I don’t see it is ignorant at best.

    Seems to me that by the sheer volume of Google searches compared to any other SE, you are in a minority. However, it’s interesting to know you consider yourself in a position to speak on behalf of the “rest of the world”.

  66. >Like the vast majority of advertising on the web, it is clearly marked as sponsored

    Well we both know there are numerous studies showing that most users can’t tell ads from content on the web. A fact that is complicated by Google Adsense encouraging publishers to make ads “blend” and look like content instead of advertising as much as possible.

    And inaccurate results from wikipedia are better than inaccurate commercially influenced results?

    As a user I want results that are accurate and truthful, a standard wikipedia doesn’t hold itself to or strive for

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

    If you were really interested in removing inaccurate results wikipedia would be the first place I started

  67. Hi Matt,

    I see your points very well, BUT where you and GOOGLE seem to fail is

    1) Google doesn’t were the “human hat”

    Matt, for the love of god , why don’t YOU do that?

    AND here is what I mean…..

    Ask yourself this ” My sister has cancer, crap…let me find out about treatments”

    Your going to tell me that , you would base your family’s treatment on a “google result”….lol come on man.

    I see the example you are trying to use so that it can “hit home”

    BUT – if it was my FAMILY or even someone I cared about, I would be calling doctors and specialists , NOT reading google.

    Maybe a better choice for any example would have been “best xmas toy” or something…

    I am actually horrified that you would also put your family’s health in that hands of any search engine for that matter.

    The real problem is that the whole world is becoming to based on this digital world…..

    “Put your human hat on” and realize there is more to life then “Big oil” or “big search”

    America is 3 trillian dollars in credit card debt, These are REAL #’S from REAL sources, so Of course people are trying to make money….

    Oh yea and last point…

    If selling links is soooo bad….

    How come text-link-ads.com still has a PR7 AND indexed , Oh wait I know “Big Oil”………….No way Patrick Gavin could get one of his sites banned,……….I mean after all he started all this link selling …….

    Yea – you can try to brainwash the rest of us , BUT me and grey wolf have it figured out for sure

    Two key words “google stock”

    Oh yea and PS, he is right about wiki

  68. hey matt,

    quick question. what is the difference between a paid for post on a blog and content that a business pays for to get written by a professional copywriter?

    Also I know you keep focusing on the cancer theme of your post but greywolf is addressing the broader issue and I think some of his points are very valid.

  69. Dave (original)

    When did Google EVER profess to supply accurate information V.S. most relevant according to its algorithm?

    ANY SE who attempts to control the *accuracy* of the information it serves up is on a slippery slope to nowhere. You obvioulsy have a “Big Brother” mind-set already, why would you want to feed that?

  70. Thanks Matt. I’ve written an update with specifics. The only thing: My thread urls never changed. I didn’t use vbseo.

    Thanks once again. I remain ever hopeful a solution is found. :D Next halloween may I suggest a superman costume for you.. if somehow we find a solution. I’ll proclaim you my hero!

  71. Matt,

    I hope you don’t get too involved on trying to control the quality of the web. The more restrictions you put on webmasters, less and less will be in favor of using and supporting Google. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but this what I really feel.

  72. really interesting

    Matt,

    Thanks for the post. I’d like to understand this issue in as great of detail as possible and your example helps. Can you elaborate a bit further on the following questions:

    1) Given that the core of your justification seems to be that you, as a user, wouldn’t like these posts as high search results, can you please share what the SERPs for these posts were prior to GOOG penalties for search terms such as “radiosurgery”, “brain tumor treatment” and “gamma knife” ?

    2) Can you also share what those sites’ PageRank’s were prior to GOOG penalties and after GOOG penalties?

    3) If their PageRank’s were changed, are you saying that their PageRank was obtained by purchasing paid links? If not, then how would you explain the policy behind taking away a PR that was properly obtained via organic links etc.? If their properly obtained PR wasn’t changed, then what penalty did they receive?

    4) One of the posts you referenced (possibly all), linked to http://www.braintumortreatment.org/ . That site contains an overview on the Gamma Knife brain tumor treatment, an Information for Doctors page, an Information for Patients page, and an Information for Hospitals page — in fact, it cites similar authorities and contains more relevant content than the wikipedia page for Gamma Knife, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_knife . At first blush, that site appears very relevant for searches of “radiosurgery”, “brain tumor treatment” and “gamma knife”. Do you believe that site, referenced by those blogs, is not relevant for those search terms?

    Direct answers on these would shed greater light on GOOG’s latest penalties. thx!

  73. Marc

    Matt, sorry about naming the company. I didn’t know it was against the rules. If it seemed I was trying to “call out” the company; that was not my intention. I should have taken more than a minute to write that post with less ranting. Feel free to delete it if you want. :)

    I guess what I was trying to say is:

    What about paid posts (reviews) that DO use nofollow tags, but the reviews themselves are totally fake i.e. not relevant to regular users? Will Google do something about this deceptive practice?

  74. >When did Google EVER profess to supply accurate information V.S. most relevant according to its algorithm?

    and inaccurate information is more relevant? if they were looking for relevant irregardless of accuracy (taking the wikipedia NPV stance) then why defuse google bombs like “miserable failure” or “greatest living american”.

  75. rotatedspectrum

    Is the detection of paid links/paid directories algorithmic or human?

  76. Peter Bird

    Marc: “Will Google do something about this deceptive practice?” – what has this got to do with Google? They are not the internet police.

  77. Chip

    Does this just go for text links? We sell ad space on our website, most ads come in from us from some other ad serving platform and it’s in the form of javascript. However, some of our smaller advertisers supply images and links and so in our system, it just spits out as:
    href | image | end href
    Not done through javascript, just straight up HTML. In no way would anyone confuse it as something other than an ad, but should that no-follow tag be used on the outgoing link even though it’s an image? Does PR get passed even if it’s not a text link?

    Thanks,

    Chip-

  78. Ah, Pointcast. I was on the original beta. What a terrific, ahead-of-its-time system. Until a few weeks ago I had one of the original floppy disks (office clean out time.)

    Hope you’re well, Matt. If you’re back in Lex any for holidays let’s have a beer.

  79. Dave (original)

    and inaccurate information is more relevant?

    That’s a HUGE erroneous leap from my statement: “When did Google EVER profess to supply accurate information V.S. most relevant according to its algorithm?”

    To ensure constantly accurate information would require about 1 billion Google employees perpetually cross referencing information on all 10 Billion + pages in it’s Index. Not realistic and borders on fanciful.

    Of course, if you have method to achieve any such thing, I’m sure Google is all ears. Please share.

  80. Dave I agree, but the objective should be to provide information that’s as accurate as possible. Removing a source that doesn’t strive for accuracy would be a start

  81. Jason Zack

    Matt – thanks for pointing out this example of spam/web pollution. I could not agree more that cutting down on this kind of activity will increase the quality of search and the Internet.

    However, Google is going to far by saying all links that are transacted are negatively affecting the search experience. Although most paid links are spam, like these (http://daily.stanford.edu), there are some good people out there linking responsibly. When a company that has a product/service that adds value (not an affiliate or lead generator, etc), pays a relevant publishers to display their link, and the publisher consents to the quality of their product and wants to link them based on that merit – this can be helpful the search results. I have seen many examples where major brands had to purchase a handful of links on industry specific sites and now that are ranking for terms that are core to their business. These Fortune 500 companies has no other way to achieve this result. They were not buying pagerank or manufacturing authority. They were just getting some anchor text and focus – their domain authority which has been accrued naturally is what drives their rank.

    Adveritsers will always buy links and publishers will always sell them. Brokers will always think of new ways to get past the systemand find a crack (paid blogs, in-content links, etc) . Why don’t you guys try and promote responsibility with linking. Try and educate publishers and advertisers that these links are affecting search results, and that matters a lot (as you displayed above)…be smart with who you link to – paid or not.

  82. ==================================

    EXC-U-USE YOURSELF!!! :-o

    YOU ARE NOT BEING FAIR,….. in fact this logic is completely absurd.
    It borders on being the most vile reasoning in the history of SEO blogs.
    Is this the type of reasoning that goes on behind closed doors at Google???
    Is this the type of conversations you all have, then congratulate yourselves on your moral superiority and righteousness???

    This post will pick your argument apart and show the world just how unreasonable Google can be.

    ARE YOU READY>>>>>>

    1- YOU CAN NOT use extreme emotional life and death analogies to make a point about generalities – -NEVER, EVER give in to that easy way out AGAIN. The extremes do not represent the norms.

    2- The overwhelming majority of paid links ARE VALID and that represents a more realistic perspective!

    3- What other choice are you giving someone after YEARS of not being noticed and playing by the rules?! Should they just remain invisible for the rest of their online lives? Would YOU not finally want to take some action to get traffic? Can you honestly say that if you were in their shoes, YOU would be content to never get anything from your commercial Website?

    4- It will take much more than a few blog links to get an important term on the first pages of Google. And for a term link RADIOSURGERY – many many science articles and older specialty sites will be on the top SERPs. So THAT is why Extreme examples do not reflect the norm. Do manipulate peoples emotion through unreasonable fear. They will NEVER trust you again once they become enlightened.

    5a- Also, can you DENY that there are no under the table deals going on with large sites that buy massive amounts of ads on popular media sites?
    Can you deny that there are not reviews or blog posts given to cement the relationships. Can you deny that Press Releases are not picked up immediately by Hundreds of outlets competing to have 24/7 news – EVEN if they are about minor matters? All of this adds backlinks to a company’s homepage.

    5b- No high PR Website is going to GIVE a free link to a ordinary commercial site. Virtually no social site is going to have any ordinary commercial sites.
    A high quality informational site or a free software or Web service site are what Webmasters show interest in.

    6- What about the admission from an SEO that his firm has clients who by a million Adwords? How the hell is the small guy or gal going to compete?!

    7- If Google is so concern about having the best possible results for searchers - would not that extend to taking the sponsor links OFF the top of the SERPs?
    Using you own logic – the organic results go there by honest, tenacious competition. The top sponsor links BOUGHT their position with big bucks.
    Rememeber, up until a few weeks ago, the entire are was clickable – that is deceiving consumers who may not have known they clicked to go to a site.

    8- Essentially, you are no more honest than the rest of society. When it is to your benefit – you rationalize you behaviour just like most others.

    There has to be understanding on both sides. Smug moral superiority is not the answer.

    There is no need to respond to this post. The words would only be self serving.

    Not all paid links are bad. You can not group all paid links under one banner. A Webmaster has every right to charge for a link when there is a competitive market to get a link on that page.

    What you fail to understand is that there are just no opportunities for small Webmasters to get attention.

    .

    .

    .

  83. @graywolf – Hey MG, I don’t think you’re going to get MC to resolve the Google dichotomy. I honestly don’t think he understand that it exists.

    Remember when AdWords changed color from blue to yellow? Was that to improve search results relevance or blur the line between paid results and organic results? That had nothing to do with anything Matt’s team did. They seem to operate in a vacuum, unaware how the business side of Google creates a conflict of interest with what they’re attempting to accomplish.

    MC, if you really want to tackle search engine spam, convince the AdWords team to display the parked domains from the AdSense for Domains program in reports. For a company whose mission is to organize the world’s information, the selective omission of that crucial information undermines your work. Think about that.

    I bet you’re not even aware that your company chooses to hide this information from advertisers, your company’s core customers who provide 99% of your revenue. This is what I’m talking about:

    http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=bn&answer=66743

    Also, if your read the announcement about the launch of the Placement Performance Report:

    http://adwords.blogspot.com/2007/06/introducing-placement-performance.html

    you’ll notice this section: “The report also provides a new level of transparency for traffic you accrued from sites in our network that are participating in the AdSense for domains program. Currently, AdSense for domains statistics are collectively reported, but we are working to give you site-by-site level statistics soon.”

    That was 6 months ago. How soon is that? ;-)

    A more recent post on your company’s Inside AdWords blog regarding invalid clicks (and I know you’ve posted about invalid clicks and Shuman’s efforts in that regard in the past):

    http://adwords.blogspot.com/2007/07/whats-new-in-world-of-invalid-clicks.html

    refers to the site exclusion tool which “can be used to prevent ads from appearing on certain Google content network websites that advertisers don’t feel are appropriate for their ads. Advertisers can get an idea of where their ads are showing by running a Placement Performance report.”

    Umm, how can you block individual sites when they’re lumped together into a single “Domain Ads” category? Yes, I know an AdSense for Domains opt out exists. That’s not what advertisers or domainers need. Advertisers need to actually be able to see where their ads run and pick and choose individual domains to block.

    Now, can you see why people are having a hard time listening to you talk about paid links and transparency? Your company, Google, is hiding paid links from the advertisers who, to a large degree, fund all of your efforts.

    Good luck. Seriously. Others at Google who aren’t as honest and open as you are going to make it difficult for you to be trusted.

  84. Dave (original)

    Dave I agree, but the objective should be to provide information that’s as accurate as possible.

    Google DO strive to provide accurate information. However, this does not and should not extend to ‘other’ sites. As I said, attempting to do so is a slippery slope to nowhere.

    Google is already the target of “Big Brother” type conspiracies. I see no gain for anyone by living up to that?

  85. JP Fin

    It’s a good sample but in some case Google still ranks these sites very well. For example, a few mins ago, I want to find a free tool to convert downloaded youtube video (flv format) to swf so that I can post the video to my blog directly. But when I searched “flv to swf” (without quote), I got a lot of MFA sites, like the #1 of 1,800,000: http://www.brothersoft.com/downloads/flv-to-swf.html (only adsense ads, no result at all) and #2: http://www.downloadatoz.com/howto/convert-flv-to-swf.html (a little usefull than #1, but useless for me).

    Btw, here is how to convert flv to swf for free: download a trial version of Adobe Flash and you are done!

  86. Dave (original)

    A Webmaster has every right to charge for a link when there is a competitive market to get a link on that page.

    What you fail to understand is that there are just no opportunities for small Webmasters to get attention.

    Does that “right” extend to Google.

    How do “small Webmasters” get a level playing field when might ($) is right? Didn’t Google prove to the World that it IS possible to rise above the mighty $ and get recognition, fame and popularity without buying the market?

  87. I think the more Google tries and explains its reasoning for their stance on paid links, the more they become the anti thesis of their stated objective : Do No Evil. Matt reminds me of Tony Snow, spinning up a storm. And today it was a double PR whammy, with 2 posts on the subject between this blog and the GWMC blog

    The biggest problem in my opinion, is the way Google gave it to us, real soft and slowly. Slowly, so we wouldn’t notice that they were giving it to us. I’m referring to the whole us of the no follow. At first they insisted it was for one thing, then another, and before we knew it, we better start pasting those babies everywhere or else!!

    or else what? or else we snatch your site from our index and make you go bankrupt because you didn’t put no follows where we wanted you to. The punishment many times does not suit the “crime”

    All this is doing is continuing to harbor negative sentiment for a company that callously destroyed peoples whole livelihood with out a single warning to them.

    Maybe an extreme example, but effective in illustrating my point. That there are real world consequences of this policy.

    Google’s paid link policy causes more problems than it solves. And with all the money, and brain power there @ the Googplex, they really should find a more effective way of handling a flaw in their algo. then to remove a tumor with a rusty battle ax , rather than with a precision scalpel.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of many things Google, but this in particular sucks!

    Thanks-

  88. I agree with everything about this article but I wonder if your algorithm is able to determine whether a paid post is well written/well research.

    What if someone writing a paid review about brain tumor and was able to write an amazingly accurate and honest article about it? Do you still demote their page rank just because they are writing paid review about brain tumor?

    My guess is that, such thing might require a manual review. Take JohnChow.com for example, he’s ignoring everything google says about not doing paid review or selling text link ads and he still have PageRank 4. Google is giving mixed message here for not demoting his page to 0.

    Perhaps Google realises that his readers actually find some of his paid reviews useful and that’s how he can get away with it. Is that an accurate assumption?

    Then what happen if JohnChow.com suddenly write a paid review about a brain tumor treatment and the information is not entirely accurate. Will he get a 0 PageRank then?

    Perhaps even with PR4, JohnChow.com has lost its ability to pass along Google Juice so Google couldn’t care less about what he writes?

    What about someone promoting an affiliate program related to brain tumor treatment? And let say the link was able to pass Google Juice along. Are you going to do anything about that?

  89. I would hate to get fake radiology serp.

    If people do want to make money from their sites and not get penalized, simply include the “nofollow” attribute in the links. I don’t think it’s that hard.

  90. “Using you own logic – the organic results go there by honest, tenacious competition. The top sponsor links BOUGHT their position with big bucks.”

    I agree, I think you should remove the top search results as well,

  91. Matt Cutts wrote: “…I hope you’ll agree that you wouldn’t want a serious medical search for brain tumor treatments to be affected by inaccurate or uninformed posts.”

    Right. I don’t want to make major life decisions on the basis of what Wikipedia has to say. Please remove it from your “most favored sites” queue immediately, as it seriously diminishes the quality of your index.

  92. Hey Matt,

    Side observation here and maybe something for future use from north of the border, but that Mayo Clinic article didn’t come up on either google.com or google.ca for me. To be totally honest, I probably never would have come across it were it not for this blog post. Not sure if this is one of those Toronto issues or not, but I figured I’d bring it up since it’s pretty clear that it belongs there, and in the case of the .ca, one of the Alberta Radiosurgery Centre links could be removed. I’m not bitching or anything like that (not trying to, anyway) but just wanted to point that out.

    Good stuff, though. I love how the car loan post fits in so well with the Gamma Knife and the Colon Cleanse. They’re so related! Cut out your brain tumors, flush out your insides, and then go for a drive in your newly-leased-on-life-and-0.9%-financing Escalade. No one’s questioning this, right?

    By the way, Matt, why are you taking Gray’s bait if you weren’t sure about Wall’s? He’s just pulling an Eddie Haskell move on you.

    It’s funny how the people who whine the most about FUD campaigns are the ones that start them.

  93. How do “small Webmasters” get a level playing field when might ($) is right? Didn’t Google prove to the World that it IS possible to rise above the mighty $ and get recognition, fame and popularity without buying the market?

    Dave, now I have to educate you.

    You see, it’s a scientifically proven fact that Google is only popular because the same webmasters who have no say or voice or influence used that lack of influence to build Google up to what it is. It had nothing to do with being miles ahead of the competition, and it certainly had nothing to do with Google understanding that society suffers from the paradox that the lowest common denominator causes the toughest problems for the most intelligent of our species, a paradox which has magnified itself tenfold thanks to the Internet. Nope. It’s the poor webmasters that have no influence that made Google, and it’s those poor webmasters that will break Google.

    I hope you feel really silly for questioning this logic. This bitchslap was brought to you by the letters S, E, and O and by the number PR0.

  94. I would also like to know the answer to Chip’s question re image ads.

  95. Brent

    Matt, yeah that would be a travesty to see Google looking like the paid-only search engine you wrote about.

    If Google decided to officially allow paid links, big budget sites would start buying links and it would be game over from there for all the webmasters who are currently for paid links. Why don’t people get that?

  96. Richard the Younger

    Hi Matt, I appreciate the work you put in to communicating with the webmaster community. For some, you are providing a resource of great value.

    In light of the improvements in webmaster communications via the Google webmaster tools center, I have a question which may be able to be addressed in a general way. Without going into unneeded specifics, I have a site which I can safely say has a form of penalty. This penalty may be quite old, but I only recently became aware. I’ve submitted a re-consideration request twice; one was a couple months ago – no change; the other was about a month ago – after the paid link clarification/crackdown. Each time I submitted the re-consideration request, to my best knowledge my site was in compliance with the Google guidelines. Is mine a special case – or should I wait longer for my latest re-consideration request? If a webmaster cannot seem to find a solution in the normal manner, where should he/she turn to? (tried Google webmaster forums too)

  97. I don’t know, Brent. I tend to agree with you.

  98. Both the post and the comments are great and very informative.
    Lots of great comments have been made and I’ll try to keep up witih reading all of them.

  99. “that Mayo Clinic article didn’t come up on either google.com or google.ca for me”

    M.W.A., it did for me, but that could be ranking differences between our locations, or possibly personalized search. I’ve seen it be on page 1 and page 2. As far as why I’ve been responding to graywolf, I want to make sure that I debunk some myths (e.g. this is a Google-only issue, or Google is doing this to try to make more money instead of to try to improve our result quality), and he’s been putting the questions out there ready to be answered. :)

  100. “I would also like to know the answer to Chip’s question re image ads.”

    Kalena, I saw your comment on the webmaster help group first, so I answered it over there: http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help-Indexing/browse_thread/thread/218bef9ae9f83203

    Scorpy01, I hope that helps address your question too.

  101. Richard the Younger, you say that you’ve already tried a reconsideration request and the webmaster forum too? What’s your site name, if you can say it?

  102. Richard Ball, thanks for the interesting comment. I’m not sure if you’ve seen these links:
    http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/014378.html
    http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/015287.html

    and this post with screenshots:
    http://www.redflymarketing.com/blog/adwords-content-exclusion-beta-a-first-look/

    I honestly do appreciate the feedback and the honest criticism. I wouldn’t claim that Google is perfect, but I do think that we try to respond to feedback. For example, at SES San Jose we got some criticism for our stance on paid links while selling “buy PageRank”-type ads. Earlier this week, we disabled ads for a bunch of “buy PageRank”-type ads, and I expect us to do that for more such queries.

    Is Google perfect? Nope. Do I secretly sometimes fantasize that Larry/Sergey would run a “CEO for a day” contest, I would win it, and I could change several little things about Google that annoy me? Yup, I’ve daydreamed about that more than once. :) But in the mean time, there’s a bunch of Googlers who try to do the right thing and try to make sure that Google does the right thing. That may be hard to believe, but in my opinion it’s true.

    Richard Ball, if you’re going to be at PubCon too, please introduce yourself. I enjoy chatting about this more.

  103. Crikey it’s late. My wife is pulling me off toward bed, so I’ll talk to folks later.

  104. Oh, one last thing. I don’t remember why graywolf turned a paid links post into a “Wikipedia sucks” discussion, but I promised to hunt down this post about how regular users like Wikipedia: http://aixtal.blogspot.com/2007/11/search-google-yahoo-comparison.html

    A few tidbits:
    - the author claims that Google is better than Yahoo according to that study
    - Yahoo returns Wikipedia at #1 more often than Google, according to the author
    - On a five-point scale, “The average mark allocated by users when the result is in Wikipedia is nearly one point higher, in the case of Google and Yahoo, than the mark allocated to other results.”

    There’s all kinds of objections I could raise about this study (e.g. I think the queries were self-selected), but it does show how much regular users like Wikipedia.

  105. Arnold

    “I hope that helps answer the question of how (say) the Yahoo directory is different from the examples I showed in my post. I hope it also answers the question of why a “bidding directory” that just gives the top slot to the highest money bid might not be as trusted by Google.”

    Does that mean that Google itself isn’t trusted? After all, adwords lets the highest slot go to the highest payer although granted not in the search results.

    The one problem with the examples that you chose is that the two radiological organisations ones are both effectively sponsored albeit self-sponsored. As you would expect neither give information outside the field of radiology which, if one was searching for information about a potential treatment, is bad in that you’d want a more complete picture of what treatments were available.

    What does strike me is that there are two very different types of sponsored post around. I do accept that the purely advertising type as illustrated by your examples don’t really deserve to be in search results: essentially they are links with some nonsense around them. However, there are also lots out there where the sponsorship link is essentially used as a trigger for an article: to my mind those ones give the type of in-context links that are appropriate in an index.

    Obviously there are also lots that fall at some point between these two extremes.

    The question is: are those that use the sponsored link as a trigger for an article and thereby quote it as an example OK with Google?

  106. I don’t think you’ve presented a solid case for ‘why paid links are bad’.
    Surely, the clear quality measure of these sites as *total rubbish* should be enough to downgrade their links?
    What quality algorithm could ever give them much PR to pass?
    I think what this really shows is that ‘links as a positive vote’ is the problem here?
    Maybe the quality of the site/page is where you should point your algorithm development, rather than leaving mom and pop blogger to figure out if they have been paid or not?
    Adwords has shown it can be done, in its quality score system – surely a measurement along similar lines would make more sense, whether instead of or in tandem with a link-measured system?

    IMHO

  107. Good post. I’m somewhat surprised you write that at least the posters of the paid reviews should do a spellcheck. They way I see the review example that’s very much what they’ve done. It looks like a kind of typo squatting if you like, where you put the most frequently used typos in the text to rank well for searches from people who don’t know the correct spelling.

  108. Matt, great post clarifying the situation even more as to why paid posts are bad. Though I do agree that WIkipedia sucks, Google allowed it to become a brand by letting it get mass exposure, that’s why people click it.

  109. DavidM

    Matt, I appreciate the example. However, as the son of a physician, I can assure you that the motivating force behind all things medical (and probably all things in general) is ultimately money.

    Drug reps visit physicians daily, treat them to expensive lunches and give them expensive gifts, not because they’re old college buddies (they’re not) but because they want the doctors to prescribe their drugs.

    Are the doctors influenced by this bribery? Absolutely. The doctor gets a quick and easy solution to a patient’s problem which allows him to spend less time with patients and make more money. Of course, the “benefit” is that the drug companies use a little bit of their earnings to invest in more research to solve more problems (with drugs, of course). Are they the “best” solutions? Probably not. But they’re the solutions that make the drug companies, the doctors, the pharmacists and the hospitals the most money.

    And why do surgeons decide to become surgeons? Being a surgeon is certainly not the most pleasant profession: 14 to 20 years of college, blood and guts, risk of killing your patient, telling family that their loved one is dead, constant law suits…

    I have met many surgeons and can tell you it’s not because of some altruistic desire to save lives that they choose their profession but rather because they like the collection of Porsches and the $2M vacation house in Spain that their profession allows them to buy.

    I wonder how many surgeons we’d have if there were no financial incentive…

    At the risk of sounding cynical, I’m afraid money makes the world go round, at least for now.

    My point is, we don’t live in a perfect world. Yet, whether you guys at Google realize it or not, you’re trying to create a utopia. It’s a noble endeavor. If you don’t yet have a team of philosophers and economists, you’d best start putting one together. I’ll volunteer. ;)

  110. Scott –

    I still remember a sysadmin charging into our bullpen (remember that?) and a accosting someone with PointCast running. Seems it was thrashing our X.25 pad….

    -OT

  111. Ben

    Hi Matt,

    I have reported paid links on a few websites through your spam reporting tool.
    The sites in question have not been penalized by Google at all.
    Do you really do something about paid links?

    Cheers

  112. DavidM

    Oh, and one final question…

    Should we ignore the authority advice of a physician simply because he accepts bribes from pharmaceutical companies?

  113. Matt -

    I’ve seen several studies showing that, for non-controversial, fact-based items (wombats, volcano’s, cro-magnons) the Wikipedia is just as accurate as the Encyclopedia Brittanica (sucks to be them). But for topics with any level of controversy (Bush, Confederate Battle Flag, etc) you really have to watch what’s there. I also understand that companies alter their and their competitors wikipedia entries (I am shocked there is gambling going on here!). None of which makes the Wiki less useful. My wife the professor has to lecture her students every semester about NOT using it as their sole source of research.

    But my point is that sometimes when my last dozen search requests have ALL returned the wikipedia I feel like some of the web is missing. Surely there is another source with another style with good information?

    -OT

  114. rob

    That’s quite an emotive example there Matt, almost reminded me of some opening gambit in the case for the prosecution.

    “Aren’t these people evil, look what they are doing to your queries, this is why we are stopping their heinous activities..”

    I don’t want to appear rude or disrespectful Matt, you’re a nice guy and go out of your way to help others I’m sure, yet Ive got to ask here did you all just sit round a table somewhere and agree with the most vocal anti paid link position person? Did anyone even think to look at a different approach? Where was that careful considered approach of old?

    You know as well as I that many many sites of singular authority discuss all manner of topics linking to all manner of things in all manner of ways. What you are effectively saying is that they should either play by the rules of Google, or have no place in what has become the de facto gateway to the net. How long before someone sits up and takes note of that fact and takes steps to reign in what is increasingly becoming a monoplistic utilitarian power?

    It’s like Goog have this art gallery with zillions of paintings and you are telling the artists that unless they paint their pictures using special Google ink then you’ll kick them out or throw them in the back of beyond where no one can see them anymore. Is such a view so far from restraint of trade or a block to self expression and individuality?

    I’m not surprised that people would raise the paid link conflict of interest angle, it’s reasonable to infer after all. Especially when set against a view that suggests that other methods for dealing with this areavailable.

    Is Googles internal link analysis capability so underdeveloped that it can’t identify and reduce these impacts?

    An external observer might be forgiven for concluding that new blogosphere links are given far far too much weight and impact on the SERPs. They might also be forgiven for suggesting perhaps that maybe Google weren’t as susceptible to manipulation as it so appears and that the real reason for these kinds of responses were more related to some nightmare Goog scenario of paid link extravaganza, where it simply made more sense to use multiple authors than pay for some inflated cost per click. It does smash the model somewhat, doesn’t it?

  115. Rob, unfortunately their are too many webmasters, coders and some SEO’s dreaming up new ways to try and game the system.

    It is an ongoing battle…………….

    But surely the end result is just more rubbish and needless spam on the internet, that otherwise would not exist.

    I know this is just me being idealistic – but I really wish people would just redirect all these spammy efforts into building great sites, with great content.

    Surely this would make a better internet for all…?

  116. rob

    @ Ray – sure I agree. needless crap aplenty there is.

    I think the days of the unfettered non polluted web have been and gone. Just as product placement has managed to embed itself into our TV and film so it has in the web of 2007 and beyond.

    >Rob, unfortunately their are too many webmasters, coders and some SEO’s dreaming up new ways to try and game the system.

    Could it not be argued that Google are gaming the worlds information to their own ends? Sure it could,in all walks of life someone somewhere is trying to gain an edge, when viewed like that it’s a little paradoxical wouldn’t you think? Who controls Google though, who is watching the watcher?

    Lets imagine a font of wealth, power and influence, should any group or group of individuals expect to drink unchallenged at this font of opportunity – would they or should they even, be so surprised when someone somewhere should seek to have a little bit for them too? People will naturally try and barge in or claim a place or shout out loud and question why it is that a privileged few should drape themselves in gold whilst everyone else walks in rags. It’s mirrored throughout society and throughout history. The worlds information crap and golden nuggets all, is this very font.

    Democracy is one of the safeguards that protect us from the law makers, or those who’d take actions that would enslave or reduce our economic opportunities. Some are seeing this policy as just that. It isn’t a black and white issue, it has huge areas of gray that some are selectively dismissing to suit whatever position it is they are seeking to promote. Nothing new there no, its how modern society works after all :D

    Tangentially, take the whole re-inclusion thing – you have to admit to wrong doing before even using it? You are tried and convicted in your absence 1st, then – you have to admit wrong doing before you are even considered for re-inclusion, penalty lifting. How is that right? What is remotely just or fair about that?

  117. @matt I think it was if you want to remove inaccurate paid link advertising how about removing inaccurate sites like wikipedia as well

    Also remind me to show you a mobile search in vegas. Regular Google on the web actually is much better than the special google web application

  118. Jon

    Interesting post, thanks – and I agree that it’s important for google to provide the best possible results, especially in areas such as medical treatment.

    One of the big reasons I still like Google is that I feel like I can help make a difference, e.g. the change that the AdWords folks just did to disable ads for lots of “buy PageRank”-type queries. I try really hard to pull Google’s goals to be in alignment with users wherever I can, and I know lots of Googlers who work to keep Google from being just a random big company.

    How do you feel about the fact that google advertises ineffective – and in some cases potentially dangerous – treatments and ‘cures’ for cancer, autism, and a whole range of other conditions? Google avoids advertising some products for ethical reasons – e.g. if I search for ‘bullets’ there are (thankfully) no ads for munitions. On the other hand, if I google ‘cancer nutrition’ (a legit subject, for which there could be legit ads) the adverts include an injunction to “No Chemo-Radiation-Surgery-Address Cancer Naturally. Learn More!“.

    I don’t like to be melodramatic, but I know people who would be dead if they had followed this advice. Why can’t google take an ethical approach to medical ads – and refuse to advertise treatments that are likely to be dangerous and/or ineffective?

  119. Scorpy01

    No, it didn’t answer my question. Arrington does paid posts and lists sponsors with links not using nofollow. He doesn’t get get slapped down. Did you read the blog entry I linked?

    To me, it looks like the big dogs protecting the big dogs, running in a pack.

    It also seems that if Google destroys the pay to blog marketplace, then Google will continue to be the primary means to monetize a blog. I’m no legal eagle but something in that scenario smacks of conflict of interest.

    Isn’t that how Microsoft’s troubles began?

  120. Personally, i think that pr/serps are manipulated by paid because you let them, banning them or prohibiting them might not be enough,

    There are several other ways to help prohibit paid links, not sure why you guys chose the one thats so troublesome..

  121. Matt, I agree with everything except for Google making rel=nofollow a requirement. I think its a terrible PR move. If rel=nofollow wasn’t part of the paid link discussion, there would be much less resistence and outcry. You are literally asking link sellers to shoot themselves in the foot; and rightly or wrongly they are going to complain. That’s just human nature at work.

  122. Matt, why not simply drop link sellers out of the Google index, that is the end of the story, I see Google leaving out a ton of relevant search results that are produced honestly and it has nothing to do with links.

    Google needs to adjust the way Google ranks sites making links less of a factor in the algorithms, they also need to remove sites from the database that are selling links without “no follow tags” and return results based on the value of information presented versus who has the best incoming links from their social network.

    SEO’s being a prime example of this with their “who I’m reading” link networks.

  123. Ajay

    Matt,
    I have been running sites for some time as a hobby and over time its popularity has forced me to give it a bit more attention.(it still is not my job) i hope to bring to you a little different and a perspective of webmasters who aren’t doing and running sites as a job but more for fun/hobby.
    First of all let me say i am absolutely for banning paid links. Frankly if i am searching anything i want quality information to be shown(saves my time and time is money :)) Too many times pages meant only to promote ads or of fake info show up and thats bad. So if google is doing something to improve user experience that needs to be commended.
    Now on this specific topic, I think what you are assuming is that everyone will have the knowledge about how to stop links from passing pr. If i am a new webmaster i wouldn’t know whats rel=”nofollow”. I am looking for a bit more of popularity for my blog. I don’t have the cash for adwords so i look for other blog/site owners and ask them for a link to my content for traffic. (Even the other guy running a blog/site might not be well versed with SEO technology, he has been running the site for sometime, has a audience and i as a non-competitor am asking him traffic for my “interesting” blog via link and he an I both think that the userbase will find my content interesting) And this is not a isolated situation. Lot of my friends in college or in work blog, run sites and they don’t know about SEO. They run the sites either to provide information about specific areas they like, about their hobbies and such. These are not spammy sites, infact they might be pretty good high quality sites(eg a friend of mine runs a great personal blog on aviation and explains the terminology in simple real world examples.)
    What i am trying to say here is that you are assuming everyone knows SEO. Linking is bad, so rel nofollow and if you don’t we will penalize you as you might be selling links. That actually is not the case. Its very unfair that genuine, but people who are not conversant with SEO, are being dropped out simply because of some other rogue elements. I know that in a real world some people will suffer for the folly of others but thats why i have couple of suggestions.
    1)Why can’t google scan for “Advertisement”, “Sponsors” tag above the block of links and then discount pr for the pages linked that way.(The links still might NOT be rel=”nofollow”. Why am i asking/saying this, cos most of the people i know as fellow colleagues don’t know about rel=”nofollow” tag(heck i didn’t know myself till 6 months back :P) but when they link to say me they will put some text over the block where they are linking from saying “Advertisement, Blogroll, Friends, Interesting Links”. Penalizing us for not knowing about rel=”nofollow” is really depriving some good genuine content from being indexed simply cos people didn’t know that it was wrong.
    2)About some of the paid reviews, i have seen two type of sites. One type blog about absolutely different genres in one blog. eg they will blog in one post about how good a site is for football scores and next they will blog about best site for ipods. I think its easy to discount such sites from pr. On a side note, most sites have a lot of footer links which too again should be easy to isolate for discounting pr, rel nofollowed or not. The other type of sites focusing on paid reviews in one particular niche is a different cup of tea though..

  124. burchman519

    Can I assume that if my PR did not change, that my site does not violate buying or selling links? The reason I ask is because my site dmovers.com holds some kind of penalty (I think) and I want to narrow down what the penalty could be.

  125. My grandmother was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer and is now going through the surgery process. Information from the sites presented on google UK’s results pages has been extremely helpful to our family, so thank you information sites and thank you google.

    I would also like to add that with this particular issue, it is not just about relevant results, but also about the user experience when searching. There will be times when people are searching for serious terms, in an urgent manner, during a worrying time, where they just want access to information fast. The last thing they want is to go to a slow loading, media rich search engine page like some other search engines provide, and have funky Flash adverts dancing across the page, trying to make a sale or make money.

    “I’ve pressed for a lot of things that would decrease revenue to Google, at least short-term, because it would make our users happier. I pushed pretty hard years ago for a blanket stance against Google doing pop-up ads, for example.”

    Bravo Matt, please continue to keep the search page simple! Less is more.

  126. I have more trust in my physician than i have in the Google-SERPs! Maybe thats different for some people …

  127. Hey matt, you are acctually talking about using rel=nofollow but wtf are you having in this post?
    Link to: International RadioSurgery Association, wikipedia, RadiologyInfo, mayoclinic, etc etc.
    How much did they payed you for having this?

    You should better stop accusing, because you dont have nothing to prove LEGALLY. I hope somebody will sue you and google for this because you are ruing people business.
    I hate google and it’s page rank. AND IF I WANT TO SELL LINKS I SELL THEM with or without nofollow s^^t tag, google is not making A RULE WITH ME or with us , GOOGLE DONT OWN US, google should rember that WE helped them to be what is he now.

    As an example DIR.YAHOO.COM sells links, and you have never penalized us … . You will never have power and strenght to fight against Microsoft and Yahoo.

    Actually this is a NATURAL link for that, when you will come with LEGAL PROOF that the owner of that site have selled LINKS to manipulate your F$$%ing results then i will give you credit.
    P.S I am not the owner of that blog, but i am tired of this, google soon your business will be ended on s.e marketing because we have a Surprise for you.

    I know that i dont write very well in english, sorry about that, but i hope that that my message was understood/i was understanded.

    Please let this message to be showed on your blog and dont delete it, and if i dont ask more i would expect an answer from you MR. MATT CUTTS. :)

  128. All I can say is WOW.

    A big huge kudos to Matt Cutts for speaking out ‘loudly’ and debunking all the crap out there and in this thread. It appears only a very few posters in here actually get it. Kudos to Dave, Anthony, Brent… maybe more of you?… for getting it. To the rest of you? I feel sorry for you…. I really do.

    I’m really not sure how chatting with SEO’s at pubcon or any other conference will make a difference however. Just read the little at sphinn.com as well to see what I mean. MOST in this industry just don’t seem to get it, and it is exceptionally hard for me to understand why this is. I cannot even remember when some of us started warning webmasters/SEO’s about the risks involved with buying and selling links that give that so-called link-juice, but it was sooooo long ago that the date totally escapes me…… years ago is about as close as I can get.

    To those who just don’t get it and who also claim to be whitehats: Do you all believe that Google would still consider you a whitehat SEO if you cannot fathom or untangle what Google/Matt is trying to say, which is ALL about common sense?

  129. Yea let’s address the techcrunch “thanks to advertisers” page. The only way to get a text link onto that page is to be a paid advertiser, it’s be implemented in non google approved way, why are they exempt from the scythe of Google’s justice?

  130. Let’s say I am a reader of a real magazine with pages I can feel and turn with my fingers. Let’s also say that a few pages have testimonials/reviews on them for different products that the magazine happens to offer. Let’s further say that ALL of those testimonials PAID MONEY to the magazine to give the write-ups. ….with no disclosure.

    Wouldn’t I as a regular reader want to know they were paid for? Do you think it would influence my way of thinking about those testimonials/reviews? Hell yes it would make a difference.

    Why do some of you think the web should be different? When did a paid for review become an endorsement/recommendation for a product? And when did it become OK for people to accept money for paid reviews without disclosing as such?

    Whenever I read a review of ANYthing now on the internet, I’m very skeptical about that review. The deception is appalling out there.

    When did some brain cells die for some webmasters and SEO’s? What year was that anyway as I would like to know?

    Well, that might have been a little harsh.. about the brain cells, but I’m tellin ya, it certainly seems like pure common sense was lost somewhere along the line.

    BUT: I do agree with the idea that links shouldn’t be figured as highly as they may be, and I also think the green bar should be thrown away.

  131. @doug when you see a comercial for hanes underwear with Michael Jordan and now Cuba Gooding Jr. you are smart enough to know it’s an ad. They aren’t required to come on and say “Hanes paid me to do this commercial”, why should the world change the way it works because it interferes with Google’s business model? Should the world change because it interferes with Walmart’s business model or how about GM? No it’s the other way around businesses have to adapt to their environment. So why are does anyone listen to Google when they say this is how the world should work.

  132. Hi Matt,

    “you say that you’ve already tried a reconsideration request and the webmaster forum too?”

    Yes, indeed.

    I’ve included my url in the URL field for this comment. Please feel free to remove it. (or make an example of it, if that will help others in a similar situation ;)

  133. In reply to Dave

    > from reading your post you appear to be suggesting that Google
    > allow pages to buy their way up the organic SERPs?

    Not really. Unless you count as “buying their way up” something like hiring Scoble to write for you. Then people link to his stuff and the stuff he writes about and as part of that your content rises.

    What I think is that it is not the most effective model to treat certain paid for content as completely untrustworthy. It seems to me the proper model to factor in the bias.

    When Fox has news stories about their TV shows my personal view is that is a significant indication of bias their “news” (and of course, as I think any logical person would do it brings into question the merit of any other “news” presented). But I don’t think they are 100% untrustworthy. When Some prestigious academic is funded by a drug company I believe they are biased but I do not believe the results are 100% untrustworthy.

    If Matt writes about some neat new Google product I know there are biases – even if the only bias is he is much more likely to hear about a cool Google product than one from some other company because he works for them. But I figure if he says he likes some new Google that is worth factoring into my decision whether to look at it. If he thinks some new Google offering is junk I don’t think he will say it is great. I just don’t, I could be wrong but I am confident of that. Would the Fox site links to some new TV show that is horrible? Yes I do believe it would.

    If some other blogger I trust highly writes on say Ruby on Rails and then says their blog is sponsored by the annual Ruby on Rails conference which they attended the last 2 years and it is great and they highly recommend it I find that valuable. And yes I do believe the best search result would be enhanced by giving value to this recommendation by this blogger. This certainly could be seen as buying your way up the search results, so in this case I do see allowing a behavior that some would see as “buying your way up” as a positive development resulting it better search results.

    I don’t automatically ignore all advice where the author has some personal financial incentive or stake. That is one factor, but it is not a binary operation (0% trustworthy or 100% trustworthy). It seems to me to select the best search results you would need to apply the same logic.

    More thoughts: http://curiouscatlinks.blogspot.com/2007/12/are-paid-links-100-untrustworthy.html

  134. Melissa

    How many humans do Google help kill each day (through Adwords, for example)? A thousand or more??

    How much is one human life (one ad click) worth to Google?

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=abortion+clinic

  135. No wolf; you cannot equate a TV ad with an internet website. Not even close. I equate websites with a newspaper or a magazine…. that’s why I used it as an example. They DO disclose paid ads.

    If you want a hogwash of an internet where paid ads are mixed in REAL recommendations, then go for it. Not me. Deception is deception.

    If you would not want your newspaper to start deceiving you about ads, why would a website be any different to you? They clearly distinguish and separate their ads from their reviews or opinions. Many websites do not. If websites are not going to disclose, why would a major search engine who wishes to produce the most relevant results to it’s USERS want to give credit to those websites who buy and sell links?

    Common now; you do have common sense, right?

    BTW: I don’t want to read another damn blog post from you after pubcon or whateverCon conference you are speaking at, writing about how you hate Google and how you think SEO’s are being somehow cheated by Google. It’s getting real damn old right now. Sorry; but facts are facts. :) Matter of fact; the people who attend these conferences and some who speak as well are getting very old to me with all the crap you all spew out to the uninformed who do not know any better. Enough is enough already. It’s bad enough to know who is touting their wares at these conferences, let alone some who are speaking at them….. not you wolf, but some. I actually think you do have some common sense but love to cater to the elites who go to them.

  136. interesting

    you chose a fish in a barrell example and I think people might take googles position better if you didnt not feel obliged to use a scaremongering example.

    but in that spirit should Google not allow any medical ads for perscription drug key words in PPC

    for example “perindopril ” ( a commpn high blood preasure treatment) which I take turns up a some what dodgy alternate therapy site.

  137. Melissa

    So you think you are that smart? And by showing me a copy of my deleted post on my web browser you think I didn’t notice you had deleted it?

    Think again – you and other “Googlers” will burn in hell for killing babies and taking money for it. I hope before you die God will give you a chance to truly regret your sins.

    I’m not writing it even to the public – I’m writing it to personally to you (if it’s not “Matt Cutts” who delete the posts, then I’m writing it to you too). Your $$$ will not be able to save your soul. If by reading this post you will realize what you do help kill humans by promoting abortion clinicts via Adwords, I will be happy.

    Think about it again – your another million $$$ will not help you when you are on your last hour of your life. I’ll pray for you so that your soul is not lost forever…

  138. ok Doug have you looked through a copy of modern bride recently, go to the bookstore and lift the voluminous near yellow page sized book off the shelf and flip through the pages. I’d estimate upwards of 85% of the pages are advertisements and not labeled as such. I’d wager that an overwhelming majority of readers don’t care if they are either, for them the advertisements are the content. The dresses, tuxedoes, flowers, dinnerware and so on is exactly what they want to see.

    Don’t think ads are disguised as reviews? How many people got an amazon kindle gratis in the hopes that they would write/blog/video it? Amazon gave them out to reporters at press conferences (with no expectation of getting them back). Last time I checked it had a $400 retail price. It’s somehow OK if it’s Amazon but not “health care” one’s used as an example?

    I don’t hate Google far from it, I like Google and a lot of the people working there. However I’m critical of them (or anyone else) when they overstep their bounds. Google doesn’t owe you me or anyone else anything. What upsets me is when people deify Google following them like mindless zombies obeying their every wish. If Amazon told you needed to nofollow any link to commercial websites would you, why not, why is it ok for Google and not Amazon? Google is not a regulatory board or legal entity in any way, they are a publically traded for profit company, and should be treated as such.

    It’s kinda funny you don’t think I should be speaking at conferences or anywhere else with differing viewpoints. I always thought free speech was one of the things that makes this country great. While I may not agree with your opinions I would never suggest that you shouldn’t be allowed to express them. In fact I’d welcome debating you on a panel at an SEO conference about the SEO related subject of your choice.

  139. @doug when you see a comercial for hanes underwear with Michael Jordan and now Cuba Gooding Jr. you are smart enough to know it’s an ad. They aren’t required to come on and say “Hanes paid me to do this commercial”, why should the world change the way it works because it interferes with Google’s business model? Should the world change because it interferes with Walmart’s business model or how about GM? No it’s the other way around businesses have to adapt to their environment. So why are does anyone listen to Google when they say this is how the world should work.

    There’s one problem with this logic, as Doug pointed out: Michael Jordan isn’t appearing on The Best Damn Sports Show Period wearing a pair of white briefs outside of his pants while being interviewed by Rob Dibble and John Salley.

    You’re right. Businesses have to adapt to their environment. Those businesses include the same text link BSers who have created a flawed marketplace based on a free service. Let’s see them adapt now that the free service figured out their crap.

    I seriously don’t understand why this is such a big deal…anyone who’s honest and legit couldn’t care less what big G decides to do this way, and it’s only the scumbag idiot minority who would have any excuse to squawk. (Oh wait…just answered my own question. Skip that one.)

  140. Hi Matt,

    I am VERY active on a busy business forum in the UK. As a paid-up premium member I am entitled to “signature links” – which I use to link to 2 product offers on our site. (And being specific offers they are keyword rich anchors).

    These links deliver a lot of very targeted traffic and sales, so I would like to keep them – but my dilemma is that they are not “nofollow” – and I do not have the option to make them so – as is is not my Forum.

    I have about 3000 posts on the forum in question – a lot of links

    Is this something you are able to offer any advice on? Should I be concerned about these links?

    (I quite understand if you can’t comment) :)

  141. Jon

    Hi Matt,

    Great Post!

    I am no expert on seo and therefore please aplogise for my questions if they sound rather pathetic.

    I am trying to gain links to help increase pagerank and serps but nobody seems to want to exchange links or add a link to my websites for free.

    I read your comment that http://www.hystersisters.com/ should gain some more page rank, however how are they supposed to do this?

    The site is of use to people in this field and therefore if they were to purchase a link off the number one site in google for their main keyword to gain in the serps, why would this be so wrong, especially if it is only the rubbish sites you want to avoid getting into the top ten/twenty?

  142. >There’s one problem with this logic, as Doug pointed out: Michael Jordan isn’t appearing on The Best Damn Sports Show Period wearing a pair of white briefs outside of his pants while being interviewed by Rob Dibble and John Salley

    OK fine what about a F1 or NASCAR driver who wears his sponsors baseball cap for a TV interview? What about stars who get FREE designer clothes to wear at the oscars, emmy’s or any other awards shows?

  143. lol graywolf; you will come up with everything and anything just to try your very best to make an argument.

    Thanks for the offer about a debate at a conference, but I don’t do places who cater to blackhats and who take money from blackhats, AND who recommend and praise blackhats. I’ve worked in quite a few different industries in my life… before the internet, and the idea that cheaters are people who others might recommend is something simply not tolerated in the real world by those in the same industry. It’s like a well, Duh type of moment.

    Someone wrote above about all the SEO’s linking to and fro each other on all the silly SEO blogs out there….. I could not agree with that poster anymore. In fact; I don’t think Google should be counting a single outgoing link from a SEO blog which leads to another “SEO” blog. I don’t care who they are. Do you all actually endorse those SEO’s who you link to? Or is it a case of I’ll kiss you if you kiss me? Me thinks the latter…..Me knows the latter.

  144. Louis Lyons

    I have two questions.

    In the beginning, directories were an excellent source of advertising. What happens if you paid years ago or you submitted to a directory that was once free but turned to paid? Will that affect your site?

    Second question is: What if a competitor submits your site to bad neighborhoods and then reports your site as the abuser? How do you combat that?

    Thanks for any feedback.

  145. DC

    Ray, you can no follow signature links. Just use the nofollow tag within the html or BBcode.

  146. >you will come up with everything and anything just to try your very best to make an argument.

    Well the worlds not the black(hat) or white(hat) place that everyone tries to make it seem theres a whole range in between. It’s also mind boggling that people allow Google to set the bar for ethics nowdays. Would anyone let Microsoft, Yahoo, or Ask do that? Should they?

  147. You seem to want to blur the issues.

    The debate is about gaining FREE referrals from another website/engine.

    Example:

    What if my forums were so damn busy and everyone on the internet flocked there and wanted to get links from there and post in there and wanted to do everything in there? My forums have a set of guidelines that members need to read and follow, right?.. right. If a member does not want to read them or follow them, I reserve the right to ban that member, right?… right.

    So what’s the difference? Doesn’t your blog have guidelines and/or rules that commenter’s need to follow?…. they sure do. So what’s the damn difference if Google does have and has guidelines that webmasters and SEO’s should follow in order to receive FREE referrals from them?

    There is zero difference. Any argument anyone may try to make to the contrary is simply totally and completely wrong.

  148. @Matt, thanks for the interesting response. I actually left a comment on all of the blog posts you referenced, when they were originally posted. So, yes, I’ve seen those. ;-)

    @Doug, I think graywolf is playing devil’s advocate. He might be employing a little hyperbole, but he’s getting people to think critically about this issue. Think about the fact that Google’s using a free resource (the linking structure of the web) for a commercial product. Should they dictate how that free resource is structured? Does the whole web exist for the benefit of Google? Originally, it was the other way around.

  149. Doug, no offense, but your fanaticism is clouding your thinking again.

    There is zero difference. Any argument anyone may try to make to the contrary is simply totally and completely wrong.

    You’re comparing you dictating what you tell your users to do on your website with Google telling all webmasters what to do on their own sites. It’s no where near the same thing.

  150. Michael; I’m so sorry, but you are gravely mistaken. :) Allow me to set you straight:

    Google is NOT telling you nor anyone else what to do with their websites. In fact; I’d bet big money Google could care less what the hell you do with your website. You can do as you please just as you have always done with it. You can stick in spammy javascript redirects if you want to do so. You can hide test from browsers if you wish. You can implement hidden links that lead to other sites that you may own if you so choose. You can buy a link or sell a link if you want to as well.

    You can do anything you wish and more… much more.

    But Google can also do as they please…….. so please do not forget that. :)

    Does this seem like a “well duh” thang to anyone else? :D

  151. Richard Ball said:

    Think about the fact that Google’s using a free resource (the linking structure of the web) for a commercial product. Should they dictate how that free resource is structured? Does the whole web exist for the benefit of Google? Originally, it was the other way around.

    Sure, but there is an extra component to the equation – which results in the following outcome:

    Millions of sites get targeted free traffic as a result from Google – which equates to bllions of $$ of sales for those sites – for free.

    On that basis I am delighted that Google is “using” this free resource. :)

  152. It only seems like a duh without understanding the situation, Doug.

    But Google can also do as they please…….. so please do not forget that.

    No, they cannot. Nor can any other publicly traded company, or those involved with interstate commerce. Nobody really gives a damn if you ban them from your website, Doug, whereas when Google says “conduct business the we say or we will ban you” it is committing restraint of trade.

  153. Carly

    “I hope these examples help to explain the motivation for our quality guidelines, and how those guidelines ensure a better experience for users.”

    Matt, there is two sides of the coin here and you are only pumping the negative. There is subject matter experts who’s material or webpage provides the best possible experience for users, and the most accurate possible information so according to your statement they are breeching the Webmaster Guidelines by buying links to promote their material yet they are doing exactly what the Webmaster Guidelines claim to do.. And that is provide the best results for a given query possible.

    For every spammer there’s also a good honest webmaster who strives to make their resources the best possible, and unfortunately this second group are the ones jumping through the Google hoops Nofollowing everything and suffering in the SERP’s while the spammers disregard every part of the Webmaster Guidelines and rocket past you in the rankings.

    So doing as you/Google says only serves to make a poorer quality index. Us webmasters who are in our sites for the long haul obeying the rules, rank as fast as the grass grows yet the spammers manipulate the index, hit page 1 and rake in the cash and buy the time they are caught they have another 7 “pump and dump: sites moving up through the SERP’s to take the culled sites place.

    Google really needs to work on punishing poor quality MFA websites, instead of blanket punishing of people buying and/or selling a Dofollow text link and painting everyone with the same brush.

    If i own a completely non-profit discussion forum for support of brain tumor sufferers and their family/friends and don’t make a dime from it, i purchase a few links out of my own pocket and from the goodness of my heart to promote the site in the SERP’s and legitimately help people in need i’m lumped in to the same penalty box as the splogs selling Vi*gra.

    Very unfair.

  154. Rob

    Hi Matt, Long time reader, never commented.
    I’ve wondered for a long time why anyone feels they have the right to judge Google for what they do. Google is a business, that operates to make money for it’s shareholders. Google provides a free service to webmasters everywhere, helping them to publicize their sites. All of our businesses profit from the free service Google offers. I just don’t understand why all these people feel they have any right to try and dictate the hows and whys of how Google operates. I also don’t understand why you should have to defend your company’s policy.
    If I decided I wanted to dictate Google policy, I’d go buy shares. If I wanted to improve on Google’s business model, I’d start a search engine.
    Google is a free service…. What the heck are you complaining about?

  155. You can sell a link or a paid post and have it not look like spam and not have Google, or any other search engine, ever pick up on it.

    You can buy a link or paid post and have it not look like spam and not have Google, or any other search engine, ever pick up on it.

    You just cannot be lazy.

    This means using discretion, if you’re a link buyer approach only a few individuals personally. If they’re a blogger, offer to pay them for an honest review. Do not force them to write a good review, do not ask them to put in artificial and easily spotted anchor text, and do not pay for reviews on blogs that aren’t related to the site you are trying to promote.

    If you’re a link seller, do not run links that are unrelated to your site. Do not sacficice your editorial guidelines by endorsing products you haven’t used (insist the people buying a post send you a review copy or whatever it is they’re selling), and don’t just copy and paste text from elsewhere to make your review. Write something original, thorough, and unique.

    You’re going to get noticed when you start getting nearly identical links from tons of unrelated sites. Then, when that is flagged and someone like Matt comes along and takes a closer look he is probably going to pull the trigger on some penalty because it looks like spam, it smells like spam, and the content is not quality in the least.

    So do it slow, do it steady, and put more effort into it so your paid post is actually useful content.

    For instance, last time I bought a review I only asked the reviewer to be honest, they were. They wrote a balanced ~2000 word review that included half a dozen pictures of the product in use (which I sent them). They even mention in the review that they had financial interest in writing it, the links they made were not rel=nofollowed either. No problems on my end with lost rankings or PageRank or anything else. Doing as good as ever. I don’t do lazy link building.

  156. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for citing my study (http://aixtal.blogspot.com/2007/11/search-google-yahoo-comparison.html). I agree that it has some limitations (for instance the fact that only the first result has been evaluated). I would be very interesting in knowing your other objections. They may help in building better evaluations in the future (although, as you know, it is a very difficult exercice, and I doubt that any perfect scheme can be found at a reasonable cost).

    By the way, yes, the queries were self-selected — at least if I understand correctly what you mean : the users had the choice of the queries they sent (in each given theme). But I don’t really see why this is a problem. It seems close to the real situation of a user querying an engine spontaneously. I’ve tried other schemes in the past, in which users were asked to evaluated queries that were given to them, but there are strong drawbacks to that scheme too.

    In any case, I you had some time to continue this discussion either in a post or by mail, I would be very interested.

  157. Richard the Younger, it looks like for the domain in your URL field, I see links like “Canon Inkjet Cartridges” and “Hotels in Muenchen” flowing PageRank as recently as Nov. 2nd? I think those links didn’t help. I see that those links don’t flow PageRank now; when did you do your most recent reconsideration request?

    Doug Heil, I agree with your points, but please try not to alienate anyone or come across too strongly. I want to try to address folks’ questions as best I can.

  158. DG

    Hello Matt,

    I’ve a query or whatever way to take it, I just dont understand one thing “what’s the point in blocking the sites dealing in trading paid links?”

    Becasue, I know(almost everybody) some sites, who were trading(buying/selling) not only paid links, but generated technorati and google links with spamming and they got their non-existent site to PR6-P68 within a month or two.

    After the paid link crack down, they removed blogads, T-L-A etc. and got the site back to PR6 or whatever was before they penalized.

    They’re still enjoying higher page ranks.

    And the people like me, who works on honesty suffers alot.

    I hope you would provide some insight on the above said.

    DG…
    http://www.ditii.com

  159. Matt – quick question…

    when did you do your most recent reconsideration request?

    Since there is no way to track those as accepted/denied, how long should someone go in between re-requests? Also, is there honestly no way at all to do one if you think that a ban wasn’t deserved?

    Thanks.

  160. Matt, btw, that bug I mentioned a while ago is back on my site, and same as before, at the same time yours disappears from Blog Search:

    http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?num=100&hl=en&safe=off&q=selling+links+that+pass+PageRank&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wb

    It’s weird, I tell ya. I know it’s not a big deal, but sometimes it is the little anomalies that mean bigger bugs.

  161. “Also, is there honestly no way at all to do one [a reconsideration request] if you think that a ban wasn’t deserved?”

    Michael, great question. I answered this one on the official blog post, but I’ll answer it here too.

    I don’t want to force people to make a claim that they’ve violated our guidelines in order to do a reconsideration request. I believe that we’ve already softened our language on that form once and that we added the option to say “something happened on this domain before I got to it.”

    But your feedback is something that I’ve heard before, and I’ll try to have someone at Google look at what we can do to remove that concern. If you have suggestions for language or the best way to do it, I’m open to whatever you want to propose. Looking at the reconsideration request form, I think it’s very doable to remove this concern. Thanks for mentioning it, and I’ll ask someone to tackle this.

    BTW, the reconsideration request form says “Please allow several weeks for the re-evaluation process”. So that gives an idea about the timeframe for the requests to be evaluated.

  162. “I think Google has done a relatively good job of aligning our users interests with Google’s interests, so that doing what is good for users or people on the web in general is also good for Google.”

    I’m glad you qualified that statement, Matt. Because the first half of that sentence sure makes it sound like Google manipulates the users to think that Google’s interests are their interests.

    What Google needs to realize is that what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander. Regardless of whether the checkout team didn’t think that their post would be construed poorly or not, it was. If only one person (GreyWolf) thinks so, that means there are others. And according to Google’s recent moves, doesn’t that mean that everyone sees it that way?

    On the flip side of that, I’ve tried moving away from Google’s search but have found that no other search engine gives me the same results. Google’s results are some of the best on the web. So why are they still tweaking the algo? Especially to the point of penalizing some of your most profitable customers?

  163. Michael VanDeMar, just to give you a quick update, I dropped an email to someone at Google to request that we remove the text “I believe this site has violated Google’s quality guidelines in the past.” from the checkbox in the reconsideration request form, and I requested some other modifications to the language of the form as well. It may take a while for the changes to be pushed in English, and then a while longer for the modifications to be done in all the different languages we offer, but I do think the changes will go through.

    That’s been on my meaning-to-do list for a while, so thanks for pinging me about that form. While I was at it, I asked the person to modify our SEO tips and advice page to remove the “you should insist on a full and unconditional money-back guarantee” sentence as well. I know that was another point that people sometimes objected to.

  164. Harith

    Matt,

    Those of us who follow what you post on your blog and read the comments, might have noticed that you have been sending recently very mixed signals regarding penalizing / condoning the black hats. Several comments on your recent posts illustrate what I mean.

    Take a look at Alan Rerkins recent comments exchange with you which reveals the confusion resulted of the mixed signals you have been sending recently:

    ==========================================

    Alan Perkins Said,
    November 29, 2007 @ 11:20 am

    Hey Matt

    Just checking … is cloaking, or blackhat in general, considered an acceptable business practice these days?

    I only ask because this thread and another recent one (giving the advice “keep your blackhat networks separate from your whitehat networks”) give the general impression that blackhat is OK as long as you’re good at it! Surely you don’t mean that? Otherwise I can see a whole new line of business I could open up. :D
    ======================================================
    ======================================================

    Matt Cutts Said,
    November 29, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

    Alan, I definitely don’t approve of black hat techniques at all. I think I said as much on the other thread. Ah, here it is:

    “MWA, I’m happy to clarify. I think it’s a Bad Idea to do blackhat stuff. I absolutely do *not* condone blackhat spam. But if you have white hat properties, it’s even less recommended to mix blackhat-ish stuff with whitehat-ish stuff.”
    =========================================================
    =========================================================

    Alan Perkins Said,
    November 30, 2007 @ 10:17 am

    “Alan, I definitely don’t approve of black hat techniques at all”

    I knew as much, but that wasn’t quite the question.

    The question was “Is cloaking, or blackhat in general, considered an acceptable business practice?”

    You [where you = matt|google|both] are sending out signals is that it IS acceptable, even if you don’t approve of it. The message is …

    - 1. If you [where you=webmasters] do it and get away with it, that’s fine. Good luck to you. We’ll try our hardest to stop you though.
    - 2. If we catch you doing something and you fix it, that’s fine eventually … where the length of “eventually” varies according to how much the absence of your brand from our search results will damage our searchers’ experience. Even if you don’t fix it, you may be fine.
    - 3. If you advertise your blackhat products and services on Adwords, that’s fine. It’s not as if you’re advertising evil things, like beer. And hey, your spend can fund our research into catching you.
    - 4. If you keep your black hat networks separate from your white hat networks, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re good at it, so we can’t catch you. If we catch you, go to step 2.

    It’s not exactly a damning indictment of deceptive practices, is it?

    ======================

    Thoughts?

  165. Hi Harith, it was not my intent to send mixed signals. I really really dislike off-topic and blackhat spam. Not much steams me more than (say) that .cn spam which tries to install malware on someone’s machine. The webspam team has always taken strong action on blackhat spam.

    On #3 (advertising), we made changes just this week past week to disable ads for a ton of “buy PageRank”-type queries, for example.

  166. Hi Matt,

    “when did you do your most recent reconsideration request?”

    Nov. 5 was the most recent reconsideration request. Immediately before doing that reconsideration request, I stopped the flow of PageRank using nofollow – or otherwise deleted other links.

  167. Harith

    Matt,

    “On #3 (advertising), we made changes just this week past week to disable ads for a ton of “buy PageRank”-type queries, for example.”

    GREAT! Thanks.

    How about adding an option to report spam within the sitemaps to report “AdWords Spam” too? I mean ads which violate or invite to violate Google Quality Guidelines

  168. thatedeguy, interesting questions. I think that Google won’t be able to completely align Google with our users’ interests, but that we should try. I’ll give you an example. The CustomizeGoogle plug-in does several things to modify Google’s output in a way that users would like. One thing it does is give users more options for (say) image search. But my personal impression is that Google does some of the stuff the way we do in image search because of laws about thumbnails and fair use. What a user wants in Google Image Search might not be possible for us to offer.

    Again, this is just my personal opinion, but I view CustomizeGoogle as an interesting case study in “what do users want that Google doesn’t offer?” In some cases, we might not be able to fulfill what a user’s first choice would be (e.g. the image search example above). But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to solve those misalignments between users’ desires and Google’s goals.

    Here’s another example: some users want Google to number their search results. What if it turned out that numbering search results actually caused users to be slower in finding what they wanted? Plus offering it as an option isn’t a great answer: very few people would discover the option, and it would add more complexity to Google and our preferences page.

    So I think Google has to look for the right balance of what to do vs. what some users want. I definitely don’t think Google is perfect, but I know that I personally do approach the situation from a “Let’s try to bring Google’s goals into alignment with what our users want” viewpoint.

    You also asked why Google continues to tweak our algorithms. The short answer is that we’re a little obsessive-compulsive about improving our search quality. :) When we make a change, it’s probably impossible for that change to be a 100% improvement for every single search; however, if we decide that a change will improve overall quality, we are willing to make that change.

  169. Harith, great suggestion. AdSense ads have a way to report spammy sites (I’ve been meanting to do a post walking through that), but I like the idea of a way to report bad ads (for spam or low-quality reasons) too. We have a way to do that at Google, but it would be neat to let more people outside Google provide that feedback.

  170. By the way, in case anyone *doesn’t* know how to report spammy sites using AdSense, here’s a link where Barry wrote up the process, complete with screenshots:

    http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/014665.html

    Google has gotten harsher on spammy sites using AdSense in the last 12 months or so. In many cases, we’re not only willing to remove sites from our index, but also to remove spammy sites/publishers from AdSense altogether.

  171. louis lyons

    I posted a few hours ago and haven’t heard anything back. I realize this post seems more directed to website selling links but my questions have to do with buying links.

    Over the years, I have bought directory listings and submitted to probably a thousand or more free directories mainly in the hopes of getting that one sale that might come from it. How will that effect my site? Will it hurt it for the paid ones that were done before the last update and will it hurt my site becasue of the free ones that turned into paid after submitting to them?

    My last question is what happens if a competitor pays for listings in bad neighborhoods to my site (on purpose) and then reports you to the paid linking place? How does Google check those out? Does Google send some kind of information to the site in question of what is going on? That report thing scares me. For $50 and some homework, seems like you could really hurt a competitior.

    Thanks.

  172. So you think you are that smart? And by showing me a copy of my deleted post on my web browser you think I didn’t notice you had deleted it?

    Think again – you and other “Googlers” will burn in hell for killing babies and taking money for it. I hope before you die God will give you a chance to truly regret your sins.

    Hi Melissa! I pre-moderate first-time commenters. Lots of people have been commenting, so I haven’t gotten a chance to approve all of my comments yet. (My wife keeps bugging me to do chores this weekend.) But I’ve approved your comments now.

    My short answer is that a query like [abortion] is serious, and we take it seriously. When I do that search, I see a variety of different viewpoints, new results, and query refinements.

  173. Melissa

    Check these Adwords results now: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=zix&q=human+organs+for+sale&btnG=Search

    Do you think these make sense (for you it makes since you make money on each Adwords click; what about your audience) – isn’t it disgusted like I am?

  174. Melissa, people are not targeting that phrase, despite what it looks like. Those are wildcard matches, this has been discussed before.

  175. Melissa, I would certain agree that those are unfortunate ads. Even though I don’t think that Target meant to show an ad for that phrase, I reported the ads to our internal ads quality group. Thanks for pointing that out.

  176. Matt, Sorry to be a pest again, but wanted to point out that my site has never used vbseo to alter the urls. I posted about it on my blog but can’t tell you that the urls used to look like this blablabla.php and now look like fofofofofoo.php. We haven’t changed thread structures or website structure since 2000.

  177. Dave (original)

    Who controls Google though, who is watching the watcher?

    Its million of users and shareholders are voting for or against it each second of each day!

    But I don’t think they are 100% untrustworthy

    John, if you knew someone you played cards with each week *sometimes* cheated, would you still play with them? Or, would you play it safe and never play with them? Also, who is true cause of the distrust?

    No, they cannot. Nor can any other publicly traded company, or those involved with interstate commerce

    Like any publicly traded company the MUST do what is in the best interest of their shareholders. IMO, that DOES include keeping their SERPs free from the mighty $ influencing positions. Looking at Google’s share price, their track record and the fact they are the ONLY ones who are in the ‘know’, it seems they are doing pretty good job. How many SE’s have you run?

  178. Jon

    Matt- there’s no obligation on you to reply to comments, of course, but I would appreciate a reply to my above comment :) Given your concerns about selling links that pass pagerank giving sub-ideal google results for searches on cancer-related topics, aren’t you worried that google ads advertise things like “No Chemo-Radiation-Surgery-Address Cancer Naturally”?

    While paid links passing pagerank might lead to sub-ideal search results (a big deal, given how important the topic is), some of the ads one sees when one googles terms like ‘cancer nutrition‘ are advertising shockingly poor – sometimes potentially dangerous – information.

  179. Dave (original)

    Melissa, people are not targeting that phrase, despite what it looks like. Those are wildcard matches, this has been discussed before.

    So that makes it OK?

  180. Interesting, but I have heard this all before, yet there are 2 different people who rank very very high for specific competitive searches and have for a while now. In the higher ranking example I give, the site has almost nothing but paid links, in the other example the site has almost nothing but Realtor to Realtor reciprocal links, except for the paid links that person has.

  181. Dave (original)

    Madison, the real question is: how do *know* what Google is crediting and what it is discounting?

    Remember, Google puts it users first and foremost and while it does remove very spammy sites, it likely discounts most spam via its alogo.

  182. I’m having the same problem with a real estate client. We’re setting up one of the best sites in the city but all his competitors rank with paid links and a ton of reciprocal links. The only thing we do is submit to directories but I don’t see this as spam. It’s a legitimate way of getting in front of niche audiences.

    It would be great if Google really found a way to get a handle on the paid link stuff and also the reciprocal linking which allows people to rank with crap sites.

    What happened to all of greywolf’s comments? That was a good discussion even though he does seem to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

  183. Dave (original), nope: they’re still bad ads, and I reported them.

    Kathy, thanks. That gives me more to mull over.

    Madison, that would be a good time to use the form at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/paidlinks?hl=en
    If you include your name (Madison), I have the ability to search for that in the reports. I’d be happy to look into it. Bear in mind though that even when Google removes the influence of (say) some paid links, the remaining links to a site can sometimes still be enough for a site to rank.

    Nick, I thought I’d answered graywolf’s questions, but I’ll try to do a scan later tonight in case I missed some.

  184. I think too many webmasters in the past have been misled by directories selling links on the basis it will improve their natural rankings. I applaud Google for trying to end a scam which has been a purulent sore on a free internet for too many years.

  185. Amanda

    Matt, thanks for the clarifications. Like it or not, at the end it still is a matter of money… If you do a good website which is good & has great content & you cross your fingers so you get “organic links”, there are always going to be sites, which will get ahead of you, because they are buying the links and at the end they have more links than you…They choose the anchor texts so it is easier to achieve the results they want.

    At the end, reality is that it is not possible to compete unless you buy as many links as they do or you compete for smaller terms… “Organic links” just do not happen easily & even if you manage to get some, those who buy them will always get more. For those companies who buy links, you may discount some, but still the majority are not discounted and they are displayed in the first positions of Google…

  186. Feydakin

    So with the new rules, what are the odds of treating all those horrible affiliate links that cause generic, volume junk, web sites to out rank quality web sites with quality content?? Those seem to quality as paid links by any reasonable definition of paid links yet we see these sites constantly running to the top of the SERPs simply because they started a broad band affiliate program..

  187. Aussie

    I agree with you Matt that the big doG should battle paid posts that are spam, plain and simple.

    However, I think few link to these types of sites that make spammy posts, so your Pagerank algorithm should still provide good results.

    On your specific example, I think the bigger problem is that people trust random information found online too much in the first place when making real life decisions.

  188. Amanda

    Sorry, but in my previous post when I mentioned: “organic links” I meant “natural links”

  189. If I were to pull out my crystal ball can I expect Google to come out against social media and viral content in the future, when they determine too many people are using it and it influences Google’s algo too much

  190. john

    I have to agree with graywolf and I don’t think the question has ever been.

    I think the biggest beef people have with google cracking down on paid links is this:

    Any big company with a big budget can BUY there way to the top with adwords?

  191. john

    I think that last comment did not go through which I am glad because I left the link on accident/

    But here are also a few examples of adwords problems.

    The search for brain tumors has an adwords ad which lead to affiliate program for pills which are not even approved by the FDA. The page also has about 200 keywords in it.

    And a search for hepatic tumors has adwords to Ebay with no items found. i know you guys have dealt with this before.

    So these are just a couple examples of how adwords don;t always give the best results and you can probably find one bad apple a search.

    Here is a good one. Try a searh for Brain Tumors on google blog search
    2nd in the serps.
    bestamericanhospital (dot) blogspot (dot)com
    YUCK

    I don’t think people like gray wolf are always trying to bash google it is just that
    #1some things google does seem to be very hypocritical.

    #2 I think that most people who are reading your blog all want what’s best for the serps and the reason they leave comments is because they care.

    #3 I think all of the blackhat spam stuff is what you guys should go after first because it is all over the place.

    But otherwise, thanks for posting, these are good discussions and need to take place for the future of google search.

  192. john

    Jeff, I agree. I think a big issue here is that a lot of webmasters were to believe that they were doing the right things by building links a certain way. Geting in directories (which most you had to pay for) buying links, which at first seemed ok a few years ago, trading links ( which were later devalued) and things like that.
    I don’t think the average seo or webmaster is out to scam the system per say, they are just doing what seemed right and what “everyone else was doing”to get their website higher in the serps.

    matt, Is there a way that search might rely only on what is on the page itself instead of how many links it has to it. I know it goes into now but a completely on page evaluation and determination to how high in the serps it will be.

    It’s hard to wrap my head around the advanced theories but would something like that work. I see you are working on a voting type search. I think that has more problems of abuse that I can see.

    thanks again.

  193. Hi Matt,

    You did. sorry. They weren’t showing up for me when I refreshed but another refresh seems to have brought them back. That was strange.

  194. John Fuller

    Geez, anyone who relies on the web (especially a search engine query as opposed to direct access to known sources) to do research needs a brain first, never mind the surgery.

  195. So I think this can be interpreted to mean “buying and selling links is perfectly fine, as long as you spell everything right and know what you’re talking about”.

    Because there are sites out there on the web buying and selling links who have not been penalized at all, techcrunch being the best example. Do they have a 0, like all the paid posting people do? No. Are they buying and selling links? Yes – but they do not put any content with the links which can be read by people who are Googling to find a miracle cure for their cancer.

    Perhaps you could take a moment to clarify exactly how sites were singled out to be penalized, so that those who got penalized without ever once having done a paid post without a no follow can work out what they did to offend Google.

    Not only that, perhaps you could take a moment to explain why Techcrunch’s sponsor links are fine, but Text Link Ads are not. Both pass page rank.

  196. Hey Melissa, it looks like another Googler was reading email on Sunday; the “human organs” ads have already been disabled. Thanks again for mentioning these.

  197. Graywolf,

    I think that social media marketing and linkbait are a crappy way to rank anyway and I hope it starts to get penalized soon. The people that have websites and are geeky enough to give you links are mostly interested in tech related issues or the same themes and interests they share in common. If you have a non technology site, it’s very hard to get links other than the old fashioned way of searching out individual sites and dialoguing with the webmaster. In this case, paying for some links can become necessary if the webmaster is greedy. If you do use linkbait for the tech crowd, it’s generally off topic to the unrelated site so I don’t see how it adds to the quality of the site.

    I think that Google should have never released the whole PR can of worms and then this problem may not have been so large. Now, designers and site developers have to resort to all kinds of tricks. I don’t think it’s the way the search world should be. Ideally, the best quality sites would be first and the low qality ones buried in the index. Google is the best out of the search engines but I wouldn’t say they’re close to being perfect. The fact that they’re constantly changing and improving is both annoying and admirable.

    The truth is that the only way to really monitor the net is to introduce some kind of human involvement or artificial intelligence. The former is prone to corruption and greed and I think we’re a long way away from AI based search engines. Besides, there is no accounting for taste so what is good to one person is shite to the other.

    I do agree with some of your points above. I don’t agree that google should have put light coloured paid listings above the organic results. I’ve met many that do not know the difference and think they are organic results. This is truly the ultimate form of manipulating the index. The bigger your wallet the easier it is to be #1 above organice results. But I don’t see Google as the great evil it’s being made out to be. If their end goal is to improve the results, who is to say that they’re not allowed to call out paid links? Sure they make money off of ads but if you don’t like it, go use Yahoo or Ask or someone else. It’s our jobs as SEOs to find new ways to rank and hide our links and it’s Google’s job to try to stop the spammy techniques. It’s just the way it is and I don’t think that we should complain about it.

    We should really be complaining about the spammers and not the search engines. If they didn’t buy tons of links and pollute the index in order to get rich, I don’t think Google would care about a few paid dog walking links for Bob’s City Walking Service or something. Instead of outing the spammers, it feels like the industry loves to elevate the “black hats” to the status of heroes and praises them for screwing it up for the rest of us.

  198. Hi Snoskred, I answered that question on the webmaster discussion group here:
    http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help-Indexing/msg/7db86afb08801278

    Richard the Younger, I’d do a fresh reconsideration request now that the links haven’t been flowing PageRank for a few weeks. I’ll keep an eye open for it on my end.

  199. Dave (original)

    So with the new rules, what are the odds of treating all those horrible affiliate links that cause generic, volume junk, web sites to out rank quality web sites with quality content?? Those seem to quality as paid links by any reasonable definition of paid links yet we see these sites constantly running to the top of the SERPs simply because they started a broad band affiliate program..

    It is very unlikely that Google credits affiliate links in any way.

  200. BrianL

    This discussion reminds me of politics. Everyone has their opinion, nobody’s opinion is 100% truth, there’s jealousy and money at the root of most everyone’s opinion, and we’ll never have 100% agreement.

    @those complaining about blackhats and those who befriend blackhats – I have several friends that I would consider to be blackhats. I would consider myself very much a whitehat SEO. Do I shun those friends who buy links, cloak, blogspam, etc.? No. I learn from them. Some of the blackhats are the most creative thinkers in this industry. Some of them are great at more than just SEO and can teach people a ton of info. IMO, they are generally the more outgoing people in the industry. I’ve found that holier than thou whitehats are generally not very open to sharing info or being friendly.

    @those saying that Google should be or not be treated like newspaper or magazine advertising…or even TV, those are all bogus arguments. It’s a completely different medium and can’t be compared. If you argue that it should be treated like the newspaper and want to follow your argument, stop filling your page titles & headings with keywords. For those saying that ads in magazines aren’t explicitly marked as ads, do you not think those were reviewed at several levels before getting into the magazine? They get far more review than any directory listing, which is apparently acceptable to Google (in cases where there is decent review known to be in existence). What magazine, newspaper, or TV show accepts people into their advertising in an automated manner with no form of review at all? None. Google does, so it’s completely different.

    I think Matt’s original post definately tries to paint all paid links as bad by using something that is very focused and fits his argument. Just like with directories that review paid submissions and try to publish only quality sites, there has to be an acceptance of paid links to valuable, on-topic sites that DO benefit the user.

    At some point, I see this argument creating a major divide that will leave whitehat webmasters in the dust. On one side, the whitehats – no paid links, everything on-topic. They get discouraged, become more and more vocal about their complaints and it just gets worse and worse to listen to. On the other side, you have gray/blackhats. They’re loving the fact that as time goes by, they get smarter about buying links that are below the radar. They push more and more whitehat sites out of the SERPs and have become smart enough about where and how to buy links that they just never get detected. Eventually, there has to be some acceptance that paid links will exist.

    Whitehats should spend some of the time they spend complaining about blackhats on making their sites better, learning how to get the word out, making people want to link to them by providing something unique, and building good, solid links. I hear of too many that spend time on forums and blogs debating this topic. Google has made up their mind on things. Debating it back and forth isn’t helping yourself or anyone else. I have personally accepted Google’s position. Do I agree with it? No. What can I do about it if I complain and complain? Nothing.

  201. graywolf –

    If I were to pull out my crystal ball can I expect Google to come out against social media and viral content in the future, when they determine too many people are using it and it influences Google’s algo too much

    Right about the time Google starts to penalize sites who write quality content solely for the purposes of getting others to link to them. Of course, determining who is writing enjoyable articles for their readers and who is writing it to gain rankings might be a tad bit harder to detect algorithmically than, say, paid links (or maybe not)… but I’m sure with just a few minor tweaks to the spam form and some good feedback from other webmasters they’ll get it nailed down eventually. :D

  202. Patrick Grote

    Matt … with all due respect, shouldn’t your algorithms take care of this? One of the reasons Google leapt ahead of all other search engines was their algos.

    Since you’re now (and have in the past) asked people to help make the index better, do you think it’s time for Google to give a little information back? For instance, if site takes a penalty hit come out and list it in the webmaster tools. I would consider that to be a good solution.

    You get the benefit of free eyeballs helping keep the index clean, while webmasters don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out why Google knocked them out at the knees.

    Thanks!

  203. I have another option for how to rank pages. Some Blogs like this one are very useful and focused but a high percentage of the blogs are purely personal opinion and should not have any link juice on anything that is off topic. It seems like Google really like blogs. In some cases, is seems like blogs have more authority than an article which is written based on factual research.
    Every one uses Google because of their result are almost physic results so it must work but I wish blogging was not a required part of operating a web site.

  204. Patrick Grote, our algorithms do handle a large amount of these links already. Getting outside feedback helps us measure our precision and recall and train the next generation of algorithms though.

    “Since you’re now (and have in the past) asked people to help make the index better, do you think it’s time for Google to give a little information back?”

    Ghosty left a similar comment on the official webmaster blog post here: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/information-about-buying-and-selling.html#c684737057159612636

    Here’s how I replied:

    “Hey Ghosty! I appreciate your feedback, and we’ll do some thinking about whether it’s possible to add a notification message in the Google webmaster console.

    Typically our first priority is to protect our index quality, but after that I agree that it’s important to communicate.

    We saw this happen with malware as well. First we were taking action to remove the malware from our search results. Then we started to do more communication with site owners when we detected a malware problem. Now we’re much better about alerting site owners about malware on their site (although I wouldn’t claim we’re perfect).

    In the same way, I agree that it would be nice to alert site owners if we think this is an issue for them. I wouldn’t expect us to send out notices right now, but it’s a good suggestion and I’ll see if we can work on that.”

  205. Dave (original)

    Matt, I would personally like to see Google focus any energy on alerting spammy site owners, directed at those who DO play by the rules instead.

    SE spammers are a VERY noisy minority and I hate to see the squeakest wheels get all the oil!

  206. With all due respect, that did not answer any of the questions in my comment, Matt.

  207. Snoskred, my comment on the group said that we were already pretty good at handling banner ads, whether of the 125×125 variety or the more traditional 468×80 variety.

  208. Jean Véronis, thanks very much for stopping by! I’ve been reading your studies from back in the day when you were trying to estimate index sizes. :)

    I know that several people at Google enjoyed reading that post. I’m a bit swamped answering questions right now, but I’ll try to ask a few other Googlers for their thoughts and maybe pass them on.

    And anytime you’re in the bay area, I’d enjoy if you wanted to stop by the Googleplex and talk about the best ways to evaluate search engine quality. :)

    For those reading along at home, the study we’re talking about is here: http://aixtal.blogspot.com/2007/11/search-google-yahoo-comparison.html

  209. Hi Matt, Long time reader, never commented.
    I’ve wondered for a long time why anyone feels they have the right to judge Google for what they do. Google is a business, that operates to make money for it’s shareholders. Google provides a free service to webmasters everywhere, helping them to publicize their sites. All of our businesses profit from the free service Google offers. I just don’t understand why all these people feel they have any right to try and dictate the hows and whys of how Google operates.

    Hi Rob, excellent question. I know that many people feel strongly about this issue. And in general, Google does arouse strong feelings (pro and con) in a lot of people. I also know that there are at least 1-2 people who have decided that staking out an “anti-Google” position will get them more attention. But lots of people have strong opinions about this particular topic.

    That would be a good subject for a blog post some day (“Why does Google evoke such strong opinions?”)

  210. Can I assume that if my PR did not change, that my site does not violate buying or selling links? The reason I ask is because my site dmovers.com holds some kind of penalty (I think) and I want to narrow down what the penalty could be.

    Hi, burchman519. I left a reply on the official Google webmaster blog post, but I’ll include it here.

    “In the case of dmovers.com, you’re inheriting a bit of an issue from the previous owner of the domain. The domain at one point had keyword stuffing that looked like this:
    “Are you seeking any of the following words:

    mover, mouse mover, house mover, car mover, international mover, piano mover, nationwide mover, auto mover, personal mouse mover, people mover, mobile home mover, apartment mover, allied mover, lawn mover, furniture mover, first mover advantage, household mover, long distance mover, earth mover, mayflower mover”

    and stuff like that. If you do a reconsideration request for dmovers.com and mention that you have nothing to do with the previous owner/text on the domain, I believe that the request should go through just fine.”

  211. McMohan

    I think Matt has opened up a really sensitive issue, which might even boomerang onto Google. I remember a survey that revealed majority of searchers are not aware of the existence of Sponsored results among SERPs. That means a user when clicking on a sponsored result is not aware that he/she is clicking on an advertisement most of the times. Even while searching for Brain Tumor in Google, I see adwords that are no less trivial than the ones Matt has cited.

    Now, one can let a search engine know that a link is paid for. But, can search engines really dispose of their responsibility by just tagging PPC ads as Sponsored Results, particularly in the backdrop of the survey? What is more important is that the paid review is only an influencer of the result, true, but the PPC ad IS the result.

  212. I’m not talking about the banner ads, Matt. I am talking about the posts where they thank their sponsors. They do not put no follow on those links. Those links pass page rank. The sponsors have paid TechCrunch.

    Or would it be ok if say Mcdonalds bought a banner ad on my site, and once a month I thanked them for it? What if I wrote about eating there once a month and linked to their site? Is that acceptable?

    You see then where this is going – *these* paid links are ok but *those* are not. I don’t think you can really implement a kind of system like that, can you? Not legally, I’d suggest!

    You also didn’t answer this question –

    Perhaps you could take a moment to clarify exactly how sites were singled out to be penalized, so that those who got penalized without ever once having done a paid post without a no follow can work out what they did to offend Google.

    Cheers,
    Snoskred

  213. “Perhaps you could take a moment to clarify exactly how sites were singled out to be penalized, so that those who got penalized without ever once having done a paid post without a no follow can work out what they did to offend Google.”

    Snoskred, I talked about that here: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/information-about-buying-and-selling.html#c1291965101477065651
    but I’ll include the answer again.

    “we did do a full PageRank update several weeks ago. seomoz.org went down one notch not because of link selling but just because there’s less PageRank flowing around in some areas (e.g. search and SEO). Vanessa Fox’s site dropped by one as well, and for her as well, it’s just a case where less PageRank is flowing in some niches of the net. PageRank doesn’t always monotonically increase.”

    I believe Google’s algorithms do a good job on those “thank sponsors”-type posts, so we haven’t spent as much time talking about those. In general, if someone is paid for a link, that link should be done in a way that doesn’t affect search engines.

  214. What irritates me is that I don’t have any way of checking what exactly about my site has caused the problem. I have tons of relevant content, and my site layout is largely controlled by the google blogger template I used to create the site, so I have limited ability to manually ensure all my pages are coded to meet google’s quality guidelines.

    Hi enoughwealth.com! Based on the information in my posts, you could probably take some educated guesses. On enoughwealth.com as recently as Nov. 21st I saw links like “Get instant check cash advance services”, “Mortgages”, and “Apply for Alaska payday loans” and all of those links were flowing PageRank. I also noticed at least 10 posts that looked paid, with links like “cash back credit cards” and “free cell phones.” Those links appear to still be flowing PageRank, so that might be where I’d start checking first.

  215. “we did do a full PageRank update several weeks ago. seomoz.org went down one notch not because of link selling but just because there’s less PageRank flowing around in some areas (e.g. search and SEO). Vanessa Fox’s site dropped by one as well, and for her as well, it’s just a case where less PageRank is flowing in some niches of the net. PageRank doesn’t always monotonically increase.”

    I was given a 4 in that full page rank update you talk about. That was reduced to a 0 around mid-november. It happened at the same time the PPP blogs were penalized. How can that be anything other than some kind of penalty?

  216. Jab

    Ok,..nice post. But that wasn`t new, wasn`t it? Paid posts are stupid, noone but a search engine reads these blogs. Paid posts on related niche sites,…should be different.

  217. Dave (original)

    Matt, please consider my comment;

    Matt, I would personally like to see Google focus any energy on alerting spammy site owners, directed at those who DO play by the rules instead and Google users.

    SE spammers are a VERY noisy minority and I hate to see the squeakest wheels get all the oil!

    As an example. You mentioned cloacking a few times now and how Google doesn’t like it. Yet, when I search for technical issues I often find search results for Experts Exchange (for example) and the snippit Google shows has pretty well what I’m looking for. YET, when I click through I find out I need to register to see all of what googlebot is showing me. The same applies to many sites out there.

    It’s not a nice user experience.

  218. Bluegill

    I don’t know if I necessarily agree with this whole thing as how on earth is Google going to know every paid spam link from a bonafide link. What if I am recommending something or someone or doing a review of something that I think is important to my blog readers and I am not getting paid for it?

    Also, another thing, after the recent Google update I have noticed numerous spam sites and obvious black hatters move from nowhere to the absolute #1 spot in google search.

    Apparently some of these clowns think that having duplicate sites and crosslinking them all together and then creating 5 splogs to post the same duplicate info from the websites to to link back to the websites is seo. Some believe that doorway pages that only copy the info on your website or are just a list of keywords is the road to go. On top of this, one even claims to be one of the best and most responsible companies out there, blah, blah, blah and upon looking them up at the Better Business Bureau they are ranked as an F – the lowest grade they give out – many scammy flim flam infommercial operators have better ratings than that.

    The BBB clearly states do not do business with this company, yet it is #1 on Google and gaining in many keywords. Somehow these seo morons are #1 and have been for about 2 weeks or more now. And they are moving up in other keywords also. They also have Google Adsense ads on their site and maybe this factors in somehow (is it possible that Google wants all companies to feel the need to buy Adwords as the organic search will be less dependable? I have to wonder as Google does have shareholders and this would be an easy way to drive profits)?

    It blows my mind when there are numerous better sites ranked lower that have done nothing wrong this cheapens Google search results.
    You work hard, follow the rules and then some black hat spammer just moves right on by and takes all your traffic – and in the above case, ripping people off left and right (per the BBB).

    I certainly don’t want to search and find poor quality or low quality answers at #1. This is almost like back to the days of Altavista and Netscape. Maybe in some niches things are doing fine, but in the automotive realm at some of the search appears to be broken. I think this time the search quality went way down in this niche.

    On another similar note, who decided that Ebay blog posts are significant enough to be found in top 10 results? These are some of the worst quality posts I have ever seen. One even had a ebay seller selling prescription required drugs doling out medical advice (they even had a fake doctrs license posted in their litings which were linked to the post).

    The vast majority of Ebay posts are either hate and libel posts where one competitor is slamming another illegally, a sales copy that is poorly written or in a few instances a warning to not buy from some scam artist. Ebay is obviously using their minions to spam the serps and drive sales.

    But, just because a company like Ebay is big does not mean their millions of users know how to write or have more than 2 brain cells in their head. Yes, I’m sure there are some great and intelligent Ebayers out there, but read those posts yourself. Many are worse than the paid blog posts you used as examples above and are a complete waste of time.

    I guess I have to ask – Is this all do to still ongoing fluxing in Google and things will revert back to normal or what is going on here? I like Google, but some of the stuff going on has me wondering and a little miffed.
    Please enlighten me.

    Bluegill

  219. rob

    Dave (Original)

    >Experts Exchange (for example) and the snippit Google shows has pretty well what I’m looking for. YET, when I click through I find out I need to register to see all of what googlebot is showing me.

    Not true, scroll down and you do see the answers…

    Matt, I think the removal of the I committed a heinous crime aspect of the reinclusion request would be a big improvement.

  220. Jab, for many people this isn’t a new subject, but I wanted to walk through a concrete example to illustrate the motivation behind Google’s policy.

  221. Dave (original), there’s a couple points:

    - I definitely want to help whitehats, but I also want to provide information that could pull people more toward whitehat. Providing notice in the webmaster console for link selling could potentially help with that.
    - Regarding cloaking, there’s cloaking in order to deceive or show off-topic spam, and then there’s “I have premium content” cloaking. I care a lot about the former. I know I should care a lot about the latter too, but (I personally) sometimes don’t get as into that subject. There’s a whole mini-discussion / blog post about that topic someday, but not today. I’m getting tired.

  222. rob, I agree that it would be an improvement too. It’s been rattling around in my brain for a long time, but I just now managed to request the change.

  223. “I was given a 4 in that full page rank update you talk about. That was reduced to a 0 around mid-november. It happened at the same time the PPP blogs were penalized. How can that be anything other than some kind of penalty?”

    Snoskred, when I look at http://www.snoskred.org/advertise I see things like “Snoskred used to always disclose when a review was paid for within the post itself however those disclosures have now been removed from previous reviews in order to protect the advertisers from Google’s apparent rampage of wrath against people who purchase links.”

    Now Snoskred, I respect your decision to do posts on your website however you want. And you may disagree with Google’s stance on selling links/posts that pass PageRank. But I think Google’s stance on paid links/posts that pass PageRank is pretty clear. Yes, your website has lost trust in Google. There is a way to undo that loss of trust if you choose to.

  224. Hey everyone, it’s pretty dang late, so I’m going to bed.

    I hope that I can get comments in the moderation queue approved tomorrow morning.

  225. I like how you made sure the posters usernames are part of nearly every screenshot. Some people gave Rand a hard time about that kind of calling out not too long ago :)

    By the way, when can we expect a ‘subscribe to comments by email’ button?!

  226. James W

    Hi Matt,

    In an earlier reply you wrote:

    graywolf, you’re welcome to view a Google Checkout blog post in a cynical way. I’m just telling you that I went and chatted with that team, and they didn’t see it that way themselves when they wrote that post.

    Does this mean that Google will personally be contacting everyone accused? Will you be checking before you penalise a persons website, potentially having a huge detriment to their livelihood?

    Let me be very clear on my stance here; I totally agree that anyone selling links from high PR pages should be stopped. I don’t feel they are offering anything to the user journey – essentially they sap good content from the traffic generating positions.

    I do not however understand how the buyers can be treated in the same way. The biggest problem arises when an unethical company begins to purposefully purchase links to a competitors website, which in turn means they appear on your radar. How are you going to protect companies from this type of abuse?

  227. You know what it used to say on that page, Matt?

    “All links to advertisers will be made no follow to comply with Google’s terms of service”.

    It said that on that page from the moment I moved to WordPress and was able to have such a page (in early October) right until the slap down I got in Mid-November.

    Can you not see what you have done? I used to be a huge supporter of Google and your products and services. Don’t believe me? Do a search on my blog for Google and you’ll see there is a huge amount of positive posts about Google Reader, Google Calendar, gmail, etc.

    I trusted your company. I trusted that when I searched for something I was actually using a search engine, not some manipulated results which are tweaked to remove things your people don’t like. I trusted Google with about 50 gmail accounts. Being a scambaiter I tend to spend a lot of time emailing and Gmail allowed me to do it without revealing my IP address. I recommended Gmail to scam victims. Constantly.

    Now, if Google told me the grass was green, I’d want to go outside and double check. Just to make sure someone in their infinite wisdom didn’t decide to spray paint it, or manipulate it in some way.

    Google did that. They took someone who was an advocate for your company, someone who wanted to promote your products FOR FREE, without ever asking for money, someone who was trying her best to comply with your terms of service by making any paid links on the new wordpress blog no follow, someone who did once use text link ads but heard what you were saying – and got sick of their bad customer service, and resigned and removed it from my blog..

    What did I get? Shafted. And I have no idea why. I do not know what I did to deserve it. So what did I do? I made a decision to stop using Google products and services. I have not been to a Google site in over 2 weeks. I used to be at Google sites all day long. And I started speaking out against Google when before I used to encourage other bloggers to use their services!

    And I keep asking you, and you keep making excuses. What has what is on my advertising page now (clearly marked with a date that it was changed) got to do with the question I asked? Which was, in case you forgot, what did I do to deserve going from a 4 to a 0?

    I can understand if maybe some results from my old blogger site were in the index and that is why I have been penalized, or if I used a certain term which was being looked for. But why on earth should I go begging to get it back when I was doing everything right at the time it was taken from me? I had already changed what I was doing to suit your terms of service. I was reading your blog and getting the message about paid links loud and clear – and working to comply with them. Missing out on money in the process, I might add.

    GOOGLE is the one who has to earn MY trust back. And they have lost the trust of many more people than just me.

  228. @Matt:

    Providing notice in the webmaster console for link selling could potentially help with that.

    Could… if the message center would work. Since more than 4 weeks there are five messages waiting for me, but i just cannot access them. “Your messages are not available at this time. Please try again later.” is all what i get…

  229. Matt, paid links existed before Google. For example, I was checking one of our client pages on The Wayback Machine recently, and found a paid link from their site to ours on a page that dated from 1996. The link was “paid” in the respect that our Web design and hosting fees were lower than they otherwise would have been, because the client allowed us to promote the fact that we were responsible for their Web design and hosting on their site (think “powered by Google”). This is just one example of a payment that is not made in strictly monetary terms, but is a payment nonetheless.

    Although this page no longer exists, there must be millions of similar paid links on pages on the Web that do exist and that were created either before the invention of nofollow, or since its invention but in the ignorance of it per se, or especially in ignorance of Google’s desired meaning (“link is paid for” rather than “link is not trusted”).

    Questions, then:

    1) Are you suggesting that all old Web pages need to be updated and any paid links they contain labelled as nofollow?
    2) Are you suggesting that all newly created pages that contain a link that, in some way, could be classified as “paid”, must use a nofollow on that link?

    If the answer to either question is “Yes”, you’ll need to explain how the advice “Would I do this if search engines did not exist?” would apply in this case.

    There are some things we do purely because search engines exist: for example, the creation of robots.txt files, the use of a SiteMap, or the insertion of meta tags. But the omission of these things is not a problem. You seem to be saying that the omission of a nofollow tag on a paid link is spam, which places the onus on the webmaster to know that the nofollow tag exists, and know that Google wants it used to label links as paid. This is therefore a unique requirement on the webmaster to comply with a Google directive, and it comes across very much as an attempt to impose Google standards on Web design. Maybe that is not what you mean to do, but I don’t see any other way of interpreting it. Therefore I think it violates the principle of “Would I do this if search engines did not exist?” which, if you recall, was a principle originally put forward by me. It’s for this reason that I am opposed to the enforced use of nofollow in this way, as it goes against my own principle!

    That’s not to say I don’t understand why you would like paid links to be nofollow’d. Nor is it to say that I disagree with your intent to keep spam out of your index, especially the kind of spam you posted about in this blog post. Nor do I disagree with the fact that it’s your right to do what you like with your search results. It’s just to say that I disagree with the way you are going about it in this instance. My concern isn’t that you will rid your index of spam. My concern is that, in so doing, you will alienate lots of people who are actually on your side and, long term, the quality of your search results will suffer as you “Throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

  230. Great example Matt!

    It clearly shows why Google has to be careful with how to value links. I still feel like whether or not they were paid for, shouldn’t matter. If these examples you show are not paid for, it should not make them more valuable.

    The reality is that there is a lot of uncorrect information on the internet and it remains the search engine’s responsibility to value them correctly. And of course also the public should be very careful with information they find, especially if it is not from a qualified source and even more especially in a situation you describe in your example.

    I’m sure that inside Google the link evaluation goes much further than simply looking at if they’re paid for or not. An algorithm’s quality I guess is based on its ability to judge content like a human does. But then I wonder: How do you get 1 algorithm to judge content like a qualified person in all subjects. In a human way you would have to have an expert for each subject. How do you create an algorithm that can judge like a qualified person without having knowledge of the subject? I mean, algorithms don’t have knowledge about anything, they just apply math and logic, very advanced of course, but still knowledge isn’t applied. (as far as I know and as far as I can imagine as even artificial intelligence is just intelligence and lacks knowledge and subject specific experience.)

    I know Google does stuff with the human genome, but if I’d work in Google I’d use my 20% for the human brain, :) Decision processes and judgements and really trying to understand those to be able to create good working algorithms would be a great project! The screen you show in your example is clear,.. you just have to look at it for 2 seconds and you already know it’s not trustable. Why is that clear to a human in such a short time?

    My opinion,… purely based on experience,.. the brain makes a very quick comparison with things seen before and it’s clear. So it’s almost purely based on experience, which points in the direction that some form of artificial intelligence that is based strongly on past experiences is a direction to investigate further. But the brain has such a huge storage capacity and what’s more important, is capable of finding similar situations in its memory in less than a second. When copying this into a technical solution, the real dificulty here is not the exact matching, but the similarity matching.

    Interesting stuff!

  231. Bluegill

    See, the funny thing here is that we were #1 across the board for many keywords and are BY FAR, the best search result and resource for many of our keywords and still are. We were always #1 for our top 3 keywords and then we quit our adwords campaign as the fraudulant clicks from our competitors and their friends were just getting ridiculous (Google knows this, but doesn’t care as they get paid regardless who clicks).

    We received phone calls from Google to restart our campaign. 3 weeks later and our ratings suffered a few spots on each top keyword and then spam and crap websites with zero or similar backlinks and no useful content popped ahead of us for the first time in years. This is just another obvious Google manipulation to get companies back on Adwords.

    This obvious manipulation is in Google’s interests and not in the interest of bettering search. It is motivated by pure greed and profit and actually is highly illegal extortion. It is easily proven and grounds for a massive class action lawsuit and even federal and international anti trust investigations and rulings which would most likely split up Google forever as happened with the phone companies (Ma Bell) years ago.

    Google has now become too big and needs to be split up as it is using its power to unfairly and illegally extract (extortion) extra profits from people in a way akin to an online mafia and control the entire online marketplace and environment. I have lost interest in Google due to their illegal behavior and will no longer use them. I will use other search engines and tell everyone else I run into the same.

    Google has broken the law and gotten caught. They don’t care because they have a ton of lawyers and will just fight and if it goes to court they think it will settle at the last minute and then sweep it under the rug. After looking at the general sentiment on the internet and seeing that I’m not the only one this extortion and similar happens to, I am going to bet it will be less than 2 or 3 years before Google gets the smackdown from the FTC or similar in federal court and is split up into several companies.

    Bluegill

  232. Scott

    Hi Matt,

    Really, really simple question… Why doesn’t Google ad the “no-follow” code to their AdSense and other adverts that they use as a show of good faith? I.E. What’s good for the Goose, is good for the gander?

    Does Google not gain some market share, popularity, and other benefits from having “google” splashed all over in ads on various blogs, home pages, and even from domain squatters who use AdSense? http://www.google.com/domainpark/

    If you added the no-follow tag would this not calm much of the hysteria and finger pointing?

  233. Juan

    Thank you for this posting Matt!!

    First, because as an MD I understand the problems related with Medical disinformation on the web and second because this case touched me personally: My mother passed away 2 years ago from a cancer disease and I totally understand the anguish of family member trying to get relevant information about a serious medical condition.

  234. “what did I do to deserve going from a 4 to a 0?”

    Snoskred, here’s a concrete example from your domain:
    http://www.snoskred.org/2007/08/zookoda-new-way-to-reach-readers.html

    That post has an image that says “Sponsored by Zookoda.” In that post, you have links and anchortext like “Zookoda” and “email marketing” that flow PageRank. In the post on our official Google webmaster blog, I’ve said that selling links that pass PageRank is a violation of our quality guidelines and can cause Google to lose trust in the site selling links.

    I absolutely support your right to do paid links and paid posts on snoskred.org. But if those paid posts flow PageRank, Google can lose trust in your site, which would account for why your PageRank would be lower in the Google Toolbar. For another email company trying to rank for “email marketing,” they wouldn’t be very happy if someone was trying to buy rankings for that phrase.

  235. Feydakin

    Scott, simple, AdWords are javascript and therefore theoretically ignored by the spider.. Now, whether Google should actually be promoting MFA sites by creating the AdWords for Domain program is an entirely different issue.. Seems to be the worst thing to come along in a long time.. Basic pages that provide absolutely no benefit to the surfer.. There is plenty of benefit to the owner and Google though.. I would think that these types of pages would be considered total spam and not allowed.. IMO they are far more evil than paid links..

  236. Why can’t there be a grid check of the blog’s keywords against link anchor text and if there is no correlation the pagerank of the providing link page [anchor text] is ignored– as a page with no authority on the subject. That way existing pages keep their pagerank and are only considered when they are an authority based on their own defined keywords. Pagerank is not accurate when zero’d because only because a blog has advertisering posts. If that were the case magazines and newspapers could be zero’d for the same reason.

    Regina Thomas
    qisoftware.com

  237. Calamier

    Matt,
    I’m sorry to be late on this comment, but regarding what you said to enoughwealth.com :

    “Hi enoughwealth.com! Based on the information in my posts, you could probably take some educated guesses. On enoughwealth.com as recently as Nov. 21st I saw links like “Get instant check cash advance services”, “Mortgages”, and “Apply for Alaska payday loans” and all of those links were flowing PageRank. I also noticed at least 10 posts that looked paid, with links like “cash back credit cards” and “free cell phones.” Those links appear to still be flowing PageRank, so that might be where I’d start checking first.”

    Can you address this in a way more beneficial to the community? Are there any plans to add the specifics of a site penalty to the webmaster tools notification that has been mentioned elsewhere in this thread? Your answer is certainly satisfactory (and funny) to enoughwealth.com, but I imagine you are wanting to move away from personally answering every random thread-jacking attempt :)…

    Thanks.

  238. Scott and Feydakin, in addition to AdWords using JavaScript (and AdSense using iframes, which bots usually do not crawl), we also have all sorts of robots.txt directives to prevent bots from crawling. You probably also want to read this comment I did: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/selling-links-that-pass-pagerank/#comment-117717

  239. Feydakin

    Matt, I was never, and have never, worried about AdSense passing ranking benefits.. That would be the absolute fastest way to get Google in trouble with the Feds..

    I just hate the Google is supporting, and even promoting, the creation of worthless spam pages that provide no benefit to anyone, MFA / AdWords for Domains websites.. It seems to be a giant conflict of interest where you want to fight spam and irrelevant search results, yet support the endless creation of these pages by actually paying people to create them.. How is paying people to have these types of websites any better, or less evil, than a paid link..

    This may seem like an apples and oranges argument, but it goes to a deeper issue of one side of Google doing something good, relevant search results, while another side of Google is willing to do anything for a buck, no matter what it does the to web as a whole..

  240. Can you address this in a way more beneficial to the community? Are there any plans to add the specifics of a site penalty to the webmaster tools notification that has been mentioned elsewhere in this thread? Your answer is certainly satisfactory (and funny) to enoughwealth.com, but I imagine you are wanting to move away from personally answering every random thread-jacking attempt :)…

    Calamier, excellent point. You might want to read this great comment by Ghosty on the official Google blog post: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/information-about-buying-and-selling.html#c684737057159612636

    And I’ll include my reply:
    “Hey Ghosty! I appreciate your feedback, and we’ll do some thinking about whether it’s possible to add a notification message in the Google webmaster console.

    Typically our first priority is to protect our index quality, but after that I agree that it’s important to communicate.

    We saw this happen with malware as well. First we were taking action to remove the malware from our search results. Then we started to do more communication with site owners when we detected a malware problem. Now we’re much better about alerting site owners about malware on their site (although I wouldn’t claim we’re perfect).

    In the same way, I agree that it would be nice to alert site owners if we think this is an issue for them. I wouldn’t expect us to send out notices right now, but it’s a good suggestion and I’ll see if we can work on that.”

    While we don’t want to provide notice to hard-core blackhat spammers when we catch them, I do think that a notice in our Message Center in the webmaster console could reduce some people’s confusion and (I hope) pull some of the people on the fence in the direction of agreeing with our policy.

  241. Feydakin, I hate MFA sites as well and encourage people to report them using this method: http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/014665.html

    On domain advertising, I have nuanced feelings. Considering how spammy some of the early domain advertising was, I think it’s important that Google, Yahoo, and others presented legitimate alternatives to some of the really scuzzy stuff out there. Now that kind of scuzzy stuff is much more rare, which is a good thing. But I absolutely take your point as well. My personal feeling is that an easy opt-out of domain advertising will give advertisers more flexibility. Right now you can block individual domains, or you can email to Google to request to opt-out of domain advertising, but I’m a fan of the idea of self-service tools to block domain advertising. Just to reiterate, everything in this comment is my personal opinion. :)

  242. Calamier

    Matt,

    “While we don’t want to provide notice to hard-core blackhat spammers when we catch them, I do think that a notice in our Message Center in the webmaster console could reduce some people’s confusion and (I hope) pull some of the people on the fence in the direction of agreeing with our policy.”

    It is an interesting war that we (you) fight…It’s almost like a game of poker… Webmasters want to know HOW MUCH they are being penalized for, and they want to remove only what they are being penalized for…. while the SE’s want the webmasters to reveal everything they are doing so they want to provide as little information as possible… I think with the notifications… it gets the ball rolling on communication between google and the webmasters, even if google comes off of it with a disadvantage in the “face game” ….

    This brings me up to my next question which I have been unable to find answers for, and probably for obvious reasons… getting the answer I want out of this is going to be unlikely so I thank you ahead of time for any information you provide…

    What does googles spam department look like in terms of numbers and resources? Let’s say I am a webmaster with some mild flavored Google Guideline violations, a couple hundred spammy links from bad neighboorhoods, etc… What determines whether I deal with an algorithm (ex : “googlebot” sees my violations and gives me a 2 point discount in toolbar pagerank OR….whether I deal with a google employee who reviews my site and de-indexes or some other penalty…. I guess my question is, how bad does a site have to be before it is escalated from automated processes to a hand-made review?

  243. We received phone calls from Google to restart our campaign. 3 weeks later and our ratings suffered a few spots on each top keyword and then spam and crap websites with zero or similar backlinks and no useful content popped ahead of us for the first time in years. This is just another obvious Google manipulation to get companies back on Adwords.

    Bluegill, I don’t know what your site was, but I can promise that not renewing your ads had nothing to do with your web rankings.

    The timing may seem too coincidental to you, but here’s another way to think about it: Google is constantly updating our algorithms, and we rank billions of web pages and tens of millions of domains every day, so there will always be changes going on. At the same time, at least hundreds of thousands of businesses advertise on Google. With that many advertisers and web pages, it’s inevitable that some sites’ rankings will change at around the same time that the business buys more or less ads on Google.

    But just to reiterate, we work very hard to keep our web rankings completely different from advertising.

  244. Feydakin

    I guess my issue is that The ad supplies, Google, Yahoo, etc., shouldn’t be supporting this at all.. No one can point to a single parked domain that provides any benefit at all to the surfer.. I have a ton of jewelry related domains sitting and waiting for our store to evolve to the point that they are needed and not one of them is a parked domain with advertising on it.. They simply don’t resolve at all..

    I’m probably giving up some free money, but I think that, at present, the parked domain, MFA site is all one in the same and a scourge that needs to be discouraged, not encouraged by writing the owners checks every month..

    Which leads me back to the issue of paid links.. How can it be possible to penalize a link that may or may not be beneficial yet support pages that provide no benefit whatsoever?? It seems to me to be a serious conflict of interest and goals on Google’s part..

  245. ok, I understand what you’re saying to a point Matt, but this is kind of ridiculous don’t you think?

    ‘Don’t believe everything you read’ – isn’t that something that more internet users should take into consideration? Do people searching for information on the internet REALLY think that because web site http://www.TOTALLYTRUE.com has information on the Gamma Knife, for example, that it’s completely true? I sincerely hope not.

    Information on the internet is to be taken by the user with other information to form a complete picture of whatever it is that the user happens to be learning about. There is no way that someone should take a result on the Google SERPS as the be all and end all of information — absolutely true because Google says so? Because Google has put into effect filtering to make certain it’s true? Is that really want you want Google to do?

    I understand wanting to display the most relevant results – definately. But to try to say that Google is attempting to help people out by providing accurate information in terms of what is highest ranked in the SERPS is going too far, in my opinion. What if quote/unquote RESPECTABLE, ACCURATE sites are playing the paid link game? And their information is totally correct, but they want to get higher up in the rankings to get their perfect information out to users everywhere?

    I am not entirely certain how I feel about the paid link debate right now however, I think the argument you made in this post is a bit over the top.

    Merry Christmas! :)

  246. Joke Joke and one else joke.

    Politics of big concern. Thats All.

    Its a pity Google is going down

  247. So , Matt, explain me please, what is wrong with selling advertising space on my website? If, for example, i’ve got many websites in Polish language, could you tell me how i can earn some money to pay for servers where i keep all those? No. Stop saying adsense. In Poland we have ctr, epcm or whatever on FUNNY level. I need to sell links to get some money for my website. And this is not bad, google engine can’t handle poor external links. That should be Your problem, not ours.

  248. Bluegill

    My biggest question is why are the spam and black hat crap sites back at number 1 and two in many searches under the automotive niche? Did you read my first comment? Here is the mian gist of it again:

    Also, another thing, after the recent Google update I have noticed numerous spam sites and obvious black hatters move from nowhere to the absolute #1 spot in google search.

    Apparently some of these clowns think that having duplicate sites and crosslinking them all together and then creating 5 splogs to post the same duplicate info from the websites to to link back to the websites is seo. Some believe that doorway pages that only copy the info on your website or are just a list of keywords is the road to go. On top of this, one even claims to be one of the best and most responsible companies out there, blah, blah, blah and upon looking them up at the Better Business Bureau they are ranked as an F – the lowest grade they give out – many scammy flim flam infommercial operators have better ratings than that.

    The BBB clearly states do not do business with this company, yet it is #1 on Google and gaining in many keywords. Somehow these seo morons are #1 and have been for about 2 weeks or more now. And they are moving up in other keywords also. They also have Google Adsense ads on their site and maybe this factors in somehow (is it possible that Google wants all companies to feel the need to buy Adwords as the organic search will be less dependable? I have to wonder as Google does have shareholders and this would be an easy way to drive profits)?

    It blows my mind when there are numerous better sites ranked lower that have done nothing wrong this cheapens Google search results.
    You work hard, follow the rules and then some black hat spammer just moves right on by and takes all your traffic – and in the above case, ripping people off left and right (per the BBB).

    I certainly don’t want to search and find poor quality or low quality answers at #1. This is almost like back to the days of Altavista and Netscape. Maybe in some niches things are doing fine, but in the automotive realm at some of the search appears to be broken. I think this time the search quality went way down in this niche.

    Bluegill

  249. really interesting

    Matt, thanks for all the responses. I was hoping you could answer the questions posed above at http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/selling-links-that-pass-pagerank/#comment-117679

    Also, a couple additions to those questions:
    - on question #1 I’d also like to understand those posts’ SERPs before and after any GOOG penalties.
    - on question #4 I’d also like to understand that site’s SERPs before and after any GOOG penalties.

    Much appreciated!

  250. Matt,
    I want to thank you for spending all of this time trying to explain your point of view about links that pass PageRank. I think the main problem I still can’t get my head around is the “gray” areas. I want to use the snippet that you posted that illustrates why a directory like Yahoo’s that charges a substantial sum for a site review is different from *some* sponsored posts.

    - 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.

    If I am a PayPerPost blogger and I reject sponsored reviews based upon editorial decisions, I pass this test, right?

    - 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 I am truthful about my sponsored review and only review sites/products/services of interest to my readership and are not spammy, then I pass this test, right?

    - 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.

    If my fee is to compensate me for my time making a compelling and thorough review then I would pass this test as well, right?

    Do you see where Google’s stand can leave me confused and where I might feel “forced” to define a link relationship that has a negative connotation for links that I am willing to stand behind reputationwise?

    I am really interested in hearing your response on this as I’ve read throguh 245 comments here and still don’t get it.

  251. Wow, this is putting way too much emphasis on Google (or any other search engine)’s accuracy. As somebody who has lost four relatives to cancer in the last four years and been the primary caregiver in two of the four, I’m well aware that my (or your) physician or Hospice will 90% of the time give the patient recommended reading on the internet with links to valid articles on the subject matter. Anybody using Google to second guess their diagnosis is in serious trouble, and it’s not because of bloggers writing sponsored articles.

    What’s even more compelling and scary about this heavily weighted analogy by Mr. Cutts is the fact that every single thing one searches Google for either returns a Wikipedia entry or a YouTube video result (or both) and Wikipedia can hardly be considered as an authority….

    …and….Quite honestly, the most irrelevant links I ever see in Google SERPS are those ones at the side or top that say “Sponsored Links”… Otherwise, I think most Google users know how to use + and – to bind or exclude irrelevant results.

    Matt, although your intentions might be good, Please, don’t try to make Google out to be more than it really is. Google is an “advertising” company and please, let’s not make them out to be the saviour of the world. I will always say Google is the absolute best search engine, because IMHO, it really is, because Google doen’t try to “think for you” and the more you use it, the smarter you get at searching. For example, my father who is in his 70′s and never touched a computer until a few years ago already has learned how to exclude listing when he’s searching for his favorite topic (Atlanta Braves baseball or Penn State football info).

    On the subject of MFA, please tell us Matt, what is “Adsense for Domains” and how is that not MFA ? Eventually when you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth and out of your butt, people will stop believing you. If you think you can honestly say “I hate MFA” and “Adsense for Domains is legit” in the same sentence without looking like the biggest hypocrite ever, then try it. Let’s hear an explaination of how “Adesense for Domains” is legit and not the biggest MFA example on the internet? Hell, I know someone who was reporting SEDO “Adsense for Domains” sites to Google until she figured out it was Google who was running the show :-)

  252. Paid links = bad

    Yawn.

    However, I’m really interested in what is meant by this comment by Matt Cutts:

    “there’s less PageRank flowing around in some areas (e.g. search and SEO).”

    Are Google applying some kind of filter to the SEO industry specifically?

  253. When I moved to WordPress in early October, I went through and removed all the paid posts I’d done because they had been done on the blogspot domain which did have a page rank. Snoskred.org did not have a page rank and so I made the decision to remove those posts. Looks like I missed removing this one even though I was sure I’d got them all. ;( It’s now a 404.

    Thank you for telling me, and I will now go through and double check to make sure there are no others I missed.

  254. Snoskred, let me know after you’ve checked the posts to your satisfaction. Once there’s no paid links passing PageRank on snoskred.org, I’m happy to file a reconsideration request and keep an eye on it for you, because at that point I’d expect the PageRank indicator to return for the site.

  255. SAM FREEDOMS INTERNET MARKETING CONTROVERSY BLOG

    HEY MATT, SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS, NEW KEYBOARD EN ROUTE.

    ANYWAYS, AFTER READING EVERYTHING YOU’VE SAID, I HAVE TO WONDER, “WHY DON’T YOU JUST MAKE GOOGLE SO IT CAN DELIVER TOTALLY TARGETED INFO DIRECTLY TO US WHILE WE LAY BACK AND SIP ICED TEA?”

    YOUR REASON FOR HAMMERING SITES THAT ONLY TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A LOOPHOLE YOU’D ALLOWED ALL ALONG IS THAT “BOO-HOO”, PEOPLE MIGHT HAVE TO ACTUALLY SEARCH BEYOND PAGE 3 OF SEARCH RESULTS.

    AND MAYBE THAT’S A GOOD THING, HUH? EVER THINK OF THAT? OR ARE YOU JUST CAVING IN TO THE BELIEF IN SEARCHER’S GENERAL LAZINESS?

    AS MARKETERS, WE LIKE TO GET IN THE TOP 3 PAGES OF RESULTS BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT PEOPLE LOOKING FOR “OUR” PRODUCTS ARE GENERALLY MOTIVATED BY IMPULSE AND WE HAVE TO GET THEM ASAP, BUT IN THE EXAMPLE ABOVE, YOU’RE DESCRIBING PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT GOING BY IMPULSE BUT ARE DESPERATE FOR ACCURATE INFORMATION.

    SO A BETTER SOLUTION, IF YOU REALLY CARE, IS TO REQUIRE SITES THAT DO PAID REVIEWS OR SELL PAID LINKS (OR PURCHASE PAID LINKS) TO OPENLY STATE SO IN AN OBVIOUS PLACE JUST LIKE A BIG AD IN A NEWSPAPER THAT LOOKS LIKE AN ARTICLE IS REQUIRED TO CLEARLY STATE THAT “THIS IS A PAID FOR ADVERTISEMENT”

    THAT WAY, INNOCENT PEOPLE DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN THE MESS AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AN ABUSABLE CENTER FOR SOCIAL ENGINEERING WANNABE’S.

    SAM

  256. Frankly i’m scared Matt. Punishing the small guys selling links is like an act of bullyism: it seems a frantic and rushed effort to counterbalance pagerank poisoning.
    .
    I think that every user should be treated equally before google: for exaple gamespy is paid to link producer’s websites. They are paid in “hardware” usually and the links are without no-follow (i’ve checked). This is just an example.
    .
    The pagerank;&copy is dead. It was like the obelisc in 2001 a space odissey during the fab 90s: it allowed us to search far and wide relevant informations. The pagerank was a people-powered algorithm: the higher position was due to pepole liking a page, a site, a blog post.
    The pagerank;&copy worked thanks to us. Now it’s no more. People guessed how to tame the algorithm and the result is that a lot of informations are utterly useless. You’ve pointed out a very sensible example: informations regarding critical aspetcs of our health should not be banalized.
    .
    I’ve been used to expect more innovation from the google guys. I think it’s time to “peoplerank” (there’s no copyright i’m improvising) an improvement to the google toolbar: a tool to rate pages a-la-stumbleupon.
    It would be an user-to-google tool: every rating is send to the google big database and analyzed. When the total ratings raise or drop a score below some limits a google reviewer is alerted. He is the last judge of the site quality… but he is just human.
    .
    So he could rely on the people that rated the site: he could ask them more details in order to improve her judgement. (we suppose the raters are all google users but their raiting is anonymous except for google, in order to avoid retortions).
    .
    It could even become a business: A price to be reviewed could be easily paid for an initial service. Then after 6 and 12 months, there would be some random reviews in order to monitor the quality of service.
    .
    I know, these are merely ramblings of a fool, but i think that one of the best companies in the world, that changed the world in a way, could do better than capitalizing on the assets of pagerank.

  257. Matt, what you’re doing is fantastic for communication, VERY much appreciated, but just in case you need to hear another voice (besides your wife’s?) saying it: “Take care of yourself.”

    It’s easy to obsess when you have so much to contribute, and maybe I’m all wet for seeing it this way, but if you’re overdoing it, remember to take a step back when you need it.

    (No need to approve post or reply. And yes, I read almost every word you say some weeks .. and maybe that’s why I would hate to hear that you burned out!)

  258. Feydakin

    One last post about paid links..

    I was reading this article about Target and Facebook..

    http://www.startribune.com/535/story/1584700.html

    It’s relatively easy to spot the average paid link on a website, but what about the national corp with millions of dollars available to it to through around on the down low?? I realize that a lot of these things are not ‘links’ but rather paid posts.. Does this come under the heading of the new no paid posts issue or is it something else entirely since they aren’t specifically requesting links but just Facebook postings??

  259. @Dave (The Other One), I’m going to take a stab at defending the AdSense for Domains program, to a degree. There are really 2 kinds of MFA sites, if you will:

    1) MFAD (Made for AdSense for Domains)
    2) MFAC (Made for AdSense for Content)

    The distinction is important. MFAD sites have 0 content (except for images and navigation). MFAC sites have content. The idea with MFAD is that people navigate directly to domains (i.e. direct navigation). Typing keywords as a domain name is, the argument goes, equivalent to typing keywords into a search box. So, if (and this is a big IF), the domain name is a generic combination of keywords, ads displayed on that domain could be equivalent (or better) than search ads.

    IOW, MFAD sites are like Google searches but w/o the organic results. MFAD sites, then, should convert for PPC advertisers *better* than search engine ads because there are no organic results to compete with. The problem with MFAD is that Google uses both the search network and content network of AdWords for MFAD and hides the domains from advertisers. There exists an intentional lack of transparency. MFAD sites are neither content nor search. Plus, many of the sites in the MFAD network are not generic keyword domains. They’re garbage. Some are likely infringing on some trademarks (and I think that’s the real reason Google aggregates domains in AdWords reports). Google’s belatedly realized, IMHO, this is a bad solution and is trying to figure out what to do about that.

    The obvious solution is to create a domain network, distinct from the search and content networks. IOW, if the content network distributes ads to MFAC sites, there needs to be a domain network for MFAD ad distribution. Simple. Clean. Transparent.

    Unfortunately, the way Google has implemented MFAD wrt AdWords results in click fraud. It’d bad. Example:

    http://www.apogee-web-consulting.com/clickfraud/searchportal.information.com.html

    @Matt, FYI, someone from a Google internal IP address (72.14.xx6.1) was checking the above example today. That example illustrates why it is difficult to pay attention to Google regarding paid links wrt SEO. As Dave (The Other One) put it, you can’t be “speaking out of both sides of your mouth” on this issue. BTW, thanks for the comment on my blog and for the invitation to chat at PubCon.

    And, again, I realize it’s beyond the scope of your group to deal with these problems. However, it’s your company and someone needs to step up. Are there people on the AdWords/AdSense teams who are willing to recognize and resolve the MFAD implementation problems? They’re certainly making it difficult for you to do your job.

  260. Lundy Wilder

    Hi Matt,
    I thank you for your blog. I have gained some understanding of why I may have lost PR in last update. I have a good many outbound links that may have been seen as possible paid links, but they are not. Just accumulated resources that I have gathered for my own use and when doing research and I make the info available to others. I will add rel=”nofollow” to all of them tomorrow.

    Then I wonder if I should do a reconsideration request. I never sold links, but I passed PR just as a matter of the situation I guess. Usually the links go to larger sites that prob had higher PR than me, but not always.
    What do you think about this situation ?

    And another comment, I subscribe to Google Blog Alerts, daily I get emails w/ a list of mostly totally garbage blogs with the terms ‘my resort area’ in them…I would like a way to report the garbage ones instantly, like the method Adsense ads have.

    I frequently report MFA sites thru the links back to Google from the ad’s Google logo. I have even gotten a email thank-you on occasion from Google staff.
    Google has been good to me and I think it is the least I can do. But it needs to be fast and simple from the Gmail that has the list of bogus blogs in it.

    Thanks and best wishes.

  261. Scorpy01

    And in the end, if Google were JUST a search engine, then all would be fine. But Google is also in the advertising business which presents a conflict of interest when handing out these spankings to those who dare to monetize with a service other than Google.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the kind of thing that got Microsoft in trouble. You’re welcome to beat your competition fair and square. What Google is doing, though, is shady at best and possibly violates anti-trust laws. The EU is already investigating your Doubleclick acquisition. Should the US Justice Department take a look as well? You know if the Democrats get in it will probably happen. They don’t like big business.

  262. JJ

    Before I knew what PageRank was, or SEO, or SEM, I got sick. Doing a basic search for terms my doctor used led me to a lot of useless information and spammy sites. That really made me angry. Then because of my illness I started looking into ways to make money from home. I ran into a site touting PPP. I thought that would be a good way to make some extra cash. So, I started doing that.

    Then I found out what PageRank was and that it was important to be able to make more money within the PPP system. Then Google laid the smack down. My site was hit. After reading everything I could, I came to the realization that I had become someone who potentially helped a useless site get higher in the SERPs (a term I just learned, by the way).

    I can’t even be angry that my site got zapped. I hate to click on a link in the search results and find crap. I was contributing to crap. I’m taking my punishment and living with it.

    The problem I have now, with regard to all this, is that the advertisers aren’t losing their PageRank. They’re the ones paying for links and getting the benefit of them and yet it was the folks like me that didn’t even know we were doing anything wrong that got the brunt of this penalty. Why is that? How is it that XYZ Company can buy 50 links (or more) to get themselves in the top spot and not get their PageRank reduced?

    I personally won’t sell my PageRank anymore. I’ll find other ways to make money (and have, actually, thank God). But I just think it’s unfair to penalize one component of the transaction and not the rest.

    Also, with regard to all the warnings about Google trying to squash the competition (monopoly, AT&T, etc):

    That’s utter crap. Should McDonalds (popular analogy here, apparently) advertise The Whopper in their stores? Should Wal-Mart put up K-Mart adverts? Are any of the above in violation of any laws because they don’t practice that way? Here’s a better analogy- should the New York Times accept advertising from any kind of company just because that company wants to buy it? If they don’t, are they breaking laws?

    Google’s search is the most popular (at least in the U.S.) because they’ve proven themselves better. And so they do advertising. Whoop. They offer a free service that millions of people use every day. How else are they going to pay for it? Who here is going to start donating cash to keep the free search, email, chat, VoIP?

  263. Dave (original)

    Last time I heard inclusion in its organic Index is free and some simple guidelines are provided for inclusion.

    Webmasters can choose to do anything they like with THIER sites and so can Google.

    Comes under the heading of common sense.

  264. Feydakin, it sounds like that happened on a private Facebook page, not on a web page that Google crawled. If this subject is interesting to you, you might be interested to read this article “EU cracks down on fake blogger astroturfing”: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/03/eu_flogging_ban/

    Scorpy01, all the search engines have taken a similar position when the Forbes reporter asked for their opinion on these sort of links. And I hope the examples that I showed helped people to understand why the search engines feel that way.

    Lundy Wilder, if you think there could have been a misunderstanding, it certainly doesn’t hurt to do a reconsideration request and give more background/information.

    Richard Ball, there are people who pay attention to that issue; my hope is that things will move in the direction that both of us want.

  265. Matt,

    First of all let me clarify I am not a Wikipedia-hater, nor a Google-hater.
    You said about wikipedia:
    “What I did say is that users like them”
    but on Google enterprise page it says:
    “We feel relevancy is one of the most important factors that influence our users’ experience.”
    Then, I think it is not correct saying Wikipedia is OK ranking at the top just because users like it as Google looks for the more relevant results (wikipedia doesnt serve this as anyone can edit).
    Please clarify this

  266. Esteban, personally I feel that Wikipedia is often relevant and can be a great resource or starting point for regular users. Users like it too, but that’s not the only reason to rank a site highly. graywolf complained about e.g. the Rubella page on Wikipedia and claimed it was inaccurate, but I’ve found plenty of instances where the Wikipedia page is more accurate than even an “official” page. For example, the Wikipedia list of Discworld books by Terry Pratchett is more accurate (in my experience) than the official publisher’s pages.

  267. Dave (original)

    Personally, I know Wikipidea is far from accurate. I believe its been likened to a drug at the Pub who THINKS he/she knows everything.

    Having said, there is no use shooting the messenger (Google) for frequently serving it up as a possible match. Google should not be held accountable for the accuracy of results it suggests. THAT WOULD BE BIG BROTHER.

  268. Dave (original)

    How ironic, one of the number places for bad information that gets you banned also tells you how to recover from their bad advice.

    The single best way is prevention and NOT reading places like Spin who has a vested interest in SE spam.

  269. Hi Matt,

    Every time the penalized directory issue gets raised you seem to avoid the issue by bringing up something that you said a few months back, you have never said anything about any penalized directory. What me and a bunch of other penalized directory owners would like to know is what can we do to get our rankings back? I had paid links for my directory and I have now got rid of all of those and submitted a reconsideration request, I haven’t heard anything back – at least two high profile search blogs that were hit with PageRank penalties got their PageRank back within days of dropping their paid links. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get my rankings back, just tell me what i need to do and I will do it.

    Best Regards

    David Eaves

  270. I’ve been hit with the PageRank penalty, but I am not letting it get to me. I didn’t do anything wrong and if google wants to take a swipe at my creditability of my blog, because I recommend pay blogging programs (WITH nofollow links) then I am not going to let them change me.

    Interesting link Harith , thanks !

  271. Hey Matt, thanks for treating my first post like it did not exist. :D

    This is one area we’re never going to agree, it seems. Can’t you see that Google telling web designers how to write content, rather than Google reacting to how web designers write content, is a sea change in attitude?

    Previously, where Google gave advice, it was only advice on good, accessible, usable web design – the sort of advice that made sense in the absence of search engines. Now, in asking web designers to do things specifically because Google exists, and punishing them if they don’t, Google has explicitly started the process of crafting the Web in its own image. It’s … evil.

  272. The key word there is “asking”. I don’t see anything wrong in asking websites to do this or that in order to gain free referrals from them.

    All search engines have asked similar things in the past and continue to do so. There are specific meta tags now about how you can exclude the cache, and I think Yahoo even has something about how you can exclude certain parts of your content on a page, right?…. I’ve not looked in to it, so maybe I’m wrong there.

    I just don’t see the big deal with this at all. The SEO industry should be friends, and work with, a site that gives them free referrals and not constantly try to be an adversary of that site. Nothing good can come of a relationship like that. The worse that can happen for a site who wants to be deceptive to it’s own visitors by not disclosing a paid link is that it stops getting referrals from google and all other major search engines. The best thing that can happen is a site gains the free referrals from all those major search engines because it’s not being deceptive to it’s real users.

    I don’t see the prob.

  273. The Google SERPs belong to Google and no site is guaranteed entry, especially those sites that blatantly violate the Google TOS. As a website owner, you can decide to do whatever you like with your site. Google is in the same boat. They are also a website owner and ultimately can do whatever they like with their site.

  274. Hey Matt, thanks for treating my first post like it did not exist.

    Google has explicitly started the process of crafting the Web in its own image. It’s … evil.

    Do you wonder why your first post got ignored? You go around ripping Google to shreds on what is and always was a false premise, and in all likelihood you’re saying it because some 7-year-old posing as an adult decided to whine and complain when their PR(x) text links for sale BS quite rightly got cut off at the knees.

    Google isn’t the Nazi party of the mid-1930s, and they’re not establishing a Third Reich. Find something else to complain about already, people.

  275. You are REALLY trying to stir up the bees before pubcon…you just doubled the usual swarm. I’ll throw some elbows just to say hello if I can!!!

  276. What do you think of the ads on Penny Arcade? They’re paid links that without rel=”nofollow”, but the site owners exercise editorial judgement and don’t accept ads for games they don’t like. These are paid links that pass PR, but the site owners hold them to the same editorial requirements that go into the links they write into their news posts.

    Does Google consider this an acceptable practice? If so, how can the site owner notify you that they’ve enforced their standards of quality, and how can the site owner be sure that standard matches Google’s? If not, why does this example site have a display PageRank of 7?

    (I realize you might not want to talk about a specific site without a request from that site’s owner, so please feel free to skip it — I’m not interested in this site beyond its use as an example of a highly-ranked site that makes editorial judgements of its paid links.)

  277. Hi Doug

    I addressed the difference between nofollowing paid links and all other things done purely because search engines exist in my first post:

    There are some things we do purely because search engines exist: for example, the creation of robots.txt files, the use of a SiteMap, or the insertion of meta tags. But the omission of these things is not a problem. You seem to be saying that the omission of a nofollow tag on a paid link is spam, which places the onus on the webmaster to know that the nofollow tag exists, and know that Google wants it used to label links as paid. This is therefore a unique requirement on the webmaster to comply with a Google directive, and it comes across very much as an attempt to impose Google standards on Web design. Maybe that is not what you mean to do, but I don’t see any other way of interpreting it. Therefore I think it violates the principle of “Would I do this if search engines did not exist?” which, if you recall, was a principle originally put forward by me. It’s for this reason that I am opposed to the enforced use of nofollow in this way, as it goes against my own principle!

    Doug, I’d also point out that Google’s use of nofollow is not even what it was designed to be used for! It was designed to indicate a lack or uncertainty of trust in a link … not that a link had been paid for.

    Multi-Worded Adam, you clearly don’t know me at all. But Matt does, and this is his blog, so I was writing to him … not you. Suffice to say you have completely misunderstood my intentions.

  278. Rebekah

    Matt,

    You did an awesome job explaining this. Thanks for putting so much thought into it – maybe the point will get through! I think we all get tired of landing on junk blogs. The point is, the reason Google works is because it is user centric. Why do people work so hard to cheat it? It’s very frustrating that people don’t want to do their homework and do things well. Quick fixes don’t solve anything and these people are just making things more irritating for the rest of us. Thanks to Google for keeping a close eye on it.

    Rebekah

  279. Hi,

    I read your post with interest this morning because several years ago I did exactly what you described. My mother had a brain tumour and the only way it could be dealt with was through stereotactic radiosurgery. She lives in Australia and was told her only option was to go to Johns Hopkins which was going to be very difficult financially, if not impossible. The search results quickly provided me with contact information for the International Stereotactic Radiosurgery Association. I contacted them and they provided me with information about a doctor in Sydney who was performing the surgery. To shorten a long story, she had the surgery and has been in good health for the last several years. So your example is a good one in that I did exactly what you described with very positive results.

    I would have been very disappointed to have had to wade through a list of ridiculous posts to find the information I needed and may have given up before I found the people I needed to speak to.

    Regards

    Jeff

  280. Alan is legit Adam… one of the few. :-) I still think he’s not looking at the totality of things however.

    Google created a neat way for sites and google users to see what Google “may” think of a particular page. That neat way is called the toolbar green pixels. We all know now in hindsight that it was probably not the best of ideas, but we also know from past history that “anything” at all that major search engines try to give to webmasters/SEO’s is somehow abused along the way and made irrelevant eventually. We’ve seen it many, many times. …some much more than most depending how old they are to this industry.

    YES: Google may have created the fiasco that now exists; meaning that the toolbar hyperbole is their own doing. NOW: Google needs to somehow fix things. The problem is that webmasters/SEO’s have used and abused it to the maximum possible in that many, many out there started buying and selling “pagerank” based on that silly toolbar. I’m not really sure if Google could have forseen the total and massive amount of abuse the bar would actually see, but nevertheless the abuse happened.

    How to fix it?

    Two options I can see:

    1. Get rid of the Visible green pixel display.
    2. Somehow Google can distinguish on their very own what links are paid and what links are not paid.
    3. While trying their best to come up with a solution on their very own about how to distinguish paid and not paid, ASK webmasters/SEO’s to help them in the interim.

    Those are the options as I see them.

    Oh sure; Google created the toolbar, but Google did not ask for the total abuse of that toolbar by spammers. They got it though.

    Isn’t this toolbar fiasco partly the responsibility of the SEO community as well? I think I’ve laid out the scene the best I can. I think it is mainly because this industry has also created the FUD of clearly and very out in the open, praising spammers and those who condone buying links under the radar, and other type spammers who are allowed to tout their wares at conferences, etc. WE have put those types into the very same industry as everyone else, right? Since this SEO industry has done that, and done so with no regrets whatsoever, I feel it’s OUR responsibility to help the major search engines weed out the spammers as well. We can do that by working with the major search engines and all the ideas they may have with spam prevention.

    The nofollow tag is simply a good way to make that happen. Reporting spammers and those who clearly buy and sell links based on Google is another way as well.

    I look at the big picture of things in this industry and not the very small details of he said she said back in the day that the nofollow was created for comment spam. BTW: I never thought that at all as we had a long discussion in the forums when it was created. We all agreed that Google should take the nofollow tag MUCH further than just for comment spam so eventually they have done so.

    Google knows the SEO industry isn’t policing itself very well, and they also know they have to do something about the link stuff. What do they do? Do they simply allow things to happen with spammers and others abusing paid links? If they do that their SERP relevance goes down the tubes, and they may as well combine both adwords and organic as one thing as that is exactly what it would look like anyway. Not only that but they would see a flock of users start searching somewhere else because the serps would be greatly influenced by who has the most money to spend on “organic paid links”. Not only that, but why would anyone want to use Adwords for advertising anymore as they could simply buy up a bunch of deceptive text link ads and get free referrals from the organic results.

    I really don’t see that the SEO community has left Google much of a choice, frankly.

    Connie has summed up things nicely. I agree with all of his points in his post.
    http://www.spam-whackers.com/blog/2007/12/02/is-google-evil/

    Disclosure; He’s a mod in my forums.

  281. Multi-Worded Adam, you clearly don’t know me at all. But Matt does, and this is his blog, so I was writing to him … not you. Suffice to say you have completely misunderstood my intentions.

    Then you didn’t make them clear, and all you managed to do (assuming you’re on the level, and I’ll take Doug’s word that you are) is put yourself on the exact same level of those who whine with their own self-interests at heart.

    This is actually symptomatic of a much deeper issue. Search engines create something, SEOs abuse the hell out of it. Search engines fix it, SEOs try to abuse again. Search engines fix it in a way that makes sense, SEOs get out the Wahhhhhhhhmbulance and Google is evil and let’s all get the pitchforks and lynch rope out.

  282. The only reason why paid posts “hurt search engine results” is because Google hasn’t figured out a way to algorythmically filter them. This is Google’s problem, not webmasters’ or users. You base your algorythm on a fallacious inbound link structure and then cry foul when people use it to their advantage. Why should we always adhere by your rules because of your own weaknesses?

    additionally you say: “The posts themselves don’t mention it, but entries like these often turn out to be what are known as “paid posts.” That is, someone paid money in order to receive a review, and the paid review includes a link with the word “radiosurgery,” for example. There’s no disclosure inside these entries whether these posts are paid, nor do the posts use the nofollow attribute or some other mechanism so that search engines aren’t affected.”

    But Doctors don’t tell you that they are also being paid by pharmaceutical companies to choose one drug as opposed to another. Yeah, hey get cutbacks. So do the researchers that create these drugs. They hide side effects and potential hazards of taking particular drugs in their studies. So when a doctor suggests some drug to you it is not necessarily the right one to take, its only because they’re getting paid to prescribe it. So in a way these types of doctors are the real “black hats” in real life.

    But hey, we can always look up in Wikipedia if we’ve been prescribed the worng thing. After all everyone contributing in wikipedia are proven experts in their field ;) oh and users “like” wikipedia results… they’re GRRRRRRRREAT! (cough, cough)

  283. Doug, this is not just about SEOs or the links they create. This is about every link on the Web, including links on pages created many years ago. You make an assumption that every paid link is designed to game the search results. That’s not a valid assumption. Are paid links valid in the absence of search engines? Yes, they are, they existed before search engines – or at least before Google.

    It’s really a bit rich for Google to build an algo on links, then complain about the way links are bought and sold, when links were bought and sold before Google even existed.

    I hate spam as much as the next person … maybe more than most. ;) I really hate the spam that Matt pointed out above. But spammers like that are never going to use a nofollow tag, obviously. So who is nofollow really going to hurt? These people:

    A) The people who use it when they don’t need to, because they don’t understand where and how it should be used
    B) The people who use it as Google specifies, because that may affect their site’s performance in Yahoo, MSN or Ask
    C) The people who use it as it was designed to be used, because that may affect their site’s performance in Google
    D) The people who don’t use it where they should, maybe because they have never even heard of it, or maybe because they don’t understand where and how it should be used.

  284. I understand your argument completely Alan, but again; what to do then?

    You see; if an owner has a brick and mortar biz and decides he/she wants an internet presence as well, he builds a website. He then discovers he has to find a way to get people to visit his site. One way is to advertise. On TV. On radio. Buy links. Buy banner ads. Buy PPC listings. Get organic free referrals.

    Because he/she eventually knows to do all of this, don’t you think he/she should learn as much as possible about the major search engines and about business on the internet in general? Sure they should. They didn’t suddenly decide to stick up that brick and mortar with no thought whatsoever ahead of time. They had to learn the ins and outs of creating a business for themselves. I don’t see why it’s different on the internet. I feel part of the responsibility of site owners should be to know what the hell the major sites are doing and when they are doing it, since those very same owners want those sites to give them free referrals.

    I also think it’s the responsibility of the SEO industry to teach those same owners about the same things, as well as the responsibility of those sites who give out the free referrals to “teach”.

    So who is not holding up their end of the bargain?

    The SEO industry as a whole is NOT holding up their end as we continually give spammers a podium in EVERY way we can to tout their wares, and we continually allow those same people to do as they damn well please by claiming it’s the major search engines FULL responsibility to weed out the spam.

    The site owner’s really are not holding up their end either. Claiming ignorance is not a good defense.

    I know that Google and other major search engines invite certain SEO types to their headquarters to hash out things having to do with the SEO community, etc, but I’m not sure they are getting the good feedback they should be getting doing this. I know that some have other interests involved, etc, with advertising monies and partnership monies, and other types of stuff, so how much good feedback is a site like Google getting from this? I don’t really know.

    I do know it’s clear that more feedback is greatly needed. Things need to change with Google AND with the SEO industry. After all; I know there are more players than just SEO’s, but our industry is the MAIN driving force behind ALL the search engine spam and all the praising and promotion we give to spammers and blackhats in general.

    I just see the big picture. There is much more stuff than just the simple nofollow tag at stake with all of this.

  285. 2 things (1 that seems to have been missed)

    1. The first example is on a Google blogspot blog. Google makes it very easy to write bad content and to monetize bad content (MFAC). Paid blogging is just another form of MFAC, paid up front instead of on the Adsense back end. I completely agree with other commenters that the issue is not one of the quality of the links but an issue of the quality of the content. In the examples provided the quality of the ‘links’ is actually very high. Those links point to exactly what they are supposed to point to (even the purposefully mis-speeled keywords ;) ). That is a much better quality link than a link resting on the keyword ‘here’ as a contrast. The content is piss poor on that blogspot blog for certain and that is where the focus should be, which moves me into point 2.

    2. Google has chosen a tactic of punishing those sites that would work in the Google ecosystem as opposed to rewarding them for better behavior. Google could choose a path whereby good behavior is rewarded as opposed to punishing bad behavior. In the free market this is usually done with free competition and it does not involve blocking trade from Google competitors (like if whatever company that owns the yellowpages, refused to place an ad for whatever company owns yellowbook – weak analogy but I just read over 250 comments). Google is not stepping forward to create a solution, they are working to block a solution created by their competitors trying to bridge the gap in Google’s own system. Instead of blasting sites that do not follow the nofollow requirements, Google could offer a customize search radial option that includes or excludes sites that do or do not use nofollow appropriately. Then if I performed a search on payperpost.com as an example and my google search was configured to exclude all the sites that have been reported or otherwise identified by google, I would see PayPerPost come up in position 1 (as they do not do paid posts on their own site) and I would not see TechCrunch come up in the number 2 slot (as TechCrunch does provide paid posts without the required nofollow tag).

    As an internet searcher using Google, I could then verify for myself which version of the search results worked for me and which ones did not, and low and behold, Google would have an excellent working case to show whether or not their customers used this option, liked this option, did not like this option etc.

    In blasting pagerank from sites that did not comply, Google showed that their motivation was to penalize sites for not complying. Google did not show that their intent was to improve search results. The former is an action and the second was all words (and after the fact at that). Google’s actions spoke much louder than words.

    Lesson to World (so far)

    We are more concerned about our power over content generators and managers (publishers and webmasters) than we are about search engine results.

    To put it a different way, Google has acted on a hypothesis with actions that harmed many businesses (including a lot of local news websites for example) and they did not offer up any facts to support the case that the hypothesis had any validity.

    The hypothesis also happens to be hidden in a utopian dream which has caught up a number of people would choose to make judgment calls for the rest of the world searching via Google. This aspect of things is basically nothing short of propaganda.

  286. What to do?

    Who am I to say? This is my opinion only …

    Google should do exactly as they are doing, but without requesting/demanding that people label paid links with nofollow. If Google wants to devalue a link because they believe it to be paid, that’s fine … but whats’ not fine IMO is treating or declaring all paid links as spam just because they are paid.

    After all, most paid links aren’t labelled – certainly historic links aren’t labelled. Google should work out the value of a link that isn’t labelled (and even links that ARE labelled) on their own, just as they have to work out everything else on their own. And nofollow should mean what it was designed to mean: “I’m not sure that I trust this link – follow at your own risk”.

  287. Oh boy Alan, I disagree with you totally on that. :-)

    You wrote:

    “but whats’ not fine IMO is treating or declaring all paid links as spam just because they are paid.”

    Google is not saying all paid links are spam at all IMO. They are saying that those links that are paid for should not be votes or recommendations to that linked to site as they are paid for. They should (in the very least) be disclosed in some way, right?

    This all goes back to what is voted for and what is not voted for. Is the seoroundtable blog voting for those paid advertisers on the site? I don’t think so. How about the sphinn website? Is danny sullivan voting for those? Nope. I know that sphinn is using redirection for it’s paid links. I know that seorountable was not as of one week ago and was using very direct links. Is Barry voting for those advertisers? I hope not. LOL

    You see; I feel that’s the biggest prob this industry has. We have no problems with taking money from firms we know damn well spam the search engines and try to trick them in every way. At the same time, we claim we are teaching others. How can that be?

    I also realize that Google displays adwords and adsense ads to search engine spammers and allow them to tout their wares that way…. and on the other hand they do their very best to stop search engine spam. I see the sad irony of that as well. I also know Google is just now doing things on the adwords side they never did before; they are banning “text link ads” from showing up in adwords.

    Look at the digitalpoint forums? That place is abusing Google in most every way they possibly can. Signature links are bought and sold. Adsense revenue is being shared Per page. Many other things are being taught at that place. Is that Google’s fault? Yeah, partially it is as they also sell ads to search engine spammers. The one department claims to not spam. The other department takes monies from those same firms they know darn well spams at every opportunity and loophole they can find.

    So you see; it’s not one thing that will solve all of this. This is why I say that more feedback from more party’s needs to be given to Google and other major search engines, and not by those party’s who do one thing if it suits their pocketbook, and do the other thing if they are talking to a pure whitehat.

    Alan; your last post sounds more like stuff I read from others in this industry. The reality is that this is much, much bigger than what to do with paid links.

    I really feel the bigger responsibility is firmly on the SEO community and on the major search engines to figure this stuff out……equally. If we simply continue on with the adversarial tone that the SEO community is displaying out there right now………… and probably at PubCon as we speak, nothing will ever get resolved. We have to work together with this.

  288. the thumb rule is-paid links are ALWAYS spam.
    and here, I disagree with Alan Perkins.

  289. @ Doug Heil

    “If we simply continue on with the adversarial tone that the SEO community is displaying out there right now………… and probably at PubCon as we speak, nothing will ever get resolved. We have to work together with this.”

    This tit for tat exchange goes both ways. The SEO community doesn’t have the power to bomb Google, and the SEO community did not use the power to bomb Google either.

    Google took a punitive action. SEO’s are complaining.

    But I do agree with you in that a better solution is needed.

    A cease fire would be a nice place to start to re-establish trust.

  290. Doug, in treating nofollow as it does, all Google has done is hand a tool for manipulating Pagerank to the SEO community. It has even promoted nofollow as such. This is a big mistake IMO …

    Another big mistake is assuming that using nofollow to label paid links will somehow stop links being bought and sold for spamming. Nobody has said how Google’s approach to nofollow will stop the kind of spam Matt posted about above and, of course, it won’t. So why plough on with it?

    The last time the SEO industry was given such a direct opportunity to influence the search results without doing anything for the benefit of users was the meta keywords tag circa 1997. Look how well that turned out.

    I am not at all against Google finding and dealing with spam in its index. I am, however, totally against the use of nofollow as Google advocates, for all the reasons I have stated in this thread, namely:

    1) Abuse of nofollow – it was not designed for paid links, and abusing HTML for your own purposes is not a good example for a search engine to set! ;)
    2) Sea change – suddenly we have to do things Google’s way, because Google exists, if we want to be sure of a good listing in Google. We’ve gone from “omission is OK” (don’t need to know Google works or even that Google exists) to “omission is not OK” (need to know how Google works). This can’t be a good precedent as, ultimately, the implication is that only sites produced with a knowledge of Google can do well in Google. I’ve always believed that search engines should strive for the opposite of that.
    3) Side effects – nofollow creates a tool for channelling Pagerank; genuine spammers will not use nofollow how Google wants; and the innocent can suffer by using nofollow or by not using it.

    I think the whole thing is a big mistake that, long term, will damage both Google’s reputation and the quality of Google’s index, and that’s why I’m so passionate about knocking it. :The reason I’m knocking it now is nothing to do with sites recently being penalised and everything to do with the fact that Matt posted about it now. :)

  291. Alan makes some very good points about nofollow.

    The opportunity for abuse of nofollow is pretty obvious.

    If we look at a hyperlink and a keywords as two pieces of information,
    and we look at the nofollow tag as another piece of information that potentially has the ability to negate the first 2 items, then Google is essentially asking webmasters to exercise tactics in disinformation to essentially deceive their own algorithm from making (their perceived) mistake of providing too much merit.

    Alan hints at the power that would be transferred to webmasters, and I’d like to suggest an example of one form that that power might manifest.

    A grey/black SEO strategist only needs to hire a bunch of PAC rim bloggers to write the same type of bogus article as provided in the example above. Those bloggers could then write some articles linking with nofollow and calling them out as sponsored and linking without nofollow on others and not calling them sponsored.

    The blackhat issue there is that what is to stop them from placing the nofollow on a link that is not really sponsored and not placing the nofollow link on something that is?

    That’s just one very basic example of how this GIGO solution could be used, there are many more complicated ways that can be applied to tactics that are out there already in other forms.

    Google needs to focus on the quality of the writing and the context. That is the most important thing and the most difficult thing to buy.

  292. one last thing, this use of nofollow not only damages Google’s search engine, but any search engine that looks for nofollow.

    100,000 bloggers may not have the ability to legally challenge Google, but there are some other search engines out there that have deep pockets.

  293. Yes; as with all things having to do with google and seo’s, all things can be manipulated. I guess this is why I have not focused on the nofollow aspect of the bigger picture at all in all my posts above. I simply see bigger implications of what is going on in the seo industry that have to do with google and other major engines. Google is simply trying to figure out what to do. I really believe the seo industry should also try to figure this out with them. I’m not writing that the use of nofollow is either good or bad or that google should even continue to use it, but I am writing about the greater problem this industry has as a whole. Nofollow is just a small subset of the overall greater issues we NEED to be dealing with.

    Putting it this way; we either deal with things as a friend of the sources of free traffic,.. working together, or we deal with things as we currently are; as an enemy…….. saying stuff like “Google is evil” is certainly being an enemy. The blackhats can be the enemy to Google all they wish as I don’t give a rats ass, but others who truly care about the industry need to stand up and work with the major engines instead of promoting/praising people who only wish to work against them.

  294. NewKnight

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for taking the time to chat. I think it is awesome that Google has someone willing to step up and debate and participate in this discussion, and not be just a faceless company going for the dollar.

    Personally, I think webmasters should be able to pass page rank, whether they have been paid for the link or not. I think the issue should always be relevance.

    If the link is relevant to the users of the site linking out they should be able to pass page rank. I would just say, the more cynically you deal with the general web community, the more cynically they will behave.

    As an insurance underwriter by trade I would say most people, most of the time, are doing the “right” thing. Which in this discussion would be “not” passing page rank for spam. Because that is what it should about, right? Cutting out spam..

    Have we defined spam? No seriously. Have we?

  295. http://www.sponsoredreviews.com/advertisers.asp

    That’s just one problem we have to deal with. How do we deal with this? There is nothing wrong with bloggers writing reviews and buyers buying advertising on those blogs. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    What is very wrong is that they all advertise their services based on the search engines for the most part. That’s wrong. They don’t even state that the blogger needs to actually use the product they are writing about…. just write a damn review. That is bad.

    Along with all of that, we have people who I actually respect who take money from sites like that. Namely Andy Beal in this case. He is displaying the ad prominently on his front page:

    http://www.marketingpilgrim.com

    I’m very sure many other “prominent” SEO folks also take money from this same firm. Not good. Very sad.

    How does our industry deal with the bigger issues if people who actually have a big voice are the majority of the problem?

    How does our industry deal with the bigger issues with Google if Google has a big voice and are taking money for adwords from the very same sites?

    BTW: I could have stuck in any number of SEO’s out there as many of them sell advertising to firms who love to manipulate search engine rankings… another one is Danny Sullivan. Another one is Incisive Media who owns search engine watch. They all sell to blackhats. Google sells to blackhats.

    How can anything be taught about really anything at all when the industry is truly focused on how much money they can make? And yes; I know the argument is, it’s all about free speech. When did free speech come into play? I thought each website could sell advertising to whoever it wants, or reject advertising money from whoever it wants? That’s what I call free speech. It just seems like the blackhats are allowed to advertise on any damn site they choose to. That’s just wrong. How can this industry deal with something as small as a nofollow tag when we all cannot deal with the bigger picture?

    This stuff is not the FULL responsibility of Google. No one can tell me otherwise.

  296. Dave (original)

    About the only time paid advertising will cause the site to get into hot water with Google is when they ARE selling links based on PageRank. In all other cases the paid links (if identified) are likely discounted.

    Alan, things frequently start for one reason and continue for another. It’s normally called “progress” :)

    I think we can ALL claim that Matt hasn’t answered a question from a poster at one-time or another. I highly doubt it is personal and more likely the fact Matt is only human.

    However, I do feel Matt spends WAY too much time helping SE spammers when all they continue to do is seek out ‘other’ ways to spam SE based on his good intentioned advice.

    I would like to see ZERO tolerance and NO communication with SE spammers. They KNOW what they are doing wrong and come here to find out what Google knows, so they can leave their other tricks in place.

  297. When we discuss how PageRank comes from the original concept of academic citation, one thing that has to be kept in mind is that most academic papers, particularly in the sciences, are bought and sold.

    Drug research? Funded by companies and the government.
    Physics research? Often funded by defense contractors and the government.

    Student tuition isn’t magically paying for people to write academic papers, perform scientific studies, and otherwise enrich the world. Any major research institution’s top researchers are constantly writing grant requests and chasing the almighty dollar to fund their activities.

    This financial chase often creates conflicts of interest.

    To claim that links can be pure is just not realistic. Very few things are pure. Funding drives most endeavors, including research and religion and internet marketing.

  298. Now what if the said blog setup an Adwords account with Google and advertise on the keyword ‘radiosurgery’? Will Google Adwords team check on the blog content in details before they show the ads? Barely. It feels like parent asking kids not to smoke while lighting up another cigarette don’t you think?

    Just because Google is the bigger player now doesn’t make Google a god and decide what’s right and wrong. ;)

  299. I never expect a reply, nor think I have a right to a reply. I was just pointing out I had not had one. :D

    I know Matt pretty well outside of this blog, and we agree with each other on nearly everything, so I’m sure he will have understood my intentions rather better than most here. :D

    Reasons I don’t reply to some posts include:

    1) I fully agree, and the poster does not need my endorsement
    2) The poster is not worth the effort
    3) I’ve already said everything I want to say
    4) I don’t have the time/energy

    I was wondering which one of those Matt applied to my post. :D

    If it seemed like I was annoyed, I wasn’t. I do care though, very much, about the quality of the search results and how they are obtained. I think I was the first person to talk about spam leading/equating to deceptive advertising in search results, and I haven’t changed my position on it. I don’t like it. That doesn’t change the fact that I completely disagree with Google’s attitude to paid links, for all the reasons I have stated in this thread.

  300. Aaron

    I keep coming back to this thread to read the latest comments. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here.

    I do a lot of “long tail”-type searches when looking for information, and sometimes I forget how much work is going in at Google’s end to keep them clean. At times I’ll remember, “Oh yes – these listings used to be full of [a particular variety] of spammy, junky stuff and… I didn’t notice when it happened, but it’s gone.” As Multi-Worded Adam says, SEO’s will continue to find something else to exploit to get that stuff back in, and sometimes they succeed in a big, ugly way, but Google’s doing an admirable job with spam control.

    I accept Matt’s explanation that sites that look like they rank well because of paid links may in fact be achieving that ranking by other means, their paid links having been duly discounted. (At risk of “outing” somebody, Google “Orion Foundry (US), Inc.” – some of those sites rank phenomenally well and, while I believe it isn’t due to paid links, I am skeptical that any of those sites have appreciable natural links.) I think the frustration from white hatters is that sometimes it’s “obvious” that whatever means a site is using to rank, they’re not legitimate. The gray and black hat crowd? When they see what appears to be an “obvious” manipulation of Google’s SERPs, they’re mostly angry that they haven’t figured out the secret. ;-) (I put “obvious” in quotation marks because, well, sometimes appearances are deceiving.)

    If I were in the business of buying links, I would probably be grumbling that Google’s policies had caused me to waste money. If I were in the business of selling links, or of SEM consisting of finding places to buy links for my clients, I might be grumbling about how Google’s policies are killing my profits and thus requiring me to change my business model. I don’t do either, but I still find this discussion fascinating.

  301. I’m sure right now it’s #4 for him. :) That pubcon thang is going on right now.

    Dave; Google will not stop communicating with blackhats unless our industry stops first. I don’t see that happening as toooo many have vested interests in empowering the blackhats until eternity. Too many are deep into the pockets of blackhats,…. including Google. Sad but very true.

    You can read all the blogs and conference agenda sessions to see what I mean. Blackhats by droves attend those things and are asked to advertise, etc. Blackhat techniques must be very acceptable to our industry, otherwise we wouldn’t be allowing any of this to occur, but it does occur so their business practices must be acceptable to our industry, and to Google, and specifically, to the owners of these conferences and those who organize them, and to all those so-called whitehats who accept blackhat techniques as an acceptable business practice as well. After all; why else do these whitehats praise, recommend, promote, and accept monies from these blackhats? Hypocrisy is very much alive and very much well in the SEO industry. Can we name the people who talk out of both sides of their mouths depending on who the audience happens to be? No, can’t do that as the number is way too high to do so.

    Need I go on? I could.

  302. “About the only time paid advertising will cause the site to get into hot water with Google is when they ARE selling links based on PageRank.”

    So you’re allowed to do it, you’re just not allowed to discuss that you’re doing it?

  303. PhilC

    [blockquote]I hope these examples help to explain the motivation for our quality guidelines…[/blockquote]

    No Matt they don’t. They don’t even begin to explain Google’s motivations. I’ll say this first though: I have total respect for you personally, Matt. In my genuine opinion, you are an honest and honourable person. Ok…

    Google’s motivation for the sheer stupidy of putting this in their guidelines:-

    “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.”

    is because they cannot make their damned system work without threatening webmasters. It’s an idle threat because there’s no way that Google can do much about paid links gaming the system. They can catch a few, but the vast majority of paid links will continue unabated.

    Webmasters normally make websites for web users, and not for search engines. Search engines crawl the web and produce search results for web users, and not for webmasters. The two do their own jobs seperately. Trying to tell webmasters how to design their sites is stepping waaaaay over line, and it’s a step that will fail. In fact it failed even before it was taken. Just like asking webmasters to use the nofollow attribute failed, this fake stick that Google is shaking at webmasters has already failed.

    But there’s a funny side to it. Soon after Google started to become popular, they publically said that, because of their links system, they couldn’t be spammed. And ever since then, they’ve been trying to plug the myriad of holes in their links-based system, and they’ve failed miserably – to the extent that they now resort to threatening penalties against websites that do something that is, and always has been, a perfectly normal part of the web – selling links on their sites. Google can bleat about their own invented nofollow attribute, but it’s not Google’s perogative to decide what webmasters should and should not do with their sites, and shaking sticks that have no power looks so very very foolish.

    Incidentally, the very idea of having some webmaster guidelines is sheer arrogance too. It’s not your place to have webmaster guidelines – it’s your place to crawl the web and produce search results for web users – and that’s all. You (Google) tend to your own affairs, and webmasters will tend to theirs. If you can’t produce good enough results, change the system. “We can’t be spammed” hah!

  304. Jeremy

    Matt, and what is your take on AdWords results like “Gamma Knife at Amazon.com Low prices on gamma knife. Qualified orders over $25 ship free Amazon.com”.

  305. Paid Links = Capitalism
    Penalizing Paid Links = Communism
    Am I am the only one annoyed by this ideal hippie love linking mentality?

  306. Dave (original)

    Philc, so you believe Wemasters have the right to anything they like with their sites, correct? I agree! BUT, surely Google reserve the same right?

    Alan, I believe there should be a #5 on your list. That is; Matt stopped reading this thread days ago :)

  307. * shakes his head *

    Dave, for the love of all that is good, please don’t start the argument you’re starting. Not because you’re wrong (you’re not, by the way), but because it will end up in a very bad place.

  308. Dave (original)

    * shrugs head in astonishment *

    Bit rich coming from the one who abused Alan and took it to a personal level.

  309. Phil, Phil, Phil……………oh Phil. LOL

    You wrote this:

    “Incidentally, the very idea of having some webmaster guidelines is sheer arrogance too. It’s not your place to have webmaster guidelines – it’s your place to crawl the web and produce search results for web users – and that’s all.”

    Please tell me Phil you just cannot be serious? LOL Do you have any rules or guidelines in your own forums? May I suggest you get rid of them please? The reason I am requesting you get rid of them is so I can start spamming your forums and get some buds to start spamming them as well. After all; you are advocating that sites get rid of their own guidelines, so I think your forums would be a good start. Show some leadership. :)

  310. PhilC

    I totally agree with you, provided that you mean that Google has the right to do what they want with their search engine – but not with other people’s websites.

    Hiya Doug :)

    Yes, I do mean what I wrote. Google, like everyone else, have guidelines (and rules) for themselves, and they apply only to themselves. But their webmaster guidelines are aimed at webmasters and their sites, and that’s sheer arrogance. To be fair, they can write that sort of stuff down as ‘the way we see things’ or something like that – that’s good – but calling them “webmaster guidelines” shows gross arrogance, imo. Alright, maybe I’m splitting a few hairs here, but I’m having a go Google for trying to ride roughshod over the web – again! – and I threw that in for good measure :)

    Fortunately, this latest farce of theirs is just hot air and no teeth. If webmasters won’t help them, and the vast majority won’t, there’s nothing they can do about it, except develope a ranking algorhythm that isn’t as open to spamming as the current “we can’t be spammed” one.

  311. PhilC

    Sorry. My first comment was aimed at Dave – I totally agree with you Dave.

  312. Yes Phil, You have disappeared from the scene lately. Where the hell have you been?

    Anyway; I know webmasters won’t help Google as many have let it be known their stance. If that is indeed the case, then those same webmasters don’t need to be getting free referrals from Google. :)

  313. Dave (original)

    I totally agree with you, provided that you mean that Google has the right to do what they want with their search engine – but not with other people’s websites.

    Google have never done anything with anyones site but their own. To do so, they would need all Webmasters login details.

    *Their* Index is part of *their search engine* and they can do as they please with it. They show Webmaster guidelines (like all SEs) that Webmaster can *choose* to follow……. or not.

    If one *chooses* to go outside them, they only have themselves to blame, not Google. Same principles apply in all walks of life.

  314. Dave (original)

    Phil, btw, you mention “Google” and “fail” a lot in your post. Yet, Google is one of THE most successful SE and media companies of ALL time. If that is your definition of “fail” is “Google” I want to fail too :)

    Going by their continued growth, it would appear the rest of the World not in agreeing with you either.

  315. PhilC

    You ought to have listened to Adam, Dave, or accepted that I agreed with you, instead of trying to argue with me just for the sake of it. But you’re lucky on this occasion because I’m not up for an argument. I’ll just say that you should re-read what I wrote – that way you’ll possibly spot your errors.

    Doug: “Yes Phil, You have disappeared from the scene lately. Where the hell have you been?”

    Ina nutshell, I stopped doing seo some time ago, and I’ve been in Second Life for a year. Somehow, I accidentally stumbled into making a reasonable living out of it – without ever intending to. I’m not back though :) I spotted this topic in one of my infrequent visits to my forum, and I thought I’d chuck my 2 cents into it.

  316. Dave (original)

    I have read and re-read what you wrote. All I can say is you are now talking from both sides of your mouth, or you realise just how erronous your statements were. I hope the latter.

    Anyway, no argument from me as the facts speak for themselves :)

  317. Bit rich coming from the one who abused Alan and took it to a personal level.

    Ummm…what? Dude, you know if I’m going to abuse anyone, I can do a much better job of it than that. And I didn’t make any personal remarks either. I pointed out that Alan, like most others, is going along with the thinking perpetuated by whiners.

    There’s no reason for anyone legit to complain about this. A paid link is not a vote, regardless of “editorial discretion” (and to be perfectly fair, sites such as Yahoo! should be counted as “paid links” since they’re a paid directory, too. No favoritism…period. If it’s paid, it’s not an organic vote.)

    The problem is that there may be some legitimate people complaining based on sheep logic vs. objective evaluation. Blackhat or other vested-interest idiot cries wolf, targets large corporation, and following a chain of idiotic events we have a few people who may actually be affected by the wolf claim, and the majority who are psychosomatically affected by the wolf claim.

    It’s all in your heads, people. It’s like the Boogeyman. It’s alllll in your heads.

  318. I have submitted my re inclusion for my site, but I would love to see some sort of notice in the webmaster console, as to WHY my pagerank was removed. Rather than just finding out myself and then having to contact google.

    I’m sure this would be a welcomed addition to the console for all webmasters out there.

    Or failing that just get ride of the system in the first place !

  319. Greg

    I read through all of the comments here but didn’t see this concern deal with.

    Sure these paid posts are infiltrating Google SERPs and they are muddying the search experience. The Google Algo has given these sites trust through legitimate means. They are then misusing this trust to put spammy posts into the system with the goal of sending people to another site.

    Now, a machine readable tag is available to identify links that are paid so that they are not followed. What does that have to do with spammy posts in the system?

    If I make a paid post and I put the nofollow tag onto the links in the post, that spammy post will still show up in the SERPs, right?

    If those examples that you showed had all used nofollow tags, they would still be muddying the search experience, right? Or will the bot be able to read the post, see several nofollow tags and say, ah ha! This is a paid post, don’t index it. If so then, a nofolow tag will be something that deindexes pages?

    Back to the sites that buy the links. The whole idea of getting to the top of the SERPs is to make money. Supposedly, the google juice from these paid posts will pass to the website dong the buying. I guess this because it’s not really mentioned as a problem in the post. Their goal is then to increase to the top of the SERPs and make more money.

    Now, my question is this. How soon until affiliate links are killed? I can foresee the next big push to this pay per post thing is that bloggers will be hired to write posts and insert affiliate links into the posts. The same spammy stuff gets written and these same spammy posts will rise high in the SERPs, but instead of passing link juice, they will be passing actual sales.

    It’s only natural that Google will go after them because it would be protecting search users from the same evils you talk about in your post.

    And thanks. I am now going back to change all of the links in my paid posts over to affiliate links. I might as well increase my income.

  320. PhilC

    Maybe one day you’ll learn english, Dave, but it’s not my job to teach you what words mean.

  321. Matt, thanks for putting together this example and tirelesly responding! Awesome job.

    I think it makes things pretty clear.

  322. Come on guys, be nice.

    Although he is very wrong; Phil is fun to debate with. Matt is unavailable as he’s at a conference, so let’s play nice.

  323. PhilC

    Weeell, Dave twisted what I wrote out of all proprtion – as though he doesn’t understand written english. For instance, we all know that Google is a very successful company and hasn’t “failed” in that respect, but it’s a massive leap of imagination to take me saying that they’ve failed to beat the spam, which they have, as meaning that they’ve failed as a company. But Dave likes to be argumentative for the sake of it, so it’s nothing new.

    Another thing Dave said:-

    “Google have never done anything with anyones site but their own”

    Patently untrue, of course. Do they still change people’s webpages to link to book sites when the page designer didn’t put links there? If they don’t still do it, they certainly did.

    “Although he is very wrong; Phil is fun to debate with”

    I’m not wrong, Doug. This current stick shaking will fail. If you think differently, then we’ll agree to differ at this point, because neither of *know* how it will work out – it’s just opinions right now. What we do know is that they failed to get webmasters, as a whole, to use their nofollow attribute, and so they’ve decided to get heavy about it. Imo, it failed before it started. Paid links, for the purpose of improving rankings, will continue to floursih unabated. Those are my opinions, and I’d put money on them.

    Incidentally, you didn’t say where I am “very wrong”. Don’t you know where? ;)

  324. Vinc

    Hope my comment to this post doesn’t come to late to be answered.

    I totally agree with what you wrote as far as medical topics are concerned. But when it comes to solely commercial topics, let’s say cellphone online shops, you cannot do anything with Google’s guidelines.

    Search for “Handy” (= cellphone) in the German version of Google. You’ll find one site that does excessive link exchange, one that got it’s top 10 position by means of a hit counter service with text link ads on each counter run by the same webmaster and several sites that got their positions due to hundreds or more paid links. There is no site, that has a noteworthy amount of what you might call “natural links”.

    So if you want to promote your cellphone site you are forced to either buy or exchange links or something like that.

    Any official statements to this actual situation?

  325. Patently untrue, of course. Do they still change people’s webpages to link to book sites when the page designer didn’t put links there? If they don’t still do it, they certainly did.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but this is the first I’ve heard of any of this. Proof? (And not just SEO stories that say it happened…actual proof.)

  326. Many of you guys make this paid links issue complicated, I made a post in regard to this blog post here:

    http://www.forumpostersunion.com/showpost.php?p=19538&postcount=8

    That makes it very simple to understand from Google’s standpoint and I think all the SEO’s worth a shit know this simple fact, but really don’t want to admit it in public.

  327. PhilC

    Here you go Adam:-

    http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/050216-124431

    At the time, people came up with javascripts to put in each to prevent the Google toolbar from creating links on other people’s webpages. The javascript checked the number of links before and after, so see if any had been added. It was 2005, and it probably still exists. But whether it does or doesn’t, it shows that Google DOES do things with other people’s websites, and not just their own.

    Google’s thinking is that it makes for a better user experience, but it is NOT a search engine’s place to change other people’s webpages for that or any other reason. They can create a better user experience with their own site – not with anyone else’s. Imagine you have an affiliate arrangements with Barnes & Noble, and you have a page about a particular book, that includes its ISBN number, and an affiliate link to the Barnes & Noble page. Then Google adds their own link to your page, pointing it to Amazon’s page for that book. Somewhat scummy, huh?

    Anthony. We all know Google’s thinking. I haven’t read this thread so I don’t know what others are saying, but I criticise Google for threatening to penalise sites that behave on the web in a perfectly normal way. There is nothing spammy about buying/selling links on webpages. It’s been done since the web took off – long before Google came along with their flawed system. And there is no normal reason to either make it clear to people that the link is paid for, or to make it possible for a machine to know that is paid for (nofollow). They can do what the hell they like with their own search engine, of course, but that doesn’t make it right.

  328. But Phil why is it so hard for SEO’s to figure this simple thing out, could it be because they want to sell their SEO services which are brokering links out through their own private networks of sites?

    Sell ads and text links all day long with no follow tags, just don’t sell them within editorial content.

    How hard is that ?

    Some people love to use forums for SEO, loading thread after thread with anchor text to their own sites and some forum owners let these spammers do it to rig Google results.

    How stupid is that ?

  329. PhilC

    Adam.

    I didn’t need to point to that article. If you have the Google toolbar, the proof is right there. It’s an option called “Autolink” that you need to turn on.

    You as a surfer can choose to have Autolink turned on or off, but the webmasters whose pages will be changed for those with Autolink turned on don’t get a choice in the matter – their webpages WILL be changed by Google for users who use the toolbar’s Autolink feature.

  330. PhilC

    Figure what out Anthony? I don’t think anyone is ignorant of Google’s reasoning.

    What people are objecting to is Google suddenly threatening to penalise sites that don’t do as they say, but do what is *normal* on the web. Forget linking-building for ranking purposes – this covers every paid link, whatever the motive for it. Forget seo too – this is about all paid links, and only some paid links are to do with seo. This is about the *normal* web – not just spam.

    Google came into the search engine business when paid links for traffic were a normal part of the web. Paid links for traffic are still a normal part of the web, but Google has decided that they don’t suit their flawed system, so they’ve decided to try and outlaw them. How very arrogant! But thankfully, it will fail miserably, as it deserves to.

    Google are the authors of this particular spam problem. They chose a links-based system (nothing new at the time, but they gave links such heavy ranking weight), not realising that people would ‘arrange’ links – maybe because they didn’t think they would be as popular an engine as they became. It did allow them to produce very good results as compared with the other engines, but only as long as people didn’t arrange links for Google rankings. As soon as Google became popular enough to want to rank well in it, people started spamming the links, and the result was, and still is, that too many wrong pages ranked too highly.

    The answer is not as Doug suggested earlier – for the engines and SEOs to work together for a solution, simply because SEOs are very very few compared to the number of people who are not interested in search results beyond that their own sites rank well. The answer lies in the future, with a radically different form of search and search algo.

    Who can blame a hotel owner, whose website ranks #89 while other near identical hotels with websites rank on the first page for the city, if he turns to link-building solely to improve his site’s ranking? Who can blame him for doing that? If he checks with the engines (e.g. Google), he’ll see that they suggest getting links solely to improve the rankings. He’ll see that Google suggests *paying* for a link in the Yahoo! directory at least. Who can blame him for paying for other links on other sites too? And who can blame him for spitting nails at Google if they then penalise his site for it? The whole thing is a mess, and it’s not the fault of website owners.

    No, the answer is not co-operation between engines and SEOs. That would be like succeeding with a drop in the ocean. The answer is a radically new type of search and search system. One that gives users what they actually want, that doesn’t push all the traffic to the few sites at the top of the rankings, and that gives all very relevant sites a fair share of being in front of people’s eyes.

  331. I agree with that Phil, I stated the same in my first post, Google needs to rank pages based on the value of information provided, this needs to be the most important factor in ranking sites in the organic search results.

    Date of first publication of original material should also be a large factor since content scraper operations are showing up within search results ahead of the original author in many cases.

    I know this for a fact and Google needs not only to give less weight to incoming links, but they have to fix a lot of other major problems like scraped micro content ranking ahead of the page it was taken from.

  332. First of all, thanks for posting about this issue. Now adays, they have blog networks, where you can get your article/review posted in hundreds of blogs for $10 !

    Its no big secret, just visit the webmaster forums and you will see what im talking about.

    Anyway, I wana talk off-topic for a little, although its still related to blogs. I really got very upset today when I searched google for:
    How to upload files to your virtual private server ?

    I just wrote about that 12 hours ago in my blog, it has been already copied by some automated blog, and the automated blog already has number one ranking for this question in google !

    I know how complicated things are but this is really hard for me to solow. My blog is the original source of the content, yet some automated blog gets to be ranked number 1 in less than 12 hours !

    No, my blog is not new, its over 7 months old and rank’s for many terms at the top including “Webmaster Blog”.

    Anyway, maybe this type of behaviour from google, is what encouraging automated blogs to continue coping content !?

  333. PhilC

    Just out of interest, would somebody who supports this paid-for links farce explain to me what the difference is between paying for a link for ranking purposes, and asking for a free link for ranking purposes. Or is it that all links that are sought for ranking purposes are bad?

    If all such links are bad, then why does Google advise us to get links to improve our rankings? If only paid ones are bad, then why do they suggest paying for links from Yahoo! and other such directories? And don’t say that the payment is for a review, because it isn’t. The annual payment doesn’t get an annual review – it’s a payment to be listed. Also, nobody pays a directory for a review, whatever the directory says or does. They pay to be listed – that’s the motive. Google may say that when you’re listed in those good directories, you get traffic, and that’s true, but they also say that they are good links to have for ranking purposes.

    Google promotes getting links to improve the rankings, so what difference does it make whether the links are paid for or not?

    Google also suggests doing things like writing articles and creating a buzz to naturally attract links for ranking purposes. Google tells us to DO things to get your rankings higher than they naturally are. So what the hell difference does it make if what you do is get links, even if you pay for them? What’s so special about paid links for that purpose?

    Anyone got any answers?

  334. Google’s thinking is that it makes for a better user experience, but it is NOT a search engine’s place to change other people’s webpages for that or any other reason. They can create a better user experience with their own site – not with anyone else’s. Imagine you have an affiliate arrangements with Barnes & Noble, and you have a page about a particular book, that includes its ISBN number, and an affiliate link to the Barnes & Noble page. Then Google adds their own link to your page, pointing it to Amazon’s page for that book. Somewhat scummy, huh?

    It would be, were that the actual behavior. However, I saw the Autolink thing when it first came out, and it always opened Amazon/B&N/whatever I chose in a new window and never altered the site in question. (Side note: it did it without me ever asking it to).

    Not only that, it’s a feature that can be disabled or enabled, and would at best affect a small number of people in a negative way. That’s not Google altering pages (and it’s not doing that now…I just tried it again). That’s Google trying to be helpful.

    Is it being helpful? Debatable, and both sides would probably have a point. Personally, I think it’s a useless feature but others might find it helpful. But they’re not editing pages as it stands right now, and may not have been in the past.

    Not only that, the article references a beta version. That could have been a bug. That could have been a testing feature that never got removed before it went to public. It could have been any number of things.

    Not only that, there’s no affiliate linking going on that way either.

  335. Just out of interest, would somebody who supports this paid-for links farce explain to me what the difference is between paying for a link for ranking purposes, and asking for a free link for ranking purposes. Or is it that all links that are sought for ranking purposes are bad?

    I’m not going to get into a debate with you, just so you know. I’m just going to say my piece, and that’s it.

    The key to this section is “for ranking purposes”. Paid links aren’t bad. Free links aren’t bad. The problem is that people are so busy going after links for ranking purposes that they’ve completely forgotten that links were supposed to direct users in a natural direction from one place to another.

    A classic example is the IBM internal blog network. (For those who don’t know what it is, it’s http://blogs.tap.ibm.com …and if you visit it, you’ll get a DNS error because it’s internal only). If someone links to a site from that blog network, hundreds of IBMers follow. And they’re all actual, real, living, breathing, people…the very same people that people pay for links to theoretically increase their search engine rankings to receive relatively non-quantifiable traffic increases in the first place.

    You can track direct referrals from a link for traffic purposes a lot easier than you can track indirect referrals from a link for SEO purposes.

    I don’t know if I’d use the word “bad” to describe paid/free links for ranking purposes. I would, however, use the word “asinine”.

    If only paid ones are bad, then why do they suggest paying for links from Yahoo! and other such directories? And don’t say that the payment is for a review, because it isn’t. The annual payment doesn’t get an annual review – it’s a payment to be listed. Also, nobody pays a directory for a review, whatever the directory says or does.

    I actually agree with you on the first part of this. Yahoo! doesn’t deserve any special treatment because it is what it always was…the web equivalent to YP. It’s a business listing service, that’s it, that’s all. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.

    There are some directories (precious few, unfortunately) that do actually review “customers” before and after listing them. For the most part, though, people are paying for a link, and that’s an ad. That’s not an endorsement of a site. It’s an ad. That’s it, that’s all.

    I don’t look at it as SE-specific, either. It’s as much a user issue as anything. Paid links introduce financial and economic bias. Users should know what’s what. If they click a paid link, then they need to be aware of it. Examples like the one Matt cited are exactly what causes end users to be confused, and thus interferes with the user experience. That’s the deeper issue here, and that more than anything is why I support Google’s stance on the issue.

    Does the rel=”nofollow” attribute accomplish that? Not by itself, no. But in conjunction with other policies (e.g. CSS to style links), maybe title attributes that say “Paid Link” or “Sponsored Link”, they could be.

    The other reason I support it is simply because there isn’t a good reason not to. There’s a bunch of bitching and bellyaching and baby lost its bottle happening, but no one has of yet given one solid reason why paid links should contribute to a ranking formula.

  336. PhilC

    I’m looking at it again now. I have a page of books open and I (the user) chose to have Autolink “Show book info” (on the page). It turns ISBN numbers into links with a blue background on the page, and a mouseover reveals that it is linked to the relevant Amazon page. A right click allows me to choose relevant pages on other sites, including Froogle. That’s what I call changing another website’s page, without the website owner having any say in the matter.

    Yes, it’s a feature that can be enabled or disabled, but only by the surfer – NOT by the website owner. The webmaster gets no choice in the matter. His/her pages are changed by Google if the surfer wants them changed.

    I’m in this page: http://www.biblio.com/catalogs/sub/140/American_Biography_General.html

    Suppose that the webmaster has affiliate deals with book sites, and commission earning links on the page, but Google adds links to his page from which he gets commission. Very very very bad.

    However, it does make the point that Google changes other people’s sites as well as their own, and without ever asking the webmasters’ permissions, and without providing a way for webmasters to opt out.

    I wouldn’t disagree that it improves the surfer’s experience, but it can also harm the website owner’s experience. It is NOT Google’s place to change other people’s websites for any reason whatsoever. Morally, it is absolutely wrong – and yet they do it.

  337. PhilC

    Correction: this should have read…

    Suppose that the webmaster has affiliate deals with book sites, and commission earning links on the page, but Google adds links to his page from which he gets no commission. Very very very bad.

  338. PhilC

    “There’s a bunch of bitching and bellyaching and baby lost its bottle happening, but no one has of yet given one solid reason why paid links should contribute to a ranking formula.”

    How do you do the indent? I’m sure it was blockquote, but it doesn’t work. Anyway…

    I don’t think anyone can give you a good reason why paid links should contribute to the rankings – I certainly can’t. I’ve nothing against discounting them for ranking purposes. What I am against is Google declaring that all undeclared paid links are unacceptable, and may attract penalties – lumping them together with spam, when paying for links/ads on sites is a perfectly good and normal part of the web.

  339. That’s weird…my Autolink doesn’t do that. Mine just opens stuff up in a new window (even when I disabled that…that’s what pissed me off.)

  340. PhilC

    Very odd. There’s an option for Autolink that, when checked, will open them in a new window. Mine is not checked, so the links take people away from the site – the new page loads into the existing window.

  341. Both Adam and Phil and even Alan make very good points. I just don’t see the issue as being that simple. Whether or not Google has the right to “ask” webmasters to use nofollow is not the big issue IMO.

    The real issue is that SEO’s since day one have done their very best to find any loophole in a major search engine’s algo. It was Excite, Infoseek, and Altavista back in the day….. 11 years ago or so. Now it’s MSN, Yahoo, and Google. It does not matter if it’s Snail, Yail, or Kendally in the future as whatever the name of a major search engine is, Blackhats want to find the loopholes.

    Since Google put so much emphasis on incoming links, the blackhats discovered they could buy links under the radar and do better in Google. BTW: I’ve never had a prob with clients and links, and have never bought a link except to Yahoo and a few other choice directories. Blackhats have went way overboard and new biz models sprung up among them that act as a third party to buy and sell text links because of Google.

    What was/is Google to do? That’s the question. Usually auto detection can solve many previous spam in the index as eventually it gets caught. This paid link thang is much tougher as we all know very well. We also know (no one can dispute it) that a paid link is NOT a vote for the linked to site. It just is not. I can’t be. So even if the website bought that link purely for the referrals it may get from the site, that link is NOT a vote. Since it is not a vote, it shouldn’t pass PageRank. It’s real simple.

    So what to do?

    I feel the SEO industry has abused it totally. I also feel it’s up to the SEO industry to fix the problem along with Google. Either we all help Google and other engines with this problem, or we leave search engines like Google with ZERO choice.

    Which option are we going to opt for? The third option is the SEO industry continues to bad mouth Google and we all get nothing done about this. Look at all the silly SEO blogs out there now? They are absolutely pathetic about this issue. I’m very sure the conferences are being pathetic about it as well. If we don’t help things along, I see many more problems into the future.

  342. Oh, and Dave and Anthony make good points as well. :)

  343. Dave (original)

    but it’s a massive leap of imagination to take me saying that they’ve failed to beat the spam

    Nobody can “beat” spam as you put it, however, Google rocketed to popularity and fame by winning the battle against spam. If they didn’t/hadn’t, they wouldn’t the success they are.

    As I said, the facts speak for themselves and I know that PhilC has never let facts get in the way of a good story :)

    What people are objecting to is Google suddenly threatening to penalise sites that don’t do as they say, but do what is *normal* on the web

    Correction! A VERY noisy minority object to penaltities. The VAST majority of Webmasters and searchers think it’s a great idea and stick within the written guidelines (you know Phil, the ones who can read English). In return, they get free traffic from the most used SE on the Planet. Small price to pay IMO :)

    You are completely free to IGNORE Google’s guidelines or go outside them, just DON’T expect any favors in return.

    While the noisy minority are whining about Google, others are focusing on their OWN sites and reaping the rewards. You might want to try it one-day :)

  344. Matt you pointed out a grt problem. this is hurting everything.. now time & effort bcome meaning less, only money is taking place.

    your scale for PR is the basic problem. people are getting mad to get higher PR in no time. if they are spending madly, they have no care if backlink is from relevent site or not. with your rule anyone can easily play to get higher PR.

    Adword were good somehow but unfortunately here u r charging more dilivering not enough. money is wasted on spammy sites. low budget goes no where. bcoz spammer are expert in to get big paid keywords on their pages to earn. every adword user is wasting there money 30% to 60% & some are 100%.

    Adsesne is bcoz the main plateform of spammer. no one was interested to have useless website but bcoz of adsense spammer are creating daily thousand of website only for adsense earning. you may say adsens give a new life to spammer… crap site are just existing for sake of adsens or other ads companies.

    even u got pr game, if u like u can use pr as scale for adsens. which can help out to exclude thousand of spammer or anything similer.

    i have see lot more cases of adsens account blocking but never seen a refund to a average adwords user. this whole spam game is created by google adsens & PR…….

    so if u want to stop spam u’ll need to review your rules for PR & Adsens.
    i m not any google hater or something, i m trying to point just a simple thing that u r shouting on the problem, which is created by yourself.

  345. Bernie Mac

    Paid posts are just another result of junk content, or misinformation published all over the web. If you produce quality content on any niche topic,you should disseminate your information as an expert or at least make refrence to confirmed experts in the niche. To get articles of this type out into the Internet or blogisphere I use Artemis Pro
    http://www.ArtemisPro.com to submit articles rich with original accurate content on the subjects I have chosen to disscuss.

    When it comes to medical articles it is important to be factual , accurate and curreent with the information. Lives are at stake.

  346. Phil:

    <blockquote> … <blockquote>

    And as far as the Autolink thing was concerned, I never did have the box checked to open Autolinks in a new window. Not sure why it did that. Then again, it’s a useless feature to me personally since it primarily applies to things that I have little to no interest in (e.g. shopping).

  347. Whoops…add a slash to the second blockquote.

  348. PhilC

    blockquote test

  349. PhilC

    Thank you Adam (the blockquote). I tried it in one of the posts and it didn’t work, but I included the slash in the closing tag. Just seen your correction – after I’d tested it without a slash, which worked. I must have had a typo in it the first time.

    Doug:

    I agree completely that paid links are not votes, but remember that paid links for traffic were there long before Google came along, and Google chose to enter that scene with their links-based system. They can’t complain about paid links. If paid links don’t suit their system because they are not genuine votes, it’s their own fault, and nobody else’s.

    “Since Google put so much emphasis on incoming links, the blackhats discovered they could buy links under the radar and do better in Google. BTW: I’ve never had a prob with clients and links, and have never bought a link except to Yahoo and a few other choice directories.”

    The question is, where do you draw the line? If you bought links to help improve the rankings, where they were bought from doesn’t make any difference. Google advises people to buy one from Yahoo!, and other choice directories, for ranking purposes. There can’t be any distinction between the sites where the links are bought from. E.g. Joe Bloggs has a small and very reputable hotel, and a website for it. It’s just as good a place to buy a link from as Yahoo! is – except it won’t have the same amount of juice so pay less that Yahoo! charge :)

    Dave:

    Do you really have to argue for the sake of it? Anyway…

    “Nobody can beat spam as you put it, however, Google rocketed to popularity and fame by winning the battle against spam. If they didn’t/hadn’t, they wouldn’t the success they are.”

    No Dave. I take it you weren’t around at the time, but that’s not how Google achieved their popularity and fame. Please try to stop making things up.

    “Correction! A VERY noisy minority object to penaltities. The VAST majority of Webmasters and searchers think it’s a great idea and stick within the written guidelines …”

    Did I say it was a majority of people? I said “what people object to”. As it happens, the majority of people whose opinions I’ve seen object to it, but that’s unimportant. On the other hand, exactly where do you get your figures from to make this statement – “The VAST majority of Webmasters and searchers think it’s a great idea” ;) Do try to stop being argumentative, and making things up, Dave. It’s much easier.

    Dave, Dave, Dave – shakes head…

    “While the noisy minority are whining about Google, others are focusing on their OWN sites and reaping the rewards. You might want to try it one-day”

    Did you notice that I said I’ve been in Second Life for the last year, and that I’d stopped doing seo a long time ago? You carry on focussing on your websites and reaping the rewards, Dave. I wish you well with it. As for me, I made enough money from seo and websites that I don’t need to work any more. That’s why I stopped a long time ago, and it’s why I went into Second Life and didn’t come out. You think I’m making it up? I’m not, Dave.

  350. PhilC

    oops! I kinds got the blockquotes a bit wrong, but I’ve got it now.

  351. PhilC

    That last big post of mine was a mess, so here it is again – hopefully as it should be.

    Thank you Adam (the blockquote). I tried it in one of the posts and it didn’t work, but I included the slash in the closing tag. Just seen your correction – after I’d tested it without a slash, which worked.

    Doug:

    I agree completely that paid links are not votes, but remember that paid links for traffic were there long before Google came along, and Google chose to enter that scene with their links-based system. They can’t complain about paid links. If paid links don’t suit their system because they are not genuine votes, it’s their own fault, and nobody else’s.

    Since Google put so much emphasis on incoming links, the blackhats discovered they could buy links under the radar and do better in Google. BTW: I’ve never had a prob with clients and links, and have never bought a link except to Yahoo and a few other choice directories.

    The question is, where do you draw the line? If you bought links to help improve the rankings, where they were bought from doesn’t make any difference. Google advises people to buy one from Yahoo!, and other choice directories, for ranking purposes. There can’t be any distinction between the sites where the links are bought from. E.g. Joe Bloggs has a small and very reputable hotel, and a website for it. It’s just good a place to buy a link from as Yahoo! is – except it won’t have the same amount of juice so I’ll pay less that Yahoo! charge :)

    Dave:

    Do you really have to argue for the sake of it? Anyway…

    Nobody can beat spam as you put it, however, Google rocketed to popularity and fame by winning the battle against spam. If they didn’t/hadn’t, they wouldn’t the success they are.

    No Dave. I take it you weren’t around at the time, but that not how Google achieved their popularity and fame. Please try to stop making things up.

    Correction! A VERY noisy minority object to penaltities. The VAST majority of Webmasters and searchers think it’s a great idea …

    Did I say it was a majority of people? I said “what people object to”. As it happens, the majority of people whose opinions I’ve seen object to it, but that’s not important. On the other hand, exactly where do you get your figures from to make this statement – “The VAST majority of Webmasters and searchers think it’s a great idea” ;) Do try to stop making things up and being argumentative, Dave. It’s so much easier.

    Dave, Dave, Dave – shakes head…

    While the noisy minority are whining about Google, others are focusing on their OWN sites and reaping the rewards. You might want to try it one-day

    Did you notice that I said I’ve been in Second Life for the last year, and that I’d stopped doing seo a long time ago? You carry on focussing on your websites and reaping the rewards, Dave. I wish you well with it. As for me, I made enough money from seo and websites that I don’t need to work any more. That’s why I stopped a long time ago, and it’s why I went into Second Life and didn’t come out. You think I’m making it up? I’m not, Dave.

  352. If I had a medical condition I would do research on a vertical engine like WebMD.com and stay as far away from Google forever doomed spammed out content.

    Matt I am buying links for all my competitors websites and my clients competitors website you can lower all those sites PR and then their rankings…

    Stop posting lies…..

    PS only an idiot would believe your posts are not monitored and approved by Google….

  353. Dave (original)

    No Dave. I take it you weren’t around at the time, but that not how Google achieved their popularity and fame. Please try to stop making things up.

    Kind of hard to debate those Factoids!

    Let me tell you the basic facts on Google, Phil. They developed an algorithm that was THE best of any SE out there and it cut through the vast majority of the SE noise (spam) out there and returned THE most relevant results of any SE. The rest is history, which tends to overun those who ignore it :)

    On the other hand, exactly where do you get your figures from to make this statement – “The VAST majority of Webmasters and searchers think it’s a great idea” Do try to stop being argumentative, and making things up, Dave. It’s much easier.

    More Factoids! My figures come the fact that Google IS the most used SE on the Planet and in History. Oh, then common sense backs up these facts as do any reputable statistics :)

    Did you notice that I said I’ve been in Second Life for the last year, and that I’d stopped doing seo a long time ago? You carry on focussing on your websites and reaping the rewards, Dave. I wish you well with it. As for me, I made enough money from seo and websites that I don’t need to work any more. That’s why I stopped a long time ago, and it’s why I went into Second Life and didn’t come out. You think I’m making it up? I’m not, Dave.LOL! Mine is bigger than your’s. It may come as a surprise, but I don’t feel any need to try and boast and brag. In fact, most psychologists see it as a SURE sign of insecurtity :)

  354. Dave (original)

    Did you notice that I said I’ve been in Second Life for the last year, and that I’d stopped doing seo a long time ago? You carry on focussing on your websites and reaping the rewards, Dave. I wish you well with it. As for me, I made enough money from seo and websites that I don’t need to work any more. That’s why I stopped a long time ago, and it’s why I went into Second Life and didn’t come out. You think I’m making it up? I’m not, Dave.

    LOL! Mine is bigger than your’s. It may come as a surprise, but I don’t feel any need to try and boast and brag. In fact, most psychologists see it as a SURE sign of insecurtity

  355. Dave (original)

    Clint Dixon, hmmmm, who to believe;

    1) A highly respected employee of a highly respected company.

    2) A nobody by the name of “Clint Dixon”.

    Tough call :)

  356. PhilC

    Dave. You’re a complete and utter idiot. End of story.

  357. PhilC

    On second thoughts, and since I have nothing in particular to do, I’ll reply to your posts.

    On the topic of how Google became so popular, you said…

    Let me tell you the basic facts on Google, Phil. They developed an algorithm that was THE best of any SE out there and it cut through the vast majority of the SE noise (spam) out there and returned THE most relevant results of any SE. The rest is history, which tends to overun those who ignore it

    I repeat:-
    “No Dave. I take it you weren’t around at the time, but that’s not how Google achieved their popularity and fame. Please try to stop making things up.”

    You weren’t around in the search engine field at the time, and all you can do is imagine how it was, and make things up – as you pointed out so clearly in your next bit…

    In an attempt to justify your catagorical statement that “The VAST majority of Webmasters and searchers think it’s a great idea”, you said…

    My figures come the fact that Google IS the most used SE on the Planet and in History. Oh, then common sense backs up these facts as do any reputable statistics

    In other words, you don’t have any figures or statistics to back up your statement. You made it up. You waste people’s time with things you know nothing about, except what’s in your imagination. Once in a while, I’m sure that your imagination accidentally gets it right, but from what I’ve seen here, and from what I remember of your posts in the past, most of the time it doesn’t.

    I do hope that helps, Dave. I *am* trying to help you come to terms with the real world, you know ;)

    And finally…

    LOL! Mine is bigger than your’s. It may come as a surprise, but I don’t feel any need to try and boast and brag. In fact, most psychologists see it as a SURE sign of insecurtity

    I don’t mind being insecure, Dave, if that’s what you want to think. My damned insecurity has led me into a life where I no longer need to work, dammit, when people like you do. How the hell did that happen? I assure you it wasn’t intentional. I’ll make an appointment with my therapist immediately, and I’ll donate all the money to the cats home. I *hate* it that the web has paid me enough that I don’t have to work any more, and you do. I’m so embarrassed. But rest assured, I’ll fix as soon as possible, Dave. You will be proud of me – I know you will.

  358. Franky

    Dear Matt,

    you are right. It makes angry to found Sites or Blogs like this “http://abnehmen-online-gewicht.blogspot.com/”, paid by big Companies to produce Keyword Spam.

    But to mix English and German Keywords seams to be a new Strategy. Maybe Google has to recode the Spamdetector.

    I wish you a good luck to fight these Spammers.

    Regards
    Franky

  359. PhilC

    Doug:

    So even if the website bought that link purely for the referrals it may get from the site, that link is NOT a vote. Since it is not a vote, it shouldn’t pass PageRank. It’s real simple.

    I agree with that. That was the situation when the Google engine was being written in college – paid links on the web. It’s not like anyone surprised them with it. They accepted it, and produced the engine. Now they don’t want paid links to count, and that’s fine, but it’s up to them to do what they can internally to discount paid links, and they are way out of line threatening websites that don’t comply with what they want – waaaaay out of line.

    You ask what’s to be done about it. Imo, what you suggest would only affect a drop in the ocean. Quite honesty, they simply have to live with it, because they can’t change it without creating a radically new search system.

    I wonder what brought this on. It’s clear that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with buying links to help move up the rankings, or Matt wouldn’t suggest doing it. I wonder if they’ve had a good look at loads of wrong pages that are highly ranked and seen that many have done it by the mass/bulk buying of links. But I would have thought that they could tackle that algorithmically, or at least make a significant dent in it.

    Anyway, none of the engines can beat the spam. The best they can do with their current systems is make holes in bits of it. They have to develope better search systems to make a serious stand against spam.

  360. Dave (original)

    LOL!@PhilC. I see a year away hasn’t made you any the wiser and a whole lot more insecure.

    Dave. You’re a complete and utter idiot. End of story.

    Surprisingly you have inadvertently made more sense with that post, than all others put together :)

  361. PhilC

    I’m glad that you agree :)

  362. Dave (original)

    LOL! I never said I agreed, I said it makes more sense than all your other post put together. Having said that, the standard you set isn’t exactly hard to beat :)

    Google do better than any other SE and Media company. Based on what qualifications should they take heed of your “advice” on how to run their business ???

  363. PhilC

    Well, since we’re talking reasonably sensibly now, and hopefully that will be your last unfounded insult…

    You are right that Google do better than …, and I didn’t suggest they take any advice from me. What I said is that it isn’t their place to tell webmasters how to run their sites, or to threaten them for not doing as they want when what they want is a normal part of the way the web works, and that they are way out of line by trying to change the way the web works, and has always worked since long before Google came along.

    I can understand some newer people thinking that Google isn’t out of line, because some may see Google as being the main part of the Web, whereas it’s only peripheral to the Web, just like every other website.

    I also said that this particular effort of theirs will fail, and I added later that nobody yet knows whether or not it will fail, and that it is my opinion. Whether I’m right or not will be seen by all of us a little way down the road.

  364. PhilC

    If you would like to discuss it sensibly, without making it personal, and without resorting to insults, please do.

  365. Dave (original)

    If you would like to discuss it sensibly, without making it personal, and without resorting to insults, please do

    YET

    Dave. You’re a complete and utter idiot. End of story.

    and many prior to that. You are one confused Puppy Phil.

    You are right that Google do better than …, and I didn’t suggest they take any advice from me. What I said is that it isn’t their place to tell webmasters how to run their sites, or to threaten them for not doing as they want when what they want is a normal part of the way the web works, and that they are way out of line by trying to change the way the web works, and has always worked since long before Google came along.

    Yes you did and you still are! You are suggesting Google listen to you and change their entire approach. So my question of what qualifications you hold that they should listen to you, still stands. I’m guessing you will NEVER supply me with a direct answer for obvious reasons.

    Phil, it really is very simple. Google provide guidelines for Webmasters who wish to be included in *their* Index. All SE’s do the same, Google is far from unique in this aspect. If Webmasters don’t like them, then they don’t have to comply. Yet, *some* Webmaster want the free traffic from the most used SE but cannot for the life of them comprehend just WHY Google is so popular. The words cake and eat it too comes to mind :)

    IF you are so right and Google are so wrong (my money is on Google), another SE will take their popularity in a heart beat. The tall poppy syndrome haters have been predicting the fall of Google from day 1. If enough things are said by enough people, of course someone will one-day be right! That’s not foresight, thats the law of averages. Then, when the new SE takes over, it will become the tall poppy and the whole silly cycle will start again.

    I don’t think you understand that Google exists for its users, not Webmasters and their *1 billion different self-serving ways*. It can NEVER please all the Webmasters all-the-time and should never attempt to do so. That WOULD see it fall from grace!

    I can understand some newer people thinking that Google isn’t out of line, because some may see Google as being the main part of the Web, whereas it’s only peripheral to the Web, just like every other website.

    Well, I’m far from new and have my business online BEFORE Google became the standard. Yet, I think they are doing a great job overall. Also, like it or not, Google ARE “the main part of the Web”.

  366. PhilC

    You started with the personal stuff. Now leave it out and we can have a decent discussion.

    Well, you can interpret my comments as me suggesting that Google should do what I say, but I never expect them to do that, so it was never my intenion to make any such suggestions to them. I was my intention to make my objections heard though. That’s why I posted.

    Also, like it or not, Google ARE “the main part of the Web”.

    That’s simply untrue, but if you think it’s true, then it’s true for you, and there’s no point in debating it.

    What you say about Googke (and other engines) writing Webmaster guidelines for those who want to be in their index is only true up to a point. Without websites, Google has no index, so they need websites as much as websites need them – more so, because they make a lot more money from websites than the other way round.

    On the whole, I don’t disagree with what you say about that, but that’s not the subject of debate in this thread. The subject is Google arbitrarily deciding that paid links are wrong, and threatening to hurt websites that do it. That’s what the thread is about, and that’s what I’ve talked about. (When I mentioned that is is arrogant to write webmaster guidelines, I went on to say that I was splitting a few hairs). Even so, it’s possible that some newer people could see Google as being in charge of the web, and that those guidelines are rules for them, when they are not. So…

    I say that Google is dead wrong, in a moral sense, by threatening to harm websites that buy links on other websites, or sell links on their sites. Sure, they can go after the bulk buyers/sellers – I’m not talking about that side of things. I’m *only* talking about the normal workings of the web, as it was before Google came along, and as it still is.

    The irony is that Google’s system interfered with the normal workings of the web in this sense. Once upon a time people would link for free if it was good for their visitors. Now people know the power of links, so there aren’t many free links around, and links for traffic need to be paid for more than ever they were. That’s Google’s doing. They caused it, and now they shake a big stick at it.

    My objection is to Google threatening to harm websites that are only doing what has always been done. I don’t object to them trying to get the darker side of things – only the white side.

  367. Dave (original)

    You started with the personal stuff. Now leave it out and we can have a decent discussion.

    Have you ANY idea just how immature and wrong that is?

    Well, as I keep on saying, the facts speak for themselves and my money is still on Google for knowing what is best for their users/business over an ex-SE0 with no qualifications who demonstrably doesn’t understand its means to an end.

    I bid you fairwell PhilC and I suggest you spend your retirement Years looking after yourself, not Google :) Take up Golf………….or something.

  368. Brian

    Doug said, “We also know (no one can dispute it) that a paid link is NOT a vote for the linked to site. It just is not. I[t] can’t be.”

    I can’t see how this is true. I’ve seen a number of affiliates links to Amazon. I know that webmasters are specifically linking a book to Amazon and not the publisher’s website so that they can receive payment. These links pass page rank and many times Amazon is the top result for a product.

    I know that Google isn’t cracking down on affiliate links, but let’s call a spade a spade here. It’s a vote from the webmaster about the product that’s it linked to – and a good vote at that. The webmaster is also getting paid – even if it’s indirectly. It passes on Page Rank.

    Thus it’s proven that it’s quite possible for a paid link to also be a vote.

  369. PhilC

    You just can’t have a sensible discussion/debate without getting personal and insulting people, Dave. You offer no rationale – only stones that are aimed at totally the wrong things. In this brief dialogue, according to you I’m immature, insecure, have no qualifications, boastful, etc. etc., and you say I do things that I don’t do, such as offer suggestions to Google, and so on. There just isn’t a sensible discussion or debate in you.

    So here I am writing on the topic of Dave again, because you won’t have it other way. My seo views differ greatly from people like Doug and Adam, but we have our views because of our reasoned thought, and we are willing do discuss and debate them with reasoned points. People like you, who have the attitude that Google must be right because it’s Google and they said so, have no reasoned thought that I can discern. Still, it takes all kinds, I guess. C’est la vie.

  370. So it would seem that this discussion has almost devolved, but I’d like to recover it as there seems to be an important question outstanding that if answered would refute the logic offered in Matt’s original post (which to me seems very subjective bordering on propoganda)

    Let me walk through a short chain of quotes mentioned since about comment 280 or so . . .

    Geiger Said,
    Paid Links = Capitalism
    Penalizing Paid Links = Communism
    Am I am the only one annoyed by this ideal hippie love linking mentality?

    Now this is short and sweet, to the point and possibly a little insulting to some, but there is a thread of truth in it as well. We work (publisher, webmaster, SEO’er, blogger, whatever) in the information industry.

    Google has deemed the association between linking and voting and that analogy has then been extended to state that buying votes is bad. One of their premises revolved around the barrier to enter the web world, register a domain, throw up a website, and then develop that website. To do that well takes either money (to hire someone) or money(to cover costs while you learn how to do this yourself), and possibly money to support the business being promoted on that website, which sometimes brings in lots more attention if you have a popular product or something.

    All that money required is a barrier to entry, and when someone that has spent all that money to enter the market and they then deem to utilize a portion of their resources to take the time to include a link, it is a vote. Essentially they have put some of their money where their linking mouth is.

    PhilC

    Who can blame a hotel owner, whose website ranks #89 while other near identical hotels with websites rank on the first page for the city, if he turns to link-building solely to improve his site’s ranking? Who can blame him for doing that? If he checks with the engines (e.g. Google), he’ll see that they suggest getting links solely to improve the rankings. He’ll see that Google suggests *paying* for a link in the Yahoo! directory at least. Who can blame him for paying for other links on other sites too? And who can blame him for spitting nails at Google if they then penalise his site for it? The whole thing is a mess, and it’s not the fault of website owners.

    In PhilC’s example, the hotel owner spends some money to enter the market, and to compete may decide to spend some more money to keep up with the Jones’.

    Capitalism at work-Sure it may be the wild west internet version of capitalism, but there it is.

    This starts to move us into the important outstanding question at hand. (This has been asked a couple times, these next couple quotes are just a couple examples. Many of the previous mentions are more insults hinting at the impossibility of answering the question. Ergo if you answer this question you are a person with an undesirable stench wafting from your head which must be composed entirely of fecal matter.

    The Question

    PhilC

    Just out of interest, would somebody who supports this paid-for links farce explain to me what the difference is between paying for a link for ranking purposes, and asking for a free link for ranking purposes. Or is it that all links that are sought for ranking purposes are bad?

    Question starts to hint at where is the line drawn in seeking links. The question is starting to come out here, but not quite yet.

    Then Multi-worded Adam bitches and belly aches about

    . . .There’s a bunch of bitching and bellyaching and baby lost its bottle happening, but no one has of yet given one solid reason why paid links should contribute to a ranking formula.

    Now that is the start of a good question, but the question (and frustration expressed there) make it difficult for people to respond as responding pulls them into a slightly negative connotation.

    PhilC bravely takes it half a step closer to the point

    PhilC
    I don’t think anyone can give you a good reason why paid links should contribute to the rankings – I certainly can’t.

    Now PhilC and multi-worded Adam haven’t quite been able to figure this out yet.

    I will myself brave an answer, and ask everyone to pick it apart (hopefully logically). I’d like to suggest that this discussion and debate has not really been fleshed out yet. Google seems to have taken protective unilateral action first, without having a good solution let alone the facts to back up that solution. They are grasping at straws and working the biggest Search Engine in the world by trial and error.
    IMHO that does not bode well for stock holder value.

    1-So I would posit that paying for a link is not bad, or evil or even something that is bad for SERP’s.

    2-I’ll take that to an even more extreme statement(for this forum). Paying for a link to improve SERP’s is GOOD for SERP’s including Google.

    3-Now, I’ll offer up the final possibly most extreme statement for this forum. I think that paying for links to improve SERP’s is more white hat than many of the white hat activities recommended by Google and other ‘white hat’ labeled groups.

    Regarding Point 1
    As was hinted in some of the initial comments of this comment, a paid link is just an advertiser putting their money where there mouth is and putting their money in the pot to play at the table with all of their competitors. Its a more efficient means for the market to achieve this goal. A paid link on a topic is just an example of the marketplace bringing about an efficient exchange. (and as many have pointed out, its nothing new, just getting more and more efficient) When Google attempts to reduce the efficiency of the marketplace, their actions are artificial and hurt commerce. I would also suggest that when people attempt to channel the creation of links through an old boy network of friends and directories and such, this is not efficient and does not help the search results improve. It just slows things down in the marketplace and empowers a bnuch of middlemen and middle women, machiaveli power brokers, that are constraining the flow of information. They still have to be paid, whether those payments are SEO consulting fees, or directory placements or what have you.

    Point 2
    This is in direct counter point to Matt’s article that generated this 300+ comment chain. Paid reviews with paid links or any paid links (say TLAs) help improve SERP’s. This process first as I mentioned above is a more efficient means for the marketplace to do what it is already doing. This speeds the placement of a site in the SERPs. That helps get the right link to the right people when they need it. Competitors that are worried about losing their placement, need to put their money where their mouth is and pony up to support their information in the search engine. (
    note I am not suggesting that counting links or backlinks should be the only thing in the ALGO, but one of many. I would favor measuring where people actually go, and what they do when they get there as a better refining measurement of what should go into the SERPs, but this is a starting point.) If we enable the marketplace to work efficiently, the market will take care of itself. If you don’t believe that then reconsider why you are engaged in capitalistic business at all. Fighting Spam –
    a. Let behavioral statistics serve to push the spam results down in the listing to counter someone that would buy up a lot of links.
    b. Evaluate the information on the site. For sites that are contextual in nature, the information has to be valued. This is why social networking sites are proving to be so popular. They help people identify information(and make connections to people that can identify information).

    3. Paying for Links is the Work of True White Hats
    Let’s face it if you are functioning as a person that passes favors and links and connects clients to those connections and that know how, you are basically working as a power broker and taking a consulting fee for it. You are selling access to something that is artificially controlled because it has been labeled as white hat behavior. But it is actually more white hat to put your money where your mouth is, stop currying favors, and offer someone a fair value for a fair exchange without propping up a massive surcharge to your client. The client is looking for business results, they are not interested in these power games. If they can find a more efficient way to do business without having to essentially pay a kickback (up front) to a consultant, they will be glad to do it. Sites that achieve search engine listings based on favors and exchanges as promoted by Google are providing the true spam on the internet. This is because Google built a SE Algo to work on a system several years ago. Since then they have worked night and day to put advertisements on as many pixels of the internet as possible, but to do this they must maintain a control over that web real estate. So they build up their power base, and protect it. They are not delivering better results or finding a way to deliver better results, they are protecting and aging inefficient marketplace where knowledge and information flows up the SERPs based on their dominance as THE power broker and the dominance of smaller power brokers that follow the rules Google established to keep itself in power.

    If Google was truly concerned about providing better SERP results and not so blinded by their own idealism in part and desire to protect their power base, they would become transparent about what is really going on with link building and start selling links themselves.(I know they already sell them, but they are not transparent – the activity is hidden)

    Now feel free to argue this, or poke holes in it, but please look at it from the market’s perspective. Step away from the subjective perspectives of

    Google as Power Broker

    or

    SEO Consultants as Middle Power Brokers

    or even

    Webmaster’s as Power Brokers

    Look at what the customers are looking for in terms of solutions. That includes the people searching for information
    that includes the people creating / gathering/ offering information
    That includes people providing products or services etc.

    We all (for the most part) enable these things to happen. But if the market is restrained with artificial blocks on the flow of information, knowledge and commerce, the customers do not get what they want when they want it as well or as fast as they would like and eventually something will be created that is so innovative that the system is blown up.

    We can continuously improve the system and make it more efficient, or we can fight off the tide until the tide sweeps us away.

  371. My apologies for the em tag that did not get closed somewhere above.

  372. slight correction

    Google has deemed the association between linking and voting

    Google has deemed the association between linking and voting to be important to SERPs ~ ergo PR.

  373. Brett, you really don’t get it, do you?

    First of all, I wasn’t bitching and bellyaching. I simply pointed out that it exists. I wasn’t complaining about it…quite frankly, I find it amusing. A bunch of people who got in with the text link ads and the PayPerPosts and all the rest of the silly link buying schemes now have to scramble to figure out some other way to game Google, and they’re upset about it. As someone who never bothered with the “buy links to improve Google rank” Digital Pointless-esque BS from the beginning, this is something that I can sit back and get a good chuckle from while my clients benefit.

    If I bitch and bellyache, by the way, you’ll know.

    And you can’t be serious about this:

    1-So I would posit that paying for a link is not bad, or evil or even something that is bad for SERP’s.

    2-I’ll take that to an even more extreme statement(for this forum). Paying for a link to improve SERP’s is GOOD for SERP’s including Google.

    3-Now, I’ll offer up the final possibly most extreme statement for this forum. I think that paying for links to improve SERP’s is more white hat than many of the white hat activities recommended by Google and other ‘white hat’ labeled groups.

    1) As long as it’s treated as what it is…an advertisement…then no. A paid link is an ad, the end.

    2) Okay, let’s say it is good for search engines. Let’s say that Google should factor all paid and unpaid links equally. That’s what your suggestion is, so let’s go with it.

    What would happen when large corporations with big bankrolls (the Wal-Marts, the IBMs, the Coca-Colas, the Starbucks to use one of Matt’s earlier examples) find this out and start spending their large advertising budgets on Internet advertising? Google morphs from a search engine into a YP-style site, whereby those with the largest financial resources will generally be presented in “organic SERPs”.

    Look at GoTo/Overture from the standpoint of a commercial search engine, because that’s what it was. This is exactly what Google is ultimately trying to avoid: commercial search engine bias that doesn’t need to be there.

    Is that what you want? Is that really “good for SERPs”, as you put it? Hell no.

    3) Purchasing of links (and by links, I’m referring to the broader sense of the term and including banners, Flash ads, and anything else that would include a link to another website or page) in and of itself is advertising. It’s not whitehat, it’s not blackhat, it’s not any hat. It’s advertising. That is what it is. The whole idea that it’s anything else is silly.

    Paid link advertising for search engine benefit…there’s nothing whitehat about it. Matt’s examples illustrate that about as well as any examples could. How does a blog post that is highly influenced by commercial interest help a user? It doesn’t. It is a commercially biased post. This is exactly the kind of crap that needs to stop.

    Link purchasing = advertising. Link purchasing SEO. It’s really that simple.

  374. Asle Ommundsen

    What about W3C? Is this OK? They have a big page rank, and all the links are paid for by SEOs:
    http://www.w3.org/Consortium/sup

  375. Multi-Worded Adam,

    First, if you say you weren’t bitching and bellyaching I believe you, not always easy to tell in comments. :)

    Second, Yes I am serious.

    Third,

    1) As long as it’s treated as what it is…an advertisement…then no. A paid link is an ad, the end.

    You could easily make the argument that every single pixel on the internet is a form of advertising. Other than that, I do not understand your counter point here. I said that paid links are not a bad thing, and you seem to say, what? (don’t want to put words in your mouth) :)

    Fourth, as we start to explore the hypothetical of including paid links in search (BTW they are there already remember, just not approved of by Google, so we are talking about removing a stigma and accepting what is happening already), I would say that there’s nothing wrong if the big corporations want to advertise in this manner. The reality is that they will advertise in any capacity that increases their ROI and if they don’t they are not working to improve shareholder value. Besides, Google has never been shy about taking advertisers money in the past. I’d suggest that if some of the big fortune 500 companies and many of the 1000 and companies below that did more SERP advertising then we would see so many made for adsense sites and we might also see fewer made for affiliate sites, which all serve to work as intermediaries to get people to the place that the primary advertiser wants them to go. Its just that a few SEO types and SEM types function as power brokers to herd people through some spammy MFA^2 sites. Let the corporations that are really selling a thing go direct to the consumer and reduce the clutter on the internet. And as I mention in my last comment, quality check the SERP ranking with the click through performance of actual surfers.

    Finally, on your third point

    3) Purchasing of links (and by links, I’m referring to the broader sense of the term and including banners, Flash ads, and anything else that would include a link to another website or page) in and of itself is advertising. It’s not whitehat, it’s not blackhat, it’s not any hat. It’s advertising. That is what it is. The whole idea that it’s anything else is silly.

    Paid link advertising for search engine benefit…there’s nothing whitehat about it. Matt’s examples illustrate that about as well as any examples could. How does a blog post that is highly influenced by commercial interest help a user? It doesn’t. It is a commercially biased post. This is exactly the kind of crap that needs to stop.

    Link purchasing = advertising. Link purchasing SEO. It’s really that simple.

    I almost agree with you hear but you seem to diverge from your own logic. You say that Link Purchasing = advertising.

    Yes I agree.

    You see it is not white hat, and not black hat, just advertising.

    OK, I agree again. So far we have no foul, no reason for Google not to accept the advertising in the marketplace.

    You then say that the following type of crap needs to stop

    How does a blog post that is highly influenced by commercial interest help a user? It doesn’t. It is a commercially biased post.

    Now this is a quality of information issue. I agree that the quality of information needs to improve and improve dramatically in blog posts such as the one pointed out above. Google has approached a quality of information issue with a coding requirement. -> rel=”nofollow”

    That doesn’t make sense. It also doesn’t improve the quality of information and it doesn’t do anything to change the behavior that produced the quality of information issue.

    Matt didn’t offer up examples where local news websites were penalized for offering TLA’s on their websites for example.(Matt chose a biased example to evoke an emotional response whether he knew it or not. He was trying to make a point and took one of the worst offending examples he could find and write about.) Many local news websites around the country have a great deal of original news and content, but just happen to sell links on their sites. Google wiped them out just like they wiped lots of smaller bloggers out with PR. If as you suggest selling links is just advertising, then why is Google penalizing news organizations for selling advertising?

    Now as to how that blog post helps a user

    The advertiser is paying to build not only links but contextual links. That helps them like in the example of the hotel owner in the 89th position, move up in the rankings. They are paying to compete in a market that has a barrier to entry that requires backlinks. There is nothing wrong with them competing. Let them compete, if they can find a blogger that will do a better job(possibly because Google has stopped utilizing the logic of hokey stigmas and fear) then let them find a better blogger that can convey the message better.

    The link is actually only one part of the advertising. That particular advertiser in Matt’s example did not get their money’s worth. The blogger screwed the pooch by writing a piss poor article. The advertiser should be steaming mad about that, and they should be looking for a better blogger to do their topic justice.So they go back to the marketplace, find a more skilled blogger, possibly pay more to get what they are looking for.

    At the end of the day, bloggers can parse into a niche topic or tangent and help to cover it with research, wisdom and perspective, and then along the way the relevant links. That blogger just threw out some links and something a half step above gibberish.

    The opportunity lost there was to write an article that transcends just a link and some gibberish and ads value in information. Many bloggers have the ability to do this today, and many more are learning (succeeding on some articles and failing on others). Each article however as it has its own permanent URL ends up competing on the internet. Let them compete and sink or swim on their own merits. this is partly where the social media sites like Digg and stumbleupon start to show their merit. They help identify the value (although they are still a bit binary -thumbs up and thumbs down as opposed to why something or how something has gone right or wrong).

    Google should let this go and let the marketplace work itself out, and let the advertisers chase and demand quality. At the end of the day, the person paying for that advertisement has much more influence over correcting quality than Google ever will by trying to work a system with negative reinforcement.

    Google is penalizing bloggers across the board on every article ever written on a blog when they find a paid link somewhere on the site.

    That is not an incentive for bloggers to write better, that is an incentive for bloggers that write poorly to go build new blogs and start fresh. Google’s solution will promote more bad articles like the one Matt used in his example. If Matt wanted to be a part of the solution instead of the problem, he would work to reach out to the advertisers and deliver a solution.

    But Matt works with web spam for Google and so is in a bit of a silo on this issue(as has been noted many times in this blog in one form or another). To create a solution for the advertisers, it requires a more fundamental shift for Google. Google of course is more focused on weddings and jetting celebrities around than they are fixing this problem. So many new companies have sprung up in the marketplace to deliver a solution to make the market work better.

    If this issue is ever going to be solved, its going to be solved by providing an incentive to the bloggers to improve their writing and research. Plus, providing an incentive is a lot more legal than Google blocking advertising(=paid links).

  376. Dave (original)

    So Google should scrap it guidelines for inclusion and should allow the playing field to be skewed towards the highest bidder. They already have that and it’s called *AdWords*.

    Google DOES NOT punish anyone for advertising and ONLY sometimes punishes those who are attempting to buy/sell PR. It’s NOT Rocket Science folks, it plain ole common sense and KEEPING the playing field level for the Mon & Pops.

    The mighty $ is not right in the organic SERPs. Also, this is NOTHING new to those who have actually READ the guidelines Google supply. They have ALWAYS stated that attempting to buy PR will get you into hot water.

    It is patently clear that SOME have never even read the guidelines, or read them with one-eye!

  377. Dave (original)

    What about W3C? Is this OK? They have a big page rank, and all the links are paid for by SEOs:

    And you know for a fact that THE reason for their PR is paid links over their 10000′s votes how?

  378. PhilC

    brettbum.

    I applaud your posts. They are well thought out, well reasoned, and very well written

    The idea that paid links are whitehat is almost right, and Adam is right. The best way to see them is advertisements, and therefore they are white – not a hat of any color – just white.

    You are also right that paid links help to improve the serps, just as any seo work does, provided that they attempt to get pages higher up the right serps. There is no difference between changing a page’s Title tag to improve rankings, and getting links with the right link text to improve rankings – paid or unpaid. It’s all about improving the rankings of a relevant page or site.

    Personally, I don’t believe that Google has any ulterior motive for this new move, as you seem to say. Imo, they are trying to change things to the way they originally intended; links = genuine votes – rather like the tag system. If links aren’t genuine votes, then the very basis of their system is flawed. Unfortunately, the basis of their system *is*, and always was, flawed because not all links ever were genuine votes – at least not since long before those guys developed their system.

  379. Brett, your logic is still flawed.

    The advertiser is paying to build not only links but contextual links. That helps them like in the example of the hotel owner in the 89th position, move up in the rankings. They are paying to compete in a market that has a barrier to entry that requires backlinks. There is nothing wrong with them competing. Let them compete, if they can find a blogger that will do a better job(possibly because Google has stopped utilizing the logic of hokey stigmas and fear) then let them find a better blogger that can convey the message better.

    1) The hotel owner isn’t a user. The hotel owner is a webmaster. Searchers are users.

    2) So what happens when the consortium who owns 1000 hotels (and in the hotel industry, they do exist) start buying thousands of paid posts with no regard to quality and therefore floods the market and flushes out that same small hotel owner?

    3) Backlinks don’t have to be paid for. They can be earned. Money is just a shortcut in that regard.

    That particular advertiser in Matt’s example did not get their money’s worth. The blogger screwed the pooch by writing a piss poor article. The advertiser should be steaming mad about that, and they should be looking for a better blogger to do their topic justice.So they go back to the marketplace, find a more skilled blogger, possibly pay more to get what they are looking for.

    Oh give me a break! The “advertisers” that play the paid blog post game don’t care whether or not the blog post is subpar from a written standpoint and never did. It’s all about gaming the system…period. People can spin doctor this all they want, but it is what it is.

    Google should let this go and let the marketplace work itself out, and let the advertisers chase and demand quality. At the end of the day, the person paying for that advertisement has much more influence over correcting quality than Google ever will by trying to work a system with negative reinforcement.

    Google is penalizing bloggers across the board on every article ever written on a blog when they find a paid link somewhere on the site.

    I’ve got two words if you think the marketplace will sort itself out: Digital Pointless.

    The marketplace will never sort itself out in that regard, because there are too many predators selling crap and too many get-rich-quick wannabes looking to buy it.

    And I don’t feel penalized right now.

    Matt didn’t offer up examples where local news websites were penalized for offering TLA’s on their websites for example.(Matt chose a biased example to evoke an emotional response whether he knew it or not. He was trying to make a point and took one of the worst offending examples he could find and write about.) Many local news websites around the country have a great deal of original news and content, but just happen to sell links on their sites. Google wiped them out just like they wiped lots of smaller bloggers out with PR. If as you suggest selling links is just advertising, then why is Google penalizing news organizations for selling advertising?

    Apples to oranges. I’m not defending the news sites on this issue, either: they really should deliver more effective solutions to advertisers than they do. This goes beyond SEs too and issues such as bot blocking (talk to IncrediBILL about that….he’s the authority figure that way).

    But generally speaking, major news sites don’t go around plugging their PR(x) links and the SEO benefits of such.

    And what is the real penalty behind taking away external PageRank? It’s a useless metric. It’s a “rough measure” at best. It’s not even worth worrying about, yet most SEOs obsess over it.

    But Matt works with web spam for Google and so is in a bit of a silo on this issue(as has been noted many times in this blog in one form or another). To create a solution for the advertisers, it requires a more fundamental shift for Google. Google of course is more focused on weddings and jetting celebrities around than they are fixing this problem. So many new companies have sprung up in the marketplace to deliver a solution to make the market work better.

    Such as…? (And Digg/StumbleUpon/etc. don’t count, because they’re still very much in their infancy and still highly subject to spam and manipulation).

    If this issue is ever going to be solved, its going to be solved by providing an incentive to the bloggers to improve their writing and research. Plus, providing an incentive is a lot more legal than Google blocking advertising(=paid links).

    Where exactly is this “block”, besides in the imaginations of “SEOs” who made it up to justify their own link selling?

    And if the issue is ever going to get solved, it’s going to get solved by webmasters getting their heads out of their asses and realizing that this whole contextual link/paid posting/PR(x) link thing doesn’t benefit anyone except for the seller. But that’s not ever going to happen. Google didn’t create the problem: webmasters/SEOs did.

  380. Dave (original)

    Oh, the irony of it all!…..the exact same people whining about Google keeping the playing field level for all, will be whining twice as much when they are outranked and shunted to page x by the BIG companies buying “advertising” links. I don’t think all the link buyers realize just how much a link WOULD cost IF Google allowed them to influence their organic SERPs. Common sense should state that, unless you are a BIG business with bottomless pockets, “paid advertising” would pie in the sky!!!! Then, IF that DID happen, Google would become to most NON-used SE on the Planet. In other words NOBODY wins!

    1 Billion different Webmasters have 1 billion different views/like/dislikes on the Google guidelines. 4 Billion different users of Google generally have 1 aim only. That is, finding THE most relevant page(s) for their search term. IF they want the $ to influence their SERPs they will look at ONLY the Ads, or use one of the many other SEs that DO allow money to influence the SERPs. The fact that Google is STILL the number 1 used SE on the Planet (and growing daily) shows that Google users (the searchers) DO NOT want money influencing the *organic* SERPs.

    For those wanting to buy links, use AdWords or any other PPC style SE. Or, if you buy a link on another page, DO NOT SCREW YOURSELF and pay for PR, pay only *direct click traffic”.

  381. Multi-worded Adam,

    before I respond, thanks for working to pick things apart. I’d challenge you to look towards the solutions as well as Google is not. If you see a better solution, let’s here it.

    1. The hotel owner is not a webmaster, they own a hotel(or chain). They are hiring webmasters and SEO types. They are hiring those fine folks to perform advertising in part, and establish an ecommerce front end. They also happen to be a customer of Google’s (and other SE’s and the guy in the 89th position example is just waking up.

    2. As to the big chains(response also to Dave (original) also, let them compete. Yes, big companies have bigger budgets, but they are not endless and they definitely do not throw their money at something that doesn’t provide a return, so that will put a cap on things naturally.

    3.

    backlinks don’t have to be paid for, they can be earned

    Uh jee whiz, isn’t that paying for the links with your earnings? Yes, it is. Plus, don’t even get me started on the tax problem with bartering links without a financial transaction.

    4.

    The “advertisers” that play the paid blog post game don’t care whether or not the blog post is subpar from a written standpoint and never did. It’s all about gaming the system…period.

    If you want to believe this, that’s your choice. Based on experience with advertisers I can tell you that this matters very very much.

    5.

    The marketplace will never sort itself out in that regard, because there are too many predators selling crap and too many get-rich-quick wannabes looking to buy it.

    I’ll agree to disagree with you on this one, especially as we are talking about a lot of what if’s here. I think its possible to make the market better than it is today. You can choose to think otherwise, and I’ll still respect your opinion.

    6.

    But generally speaking, major news sites don’t go around plugging their PR(x) links and the SEO benefits of such.

    From what I’ve seen they use TLA or go direct and they like many other websites (not just the blogger blogs that Matt used for the example) were hit. I realize you see this as apples to oranges with the blog items, but Matt and Google use the same peeler to strip the fruit down and leave it bare. I’d suggest that they should consider leaving the fruit alone. [the analogies are only getting worse as I've been working on presentations all night, my apologies]

    7.

    So many new companies have sprung up in the marketplace to deliver a solution to make the market work better.

    Such as…? (And Digg/StumbleUpon/etc. don’t count, because they’re still very much in their infancy and still highly subject to spam and manipulation).

    I was actually referring to companies like TLA, PPP, ReviewMe etc. here. I referred to Digg and Stumble elsewhere in a different context. One thing on TLA, PPP, ReviewMe, I think they could do a better job at what they do, but it is a start and the customers that come to these companies are not only orientated strictly on SEO, that is just what gets covered here exclusively. You go out to some of the more SEO orientated services like V7N, Blogitive, PayU2Blog, the customers are more naturally inclined to SEO.

  382. Dave (original)

    They are hiring webmasters and SEO types. They are hiring those fine folks to perform advertising in part, and establish an ecommerce front end

    IF anyone hires a “SEO” and that same “SEO” starts a link buying campaign, the so-called “SEO” should NOT be in the SEO business!

    As to the big chains(response also to Dave (original) also, let them compete. Yes, big companies have bigger budgets, but they are not endless and they definitely do not throw their money at something that doesn’t provide a return, so that will put a cap on things naturally.

    “naturally” LOL! Are you kidding? “naturally” is organic SERPs where the $ has no influence over the natural order. Money orientated SERPs are about as far away from natural as you can get!

    Uh jee whiz, isn’t that paying for the links with your earnings? Yes, it is. Plus, don’t even get me started on the tax problem with bartering links without a financial transaction.

    No! Links that are “earned” means someone somewhere is VOTING for the said page based soley on its *content*.

    If you want to believe this, that’s your choice. Based on experience with advertisers I can tell you that this matters very very much.

    You are still confusing “advertising” with buying PR. They are completely different beasts.

    Tell me, brettbum. WHY do you NOT use a PPC SE in preference to Google? I’m guessing it’s the SAME reason *all* Google searchers have. That is, Googles organic SERPs are NOT money orientated (hence the most relevant) where PPC SERPs are. Can I make the dots any closer together for you?

  383. Nice article. And very useful to those who are in countries with black hats than white.

    Seriously, i have wanted to attend a search engine conference in my country, where they discuss about legal and correct website development – content writing, for the last four years, with no success.

    But, Matt’s articles assure me that what i am doing is good and correct to a large extent.

    The core part of link building (i think) is getting links from authority sites. Or trusted sites – sites trusted by google.

    While i do have some links from other sites i have failed miserably in getting links – trusted sites – from similar neighborhood.

    I got my books listed in Google book program – with no avail. I thought getting listed in google book program – which involves sending a copy of the book – with isbn, and details – will result in a good authority link …

    Getting links liked by google is getting tougher – or am i still in the wrong direction altogether ??

  384. Wow, this debate has gone far outside one that I have the time or energy to keep up with. Just a few comments …

    backlinks don’t have to be paid for, they can be earned

    That’s true, but backlinks have often been paid for. As has been said many times, backlinks have been paid for since before the invention of Google. There is, you have to understand, a big difference between buying and selling a link, and buying and selling PageRank. A link is any webmaster’s right to sell; PageRank is not.

    “naturally” is organic SERPs where the $ has no influence over the natural order. Money orientated SERPs are about as far away from natural as you can get!

    Fine if you want to think like that, but you must realise that all SERPs are money-orientated, always have been and always will be, so according to your definition there are no organic SERPs. The real issue is not that, but whether there is any deception of searchers.

    If site owners disclose to visitors that links are paid for, and if they show the same content to Google as is shown to Google’s searchers, then searchers are not being deceived by site owners in any way. There is no onus on site owners to label their links with nofollow. Even those that do, if they use nofollow correctly, will be labelling links that they don’t trust – not links that they have been paid for. There is no standard way to label a paid link in HTML – don’t lose sight of that. Don’t confuse a search engine’s current (or self-imposed) inability to follow a link with a means of labelling paid links.

    I really detest the content of the examples that Matt has shown. But let’s be clear on this: even if there was a standard way to label paid links, these examples would not be using that standard because that would be counter to their very reason for being. So statements like this one …

    I believe the vast majority of our users don’t want our organic search results for something as serious as brain tumors to be affected by links in paid posts.

    … simply don’t stack up, as they don’t explain how asking decent, honest people to use/abuse nofollow is going to prevent something as serious as brain tumors being affected by links in paid posts. I would have thought the issue was not whether the link was paid for or not, but:

    a) whether it was a link placed on a high quality/relevant page
    b) whether it was a link to a high quality/relevant page
    c) whether it was in any way deceptive, such as an invisible pixel, or using irrelevant anchor text

    would be more important topics.

  385. You guys can argue until you are blue in the faces making the simple complex and further confusing webmasters.

    DON’T BUY OR SELL FOLLOWED LINKS WITHIN EDITORIAL CONTENT.

    That is what Google is saying folks.

  386. PhilC

    Adam:

    Where exactly is this “block”, besides in the imaginations of “SEOs” who made it up to justify their own link selling?

    That’s not true, Adam. The biggest ranking factor of all in Google is link text. Google invented it; all SEOs did was respond to it – in just the same way that website designers, like yourself, often tailor the Title tags on pages to help improve the rankings. Surely you know that. It’s all written clearly in Google’s own documents.

    And if the issue is ever going to get solved, it’s going to get solved by webmasters getting their heads out of their asses and realizing that this whole contextual link/paid posting/PR(x) link thing doesn’t benefit anyone except for the seller. But that’s not ever going to happen. Google didn’t create the problem: webmasters/SEOs did.

    Google did create the problem (if there’s a problem at all). They were the ones who decided to put such heavy ranking weight on link text. It wasn’t anybody else. What other people did was respond to it in a perfectly normal, rational, and sensible way.

    If “this whole contextual link/paid posting/PR(x) link thing doesn’t benefit anyone except for the seller” then it wouldn’t be done. But it benefit’s the buyers’ rankingts – that why it’s done. If you like, I’ll explain exactly the technical reason why link text benefits the rankings, but I think you already know.

    You arguments are only good (for you) if you also say that no attempt whatsoever should be made to improve rankings. After all, that’s what the engines would ideally like. But as long as Google puts heavy weight on Title and link text, everyone with half an ounce of common sense will tailor their Titles to help their rankings, as I assume you do Adam, and also arrange some links with good link text, as Google suggests.

  387. Phil, there is nothing wrong with using proper anchor text to link to an article, for example I am writing about the Led Zeppelin concert in London tonight using descriptive anchor text and linking to related BBC articles covering the show.

    It is when losers get paid and link to clients sites within editorial content like the text link seller networks are doing that is wrong.

  388. PhilC

    I know there’s nothing wrong with it Anthony. I’ve been saying that all along, as has Alan and others. And if it’s done for ranking purposes, there’s still nothing wrong with it, just as there’s nothing wrong with crafting a Title for ranking purposes, creating good internal link text instead of “click here”, and stuff like that. It’s all perfectly good, even though it’s all intended to rank pages higher than they would normally have ranked.

    Some people here talk a lot about the quality of the serps, as though arranging links for rankings would harm the quality, but that’s wrong. As long as right pages are pushed up the right serps, it’s all good – for users, for search engines, and for website owners. Goodness knows there’s enough crap in the serps that pushing the right stuff up the right serps should be everyone’s priority.

    What is bad for users, is a search engine reducing the rankings (penalising) of pages and sites that pay for links to push their right pages up the right serps. That’s bad for search engine users.

    As Alan pointed out, there is no way to tell a search engine that a link is paid for (it’s not the webmasters job to do do that anyway). They can be told that the webmaster doesn’t trust the destination, but that’s all, and that’s very different. Again, it’s Google’s doing. They were a bit too quick to introduce rel=nofollow. Yahoo! said they also were looking at the idea, but wanted more in it than just nofollow.

  389. NASA ranks high simply because they have 100′s of thousands of links pointing to their sites with varied anchor text from websites around the world, at that point it is Google’s job to sort things out and rank sites.

    One would think this is a viable way to rank great pages according to the original algorithms Larry and Sergey came up with, it kind of makes sense to me until the “paid link factor” comes into play.

    At the same time, Google should find a way to determine valuable pages with original content of high value that do not have a ton of links pointing their way to rank along side of those NASA pages, I think they are trying their best to do this.

    Getting back to paid links, Google has to fight the SEO’s who are attempting to rig things in their favor, so some links that are known paid links have to be eliminated and G is doing just that by devaluing websites that are known link sellers.

    These things are not that hard to understand, SEO’s make it more complicated than things really are in reality, I guess there is some sort of job security in doing just that.

  390. PhilC

    These things are not that hard to understand, SEO’s make it more complicated than things really are in reality, I guess there is some sort of job security in doing just that.

    No they are not hard to understand, Anthony. Don’t confuse not agreeing with something as not understanding it. SEOs understand it very well – much better than website designers and webmasters do. But it’s not their job to make the serps better for users, or to make things easier for search engines. It’s their job to push webpages and websites up the rankings in the right serps. A side effect of doing that is that it improves the quality of the serps for users.

    And SEOs don’t do what you suggest they do. SEOs are paid to push webpages up the rankings, which can’t be done without taking steps, such as crafting page Titles, reworking page text, and doing something about the biggest ranking factor of all – link text. Most webmasters, and a great many website designer (maybe most) don’t know anything about how to craft a site for search engine rankings, so SEOs do it for them.

    You may not think that anything should be done to push pages up the rankings, and if that’s the case, then don’t do anything. Leave the search engines to get it right. If only they could.

    And while I’m writing… All this pseudo-morality about never having bought a link for a website is a load of crock. Any SEO who doesn’t get links for a website, with good link text, simply isn’t doing their job properly, and the client loses out. Anyone who knows what the biggest factor is, and who ignores it on behalf of their clients, is doing a very bad for their clients. It isn’t a website designer’s job though, so I don’t criticise them for not doing it. Which brings us back to whether there’s a difference between paying for those links and not paying for them. There is no difference. Google has got it wrong. It’s not difficult to understand ;)

  391. DON’T BUY OR SELL FOLLOWED LINKS WITHIN EDITORIAL CONTENT.

    That is what Google is saying folks.

    I think we can agree on that. IMO you can strike the “WITHIN EDITORIAL CONTENT”, too.

    What we can’t agree on, it seems, is whether Google is right to say it. More specifically, whether Google is right to insist that paid links are painted with nofollow.

    Getting back to paid links, Google has to fight the SEO’s who are attempting to rig things in their favor, so some links that are known paid links have to be eliminated and G is doing just that by devaluing websites that are known link sellers.

    Yep, and I have no problem at all with that. The only thing I have a problem with is the separate issue of Google requesting/demanding that webmasters use nofollow to label paid links, for all the reasons I have stated throughout these comments.

  392. Greg made a good point, way back in the comments. See this comment

    If I make a paid post and I put the nofollow tag onto the links in the post, that spammy post will still show up in the SERPs, right?

    If those examples that you showed had all used nofollow tags, they would still be muddying the search experience, right? Or will the bot be able to read the post, see several nofollow tags and say, ah ha! This is a paid post, don’t index it. If so then, a nofolow tag will be something that deindexes pages?

    I think we can all agree that communication is not Google’s strong point. Telling people what is going in absolutely vital in this day and age on the web, where one person can turn a thought into a rumour of possible things to come.

    In the past Google has made a big deal out of keeping the algorithm secret, but do they have to keep everything else they do secret too? If they continue to do that, they are going to find that people really don’t appreciate it – and people move away from their services. That’s what happened with Blogger this week.

    I have recently seen people saying they have to remove the do follow from their comments section because Google is going to penalise them for being do follow, and they are basing that on Google introducing open ID to blogger. What they don’t realise is that all comments in blogger have always been no follow unless a blogger went out of their way to make them do follow. So there is no way Google are doing this to stop people linking to themselves in comments. They’re doing it for whatever reasons they are doing it for – but they made the following mistakes –

    - they did not tell people in advance what they intended to do
    - they did not explain to anyone what open id was or how to use it
    - they made the changes, and then let bloggers discover it on their own
    - the changes did not work very well and caused issues with people receiving email notification of comments made to their blogs
    - they did not recognise that someone leaving a comment wants to allow people reading that comment to click through to their blog by leaving a link. Taking away the ability to do that (other than leaving a ahref in their signature which many people on blogger do not know how to do!) has annoyed a lot of people. The links are no follow for the majority of blogs anyway. Only a tiny percentage of people using Blogger have made their comments section do follow – mainly because it is difficult to do and people using Blogger are in general not rocket scientists when it comes to blog templates or html – that’s why they are using Blogger in the first place. So why take away the ability to leave links?

    The end result was, bloggers felt like they have no control over their blogs. And that is the truth, because unlike those of us on WordPress, they don’t have much control. They can’t even change their robots.txt or upload a site map. They are stuck with what Google gives them.

    Some bloggers will take it on the chin, but other bloggers already have made the move to self hosted wordpress, and many more are investigating doing that. The exodus has begun.

    Could this have been avoided? Absolutely. Blogger has the perfect vehicle for it – the blogger dashboard. They can easily communicate with their bloggers about what is going on. They chose not to. It is Blogger’s loss, but a lot of individual bloggers will gain from it by moving to their own self hosted blogs.

    What is my point? When Google keeps their mouth shut about what is going on, there is NO shortage of bloggers who will open theirs to guess, speculate, make assumptions and cause panic throughout the blogosphere.

    So if you could Matt, can you please take a moment to respond to Greg’s comment. His point is a very valid one, and unless someone chooses to respond to it we’re all none the wiser as to what no follow will mean for our sites. That means people are free to guess, speculate, and make assumptions. In the long run I believe that isn’t good for Google or the internet in general.

    Of concern to some bloggers (though not myself) would be this question – If they use no follow on a number of links in their blogroll which happens to sit on their front page, would that mean their main page is de-indexed?

  393. I think we can all agree that communication is not Google’s strong point. Telling people what is going in absolutely vital in this day and age on the web, where one person can turn a thought into a rumour of possible things to come.

    Sure we can all agree on that. Google’s biggest asset isn’t their ability to communicate. It’s their ability to deliver a relevant search experience that is far superior to that of any of its competitors. It’s not vital to anything they’re doing, and the time spent communicating is time that could be spent improving the user experience.

    It’s not necessary for their business model. It’s a luxury.

    What is my point? When Google keeps their mouth shut about what is going on, there is NO shortage of bloggers who will open theirs to guess, speculate, make assumptions and cause panic throughout the blogosphere.

    Snoskred: you’re using schoolyard logic. You’ve got the general facts right, but you miss the point completely.

    You’re right….when Google doesn’t say something, others will. Lots of others will. And lots of others will get things wrong. No argument can be made there whatsoever.

    However, let’s take this out of the context of search and into sports for a minute. A reporter asks the GM from Team A will trade Player X anytime soon. The GM says, “No comment.” The reporter, with nothing other than “No comment” to go on, turns around and writes a rumor, based on the “No comment”, that Team A is going to trade Player X to Team B for Players Y and Z, two draft picks, $10,000,000 and future considerations. The deal the reporter wrote about never transpires.

    Whose fault is that? The reporter’s or the GM’s? The reporter’s, for taking a comment that really didn’t indicate much of anything and making up a story based on it.

    Webmasters that report falsehoods are the reporters in this instance (unless they’re spoofing something or making up parody). Big G is the GM.

    Big G can’t be blamed for what others turn around and say, because others are going to turn around and say it anyway. They don’t owe us in the web community a damn thing, and every time they give someone either wants more or wants to bite them in the ass for it by people who claim to be innocent victims.

  394. PhilC

    I may be wrong, but I just can’t see Google removing pages that use the nofollow attribute. They can’t insist that people use it and then punish them when they do – they just can’t. It means that any crap stuff will stay in the serps, and continue to devalue them for users.

    I have to shake my head when we see this attack on paid links, which are often good for the serps and users, and then remember Google’s official stance on crappy MFA sites (which users dislike in the serps with a passion) that the user gets to where s/he wants to go eventually, so they are ok.

    Getting back to paid links, Google has to fight the SEO’s who are attempting to rig things in their favor

    Whoever said that has got it a bit wrong. Google isn’t fighting SEOs at all. Google is fighting anything that they think interferes with the smooth working of their system. ALL website owners, and those working for them – website designers, for instance – try to “rig things in their favor” if they do anything at all to try and improve their rankings. Let’s be clear about that. Incidentally, there’s nothing wrong with trying to rig things in your favor – Matt has often suggested ways of doing it.

  395. PhilC

    They don’t owe us in the web community a damn thing

    I can’t believe anyone here would actually write that. Of course Google owes the web community something. Without websites, Google doesn’t exist. Not only that, but it was the web community who made Google popular in the first place, but forget that bit – Google owes its very existance the the web community. Their stock in trade is our websites.

  396. PhilC

    There’s something that was mentioned not long ago that I didn’t know about. Did Google wipe out pages from newpaper sites because they contained ‘undeclared’ links? If they did that, the it’s sheer lunacy, and in no way made any attempt to improve the search experience for users. In fact it must have done just the opposite. If people can no longer find some news items for their locality in Google’s serps, then it goes against what users want and need. If an individual did that, everyone would agree that he’s showing signs of losing it completely.

  397. Dave (original)

    My money is still on Google knowing what is best for their users and their business. In fact, after reading some of comments here I just doubled my bet :)

  398. Feydakin

    I keep seeing this, “it’s not fair” argument being used when it comes to paid links.. Obviously nothing is fair.. People with money will ALWAYS have an advantage over those that do not.. Just like Alta Vista and Yahoo! had a huge advantage over that little search engine project, Google.. didn’t last though, did it??

    The same goes for anything.. People say that eliminating paid links will help the little guy.. How?? How does this help the little guy?? You don’t really think that a major corporation will go, “Oh, gee, we can’t do paid links anymore, guess we better give up and let Joe’s Motel grab that #1 spot for the lucrative Tucumcari Resort season”.. No, they are going to take their money and build a network of websites, chain them together and still out rank Joe..

    My issue is that there is no way to tell which links are paid for and which links are not.. They all look the same.. Let’s say I sell links.. But I also give a few out for free to sites I really like.. Those links will all look the same.. But because a few of them are paid for the rest may “look” paid.. How does Google want to handle this?? If I put nofollows on a few of them and leave the rest alone is that good enough for Google?? Or will it be assumed that I am trying to game the system and get penalized for my sins??

    And what about reviews?? Google has said all along that a paid directory link that is reviewed and human edited can be a good thing (Yahoo! Directory anyone?).. Yet, if I get paid to review a website or product on my blog I have to slap a nofollow on it or risk getting spanked.. How are those links different?? I’d wager that a solidly researched and reviewed blog post would be FAR more valuable than a silly Yahoo Directory link..

    Instead of pointing at junk websites that sell links and crying over it why not just stop indexing the junk websites?? Stop paying people to run MFA sites.. Stop paying people to “Domain Taste” and register and squat, I mean park, on thousands of names.. How is it fair that Google pays these people to squat on names that people want and would USE??

    And while we are at it, give me a rel=notoolbarpr option so I can turn thing off and get people to stop emailing me asking for link exchanges..

  399. Snoskred: you’re using schoolyard logic. You’ve got the general facts right, but you miss the point completely.

    You’re right….when Google doesn’t say something, others will. Lots of others will. And lots of others will get things wrong. No argument can be made there whatsoever.

    If the gaping chasm of silence is filled with words from Google, then there is no room for those people to say such things – and if people do say things and they are wrong, there is room for the rest of us to step up and say so in the comments and point to the place where Google has spoken.

    Big G can’t be blamed for what others turn around and say, because others are going to turn around and say it anyway.

    No, but they can be blamed for leaving the gaping chasm of silence to be filled up by any blogger with a keyboard.

    That was my point. It is a bad idea to leave people guessing – and in the particular case I mentioned re blogger it has been quite the disaster. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the discussion in the blogosphere but a lot of blogger users are furious about it. In fact even people who don’t use Blogger are somewhat disturbed by it. A good example is this post –

    Case Study: Google disabling external urls in Blogger.com comments

    There was no good reason to keep silent on that. This wasn’t nuclear missile launch codes or a super secret algorithm. This was a change to how people could leave a comment on a blogger blog.

    And even worse, in order to enable the openIDs to work, some bloggers had to somehow – perhaps by mental telepathy – figure out that they had to do something to make it happen!

    Well hey, here’s an idea for the future perhaps. Let’s introduce a new feature which makes the front page of a blogger blog show 404 not found, unless the blogger in question picks up the mental telepathy message from Blogger that they have to go into Blogger and change a certain setting! And lets make the setting something totally random, something that some bloggers will have set already, so that not everyone is affected. Just for fun, mmkay? Just for the laugh and the outraged blog posts that will be posted. It’ll be ok because nobody will be able to see the blog posts of those affected until they somehow figure out what they need to do to get rid of the 404 and make the front page of their blog show up again.

    Of course, any Blogger users who took the time to completely cover their desks – or perhaps hats – in Aluminum foil may have trouble receiving those secret messages that Google is sending out. :)

    Now I have since found out that there was a blog post from Google about this, on a blog I’d never heard of before. Blogger in draft. Have you heard about it? No? Neither have I. Neither have most of the bloggers who are using Blogger. How did I find out about it now? A blogger I read happened to mention it.

    New feature: OpenID commenting

    It does not appear on the blogger blog, which some blogger users might actually know about. It also does not appear in the dashboard, which all blogger users have to use in order to post. It did appear on the known issues blog on December 3rd. Matt mentioned it here on December the 2nd. There should be a central place for information to prevent confusion.

    You also are incorrect – Google is no longer just a search engine. They have Blogger, they have Google Reader, they have a bunch of stuff I won’t bother to list here but surely you are well aware that they don’t just do search anymore?

  400. Dave (original)

    People say that eliminating paid links will help the little guy.. How?? How does this help the little guy??

    Firstly, nobody has ever suggested “eliminating paid links. Secondly, Google is ALL about doing what is BEST for their users and shareholders. Thirdly, there are HUGE differences between buying an Ad for click traffic and buying one for PageRank. The latter has ALWAYS been outside of Googles Guidelines (for some unknown reason SOME are just finding this out), while the former has ALWAYS existed and Google has done NOTHING to change that fact.

    Whether Google CAN tell the difference between a valid Ad link and one bought for PR has been exercised by Google in the past. Far from perfect though and Google is 1st to admit that. However, they ARE requesting that paid links use nofollow. They make it patently clear in the guidelines as to what the *possible* consequence can be. I HIGHLY DOUBT that Google will ever do as the conspiracy theorists would have us believe and ban/penalize just *any* site for buying links. Why? Because that would NOT be in the best interest of their users and shareholders.

    However, make no mistake, they reserve the right to do as they like and include who they like in their Index. Webmasters reserve the right to do as they like with their site(s). IF that choice, by Webmasters, is at the detriment of their users and shareholders then don’t say you were not warned.

    For those feeling so strong about Google requesting Webmasters use nofollow on paid links, why not make a stand and block googlebot?

  401. Dave (original)

    And while we are at it, give me a rel=notoolbarpr option so I can turn thing off and get people to stop emailing me asking for link exchanges..

    I agree with that.

  402. Snoskred, I saw a post about comments on blogspot being strange, and I’ve asked the blogspot folks about it. I think that the lack-of-link is related to the fact that Blogger is looking to turn on OpenID links on the “draft” section of Blogger.

    My hunch is that the solution will be a url link again, which might be able to be verified with OpenID. But again, I’ve asked the Blogger folks about it.

  403. This blog post from someone I’ve never heard of sums up my thoughts real well about this entire thread, and about all the SEO blog posts and comments on social sites around the internet.

    http://www.jonathancrossfield.com/blog/2007/12/is-google-really-the-bogeyman.html

    Kudos to him. I’ll bet that post won’t see any front page of any of the SEO social sites out there. Why? Because most SEO’s really believe that Google is the enemy. Instead of “Us vs. Google”, it should be “Us and Google”. Sadly, it’s not.

  404. PhilC

    I disagree with you about that blog post, Doug. He’s new to the business (he said that) and he’s fallen into the same mistake than some people here have – the idea that it’s SEOs who are the bad guys. Of course, some SEOs are bad guys, but some are bad guys, and that includes search engines at times.

    Because most SEO’s really believe that Google is the enemy. Instead of “Us vs. Google”, it should be “Us and Google”.

    And I disgaree with that too. I don’t know anyone who thinks that Google is the “enemy”, but lots of people have the right view. It’s not “Us and Google” or “Us vs Google” – it’s us one side and Google on the other – not as enemies, but as people with different aims. Google’s aim is to produce results that are not affected by anything that website owners do, whereas the aim of anyone who has a website is to affect the results by doing things to push their sites up the right serps. We have different aims, Doug, but we are not enemies. We need each other. Search engines need us (websites) more than we need need them, but we do need each other, so we can’t be enemies.

    Talking about the different sides, either positively or negatively, clouds the real issues/debates. The ‘sides’ are not the issues. The issues are what is done and not done on each side. It doesn’t matter who does or doesn’t do it – it’s the “IT” that is the issue.

    In this particular case, Google has got it wrong. If they penalise a site/page for containing paid links without doing as they say, they are not only penalising the normal way the web works, but they are doing a disservice to their users, by lowering a perfectly good page/site in the rankings, which will probably stop them from seeing it. This isn’t about improving user experience, because it will often have the opposite effect.

  405. PhilC

    That should have read (in the first paragraph):-

    Of course, some SEOs are bad guys, but some (anything) are bad guys, and that includes search engines at times.

  406. Welcome back Matt :)

    Because most SEO’s really believe that Google is the enemy. Instead of “Us vs. Google”, it should be “Us and Google”.

    I try to treat Google like it does not exist. But now it won’t let me. :)

    Seriously, if I treat Google as anything then it’s a friend, not an enemy. And in saying “Please don’t try to insist that paid links are labelled with nofollow”, I am saying that as someone trying to give advice to stop a friend making a big mistake. Because I really do see it as a very big mistake.

    Anyone who thinks that the Google Webmaster Guidelines must be read in order to produce a Web site that Google will like is wrong, and very misguided indeed. Those guidelines are supposed to be there to help people who need help; not to help people who don’t. A competent Web designer should not need to read them at all.

    Google’s suggested use of nofollow is, AFAIK, the one and only time in the history of the Web that a search engine has ever suggested that a piece of HTML must be included specifically to help it work out how to fairly rank web pages, and that the absence of that HTML automatically labelled the webmaster as a spammer. I have so many issues with that.

  407. Alan, Google guidelines never says to use no follow tags on all links, just those that are “paid links”.

    So SEO’s came up with the bright idea of creating link broker networks to hide paid links within editorial content, Google is saying don’t taint your editorial content with paid and followed links, and that makes sense.

    I run a small free blog hosting operation and these bloggers place links, many times hundreds of them within pages of their blogs pointing to their networks of other free blog pages, it is an epidemic.

    My solution is to delete their blogs from the database when I find these link farm blogs, they are not going to rank anyway, Google was hip to these tactics long before anyone else and these blogs devalue the entire network, so we simply delete them and ban the spam source IP.

    I can see wanting to use a blog to expose your websites and those of your friends, but to place hundreds of links on a page to clients sites is no better than automated referral log spam bots, many of these blogs are in fact created by spam bot scripts anyway.

    Since link spamming is so prevalent, maybe search engines need to find a better way of ranking sites, I’m sure Google is looking at this and is changing to fight this epidemic of automated link spamming since this situation gets worse everyday.

    Future SEO will most likely be finding a way to avoid having links from link farm pages pointing at you instead of trying to get them to point your way.

    Less links are better, LOL.

  408. Alan, Google guidelines never says to use no follow tags on all links, just those that are “paid links”.

    I know that. :D The point is, you have to read the guidelines to know it, and Google requires you to know it. That is why it is bad.

    There are other things (such as robots.txt, meta tags, etc.) that you also would have to read the guidelines to know. But you are not required to know them.

    Everything else that the guidelines covers is just (that uncommon thing) common sense anyway – it’s what really good Web designers would do naturally. But labelling links specifically for Google is not common sense. It is Google shaping the Web to fit its image, rather than Google shaping itself to fit the Web’s image. It is really very unhealthy.

  409. Feydakin

    [quote]Firstly, nobody has ever suggested “eliminating paid links.[/quote]

    Sorry, that should have read eliminating paid links as a ranking factor..

    [quote]The latter has ALWAYS been outside of Googles Guidelines (for some unknown reason SOME are just finding this out), while the former has ALWAYS existed and Google has done NOTHING to change that fact.[/quote]

    Let’s assume you are right about the “ALWAYS” part of your statement.. Google has done plenty to change that, they have required nofollow be applied to ALL paid links.. Regardless of how or why they were sold.. This is a direct attempt to change the way the internet has always worked for the benefit of a single company.. If we were talking about Microsoft here there would already be states AGs lining up to file lawsuits..

    [quote]I HIGHLY DOUBT that Google will ever do as the conspiracy theorists would have us believe and ban/penalize just *any* site for buying links. [/quote]

    Then why the report paid links function?? Which of course leads me to believe that they can’t really tell them apart anyway and need free help in the form of webmasters reporting their competition..

    [quote]For those feeling so strong about Google requesting Webmasters use nofollow on paid links, why not make a stand and block googlebot?[/quote]

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply stop showing page rank in the toolbar?? That would be a change that Google could make once and have it do exactly what they want without forcing a lot of innocent people to suddenly become black hat simply because they didn’t even know that there were Google Webmaster Commandments?? Can’t sell links for Pagerank if you don’t know what the pagerank is to begin with can you??

  410. PhilC

    It makes a refreshing change, but I’ve agreed with everything that Alan has posted in this thread :)

    Anthony.

    This isn’t about hiding paid links within editorial content, and it isn’t about bulk links – it’s about *all* paid links. I don’t think you’d get any disagreement from anyone in this thread if Google were to go after the bulk links and hidden links, although you’d get some disagreement about genuine paid links within editorial content, but that’s not what they are doing.

    This is about ALL paid links, regardless of their purpose. This is about penalising a perfectly normal and clean part of the Web – a normal and clean part the world in general. It is about Google removing perfectly good and relevant pages from their own users’ eyes, by lowering them in serps to be pretty much out of sight (bad for their users). It is about Google trying to make webmasters design their perfectly clean pages in a different way to how they would normally do it. And it is about Google being grossly out of line. By all means, call spammers “spammers”, and act against them, but not people who just do things in normal and clean ways.

    Try to get it in perspective. Nobody here minds at all if Google go after spam, but this isn’t about spam. Yes, some of it spam, but a lot of it perfectly clean and normal, but Google is labelling it ALL as spam.

  411. Phil, does the Wall Street Journal sell “paid links” within their articles, how about the NY Times or any other major respected publisher ??

    Yes they do publish press releases as many magazines and newspapers have for years, and much of that is paid for.

    But do they sell links or should they be allowed to sell links within legitimate content their readers depend on and rank for those pages long term ??

    If large publishers don’t get away with these tactics, why should the small web publisher Phil ??

  412. PhilC

    Anthony. I’ve no idea what the Wall Street Journal does and doesn’t do, and I don’t know what point you are trying to make.

    … or should they be allowed to sell links within legitimate content their readers depend on and rank for those pages long term ??

    Yes, of course. Why not?

    But, again, Google is not talking about paid links within content; they are talking about ALL paid links. Why not address that?

  413. Matt, you mentioned that banner ads like 125×125 are considered as paid links. Does this only apply to links leaving the site?

    I’m wondering if this might also be a problem with sites using images to click on for navigation, or if you are advertising a feature of your site using a banner. Are all image links at risk of now being followed?

  414. Feydakin

    Anthony, those can, and sometimes are, paid for indirectly.. When I was in publishing it was not uncommon to have advertising pulled because of a bad review, or doubled when a good review happened.. Or invitations for a day of golf, or a quick trip to the factory in Bali, all expenses paid of course.

    Is it done on every article at every publisher?? No.. But does it happen far more than you would want to believe?? You bet..

    But, again, Google has stated in the past that paying for a reviewed link in a directory like Yahoo! may be a good thing to do.. So why would a link in a blog post be a bad thing??

  415. You did a great job of clearing it up, but what I don’t get is there are sites still ranking 1 & 2 and it’s obvious that they have paid for links, using PPP. What gives?

  416. @Anthony

    Anthony, this goes well beyond paid links in editorial content. It’s not enogh for a site or page to clearly delineate their “advertisers” or “sponsors” links as such, so that any man, woman, child, or alien lifeform would clearly know what they are.

    They need to be “labeled” so that a machine and an algorithm can tell. A machine and and algorithm that Google, admittedly, says won’t work they way they wish it to if they are not.

    I don’t pass PR. Google does. They decide how much, if at all, get’s passed as well they should. It’s theirs. They are welcome to pass it in any way they wish, to whomever or whatever they wish, by any means they wish to. They are welcome to do with it what they wish.

    I used this example elsewhere but if a company, a business, came to me me and said…

    “Dave, the way you are conducting your business is hampering the way way we are conducting our business. Our business model will not function the way we want it to therefore, you need to change the way you are doing business or else…”

    I’m likely to be less than amiable to the “request”.

    Personally, I can’t think of any business that requires me to change the way I conduct business solely because their’s won’t work the way they want it to if I don’t. Especially by threat.

    I would much rather see them make their model work the way they want it to. Somehow, I don’t see them rushing to accomodate me when mine is not working the way I really want it to because of the way they have chosen to conduct business.

    I choose the way to conduct my business in a way that benefits my users and I don’t “require” other businesses to change their model if mine isn’t working the way I want it to.

    I’d like to, but I use my “big stick” to poke the fire in the fireplace because it’s bit chilly this time of year. :)

    Dave

  417. Dave, sure the algorithm can work without you doing anything at all with your paid and followed links within your editorial content, it will simply discount and possibly discard your pages for inclusion in the SERP’s.

    Google is just being nice and they are trying to be helpful in warning webmasters before they bring the hammer down on link spamming and search engine ranking rigging.

    No webmaster has to change their tactics, in fact if someone is making 100 grand a month selling followed links I don’t expect them to give that up until they lose that opportunity when customers dry up.

    If you are a link seller and part of a contextual link selling network and get caught and your sites are de-indexed, you can always start another website, but I would do a private registration and keep it all a secret too!

  418. PhilC

    Dave, sure the algorithm can work without you doing anything at all with your paid and followed links within your editorial content, it will simply discount and possibly discard your pages for inclusion in the SERP’s.

    No it can’t, Anthony. That’s why Google has set up a special page for reporting those links. If they didn’t need people’s help, they would put it up.

    If you are a link seller and part of a contextual link selling network and get caught and your sites are de-indexed …

    And if you’re a perfectly ordinary website owner, who just goes about his/her perfectly clean everyday busines???

    Anthony. Try looking at the whole thing, rather than just selected (biased) bits. Why do you suppose people of both white and black persuasion are in agreement over this?

  419. Following up on Snoskred’s point about links in Blogger comments, I found out that the Blogger team has posted on Blogger’s “known issues” blog as well:
    http://knownissues.blogspot.com/2007/12/blogger-has-removed-url-field-for.html

    I think that they’re looking at how to migrate to OpenID-ish links.

  420. Dave, sure the algorithm can work without you doing anything at all with your paid and followed links within your editorial content, it will simply discount and possibly discard your pages for inclusion in the SERP’s.

    Then there would be no need to “require” anyone to classify any link. Let alone for fear of of being penalized. And since you were careful to use “your” within your direct reply to me, I do not, nor have I sold or purchased links.

    I did however, consider giving the trick-or-treaters that came to my home this past Halloween an extra candy bar if they’d link to me but I didn’t want the “black helicopters” to swoop in take away their “green pixie sticks”.

    Google has made it perfectly clear that they do not want “paid” links to pass page rank.

    Okay… I don’t pass page rank. They do.

    Additionally, if they don’t want “something” to pass “something”, really doesn’t matter what, they shouldn’t let it happen… themselves.

    Why depend upon on “lots of” other people to do your job for you?

    Dave

  421. Dave (original)

    I’ll take Matt’s lead and not bother replying until someone posts something that has just a tad of common sense to it :)

    Doug, what a great article and from a newbie too! Goes to show that many “professional SEO” are creating exactly what they fear. Rampant mass paranoia at its peak!

  422. Feydakin

    Dave (original)

    Not a professional SEO here, I’m a professional jeweler that happens to find all of this very interesting while working on his store’s website..

    I’m still looking for an answer to my question though.. If I have a website and I sell a few links on it, and mark them as nofollow, but I also have links on it that I gave away for free, but they all happen to be in the “look at these great websites” area of the web page (blogroll?) will Google assume that only the links I put nofollow on are paid for and let the others pass normal pagerank, or will they assume I’m playing a game and discount my whole site because a few of those links “might” be paid for??

    Or will I get a request for a financial statement to prove which are and are not paid for??

    I’ll say it again.. Google has the power to stop this whole mess with a single move.. Remove the green bar from the toolbar (or push a 0 PR to everyone using the toolbar).. If no one can see the green bar, then no one can sell links based on the green bar.. Wouldn’t that be easier than changing the way the entire internet has behaved since the beginning?? It would certainly resolve the issue.. And it’s something that Google can control 100% without resorting to reporting paid links or making webmasters make changes for the search engines rather than the viewers..

    Of course this all assumes that being able to control paid links is the actual goal of all of this :)

  423. Dave (original)

    If I have a website and I sell a few links on it, and mark them as nofollow, but I also have links on it that I gave away for free, but they all happen to be in the “look at these great websites” area of the web page (blogroll?)

    Feydakin, from what you describe you have NOTHING to fear. Google will ONLY penalize/ban sites as a last resort. IF they banned EVERY site that were outside their guidelines, their index be empty!

    Think of each thing you do that possibly falls outside the SE guidelines as a drop of water. It’s not until the bucket is full that Google will step in mannually.

    I believe many us would be amazed at just how much Google’s famous, but secret, algorithm can discount so bans/penalities are rarely needed.

    I FULLY agree about the TBPR and have asked Matt before why it even exists. The answer was many searchers find it useful. I could argue that it causes more problems than it solves, but I simply don’t KNOW that it does.

    Google are a very wiley business with a brilliant track record and have the data, stats etc so I’m quite happy for them to decide what is best for their users while I do what is best for mine :)

    Personally, I review the Google guidelines about once per month and look-out for any changes. After doing so, I’m straight back to MY site and doing everything I can to make MY site THE site on my chosen topic. I have always prospered and never even considered a penalty from ANY SE.

  424. Wow, thanks Doug Heil for that brilliant mention of my blog post and link. It’s a new blog and I’m an amateur at this so those sorts of comments really mean a great deal.

    It still amazes me how SEO professionals seem to want to fight against Google as the whole concept of SEO is about following the search engine’s lead in order to receive some of that wonderful influence Google has.

    C’est la vie!

  425. I personally think Google is falling further and further behind in giving internet surfers what they want to see in their search results because of the paid (and unpaid) links mees it got itself into. First and foremost is the surfer. If they search using Google for “large green sacks” then Google should return results for “large green sacks”… It can, and does, return what it wants to return based on what it thinks about paid and unpaid links and the page rank etc. But is this the service the customer wants? People looking for large green sacks on Google may never find “www.largegreensacks.com – the worlds main manufacturer of large green sacks” – because Google doesn´t list it because it thinks it has paid for irrelevant links… should Google penalise the site for this? NO it shouldn´t (everyone has to pay for advertising, buying links is another form of advertising and increasing popularity/brand awareness etc.).. Google even do it themselves. Mr General Public wants to see this site. Of course Google has to rank the results and there can only be one top spot, everyone understands this and everyone wants top spot. There has to be a method for obtaining the SERPs and each search engine is entitled to do it their own way, eventually the surfers will realise that they don’t always get shown what they want to see, they are only shown what the search engine wants them to see.. it is then up to them to make their choice about which search engine they use. More and more people are now using alternatives to Google and getting better results. With Google’s shortcomings in other areas such as cost per click advertising, Google ads and the very annoying “Unable to display results as this seems like an automated request” page that is shown regularly it is only a matter of time until surfers go elsewhere.

  426. Feydakin

    You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe that for a second won’t you?? How easy would that be to game?? Stick up a handful of links with a nofollow on them to random websites you don’t care about and then link normally to the folks that pay you.. You can’t be suggesting that algo is smart enough to separate links based on intent are you?? This is such an impossibly difficult task that it’s no wonder Google created the rat someone out button..

    As for the guidelines, I’m not concerned about “me”.. I know what the guidelines say.. But those of us that read them, or even know about them, is a staggeringly small percentage of the people building websites.. What about all of the rest of the webmasters out there?? How are they going to learn that what they did was wrong short of waking up one day and wondering why they don’t have enough income to buy little Billy that GI Joe with the Rocket Launcher??

    The only real solution to this problem is the one we agree on, Google needs to drop the green bar from it’s toolbar.. But they can’t do that because they rely too heavily on the information it gathers and without the green bar you may as well be running the Ask toolbar like I do..

  427. If it is a great website and you are writing an article about it and linking to them with descriptive anchor text there is no reason to use no follow tags there.

    What Matt is talking about are blog spammers who pay “SEO’s” to spam blog networks with the same story over and over or contextual link brokers who pay webmasters to spam pages on their contextual networks with followed links.

    No follow was conceived as an idea to fight spam comments on blogs, many blogs use no follow as default for comments, many forums are going to no follow by default for signature links.

    I think each webmaster needs to develop a strategy for parts of their sites that “need” no follow, this could be “who I’m reading links”, “signature links”, “live links withing forum posts” and so on to stay on the good side of Google.

    We can’t blame Google, we need to blame spammers, spam bot operators and so on, Google is trying to win a war against spammers, too bad SEO’s can’t cooperate and many of them are part of the problem and have turned into spammers themselves.

  428. People looking for large green sacks on Google may never find “www.largegreensacks.com – the worlds main manufacturer of large green sacks” – because Google doesn´t list it because it thinks it has paid for irrelevant links… should Google penalise the site for this? NO it shouldn´t (everyone has to pay for advertising, buying links is another form of advertising and increasing popularity/brand awareness etc.).. Google even do it themselves.

    You see, that’s like saying just because a webmaster doesn’t know that hiding real text or almost hiding text from a browser is not search engine spam. Claiming ignorance is not a get a jail for free card. Never has been. Never will be. Don’t you think each website owner/webmaster needs to take on some responsibility for their own business? People are saying that because webmaster’s may not know that buying links can be seen as spamming, actually means that webmaster should get a free pass?

    Dave wrote:

    Doug, what a great article and from a newbie too! Goes to show that many “professional SEO” are creating exactly what they fear. Rampant mass paranoia at its peak!

    Yes Dave; this shows clearly what the people on the outside of our industry are seeing in our industry.

    Alan wrote:

    The point is, you have to read the guidelines to know it, and Google requires you to know it. That is why it is bad.

    There are other things (such as robots.txt, meta tags, etc.) that you also would have to read the guidelines to know. But you are not required to know them.

    Everything else that the guidelines covers is just (that uncommon thing) common sense anyway – it’s what really good Web designers would do naturally. But labelling links specifically for Google is not common sense. It is Google shaping the Web to fit its image, rather than Google shaping itself to fit the Web’s image. It is really very unhealthy.

    Yes Alan; I understand what you are saying, but you can also say the same thing about almost every kind of search engine spam. (claim ignorance). I know of many website designers out there who to this day don’t understand that something might be spam and implement it because of ignorance. Once again; ignorance cannot be a good defense. EVERY site owner/webmaster has to take some responsibility for knowing the rules of a website who gives them free referrals. After all; isn’t part of this big o’l problem because of SEO’s in the first place? Yep, sure is.

    Feydakin wrote:

    The only real solution to this problem is the one we agree on, Google needs to drop the green bar from it’s toolbar.. But they can’t do that because they rely too heavily on the information it gathers and without the green bar you may as well be running the Ask toolbar like I do.

    Yes, I agree with that. I think one option might be to get rid of the green, and replace it with the number of total incoming links a page has. Google could still gather up any info she wanted to as that would not change. What would certainly change is the PR mania we have now, and the idea of buying and selling links because of PageRank would not exist anymore. Google would still have their internal PR to go on. We don’t need to know that info.

  429. Yes Alan; I understand what you are saying, but you can also say the same thing about almost every kind of search engine spam (claim ignorance)

    No you can’t at all Doug.

    A web designer who, for example, stuffs keywords into an image’s alt attribute isn’t ignorant. They know what they’re trying to do. If they don’t realise it’s wrong, then they’re incompetent. They’re spamming, whether they mean to or not, but they are not ignorant of the fact that they are attempting to influence the search engine’s algorithm.

    A webmaster who, when all is said and done, simply creates a link from one page to another may well be ignorant of the fact that Google might think they are attempting to influence its algorithm.

    It could more be argued that the presence, rather than absence, of nofollow was an attempt to influence the algorithm, because nofollow definitely does that. Indeed, nofollow is a tool to channel PageRank, and Google even condones its use for that.

  430. PhilC

    … and the idea of buying and selling links because of PageRank would not exist anymore.

    Link text is the biggest ranking factor of all – by a long long way. Removing the little green bar won’t do anything to stop the aquisition of links for ranking purposes. It’s true that people tend prefer links from higher PR pages, and prefer not to link to lower PR pages, because PR is a ranking factor, but the aquisition of links for rankings wouldn’t change if we couldn’t see the green bar.

    You are getting it wrong, Doug, because you are equating this new thing with actual spam methods – hidden text, etc. Now, anyone who puts hidden text on a page does it for ranking purposes, with a few exceptions, so they can’t claim ignorance as a defense because they DID something in an attempt to improve the rankings. But this thing isn’t like that at all. This new thing spamitises people for NOT doing something that they wouldn’t normally do, and wouldn’t even know about. It’s totally different. The two can’t be compared. With this new thing, ignorance is most definitely a defense.

  431. No Phil and Alan, you both are looking at it from the wrong angle. Sorry. :)

    Each time Google or any se changes what they see as search engine spam, does it for a few reasons. One reason is that webmasters/seo’s abused whatever it is, so they had to change the guidelines to include it. The use or non-use of the nofollow tag is a perfect example of this. It’s just another thing that is now regarded as a spam issue in order to combat those who spam.

    Ignorance is never a good defense. If you are a new site owner who puts his/her business online, it’s your responsibility to make sure you know all the rules of doing just that. You certainly would not build a store on 25 acres of land if you didn’t know all the rules and regulations of the area you were building in, right? Why would you claim ignorance just because you didn’t read the rules of the major player who you wanted to gain free referrals from? You see, I don’t understand that line of reasoning. It’s the same reasoning everyone seems to give about why we all allow spammers to tout their wares out there, etc. Everyone says it’s free speech and so on, but do we all allow the same types of people to do as they please in other industries that happen to be offline? Nope. Why would you think that learning how to conduct business online is different than doing business offline? It isn’t. Why do you want to give ignorant or incompetent webmasters a free pass just because they didn’t read the newest guidelines of the biggest website who gives them free referrals?

    I don’t think we all going to agree with this so maybe we should agree to disagree? :)

  432. Thanks guys for the kind comments about my article at http://www.jonathancrossfield.com/blog/2007/12/is-google-really-the-bogeyman.html.

    Glad to see I’m not misinterpreting events in my amateurish way. Offering responsible SEO to my employer’s clients through effective content is very important to me in my new role, and the blog is where I can try out my ideas.

    I have to disagree with barry’s comments that the relevance of a link is more important than the tactics they use.

    barry write:
    “Google may never find “www.largegreensacks.com – the worlds main manufacturer of large green sacks” – because Google doesn´t list it because it thinks it has paid for irrelevant links… should Google penalise the site for this? NO it shouldn´t (everyone has to pay for advertising, buying links is another form of advertising and increasing popularity/brand awareness etc.)”

    This argument suggests that all advertising is fair game. In the real world, just because Large Green Sacks is the best green sack company out there, wouldn’t exempt them from traditional advertising guidelines. You can’t create a television advert using subliminal imaging and then complain when it gets banned that customers won’t be aware of the leading green sack manufacturer out there. There is a reason subliminal advertising is banned – because it distorts customer awareness of a product. Paid links used to flow PR distort the authority given to those links with regards to search engines. The reason search engines reward links with PR is because they serve as recommendations of the worth of the site. A paid link is biased in that recommendation. Sure, use your advertising budget to pay for links as long as they aren’t flowing PR, they can still drive traffic to your site, but to use them as a form of SEO is abusing the ‘word-of-mouth’ recommendation aspect of links.

    That’s my $0.02

  433. It’s just another thing that is now regarded as a spam issue in order to combat those who spam.

    No, it’s not just another thing. If that was all it was, do you think I’d be moaning this much about it.

    It’s not just another thing. It’s the first thing that requires you to do something specifically for a search engine, and omitting to do it is viewed by that search engine as spam. I can’t stress that strongly enough – spam by omission.

    As a result, presumably the W3C are spammers according to Google – and so presumably are its supporters. I don’t happen to agree.

    Not only that, but Google isn’t even making proper use of nofollow. It’s supposed to mean “I don’t trust this link”, but Google wants you to use it to mean “I was paid for this link”. As a result, nofollow is so misguided and broken it would be better had it not been invented at all.

  434. Great thoughts Kimota. (is there a thumbs-up smilie?) :)

    Yes Alan; like I said, we will just have to agree to disagree. I agree with you only to the fact I understand your point, but the link sellers and many buyers have abused the system to where they give Google not much of a choice. If you or “us” including Google can come up with a better way to fight the spammers, I’m all for it. Until then, we live with what we have. So what if innocents get caught up in it?…… ignorance is not a good defense. It wasn’t a good defense when spammers abused the keywords tag. Not good when spammers abused the comments section in blogs. Not good when anything was abused by spammers, so why would we think that paid for links would not be abused as well? Your alt example was not good though as I know of many designers who have never read the Google guidelines, nor have even heard of them, so there are many types out there who are certainly ignorant and incompetent, but ignorance does not warrant free passes from the biggest site of free and targeted visitors.

    I think we can agree that a bought link is not a vote or a recommendation, right? As Kimota stated, a paid for link is biased.

  435. I think sometimes many webmasters/owners forget the basic premise of a site like Google or any other site they want to be listed in that has guidelines:

    It’s not your right as a website to be listed in any other website with guidelines. It’s your privilege.

  436. Doug, I can’t make it any plainer. I think Google is making a big mistake. :)

    They have gone against their own guidelines. Now we are supposed to

    – treat search engines like they exist.
    – do things specifically for search engines, not for users
    – manipulate PageRank

  437. I know Alan. I just happen to disagree is all. :)

    If Google does away with the nofollow tag, then what’s the answer? Does Google simply allow paid links to pass juices? I know that Google would prefer to figure out the paid link thing automated, but how would you do that if not for some sort of tag?

    I also know that Google has stated you can let it be known a link is paid for by disclosure of it in some way like a written statement; IE: Sponsored or something. It’s really not necessary to use the nofollow on every paid link. We know that disclosing a paid link is actually the law, right? I guess I don’t see the difference in the FTC telling Google and other major engines to disclose their paid links like adwords on their site, and other sites don’t have to disclose them? I would think the FTC would make it mandatory for ALL websites to disclose each and every paid link on the entire site. I think any printed piece out there like magazines and newspapers have to disclose the fact that content is paid for, right? Why would it be different for a website? It shouldn’t be.

    This is another reason why I don’t see the big deal about this nofollow issue on paid links. If you don’t want to stick in a nofollow, just make sure the paid link is called a paid link. Simple.

    Adwords are called “sponsored”.
    Adsense is labeled “ads by google”.

    Why can’t each site label all of their ads? If they did, there would be no need at all for a nofollow tag, right? Would you be defending the sites out there who are claiming ignorance because they did not know enough to fully disclose a paid link?

    See? :D

  438. Why can’t each site label all of their ads? If they did, there would be no need at all for a nofollow tag, right?

    Wrong. Matt/Google has specifically stated that nofollow should be used as a “machine readable disclosure”. i.e. disclosure in text to humans is not good enough.

    Would you be defending the sites out there who are claiming ignorance because they did not know enough to fully disclose a paid link?

    No, I am not defending them. :)

  439. Dave (original)

    It’s not your right as a website to be listed in any other website with guidelines. It’s your privilege.Exactly!

    Just like ignorance of the Law is no defence, neither is the ignorance of Webmasters to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

    IF you run a Website AND wish to be included in ANY search engine, you are EXPECTED to know and adhere to their guidelines. You can choose not to and the SE can choose to not list you.

    It’s pretty basic stuff and the same things applies to ALL walks of life.

  440. Oh, I think Matt specifically stated that you could use anything you wish as long as it’s disclosed. You can use your robots.txt file to disallow the page a paid link is on as well.

    Machines can read text like “sponsored or ads, etc”. Machines/robots can read any kind of text.

    The deal is that site owners right now do not wish to disclose much of anything to users of their site. They would rather deceive their users into thinking a paid for blog post is some kind of review of a product that is not biased. We all know that is blatantly not true. If a blog post is paid for, it should be fully disclosed in some way. Why is it that webmasters don’t want their users to know something is paid for?

    You see; I see that as a bigger problem than a silly nofollow tag issue. This is actually an entire webmaster/SEO community issue. It’s not just Google’s responsibility with all of this. WE created this issue and WE need to fix it. This all goes to my prior posts in this thread from many days ago.

  441. PhilC

    Why can’t each site label all of their ads? If they did, there would be no need at all for a nofollow tag, right? Would you be defending the sites out there who are claiming ignorance because they did not know enough to fully disclose a paid link?

    All that stuff about the FTC and disclosing links is fine, but that’s not what anyone is talking about here in this thread. Google isn’t after paid links being disclosed, which means showing *people* that they are paid for. They want people to tell a machine that they are paid for, and that’s nothing to do with the FTC end of things.

    Sorry Doug, but your conclusions are very much mistaken.

  442. PhilC

    Oh, I think Matt specifically stated that you could use anything you wish as long as it’s disclosed. You can use your robots.txt file to disallow the page a paid link is on as well.

    No Doug, you are mistaken about that. If you can find a quote, please do, but from everything I’ve read, Google insists on either the nofollow attribute, or a technical way of preventing the links from being followed, such as linking to an internal URL and redirecting from there, together with the robots.txt file disallowing that URL. Simply adding a human readable dsclosure, such as “Sponsored link” isn’t good enough for Google.

  443. Dave (original)

    Show me one case where a site has been outed from Google for *not using nofollow* and the Ad is cleary marked as such?

    Being banned from Google is very likely requires a manual process. You are all assuming Google is the evil giant just waiting to pounce. Don’t the words “We reserve the right” mean anything to you?

  444. FD

    Just a fun observation of the payperpost bloggers reactions to the Google spank.
    They all have said over and over, that they never agreed to follow Googles guidelines when they began posting for PPP.

    Well it’s like this. They signed up for PPP, PPP uses google PR as one of the factors on how much money the bloggers can make, the higher the PR, the bigger money ops they could take.

    Now they knew that PPP was using Google PR, so they should have looked at Googles guidelines when they signed up for PPP.
    PPP should have had it somewhere in their signup form, that they use Google’s PR, and each blogger needs to make themselves aware of Googles guidelines and PPP’s ToS before signing up. They should have had to tick off a box saying that they read both.

    The bloggers who post for PPP, are pissed at Google for taking their rank away, when they should be pissed at PPP for using PR in the first place, and also be pissed at PPP for not telling bloggers to read the guidelines.
    They are only mad at Google, but it’s PPP who used the google PR numbers to rank the bloggers.

    PPP also created program that would fetch the bloggers current PR every 48 hours. This not only put a strain on Google, but it also alerted google that a company was downloading PR ranks in mass quantity every 48 hours.
    So google sees all these drains coming from a single source, PPP, and takes a look at the list of urls that PPP got PR rank for.
    It wasn’t that difficult to figure out which bloggers were working for PPP.

    I just don’t get how all these bloggers are only pissed at Google, when they should be more pissed at PPP for creating that app that pulled PR scores.
    Basically PPP ratted out all of their bloggers with that app.

  445. Yes; I thought Matt had stated that sites selling links who clearly disclose they are paid links would be just fine. I don’t know where he stated that, but maybe he will respond. :) The link would not pass any pr, but the site would not be penalized.

    I’m with Dave; I can’t see Google penalizing a site with a paid link who clearly disclosed such a link. I believe that disclosure is a big issue on the web. Many don’t want their users to know a link within a blog post or review is paid for. Oh gee; why is that? Why would someone want to deceive their visitors in that way?

  446. Doug, Google has been clear, even if you say these ads are paid for or support our sponsors, if you have been paid for them, they should include “no follow tags”, period, end of story.

    This thread is about selling links withing editorial content, that is a no no, period, end of story, this is what contextual text link brokers are encouraging webmasters to do.

  447. I have to say I agree with Matt and the most recent post by Anthony Cea. Google has every right to “not count” a link’s PageRank. Even more so when a site attempts to manipulate Google’s proprietary organic ranking algorithm by purchasing non-relevant or non-reputable keyword-centric text links. This is Google’s proprietary organic ranking algorithm not the Internet’s. Google clearly states their “engagement rules” and guidelines. If your want to rank well on Google you have to follow Google’s rules. I also agree its a David vs. Goliath story. To receive enough organic traffic to sustain and or support a business yes you obviously need links, tons of relevant reputable links. Why should Google send you thousands upon thousands of potential customers for free if your site does not address what the users seek? Honestly, is your web page and or site really “worthy” of that searcher’s visit? If you were in the searcher’s shoes would you hit the back button when you landed on your own site? There are probably millions of websites and companies that can better address what the users seek. Yes it is extremely difficult to acquire enough quality links to rank #1-3 on Google for traffic driving terms without offering money. However you can strategically implement link building strategies to address this need and still adhere to Google’s guidelines. First off make sure your site does address what the users seek. If you have enough content or resourceful information it will be much easier to acquire links upon request. Second, do not higher a link building company unless you are clear on their tactics. They will cost money and could potentially hinder your organic rankings on Google. AgencyRate is an upcoming site in support of Google’s methodology that will rate and profile agencies so that companies can choose the right reputable vendors to work with. This will include link building. In conclusion, if you have to pay someone to link to you, then you either reached out to a bad prospect, or your site is not worthy of the link. It’s most likely the second one….

  448. I thought Matt had stated that sites selling links who clearly disclose they are paid links would be just fine. I don’t know where he stated that, but maybe he will respond.

    If Matt had stated that, there would not be a problem. However, he has actually stated this:

    As long as we’re talking about links, this seems like a pretty good opportunity to talk about a simple litmus test for paid links and how to tell if a paid link violates search engines’ quality guidelines. If you want to sell a link, you should at least provide machine-readable disclosure for paid links by making your link in a way that doesn’t affect search engines. There’s a ton of ways to do that. For example, you could make a paid link go through a redirect where the redirect url is robot’ed out using robots.txt. You could also use the rel=nofollow attribute. I’ve said as much many times before, but I wanted to give a heads-up because Google is going to be looking at paid links more closely in the future.

    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:

    So webmasters are supposed to …

    - treat search engines like they exist.
    - do things specifically for search engines, not for users
    - manipulate PageRank

  449. Of course, formatting links SPECIFICALLY so that they look unpaid, to try to get them to pass page rank so you can accept increased payments for them, is only worth doing because a search engine (Google) exists.

    But does accepting increased payments for paid links that pass page rank mean you are making links for search engines to benefit yourself? Really, doesn’t making paid links “for users not search engines” mean formatting paid links appropriately, so as to not pass page rank/game search engines?

  450. Show me one case where a site has been outed from Google for *not using nofollow* and the Ad is cleary marked as such?

    The Washington Post. They have since added “nofollow” to their clearly marked sponsored advertisements.

    Dave

  451. WFR

    Matt,

    I bought one text link from a newspaper site about three years ago and was banned from google’s index almost immediately. I dropped that link after the first month and have requested re-inclusion about 12 times.

    I never get any response to that re-inclusion request and the site is still not back in the index. Is there something else wrong that I need to know about?

  452. PhilC

    Actually, Doug, I wouldn’t be too confident that that Google won’t penalise a site that disclosed paid links to people but not to a machine. Do you remember Matt turning up in Tim O’Reilly’s blog because the O’Reilly site was showing paid links without the nofollow attribute? Matt didn’t suggest that simply putting a human readable disclosure was fine. He argued that the “right” way to do it is with the nofollow attribute.

    Let me reiterate part of what Matt wrote and was quoted by Alan:-

    Google’s quality guidelines are more concerned with the machine-readable aspect of disclosing paid links/posts

    This is NOT about human-readable disclosure. This is about machine-readable disclosure. Matt again:-

    If you want to sell a link, you should at least provide machine-readable disclosure for paid links by making your link in a way that doesn’t affect search engines

    “machine-readable”. It can’t be any plainer.

  453. Dave (original)

    The Washington Post was dumped from Google for clearly maked paid links? Perhaps they were told by Google to add nofollow and they didn’t.

  454. Dave (original)

    “machine-readable”. It can’t be any plainer

    No it can’t, can it! Looks like we are getting somewhere……………………… finally :)

    To read what Matt has written in past on paid links in context, he has stated many times (as do Google themselves) that Google “reserves the right” to protect the integrity of their business. That can’t be “can’t be any plainer” either.

    IF you take that right away from ANY business, you are on a slippery slope to nowhere.

  455. OK good. All of that is fine and dandy with me. I had thought Matt had said that disclosing a paid link is fine, but if a nofollow is indeed needed as well….. Great. I want that. I want both. I want FULL disclosure of paid links/ads and I want nofollow too. :)

    Maybe Google can/should buy out the w3c? lol Then, they could make the nofollow a standard tag, right? Maybe some other tag like:

    rel=”advert” … or something similar. Or make something that is clearly seen by real users and that is read by spiders such as:

    *ADV* AnTextLinkAdHere .. description here

    Make something read by both machines and users easily and that is standard for each webmaster/owner to implement. Make it a web-wide rule. This way it’s read by a human and read by a machine.

  456. You know; why has it come to an issue of Google and the nofollow tag when this is much, much bigger? I disagree Phil; this IS about the FTC and the full disclosure or lack thereof a paid reviews or links. It’s almost ALL about it.

    I’ve been wondering about this for a few days now, and thinking about the many times I’ve looked for a product and reviews about that product. Different brands, different styles, etc. How many of these “reviews” have I read that were biased? I have zero idea about that. You know what? I’m pissed about that. Totally pissed. The web has become one big cesspool of sleazy websites who will buy their way to a great review by any blogger or other who will accept the money and write that review. Have these people actually tried the damn product? HELL no they haven’t. The internet is becoming one giant cheater.

    Is this what we all want? If you all want that, I feel very sorry for you. It appears the majority of website owners/webmasters simply want to deceive each and every regular joe user out there. We want to fill up the internet with bogus and crap paid reviews of products we know absolutely nothing about.

    YES. This is about the FTC or the lack of one with any authority, and it’s also about what to do with a SEO/webmaster/Google problem of how to combat the paid link issue. So yes; it’s our damn problem, so how are WE going to solve it?

    Huh?

  457. PhilC

    Great. I want that. I want both. I want FULL disclosure of paid links/ads and I want nofollow too.

    That’s fine Doug. But we are talking about Google’s new guideline, and not about human-readable disclosure. Google’s guideline is the topic of this thread, and it’s Google’s guideline that turns people who do no wrong in any way whatsoever into spammers. I genuinely suggest that you read and re-read Alan’s posts, and then try and step back and give it some serious thought with an unbiased perspective, leaving aside your own desires for the web and search engines. Try and look at it from the outside.

  458. I’m doing just that Phil. I see this as an issue for all of us and not just Google. Like I said at the start of this thread, Google created the toolbar with some damn green color, but SEO’s/webmasters created the spam problem. It wasn’t OUR green bar to profit off of to begin with, but yet, we sure are, right? What gives webmasters the right to profit off of someone else’s property without their permission? What right does PPP and text link brokers have to buy and sell pagerank? They have no right as it’s not their pagerank to buy and sell and profit off of. That’s the issue. All Google is doing is trying to find a way to combat it. I think you feel that it’s Google’s problem all alone and like many others out there see this as a Google problem only. I don’t see it that way. I see it as our problem and I see it as going hand in hand with the overall general problem of the web. Full disclosure is certainly a part of this. If we and Google could get with the w3c and set up a BIG o’l rule as to what needs to be done, things could be solved easily. If a standard was set that both machines and humans could read equally, there would be no need for a nofollow tag at all. The standard would be full disclosure in some way for paid links….. IE: *ADV*

  459. Dave (original)

    What is so damn hard about adding nofollow to paid links?

    The sleazy link sellers who are profiting from Google’s PR AND the misery of the uniformed link buyers have bought it to this, not Google. Why not attack them rather than Google for trying to clean up the mess?

    These sleazy link sellers have been helped by the likes of Digital Pointless forums and the MANY other “SEO” forums out there that allow bad, dangerous and misinformation simply because they PROFIT from it!

    It takes about an extra 10 seconds (TOPS) to add nofollow, it’s not that hard and is for the GOOD of all the honest people out there.

  460. Dave (original)

    And for those that don’t have an axe to grind
    http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/information-about-buying-and-selling.html

    The OFFICIAL stand! It concurs almost exactly with what we have been trying to get across.

  461. Dave (original)

    And for those that don’t have an axe to grind and wish to do well in Google;

    http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/information-about-buying-and-selling.html

    The OFFICIAL stand and it concurs almost exactly with what we have been trying to get across here.

  462. PhilC

    Doug:

    What gives webmasters the right to profit off of someone else’s property without their permission?

    lol. You mean like search engines profit off other peoples’ websites (property) without permission? ;)

    If you can recall what’s been pointed out in this thread several times, PageRank is Google’s to do with what they want – nobody else’s. They allocate it as they wish, and they are more than welcome to do that.

    You’re view isn’t from the outside, as I suggested, Doug. It’s from your very whitehat stance/bias. We aren’t talking about what some people do because we can see the little green bar – nobody has disagreed with your view on that. We are talking about people who do no wrong at all, and who don’t make any attempt to game the system, suddenly becoming spammers because Google says so, and for no other reason.

    We are also talking about Google attempting to change the perfectly good way that the Web has always worked to suit their own desires, by making it a requirement that people do things with their websites because Google exists.

    No-one is arguing against your stance/views on spam, or against Google fighting link spam. Spam isn’t the issue here. Those of you who argue in favour of the new guideline, are making points about beating spam, and nobody is arguing against you about that. Beating spam may or may not be the reason for Google’s new guideline (I’m not at all sure that it is, because paid links were detrimental to Google’s system from Google’s day one when none of them were spam), but whatever the reason for it, it creates spammers out of perfectly clean people, for the first time it insists that website owners do things solely because Google exists (breaking their own guidelines), and it seeks to outlaw the normal clean workings of the web just to suit Google’s system – solely because they’ve created a system that doesn’t work properly with the normal clean workings of the web.

    Just out of interest, what’s the main thing that people complain about in the serps? I’m out of touch these days, but it was crappy MFA sites when I was last in touch, and I imagine it’s still the same. If crappy MFA sites were removed from the serps, it would clean them up a lot. But what do Google do about them fouling up their serps? Nothing – they are making money out of them. Crappy MFA sites screw the serps up no end, with pages that do nothing but tell you to go somewhere else. Other spam, such as is frequently brought up in this thread can do the same, but it usually seeks to push relevant pages up the right serps, so the result is usually good for the serps and for users. Imo, it would be far better for Google to try and clean up their serps by tackling the biggest fouler of their serps first, to give their users a better experience.

    Note:
    Not all MFA sites are bad – that’s why I used the word “crappy” each time.

  463. This discussion was not ever about whether Matt/Google had said that paid links must be labelled in a machine readable way, even if the fact they were paid was clearly disclosed to humans.

    It was – and is – about the implications of the fact that Matt/Google did say the paid links must be labelled in some machine readable way. Those implications being that webmasters are supposed to …

    - treat search engines like they exist.
    - do things specifically for search engines, not for users
    - manipulate PageRank

    … which goes against everything else in the guidelines, and turns the good into spammers. If ever there was a web outfit that was less evil than Google, then surely the W3C could claim to be it?

  464. The Washington Post was dumped from Google for clearly maked paid links? Perhaps they were told by Google to add nofollow and they didn’t.

    You asked for a single example of a site that was affected even though their advertisements were clearly marked. I provided one.

    FTR… I don’t particulary have an issue with the Google stance on paid links. They are welcome to value and interpret the data they collect in any way they wish.

    Where I do have an issue, is forcibly manipulating that data to meet their desired interpretation instead of the other way around. A recipe for failure IMO.

    Dave

  465. Feydakin

    Kimota, what about product placement on tv shows and in movies?? Those are not labeled in any way, shape, or form, yet they are there and huge amounts of money change hands when it happens..

    We keep circling the issue of is it fair for a business to tell another that they have to change their methods to make it easier for them?? Yes, they can.. But to co-opt a device for something that it was NEVER intended for is deceitful. NoFollow was meant to combat blog spam.. And like any good politician Google took that and perverted it for their own use because they know that if they introduced a rel=”advert” tag no one would use it..

    They have consistently said that they did not like people selling links for PR.. Fine, take away the PR bar and make that a private, internal, Google number.. But to expect every single webmaster on the internet to not only make these changes just for them, but to even know about those changes seems a bit totalitarian..

    I still think that innocent webmasters are going to be penalized for something that they either did not do, or that they knew nothing about.. And to say that ignorance of the “law” is no excuse is simply ridiculous.. Unless I missed the meeting where Google was given control and law enforcement ability over the entire internet..

  466. Alan the subject was spammers using paid and followed links within editorial content, specifically blogs doing product reviews to manipulate search results.

    This is one reason Google readjusted PR across the entire web, lowering values universally I believe making new blogs worthless as far as PR is concerned, spammers have brought this on.

    Google is saying to legitimate publishers, clean up your act, don’t sell followed links in editorial content and clearly label with tags your “sponsored paid for links” and you will be able to maintain your websites status with Google.

    It actually makes perfect sense, this rewards webmasters that do what is proper and penalizes blatant spammers, that is the way it should be, if your content has little value, we don’t want it coming up in the SERP’s.

    If all a webmaster publishes is paid for “press releases” who wants to consider that publisher worth reading, we can all go to PR portals to read paid for press releases if that is what we want to see.

    Blog networks are filled with interlinked spam blogs, one network linking to another network of spam blogs, so they are all devalued, even those of honest bloggers because of the “bad guys spamming their arses off”, this is a crisis on the web folks.

    My solution is more harsh than Google’s, I delete these blogs from the database on the small blog network I run, but these people come back with new IP’s and repost the same spam over so I just keep deleting their blogs.

    There are professional spammers running loose on the web guys, we all know it, and they are relentless, the problem is, SEO’s call this “black hat SEO” which is nothing more than automated spamming.

  467. Kimota, what about product placement on tv shows and in movies?? Those are not labeled in any way, shape, or form, yet they are there and huge amounts of money change hands when it happens..

    With the exception of the infamous product endorsement scene in Wayne’s World (that was damn funny), I’d agree with this, and it’s disgusting whe it happens there too. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I refuse to watch any TV show that has non-delineated product placement in it.

    It even gets into radio the odd time, where Announcer X will plug Product Y without indicating as such.

    People should know, and have the right to know, what is and isn’t advertising. This sort of thing blurs the line, and a shocking number of people are unaware of just how much advertising (online and offline) is inserted into their daily lives. Life is becoming a giant commercial and almost no one’s aware of it. This paragraph was brought to you by Ford Trucks. Ford, where Quality is Job 1.

    And like any good politician Google took that and perverted it for their own use because they know that if they introduced a rel=”advert” tag no one would use it..

    You wouldn’t, but I would and I know of at least a dozen other people who would not only use it, but have asked for it.

    Fine, take away the PR bar and make that a private, internal, Google number..

    Wouldn’t matter at this point. The only difference would be that, instead of saying PR(x) links for sale, link brokers would say “increase your PR with these links” and use backlink counts to try and sell thier crap.