Text links and PageRank

In an earlier post I said that “The best links are not paid, or exchanged after out-of-the-blue emails–the best links are earned and given by choice.” Given the recent discussions of paid links, I wanted to talk about this issue in more depth.

SEO geeks may remember the SearchKing lawsuit regarding link selling that was filed in 2002 and dismissed in 2003. Or they may have read through our quality guidelines, especially the part that says “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank.” Those people can probably guess that Google does consider buying text links for PageRank purposes to be outside our quality guidelines.

But for everyone else, let me talk about why we consider it outside our guidelines to get PageRank via buying links. Google (and pretty much every other major search engine) uses hyperlinks to help determine reputation. Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and link-based analysis has greatly improved the quality of web search. Selling links muddies the quality of link-based reputation and makes it harder for many search engines (not just Google) to return relevant results. When the Berkeley college newspaper has six online gambling links (three casinos, two for poker, and one bingo) on its front page, it’s harder for search engines to know which links can be trusted.

At this point, someone usually asks me: “But can’t you just not count the bad links? On the dailycal.org, I see the words ‘Sponsored Resources’. Can’t search engines detect paid links?” Yes, Google has a variety of algorithmic methods of detecting such links, and they work pretty well. But these links make it harder for Google (and other search engines) to determine how much to trust each link. A lot of effort is expended that could be otherwise be spent on improving core quality (relevance, coverage, freshness, etc.). And you can imagine how the people trying to get link popularity have responded. Someone forwarded me an email from a “text link broker” that included this suggestion:

Most people use words like, SPONSORS, PARTNERS, FEATURED, ADVERTISERS, ADS and other synonymous terms related to advertisers. Our suggestion is to use ‘different’ titles for these ads. Something like RELATED SITES, COOL SITES, RESOURCES, ALTERNATIVE LINKS and so on.

The email later suggests “to use unique locations for ad links like within content.” At the point where people are recommending ways to make paid links less detectable (e.g. by removing any labels or indication that the links are sold), I wouldn’t be surprised if search engines begin to take stronger action against link buying in the near future.

A natural question is: what is Google’s current approach to link buying? Of course our link-weighting algorithms are the first line of defense, but it’s difficult to catch every problem case in adversarial information retrieval, so we also look for problems and leaks in different semi-automatic ways. Reputable sites that sell links won’t have their search engine rankings or PageRank penalized–a search for [daily cal] would still return dailycal.org. However, link-selling sites can lose their ability to give reputation (e.g. PageRank and anchortext).

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

377 Responses to Text links and PageRank (Leave a comment)

  1. Matt, do you think it is within or beyond your/Google’s business &/or moral duty to police how advertising is bought and sold ?

    I ask because I understand the problem text link advertising can cause a search engine but do believe that it is that same business model that has allowed G to become such a commercial success story. I know there are subtle differences but ultimately G’s business model is to provide a service and sell text link advertising to deliver eyeballs to advertisers.#

    To me it seems slightly cynical that G climbs a long hard ladder to the pinnacle of internet success but then trys to pull the ladder up behind them “advising” others that TLA in its current form is not the right way to monetise a site.

    Anyway, thanks for a great post. Your blog really is a breath of fresh air and I for one want to thank you for spending your time writing it and also for writing it as a real person, with a real name and no “Faux Nom” 🙂

  2. The Google conundrum is that although Google doesn’t count it’s own paid advertising text links for anchor/ inbound link benefit in its algorithmic results – Google does count everyone elses text advertising links…. and they affect the algorithmic results.

    In my opinion – that’s the flaw in the model…..

  3. Hi Matt, but what if a website buy tons of links from a multitude of little and medium non-related websites ? This links will probably be counted and the buyers won’t suffer from a semi-automatic penalty as its popularity emanates from many sources instead instead of a few big ones…

  4. Matt, the professionals don’t care a lot about PageRank, and you know it. We want the anchor text, (preferably from an on-topic source), because the SEs, not just Google, have made it obvious that they value it. You have therefore set your own trap.

    >> Selling links muddies the quality of link-based reputation and makes it harder for many search engines (not just Google) to return relevant results.

    Selling links (selling anything with percieved value, in fact) is human nature. If your algorithm can’t cope with human nature, you have problems (can you say “AltaVista”?). Essentially, you are trying to stamp out link selling through automated, sytemic methods. How pointless. In the fairly unlikely event that you succeed, what do you think is going to happen next? All the blackhats hang up the auto-gen script and go become IT teachers? Or they come up with a method thet it’ll take you another 5 years to cotton on to and crack?

    You shouldn’t be aiming for total success, since it 1) implies the possibility of total failure, and 2) Success is self-defeating. I’ve already seen a method that has the potential to wipe out “standard” link spam as my favourite Google gaming technique.

    You (and indeed all SEs) should be aiming for a nice, dynamic equilibrium. Link spam will happen for as long as links are a part of the ranking algorithm. Get used to the idea, and think about how to manage it. I also find it a shade distasteful that Google, who had more than a little to do with the birth of the text link industry when you introduced the Toolbar PR meter, is now trying to kill it off. It feels like I’m watching someone throttle their own kids

    >> When the Berkeley college newspaper has six online gambling links (three casinos, two for poker, and one bingo) on its front page, it’s harder for search engines to know which links can be trusted.

    Fair point. But what do you do when an authorititive travel site places paid links for another travel site on its pages? Are those links less trustworthy simply because they were paid for? Does that imply that Google sees all advertising as inherently untrustworthy? If so are you going to drop AdWords ? And don’t tell me it’s “clearly marked”; most surfers don’t realise that it is even possible to buy ads on a SERP, let alone have the ability to identify it, and you know that too

    Possibly those links should be “worth” less; but if the content the links points at is useful to the travel seeking surfer at the site, why shouldn’t they get the full benefit? What is it about that arrangement that so sullies your index? Why is that morally any different to me linking to my mates sites? Even though I know they are rubbish?

    I really think you’re on the wrong track here, chasing the impossible dream

  5. Some Authority sites make a living out of selling advertisements (e.g. Internet Yellow Pages, Price Comparison, News, Content portals, Niche Directories like hotel guides etc.).
    Flash ads, Jpeg ads, Net Sky-Scrapers – Their main purpose is to create brand exposure and pass traffic, I can’t see why Text ads should be different in the SE eyes.
    An advertiser buys web presence in order to gain users coming into his site, if this helps in getting better ranks – in many cases its just a byproduct, not the main issue. Most site operators don’t know the rel=”nofollow” and it’s not really a Consensus yet.
    Maybe you just need to focus on the relevancy of the Linking page/media so you could determine that dailycal got very little to do with poker, or is it?

    Many of the ad-systems don’t “pass PR” because of tracking reasons but this is another story.

  6. I’m lately detecting that rel=”nofollow” links becomes in a penalization of liked sites. That would be fine if people uses it with blackhat spammers.

    But now it’s also being used by many websites to increase their PageRank adding this attribute to any external link, so all puntuation they recieve from incoming links is distributed inside the domain. That’s for example the case of all non-english Wikipedias.

  7. If you are a company and you pay for a celebrity endorsement you are borrowing/renting some of the respect that celebrity has earned. When Michael Jordan advertised for Hanes underwear did he carry a big sign saying “Hey I really don’t trust a word Hanes says about it’s underwear”? Should Hanes have been forced to tolerate such behavior? So why on earth should online advertisers be forced to undergo that level of denigration.

  8. Hi Matt

    Wasn’t the problem with SearchKing selling PageRank – not selling links per se? As others have noted elsewhere, selling links pre-dates Google. PageRank was not SearchKing’s to sell – but links were.

    rel=nofollow was invented to prevent trackback spam, not provide a means to identify paid links. They are not quite the same thing! Using rel=nofollow may help but it could also hinder:

    1) It relies on the ad channel’s honesty
    2) It relies on the ad channel’s knowledge

    The greater issue is the ad channel’s knowledge. An ad channel should not have to know that search engines exist in order to sell links. For advertisers to use rel=nofollow for this purpose implies that they are doing something purely because search engines exist. Those occasions should be few and far between.

    One solution might lie in a means for labelling links as advertisements (using a method similar to, but not identical to, rel=nofollow). This could end up being a natural outcome of things like the FTC investigations into deceptive online advertising. However, in practice I don’t think such as solution is viable. Defining e-commerce as “an electronic exchange of value”, i.e. not necessarily monetary, virtually any link might be said to be commercial in nature to some extent. With that in mind, I think Google (and other SEs) need to adapt their algorithms to cope with the fact that many links are commercial in nature and not labelled as such, and that will continue to be the case whether or not money actually changes hands.

  9. I understand the example between poker sites and a reputable website, but the main difference there is that they’re unrelated to each other. What about related websites? Would it be okay for a website to sell a link on their website to another website, if they deemed the other website to be both related and a good online resource? In other words, if it’s in the same genre, and good editorial scrutiny is taken, wouldn’t it then be more acceptable in regards to Google’s policy/approach to “sell” a link? Or is that still evil and diluting?

  10. Jason, I’m just trying to get communicate how Google views this issue, and more importantly, why we feel that way. Sebastien, one thing that Google and probably most search engines have developed is the ability to look at site-level linkage. So buying a ton of links from a lot of smaller sites can stand out even more than buying a link from a well-known site.

    • When you penalize a site for (apparently) buying a ton of links then you are promoting negative SEO.

      I have a client who has to constantly fight this due to a competitor buying a ton of links pointing at my client’s site every year, just before his most prosperous season.

      Why can’t you provide us a way to fight this — other than constantly disavowing a ton of links — which are for the most part ignored because of a lack of resources to physically get the links removed — when the requests are ignored anyway?

  11. So what you are saying is Google links to theses sites here http://www.google.com/press/awards.html

    These sites (most of them sell text links) like search engine watch. That fuels the PR boosts to sites like seoinc, zunch, bruce clay etc.

    So in a sense Google is helping to spam Google, by pushing out PR 8-9 links to big sites that in turn benefit from your PR and then sell it to other sites.

    Nice…. 😀

  12. Matt, great post.

    Do you think you can give a little insight on how Google plays a role when a banned site links to another site (one way) without recips.

    For example, lets say a good clean quality site has 10 great URL’s pointing to it. The original site doesn’t link back to any of those 10 sites back. Now lets say 1 out of those 10 sites linking to the site gets banned. Should a webmaster be concerned that a banned site is now pointing to a site even though the site it links to has great quality content, and 9 other great links pointing to it. Is there a penalty that is likely to be placed on the site that doesn’t recip back?

    Thanks for your comments!

  13. Matt, I will believe that google can detect paid links when I see the paid link brokers go down… Without all the collateral damage to innocent sites that google is so famous for.

    I remember the searchscum incident, first time I had site banned from google for something someone else did. You’ll note I said “The first time”…

  14. Alan, we agree about just about everything in SEO, esp. that most of the right choices in SEO come from asking “What’s the best thing for the user?” But back in late 2004 when I was talking about nofollow just within Google, I wanted it to be a general way to abstain from voting with links. It’s true that nofollow got a lot of initial traction because of blog comment spam, but I think of it as a nice and really general mechanism to abstain from voting with a link. So I do think it’s fine to use nofollow on paid links. Another good use would be on b2evolution referrer pages, for example. 🙂

    Jon, you ask a good question: does it matter if the paid links are between related sites? I think for Google, the litmus test is going to have to be whether the links were paid for somehow. There was an interesting SIGCHI paper a while ago that talked about reputation and trust, I think specifically pertaining to websites. One of the top ways for someone to trust a website was for a friend to recommend it. Would that recommendation create as much trust if you later found out the friend was paid to recommend a website, even if the friend also liked the website or thought it was related? I’m guessing most people still wouldn’t trust the site as much.

    lots0, someday I’d really like to hear what you have to say about SK. Of course I remember your nick from back then. It had an extra word on the end back then, I think?

  15. Has rel=nofollow really been successful?

    I’ve used it on occasion in certain software, but was always frustrated because good links would get the nofollow also, but the bad links made me remove it from all of them. What a shame.

    Just seems to me the black hats have ruined the system and the worthy sites are getting screwed and G has to expend a lot of energy to fight these jerks that have ruined the internet.

  16. >> I think of [nofollow] as a nice and really general mechanism to abstain from voting with a link

    But if an advertising channel WANTS to vote for its advertisers with a link – e.g. it has researched its advertisers and is happy to be “associated with their neighbourhoods” – then should that channel (IYO) still use a nofollow because that would help Google? You see what I’m driving at. I think getting people to “help” you make your algorithm to work better is a slippery slope. Almost everything should be done for a better purpose then “Because Google exists”.

  17. Matt, thanks for responding. I recently did what I was asking on one of my very trusted websites. However, after reading your post and response, I think I’ll remove it completely. I really appreciate the information and advice. I definitely want to stay in good standing with Google, and I really appreciate the traffic generated by your awesome SE.

  18. I think it’s time that Google realizes that the value of inbound links has reached maturity (mostly because of the commerce in them) and must be replaced (not modified).

    Or perhaps there are a few grad students somewhere working on this replacement and are engineering the next “Google.”

    I think a new broom sweeps cleaner.

  19. Once again Google shows that it truly believes in what it says, and is willing to act on that belief regardless of popular opinion. By removing paid link-spam from their ranking, Google is once again allowing the little guy to compete with big corporations on a level playing field. The big corps of the world may have the $$$ to buy their way to the top with paid link-spam (oh, all of you stop hollering…that’s EXACTLY what it is and you know it), but everyone gets to compete in the SERPS based on their c-o-n-t-e-n-t.

    I applaud Google for this action and I assure you that those who are whining now would be singing a very different tune if the W-marts, etc. of the world were allowed to buy their way to the top.

  20. I find it difficult to understand how Google can give thought of penalizing the actual link SELLERS. Buying text links is a legitimate form of advertising and getting visitors to your site. It’s been going on as long as Internet Advertising was born. Whether or not Google has determined that link buying/selling’s biproduct is taking advantage and control of their algorithm is not anyone’s problem but Google’s. What about the 75% of websites who aren’t even aware that their text links are helping SERPs, and simply selling links to put bread on the table?

    If link buying is considered SPAM, then it’s time for the Engines to determine another source of relevancy.

  21. Andi, that is a very insightful comment. Links are also tough for small mom-and-pop companies. http://www.theteakpatio.com/ is a small, local business (it’s next to a local Fry’s), but almost no one links to it.

  22. But I have a sneaking feeling that theteakpatio could well now rank for search related terms. As they don’t actually operate in that business area and will probably get non converting traffic from search referalls do you think it would be wrong for them to sell advertising to search related businesses to offset their costs?

  23. I have some concerns about the basic power relationship between search engines and content publishers.

    We’re in a situation where we don’t really know what SEs do with sites, yet they’re able to sit as judge, jury and executioner, for global information. At the same time, SEs are nothing without our content.

    Just how much do they respect this authority?… Does it appear to count for much if a SE makes a rash decision? I’d say no.

    Some of the best sites won’t have many inbound links. I wonder if these are given a fair chance.

  24. Will you try to get this straight, Matt. Search engines are not the Web, and they never will be the Web. They are a tool for finding places on the Web – like signposts in a city – and that is all they are, and it is all they will ever be, unless they expand into different fields. But, as search engines, they don’t have any say in the workings of the Web, and it is not for them to even attempt teach webmasters how to link and how not to link.

    Before Google came along and based their rankings on links, the Web worked perfectly well with paid textlink ads, off-topic ads, etc., and it still works perfectly well that way. It may not work perfectly well for Google, but that’s your porblem, and you should look for solutions internally. Google chose to use links for rankings – nobody forced them. So either sort it out internally, or change the way you produce your rankings.

    I know there are a few people who are happy to help Google do what they can’t do themselves, but the Web’s population as a whole isn’t the slightest bit interested in making things better for Google – you aren’t paying anyone to help, so why should anyone care?

    People as a whole aren’t interested in what is an “editorial vote” and what is not, so the rel=nofollow attribute is not the way to do things. The attribute may be useful for some people in some circumstances, but it should never be used for the purpose of helping the search engines. So for goodness sakes, stop trying to tell webmasters that they should do things to suit Google. It’s none of Google’s business how websites link to websites. It’s only Google’s business how Google deals with various links.

  25. T$, if you go back to the example in my post, dailycal.org won’t be penalized in its rankings–it will still show up for a search like [daily cal]. But when dailycal.org is selling links to casinos or other link buyers, we prefer not to trust those links.

    David, we do our best to avoid rash decisions. All I think about all day long at work is how to improve Google’s quality. Many people here think a lot about how to try to rank smaller sites (the ones most likely to have fewer links) fairly.

  26. I know of several startups who specialize on creating a MARKETPLACE for buying/selling links, with a promise of boosting the pagerank. Google is simply becoming too arrogant. I think those startups are actually rendering a socially useful service- they are undermining the looming Google’s internet monopoly.

  27. Hello everyone,

    What incentive is there for a webmaster to implement nofollow exactly? To abstain from voting? To thwart blog spammers? Are blog spammers really going to adapt their agents to avoid nofollow blogs? Not exactly. Abstain from voting is a weak reason to add nofollow. We’re lazy types who would rather not peck the keys with it.

    Remember Meta keywords worked great with Infoseek? Stuffing keywords nearly killed the notion of keywords forever. They are only now making a limited comeback. Links are not much of a different story.

    Sure, links are a great reference by a third party. A “vote” of confidence if you will. Spammers do with links now what they did to keywords though. As the currency for today’s rankings, links drive a black market that link brokers address. This is purely a side-effect of the search engine business. A Google query for [link expert] has a sponsored listing for:

    Free Link Exchange
    Trade links with 125,000+ members.
    Increases your sales & traffic. Aff

    Today’s Web linking is spoiled by commercial noise. Links were never an infallible idea. Google got lucky in the short time when it worked great for calculating relevancy. Hats off. Google doesn’t rely on links as heavily as it once did. Still, the [failure] GoogleBomb works pretty well on Google. It also works on Yahoo! and MSN, who’ve made links important in reaction to Google’s dominance.

    Links make up a part of the algorithm. Links have become “normalized” in algorithms, like everything else. Like keywords, links can no longer be easily trusted by search engines. Now quality sites and their commercialized links come into question. Must make TBL shake his head in dismay.

    Take care,

  28. Google at the end of the day is just another website, monetising their virtual real estate as almost all other websites do. To make decisions about how other websites rank is the prerogative of Google within their own database and subsequently SERPS – no one can tell Google different but by the same token, Google should not tell others either…

    The incumbent problem we all now face is – what is ‘quality’? Google determines quality by their own measurements but, making these measurement points known ‘publicly’ (either by threads like this) or ‘privately’ (from reverse engineering and deduction) has led us to where we are now.

    This ‘quality’ is a subjective measurement arbitrarily shaped by Google. It is ironic that Google’s mission is to provide relevant results to the user (i.e. what the user wants) and yet the presumption is constantly being made by Google as to what the user wants.

    Has anybody asked the user?

    Current SE algorithms are too biased on the structure of the net – the Intranet of the Internet if you will. This is akin to paying too much attention to syntax and not enough on semantics.

    The next generation of SE’s (which I’m sure Google will be part of – well it had better be as I specialise in Adwords!) has to integrate feedback from the searchers themselves as to what constitutes a good or bad site.

    Naturally this will have it’s own technical challenges to filter out any automated ‘voting’ system. (I for one am not having a transponder inserted or biometric identification required to give feedback!)

    It is obvious that the most important sales referral tool offline – word of mouth – has to have a corollary online. This is the natural order that SE’s need mimick.

    The implementation of this feedback loop is the challenge, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

    A stimulus to this (could be an interesting one this) could be the “I’m feeling lucky” button – why not use this to randomly pull a site from the SERP results and ask the searcher what it is like?

    “I’m Feeling Lucky” isn’t the same as “I want the #1 listing on Google thanks”.

    A “new broom” as mentioned above, but keeping the sweeper employed and directing the brush – as it should be.

  29. Indeed, isn’t the net a wonderful thing – the following link to the WOMMA blog is great food for thought on the above:

    All the best,

  30. Hi There – I would like to apologize in advance for my post here. It is Friday and my puppy tore up my new couch and I have to work all weekend. With that said, I am a bit cranky, so here goes.. When you state “our quality guidelines, especially the part that says “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank”

    I have seen no real evidence, in my market place, where Google has been able to evaluate any sort of link or derank a site that is participating in these sorts of schemes. Can you please tell me why a website that has paid a company alot of money to set up, like you say, a “link scheme designed to increase…” lists # 1 and # 2 on Google because they have 2500 + sites linking to them and they are linking back. For example can you please explain how a real estate website relates to a Porn website or a website in the Automotive Industry?

    If you do a search on Google for “lake tahoe real estate” and do any sort of link analysis on the sites that list out on the first page. You will see that these sites, plain and simple, either have lots of links (don’t matter what kind as I have studied each sites links to death) or lot of links / pages going into their website.

    If you do a search for “incline village real estate” those top 3 or 4 sites are all participating in reciprocal link schemes, like I mentioned above and they have paid for the service.

    In addition, when you go a step further and then say, well lets look at the on page factors of the top ranking sites and you see things like, none of the search terms are in the metatags, eccessive java script on the page, no anchor link text, no content that contains the terms, well then you are just … BROKEN.

    Please accept my apology I added at the beginning of my slight temper tantrum. It is just so damn beautiful up here and I am stuck here buying, selling, trading and doing everything else I can to GET MORE LINKS!! I would just like to go outside and relax, but my clients are paying me alot of money to keep them listing well on your search engine and unfortunately, until this mess is fixed up, their relevant, nice looking, orderly websites will need more links. Thanks.

  31. Matt, interesting post. In my opinion Google has the right to do what they want as does the webmaster. If the webmaster wants to pay someone to link to them that is their choice. If a webmaster wants to link directly to another site for money, this is also their choice. If Google does not want to count these links or decides to ban these sites this is Google’s choice. I believe Google not counting paid links is fair but difficult to do in the real world without a large number of editors. I think the act of banning or severely penalizing sites is wrong almost all of the time as I know of some bigger name legitimate businesses that are penalized in Google to only rank for their name. What they have done is unclear but simply not counting whatever manipulation Google thinks occurred would definitely be better then hurting these people’s business and livelihood.

    On another note, could you please discuss reciprocal linking and what Google is doing to discount this. Right now sites that do reciprocal linking are dominating the serps that I watch.

  32. we prefer not to trust those links.

    Matt just say it the way i see.. you sell you soul you burn in hell.

    when you dance with the devil you ALWAYS get burnt, just don’t bitch when you do.


  33. Matt, my guess is that over time, the principles of captialism and a free society will actually help whether you measure paid links or not. THe prices of links are (or should be) based on how much they help contribute to rankings, so if you can afford text links, it means you’re doing something right and if you can continue in the long run to pay for them, you’re making a good ROI. Those companies and sites with the best ROI will more than likely have the best usability, promotions, value, etc. and will therefore win in the long run no matter whether paid links are measured.

    If the web was meant to be non-commercial, I would agree with you entirely – no one should buy links, and no one should sell them. But that just isn’t the case, and one of the companies profiting most from the web is your own. It would seem un-gentlemanly to suggest that while Google is free to profit from paid links (AdSense), other websites do not have that luxury. We both know that very few people will pay for links with nofollow and therefore link sellers won’t adopt it.

    It’s always better to play into the market’s greed and human nature rather than attempt to fight it. Creative solutions abound and I have faith that your boys at the ‘plex will come up with something. But recommending that people not but link advertising can’t produce a good result; it can only foster indignation and resentment (along with accusations of hypocrisy, and malevolence). Let’s start the search for another solution.

  34. ridiculous post – sorry! it is impossible for any search engine to detect if a link is sold or not. you just have to follow some easy facts. it is really funny that some peeps at google claim things which are impossible. imho google is stiil stupid as bread.

    btw. selling links has to be considered as an absolutely normal step in every modern online-marketing-campaign which aims to get search engine traffic…

  35. Matt, this is the type of arrogant thinking that loses so much credibiliity Google has with the rest of the web. It doesn’t even cross your mind that it may be Google that’s wrong here, not the rest of the world. As others have mentioned, people have been buying and selling advertising on websites since before Google was a twinkle in Larry and Sergey’s eyes. How do you propose to determine what ads are paid and what aren’t? Sure, sometimes it’s obvious, but the can of worms is going to be when Google acts on this in a big way it’s going to be the blackhats who will rise to the top. They’ll be the ones who will be able to trick you, as they always have. Your hit is going to be on the websites who buy and sell ads with no thought to whether Google likes it or not.

    If Google’s going to crack down on link selling, I propose you start at the top. Yahoo! and Business.com for example, have made it their business of selling links. Sure, some of those links in those two directories and others like them were given out of merit but a great deal of them are bought. And, I’ve seen some very spammy links in both directories, sites that really aren’t worthy of mention other than the fact that the owners came up with the listing fee. So, there you are, put your money where your mouth is, don’t start by crushing the little guys, go for the biggies right out of the gate.

  36. A few interesting points have come up here, one of which is the idea of “off-topic” links. Until Adsense, this idea of “off-topic” links (or advertising) would have made a professional advertiser pee his or her old-fashioned brick&mortar pants laughing. Professional advertiser know (and have known for a long long time) about “market segments” – their psychology, their demographics, etc. It’s a HUGE, HUGE part of advertising (save for Adsense), and always will be.

    Let’s say I had a site directed at helping college students. I know my visitors are normally between the ages of 18 and 26. Smart me, I also know that people between the ages of 18 and 26 like Gap clothes. In a googlebot’s mind, education and Gap clothes have nothing to do with one another. To any breathing American, the connection is obvious. So, if I were to link to a site that was demographically about as on-target as you could get (Gap), but wasn’t the exact same type of content as my own, it would seem that Gap wouldn’t get any credit as being a good match for my site’s visitors (which, of course, is completely wrong). Sure, you could go through and put in some exceptions for the bots (let Gap count for college kids, let beer count for sports fans, etc.), but there’s no way to get every relevant demographic connection.

    As I commented in another post, bots are actually really, really dumb. But you can’t blame the bots, they’re just dumb little bots. You have to lay the blame on the real-life humans who think that bots can do more than they can do, or who try to arrange the world according to the bots’ limitations. It’s a bit like building a car that can only go straight and then insisting that the whole world suddenly tear down their homes and pack up thier lives in order to move the side of one great, super highway that simply circles the world in a straight line.

    Now, I know Google is trying to make the internet a better place. I really do believe that. And I think Google HAS made the interent a better place. I think the SERPs are INCREDIBLY better than they were just a few years ago. I also love Google for Adsense – it’s a great idea (in theory … can be better, and will be, I’m sure). But as other have mentioned here in one way or another, Google often subjects webmasters to its limitations rather than allowing for its limitation. This, unfortunately, can often affect real lives in real ways.

  37. If you guys at google want to discount all paid links, I say more power to ya.

    But I don’t think you can do it or should I say, I don’t think you can do it very well. Not putting down google(at the moment), I just don’t think anyone can detect intent very well. And that is what your going to have to do, detect or decide what the intent of the link is.

    Sure your going to be able to nail automated systems and certain URL structures, but if you go after keywords your back trying to detect or decide intent.

    >>>Matt said: “Of course I remember your nick from back then. It had an extra word on the end back then, I think?”

    Wow, I am impressed, very good memory Matt. Your right about the extra word, I’ve always had a thing about ‘money’, but I am very lazy, so I shortened the nick… That reminds me.. If you hook me up with a research grant for a few million (pocket change for you and the ‘boys’), I promise to never spam google again, cross my heart… 😉

    If you want to hear my version of the sk issue all you gotta do is ask, you have my email.

  38. always wearing a white hat

    Matt, look out for “google bowling” services buying links for their clients competitors.


  39. Sorry to keep going on about this, but…

    I see rel=nofollow as something a webmaster should use when they are not sure about the quality of a link being posted to their site – maybe because they haven’t even seen the link. If I was running a blog, I would probably require posts to be approved – and I would probably not use rel=nofollow within approved posts, because, as I see it, that’s destroying the integrity of the Web.

    Whether or not the link is paid for is a separate issue to whether or not the Webmaster is happy with the quality of the link.

    So, if I’m an ad channel and I am sure about the quality of my advertisers’ sites – why should I use rel=nofollow? To help Google? The problem with that is that many spammers defend their actions by saying that they’re only trying to help Google determine relevance.

    As I mentioned earlier, virtually every link is commercial in some way or other – certainly links within commercial areas of the web, be they from sister companies, partners, affiliates, PR channels, directories, whatever…one way or another, most links are commercial. So let’s suppose EVERY link was labelled with “rel=nofollow” – would that help? 😀

  40. What I like about this ‘thread’ is that nobody has agreed with Matt’s idea that websites should link according to how Google wants them to link – editorial votes or not editorial votes. Not even the whitest of whitehats have agreed. If there is a place where people would agree with an idea put forward by Google, then surely this is it, so it looks like you’re flogging a dead horse, Matt.

    People aren’t going to help Google in this way, and it is right that they don’t. The Web doesn’t work on votes cast by links. Google works on those votes, but Google isn’t the Web – it’s only a peripheral add-on.

    Your message is that, if someone sells a link on their site, either they voluntarily devalue it with the rel=nofollow attribute, or Google will devalue it if they can ascertain that the link was bought. A devalued link is worth less than one that isn’t devalued, and people aren’t going to voluntarily lose money by devaluing the links, no matter how much you claim that they “muddy” something.

    In the O’Reilly blog, you claimed that “[i]selling links muddies the quality of the web[/i]”, which, of course, was rubbish. It’s good to see that you’ve reduced your claim a bit here, and you now say that selling links muddies the quality of the serps. I don’t think anyone would disagree too much with that since the big engines’ algorithms are largely links-based, but, judging by the comments in this blog, it looks like you’re going to have to deal with it on your own. People aren’t going to devalue voluntarily, and lose money, just to suit Google. It is for Google to adapt to the Web, and not the other way round.

  41. “I wouldn’t be surprised if search engines begin to take stronger action against link buying in the near future.”

    To me, this is the scariest part of that post, simply because it leaves too much room for abuse. We have already been hearing rumors of penalties for site-wide links or other means of link buying, but if this is really the case and we see a serious crackdown on sites that buy links, what exactly is to keep me from tanking my latest competitors in the serps? Especially if you’re already on the top and are only threatened by newer sites with a less impressive list of backlinks, it would be easy to purchase a few thousand unrelated links to my competitors and totally destroy them.

    The old attitude of “there’s nothing a competitor can do to penalize your SE rankings” is dead if “stronger action against link buying” becomes a reality.

  42. You know Matt, this position Google is taking and you are echoing here simply sickens me! I am getting so tired of this Google “conformity” and do as I say, not as I do attitude. If you took away Googles advertising revenue the company would be close to worthless in monetary terms. Would you personally like to see that happen? I would venture to say the answer is “no”.
    I see a lot more “advertising” leading to questionable sites/pages of those using AdWords than I do from “real” sites buying “real” advertising on other sites. I guess the real difference is you will not penalize/police yourself for links going to other sites/pages.

    Advertising is natural and is the backbone of any business when it comes to increasing income for both the buyer and the seller of the advertising. What television station, newspaper, magazine, radio or any other form of media delivery would be able to exist without advertisement income?

    Why should those that deliver media via sponsorship and advertisement have to conform to Googles wishes of hiding advertisements in JavaScript or other methods such as rel nofollow or fear suffering the wrath of Google? It’s a pathetic cry for help from Google as far as I see it. You cannot get a handle on the very methods you control and have created with your algorithm – so you make others responsible for it?

    What about reciprocal links? Those are paid for by “everyone” that has a website of any value? How you ask? By the literally millions of emails sent out asking for reciprocal links – we all pay for the bandwidth and time consumed by dealing with this spam. I will lay money that a paid link/advertisement on a private site of authority has a higher ratio of reliability in actually offering the products, service, or information than those sold through AdWords or through reciprocal link schemes.

    There is no way that I see in which Google will ever be able to count only “natural” links.
    A natural link….hmm.. I know of professors at colleges, teachers at educational facilities, librarians, IT personnel, and people that do work for State Government sites which have linked to their/friend’s sites for the “sole” purpose of PR and ranking purposes. So the “natural” links you see may not be as “natural” as you think. I believe you may have had/heard of some of this within the University of Google’s founders.
    I do not have the answer for the problems Google has created and is now drowning in, but to suggest discounting or even penalizing the advertisers/advertising businesses is completely ridiculous in trying to handle the problem.

    Maybe the AdSense division will allow AdSense for Search users to alter the results pages? Maybe be able to put a header in that states “Oursite.com cannot vouch for the legitimacy of this results are they are provided by Google and cannot be vouched for”.
    Maybe CurrentTV (the Google partnered TV Channel) should be dismissed as unreliable as it is bought/paid for in one way or another or should be forced to have a flashing banner stating the following is not relieble information or cannot be vouched for

    Google needs to stop and get a grip before they start taking actions which will end up having them being seen as a censuring greed machine. There are already more and more people viewing it that way now.

  43. I simply see this as a clearer definition of the risk involved. If you decide to sell links, you may at some point lose your ability to send your PR in new directions in the way that you choose, from your established sites. If you buy links, it’s buyer beware, you may not get the PR benefit desired. Whether the ID’ing of link buying/selling is algorithmic, semi-algorithmic, etc., doesn’t matter much, it seems that based on Matt’s comments, the risk is there.

  44. “Google-bowling” is something I’ve wondered about for a while.

    Matt, I wish you could provide a definitive answer to this: Is it possible to be punished for something that *could* have no control over? Could a competitor do something to negatively affect your search engine rankings with Google?

    If any part of G’s formula allows this, I would hope some very serious reconsideration would take place.

  45. Great posts Matt – your blog has risen to my top blog of interest. I’d asked you about this in New Orleans a few months ago (!) about these link issues and this post will help people understand what you told me there.

  46. Matt, do you use rel=nofollow for the links in the comments?

    As I tried to say before, some of the links in these comments are good. Some are bad. But to expect you to go through the comments and mark them accordingly is unrealistic (although if the blog software had a tiny button next to each link to allow you to toggle, that would be nice). Therefore some good links are missing a vote they should get. And the bad guys are working overtime to abuse rel=nofollow on their own sites. On the face of it I think that was a bad solution.

    In your very own blog, links are not being used the “ideal” way and Google’s solution did little to help. Extapolate to the rest of the web and that solution gets a “D-” in my book.

  47. Matt – what about adding rel=nofollow to “legitimate” (e.g. non-paid, editorial) links? My first reaction after reading this was: hell – I don’t care if the sites I like to will gain from my links – unlike some people, I actually link for the benefit of my VISITORS, not for the benefit of destination sites’ rankings. So, I am thinking about adding ‘nofollow’ to all external links just to be safe. Am I wrong to react that way? Will it help Google trust my site more if I do a wholesale disawoval of all external links?

  48. It’s amazing how a small corner of the webmaster seo sector can paint themselves into a corner over what can only be described as an obvious position presented by Matt. You would think it would at least be hard to complain about Google telling them how to run their business at the precise moment they are telling Google how to run THEIR business.

    Matt can suggest nofollowing links and some people can use it if they want. That hardly matters though since almost no one will waste the time to nofollow links. The main thing is it is Google’s job to discern the true reputation of a web pages and web sites. Google should ignore link buying just like you would ignore people paid to say what a cool guy some politician is. That’s Google’s rather obvious job, and to one degree or another they have always done that. People who can’t generate good reputation on their own should work on that rather than complaining that Google is making its own decisions based on its own criteria.

  49. I think that there is a misunderstanding, here.

    Google is not pretending to know what links are good or bad for the Web or for the publishers.

    Matts said just that Google’s algorithms are based only on “wow! this site is good/great, I’ll link to it” type of links, because this meritocratic approach leads to better SE results.

  50. So does this mean Google is going to end the Sandbox? Google is already hurting new website’s by not ranking them. Ad-words worked six months ago, but are now becomming very expensive and delivering less results. I guess it’s ok to pay for links as long as Google gets the money. When is Google comming out with operating systems so I can just give all my money to Google.

    Do no harm, yeah right!
    If I buy an old established site will Google then rank me? Is this going to be the new way to spam.
    Why can’t we get back to relevancy, and relevant link buying? If you have a web site about bingo you should be able to buy a link on a bingo related site and have it count.
    What about directory listings? If you pay a human editor to review your site for listing is Google going to put the kibosh on that too? Does Google count free directories more? just because they are free?

    Good content is good content and should be ranked if it is relevant, why not just randomize the relevant results and level the playing field that way? I bet only then you can truly stop the spamming.

  51. Matt

    I see the inherent wisdom in what you say. However, this approach long term does not favor success as it goes againts the market. Another way to look at this is to say that people who buy links do have something important to say. Accordingly that link does have value and Google should legitimately assign high value to it.

    However, just like Cigarette advertising is banned on TV, in case google believes that ads such as Gambling or pornography should not be displayed, it could simply eliminate them from being displayed.


  52. Matt Said:
    “Many people here think a lot about how to try to rank smaller sites (the ones most likely to have fewer links) fairly. ”

    Heres a tip: Teach people HOW to search. An educated searcher has a better chance of finding what they want, despite problems you may have, and gives ‘smaller sites’ a better opportunity of being found. The last research I saw indicated most searches were still only one or two words. Hardly qualifying.

    Follow-up question: Why isn’t the help center accessible from Google.com home? Do you expect everyone to be familiar with how best to use the search tool? You buried it two links down with no obvious way to get there. How many PhD usability folks do you have on staff again?

    With all of the billions G has, why not setup kiosks in malls or other high traffic public places and reach people instead of sponsoring just SE shows? For Pete’s sake if you just setup the G sign people will curiously start to flock to it. Isn’t G supposed to be a hip household verb?

    At these kiosk you could give out or charge $10 to make custom t-shirts (among other clever viral outreach methods) with clever or hip multi-word searches with ::GASP:: quotes in them! Maybe even a new ad campaign aimed at education by these types of cool and hip search examples. I know just the non-traditional agency if that’s what your looking for.

    This type of out-reach wouldn’t need to be permanent. I would estimate maybe two years before this went viral. You’ll reach those who will teach others such as schoolteachers, librarians, parents, business process consultants, company tech evangelists, etc.

  53. Matt, just had an idea so you guys at google can get rid of link analysis. (If you use the idea, just hook me with that research grant…hehe )

    instead of links, why not count each scraped page or stolen bit of copy as a vote of quality for the page it was stolen from?

    The spammers/thieves are mostly stealing quality unique content (these guys seem to be a great judge of quality content) , so it would seem to me that a great way to determine a quality page is to give the source page a positive vote everytime some ass steals its content. 😉

  54. What will be the Position if you have site which belong to a group of sites and parent site link is given at footer of each site as ” A venture of …… company”.

    You suggest that they should use nofollow tag

  55. Matt, very interesting post… but then… Why my default Blogger template has several default links (including the famous “I power Blogger” logo) and none of them are rel=”nofollow” ?

  56. Hey Matt –

    I’m hoping to buy some links from a great new blog called MattCutts.com – put in a good word for me OK?


  57. I am not sure I understand the argument that a paid link is not a credible one. If I were going to undertake a paid link campaign, surely I am doing the search engines homework for them? I would most likely try to identify sites and keywords most relevant to my consumer base, and direct my funds this way. If I get it wrong, well, I waste my money, and necessity dictates I get smarter next time or I disappear (financialy). Either way I am no longer spending money on links that are not relevant to me or my site.

    I agree that a lot of people will waste money on ill-thought out links and relate them to even more ill-conceived web sites, but the web and the business world have their own form of natural selection – profit. After all, when does a free link get objectively reviewed for quality and credibility? Probably a lot less frequently.

    There is an interesting relationship with adwords here. If I am spending money to rank on Google, and its affiliates, is Google itself showing poor content deliberately? You have a system of separating the wheat from the chaff, your rank is a combination of relevance and buying power, much like a sponsored link anywhere else on the web. Kind of ironic that you should try and discourage others from doing it.

  58. Michael Martinez

    Google has always been out of touch with the Webmastering community. Links were bought and sold long before Messrs. Brin and Page wrote their paper, “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine”.

    And in the extensive amateur Webmastering community, it has always been very common for Web site operators to collect as many subject-related links as possible without regard (or even the ability to judge) the quality of sites.

    The Web community has never “voted” with links. Google just tries to make it look like they do. That is why the Google algorithms have become so complex. Giving reality to the illusion becomes more and more difficult because it remains easy to game the system.

    Google’s performance improvements in determing relevance through on-page content have helped tremendously, but resorting to REL=NOFOLLOW type solutions — which only encourage further abuse and deception — is counter-productive.

    Let Webmasters do what they want to do, and stop trying to impose your rules on them.

    Enough studies have shown that “the rich keep getting richer” naturally anyway, so link popular sites accrue links at a faster rate than link-unpopular sites. While I enjoy being among the link-wealthy, I hope for the sake of new Web sites that Google takes this principle into consideration and levels the playing field.

    REL=NOFOLLOW won’t help in that area any more than it helps in determining relevance.

  59. Matt,
    First of all, thanks for your article. But …
    In my opinion, the whole “nofollow” idea is the worst think Google could come up. Google is not here to setup “standards” for webmasters and site owners, Google is here to provide results for users searching for information. And searching for information is why the whole “marketing” started. By “killing” the links from other websites, you are fighting the whole purpose of the internet and also digging the hole for your company.
    Honestly, why to spend so many resources (within Google) fighting the lost cause? People will always find a way around and tricky webmasters, who can “hide” stuff from your algorhytm will benefit from not being discovered?
    Google can track unigue URL’s, IPs etc … so why don’t you just count only one link per URL/IP, and all this site-wide advertising to trick Google will disapear. And after that, who would pay $1000 per month for 1 link to trick Google? Nobody for the puprose to get that one link, but to get the traffic.
    I just don’t agree with many things Google is doing lately, acting like “internet police” and telling people what is good and what is wrong. Google didn’t develop HTML, “nofollow” tag or anything like that. so Google has no ethical right to tell the people, how to use it. Webmasters will be making choice, if to follow the standards of the internet, or if to follow Google’s standards requested by Google. One against all … do the math … and I will not be suprised, if in few years Google would have the same “success” story like i.e. DMOZ … , they were pretty big and famous too, and used to do it for people, not against them :))

  60. I think we’ll all find that search engines will be less and less what some may call “dumb”. Interesting search engine information retrieval documents are out there and Google’s got some real smart people…

    But why not test the waters by suggesting rel=nofollow? If I was Google I would have done it. Not if I was yahoo or MSN though. Like everyone else, I dont like the idea for the most part, but if you see this blog as a focus group of sorts – seems worth it to test the waters.

  61. Search engines are free to develop their algorithms as they see fit. They’re free to decide which links they want to trust. Maybe I’m the heretic here, but I don’t see anything wrong with Google identifying sites that are selling text links, and dealing with that however they like.

    I just hope Matt and his co-workers aren’t expecting this to solve their problem. He’s already seen that people are looking for better ways to game the system. I hope Matt and his co-workers don’t seriously expect the entire web to start labeling paid links for them.

    The Google ideal may be that “the best links are earned and given by choice,” but what does that mean?

    If I add text links to my favorite florist, favorite online casino, favorite unlicensed pharmacy, favorite travel site, etc. will Google decide that my site isn’t worthy to participate in developing their “democratic” search results? If I “vote” for George Bush or Michael Moore as a miserable failure, am I no longer qualified to vote?

    What’s the algorithm for determining intent, Matt?

  62. GoogleGuy,
    how about JUST ignoring possible fishy links? if you penalize the site because someone linked to them sitewide, you open another can of worms. Competitors can link to us from their 100,000 page scrapper site and by the time we find out, were on page 52 on google.

  63. Do affiliate links count as “paid? I have Amazon links on my book reviews, which bring in commissions. I also provide the links because they’re useful to people, but I doubt I’d have them there if I didn’t get sales commissions. (Many of the books I review are obscure enough that Amazon has no reviews, and less accessible bibliographic information than I can provide myself.)

    So should I “rel=nofollow” my Amazon links?

  64. All this talk of penalties and consequences and superfluous nofollow code, makes me wonder whether some Googlies just enjoy having a little poke at the webmastering community.

    I still don’t get how a few links from a pool of billions can still be [b]allowed[/b] to have such an algorithmic impact.

    Whatever happened to those ideas around block level analysis and examining the context of where the link came from? Thematic and semantic on topic analysis and all that other search engine geekspeek mumbo jumbo?

    I’m sure there’s a mind or two capable of writing a script that looks for off site links and determines whether they are of the style
    Link text 1
    Link text 2
    Link text 3
    Link text 4

    Or variants thereof and applies a dampening factor to any anchor text or pagerank value. Could be applied nice and quietly, without recourse to scaremongering or Ire inducing tactics.

    Sure, it might be holding back the floodwater stuff and sophisticated spammers are just that, but isn’t it the case that most ‘natural’ linking patterns, ( which I assume is what [url=http://www.google.com]google[/url] would like to look for) are found within the context of blocks of text, sometimes with and sometimes without a semantic relationship?

    Sure, spammers will adopt there borgesque characteristic stances, but some might actually realise that its easier to create useful stuff that people will want to link to.

    Meantime. you guys need to employ a few more spammers 😉

  65. The use of rel=nofollow invalidates a web page. What is worrying here is that by promoting the use of rel=nofollow it breaks the very core of Priority 2 of the WAI.
    Is it Google’s intention to totally ignore this and over-ride validation in order so it can function in it’s present form and it’s promotion of page rank?

  66. >> instead of links, why not count each scraped page or stolen bit of copy as a vote of quality for the page it was stolen from?

    That just shunts the problem back 1 level. 6 months after implementation, spammers will be building “information” sites of their own to scrape….

  67. Well, lots0’s idea is not so crazy.

    While it isn’t possible to substitute a web graph based on links with a web graph based on text citations, it should be noted that the PageRank algorithm derives from an old method to calculate the importance of academic documents analyzing their inter-citations, that is texts extracted from the papers or references to a document ID.

    HTML language has an useful semantic-rich tag called “CITE”, that should be used to mark (to users and software agents) a text coming from an external source.

    SEO rarely pay attention to features that are not generally known to be rewarded by search engines. The SEO world is crazy for links, because links pay the bills, but this approach prevents SEOs to search for other interesting ranking factors.

    The CITE tag is really a good help for both users and search engines: not only it assigns importance to the cited documents but it is also a sign of correct behaviour, something that could distinguish a correct webmaster from someone that just steals contents.

    I think that citations are part of the ranking algorithms of some search engines and that they are nothing new to SE engineers.

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

    Can I use javascript code which is not a “machine-readable way of linking” to link on the other website?

  69. Hi Matt,

    Perhaps, it’s a dumb question, but:

    These sites that buy PR links from great resources (eg linux.org), arent they providing good and relevant content? I just clicked link that said online casino, and it was all about online casino, just what surfer would need. Of course i understand that there’re lots of money involved: affiliates, subaffiliates etc, but why dont rank them? Guys have money to build a good site and to seo, what’s the problem?


  70. The comment about using stolen copy or scraped pages as a vote of quality was made in anger (a little tongue in cheek).

    I did an exact search for a snipit of unique text off of one of my sites and found over 10,000 pages (all supplemental results- BTW thanks for spotting those google) that had ripped me off. It made me alittle angry. The page only has about 3000 natural IBLs and it is not doing very well for its
    targeted keywords.

    And I thought… what if.. google were to count each page they found with dup {stolen} content and count it as a single vote of quality for the page it was stolen from…

    I realize that using stolen copy as a vote of quality or as a positive citation would be open to abuse and that it would only be a short term partial solution to a major long term problem… But, it would be fun for a while…

    I think it would be great (and a bit ironic) to have the folks that are stealing from you actually helping you out. It would also be a good way to put to use that supplemental index.

  71. >> It would also be a good way to put to use that supplemental index.

    The Supplemental index already has a good use – to store many thousands of *my* pages 🙁

  72. Google is pushing to have webmasters cater to their every whim. This is wrong. I don’t sell links for PR, though I do sell advertising to help pay the bills. I run a business site and as such, selling advertising makes sense the same way Google also sells advertising.

    However, who died and put Google in control of how websites should operate? Google is a “search engine” and not a “God” … Maybe those Ph.D.’s can figure that out if their heads are not too far up their own butts?

    Funny I don’t see any nofollow tags on any of the outbound links from this blog. Does that mean if you work for Google you don’t have to use the nofollow tags that you’re trying to force on everyone else?

    There’s an unnatural focus on textlinks — which was created BY GOOGLE! It’s not up to webmasters to help you dig your way out of the mess in which YOU are responsible for.

    If I throw money and gold around on the floor of my house, open all the windows and doors, get in my car and take a drive and criminals enter my home and loot the gold and money — who is responsible?

    I left the doors and windows open. I didn’t set any locks even though I had them. Should I ask the criminals to help me build traps to place around my house to catch themselves in, so I can continue to leave my windows and doors open with my gold and money laying around on the floor.

    Or, would it make more sense if I just locked the damned locks to keep the criminals out and that would be the end of it?

    Google needs to fix their own problems and stop making demands on others who owe GOOGLE NOTHING.

    I hear always about, Google does not owe you to index your site.
    By the same logic, webmaster does not owe Google to fix their broken algorithm.

  73. To those who oppose Google’s problem with link-selling, it’s very simple and I’m surprised you don’t get it.

    Google’s stated mission is to return *relevant* results for queries. IE, to return sites that people will want to see. This means good sites, or authoritative ones. They assess “goodness” or “authority” by people linking to them, on the basis you’re unlikely to link to a site you think is poor or incorrect – linking to a site is in indication you think it’s worth pointing other people to it.

    Selling links directly screws up this process, since now people don’t link because the site’s worth it, but because they’ve been paid to do it. This directly leads to a world where links get high rankings based on their PR and Marketing budget, not on their usefulness to anyone.

    This is completely undesirable for *everyone* except SEO consultants, since it renders Google effectively useless (and most other search engines, too).

    I also don’t get the idea that Google should condone link-selling on the basis they started offering the PR indicator in the toolbar. This is a complete non-sequiteur – link-selling was clearly an unintended side-effect of a mechanism to let browsers easily assess a site’s “reputation”.

    And to the same poster who suggested Google’s dislike “of the industry they created” was akin to strangling their own child, get a freaking grip. They’re trying to stop parasites making money from gaming their system, which for everyone else in the world is a *good* *thing*.

    SEOing can be good – it encourages webmasters to produce good content, well-designed, accessible sites and use semantic markup, all of which are to the benefit of normal people. Link-selling has absolutely no benefit to users, since it inflates a site’s reputation undeservedly and corrupts what should be an impartial democratic process.

    Get off your high-horse, think for two seconds about what’s best for *real* people and stop having a go at search engines for giving people what they want – easy access to good sites and an essential filter for all the undeserving crap.

  74. If I may add a couple of views to a livery and interesting thread.
    I’ve run a car modifying Web Site online for about 2 years. When planning the site I researched as much as I could about SEO on Goggle and based my design and content delivery on my learning’s. As a result and with a bit of help from a reputable SEO company who provided me with the much needed first authority link I enjoy good ranking across Search Strings.
    After a year of being on line and in an attempt to build relevant content faster I decided to re launch the site allowing direct postings into certain sections of the site, the main one being a specialised directory.
    Well you can all guess what happens. Every day I have to go though my database deleting spam links. I have even had to disable my message board and forum as one guy decided that it was a good way for him to post a lot of unrelated links. Every day I would remove these and he would re post. In the end I just got feed up and disabled the boards.
    The result. A waste of time of both of us and a loyal community deprived of a communication tool.
    So here’s my suggestion to help Stamp out these unethical pests.
    Every time I get one of these guys posting to my directory I email Goggle the URL. who can then blacklist them immediately telling them why.
    I believe if a few of us out there do that it will go some way to killing this issue. Think of it as a “Honey Trap” for spammers.

    My final point. A few comments seem to support the spammer or suggest Goggle are wrong with their stance on this issue.
    I can only assume that some of these people must benefit commercially from this activity but I don’t think they get or care about the bigger issuse. This stuff prevents Google and other Search Engines from doing what they are designed for. Delivering relevent content. This results in a diminished user experience which must have a detrimental effect on usage.

    All I say to you guys is if you cannot work out how to make profit with ethics then please go and find another market to pester and let the rest of us get on and build the net into what it has the potential to be.

  75. Dear Mr Cutts,

    IMHO – Reciprocal Link exchanges are more valuable than one way links because they are a test of trust. Google suggests that link between related sites are the most valuable. i.e. links between competitors.

    In my experience dishonest webmasters are unable to keep to the principal of honest link exchange for more than one month. A dishonest webmaster is a good indicator of a dishonest website. They tend to have lots on one way links that started as reciprocals.


  76. >>>Shaper Said, “This is a complete non-sequiteur – link-selling was clearly an unintended side-effect of a mechanism to let browsers easily assess a site’s “reputation”.”

    There have been far too many ‘unintended side-effects’ of google’s actions. The actions taken to eliminate spam and link selling by google are, I think, worse than the disease. Google’s results have suffered and been degraded, I don’t think anyone can argue that (Well, I guess they can argue it, but they won’t be correct.)

    The buying and selling of links WILL continue unabated until links have no value or until google removes ALL commercial sites from it’s index. When are you googlites going to acknowledge this?

    Anyone that knows human nature could have told you what was going to happen as soon as there was a value put on links. And trying to hide the fact that links are still the most important factor in ranking in google is NOT going to change anything, cuz the only people you are fooling don’t matter anyway.

    You googlites, may understand logic, math, networks and computers but you really don’t have a clue about human nature… I know I have said this many times before, but it so true…

  77. Hi Matt

    Couldn’t resist posting

    Why doesn’t Google just pay closer to its Adsense participants and weed out spammers from there. IMO Adsense spammers are a bigger problem on the web today than affiliate spam ever was. I think 90% of the spam out there wouldn’t be a far off estimate.

    Lets just take a close look at who’s feeding the spam frenzy here before we ask others to clean up the way they run their business Matt.

    Why do Google Ads show on this SPAM site (I’ve used nofollow hope it works).

    I get almost 20 link exchange requests from sites like this everyday. Some of these rank on Google, some even have page rank, some rank on other SE’s. But that’s not the point. To take from Google’s alleged motto…It’s Evil!! It’s evil to make money doing this, whether Google does it…or someone else does it FOR GOOGLE!!

    Jim Woolfe mentioned ethics. Lets dwell on that a bit shall we. Can’t your robot figure out that this is spam scraper site? Do your advertisers pay for their ads to be dispalyed on a site like this?

    Or are you saying its ok for Google to keep these guys in business and compete with me, but I can’t exchange links ot buy links from where ever I choose? You’ve got to be kidding me Matt 🙂

    Was Google trying to combat this type of spam when they decided to devalue all directories, link exchanges, everything in one killer update recently? Would your approach be better be termed as positive action or anarchy?

    So I now have take 5 year domain registrations, get a million links(without buying or exchanging anything), build my site to all kinds of Google specifications and then sit and wait it out through your sandbox!! Why?

    Is there any guarantee that Google will still be a search engine or have an algo of any worth 2 years from now? Very often the secret of succeeding in business is to change the way things are done. Google should know this.

  78. What is the best way to get backlinks, in order
    to get higher rankings in the SE.


  79. hello,

    interesting blog indeed…

    type in at google “paid text links” then you see 10 advertisers for it…

    so it is ok for Google to take that money although it apparently corrupts the google index??

    doesnt make sense to me other then it is all about the money…


  80. The perfect search algorithm would understand what I want to find, and would also understand what information a given web site offers. It would then match myself with these results. However, todays algorithms are far from perfect.

    All the methods of link selling, keyword spoofing etc. only tries to exploit these flaws, and provide me with less than perfectly matched content. Such attempts impacts the service that Google provides for me, and makes it less useful in my eyes. Hence, it lies in both mine and Google’s interest to filter out such attempts.

    Thus, the attempt from Google’s side to reduce this impact is a Good Thing for me.

    And honestly, how often do we really WANT that crap that gets advertised? I for one havn’t really felt the urge to buy “VIagRa at super-LOW PRICES!” or play at “Ultimate Online Casino” or whatever…

  81. I think it’s rather hypercritical for Google to take AdWords money from the very same textlink sellers that they’re telling site owners not to do business with.

    It’s all well and good if the money ends up in billionaire google pockets but don’t let that mom and pop web site make a dime. That would be bad ‘cuz it’s less money for Google AdWords revenues.

    The Ph.D’s at Google really need to get a grip. Until you can practice what you preach, don’t preach.

  82. I took a look at a paid text link company, and their clients
    results. They said they were #1 in google for a certain keyword,
    I checked and they were #1.

    So google does not penalize sites that buy links.
    So maybe we should buy text links to rank high
    and make some money.

  83. Matt,

    Based on all the opinions here, It would leave me to believe that your posts as a representative of Google are a bit hypocritical. To actually infer that sites can be hurt in the future for advertising on “Non-Google” sites really send the Adwords message across.

    I think you should rethink hurting sites. I can understand not counting links. You have the right to.

    But to infer that future action will be taken is anti-advertising. Not everyone want the links just for PageRank. Traffic is as important as rankings!

    No one should be told who they can or cannot link to.

    It would appear that the reason everyone loves Google, is because of the fact that thay can manipulate it. The “SNEEZERS” (Seth Godin coined) that built Google are now the same ones optimizing sites for it and still helping coin the term “Google It”. Read Seth’s views on what happens when you loose the original sneezer in The Idea Virus.

    Google has always seemed to say in a roundabout way that it “controls” how the Internet should be. So the fact that links are necessary to define rankings will only cause people to spam with links and trade from third sites. Banning one has not stopped the others using the exact same methods. But now we have garbage links on millions of sites. Is this the Internet Google intended?

    –> More importantly –>Do Googles current intentions only benefit Adwords now, rather then the Internet that they saw a few years ago, before they had more money then the man upstairs????????

    No matter what Google does people will try to game it. Its the best game in town!

    So my point is when you pull another Florida-type algo in this new algo your testing, at least your warning us here this time, are the intentions for the world of for Google?

    Are you are leaving a robot as Judge Jury and Executioner for the sake of Adwords.


  84. I wanted to ask about a practical use for the ref “nofollow” tag..

    I have an informative site that ranks well in the SERPS and at present links out to many different pages on a banned site. I wonder whether putting the nofollow tag in all these outbound links will stop my site getting banned for linking to a banned site?
    I want to keep linking to this site as the content on the banned site is very useful to my traffic!

    Any thoughts?

  85. Filtering sponsored ads from counting towards a vote IS the way to go: the problem is for little or niche sites with few inbound links.

    Let me explain: first for definition, I’ll use “vote-cast” links as those that are placed in content because they add to that content, and “sponsored” as those that are there because they are paid for (vote-cast or not).

    For larger sites, consider this: they have 1000’s of links so an attempt to filter some of them out will still leave a whole bunch of “vote-cast” links. In fact, rip any popular site of all it’s sponsored links and you’ll still get a bunch of links people have posted to it of their own free volition. As long as the filtering algorithm still leaves a large sample of vote-cast links, the result will most likely be a good representation of what that site earned in terms of links. Better to filter out all the sponsored links and some vote-cast ones, and be left with just the vote-cast ones.

    But consider the case for smaller niche sites with only 100’s or just 10’s of links. Erroneously filtering out vote-cast links for those sites will greatly affect their position in the SERPS — there’s just not enough links to still get a statistically fair filtered result.

    As Matt said in a previous comment, the problem is how to get those smaller sites ranking well against those larger sites with 1000’s of backlinks. Unless there is an elegant solution to this problem, smaller sites may have to resort to some advertising expenditure, and hope that they are of better quality than their competition so that they start earning vote-cast links. But that’s better than offsetting any chance of a high-quality site ranking well if only lower-quality sites that pay for links get the edge.

    Everyone would prefer quality sites to be listed on top. Everyone except those people who own a site and would rather spend time figuring out how to improve rankings, because quite frankly they are probably better at doing that than at delivering good content, and they know it.

  86. There’s rumor brewing that Google have started a new pilot program for ousting sites that openly break Google TOS. News Flash: About.com is a HUGE and I mean HUGE SPAMMER.

    See here: http://www.ihelpyouservices.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=20112

    Surely Google will not let this slide will they? If a directory as big as About.com can spam and not be banned or PR-stripped, then it’s not fair for medium and smaller directories to get banned, PR0’d, beat up, etc., for much, much smaller TOS violations, is it?

    Google show your fairness and punish this violator!

  87. Don’t think it is hypocritical to take money from those for a service that is exactly the service that they want. However when you want to provide search engine results that are organic, please keep it organic.

  88. Well reading through this long list of replies after reading Matt’s post leads me to believe that majority shows Google might need to re-think their views. While I will remain anonymous on this post, I will say the referenced email sent out that Matt spoke of, was in fact something I read. What was so conveniently left out was the reasoning for the comments of putting ads within content and with less noticeable tags. FOR TRAFFIC! How often are you reading a page and there are links within content and links under a SPONSORED title. How often are the sponsored links clicked compared to the links within the content. In addition, these are links bought on relevant, same content pages. Again, something left out.

    It may be the simple fact of the person (my guess is seobook guy) who was running to Google tattling on people with the obvious reason to kiss ass, leaving other key bits of information out, but it could also be Matt leaving other key bits of info out. The bottom line is, the referenced email wasn’t as malice as it was portrayed above. I read the entire email and it wasn’t as bad as it’s made out to be here.

    I have to admit, agree and concur with about 99% of the responses on this subject. Buying/Selling links is not something that is put together to directly bring down Google!!! Please get off your high horse. Google is not the only engine out there. Granted it is a top dog, but buying/selling of links is a way to help build name recognition, increase traffic from like visitors on other like sites, and of course, to help give a face on the internet for buyers. It also provides sellers a way to supplement their income to pay for their monthly maintenance costs in running their websites…even make a little bread in their pockets. Remember something Matt…while you are on the hunt to provide relevant searches, you must also stay true to those who make you who you are. Without all of the buyers and/or sellers, Google is nothing.

    The last I heard, Google does not have a legal monopoly on the buying and selling of text links. In case you might need to refresh your memory on a monopoly, here is a good link:


    My goal is not to say we’re right and your wrong, it’s merely to say that both sides have merit. Google is not the internet police, so to penalize or throw webmasters in jail (sandbox) is a bit extreme. If someone is linking to a good website relevant to their own, regardless of if it’s paid or not, should be counted just like any other link. If the site is full of doorway pages or other obvious spam, then they are fair game to be dropped, you just have to stop considering a purchased link is spamming or scheming.

    Another person said it perfectly above. If you begin to penalize people for buying links, the floodgates are open to people getting their competition penalized by building linking structures pointing to their websites.

    I guess if you still think you’re the kings of the net, maybe you can turn into the internet government, or shall I say “Legal Mafia”, and start taxing everyone for taking business away from you.

    My rant is over. 🙂

  89. It’s a shame that my post earlier was removed. I can’t understand why as it was no different than any other post, other than me saying I read that email and felt some key points were left out in your comments above. I guess all of my time and thought process put into my reply was subject to a simple deletion because I voiced my opinion.

    So I’ll leave this one short as I’m sure it will be deleted as well. Maybe it was my monopoly talk. Truth hurts, huh.

  90. Strange how things change.

    On September the 9th I post text that supports Goggle’s stance and them lo and behold on Thursday 6th October my web Site Email Mum (A domestic services company) disappears off Google.
    This was a paid listing via the SEO company that I have used for 18 months.. In fact all of the links that the company marketed disappeared overnight. In one fell swop Google very nearly put a company that I consider to be ethical in their marketing efforts out of business. All very strange and there is one fact that makes me question just what’s going on and if there is in fact a “hidden Agenda” of some sort.

    As I mentioned in my earlier post Search Engines stand or fall on their ability to deliver relevant content. The link that was provided to me went straight to a mirror of my Home page which then linked into my site proper. What this meant was that when someone typed in Domestic Cleaning in Cambridge they got a direct link to a web site that offered Domestic Cleaning in Cambridge. Now I can’t see how you can get more relevant than that!
    I now invite you to perform the same search and look at what Google currently provides. In the top 20 you get ;
    16 directories of varying standardThey all have lists of cleaning companies so of then mixed in with other listings but not many provide direct links to web sites. Some provide email Most provide phone numbers (Maybe Google wants to turn its self into An Online version of Yellow Pages!)
    1 link that advertises a cleaning fransise
    3 (yippee) link leading direct to companies offering cleaning services.
    Study the above and you can see some of the issues Google face.

    As you may have guessed I have strong ties to the SEO Company. They have been aware of your search result issues for some time and in their words they were tiring to help you provide better results by Marketing the way they did. They belived that Google appoved of what they were doing becase of the listing they achieved. They couldn’t check with you guys as its pretty tough to communicate with you. Yes they made money but why shouldn’t they be rewarded for their efforts.
    The result of all this is they are now changing their approach and refocusing on their directory. Sites are starting to reappear as directory listings. They are tiring to keep the linking as relevant as possible but this harder to achieve with a directory structure. It seems just plain weird that you are forcing them to provide you with less relevant content As a client of theirs I am not happy with this change of direction although I will continue to support them in the same way that they have supported the Internet Marketing of my company. As a customer of Google I am very unimpressed (I refer to myself as a customer as I use your search services on a daily basis).

    My views on this as an owner of a business affected by the fall out. Well I can’t do the link development thing very well via my own site as most industry related web sites out there are competitors and I cant see them playing ball. I could spend my time developing lots of independent web sites with relevant content and link them all back to improve my rank but I guess that the last thing the net needs is loads of relevant but in fact irrelevant cleaning Web Sites.
    Maybe I’ll just get on with traditional marketing and let all you guys get on with whatever it is that you are tiring to achieve. A shame as I believe that the net could help my company to enhance service delivery in a number of ways. I guess that you can’t win them all.


  91. And so it goes on.
    I check my rank for itsaplaything. A web portal for uk car cruising (modified cars) which a week ago was number 5 on Google This week number 41 and falling. I just cannot understand whats going on. This site has links back into it from related web sites. It is stacked full of relevent content. Why is it being beaten by sites such as saga (for the over 50,s I dont think these guys are into car modification ) or “this is cheshire” ,an online newspaper that just happens to have a one related post mixed in with news on child assaults amonst other things. If I was getting knocked out but sites with more relevance I could understand it.

    Well at least I’m still number 4 on yahoo.

    ps Sorry Matt for keep using your blog to rant off Its just that I,m so disapointed. 18 months of hard work trying to follow the guildlines all for nothing. This will be my last post on this subject. Promise. 🙂


  92. Let me get this straight.

    Google controls (according to all my logs) 90% of internet traffic.

    Google will penalize my site for selling links with the intent to sell PageRank.
    But, Google can not know if a particular link is “sold” nor can they know “intent”, so any link can be interpreted as such.


    Google will penalize my site for linking to another penalized site.
    But, Google hides site penalties (perhaps to throw off spammers) so any link could get my site penalized.

    So, in conclusion it is never safe to link to another site!

    I almost never link out in fear of Google wrath… but I have to wonder: “Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

  93. To All Google-Whiners:

    1. Google is not a public utility. It is now a publicly owned for-profit company whose first responsibilityis to maximum shareholder return.

    In pursuit of that aim, it attempts to provide relevant search results to internet users. Its success in that endeavour is basic to its reason for existence, i.e., pleasing shareholders by maximizing profit from its activities.

    If you do not like that fact of life, you don’t like the free enterprise system. Too bad.

    Google has no legal or moral obligation to any webmaster, nor does any webmaster have any obligation to Google.

    2. Technology produces opportunity for free advertising. Contrived publicity for newspapers, radio, and television is an attempt at free advertising. High placement in SERP is now also an opportunity for free advertising for the fortunate few. So who owes that to you?

    SEO to get higher placement than competitors is an attempt to get free advertising from the internet that you otherwise may not get without the SEO. The SEO enterprise is going to be hazardous to someone. Either you jostle someone else out of high pl;acement or you may get the shaft yourself. So what is your complaint aginst Google?

    If the lust for high placement at the expense of others is not the reason for all this fretting about Google’s methodology, then what is it? High placement for you means that someone else misses out on that exact same placement. Too bad for them. So if you miss out, that’s too bad for you also, you selfish pig.

    3. Google does not attempt to police the internet. Google polices its own search engine results. How well it does that is really not my business unless I am a shareholder or manager at Google. Google is judge, jury, and executioner of its search engine practices. You think it should not be?

    As a user, if you do not like its search results, use another search engine.

    4. Google does not demand that webmasters do anything. Google does not exact internet penalties. It does exact whatever Google SERP penalties it sees fit. That is because it owns the search engine and owes webmasters nothing, as in NOTHING. If that affects your sense of entitlement adversely, too bad. Your loss is someone else’s gain who gets the placement that you wanted. Tough luck whiner.

    5. People yearning for free advertising will always be trying to optimize which by its nature must be at the expense of other webmasters who also would likethe same high placement. There can only be ten sites in the top ten and no one is entitled to any of those places, including you.

    If you can get there for the benefit of your selfish self, great. If not, what is your complaint? Oh, that’s right. Concern about how Google manages its search engine is from your generosity and loving kindness toward others who may also like the top spots instead of you. Right.

    6. What capitalist would not want cheap labour and free advertising? It sounds good to me.

    As for Google, there is no contract between Google and me. Google has no obligation to even look at my website, nor index it, nor give it any placement whatever. However, I will try to get the highest spot I can in search engines where it is important to me because I am entitled to do anything legal that I want with my website. If they deliver what I want, great. If not, boo hoo.

    7. Search engines have only a limited number of factors to work with. Those who want free advertising from search engines will never stop trying to get it by manipulating those factors.

    That distorts the search results. That displeases search engine operators. They change algorithms (if they are alert and competent). The freeloaders regroup. Algorithms change again. Freeloaders regroup…

    The struggle for internet supremacy goes on….

  94. Don,

    Although I agree with you that Google can do what it pleases with its own search results, there are a few things YOU need to remember:

    A) Without webmasters and websites, there is no Google. So webmasters have a right to know how/what their sites are doing in the search engines (whether they are actively trying to get ranked or not).

    B) Google doesn’t care WHO comes up at the top of their own free results. It’s not up to anyone else except for Google. Google determines the relevancy….not us. SEO only make websites MORE RELEVANT according to Google’s own standards. SEO doesn’t “distort” the results…and if anything, SEO helps search engines to find the most relevant results by making certain sites easier to crawl for specific keywords.

    C) People make a living via the search engines…whether from their websites directly or whether they are professionals helping websites to make money via the engines. And whether you like it or not. Search Engine Marketing is a billion dollar industry. And without it, the engines and the advertisers would suffer.

  95. I agree with PSEO, but I do have a question to matt.
    In the past it had been said by google (I cannot remember if it was you or someone else), that almost nothing that is outside of the webmasters website can harm his PR and so the PR is only up to the webmaster and what he does and did with and on his website.
    Are you implying that could change? as you’ve said :” I wouldn’t be surprised if search engines begin to take stronger action against link buying in the near future.”
    could a site that has paid for links be panalized for that?
    I’m sorry if I’m bringing you back to a post that was written a month ago and if you already answered this question somewhere else.

  96. Here is the problem with that theory. Since all the links that other people bought, sometimes 19,000 of them, as you can see if you ever do a search on website hosting, then all of those links are grandfathered in. How is anyone suppose to get that many links to be on the front page of Google without buying them? Personally, I have thousands of links back to my site, and google recognizes about 79 of them. Why waste time? Also, how about those sites that are always at the top of the search engines with names like …review-design-whatever.com or review-directory-hosting.com you get the idea. All of these companies are affiliates of these sites, and are all either owned by the same company disguising itself as several different companies, etc. You get the idea.

    How about DMOZ? They are the rudest people I have ever not enjoyed in my life. They can talk to you like you are sub-human, and get away with it. I think they need to be taken off the web immediately. Google needs to find a better way, if not do it themselves rather than rely on such a rude network of human editors that are admittedly years behind and will never catch up. But why should Google care about your or me? They don’t. Just like Ebay, they are getting caught up in the corporate politics. Someone will come and take them down, it happens all the time. I can’t wait.

  97. I’m confused. A company paid me a lot of money (more than I’d generally request) to give me this text ad with links. The links are fairly contextual with my site. Are they buying links on my site? I saw it as an ad. (And I’ve spent the money, let’s just say shopping flows with my site theme, so you can understand THAT.) But now I see there is no rel=”nofollow”. One of their stipulations was that I not change the links … at least “not change the links text.”

    The other thing is that I track what links are being clicked to go out of my site, and these links aren’t being clicked on that much. But I told this to the advertiser, so s/he may choose different terms that more fit, but she said that the terms are being searched for on the site, so they’re fine with it. It seems fishy. Why pay me if the clicks aren’t FROM me … if not for SEO?

    What should I do? What should I consider this? Would it be wrong on my agreement with them to put rel=”nofollow?” I’m afraid to even ask this company.

    I’m just learning about these sorts of spamming, now. It’s tricky stuff. But I see Internet whoring all the time with competitors, and somehow I want to be level, yet do the right thing (I know that’s unrelated to the first question). The World Wide Web is a harsh place.

    Certainly, I will add it to my info that I must put rel=”nofollow” on all future links that are paid for unless I would truly post on my own … just text links or images, as well?

    Feel free to e-mail me at the address I’ve included (webmaster only, obviously).

  98. Very, very good point, Ramon.

  99. So the more links of your website address the higher the page rank?

    Is this for many different websites or can one upload 100 links on a homepage and get higher ranking??

    Just thinking about the theory.

    As far as i am concern its all about content.

  100. I agree with everyone who has stated that Google should have no power to decide how a company should be able to advertise and i also believe that if “Google” has independently chosen to use a pre Google factor of the NET such as text links as a method to determine editorial vote that it is up to Google to deal with this independently.

    The fact that human nature is to place a monetary value on these links is human nature, on the other hand id say money is inherently evil but this does not change the fact that Google clearly has no rights here in that they are basically doing a switch hit on everyone who had simply followed Google’s rule in acquiring links.

    Rather or not link’s were exploited is the question though and id say they were but then i would speculate that dealing directly with the abusers may be a more suitable way to

    I do believe that Google has a Genuine Interest in providing Quality result.

    I think Google’s main secret to making money is efficiency and relevancy not playing with out minds by limiting our paid methods of advertising but here is the big but.

    See even though i will give Google the benefit of the doubt here I’m still going to ask if the search engine needs to evolve then why not evolve the way you handle your engine.

    Why not create a system that places responsibility on the person responsible for SEO on the site or the person building the link’s.

    It would be much more simple for all and alot less controversial if before a link is counted it is reviewed by google and the only way to obtain a link review is by each website signing up for an account which would clearly state the linking rules for acquiring editorial votes.

    This way no matter the monetary value of each link placed it must pass a review and not be spam first if it passes google will count the link when it is seen and will remove it once the link has been removed automatically.

    The longer the relevant link stays that way the more weight it is given and then that weight could also slowly diminish as the engine sees fit but the engine would give accurate estimates to the end user as to how much it is weighing links in its engine and how much weight each link in your account is delivering.

    Bring the PR system completely back but streamline it and make it more effective.

    As a part of using the service make people in non related industries earn their account by randomly selecting them to do an editorial review on the back links present in someone else’s account but only give them the ability to flag links which then go to a google tier 2 human editorial review which then sends an email to the account owner informing them that certain links have been flagged and give them the option to send it back to tier one.

    If they still believe that the links are in accordance with the rules then they can direct them for tier 2.

    As for link spammers the system would not allow it in any form and would encourage hard work and principle in the buying methods but not excluding methods involving purchase entirely.

    People want to play big bank take little bank but it should still be fair and if we want placement in Google’s engine we should have to follow house rules provided they don’t infringe on our rights.

    Thus a think a system designed to red-flag spam resources and force editorial votes to be first approved by Google and other program users might be the way to go because it encourages participation and gives Google more control over their serps without being unfair to anyone.

  101. I was going to have the websites I purchase text links on use the rel=”nofollow” attribute when linking to me. However, after reading some of these comments, it seems to me like Google and other search engines need to find a solution to this issue first. Until then it seems like the honest websites that follow guidelines are loosing out on search engine rankings while sites with huge amounts of unscrupulously purchased incoming links get to benefit from higher rankings.

  102. I like the idea of link buying. If you want to spend the money to get more traffic, then more power to you.

  103. Why did you delete my post? Are we not allowed to criticize the great god Google?
    How pathetic.

  104. Katja, I didn’t delete your post; I just approved it, in fact. Please review http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/comments/ to read more about how I handle comments (basically someone needs to be approved the first time, and sometimes it takes me a while to approve comments).

  105. You know i think that the bottom line is this.

    By not eliminating links as a part of the algo and instead simply imposing tighter restrictions you may have simply inflated the monetary value of the links and created a stronger black market then ever before seen in us history, maybe even as big as drugs.

    You know what screw the human nature concept and look at like this.

    “If there is a monetary value in receiving traffic then it should only be expected there would be a monetary value placed on text links as well”

    That is just business and google you are aware of this.

    Now by expecting the SEO, Webmaster, Site Owner, Link Builder Etc to bear the burden of more relevancy may seem ok on the surface but take this to the business level and creating more relevancy through links is bound to fail google, its users, the SEO’s and the Webmasters & mainly the all Smaller Online Retailers.

    People will turn to alternative sources and simply pay more in a more underground fashion and ultimately achieve the same form of manipulation to Google’s results, the only people that will be able to compete will be the major retailers and everyone else gets screwed or forced to use ad-words because they cant rank.

    The link building thing will be very underground and completely exploited and the best thing about Google’s algo will need to be completely removed and the core of google will be gone, relevancy will then decrease dramatically and market share will be lost.

    Stock Holders will freak out and sell all their shares to MSN, ok so that’s worse case scenario but just think of how serious the effects could be here and the ramifications of such a rash decision.

    Lets make google link building human edited for relevancy and make human editing and un-related site a requirement of ranking your own site high in the serps.

    Use a double blind editing process with a tier at google to resolve disputes between site owners and editors and encourage honesty among the google users with this tool.

    I think most of us don’t have a problem imposing rules on others but its imposing rules on our self that becomes the problem and that’s human nature.

  106. See, Matt, I told you to keep the beard – would have stopped all these people commenting about your bare-faced cheek 😀

    Okay, no more bad jokes, because this is a pretty serious mess. You see, Jeremy was right not to use rel=”nofollow” for links that had passed his editorial review, and were thus editorialised content. Nofollow was accepted by large numbers of the community because it was used to denote unreviewed links. Jeremy’s links are reviewed. That’s the difference in a nutshell.

    Payment is a non-issue. Most webmasters are paid, or hope to be paid for all the content they add. Every link on a site that a paid developer built is a paid link.

    Chasing up whether a link is paid or not as a measure of quality is barking up the wrong tree, and just because Google is one of the biggest dogs in the park won’t change that tree into the right one. The webmaster who wants to continue selling links at the most optimal price is actually going to put a lot more thought into link quality than most other people.

    I think you need to go back to earlier methods. That linking to bad sites, worthless scams, even through paid links, should hurt the site’s credibility in the algorithms just as it eventually will in life.

    I think you should be following Jeremy’s lead and saying that what matters is the level of use to the user, the adition of quality further resources, completely regardless of whether the link was financially motivated. That whether a link is included because it was paid should be a complete non-issue to the real question of whether the link provides additional value to the end-user – the surfer/searcher.

    At the moment, you are saying that sites that accept pay for links are not as trustworthy as sites that do not accept any payment for links. Which is a bit of a public relations nightmare when you think that you represent Google, the seller of adwords, and are thus saying that Google is a lot less trustworthy than a site that doesn’t provide sponsored links.

    You pointed out that Jeremy’s editorial process had still allowed in a link that was only two-clicks removed from scraped-lesbian-porn (I hate the commercial exploitation of scraped-lesbians). So? If he had linked to Google he’d have linked directly to a site that contains millions of links to scraped porn and worse. Isn’t there some hypocrisy showing here?

    Matt, this has to be about quality of content, including links as content. Whether the content is developped for cash up front, or in the hopes of generating cash later on, isn’t important. All that matters is the quality actually provided.

    “A lot of effort is expended that could be otherwise be spent on improving core quality (relevance, coverage, freshness, etc.)”
    Isn’t it, though?

    So stop wasting resources on determining how directly connected to payment a link may be. It doesn’t matter. Look to the quality. That’s what made Google in the first place, and forgetting it is what would kill Google off.


  107. “Hi Matt, but what if a website buy tons of links from a multitude of little and medium non-related websites ? This links will probably be counted and the buyers won’t suffer from a semi-automatic penalty as its popularity emanates from many sources instead instead of a few big ones…”

    You are Correct.Google has to do something about this inorder to protect other Webmaster’s Page Rankings.Google shud improve their algorithm inorder to punish the websites websites buying links from little non-related Websites.


  108. I would like to place a bit non relevant argument here.

    I agree that GOOGLE was right in believe that a link from one url to another url was an editorial vote.

    But with the advent of BLOGS, FORUMS and n number of online publishing areas, it has become quite easy to have links to your website or your competitors website quite easily.

    I started a blog at http://stockstobuy.net/blogs/ just to see that the top referral list was filled with viagra ad sites within no time, which made me to remove the referrer part from the blog.

    But I find n number of places where one can easily make their link appear easily.

    As pointed by most posters above, I believe webmasters should be left alone to sell the ad space in their websites. Google can concentrate on quality of the page rather than who links to the page.

    Google in fact can have a different approach in finding good sites for the searchers. Google with largest number of visitors can know very well about the sites that are liked by the searchers and the ones that were not liked. By giving a fair chance to most of the websites the Google knows, and rating the sites by user acceptance.

    May be a part of the search result be made dynamic on search to search and the non-ranked sites be presented there. Thus Google has a fair chance to know about the new sites (old sites that are not ranked well).

  109. Hello Matt,

    I have a domain name Coloradographics.com.

    and my previous company: Allied Internet

    Since these sites were close and on the same server, Google treats them as the same site, when one is on page 1 the other is on page 300.


    I have redesigned, changed most of portfolio, and put on new server.

    Nothing is working.

  110. Don’t think it is hypocritical to take money from those for a service that is exactly the service that they want. However when you want to provide search engine results that are organic, please keep it organic.

  111. The thing that gets me the most about Google’s position on paid links (along with Yahoo! and other search engines) is that they themselves offer paid links that are directly related to “free” search engine results. If Google truly believes that the rest of the world shouldn’t profit from helping people obtain better search rankings via text links, then they should honor their own code and not offer text links for sale on their on search results. Google’s policy of putting text links on the right-hand side of the page and “free” listings on the left-hand side of the page in searches and calling this “ethical” while simultaneously calling text link brokers “unethical” is hypocrisy of the worst kind.

  112. Hi Matt:

    I recive these type of emails.


    Dear Webmaster,
    We have added your website, http://www.websitehosting.name/, to our
    link directory at http://www.yourpoker.org/directory/ , category Other > Computers & Internet.

    Our website, http://www.yourpoker.org/directory/ , category Other >
    Computers & Internet, displays your link as follows:

    Name: Web Site Hosting India
    URL: http://www.websitehosting.name/
    Description: Website of indian web site hosting company offering low
    cost premium webhosting solutions and a directory of related services and competitors.

    Please add the following site to your directory:

    Name: online poker
    URL: http://www.yourpoker.org/
    Description: Your comprehensive guide to online poker.


    Although I am not interested in having a link from his site, he has placed a link to my site.

    Will it harm my website?

  113. Matt,
    Do you have any idea of how many one-way links it would take to get a website to achieve PR8 Status?


  114. Matt,
    Do you think that Google will ever get away from their Page Rank method, or is Page Rank here to stay?


  115. We are operating a website with many keywords on the 1st page of Google, and some others in an upward trend on Google being up page by page day after day.

    Unfortunately, one of our vendors used an auto-submission tool to submit to two hundred something search engines including Google US and all country based Googles.

    7 days later, we saw all our keywords on the 1st page became dropping to the 7th page, or even out of 10th to 20th page.

    We would like to know if these two incidences coorelated.

    Also Google has some quality guidelines, I have the below questions regarding the practical issues of executing these guidelines on the Google side:

    1) No auto queries to submit pages: Can Google detect if it’s the website owner who submit the pages or it’s the competitor who want to jeopardize your web rankings? Is there any real penalty on this act?
    2) No auto queries to check rankings: Can Google detect the ones checking ranking of the URL is the website owner and incur the penalty on committing this act?
    3) No paid text links? Can Google detect the link is paid or not and penalize the website owner?
    4) No link exchange? However if I’m just doing link swapping with website owners who are doing related business as mine (i.e. relevant content) and their website has real meaning to surfer not just for the sake of producing links. Is that ok?
    5) Articles / Press Release / News – Have read some journals suggesting to submit articles / press release / news to those websites for free article / press release or free news submission and embed your links in those articless / press releasese / news to get more inbound links. However I’ve checked all those websites, your articles/ press release or news will appear on their website as a dynamic web page with symbol like “?”. So can this move actually help with link popularity?
    6) I found it always difficult to optimize country based Google when customer chose the rado button “Pages from “. What’s the reason?


  116. I’ve been reading a lot about this on the net and most people seem to believe that selling links on their site will decrease their PageRank. From what I can tell you have not out right said this yet. I believe you have more come across the fact that people are selling links to unrelated sites.

    As it has always been Google’s goal to return relevant results having links on your site to unrelated material should get you penalized. If your a shoe store why should there be links to casinos and SEO ebook sites.

    If, on the other hand, other businesses within a similar industry deem your site worthy to advertise on I believe that is something different and believe that it should count as a normal outbound link.

    Just some thoughts from some guy.

  117. Dear Matt,

    Fortunately a large number of webmasters are earning a living through selling text links and also showing Goodle ads through their wbesites together.

    I believe, a harsh and negative method against people selling links is not a good policy, and in fact there are thousands of websites who show both links and ad words.

    Another great news is that as competitions are getting hotter day by day, the revenues of webmasters showing Google ad words in some cases overtake those of selling links, because webmasters pay more to stay at top of ad words boxes.

    Now, what I have as a suggesstion for Google is recommending webmasters to have income through all possible ways like selling ads and Google ad words. In fact I have seen many websites selling text links through their websites, but they also show Google adwords through their web pages.

    Selling text links has never damaged Google adwords, if this was the case, the revenues of Google weren’t that high.

    I have seen numerous websites having a monthly revenue coming from two ways, Google ad words and selling text links.

    Google, by establishing the sandbox effect, has actually haulted the spammers efforts to create a sudden success through thousands of links and this is appreciated.

    Now, even with many text links bought, a site has only gained a higher PR, and not necessarilly a higher ranking.

    I have seen so many websites with PR 3 and being among the top ten on Google and their competitors with PR 5 not even listed on the first three pages of SERPs.

    Google ad words because of its characteristics, i.e, not taking many bytes and with beautiful boxes, yet wihtout pictures are the favorite of thousands of website owners.

    I too believe that selling only text links is not a good way but believe me, more and more of the websites are turning to two ways of monthly incomes, selling text links and Google ad words.

    So, I believe we’d better leave the market as is. I have not seen any website buying text links and having a higher PR and very fast jump to the top of the SERPs. Nearly all webmasters nowadays are buying ad words for at least the first year of their being online, and buy link ads to have a higher PR and I do not see anything wrong with this.

    And the same webmasters as soon as get out of sanbox, start showing ad words, this is nice.

  118. I feel people should exchange links from the “places” on websites by which they can get good amount of “real” visitors interested in the site.

  119. If links are purchased then the motive behind this should be the same as any other form of paid advertising such as magazine advertising – to build brand, traffic, sales, etc. If paid links are simply seen as part of a marketing budget then there should be no problem with not gaining a Google serps advantage from them. Sites that offer paid inclusion should not, however, be penalised for this, in the same way that a shop would not refuse to stock a magazine simply because it sold advertising. I have no idea how on earth Google would be able to verify a link as being paid for, other than this being done manually… then again, I don’t have a Phd 😉 If Google were to penalise sites that included paid for links then can we assume that the first to go would be the MFA (Made For AdWords) sites that take my content and provide no value other than the Google adverts that pay them money through AdSense? They would be easy for Google to locate by a simple Google search, as they seem to rank quite high in many cases…..

    It appears that link value is based upon relevance. I agree with an earlier point – the relevance of one site to another is more involved that the site theme or page content alone can indicate. I wonder how intelligent the Google algorithm can be Matt – if relevance is determined by the likely demographics of the site visitor (the young people / Gap clothing example) and themes that are truly related (instead of simply being the same or similar, for example, immigration can be seen as related to travel, property, jobs, etc, to a greater or lesser extent) then we could be on the right track.

    As always, an interesting post Matt.

  120. This is a very informative post. I have a question about reciprocal links. If I exchange links with quality on topic sites, would those inward links be counted as a vote for my site or would they be devalued purely because they’re reciprocal? Thanks.

  121. If sites are to get penalized for buying in links, would it be possible to bowl a site off G through buying up links and pointing them at the “target site”.

    If so perhaps G is fuelling the whole cash for links scene 😉

  122. Matt, I would just like to tell you how stupid I think Page Rank is and why:

    The fact that you use link popularity or “PR” or “Page Rank” to determine a site’s relevance is completely idiotic. WHo’s stupid idea was that ayway? Honestly, incoming links to a site in NO WAY determines it’s “relevance” to a topic, or search phrase.

    The failure of link popularity to provide good search results by listing relevant sites is evident by doing a search at Google, (or Yahoo). The sites that suck up all the Top 10 listings are rarely if ever relevant and are simply sites which are commercial based, owned by big companies or SEO gurus who manipulate their popularity through link building stratagies. Don’t believe me? Do a search for “Led Zeppelin Concert Tickets”… Zeppelin’s not a band and they don’t tour. Therefore the only concert tickets for their concerts are collectible memorabilia. There are only a few sites that actually offer them, yet all the top results are from sites that do NOT have them, such as big online concert ticket vendors and ticket brokers.

    Page Rank is also stupid because there are so many super highly relevant sites with great content that get buried in search results simply because they don’t get involved with Google’s mandatory search spam regimen of getting involved with link programs. Most sites that offer truly relevant information which is not commercial based with Google AdSense and Yahoo Sponsored Ads, or catch all sites, or directories and landing pages get eclipsed by anyone who runs sites for profit.

    I suppose if this is what Google is trying to achieve, (having only commercial sites in it’s Top 20 results), I guess you’re doing a fine job, but for people looking for relevant stuff using Google, you are doing a severe injustice to them.

  123. I’m sorry for posting a comment back to back Matt, but I wanted to give you an indication of just how bad an idea Link Popularity or “PR” is for the end user. Mr or Mrs WebUnsavvy at the other end of a keyboard…

    Real briefly… Without giving you my biography, I wanted to at least let you know my motivations. I’m in the webmastering business and I create search engine friendly sites for small business clients who want more exposure via search engines. In addition, I also run a clean nationwide vertical market directory. I don’t do AdSense unless I see where it makes sense for the end user. I don’t provide, nor do I engage in BlackHat link popularity building and so on. On to my point…..

    Just 2 days ago I responded to one of those infamous emails about “We can get you to the top of search engines, blah, blah, blah. I had a really enjoyable telephone conversation with a representative of that company. As it turns out, they can do a great job getting high ranking organic results for their clients, (always the skeptic and on guard for the 3rd party PPC firms, I checked out some examples and even I was impressed). The best part is “HOW” they get those great results… And you know what? – They even GUARANTEE top 3 results for at least one phrase (a generic one too – not a niche’ phrase or geo-target phrase). The way they do it, is simply to create a “search engine friendly site” that’s rich on keyphrases and highly focused. BUT HERE’S WHERE IT GETS GOOD: They charge a minumum of $299 per month and an average of $799 per month to 1000’s of clients, for the MAIN part of their business which is generating “Page Rank” so that engines like yours “think” they are relevant. They employ many people to accomplish this and they run offices in 5 metro areas throughout the World. Their techs spend their days creating blogs posts, making press releases, finding one way links at relevant sites, etc. THAT’S IT!!! So the big SEO secret is, that as long as a client has enough money, they hire someone with enough time and dilligence to make gobs of inbound links for them and Google is their oyster!

    In summary, Matt Your Google PR program is sooooooooo stupid that you’ve created an entirely new industry based on cheating Page Rank. That ought to be on the cover of Newsweek – Google’s contribution to humanity is to stamp out unemployment by creating new industries.

  124. Google talks out of both sides of it’s mouth. They say: “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank.”
    Then they make money selling ads for those same schemes. Just do a search for “SEO” or “Links.” I know Google will try to justify this by saying that they can’t review every ad blah blah blah. They don’t have to review every ad, they just have to throw out advertisors selling these things. They wont do this because they’re making money off these ads.

    Furthermore, as a webmaster, I’d rather be spending my time building my website, instead I’ve got to go around and try to get links, because I’ve seen how google treats my sites that don’t have links.

  125. I agree as fast as google adapts new companies will pop up to profit off of it but the alternatives are worse, i think most SEO’s with less rich backers are just going to have to make due. Money always talks get use to it.

  126. My SEO company has a link to my website. Could this NEGATIVELY affect my rankings?

  127. Hi,
    Can i deal with buy link text or not, these are search engine friendly or what?

  128. Hello Matt, Sorry to rattle your cage about how stupid Page Rank is againg, but I thought you’d get a kick out of this ad from careerbuilder for someone to go to work for a company doing nothing but acquiring links for their clients web sites!

    Which should I choose?

    View saved jobs

    Report this job to CareerBuilder
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    Spam Miscategorized Other


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    Interactive Marketing Assistant – Entry Level Full Time

    Save this Job | Email this job | Printer-Friendly Version

    Company: Traffix
    Location: US-NY-Lynbrook
    Base Pay: N/A
    Employee Type: Full-Time Employee
    Industry: Internet – ECommerce
    Sales – Marketing
    Manages Others: no
    Job Type: Entry Level
    Req’d Education: 4 Year Degree
    Req’d Experience: College
    Req’d Travel: Negligible
    Relocation Covered: No

    Contact: Human Resources Phone: Not Available
    Email: Send Email Now Fax: Not Available

    Ref ID: Interactive Mktg Asst


    Interactive Marketing Assistant – Entry Level

    Traffix is looking for an Interactive Marketing Assistant who will be responsible for researching and acquiring links to the Company’s sites from related web sites. This is a great opportunity to launch your career by learning Search Engine Optimization and other search techniques from top professionals. Successful candidate must have an interest in, and experience using major Search Engines as Google, Yahoo, and MSN. SEO experience a plus, but not required.


    Identify relevant sites based on criteria provided by Company

    Follow guidelines to insure potential linking sites are SEO friendly

    Contact webmaster of other sites to obtain a link pointing to our site

    Document and track all relevant information related to linking practices of targeted and competing sites

    Conduct regular review of sites that are providing links to make sure they remain SEO friendly.

    Submit articles to relevant sites, documenting all links and published articles

    Submit links to directories such as DMOZ, Yahoo and other major and specialty directories.

    Ideal candidate must be a highly motivated, organized, creative self-starter with a college degree. Must be proficient in MS Office and an accomplished web surfer.

    Salary is commensurate with experience. Benefits include health, dental, and 401K.

    Traffix is a leading Marketing Company with offices on Long Island and in Rockland County. You will be joining an established company that is currently experiencing rapid growth with excellent opportunities for strong earnings potential. This position is in our Lynbrook, New York office, close to major highways and walking distance from the LIRR.

    Please email resume using links above.


  129. I started my own project to try to play the page rank game, since Big Daddy loves the commercialized sites so much now. I’ve started http://djunification.org hoping to band together us poor saps that don’t have a gabillion share holder bucks to throw into building up page rank just so we can show up for exactly what we’re relevant for and try to compete with the “everything under the sun mega directories” like superpages.com or marketingtool.com or the info repositries like wilkapedia and city-data.com or the community sites like MySPace.com. It’s absolutely pathetic that these sites are sucking up relevancy, providing no valuable content and knocking the relevant site sdown the search results ladder. All it takes is one keyword at one of these sites and they instantlly get cranked up to the top 10. Matt, you better hope that one of those sites doesn’t optimize a page for “google” or you guys will lose your # 1 spot too! I guess the only way to dance with Google is through getting link backs huh??? Or is it by nestling up to my ADWords rep with a big ol wad of $100’s?

  130. I must say that all the posters bring up some great points. Until recently I saw Google as a great company with solely the user in mind. In the last couple of years, and especially most recently, it seems that Google has let the popularity get to their heads and began to disregard the little guys. The hypocricy that surrounds its treatment of ad sales is simply unbelievable. This is coming from a company that at times embeds ads into natural SERPs without the user knowing. I must say that I’ve lost a lot of faith in Google, and if they don’t change their tune, I hope a new Google of old-like player comes along and displaces it from the top.

  131. Only just found this thread for obvious reasons…….relevant search term!!

    Link popularity was a good measure of a websites worth when links were freely given. But those days are long gone – people are very wary of placing links these days – especially to low ranking sites. This irrespective of the content, relevancy of the site – webmasters are more concrned with the consequencies of their actions than the relevance of the resource. Will the link improve/ damage my ranking. The result is that natual links are very difficult, if not impossible to obtain. This is especially true for people who are not connected to the web via SEO/ large corporate/media sites etc. How are they going to get links.

    What the web needs IMO is a ranking system based on visitors/surfers evaluations not on other webmasters opinions. Just a simple system that enabled people to rank a site from 1- 10 or something. You could record votes to stop people voting more than once a month or similar. But you should allow them to update their vote so that this could account for changes on the site ie improvements or deterioration. It could be called PeopleRank or SurfersRank or similar….remember me if you implement it – I’ll be CFO – Chief Food Officer 😉


  132. As far as I understand Google assumes a link from one site to another is a vote for that site, which is part of the ranking algorithm, with the result of the site being ranked higher in results. What if sites link to sites in order to warn their users, giving negative votes?

    As example: an authority site links to commercial site X because of fraudulent practices, commercial site X climbs up in results, the higher it climbs the more users find this site in results who are not aware of the negative vote of the authority site.

    Is the authority site forced to link using nofollow? What if its accidentally not used? Then a what is mean to be negative vote becomes a positive vote by Googles definition with possibly negative effects for the searching end-user. How is this situation reflected in the ranking algorithm?

  133. If Google were to penalise sites that included paid for links then can we assume that the first to go would be the MFA (Made For AdWords) sites that take my content and provide no value other than the Google adverts that pay them money through AdSense? They would be easy for Google to locate by a simple Google search, as they seem to rank quite high in many cases…..Days ago, I found a cool site on warcraft powerleveling.

  134. I like the game warcraft

  135. I honestly think Google filters out the paid link because they want people to buy Adwords advertisement.

  136. Great analysis but you see, google’s algorithm is uncertain for every expert.

  137. Thanks for the detailed explanation!
    (rel=”nofollow” will be set)

  138. Hi Matt:

    I recive these type of emails.


    Dear Webmaster,
    We have added your website, http://www.party-holdem.net/, to our
    link directory at http://www.your poker.org/directory/ , category Other > Computers & Internet.

    They wish to link exchange with me?
    Will it harm my website rank?


  139. I am a small online store that did great from 2002-2006. In March of 2006 I had about 9/10 of my site go into supplemental. I’ve never bought links, but I have some naturally. I try to add new products whenever I can.

    I keep asking all over the ‘net how to get my site back on track because we are in danger of losing our “mom and pop” business because our Google traffic has died.

    Everyone keeps telling me to buy links to improve our ranking. I don’t want to do anything against the rules but what other option do we have?

    It’s pretty scary to me that we have counted on the Google traffic and don’t have a way of knowing what we’ve done wrong.

    I suspect because a lot of stores are selling the same items, that Google has decided that we are duplicate content and is chosing to show the higher PR sites. Ironically, the higher PR sites look like they buy a lot of links.

    What’s the answer?


  140. Hi Matt,

    Well, I am sure you here this all day long but there are plenty of sites who are buying literally thousands of textlinks a year and google is just pushing them up to the top 3 for each search term.

    One particular company is my competitor and he uses the same affiliate program as I do. I know he is making thousands of dollars a day from his traffic, which inturn he bought through textlinks. Now, his site has a PR of 7.

    There is another company who just bought a domain name that had PR of 0 this spring and how has pagerank of 6. How many backlinks does he have? Around 70! Hardly none!!! So what gives. Turns out google also gives PR according to how much traffic a site or specific page gets. Googlers deny this and many seo followers but there is no other way the site can get that PR in 7 months – starting from scratch. Did I mention the site spends thousands of dollars a day on adwords and he is a adsense premium user. To be an adsense premium user you need to have like 50million (or could be 20million – I forget) page impressions a month. Hmmm, sounds like Google is rewarding those who spend a lot of money through adwords and use adsense too. How far is that? Not to mention, this site has not been docked for “landing page quality” – which it should since it is virtually a MFA site. So, why buy text links when you can spend a lot of money with adwords and generate even more money with adsense? In the end you make more money per visitor than you would with buying textlinks.

    I agree with others that Google has lost a lot of trust. I know I have stopped trusting google as I did. It seems now that all google cares about is their investors.

  141. I am a little confused about the following phenomenon
    that I have noticed, and any information/explanation would certainly be

    Quick Fact: Quality/Related incoming links to your website help to
    illustrate the quality and popularity of your website to Google. OK –
    makes sense. I can understand why this would be a valuable criteria for
    Google to consider.

    Then I come across websites who have thousands of links, from foreign,
    non-related websites and I become puzzled. On further investigation the links are coming to the site because they have purchased advertising
    text links from a free blog/website counter.

    Free Blog Counter Comes From Here: http://www.go27.com/counter/

    Example Blog Using the Counter:
    (note in upper right the “cerebral palsy” link).

    Site that the advertising links point to: http://www.askthelawdoc.com

    So the question is: Why would these be valuable links? The site ranks
    well far above other websites by non-profits, medical related sites,
    and other properly marketed/built websites for even the competitive
    phrase “cerebral palsy”. Why would Google not be paying attention and
    discounting this flagrant abuse of their algorithm? Thoughts?

    I also wondered if they could simply discount based on the language of
    the incoming sites? For example, the site in question http://www.askthelawdoc.com is in English, but 90%+ of the incoming links are
    not in English – wouldn’t that seem to raise a red flag?

    Also, if Google wanted to discount this type of linking schema,
    couldn’t they simply note sites that included the counter script from
    go27.com and block/discount those?

    Thank you everyone for any thoughts or ideas.

  142. For comparison with the site mentioned in the above discussion, compare with: http://www.cerebral-palsy-injury.com

  143. I am really interested in knowing the difference between a paid directory and a paid link, I recently paid Yahoo and MSN to list my newest site along with a bunch of other high pagerank directries and some even include the sponsored listing text, wont these still help the site?

  144. Links bought from link Networks are okay. However, I strongly suggest people get links from OUTSIDE link networks.

  145. A geek’s solution to a normal person’s problem.

    Sorry to be harsh, but the only people who have ever heard of “nofollow” tags are SEOs.

  146. I think the best way to promote a website is buying links from other high pageranked websites.
    But One should not 4get other low pageranked websites which offer something like minnimum 10 yrs .
    They will certainly increase their pagerank over the years.Buy Text Links From Unique Sites which offer more variety and which can get the attraction of the media like the above

    Heres One i found out:
    *Its Got Its Own TeXt EdiToR*
    *Very Low Price*
    *A Cool MouseOver Popup*
    WORDlinkZ.com-The Unique WORD Linking Site
    An opportunity to OWN your choice word on this special page that will be online for
    least TEN years!On top of that, you can choose the font SIZE, TYPE, COLOR, MOUSE over text and more

  147. If link selling is so bad, why doesn’t Google just ban all those directories?

    There are 100s being made everyday and their sole purpose is to sell links.

  148. This “Should” be a much simpler question. It all breaks down to “Is the link a good link.”. It really isn’t a search engine’s right to ask the reason behind a link. If it is a reputable source, then it has reputable links and vice versa. If a site is “for profit” does that mean their links are worth less? Actually, they should have a greater motivation to have more worthwhile links. Pages linking to “bad” sites should be penalized instead of penalizing the system.

  149. Uh oh! Googles getting smarter!


    Matt, I plan on enrolling in G’s marketing dept. in the near future. I want to give you a big hug for making the internet more relevant to us all.

  150. I have a very simple way of not upsetting the Google gods, and still developing my site(s) links …

    I trade content I’ve written to authority sites in exchange for linkbacks, and I also offer content writers links from my sites in exchange for unique content.

    It’s a win/win for everybody!

  151. What will be feature of directories then? will yahoo and other paid directories lose their value?

  152. Dear Matt,

    Isn’t buying and selling link one of the major business idea for Google? (Google Ads) I think it’s strange to hear that you can get punnished by Google if you have alot of incomming links. While at the other hand both Google and Yahoo are selling links.

    An other thing, as I’ve read through this post and comments, I have to say that I agree with what others are sying that, the problem Google are facing now with paid links are created by them self. Google should really find other ways of ranking sites, instead of ranking them on incoming links.

  153. yes it should and even more as it includes cpc and other marketing forms.

  154. Yeah I agree, i think buying links is just a new type of advertising. This should just be another way for webmasters to generate revenue.

  155. nofollow tag may drive away spammers but it also decrease traffic and shows that webmasters are not generous in giving links- the least you should give to your loyal users!

  156. LOL! You’re kidding, right?!

    Are you seriously advocating that web site owners not buy linked advertisements from anyone but Google? If I wanted to pay NY Times for a link to my web site, you would discourage that? Of course, it’s fine if that link is an AdWords ad on said site. Who is to say what advertising links are legitimate and which are not? There are currently new industries being formed such as pay-per-post advertising. If you, Matt, join a pay-per-post service and blog about company X and link to company X in your post, that is somehow ‘polluting’ the internet? How do you distinguish what is good old-fashioned marketing, and what is a scheme to inflate PageRank?

    Let’s face it, links are just another form of marketing along with copy, banner ads, flash ads, etc. Instead of making such convoluted arguments and asking the entire internet to regress by about a decade, why don’t you use your time to find better ways to judge the quality of a web page?

    I can’t decide if your post is naive, hypocrytical, ignorant, or paid for by your employer, but it’s certainly nonsense.

  157. I hope Matt that you arenot judging for relevancy. I mean a gambling/poker link on a college site.

    Yeah no one that goes to college gambles or plays poker. (College males are the biggest market for gambling sites if you didn’t know.)

    Next you’ll be telling me a link for Beer is not relevant for college sites.

    A fair way to go you still have.

  158. Excellent point Bobby. How can you algorithymically determine relevancy when relevancy is a very subjective (and often socially contrived) trait.

    A real example from my world.
    Pet Odor & blacklights: Can the google algo determine that blacklights are used to detect pet urine spots and that locating the stain is useful for odor elimination? Doubtful, but a human can easily make that association. Is a blacklight text link on my site any less relevant than an AcmePetCo text link?

    Food Safety and Cayenne pepper: Can the algo determine that animal feces in a food garden is a health hazard (e-coli) and that sprinkling cayenne pepper in your garden helps make your food safer by keeping cats from using the soft earth (a fav spot) as a toilet? Doubtful, but again, a human can easily make that association. Is a cayenne pepper text link on my pet odor related site any less relevant than an OdorEliminatorXYZ text link?

    Don’t get me wrong, I get that uncompensated links are generally a more honest assessment that conpensated links but when you start trying to determine “intent” you’re stepping into pretty murky water.


  159. Hey Matt,
    I do agree completely.
    Buying a link for the sole purpose of PR is not the way to go about getting it, after all high PR does not necessarily mean high traffic and rankings. Buying it for traffic is OK to do. I think it goes back to unique content and building from there up.

  160. Google will penalize an Oracle.com site, if it sells links to Casino.com site
    What is the penality, if Yahoo links to casino site or finance site or games site or gambling site etc?

    How will google treat yahoo site?

  161. but what if the sold link is from a related industry, I mean, if I bought a an ad from a web hosting directory pr8 to increase traffic and perhaps pr to my web hosting site?
    doesnt sound imoral or illegitmit to me!

  162. I think this is a load of hypocrisy, Google makes its billions on selling traffic, inventing PR etc, and then they come moralizing to the fools who post this comments. What is wrong with Berkeley college newspaper http://www.dailycal.org/ they certainly don’t have the money google has, and with some links they pay for hosting and drink a few beers? They seem to me quite honest! It is google and the sheep who comment on this blog who make me puke!

  163. Hi Mr. Matt,

    I hope this time you will help me out! I haven’t received any reply for the comment i posted for adsense topic. Okay… rel=”nofollow” is good way to protect from palenties. What if my website has many out going links and all anchor tags has rel attribute… By this can i protect my rankings and PR. Things are sometimes very confusing… thanks to your blogs. At least we have some light to follow.

  164. Matt Thanks for the post.

    This is a snippet from one of your responses
    One of the top ways for someone to trust a website was for a friend to recommend it. Would that recommendation create as much trust if you later found out the friend was paid to recommend a website, even if the friend also liked the website or thought it was related? I’m guessing most people still wouldn’t trust the site as much.

    Lets talk about the GOOGLE SEARCH BOX which is available for any webmaster to put to his site. Google’s tos says ‘YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO MODIFY THE CODE OF THE SEARCHBOX’ which has a link back to google.

    Google has 2 benefits from that search box.

    1)Users can use it’s search and click on adwords ads.
    2)Google gets a link back to google.com.

    Webmasters get the benefit of having a search box, (AT THE COST OF A LINK BACK TO GOOGLE.COM) on their site.

    So didn’t google just pay the webmasters to put a link back to google?

    Ok not with money, with a benefit of a search box.

    I don’t think the internet runs on trusted friends, and editorial votes go beyond ‘trusted friendship’.

    My opinion is that if you have a medium of measurement ‘PAGERANK’ then it should rely on the ‘WHAT’ and not on the ‘HOW’ meaning if editorial votes were from trusted friends, christmas presents, acquired by a search box or paid.

    I think that is more fair to all.

    Just my opinion though.

  165. Don Diego

    Let me reply to your comment.

    Sure google is a publicly owned company with returning shareholder investment as its priority.

    So is yahoo and microsoft. I don’t see them complaining about buying or selling links.

    But if google is saying that monetized links will not help your site in terms of PageRank, and naturally acquired links will, then the system is unfair.

    Basically, then PageRank is biasing or discriminating against paid links.

    You talk about the free enterprise system, this is totally opposite.

    You have made a standard, should be fair for all or the standard should be removed. That is more like the Free Enterprise System.

    It is also saying that it doesn’t acknowledge the monetary trade of text links.

    Because even though google will reward text links, it won’t reward PAID text links.

    The FTC has no laws against buying or selling links.

    Actually text link trade is a new industry in itself and is gaining rapidly like fire.

    More and more people are buying and selling links.

    There will probably be other ranking systems pretty soon as people now have more resources and computing knowledge then they did before.

  166. Anyway Adnan we must be honest, the all system was based on the assumption that links between sites was like a vote system. Your sites links to mine so you vote for my site, my site is somehow important also to your site, if everyone starts to but links, this all system will fall apart, taking this to the ultimate that would mean in the future only rich webmasters would have websites seen on search engines. In the long run it will penalize everybody!

  167. sorry, but i can never find anything at google. nor can i find anything i’m ever looking for at any search engine. i was looking for water skates so i can skate on water, and i could only find some motorized thing. surely there is real water skates, but no search engines are smart enough to find it. the only thing in search engines is websites trying to make money. no more personal websites anymore. you can thank google adsense for this. there goes the internet……

  168. It was mentioned at the 2007 SES conference in New York that search engines were not going to look unfavorably on pay-for-post advertisements. What is the difference then, between paying for a post and paying for a text link?

  169. Seems to me ask.com returns less paid links than Google.
    Does Ask.com have a better algorithms to detect paid links?
    ‘Sponsored links” in blogs – are they good or bad?

  170. Yes, I am really kinda agree with what Joe said. Over 90% of our search results were commercial based. and the PageRank mechanism make site with low PR but good articles hard to get searching out at early stage. A lot of “unexpected spamming” results in the SERPs. “Unexpected” means they were the junk pages that were not submitted on purpose, making no sense to users and should be filtered. One of the standard example were the junk materials from the Unversities, schools or reasearch bodies.

  171. I found google can’t detect paid links.

    So paid Link is effective.But spam and paid links should be banned.

  172. Erm “I power Blogger” has no rel=”nofollow”! Explain?

  173. Can Google detect a 3 way link though ?

  174. Why do some directories tell me I am a forwarder site and my domain activity is inappropriate when I try to buy links?

    I don’t try and buy links anymore because Matt says he knows and discounts those links. But still, how am I supposed to get white hat links when the top sites tell me they won’t link to consumer attorneys and I am a forwarder site, whatever that means? My URL is http://www.ehlinelaw.com/

    And all I want is a fair shake.

  175. Hey Matt,

    Could you please let me know as to whether Google penalizes sites on the basis of paid and free directories even…????

    Personally I dont think that it would… G id only concerned with good quality one way links and not with how we get them.. Also could you please let me know as to how will “no follow” rule help out from being penalized when as per my consideration G doesnot even care about paid or unpaid links and if this is so then G would definitely be panalizing the sites listed in Yahoo..!!!

    Do let me know regarding the same.

    Alexis Distiny

  176. Hi Matt

    I am writing to ask your advice on, yes you’ve guessed it – links! I have been building natural links for some time for a wide range of clients. But this time, I am stumped! I have been trying to raise the visibility through link building, of a safety clothing company in the UK. So far, I have managed to gain around 200 links through search engine submissions on a monthly basis in addition to finding a few (and I mean a few relevant and similar sites that adds value to both.

    However, I need to continue the programme as we are four months into a six month trial period; from your experience, where would you go now to build further links?! I don’t think article submission sites or RSS submissions are the right way as this may be perceived as spam and I don’t want that to happen.

  177. Matt, please answer a very important issue raised earlier on this page.

    If a competitor buys loads of links (even worse they may be site-wide links) to MY site, in order to try and damage my search engine positions – COULD THAT SUCCEED? This would be an awful and precarious situation.

    Surely, a link which Google sees as suspect, should simply have a zero value.

    NEVER should this result in a banning or PR zero penalty to the site linked to. The link should simply count as nothing by Google.

    If not, we are talking about web terrorism by competitors.

  178. NEVER should this result in a banning or PR zero penalty to the site linked to. The link should simply count as nothing by Google.

  179. I do not get it. Buying links is a simple advertisement policy. I place an ad (text, image etc.) at some site and I pay money for the advertisement. What’s wrong whith is?

  180. Matt,
    Nice post. There are several websites that offer text link sales. But it appears Google never blocked those sites. Is it not important to block such sites so that webmasters will not use such services?

  181. Has anyone ever come across this problem: you buy a site and the previous owner bought a bunch of links from link farms (which I suppose hurts me). Does it hurt me in organic? How do I get rid of them? I already tried to contact them but to no avail!


  182. Hi Matt and everyone

    i see link building as a great way to promote my internet business,
    as far as pagerank goes, it dosent make a scrap of change to my traffic, or how i conduct my promotion,

    i have only ever bought one link in my life, from iwebtool and it was a waste of money,
    its still not in my links after 5 months,

    Pagerank as it stands can easily be taken advantage off as well, i have seen a new sites with less than 5 links and no content at all, pull a pr5, and just witnessed one 7 week old site pull a pr 10.
    so go figure,,

    for some one that works hard to market there sites, one i ended up with 30000 links after 6 months only to find out Google don’t like that sort of thing, Unfortunately, it still ranks at no1 and get a staggering amount of targeted traffic, and that at the end of the day is more important to me than anything, pagerank included

    Kindest regards

  183. Free, quality, relevant, higher PR the better links are the way to go.

    Why buy links?

  184. So I am doing research trying to get the latest information on link building, seo, etc. Are you guys sayint that now google knows and penalizes you if you purchase some high PR one way text links??

  185. William, in response to your post on the 14th of March (Yesterday) yes we are suggesting link buying on any site high page rank or low is forbidden, even if it is a link that is relevant to your site or not. If you want to build back links a safe way and that is controlled by legitimate users why not try submitting content from your site to digg.com also placing buttons on your site so it makes it easy for your website’s audience to bookmark your site in Del.icio.us this way you dont need to spend money on text links and you can leave it to your audience to build links to your website via there Del.icio.us profiles ect.. Also if your site has great content on it then it could attract potential bloggers who would maybe blog about your articles or service.

  186. 1. IF a non-relevant search result ends up at the number one spot THEN most rational humans will simply disregard it and continue down the list until they find what they want or they will change their search parameters. I do this all the time and often find what I am looking for more than 3 pages deep. This only means that some dumb ass spent way to much time and money optimizing for a search term that will not generate much for them.

    2. For those who optimize for their relevant search terms then it is most likely that the top results will be the most beneficial to their needs even if it is a commercial website.

    3. Using a search engine is no different than using other forms of listings to find information. It is a start towards researching a topic. If the goal is to find credible information then it is the user’s responsibility to digest, analyze and corroborate that information.

    4. A valuable resource WILL be cited often and WILL have it’s due rank. People tend to forget that there are unlimited amounts of search queries. It is very likely that that ones which are most used are mostly for commercial needs. If that is the case then it is perfectly alright for commercial websites to build links whichever way they can. I don’t have a right to visibility on the web just because I put up a website just as I don’t have a right to customers just because I open a B+M storefront. Google has really no right to tell me how to advertise. They do have a right to rank websites in any way they choose. At this point however I would say that Google is approaching the point where it is in danger of needing regulation in how it “deals” with it’s rankings because of the power a top ranking spot grants to a commercial enterprise.

    While, in theory, no business has a “right” to any particular rank within Google, Google expects and comes very close to coercing webmasters to adhere to its “rules” and therefore makes the subsequent rank subject to its whimsy. Because Google is now a commercial enterprise it walks a fine line between the “altruism” of claiming to want the “best” results for the “users” and the monopolistic capitalism that seeks to force every advertising dollar spent on web visibility to go to itself.

    5. Short of having incontrovertible evidence of a transaction there is no way that Google can ever truly know that a normal text link is a paid link. Its just not technologically possible to discern. And while a human reviewer could probably make a pretty fair guess as to whether a link was a paid one or not, not even Google has the human resources to review links nor do they have the legal basis to begin “penalizing” websites based on their hunches.

    6. Google already discounts links from obvious link-farms and probably in the future from whatever automated link placement tools come online. If it’s an automated or template type process then there is no reason to think that Google wont detect it. Basically as long as Google doesn’t let those types of schemes help to build rank then there is nothing wrong with folks using them. Big deal. Link from all the “bad” neighborhoods you want to because it won’t help. Unless the truth is that Google can’t stop it. I think they can. I think that they have the resources to autodetermine with pretty good accuracy what a junk site is or an interlinked network of spam sites are and know how to index them accordingly. Whether Google uses this capability or not is debateable as is whether they have it or not I suppose. Also, whether they have the ability to stay ahead of the creation of such sites is also a question.

    I personally think that the “sandbox” is truly there for this purpose. To not allow “new” sites to influence the index UNLESS those new sites acquire credibility from already credible sites through appropriate linking.

    7. In the end for the e-commerce sites that desire that top spot in the SERPs there is no real alternative to doing everything humanly possible to get there and stay there. Since Google changes its mind every day on what criteria are required, allowed, desired and so on the onus is on the site owner to build the website as SE optimized as possible within “the rules” and hope for the best or to go outside the rules until they are busted.

    8. I think a lot of folks need to stop depending on the search engines for traffic. You need to build alliances the old fashioned way. Trade links. Give good descriptions of the sites you link to. Give link love and it will be returned to you naturally. Don’t beg, don’t buy links until you are bankrupt. Just be a valuable member of the web and the web community will value you.

    Having said that on point 8 it sure sucks to be in a business – mine – that has benefited from high rankings only to see them and revenue slipping on a daily basis. And we spend $500,000 a year on Adwords. Well, I hope the web rewards us with some more link love. Time to go do some community service. :-))

  187. I have such a feeling that google makes people act stupid! In my industry I have been one of the pioneers. I had a decent website, good services offered, treated every customer with respect since 2002. Back in 2002-2003 my website was on the first page. Today, there is a lot of competition in my field.

    My competitors EXCHANGE, BUY LINKS AS CRAZY! I do not do it, because I am concentrated on the quality of services offered. Where am I now? You can find me on page 15!!! My competitors SORRY, BUT TRUTH, provide crap, but they have tons of links. Is this the future of the internet???

    Should I sit and throw links like a monkey, or should I better concentrate on the quality of services, Matt?

    90% of my customers are return customers!! Wow! But I still need NEW customers, because services I offer are used by people 3-4 times a year.

    It is probably better not concentrate on the work, but throw links, right?

    Any real advice will be highly appreciated.

    Thank you!!

  188. a good pagerank doesn’t mean that the page is good too…

  189. Search Engine: An computerized index of the web pages; creating a searchable database. Example are AltaVista, Google

    Directory: An index of web pages, compiled by people and organized more by topic or theme. Examples are Yahoo, About.

    Pay Per Click Search Engine: A search engine in which the ranking of the sites is determined by the amount paid for each click from that search engine to the site.

    Portal:Are basically directories, many have added features such as news, browser based email, online calendars and reminders, fax services, and chats and discussion forums.

    Vortal: Is simply a portal centered around a specific issue.

    Search Engine Placement/Optimization/Positioning: The work of trying to ensure that a website ranks high in the search engines.

    Meta Description Tag: The tag present in the header of a web page which is used to provide a short description of the contents of the page.

    Meta Keywords Tag: The tag present in the header of a web page which lists words which represent the content in the body of the page.

    Keyword: A word or phrase which is used when searching for a website in the search engines or directories. It is these words or phrases that webmaster use when describing or explaining the content of their website.

    Keyword Density: Represents the frequency these keyword words appear in a page or in an area of a page. It is a critical issue for search engine ranking-the more often the keyword or phrase appears in a page, the higher its search engine ranking. If repeated too often though, it could lead to the page being penalized for spamming.

    Spamming: It is a procedure of abusing the normal search engine ranking techniques, such as using hidden text, excessive repetition of a keyword, etc. This term is also used when describing the practice of sending unsolicited bulk email.

    Link Popularity: The number of sites which link to a particular site. Many search engines use link popularity as a factor in determining the search engine ranking of a website.

    Reciprocal links/link exchanges: The process where two webmasters agree to show the other’s link on their website.

    Link Building: The process of creating inbound links to owns website. This can be done reciprocal links, being listed in e-zines, newsletters, directories, search engines, etc.

    Link Exchange Program:There are many variations but most normally refers to a sign-up program where webmasters agree to host and link to a members-only links page.

    Link Farm: A recent term used to describe some link exchange programs. These programs are nothing more than random links on a page and really do not help one popularity. Can be considered spamming.

  190. Google could pop this link buying bubble by simply encouraging first time users to set up directories and sell links at rates which the link pimps wouldnt care to compete with. If it was a Google sponsored project, if the links were recognised as such, it would create a demand that would not only ensure that quality sites get listed but it could fuel an empowerment programme that changes the way things are done.

    Just a thought………,..

  191. This whole thing of “paid links just for traffic” is nice and understandable, but there is one issue that nobody seems to care about.

    A link is a link and that it transfers pagerank is not the webmasters fault or responsibility. Just like Google is not responsible for who ranks in the top 10. (their only commitment is to ranking the best sites for a query in the top 10)

    So why obly webmasters to make sure the link doesn’t transfer PR? How can that be the responsibility of a webmaster? It may sound weird, but actually most webmasters haven’t got a clue about PageRank. Most webmasters don’t know it even exists, just like most users. Knock on a random door and ask people to show their browser. In most cases you won’t find a Google Toolbar.

    Sure there are people that buy links for PR purposes only. But most advertising is done just for advertising reasons.

    The only conclusion is that only Google can take care of their own problem.

    By the way, in my opinion, Google already has improved the PR algorithms to a level that just buying a link in a high PR site is pretty much useless. You need to make sure a link is related, has the right anchor text, etc. etc. etc. Adding it all up and you´re basically forced to do it the right way if you want any search engine benefits at all.

    This also happened with HTML code when Google just started. In the old days you had to create special pages for search engines. Then Google came along and the result was that all you really have to do is build a great site for the visitors and Google rewarded your efforts. (It does help to have an SEO help you with using the right tags, do some research as to what people actually search for, and help to optimize the focus of a page.)

    Google even forced the other search engines to pretty much apply very similar algorithms. In fact, the Yahoo! and MSN SERP’s pretty much look like copies of Google SERP’s. (but that´s just my opinion)

    The only thing you guys (Matt & co) need to get rid of is the idea that webmasters have to tell you what’s a paid link and what is not.

  192. To be on the safe side, wouldn’t it be easier to add a new rule to the google propietary robots.txt protocol, something like:

    Disallow: external

    Of course, I’d would never do that, I do not work for google, I work for my visitors.

  193. Well search king has taken a wrong step in going legal against google well she dealt with black hate seo and they were penalised by google more over its a lose to search king they were defeated in legal action and they even compensated google legal action

  194. Seems like google doesn’t want anyone with commercial interest to build up their serp rankings, they would prefer that you use adwords to drive traffic and keep their cashflow high.

  195. Matt you keep telling do it right way is organic. It is easy for small and startup companies to fall in trap of paid listings and blackhat. I think Google guidelines on text links and page rank are just not enough or am I expecting more.

  196. Hi Matt
    Reached here from that stormy Paid links POST of yours 😀
    I have not gone through all the comments –but read your full post.
    There has been rumors – the “nofollow” tag is not working properly or Google is actually counting these links rather than “follow’ links to defuse webmasters to sell links unscrupulously.

    I also visited dailycal.com to check and it seems the sponsored ads are really very useful to its visitors.
    My point is that – if we advertise highly relevant sites on our sites -I see no problem. As most of visitors will be visiting my sites because they have interests in them and if they find other resources that would offer them more options.
    So -it will be better if Google algo works on detecting relevancy which should be more easier and allow those votes counts and as you mentioned Berkley site having Poker/Gambling links –they should not be counted.

    Come-on Matt- everybody including you know that it will need much more time for G’s algo to me perfect and detect selling links. So to give searchers more value and relevant results- please do that. Relevancy will get votes, irrelevent links won’t get votes. 😀

  197. Hi Matt,

    I have been following your blog for years, so thank you for that.

    Recently I have come across a case where a site can shoot up the results, apparently by buying links. When I look at the pages providing the links though (with the site: tool) I see other links to sites owned by the group, but not the links I expect to see (ie to the site itself)

    How would that sit with Google’s approach? Would such links get detected as paid links or is it possible that rotating the pages where the links are placed would hide this fact?

  198. Content is the king!
    If you have a valuable content on your site that’s much better than the paid links!

  199. I think a lot of people get confused when it comes to search engines.

    Notice that it’s called a “search” engine and not an “avertising” engine.

    These resources are designed to provide a relevant pool of links for a searching visitor to find what they are seeking information on. A SE wants users to find what they’re looking for. The more relevant those SERs are the more likely they’ll use that service in the future, building trust between the searcher and the engine doing the work for them.

    When site owners try to manipulate the structure of the internet in unnatural ways in order to boost their site’s traffic, it damages the relevance of the links on the SERP. So I laugh a little when I hear site owners bitching about their loss of pagerank after they just spent a lot of money on links that were intended on building traffic. For some reason they think Google is there to assist them in widening their profit margin. Whereas in reality, Google’s Prime Directive is to provide relevant, trustworthy search results.

    Buying links is a hack to get around the fact that in nature your site is not competitive or relevant. There are ways to make a site work with search engines to get a good raking. And there are ways to make your site trick search engines into listing them high up in the ranks. Nobody likes a trickster, Google especially. Buying up bunches of links is like the invisible text ploy used in years past. “Wow this page has the search term mentioned 3000 times in one page, it MUST be relevant…” That crap doesn’t wash anymore. And linkfarms are the new deal. So just as Google penalizes for keyword spamming, they’re moving into prevention of farmed “fake-relevance” links. Seems like a natural next step to me.

    The fact that they sell adWords and adSense programs doesn’t make them hypocrits; it is just a service they provide for sites that are relevant but have not been online long enough to have built up trust/pagerank. Ostensibly once the ad campaign gets them enough of the right traffic, they can ditch the ads because they should be climbing the pagerank ladder under their own power.

    Think about it. Would you rather have someone walk into your store and shop, or have them walk in and realize they’ve been tricked into entering, expecting antiques and finding prOn? I guess it matters whether or not you’re selling a product to the customer or if you’re more concerned with selling your “customers'” eyeballs to a third party paying for banner ads on your site. Doesn’t it?

    I believe in native, in-house SEO, not subcontracted SEO. Do a proper ad campaign. Don’t bait-and-switch people into visiting your site. And don’t drag Google around with you as a personal lead-stealer.

    Lots of reputable companies are getting angry because they try to “optimize” their site only to find the people they paid to do it committed high-Google-treason, and are now worse off than before.

    Google is for searchers, not businesses. Quit trying to come in through the out door.

  200. Keep the nofollow for PAID links not comments!

  201. Hi Matt,

    Nice article. Since I am newbie, I have allocated some money for buying paid links. But now, I will spend that money on myself.

    Thanks for saving my dimes…

  202. Hi Matt,

    Nice article. Since I am newbie, I have allocated some money for buying paid links. But now, I will spend that money on myself.

    Seems like google doesn’t want anyone with commercial interest to build up their serp rankings, they would prefer that you use adwords to drive traffic and keep their cashflow high.

    Thanks for allowing me to finally get that off my mind.

  203. Matt,

    I have only been building websites since 2003. Along the way, I followed some very bad advice and joined a link exchange society called MonsterLinkSwap-dot-com in 2005. For a couple of months, I exchanged links with other members and thought I was really accomplishing something. I saw link exchange advertisements everywhere, so I thought it was the thing to do! Six months later I found out these types of links to your site only hurt your search engine rankings. I should have known, link trading would make it difficult to produce good results for searches made and that the larger search engines would consider it a negative. If I would have stopped and thought, obviously the good old fashion process of simply placing quality content, along with relative titles, descriptions and keywords would be the best way to go. Shortcuts rarely achieve good results in any type of business, whether it be brick and mortar or Internet based.

    We currently have a PR score of only 3. I have recently engaged in an extensive study of how Google achieves their PR score, and am in the middle of overhauling our most successful website (DefenseProducts101-dot-com) to fit Google’s webmaster guidelines. I deleted the outgoing links 18 months ago, but still have many of the 352 websites I traded with linking to us. On the up side, we have around 550 good incoming links, due to the high visibility resulting from spending nearly $30,000 with Google Adwords last year for Taser Gun ads. Are we doomed forever because of the bad decision I made a couple of years ago? It seems I could overhaul the website 10 times and the bad links will still be out there. Is their a way to utilize my Google account to configure Googlebot to ignore these links, or is that just wishful thinking?

    Any advice you could give me in this area would be very much appreciated.


  204. I am into selling links already. i ll discontinue this practice as soon as the term of currently sold links ads end!

  205. Thanks for the explanation, Matt! It gives us a more clear vision on links.

  206. In addition to spending around $30,000 a year on Google Adwords, I buy links on other sites to drive traffic to my sites. Although I agree that link buying and selling can be abused to manipulate SERPs, it would be wise not to take overly harsh measures against sites that engage in moderate link buying and selling. Just like Google, everyone wants to make money from their websites, and link buying and selling is a legitimate form of advertising.

  207. It’s natural for people to buy and sell text links. It is a legitimate form of advertising that predates Google. While I can understand how this method might be abused to manipulate search engine rankings, I hope Google can distinguish between links purchased solely to get traffic to one’s site and those purchased to manipulate rankings.

  208. I really do not understand how we have all fell under the spell that paid links muddies up the internet… Unfortunately I can not see how this could be anywhere true… Actually I think it would be quite the contrary to this understanding… Here are a few reasons why I believe this…

    1. If a company is selling any type of product or service why would they spend substansial amounts of money for paid links? So they can build page rank with Google in attempts to get on the first page…

    2. Why would any company go through the time and the money for these paid links? Again, so they can build page rank with Google in attempts to get on the first page…

    3. Why would a company want to be on the first page of Google to not be in businees to sell or offer the services that they just spent all this money on? They wouldn’t…

    So basically I think the bottom-line is this… Companies paying for all these links, are most likely ready to do business in that which they advertise on their webpage… So if the companies website is all about cars, and all of their paid links are in relevant categories to cars, and they have the keywords in the link, then I don’t see why it would be hard for Google to see relevancy when the word car is searched… Just my thoughts though…

    What I would like to see Google do, is figure out a way to stop allowing the Big Lead Generating companies obtain the top positions… I have used Google, since Google came out… Back in the days, if you searched “Mortgage Loan”, Google actually returned sites that we’re actual Mortgage Companies… Today you search this same keyword phrase, and 9 out of the top 10 are Lead Generation Companies… Where is the relevancy in this? 🙂 Only reason I bring this up, is I applied at one of those sites, apparently my information got sold to 50 or more companies, and it’s 6 months later and my phone will not stop ringing regarding this lead… LOL…

    See I actually have a website… It’s been around since 2001… I purchased some of these paid links for advertisement value (not many, I don’t have a lot of money to spend like that… lol), but however… Since those links we’re placed (approximately a year ago), I receive emails from 100’s of other websites saying “we added your link, please reciprocate”, of course if their not relevant sites, I don’t reciprocate… But if they are then I do (of course if I like their page, and find it to be informational for my customers)… But all of a sudden I went from 10 inlinks to 4,000 inlinks… WOW… I don’t know if this is not good in Google, or not? But it was something way out of my control…

    Anyways, this is all just my opinion, and thoughts… Not trying to say Google hasn’t done a great job, cause they have… Just watched the special on the Biography Chanel, and let’s just say I am impressed… Such innovators… Great guys… Great ideas… You’ve done great… So just stay great… Go back to when you had the real people, who actually sold the products or services directly to the people back in the tops… Get rid of all the Lead Generators… It only leads us searchers to agony, when we are spammed on our telephones… LOL… Figure that problem out, and come up with a change in your algorithims to spot them… Then you guys, and Google will be like it was in the old days… If anyone can figure it out, well… Google can…

    Thanks for the ear… Wish ya the best… 🙂


  209. if its not good to buy links to your website, why should a webmaster use add words ? i dont understand any of this ?

  210. or should i say add sense.. 🙂

  211. So, are paid links bad for the PR?

  212. hello Matt..hi everyone I hope you reading this! Everyone talk something …I am confused myself about links… I added over 100 links but none indexed by google last 3 months However I lost last 6 months the links pointing to mywebsite and together I lost my top positions as well………I am 8 years SEO, and I dont consider myself SEO anymore even Iam certifed one…

    I know linksbiggest % use to be and GOOGLE algorithm is changed and google still cleaning bad and good links puting websites into white sand box and separating exchanged and paid links.. when I have over 14000 links pointing to http://www.cruise-reviews.com by YAHOO and in google has only 93 links pointing and this links still keep drooping everyday…

    However some people has still making money with this LINKS, include google becouse this LINK marketers has to pay google, but people doesnt think if your links work why you dont use for your natural SEO work…why you pay google PPC?

    just because of confused marketers like me and some web owners why this guys are still selling links by google http://www.onewaytextlinks.com/ and this one sell trusted .edu links… . Edu huhhhhhhh selling trusted links and google giving PR for this links? http://www.authoritydomains.com/edu-links.php?gclid=CJubyMHf_owCFRFNYAodvkyRCA

    Dear Matt — People will spam anything anywhere and anytime no one can stop that even GOOGLE…it is human nature SPAM=cheapest marketing hate or not, who doesn’t get unsolicited a sales phone call just when they sit for dinner…..

  213. Sounds like buying links can’t hurt. It’s just a matter of not overpaying and perhaps going through multiple vendors.

  214. Seems like google doesn’t want anyone with commercial interest to build up their serp rankings, they would prefer that you use adwords to drive traffic and keep their cashflow high.

  215. I’m apprehensive about this. I have two small businesses on the internet selling clothing and accessories at discount prices, and without the help of a few paid links my site would be virtually undetectable on google.

    Now i do have competitors who are massive brands, and without much effort on their part they can manage to get much support, written features and links simply through their fame, size and reputation. It wouldn’t matter how much i tried – i couldn’t get this. And i’m sure most other small online sellers will agree with me here. We can’t beat them in that way.

    So if my customer types in their query into google, the big brand sites will come up first and mine will be gone. Even though i sell better quality items then theirs at discount prices (so the customer has good reason to be interested in my site), then they will not be able to find me.

    All they will be able to find is high street brands, and this is detrimental to the customer as google is limiting the choice of potentially useful sites to the customer.

    I do not also understand this whole thing about ‘adding fresh content’. Most websites are RETAILERS, we don’t get our money by creating huge reams of information that other people want to read, we get by by SELLING. And obviously we won’t be adding new stuff all the time, especially if we’re small. So this should not be an indicator of quality.

    I also cannot understand why Google is penalising this form of advertising when it allows adwords on it’s search results. This is being hypocritical, or maybe it’s a way for them to oust all the other advertisers out so small businesses are forced to put all their money into adwords (i.e. google’s coffers) and it’s a control thing.

    I have bought about six links for my website, all are with respectable directories that create reviews of websites rather then just junk affiliate sites full of links and nothing else (which is where you will find the big brand ads). The actual websites where my paid ads are, are informative and useful to customers themselves.

    I have only got decent positions for search queries that are very relevant to my website, so i’m not spamming the results. In fact, i believe by encouraging my site up in this way i have made it easier for my customer to find me (which isn’t a bad thing).

    In this way i have helped make the experience of getting to the right shop quicker, and it is this quick, relevant task of finding the right thing that brings people to google instead of other search engines.

  216. Excellent site, can’t believe I only just found it. Will be a fair while reading through all the lessons that are to be learned here I think!

    Probably not gonna reply as this is an old post, but I will still say..

    Two points which other commenters have made which really must be stressed again I feel:

    (1) What is the difference in Googles eyes between Paid Directories and Paid Links? In many areas of business, it is almost obligatory to buy listings in some or all of the “big” directories relating to the market one is involved in.
    (2) I too remember hearing and reading that Google would not penalise websites for any “off page” elements, as Google saw that people have no real control over who links to them and from where. Are we now heading for a change in this policy?

  217. I just tried to load the google toolbar onto my browser after getting a new computer. There is no longer an option to even get “page rank” added! Has anyone found this? Does anyone know how I can find pagerank?

  218. My competitor uses a SEO company who linked his site to w3css.com and chinahtml.com.

    this guy has been on bigG’s Page #1, #1 position since the last few months.

    chinahtml.com & w3css.com are Completely unrelated to the product. His site doesnt even have meta tags!

    On 1 hand, Google says don’t buy links and on the other hand, its own search results are exactly contradictory.
    (Reporting as spam wouldnt help me coz im not even close to pg.1)

    After 6months of trying the natural way and ending up only on pg 11, im convinced that the only way of getting a high PR and getting any customers to your site (Small-med business), is to buy text links. Life is unfair:(he he

  219. Has rel=nofollow really been successful?

    I’ve used it on occasion in certain software, but was always frustrated because good links would get the nofollow also, but the bad links made me remove it from all of them. What a shame.

    Just seems to me the black hats have ruined the system and the worthy sites are getting screwed and G has to expend a lot of energy to fight these jerks that have ruined the internet.

  220. I have seen some effects of using the rel=nofollow. I had a site that was linking to a lot of new sites/untrusted sites and once I added the rel=nofollow tag my traffic shot up. Theoretically it made me more trusted by not giving the new guy a vote.

  221. Back in November 2006 I made the stupid decision to purchase 500 links all with a minimum page rank of 4 from a company called Its Cold Outside.
    It sounded too good to be true, and they explained it extremely well. They said they would write articles about the website using relevant key words and publish them on their Page Rank 4 pages at a rate of approximately 50 per week (any faster than that, they informed me, would cause Google to regard the links as spam). This all made sense to me and so we paid £600 upfront plus £150 per month for this service, with only a three month tie in.

    After 21 days we had 65,000 new links, all PR0 and completely worthless. The effect that this appeared to have with Google was that they blocked all the new links plus most other new normal links we created using standard methods. After 2 months I informed Its Cold Outside that as they had breached their contract we were cancelling our account with them and they agreed to refund us our money.

    However it turned out that they were basically thieves as although I called them up every couple of days and had regular reassurances that the direct debit payments (which they had insisted on from the start) had been cancelled, they kept taking payments for another 3 months.

    In my opinion this sort of link selling company should not be allowed to operate without some kind of special licence. One thing I still can’t understand is that I decided that Its Cold Outside must be a kosher site and service because it had a decent Page Rank of 5, which in my mind meant that Google regarded it as a respected site.

    Can’t Google just ban these dodgy link selling sites?

  222. I hate how they do search engine rankings. It’s hard for new sites like the ones I’ve made to raise in the search engines. People with high rank sites only link with high rank sites and the low rank stay low. It takes a lot longer to raise in the search engines now. Anyone have any suggestions on how to raise my page rank of my site http://www.fastvacationrentals.com. Are links from high page rank sites that don’t relate just as valuable to my site then any other? Thanks

  223. yeah matt, its a very long post with lot of coments and i am reading it from last half an hour . thanks for this great post , after reading this post i am not going to buy text links . thanks again

  224. I just saw 3 things which are think are quite important regarding Google policy on paid links and also SEO software:

    1. The IBP (Internet Business Promoter) websites are having a PR0 on http://www.ibusinesspromoter.com/ and http://www.axandra.com/
    2. The WebCEO website http://www.webceo.com/ has also a PR0
    3. The http://www.text-link-ads.com does not come in Google results for words like: text link ads

    Are these websites penalized, and if so (excepting http://www.text-link-ads.com for which I have an explanations) is the PR0 a results of the last algorithm changes?

    Thank you

  225. Hey Tj, sad to say but that’s the way how other sites link. PR to PR exchange. But since, your link page is already indexed by google its not that hard to find good link partner coz there are some high pr sites that accepts link backs from google indexed.

  226. I still like the idea of having an indication of how ‘important’ Google ‘thinks’ a page is. However, the bar needs to be set set higher and useless junk, including most forums and article sites should not get any PageRank.

  227. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo

    Google’s Going BANANAS 😉

  228. I, agree with Matts position as the spirit of linking is to generate a vote for a site and the anchor text is the ballot. How would you feel if the presedential Ballot box were stuffed with paid ballots? Some companies that sell TLA’s utilize the Google algo as selling point claiming that buying TLA’s will increase PR and SERP position. How, is this intentional abuse of the Google algo to not go unpunished. For example I watched a site go from 26 Google BL’s to 862 BL’s in 4 months! Holy link spam Bat Man! Not only is this practice unfair to Web Users looking for relevant search results but to the web masters who spend countless hours and resources honestly building link popularity. My final point is everyone makes mistakes but intentional abuse of the link authority portion of the google algo should and must be dealt with firmly, fairly, and with equity.

  229. I like your thinking Chris, it should be raised from 10 to 100. Then people can really tell what rank they truely are. Not some number between 1 and 10. It would be nice to know if were close to our next PR.

  230. Matt, I feel that the text links issue requires more proactive clarifications still though I may be missing some pieces of the puzzle. For now, the view from my window looks like this:


    Your public comments would be greatly appreciated.

  231. Hi Matt,

    i wud like to know … many High PR directories can be found where links are submitted by paying for it … and there are many HIGH PR links sold on sites…. i have seen many people paying lots of bugs to get their link on high PR sites (PR 7 or PR 8 site links) … what about that ??

    the directories which are having high PR and so they are giving paid listing … will they be shut down ???

    Puneet M

  232. Matt,

    I think it hard to read about “buying” links is wrong if Google themselves promote this via their Google Minimap directory. Is it not true that you can gain a link in Google Minimaps simply by paying aprox 1600 dollars?

    The same we can find on Yahoo where you can get in the directory by paying 300 dollars!

    Dont get me wrong: I do not buy links or am not intending too but it feels “wrong”

  233. Hello Matt,

    If G peoples disable “Page Rank” and “back link” checking facility then G can some how control this situation.
    Currently “Page Rank” and “back links” are measure while selling and purchasing links. If you peoples disable these two options in common, then it will be new revolution for google in terms of revenue. And people will put more focus on improving their web and advertising their web, rather than purchasing links and putting money into pockets of SEO guys.
    Do take this advice seriously. It will change google’s Revenue model.

    D Maind

    D Maind

  234. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for sharing this grate information, it was really helpful.
    But what if you want to sell links for traffic do you have to implement “nofollow” tag and then the website will not hurt in the serps ???

  235. Let me get this straight.

    Google controls (according to all my logs) 90% of internet traffic.

  236. Isn’t it time for Google to stop the whole page rank and link counting scheme? There are many quality sites out there that don’t have links to them. I work for an industrial manufacturer that sells equipment to other manufacturers. These are not the types of sites that naturally go around linking to each other. Most do have some links in industry specific directories. It seems that in this space the biz with the most products/pages ranks first. So how is the little guy supposed to compete? Buy links? Generate a bunch of content the customers don’t need, just to make the Googlebot happy. I think there are serious flaws in googles ranking system.

  237. When links are outlawed, only outlaws will have links.

  238. You your going to be able to nail automated systems and certain URL structures, but if you go after keywords your back trying to detect or decide intent. WRONG IDEA.

  239. I believe buying and selling links if contintinues will endanger ethical seo one day.

  240. Hi Daphne,

    I am a new webmaster, and I had some questions about buying links.

    Are you allowed to buy relevant links – as in links that are on sites that are related to yours to help boost your rankings?

    For example there is a site called Marapets – I use this one as an example, because it’s a fairly high profile site that buys thousands of text links for semi-related subjects.

    For example they have bought thousands of links on thousands of sites for the keyword “Games” and “Free Games” take this text link ad on this website for example – http://www.animesuki.com/ Marapets bought a text link for “Free Games” on this illegal anime download site, which ranks in the top ten on google for keywords “Anime Downloads”.

    Is it acceptable to buy links like that when they are semi-related?

    Also I have an adsense question – if you look at the marapets home page here http://www.marapets.com/

    They have Google adsense ads right next to pictures and also right beside other contextual ads from another ad provider. Is that also allowed? I thought that the terms of use stated that you couldn’t put ads right next to pictures and you weren’t supposed to put them along side contextual ads from another ad provider.

    Please clarify this for me as I am a new webmaster, and I would like to do the same things marapets is doing to help make money and promote my site.



  241. Hello

    Last night my page rank was on 4, and now today it is on 3… a certain change in page rank getting me out of my mind, tell me is this just because of changing google algo or what is the reaons why page rank went down from 4 to 3 position.


    Bilal Qayyum
    SEO Expert

  242. Bilal,

    If this is causing you to go out of your mind… get ready for a trip!

    Google’s page rank fluctuates a lot, often for no apparent reason. On different servers (also called datacenters) your Google PageRank can vary, too, especially when they are running different algorithms, during an update…

    Don’t worry too much about day-to-day or one-point differences in your PageRank.

    Look at your long-range trends, quarter-to-quarter, over a year or two.

    Are you using the Google Webmaster Central to view your back-links? That’s far more useful than watching your small differences in PageRank.

  243. I suspect Google will adjust its algorithm to weigh other off-page factors that aren’t as easy to manipulate as metatags, inbound links, page text, keyword density and so on.

    Factors such as domain age and link age may become more important than they are now.

    What other factors are less subject to manipulation? Maybe domain name, url text any others?

  244. If selling links is going to be penalized, it should be democratically done. On my projects I usually link to the W3C XHTML validation service to show off web standards compliance. Even you, Matt, do the same on this blog (although it doesn’t validate ;-)).

    As a result, W3C XHTML validator is one of the most linked in sites on the world, with PageRank 10. And -of course- the validator links to w3.org, also with PR10, and there you will find a bunch of sold links on the homepage. You can buy PR10 links starting at $2,500 and up to $10,000 from W3C.

    I can’t understand why small-to-medium site webmasters are seeing their PR decreased (penalization) when selling links, but big sites (such as W3C or big companies), aren’t.

  245. One question: How can Google possibly tell if someone has paid me for a link or not?

    If our site was say the theme Sports and the paid text link on my side bar was sports related..how is Google to know weather or not that link is a paid link or not?

    Solutions to Google’s madness is to pull the PR from all and just do away with public PR.

    I welcome the day Google pulls that little green bar with a smile.


  246. Hi Matt,

    I have many websites which I can show you have a Good PR, even increased PR by this Oct,07 Google PR update. They all have sponsored website list on their home page even.

    What do you say about it ? And is it all about Websites, what do you think about Google itself who generate “Sponsored Links” with every keyword you search…

    Thanks & Regards,
    Amit Verma

  247. Just think how much time we could all save by developing good content instead of reading about link selling and page rank. Better yet just think how much more time we would have to develop content. Isn’t everything else just unimportant side issues? Maybe if we quit worrying about page rank and just devote our time to developing the pages then we would get what we were after in the first place. Search engines would get good content for their customers and we would get more customers, everyone would get what they want. Wouldn’t that be the best of solutions?

  248. Hi Matt, but what if a website buy tons of links from a multitude of little and medium non-related websites ? This links will probably be counted and the buyers won’t suffer from a semi-automatic penalty as its popularity emanates from many sources instead instead of a few big ones…

  249. I am just wondering why that many donate listings are using NO nofollow links and still have a pretty nice pagerank giving to their customers. Why is there a difference to other pagerank sellers? Its pretty confusing why some services are forced to use the nofollow link and other dont without getting bad pagerank by doing this.

  250. Hi Matt

    I use paid text links, about 95% from Google AdWords, Yahoo and MSN but sometimes to get traffic from other sources too such as affiliates or related sites. I think you’re wrong in thinking that paid links are NOT a true vote of the real worth of a website. In fact a paid link is a much stronger vote of the worth of a site than a free link. A paid link means that capitalism has placed a value on traffic going to that site. A paid link means that the site has real value and that fact has been voted for with somebody’s actual money. Shareholders have voted for that site, investors have voted for that site, the marketing manager has voted for that site, and customers have voted for that site. All of the above have voted for that site by giving it the money to spend on paid links. Karl Marx correctly stated that the market would seek to commoditise everything (including text links!), and until you stop fighting that principle you will always be fighting a losing battle. Just include all paid links in your algorithm (including AdWords).

  251. Buying links could be outlawed by Google soon.
    What a pain – we pay for links and the they are worth nothing.
    Have to be careful what we pay for.

    Webpage design richmond

  252. I have linked to sites such as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Guide, Techmeme, Small Business SEM, Search Engine Watch, and the list goes on. I have done so because I either found something resourceful to my readers, something that helped to support what I was writing about or simply due to the fact that the site I linked to was the original source of my own writing. These same sites have in turn linked back to our site for the very same reasons. That is true reciprocal linking. So is this a bad thing? Is Google, or any other search engine going to devalue those links because they are not true “one-way” links? I don’t think so. This is a natural process of the web and search engines are smart enough to understand that.

  253. Hello Matt,

    If one of my sites were penalized for buying links, and went from a PR 5 to PR0, I would be possible to recover that PR5 if I applied the rel=”nofollow” attribute? or At least start recovering PR at all??

    Thanks for your time,

  254. I think the clear answer that is required, and pardon me if it somewhere in this thread, but it really is a monster of a read, is Google’s attitude to legitimate paid link sources. My company has many physical venues – we make our money not from our site, but from getting bums on seats and selling beer and pretzels. To use, it is important that if someone searches for a specific place and our name or activity, we rank high. To that end, we have paid deals with local search services, some of which are extremely big household names. Some use nofollow, some do not, one told me they’d never really thought about it before. Clearly I can’t browbeat another website to adopt nofollow, but it seems very unfair if an algorithm at Google makes a judgement that we are buying links for the purpose of spamming the SERPS. Frankly I don’t want any old traffic, where is the value in that – I want traffic that is relevant to our company and results in a visit to our venues and gives satisfaction to our customers. Hence the traffic we buy is very focused. Looking at our stats, such as bounce rate, we are doing it right, because people stay on our site in large numbers when they arrive. Some of our traffic partners do as well or better than Google algorithmic traffic in that regard, so I see no harm in this.

  255. We have noticed the following since the last Google PageRank update:

    The google link: command is showing less than half of the backlinks listed prior to the October PR update. The number is declining daily. I have not noticed a similar trend for the other sites I track.

    The number of links shown in the Google Webmaster backlink tool continues to grow in line with our organic link building program.

    Our pagerank is unchanged, the number of indexed pages is unchanged, and our keyword rank is unchanged.

    None of our backlinks or outbound links are affiliate sites, we don’t (knowingly) participate in link farming programs and any paid advertising is done in javascript or with the rel=nofollow attribute.

    I assume the link: command is suggesting that my backlinks have been devalued. Is this some sort of warning? If I don’t have paid links on my site and have never paid for a link nor do I participate in a link farm or belong to affiliate sites how can I fix the problem?

  256. Has rel=nofollow really been successful?

  257. I recently read the article in Forbes (online October 7th, 2007) titled, “Google Purges Payolla” . As a SEO consultant, I was curious as to the continued effectiveness of paid links. I found a perfect case study with a company called “Bankruptcy Home” (http://www.bankruptcyhome.com).

    Current registered backlinks for Bankruptcy Home shows over 900 backlinks in Google and over 120,000 backlinks Yahoo. These are very respectable numbers and can easily justify the top organic keyword rankings related to bankruptcy for Bankruptcy Home. However, further investigation finds that a large portion of these backlinks have been created by utilizing classic “paid link” or “sponsored link” techniques. For example, Google and Yahoo currently credit Bankruptcy Home with back links from the following sources: The Charleston Gazette, Times Record News (Wichita Falls News). The paid links are always found near the bottom of the page for these online newspapers with a 30 to 40 character text hyperlink. A simple keyword phrase unrelated to the other content on the page is repeatedly placed on the online newspapers website. The power of this strategy comes from various factors:

    (1) Paid links “bleed” ranking factor from these power web pages to the targeted url.

    (2) Each day’s publication becomes a new set of paid links creating a tidal wave of backlink volume and off page ranking factor.

    Examples of the ranking results to Bankruptcy Home (http://www.bankruptcyhome.com) from using paid links can be seen in its high ranking for extremely competitive keywords:

    (1)Bankruptcy – Ranked 5 out of 83,500,000 competition in Google

    (2)Bankruptcy – Ranked 8 out of 82,000,000 competition in Yahoo

    (3)Bankruptcy Attorney – Ranked 1 out of 19,100,000 Competition in Google

    (4)Bankruptcy Attorney – Ranked 6 out of 18,600,000 Competition in Yahoo

    An example of the paid backlinks indexed in Google and Yahoo can be seen in the following hyperlinks:

    (1)Google – http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007102223

    (2)Yahoo – http://sundaygazettemail.com/section/News/2007061911

    This seems to prove that paid links continue to be highly successful in ranking for competitive keywords. It is also obvious that the major search engines are constantly “tweaking” their rules to ensure the best quality, relevant and natural results. The gray area between optimization and manipulation continues hang over these rules. Of course, when there are large dollars available in a market, these problems will only be intensified as web site owners looks at the risk / reward scale. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next 12 months as the search engines attempt to update their rankings by automatically filtering out the use of paid links.

  258. Dear Fred stansa,

    Matt, Thank you for Sharing Great Information about Paid text links.

    Google has sent the message across loud and clear to all text link seller and buyers that they will not let paid text links influence their page rank algorithms.

    As people were Don’t want to remove paid text links – its your site, its their search engine – both do whatever they like. This surely will decrease the ability of sites that sell text links and use page rank as a guide.


  259. I am sure that google is now giving more importance on paid links and sites selling links. In Turkey I found some huge sites having more than 100.000 pages penalized to reduce pageranks from 6 to 3. Does anybody know is this made manual or automatically?

  260. It is ashame that google plays “god” over the internet!

  261. Are your comments nofollow? Why do websites and blogs bother having people write in their URL if they are not going to allow the link back?

  262. My blog used to have a pagerank of 4, then it dropped recently to 2 (apparently due to a Google algorithm change that affected lots of sites), but has now dropped to 0!

    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.

    Is there any way to find out what (if any) links on my site have caused my pagerank to drop to 0? I use google adsense, adwords and google Analytics service, but even the webmaster tools “links” information doesn’t provide any useful information about what links on my site my be affected my pagerank adversely. I still rank well in google search results for relevant search terms, so obviously a zero pagerank isn’t causing a problem (yet?), but it would be nice to know what is “wrong” with my site from google’s point of view.


  263. How about links from web services, such as counters, which link back to the product creator’s website, but which required no payment. Are these regarded as paid links/link exchange for product?

  264. Interesting points being brought up. I do think though that sites using paid links to increase their PR should be penealized.

  265. So long as links are the currency of success then they will be bought and sold, because being at the top of serps for a very competitive keyword is extremely lucrative.

    The only way to make the internet fairer is to have a more localised search, and if each website is linked to their postcode / zipcode which would be the actual businesses address, That way is would deter spammers from having to rank their site so much, and would make less riches for those ranking top for competitive keywords.

    So when I type something really competitive into google , eg “shoes” then the postcode of a website in relation to my postcode should be included in the algorithm, and people would be able to set their postcode in the google toolbar or into an adjacent box.

    If there is a website selling shoes just 2 minutes away from my postcode then thats the website I want to see, regardless of how many links it has to it, as opposed to some big company in USA with 30000 links.

    If this kind of system was set up then it would ensure everyone gets a fairer share of the pie as well. Meaning Black hat webmasters would probably abandon their black hats because of local websites having a high priority then it means they can’t trick search engines anymore.

    There, Ive solved the problem – now Google, get onto it pronto !.

    Ps I’m available as a consultant at $200 per hour

    Do google ever think about anything using wisdom..no follow..links.. etc..its obvious what the next stage is going to be, its obvious what webmasters will do.. only localising searches more and more will deter spam.

    Paul Williams

  266. I have a same question that Colleen asked “Why do websites and especially blogs ask people to enter the URL in the first place?”

  267. Randfish said it all correctly. Google doesn’t own the internet. They are just a tool on the net. The only way Google makes money is by selling its ad space and by penalizing websites for selling either links for PR or ad space, it seems like they are trying to eliminate all competition on the web so that Google is the only place to advertise.

    Matt, this seems to me to be a very Stalinist approach to increasing what I thought was the whole idea behind the internet: commerce and the sharing of ideas. I hope you guys rethink this.

  268. I think I get the main jist of this issue: Google doesn’t have anything against selling links – as long as they are intended to guide human visitors to the linked-to webpage. Rather, Google is against selling Page Rank. Because Google’s intention is for Page Rank to be a measure of the natural/organic popularity of a webpage: webpage A should pass some of its Page Rank to webpage B (through a ‘follow’ link) because the owner of webpage A genuinely believes that information on webpage B is relevant to readers of webpage A.

    Since Page Rank is a factor in determining the SERPs position of a webpage, webpage A’s link-‘vote’ for webpage B should result in the relevance passed from webpage A to webpage B increasing webpage B’s chances of being found on the SERPs for the linked-in text.

    A paid link doesn’t say “I am linking to you because I genuinely believe you are relevant for the linked-in text”. Instead, a paid link says “I am linking to you because you paid me to do so, [potentially] regardless of whether I believe you to be relevant for the linked-in text”. THIS is the reason that paid links are not good for SERPs, and therefore why Google needs paid links to not pass Page Rank: Where paid links pass Page Rank, they dilute the quality of Google’s search engine results.

    And what about Google’s paid links – Adwords? The answer is simple and startingly obvious: Adwords do not pass Page Rank, and therefore a webpage cannot influence its SERPs position by buying Adwords links.

  269. This continues from my last comment above.

    I recently described my opinion of Google’s organic results and Adwords to a friend. (This also applies to all other SERPs that display sponsored results):

    The organic results are like a popular TV programme or an article in a popular magazine, and the Adwords results are like the advertising sold around the TV programme or magazine article. The TV programme has to be as good as possible, to attract viewers. Some of those viewers will respond to the advertising.

    So for Google to function well and serve its shareholders, it has to make the organic search results as relevant as possible to searchers. This includes discouraging the selling of Page Rank because that dilutes the relevance of the organic search results. Some of the searchers will choose to click on the Adwords results.

    This same idea exactly applies to webmasters who create pages to sell Adsense: write good articles, encourage visitors to your website, and you may get some clicks on your Adsense ads.

  270. I’ve spent monthes doing SEO on my website and now google dropped my pagerank. But at the same time many of my non indexed pages and internal linked pages went up. Even though I would have rather had my homepage go up I guess its ok that this happend….Google controls search engines and to make it worse big companies don’t let small companies emerge as they don’t trade links with them.

  271. How does Google evaluate a previously free directory that has turned into a paid inclusion site? You may not know about this at the time of the submission request. Does Google penalize for this? I do not think it would be fair…

  272. What if I purchased Text links just for creating Buzz about a new part number that I have on my site and want to drive traffic to it?
    Is it not the same thing as Purchasing a billboard on the side of the road?
    I’m not doing this for PR PR doesnt sell my part. People finding the page helps to sell it.

    So no follow is the way to go then thats cool with me.

  273. Hi Matt
    Somewhere I read that in Google page rank algorithm backlink plays an important role but then it also depends as to how many links the website is reffering towards and the more number of links there lesser will be the importance.

  274. If you do hit sitewide links then WordPress and other blogs using side menus will all fall from the SERPS as they all have their links on the side.

  275. Thanks for the good job! . It is good to have more links but i don’t think it is very wise to get your site banned just for illegal links. I think that the most important thing here is not the billion dollar links but the content you’ve got for those links. I think it will be very wise to make your site user and search engine friendly. Even if two links, those few visitors will keep coming back. Thanks very much!

  276. In google.nl this is the second result for “paid text links” just under http://www.paidtextlinks.com...

    ^^ They should be excluded from decent searchengines like Google..

  277. In my opinion Reciprocal Link exchanges are actually more valuable than one way links because they are a test of trust. All my research on google however suggests that one-way links are considered more valuable by the search engines. However, in my experience dishonest webmasters are unable to keep to the principal of honest link exchange for more than one month. A dishonest webmaster is a good indicator of a dishonest website. They tend to have lots on one way links that started as reciprocals. This seems to be changing though and on a site I have managed http://www.lapigems.com I have noticed that one way links don’t seem to command the presence they once did – this site never used to bother with reciprocal links and had quite a number of high PR one way links incoming, however it never achieved a high PR itself. But now that it has started a link exchange its rankings have improved considerably. This seems to point to the value of reciprocal links to me.


  278. My question is how is a new website supposed to get noticed on the internet if they are unable to acquire legitimate text links? Also if sites start using the nofollow attribute then effectively the benefit to the advertiser is zero.

    Who is going to pay for a link on a page if it isn’t even going to be indexed? It would be like paying for an ad in the Yellow pages but then being told that they arent going to be delivered.
    This is not only bad for advertisers but also for websites generally as a lot of sites rely on text link advertising to generate revenue.

  279. There are two types of links buyers:

    1. People that use all kinds of ways to get traffic no matter whether it is legal or illegal.

    2. People that never cared about SEO in the past and where happy until people from 1. took their search engine positions away and were forced to buy links from the same paid directory websites etc…as the number of necessary links for a good position has excelled the number of naturally possible links…and they try to mimick what 1. people are doing.

    For most search engine positions you currently need more links then anyone could possible get in a natural way.

    It is really rare someone links to a website in general. It is even more rate that several people do that with the same phrases. So if the top positions need 50+ links this is in many fields higher then possible through natural links.

    In reality most natural links use “here” or something useless as the anchor text….at the same time Google weighs the precise kind of link too high and does not even take synonyms into account.

    The solution to the problem is: don’t use links to measure importants – at least not to this extent. A website should also be able to reach number 1 position with no or hardly any link to it at all.

    If people look for 2 or 3 different terms on Google, then finally stay on a website for that phrase for longer, this means the website has a high relevance for it. Not only for one of the terms, but for all. Also for all other terms from other users that come to it.

    So the simple solution to solve Google problem is to get rid of thinking in links and profiling users search behaviour and identify the websites that are visited by those users in the end.

    No webmaster shoud be forced to buy links or to optimize titles on pages. It is ridicuolous that it matters what exactly the title is on a website in order to be found. Whats the difference between let’s day “pigeons red” and “red pigeons” or “find a red pigeon” or “red pigeon websites” ? None. All websites that belong to the same phrase group should be treated equally…and no webmaster should be forced to change the titles of every page – that’s the job of the search engine.

    Come on – it can’t be so hard …..

  280. I have an adsense question – if you look at the home page, http://www.mdhealthsavings.com
    They have Google adsense ads right next to pictures and also right beside other contextual ads from another ad provider. Is that also allowed? I thought that the terms of use stated that you couldn’t put ads right next to pictures and you weren’t supposed to put them along side contextual ads from another ad provider.

  281. Quote: In an earlier post I said that “The best links are not paid, or exchanged after out-of-the-blue emails–the best links are earned and given by choice.”

    In some respects I do understand your point of view… on the other hand: if someone is willing to pay big bucks on a subject they most likely have a valuable link. By not giving “points” to these links some valuable linkjuice is going down the drain.

    Besides: free links are sometimes based on “friends in high places” so what makes these links more valuable then paid links?

  282. So in a sense Google is helping to spam Google, by pushing out PR 8-9 links to big sites that in turn benefit from your PR and then sell it to other sites.

  283. No one’s answered the question about comments and if they’re nofollow links. A perfect example is the name/URL I’ve used in this comment. Does Google even pick it up?

  284. Well, if Google is making webmasters to rewrite content and make the outgoing links as nofollow (just in case Google thinks the site is selling links!), then where we are heading? Will we need to write an official letter to Google headquarters in like 2010 with links that are outgoing and swear that those are not paid links just to not to get a penalty?
    Lots of webmasters are not even aware of Matt Cutts, and all that’s buzzing around here, so that makes their sites penalized?

    I think another approach needs to be found…

  285. I use Google page rank when I have to select the pages where I want my link is published. Even if the PR value Google give us is not exact it however tell you that the site has some sort of “reputation” and thus a link published there is good (even if you exchange the link). Of course the better is have the link published without to have to exchange nothing, but who will publish your link should have something in return, otherwise why he should publish it?

  286. Placing a textual link on a news sites is v.useful, and definiatly increase the PR of your site.

  287. Google should just give equal weight to paid text links and free links so that everybody is given equal opportunity to promote their sites regardless if they are paying for these links or not.

  288. I haven’t heard anyone comment on links a site owner decides to point to another site owned by that individual.. I have sitewide links pointing to another site which I own. I did not pay for them, of course, but unfortunately, I have recently been penalized for it as they have been “perceived” as paid links. Looks like Google will have to utilize more humans whose job it will be to manually, day by day, hour by hour check every sites’ indexed pages and basically investigate every link to see exactly why it is there. This is a perfect example of an algorithm not being able to “tell” if a link is paid or not. And anyone reporting links pointing to my own sites as paid, well, they’re just making an assumption, as does the algorithm, and this is just a small case in point indicating that any algorithm would be flawed and could never fully be reliable and inevitably some are going to be unfairly penalized as happened in my case. If it can hurt a little, it can hurt a lot, it really all depends and how do you write “speculation” into an equation that can really work evenhandedly across the board? Can’t.

  289. Hey Matt, thanks for this great post. But what will happen to directories? Will yahoo and other paid directories lose their value as well? Or are they treated differently?

  290. This is an old entry which keeps coming up in the SERPs for good reason, its one of the most controversial topics in SEO.

    Effectively Google requires content publishes to use rel=”nofollow” on paid links or be penalises the content publishes and by proxy their advertisers. Content publishers don’t like Google telling them how to write code. After all it seems rather arrogant of Google to dictate how we should be placing links. Still one must also respect the fact that Google is the source of most of our free traffic. Google don’t bill us for the visitors they send us or vast volumes of business that results from Google Referrals. So perhaps a bit of give an take is order? Personally I think its only fair that after everything Google does for us, we make this small concession to them.

  291. Yes, reading this post since past 2 years, As Mr.David Parker said we must understand and follow the webmaster policies of Google in order to reach and get genuine traffic to our sites.

    Thanks in advance

  292. Matt having a new website – my question would be – what should you do to make your site more relevant to google or are we not supposed to do anything. I mean when you run for a race – you train, you work at it and you buy the right equipment. It sounds to be like Google does not want us to do anything. While I do not pay for text links I was thinking about trying to get a blog buxx going but I am guessing that that is a bad thing too since you have to pay for that to get a link to your site and I can’t dictate whether they are nofollow or not.

    I know that google has problems with spam and especially in my industry that deals with acne, skin and other type products but aren’t we allowed to do certain things to give an edge over the competition? It sounds like Google wants all of the control and wants to give website owners none in their fight with spam – but Google didn’t get great just by Google alone – it was all of us too (the business owners). Sometimes you can cut your nose off – well you know the rest.

  293. I think google ignores paid links and affiliate links,They only takes pure links like gamesupon.com like this ,as far as i know advertisement links uses affialite links,so google ignores that links they don’t give any page rank.

  294. Paid links are bad news for SEO. Engines pickup on that type of action very quickly.



  295. My site was slapped with PR0 for the second time.

    This time it happen after I change my blog template and also redo the Meta Tag for site description and keywords.

    Does that contribute to my site being penalize with PR0


  296. Split opinions on this post. I think it should be viewed as a valuable web marketing advice rather than being protested. Sure one can get a few links here and there but it’s a short term solution and the one that forces a website depend on its backlinks hosts.

    The long term solution and the one that adds authority to any website is the content building. Grow your content. Make it count. Enjoy the natural links.

    My 5 cents.
    Dave Sputnik

  297. I agree with Dave, there are split opinions and the long term solution is content building, Google loves content, fresh content…so think of it like having a bakery and making dough every day for bread (content) then watching it rise. Everyone is looking for a fast solution and it involves time and lots of hard work but it is WORTH IT

  298. To say paid links should get the same weight as free links seems to go against the philosophy of relevant content, naturally attractive to people, which seems to be the Google way – give people what is fresh and promoted naturally.

    How can you distinguish between free links organically posted and free links placed? You can’t. So you need to make a line in the sand somewhere.

  299. I think that you always can search good sites with high PR and relevant content to your website and buy text ad from them.
    I offer not to use Text Link Brokers and Relevant Exchange of permanent non-reciprocal text links.

    It’s my opinion 🙂

  300. I don’t think that paid links should get the same weight as free or reciprocal links because they have nothing to do with the content of the page or site. It seems to go against the idea that relevant content is the naturally attractive factor for people. It doesn’t do anything to say this content is good and should be read.

    I also don’t think that advertising links should be counted as authority back links. There has to be a way to differentiate these types of links so that the page rank of the page with the back link does not count toward the page rank of the linked page.

    With that being said we pay for our back links one way or the other, just as we pay for everything else associated with creating a site with ranking and relevant content.

  301. its a shame this blog aint do follow 🙂 but anyways google has many ways, i have a feeling google hides alot of information for us :p

  302. I believe that keeping us honest by using white hat techniques in our search for higher page results is one of goals of Google. There is nothing worse than when I go on Yahoo and see sites ranking high because of spam level key word spamming. One of the sites I work on has lost much of it’s relevance because of spammers using the flood method of keywords just to have a higher count. Most of the sites that do this don’t have content to justify the use of the keywords. But back to the point of this blog… Text Links bought or free are just another form of advertising. There should not be a penalty on this. We are always looking for a good opportunity to partner up with another site to exchange good advertising links. We do this for the purpose of expanding the brands and for the traffic it brings. This should not be looked upon as a penalty and black hat.

  303. You know,

    I think the pure point of what the nofollow does is that it should hopefully steer webmasters away from simple link building and writing really good stuff that eventually others will link to.

    I’m really glad Google slapped the paid link gig because if that was allowed to continue then corporate world would simply destroy the Google results by making the Google index “SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER”.

    I find it very frustrating and painstaking to build links too, but I’m GLAD that it is hard.

    The best writers will win in the end.

  304. Which came first – the chicken or the egg?

    OK – so how do you get links if you’re not well ranked? Because if no-one can see you, you don’t get links. And if you don’t get links, no-one can see you.

    If you have a blog, or an information site, or if you provide some cool service, then OK, maybe you will attract links through your own merit. But suppose you have an eCommerce site – not even suppliers will link to you for fear of ‘leaking’ link-juice!

    Despite endless reading, I haven’t found a worthwhile answer anywhere to this little conundrum…

  305. “This is an old entry which keeps coming up in the SERPs for good reason, its one of the most controversial topics in SEO.”

    I agree.. just a Q matt, how could Google know if its paid or not?

  306. How can Google (without doing it manualy) work out, who is paying, and who isn’t?

  307. You guys make my brain bleed. Have you ever read Google’s quality guidelines? I’ll translate 🙂
    1) Create clean-coded, information rich websites that are silly with original relevant content.
    2) Create a solid internal linking structure throughout the site.
    3) Don’t try and artificially manipulate the SERPS.
    4) Once done, encourage quality links from high PR, related websites where you can.
    5) Chant “We’re #1, We’re #1!

  308. Hi Matt,
    You did not mention what happens when a website “sells” (and not buys) Text link ads which are relevant to the anchor text and the content. Would you please elaborate on it?

  309. Consider a situation where in I myself own 100 websites and give links in all these websites for a new site. How will it be treated.

  310. Hi,
    My site has a number of affiliate links as it is a prepaid aggregator site to compare prepaid cards and I was advised that I should set up google friendly redirects as Google would penalise my site otherwise and not sure this is the reason but after a lot of hard work, my page rank dropped from 1 to …err ….zero.

    So what is google’s stance on affilate links – should they have a no follow tag?

  311. sorry, i don’t believe what matt said

    he is merely trying to mislead people into believing paid links no longer work… so that Google algorithm will not be messed up

    if you do some simple search on credit cards related term(an ultra competitive niche), every sites found at the top of serp are buying tons of links

    aside from that, the so-called low hanging fruit niche also infested with paid links

    so matt, i would like to hear from you on the latest development on this issue

    it seems google still cannot rectify the paid links issue

  312. When is Google going to clean up it’s act on spam?

    You go after webmasters / website owners for trying to buy page rank and call it spam yet I see thousands upon thousands of Google Adsense Targeted Web Sites with 3 or 4 adsense ads, little to no usefull content and what is Google telling site owners?
    Maybe you don’t have enough adsense ads on your website.


    Do as I say but don’t do as I do.

  313. I’m no SEO expert, for sure. But I’ve dabbled in it, lightly dabbled over the past, wow, 13 years. And it seems like that if one focuses on building an excellent business, with an excellent site and promotes that site as one would promote a business with all sorts of advertising, announcements, media and interactions with customers in areas where they hang out – reaching out to customers on terms related to your product or service the SEO comes, and builds over time as your excellent business’ popularity grows.

    Of course creating descriptive content that focuses on a keyword to reach out to people who are searching via keyword, a related keyword makes a lot of sense too. That should be done for sure.

    Over all this time, with all the SEO gimmicks and tricks, it seems like the old school basics, the same stuff I thought about with my own common sense 10 years ago has worked best and still works. It seems like chasing the latest and greatest SEO trick and gimmick is equivalent to a dog chasing its tail… a ‘wild goose chase’ that just drives me nuts. But hey what to i know… i’m just a dabbler who hasn’t even taken advantage of my own observations very well at all. Anyways…

  314. 12 years ago when google didnt really bother about whether a site had paid links or not webmasters were able gain high page ranking for sites that today have top page ranking, these sites are now kept at the top of the ranking due to their popularity, how can google now say that the rules have changed, without the 1,000s of inbound paid links that these sites had to buy to get to the top to gain the popularity, how are webmasters of today expected to get high page rankings with new sites without using the same means that webmasters used 12 years ago, is google going to drop every site and start from a clean slate giving everyone the same chance to get to the top without paid links just good content ?
    i think not, so paid links it has to be !

  315. Interesting reading everyones comments over the past few years and how things have changed. Buying links still seems to be an issue and being on credible websites that can assist your search engine rankings means do we have a choice? Link building can be a real challenge!!

  316. I have a small legitimate website for my business. However, with a marketing budget that is less than a car payment how am I supposed to get a better ranking? Building a base of sites that have exchanged links is real work. So am I going to get penalized for hard work and trying to promote my site? The site adds value to consumers and puts food on the table for me. What is the best solution to build up page rank when there is so much competition on the web. Should another site that provides the “exact service” as I do have a better ranking just because they have more capital to spend? Does this mean the little guys like myself are nothing but chum for the internet fish?

  317. How can I be sure I will not get penalized for putting links in my sidebar! I have a couple of auto related blogs and they some link to each other, some link to my friends, some link to my company. How can Google and other Search Engines tell that this is all Kosher?

  318. This is pretty silly (Google’s POV). If someone is paying for a text link ad that means that they…

    1. have money to advertise, and
    2. want to move to the top of page 1 organic for a particular term

    I cannot think of any better way to deem them a relevant site that this (cash to burn on advertising and desire to be on page one). As the biggest corporation on the web, you must either improve your algorithm to treat all sites fairly or stop trying to detect paid links and penalizing them.

    You may try and argue that they should just buy adwords but adwords is wrought with click fraud, low click through rates, and low conversions. Primarily “natural born” clickers click on adwords and these “natural born” clickers are not good for converting into paying customers. This is Google’s problem to deal with and telling folks to not buy paid text links or penalizing paid text link exchanges / brokers / those that participate is completely ridiculous, illogical, and more suitable for an entity that operates like a police state as opposed to in accordance with its mission. Too many irrelevant sites appear at the top of your rankings today. Update your algorithm. The finger should be pointing at you and not at the sites that want to move up in organic search results. Invest more resources into displaying relevant search results rather than policing text link buyers with relevant sites to promote.

  319. I also do not like the idea of paid links as they make it more difficult for free or opensource project to get high ranking. I think that punishing paid links is a good idea. Maybe, I do not understand it, but I do not like the idea of nofollow. Fow example, Wikipedia is using nofollow, but I do not understand why sites referenced by Wikipedia should not get the credit.

  320. Hi Mike,
    Its hard to understand what’s good or bad when advertising on the Internet. I find lots of different seo companies with different ideas on how to improve website business. I’m still confused on whats safe to do. A good example is one of our competitors 24hourwristbands dot com has gone from bottom of the Google directory to the top in a few months. After several hours of trying to figure out why, I find they hired an seo company that has created many web pages with Links to their website. This must have cost a fortune we don’t have, but we probably could get the money if we thought it would not penalize us in the future in Google. Seems to me they are buying links from the seo company. What do you think? How do we know if this is OK to do?
    Thanks Bob

  321. Bob,
    I think this idea works for a while but if your bread and butter depends on the website I would recommend not taking a risk. I know one site which was doing really well about six months ago and now they are no where on the first 8 pages of google. They made about 30 single page sites and back linked all of them to their main site. One fine morning they were wrapped. I guess google suspect you are link buyer if your link are increasing by 30 a day.
    Frankly you can not get 30 genuine links a day. I know this site and it had very few back links but still rates very well on google, probably it has good reference back links http://www.mcgillteak.com/. I would say stay genuine and with time you will get where you deserve. Just focus on good text writing and make informative website. Good luck

  322. Bob,
    that’s a great question and the safest bet is that if it’s gaming the system you will get caught and you will be penalized in some fashion. So…if you are linking to a money site you will not want to be doing that as your business could suffer in the near future. Just because what you see one company doing is not necessarily the entire picture. So take things nice and slow and put out quality. Have fun with your customers. Ask for referrals. Build a newsletter and send that to your regular clients to keep yourself on the “Top of their mind” and remember to have fun yourself.

  323. I’ve tried to denounce competitors using paid links etc. but so far (6 months) nothing seems to happen; they are still in the same places.

  324. I also do not like the idea of paid links as they make it more difficult for free or opensource project to get high ranking. I think that punishing paid links is a good idea. Maybe, I do not understand it, but I do not like the idea of nofollow. Fow example, Wikipedia is using nofollow, but I do not understand why sites referenced by Wikipedia should not get the credit.

  325. Personally, I have not found any benefit from using paid links in gaining search engine rankings for some of my websites. Whatever short-term bounce I have got in the past is quickly outweighed by the lower rankings I later get because the rankings don’t stick. Worse yet, if it is ever discovered that you are on a paid site, get ready to get in the sandbox & good luck getting out. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened to me, but I do know people that have had that happen to. The only paid directories that I have got love from are Yahoo & BOTW. After that, it’s a waste of time & money.

  326. Personally, I think Google shouldn’t value a website on how many links it has. Realistically speaking, if I was a sportsmen and played better hockey than my opponent, it doesn’t matter how many links my opponent has, if I’m better a player I shouldn’t need the links to back me up. So what I’m trying to say is, Google should have their 10 000+ staff review websites one by one and have a general voting initiated to determine which website is truly the best and which website truly deserves to be highly ranked.

    Thanks for reading,

    Calvin Jones

  327. I have a friend that was penalized for using paid links. It is better to get as much exposure as you can by getting blogs to write about your products and do reviews by sending them a press release “type” information packet. You can send them information on your products and ask them to review some of them. Most everybody is looking to add really good and pertinent content to their site. So, I simply write pertinent information about my skin rash and scalp products and ask them if they would reivew the products since they can help many of their customers or just post the information for their readers. It is working about 25% of the time.

  328. Bob,
    I think this idea works for a while but if your bread and butter depends on the website I would recommend not taking a risk. I know one site which was doing really well about six months ago and now they are no where on the first 8 pages of google. They made about 30 single page sites and back linked all of them to their main site. One fine morning they were wrapped. I guess google suspect you are link buyer if your link are increasing by 30 a day.

  329. Although there are some circumstances where purchased links may be a legitimate form of advertising, allowing purchased links to influence PR simply provides too many opportunities for abuse. The “nofollow” tag is a suitable solution for those who buy links for solely traffic reasons. Google is doing an excellent job at preventing people from “gaming” the system.

  330. Amazingly, in this day and age reputable companies still try to buy links from me. Just sent this page back to the PR person responsible.

  331. The moment my site hit the loft hights of PR1 we started to get the gambaling sites telling us that we are ripe for their adverts on our front page (we are a site designed to promote a single wedding shop, yeah that would look good for us).

    These emails, a lot of them pretty rude tbh, hit us the day after the last google pr update.

    looking into things a little bit more and I see some of our direct competitors, at the top of the SERPS, therefore benefiting directly from googles algorithms have something in the region of 20k back links gained on a TLD thats under 4 months old.

    It sure looks like Googles way of dealing with them isn’t catching the worst offenders. When the difference between rank 1 and 3 can be 50% more clicks onto your site, then people are never going to follow the rules (your rules) and the people who DO follow the rules just get left in the dust (though that seems to be true in all aspect in life)

  332. For rankings google seemed to be more in favour of backlinks. Now I can see a slight modification in the algo that I can only welcome. Hope authority and good content helps websites to outrank those with tonnes of backlinks.

  333. The issue for me with Google’s policy is that Google sells links. All of the Pay Per Click links and sponsored links at the top of search results are purchased text links. Every content ad across the Google network is a purchased link, albeit temporary. But PPC for search is the very definition of a paid link, whereas anyone can pay to have a link on the first page of any search results.

  334. I remember reading this thread 5 years ago when it was first started.
    It amazes me that it is still active and that after all this time no clear cut answer as been reached. I feel the same way I did after the Lost finale. So many questions left unanswered and no definitive answers were given.

    So here is what I feel needs explaination:
    1) Sites that sell links for PR transfer reasons are penalized. How are these sites detected? How it is determined that in fact this is their intent? Must site owner’s code their sites in the way Google declares as law? Use “no-follow” or go to Google jail? By the way, Yahoo’s paid directory transfers PR. I think its time to crack down on them ;0

    2) Sites that buy links for PR transfer reasons are penalized. Early on the question was asked about whether competitors could buy links to give their web foes a Google penalty. So can people buy links to penalize their competition? – Time to advertise again in Search King 😉 – How are the buyers penalized? How it is determined which buyers to penalize?

    Ultimately the biggest question is: Is Google trying to create a monopoly on the way people advertise on the web?

    It was Google that used the model of whoever spends the most gets highest rankings in its search. Adwords are at the top so spend the most and you will have best rankings. Advertising via paid links is another way site owners try to make it to the top. The issue is Google doesn’t make money from it. Advertising is a way for people on and offline to get their business to the top. Coke, Pepsi, or MacDonald’s don’t make it to the top because their food is better, they win by overwhelming us with their ads. By eliminating the way one can get to the top of Google through advertising and only allowing the advertisers the option of using Adwords, Google is in fact creating a monopoly. You can justify a monopoly with “don’t be evil” but at the end of the day monopolies are in their nature evil because they eliminate the one good thing we all cherish which is choice.

    Just food for thought
    Allan (white hat seo)
    by the way, call me old fashioned but I don’t believe in paid links…I prefer the old adage “content is king”

  335. Hi Matt, an interesting point. But as Google now pretty much has taken over the world as far as search is concerned, one can understand why folks are desperate in finding a way to beat the system, because they realise that if their site does not appear in the first three pages of a search result, they may just as well not bother having a website in the first place.

    At least, in the old days, when a Google search did not yield the required results, one could try Alta Vista, or Hotbot, or Lycos etc. etc. etc. No wonder everyone is leaning towards trickery. In many cases, their online sites are their livelyhood. Change the algo and dump some urls and some folks won’t be able to eat.

    That’s why selling one way links from manufactured sites has now become such a large industry. This clearly is spamming the search index – my pet monkey could work that one out. So, I understand that Google looks at links on a page to see if they are clustered, or themed to match and are interwoven with the content, in order to figure out if they were paid for links which should be excluded from Google’s page ranking system.

    This would clearly indicate that links from directories such as Yahoo or the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) do not count, because these are just directories, like thousand of other directories mostly which charge a fee to insert a link (a paid link which Google tries to ignore). Yet Alexa values such an insertion which increases an Alexa rank. Do your co-workers at Google believe Alexa had got it wrong, or do you have a list of directories from which you accept links which you will include into your ranking system, whilst directories not on this list will have their links excluded.

    Perhaps you can make a note of this topic for your next video presentation. And thanks for all the good work.

  336. 1) PR transfer nedenlerle bağlantıları satmak Siteler cezalandırılmış oluyor . Nasıl bu siteler algıladı ? Nasıl ki aslında bu onların niyeti olduğu belirleniyor? Must site sahibinin kod Google yasası olarak ilan şekilde kendi sitelerinde ? Kullanım ” no- takip “veya Google hapse ? Bu arada , Yahoo ücretli listesi transferler PR By . Ben onun zaman onları kırmak için düşünüyorum; 0

  337. I have tried a variety of ways to promote my http://www.rapidwebreviews.com website. To really start promoting it even more, I was considering purchasing the service of a SEO company that is very reputable and has many high end clients. What they pretty much do is go on a link buying binge. Would it be a good idea for me to buy this service? It’s expensive though.

  338. Hi Matt,

    Will approving trackbacks for blog posts from unrelated websites hurt website SEO and ranking ? I am guessing those websites use automated related posts plugin which automatically link to related posts. This plugin seems to suck, since it links to unrelated content. Should i spam those links or approve them ?

    thanks in advance

  339. To the posters saying google are being hypocritical, I don’t agree. Google aren’t saying sponsorship is bad, and they aren’t trying to ban advertisements. All they’re trying to do is seperate sponsored advertising from their own natural search rankings which are, after all, designed to try and take people to the most relevant information for their search query.

    Before Google’s algorythms became so advanced, it was possible spammers used to dominate the top page of search results for so many queries, and searching was more frustrating. I’d rather not go back there.

  340. Will approving trackbacks for blog posts from unrelated websites hurt website SEO and ranking ? I am guessing those websites use automated related posts plugin which automatically link to related posts. This plugin seems to suck, since it links to unrelated content. Should i spam those links or approve them ?

  341. It would be nice to have more feedback from Google when they are penalizing a site. In many cases some people may not be aware of what technicality is not being properly followed.

  342. It is definitely getting harder for quality links to get the “esteem” they deserve through the various search engines thanks to the bad apples that are paid links. I find that the majority of links out there are swapped, directory-farmed, or paid, with no authentic value to them regarding the content around them. Hopefully, the search engines are getting better at clearly separating “fake” from legitimate.

  343. @Mustafa
    I guess that would never HAPPEN so you better not to worry about trackbacks in blog posts from unrelated websites…

  344. Hi, Matt!
    I am wondering in a case: lets assume a sport site has loads of external OBL, lets say 40-50 (Only relevant) and it has been maintaining it’s PageRank(I often noticed to many such sites) even though there is no more link popularity to the site after obtained Google update PageRank. What am i suppose to assume in this case?
    Doesn’t Google mind about external links when a site sounds SPAMMY with external links?

  345. The problem I have with the “no follow” commands is that they 1) don’t stop paid links from occurring, they just redirect them to another site and 2) they are in many cases used to do the opposite of what they were intended to do. Companies who want to buy a link on a site do not want to purchase a link tagged with a “no follow” that has no search engine value. As a result, they will place a stipulation in their link purchase offers/agreements that there cannot be a no follow designation. If that agreement is refused, they go on to the next site who will agree to that. Where the no follow links tend to get used is where someone hires a search engine optimization company and they company says “it’s fine if you want to link to other useful informative pages, but we don’t want your outbound links to devalue your site in google’s eyes so we are going to “no follow” it. The problem there is that the site really is linking the other site because it has valuable info. (which is there very purpose of treating a link as a vote), but it is designating it as “no follow” for personal gain reasons. It makes no sense to allow a website to designate those sites it views as authorities as “no follow” in order to make itself look better. The designation of a link as a nonvote should belong to the search engine exclusively to avoid this kind of rank manufacturing.

  346. I think all SEO experts are fighting for the Top 10 and trying to find the way to increase their websites PageRank.
    After reading and investigating and experimenting on on SEO for real estate websites, were the competition is extremely high I found out that Google does not want SEO people to speculate on link building. Google wants link building to occur as a natural consequence, like if each link was a vote, but people should vote in a natural way. In many cases SEO experts generate “votes” links that are not a natural consequence, and this is what Google tries to fight.
    Regarding increasing the PR, the same thing. For example, do you know why Google never specifies when the next PageRank update will occur?
    The last PageRank update I have seen no changes at all, I wonder if that was an update or not.
    Now on January 1st a new PR update is expected. Well last year was on this date, but probably now it wont.
    So my conclusion is that we are all in a very complicated situation in which links should lead to relevant and good information.
    Google algorithm is getting very intelligent and can classify if the information is good or not for visitors.
    If you send links to urls where the information is good and relevant to the anchor text of the link, and you update regularly the data on that website, after hard work you will find that your website will be on the Top 10 of Google and you will have a high PR too.
    I am following this advice and my website International Real Estate is now on Google top 10 and is a PageRank 6.
    Remember, what you should do is never try to cheat Google, just provide useful information to visitors and update regularly your website, you will find more traffic and conversions will occur.
    If something I wrote is not correct please let me know, I am learning every day and I want to improve.
    Kind regards,
    Hugo Smith
    SEO Expert specializing in Real Estate

  347. This is awesome information and yes, with the knowledge of link building people are going after it without elevating content of their websites. This will effect the correctness of any search engine result. Google must adopt some new strategies to stop such a scam and deliver the best to the people.

  348. I bought some dofollow links on ebay before. They were useless for me. There were all different kinds of sites but most of them I don’t even know what the site was about. Sporting sites and stuff. I would have to try to research what the site is about before I could even write anything. I didn’t want it to sound spammy and get deleted or caught by askimet. Do follow lists are not all they are cracked up to be. Its easier to just comment on sites that are of interest or relevant to your site/blog.

  349. There are so many small startups who rely fully on advertising and see that as a success and dedicate their time to make the website better, powerful and informative. If there was no such thing as TLA or adsense there would have been so less sites in the world today. Because of that there are now so many popular websites and attracting so many young people to do the same.
    So, which is better, young generation try to cash in TLA’s and choose the right path or frustrated in life and go through wrong paths as they have nothing better to do?

  350. Ok so what suggestions would have for absolute first timers? We both know that when you are starting out, to get noticed we all need some underhand techniques.

    Would these techniques haunt us? You have to figure out something else. Your rules seriously hamper first timers. Somehow or the other we have to pay to get noticed!

  351. Dear Matt,
    I had the misfortune of being born with a nice sounding but very common name. I have tried to increase the pagerank of my website http://www.danielyounglaw.com/ to little avail. If someone searches for my name, I do not come up in the first four pages of results. Of course there are keywords that are more important than my name but it hurts. Would you recommend people name their children based on their ability to achieve a high pagerank for that name?

    Additionally, it seems as if a good way to increase your rank in the law field is to be listed in law directories. As you pay to be listed, isn’t this just another form of link buying?

  352. I have heard that sometimes google can penalize a site that has purchased back links, but if that is true, doesn’t that give a competitor the opportunity to cynically buy backlinks for a competitor’s site so that google will penalize that site?

  353. I have seen many websites selling tons of links and still maintaining good PR and rankings. To be frank I am not sure about this buying or selling thing.

  354. Matt, what are your thoughts on directories that charge a review fee and allow only unique and useful links not having nofollow in the anchors?

  355. Seems like my competitors who outperform my site have a ton of directory links. Their pages are not well optimized and they have substantially less content. From all perspectives it does seem like these directories really help them.

  356. Matt, i came across your articles for the very first time.. Could you please answer that why google prohibits paid link submissions?

  357. I have a problem with all this:
    I can review a site and make sure it is good and want to vote for that site, but have it turn and bite me for going off and reviewing something. There are a few parts to this. First there is the fact that “I” checked the site, there is “when I checked the site”, how the site was at that time and how trust worthy I am.
    I wish google and the other search engines had a way that would allow the individual to make a “vote” that can’t backfire. The current rel=nofollow system is way too coarse a tool. Maybe a new syntax of trust: rel=”nofollow[for searchengines that don’t have the new syntax] google-follow-[google-uid]-[date] bing-follow-[bing-uid]-[date] bing-follow-[obfuscated-code] openid-follow-[routing]-[uid]-[date]”
    That way a common blogger (for example) could periodically check the urls of his/her commenters make sure they are decent and vote for them at the time while allowing the search engines to discount the vote if the site changes in nature(becomes spammy). Or social methods could be put in place to make the “Like” button actually effective for common users.
    The current system seems to just make good people nofollow everything. Some change needs to be made, and the above is just one example of something the search engines could do.

  358. I guess my real question is why a site like Facebook or WordPress.com would need to nofollow every link. A vote for a site by a human is a vote for a site. It shouldn’t affect Facebook or WordPress what their users are doing. Giving that mechanism would mean that social sites could be conduits for votes and then google just needs to determine if the individual site is trying to game the system, and if the followid is trustworthy using existing spam detection techniques.

  359. If you are new to SEO I would suggest focusing on being creative and sticking to the rules, target some long tail keywords and run some PPC for your clients. Your competition did not get to page 1/ rank 1 over night and you will not either.

  360. Hi Matt,

    Will approving trackbacks for blog posts from unrelated websites hurt website SEO and ranking ? I am guessing those websites use automated related posts plugin which automatically link to related posts. This plugin seems to suck, since it links to unrelated content. Should i spam those links or approve them ?

    thanks in advance

  361. Hi Matt
    Am I right in thinking that the more links you have to your website the higher the page rank, or are there any other additional factors apart from text links which contribute to this?

  362. Hi Matt,
    I have just been rereading a lot of these comments and I wish you had time to answer some of these questions. It would be a great help to everyone who is interested in this matter.
    Here it is more than 6 years later and the issue is still hot.

  363. Thanks Matt!

  364. Good point! I’m just learning about these sorts of spamming, now. It’s tricky stuff. But I see Internet whoring all the time with competitors, and somehow I want to be level, yet do the right thing (I know that’s unrelated to the first question). The World Wide Web is a harsh place.

  365. What I find laughable is that this very page itself has become a magnet for link spammers hoping to get a decent link for free off this domain (and yes I know they are nofollowed but that does not seem to deter the spammers). Case in point is the comment from Pokie on May 19, 2010 at 4:33 am. Pokie is Australian slang for poker machine (a.k.a. slot machine) and the spam link goes to an online casino site. Gee I wonder why? Or how about Sunil March 15, 2011 at 11:48 pm linking to his “SEO” site with an inane comment that contributes nothing – a hallmark of classic link spam.

    There are heaps more and it shows the exact problem that this uncertainty creates – I have sites where we spend hours each week in wasted time dealing with link spammers and “SEO” companies that pay people from third world countries peanuts to link spam forums and articles in lieu of buying links.

  366. Hi Matt,

    I respectfully second daniel’s request. I have been reading through many of these comments and would love an up to date response on some of these issues that are still very relevant today. I am in a very competitive industry (law firms) in a very competitive market (los angeles) when it comes to seo so every bit counts to get ahead of the competition. On a side note, I am based in Long Beach and I would like to really be optimized for Los Angeles. It is a difficult issue since Google (from a local standpoint) ranking is a tricky thing to achieve when you are based in one place but want to be relevant for another (or at least a larger geographic area). The site is MichaelWaks.com Thank you for sharing your professional insights.

  367. The continued hot topic – – Would love to see some of these comments answered, especially after Panda/Farmer update has killed so many of the free text links that were in articles. So paying for them is bad, and having original well written content on ezine articles doesn’t help either. Clarity would be useful.

  368. Nice post, but I have a question, shouldn’t we vary our back-links so Google won’t suspect that we don’t get sandboxed for example if I want to rank for keyword1, shouldn’t I use as anchor text also see-keyword1 or link-keyword1 or click-the-link…..

  369. “Would that recommendation create as much trust if you later found out the friend was paid to recommend a website”

    In some ways I don’t entirely agree with this statement. Not every person is the same and neither are the circumstances. I have friends that recommend products and services using aff links, just because they are getting paid doesn’t make me trust them any less, they are my loyalist friends.

    I feel there are times when it ‘s inappropriate to sell links though, the porn and gambling websites, drugs and prostitution. They only buy links because no one “morally” agrees with what they are doing.

    If a business offered me money to sell links and I didn’t agree with what they where doing, then I wouldn’t put the links on my website, I wouldn’t care how much they offered to pay. Some people will not see things this way and this is the problem.

  370. Hello Sir .
    This is Arun Rana a new blogger , i have a blog which was going well and getting all the traffic from Goggle but suddenly My blog (timetravell.com ) is penalized by google for breaking quality guideline (two weeks ago ).Sir this is due to Some one said me about link exchange to get more good ranking on google so i exchange only one link . I Think this is the reason ,i removed it and now my blog is not breaking any webmaster guidelines .Sir i submit my reconsideration request two times but penalty is not lifted yet .Sir my blog is known for the quality content and also having a pr 2 and i promise that i will never participate in this link exchange service .Sir please help me …….My webmaster email is given while commenting here (comment form ) .Sir i love to do blogging plz help me sir i very helpless without Google my Blog is Zero ,looking forward for your reply you are the only hope .

  371. I think you will struggle on this Matt – your body will go into shock due to such a change.

    Best to do it gradually – let your body get used to it.

  372. Sorry Matt – scratch the last comment, that was regards your 30 day vegan trial (which I cannot advise).

    I did have a question about text links (as I am doing an article about them).

    Does google penalise websites that buy text links (as I notice that many companies that appear on page 1 for search results do have a lot of text links)?

  373. Hi Matt this is my stance on paid links and I would like to share my idea’s with you and the team over at Google.

    If you would really like to eliminate paid links then you should simply not use backlinks as part of your ranking algorithm.

    If you really want to provide users with the very best overall results then I would suggest to rank sites on several other factors and I am 99% sure I know which one really would provide users with the best results.

    You have my email address and if you would like to hear my idea’s then please just send me an email and I will gladly share this with you. Like I said before you will never be able to stop paid links as long as they are counted towards rankings, which is a shame as I often come across sites that are irrelevant to the keyword/phrase I searched for.

    Thanks Richard

  374. I’ve also heard about the March 30, 2011 version 3.18 of the Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines handbook used by Google Search Quality Raters around the world that has been published online. It seems that Google uses more human editors than we realized.

  375. Thank you for sharing this grate information, it was really helpful.
    But what if you want to sell links for traffic do you have to implement “nofollow” tag and then the website will not hurt in the serps ???