Google to penalize bloggers selling links?

Yeah, I couldn’t stay away from my blog, I’m stuck in Merced with lots of Farsi-speaking relatives of Maryam’s — I don’t speak Farsi, so instead, read my feeds, which brings me to this post.

So, today Matt Cutts, my favorite Google-employed blogger, caused a bit of uproar by writing several posts today suggesting that bloggers and others identify their links that are paid for, rather than genuinely-earned links — even going so far to tell us how turn in other bloggers who are accepting paid links. Matt recommended disclosing paid links: “The other best practice I’d advise is to provide human readable disclosure that a link/review/article is paid.”

I’ll link to TechMeme because his post is already getting an interesting conversation going.

Anyway, this has an SEOs panties up in a bunch. Tony Hung asks “is this Google’s achilles heel?”

I think they are missing the point. Google is shooting a bowling ball over PayPerPost’s bow (and, yes, I’m still speaking at PayPerPost’s PostieCon on June 1 — PodTech decided to pay my way — I’m giving a talk titled “it’s a Google World.” Which is why I’m interested in anything Google does about paid links).

Disclosure: I will disclose anything I get paid to do +in+ the post I do it.

Can Google detect paid content listing? Of course, especially if done explicitly like PayPerPost (or other paid linking services) do it.

Especially if that system is semi public, like PayPerPost is. All Google would need to do is have a group of employees join systems like PayPerPost and they’d get a detailed listing of who is trying to buy links. Someone just needs to enter those into a database, and watch the results, and they’d be able to reduce their ability to get into Google’s ranking system.

The real message? They will swat down anyone who really does a good job of selling advertising into Google’s page rank system. PayPerPost is just the most public example of someone selling access to Google’s search engine’s result set but there are others and Matt’s series of posts makes it clear he’s looking to track others.

Why does Google care? Well, Google’s relevancy rankings will be hurt if people can buy their way onto their pages instead of earn their way to those search results pages by doing the best content, etc. Lots of people are doing comparisons of Google’s search results to Yahoo, Ask, and Microsoft’s search engines. If Google’s result set isn’t the best Google’s market share will start to go down as people figure out there are better engines out there. That, in turn, will hurt Google’s advertising business.

Not to mention that if advertisers know there’s a cheaper way to get onto Google’s search engine than by buying an ad, they’ll go with that system. So, Google has a LOT of incentive to swat down PayPerPost and pay-per-link style systems.

Matt was just warning us all that if you don’t disclose ON THE POST ITSELF you might get penalized in Google’s PageRank system.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. Well, Robert, I think the issue is obvious if paid links are disclosed as being done in a semi-public fashion as you’ve clearly stated here.

    The point I was trying to make is “what if it wasn’t?” And if its not, then it casts doubt on the veracity of *all* inbound / outbound links.

    Matt Cutts left a remark on my blog saying that Google *does* have a means of detecting paid links, but I presume that he means this is done algorithmically and not by hand (which, I also presume at Google, is probably regarded as anti-thetical and primitive).

    And I would *love* to know how Google’s able to do this, as I just don’t see how it could if links are sold on the sly, and not done in public.

    I mean, how could anyone know if any old-fashioned link is sold either before or after the fact?

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  2. Well, Robert, I think the issue is obvious if paid links are disclosed as being done in a semi-public fashion as you’ve clearly stated here.

    The point I was trying to make is “what if it wasn’t?” And if its not, then it casts doubt on the veracity of *all* inbound / outbound links.

    Matt Cutts left a remark on my blog saying that Google *does* have a means of detecting paid links, but I presume that he means this is done algorithmically and not by hand (which, I also presume at Google, is probably regarded as anti-thetical and primitive).

    And I would *love* to know how Google’s able to do this, as I just don’t see how it could if links are sold on the sly, and not done in public.

    I mean, how could anyone know if any old-fashioned link is sold either before or after the fact?

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  3. Tony: there are algorithmic systems under design. I haven’t seen Google’s, but I have seen another one, still in stealth mode. It detects some pretty interesting things about linking behavior and patterns.

    Think about it. Someone who is paying for links probably will turn those links on in a different pattern than if they were just organically gained.

    Such a system could bring weird linking patterns to the attention of a human being who could then decide whether or not to apply a penalty.

    But, ask yourself, why is a system like TechMeme pretty darn free of spam? It’s all algorithmically done too.

    And, I bet, if I started selling ways to get on Techmeme that Gabe would see that the quality of his page had gone down and he’d penalize us from his system too.

  4. Tony: there are algorithmic systems under design. I haven’t seen Google’s, but I have seen another one, still in stealth mode. It detects some pretty interesting things about linking behavior and patterns.

    Think about it. Someone who is paying for links probably will turn those links on in a different pattern than if they were just organically gained.

    Such a system could bring weird linking patterns to the attention of a human being who could then decide whether or not to apply a penalty.

    But, ask yourself, why is a system like TechMeme pretty darn free of spam? It’s all algorithmically done too.

    And, I bet, if I started selling ways to get on Techmeme that Gabe would see that the quality of his page had gone down and he’d penalize us from his system too.

  5. Well, I think Techmeme and Google are different in many, many ways — least of all is scale. Gabe has a single page that’s updated many times per day vs. thousands pages for thousands of search terms

    I see what you mean by monitoring link behaviour, which is pretty fascinating; however, how could you prove that a link was bought and sold?

    Obviously the ones that stick out will be easy to spot; however, what about the ones that are done intelligently and on the sly?

    How does Google know, for example, that I didn’t pay you for the link in this blog? (which I didn’t — do you hear my Google! — and probably could never afford anyway?)

    But I go back to the burden of proof — how could they ever prove that a link was bought and sold? And if they can’t, how can they penalize sites for those links with any integrity?

    Or, would they merely discount those links altogether?

    Just some food for thought, I guess.

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  6. Well, I think Techmeme and Google are different in many, many ways — least of all is scale. Gabe has a single page that’s updated many times per day vs. thousands pages for thousands of search terms

    I see what you mean by monitoring link behaviour, which is pretty fascinating; however, how could you prove that a link was bought and sold?

    Obviously the ones that stick out will be easy to spot; however, what about the ones that are done intelligently and on the sly?

    How does Google know, for example, that I didn’t pay you for the link in this blog? (which I didn’t — do you hear my Google! — and probably could never afford anyway?)

    But I go back to the burden of proof — how could they ever prove that a link was bought and sold? And if they can’t, how can they penalize sites for those links with any integrity?

    Or, would they merely discount those links altogether?

    Just some food for thought, I guess.

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  7. Tony: Google penalizes sites all the times for stuff that is far less destructive than paid links.

    Search Google for “Robert” for instance.

    Isn’t Google penalizing Robert Redford and Robert Kennedy for not having popular blogs?

  8. Tony: Google penalizes sites all the times for stuff that is far less destructive than paid links.

    Search Google for “Robert” for instance.

    Isn’t Google penalizing Robert Redford and Robert Kennedy for not having popular blogs?

  9. The way that a url ranks for a given term is relatively transparent. That Mr. Redford or Mr. Kennedy (or parties who are associated thereof) choose not to stick to these rules, or even be aware of them, makes it hard to say that they’re being “penalized”.

    With paid links, the issue would be a knowing violation of the rules that have been set out by Google; rather, that paid links are fine for traffic, but not fine for page rank, and that individuals who engage in this activity would be unlikely to be doing it unknowingly.

    I guess what I mean by “penalize” isn’t necessarily poor rankings for SERPs, but the range of consequences all the way up to and including the possibility of being dropped from the index altogether.

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  10. The way that a url ranks for a given term is relatively transparent. That Mr. Redford or Mr. Kennedy (or parties who are associated thereof) choose not to stick to these rules, or even be aware of them, makes it hard to say that they’re being “penalized”.

    With paid links, the issue would be a knowing violation of the rules that have been set out by Google; rather, that paid links are fine for traffic, but not fine for page rank, and that individuals who engage in this activity would be unlikely to be doing it unknowingly.

    I guess what I mean by “penalize” isn’t necessarily poor rankings for SERPs, but the range of consequences all the way up to and including the possibility of being dropped from the index altogether.

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  11. The PageRank algorithm belongs to the 1.0 world. Fortunately for Google, there’s still tons of “1.0″ stuff going on today.

    If you have to tell people how to publish things on the web (and we’re not even talking about purposely using black hat SEO techniques) because otherwise your algorithm will make wrong assumptions, the problem’s in your algorithm – you can’t ‘fix’ people, and to tell them that if you don’t listen you’ll be penalized simply proves my point (remember, these people aren’t trying to fool search engines, just want to make a few bucks by writing about something).

  12. The PageRank algorithm belongs to the 1.0 world. Fortunately for Google, there’s still tons of “1.0″ stuff going on today.

    If you have to tell people how to publish things on the web (and we’re not even talking about purposely using black hat SEO techniques) because otherwise your algorithm will make wrong assumptions, the problem’s in your algorithm – you can’t ‘fix’ people, and to tell them that if you don’t listen you’ll be penalized simply proves my point (remember, these people aren’t trying to fool search engines, just want to make a few bucks by writing about something).

  13. Anything that requires human intervention ultimately won’t work (nature of the beast)… but from the sounds of it they are just looking for samples — this isn’t the solution, they are just grabbing data points to further tweak their algorithms.

    Tony is right in saying that underhanded link selling will always go on in some form. I always think of SEO as “socially engineering others” — finding ways to convince people to link to you so that the search engine ranks you higher. But Google has to crush the current crop of PPP’s and ReviewMe’s and keep it underground.

  14. Anything that requires human intervention ultimately won’t work (nature of the beast)… but from the sounds of it they are just looking for samples — this isn’t the solution, they are just grabbing data points to further tweak their algorithms.

    Tony is right in saying that underhanded link selling will always go on in some form. I always think of SEO as “socially engineering others” — finding ways to convince people to link to you so that the search engine ranks you higher. But Google has to crush the current crop of PPP’s and ReviewMe’s and keep it underground.

  15. Is it really that hard to set up a primitive system to detect this? (I stress the word “primitive”) – actually with 5 seconds of thought at 3:30am, having at least some bloggers disclose paid links makes the whole process even easier…

    1) Find at least one known paid link
    2) find out who shares that same link in the same timeframe
    3) mark those sites as “worth watching”
    4) watch where those sites link to and timing of links
    5) see who else shares those other links

    rinse and repeat #3, #4, and #5

    The beauty of Google’s approach is that they already have the tools to go after the achilles heel of any such paid link approach: the buzz. Advertisers pay for buzz in a specific product or service over a specific timeframe. The agencies must be able to measure the buzz in order to get paid and something in the metrics has to be involved with getting links.

    Over time it doesn’t seem so hard to find associative patterns that indicate more than a certain threshold or pattern of activity during a given timeframe. You’d likely end up with at least four groupings for sites:

    - no paid links or links enough below some threshold so as to be possibly coincidental
    - enough matching activity above a certain threshold or enough coincidental correlation to be marked as a possible undeclared paid link site (basically more data needed)
    - enough activity and correlation to clearly be an undeclared paid link site
    - declared paid link site

    The whole process is made especially easier if you can quickly narrow down the group of places to look as indicators of such activity (declared sites and likely undeclared paid link sites).

    The funny part is that Google likely already has much of this data – it just needs to be crunched so changing behavior now might not even help these sites….

  16. Is it really that hard to set up a primitive system to detect this? (I stress the word “primitive”) – actually with 5 seconds of thought at 3:30am, having at least some bloggers disclose paid links makes the whole process even easier…

    1) Find at least one known paid link
    2) find out who shares that same link in the same timeframe
    3) mark those sites as “worth watching”
    4) watch where those sites link to and timing of links
    5) see who else shares those other links

    rinse and repeat #3, #4, and #5

    The beauty of Google’s approach is that they already have the tools to go after the achilles heel of any such paid link approach: the buzz. Advertisers pay for buzz in a specific product or service over a specific timeframe. The agencies must be able to measure the buzz in order to get paid and something in the metrics has to be involved with getting links.

    Over time it doesn’t seem so hard to find associative patterns that indicate more than a certain threshold or pattern of activity during a given timeframe. You’d likely end up with at least four groupings for sites:

    - no paid links or links enough below some threshold so as to be possibly coincidental
    - enough matching activity above a certain threshold or enough coincidental correlation to be marked as a possible undeclared paid link site (basically more data needed)
    - enough activity and correlation to clearly be an undeclared paid link site
    - declared paid link site

    The whole process is made especially easier if you can quickly narrow down the group of places to look as indicators of such activity (declared sites and likely undeclared paid link sites).

    The funny part is that Google likely already has much of this data – it just needs to be crunched so changing behavior now might not even help these sites….

  17. I don’t necessarily see this as just a shot across PayPerPost’s bow, but more as an attack against services like TextLinkAds. TLA goes out of their way to make their links non-detectable by Google by using PHP scripts to inject paid links rather than Javascript (what AdSense uses). In my opinion, any legitimate ad network should force ads to have rel=”nofollow” in their links. Backhandedly selling PageRank like TextLinkAds and PayPerPost does only makes Google and other search engines less useful by spamming the top search results with over-SEO’ed garbage sites.

    If you want to appear at the top of a Google search term, then buy that keyword with Google. Backhandedly selling PageRank is just an unhealthy thing for search engines and the web as a whole.

  18. I don’t necessarily see this as just a shot across PayPerPost’s bow, but more as an attack against services like TextLinkAds. TLA goes out of their way to make their links non-detectable by Google by using PHP scripts to inject paid links rather than Javascript (what AdSense uses). In my opinion, any legitimate ad network should force ads to have rel=”nofollow” in their links. Backhandedly selling PageRank like TextLinkAds and PayPerPost does only makes Google and other search engines less useful by spamming the top search results with over-SEO’ed garbage sites.

    If you want to appear at the top of a Google search term, then buy that keyword with Google. Backhandedly selling PageRank is just an unhealthy thing for search engines and the web as a whole.

  19. several manufacturers pay to Engadget by giving them gadgets that Engadget reviews and then gives away thus boosting their popularity. So the bribe and links from Engadget to websites of manufacterer are PAID LINKS.

    Google, please reduce Engadget !

  20. several manufacturers pay to Engadget by giving them gadgets that Engadget reviews and then gives away thus boosting their popularity. So the bribe and links from Engadget to websites of manufacterer are PAID LINKS.

    Google, please reduce Engadget !

  21. Hi Robert,

    Avid reader, don’t post much. After reading this column I couldn’t help but think why so many in the SEO world would have their panties in a bunch. These are the same folks who cry foul when Google places a Google service high in the rankings; Checkout, Picasa, etc., explaining that this is not an organic result and shouldn’t be listed, and in so many words concluding that Google is spoiling the natural and organic resault that so many people have come to appreciate Google for.

    These smae folks are upset that Google is going looking for people/sites that want to exploit the Google SRPs for pretty much the same motive; exposure and money.

    It would be merely humorous if it wasn’t so upsetting to those of us who use Google on a daily basis for the simple service that it is for finding valuable pieces of information everyday for both work and personal research.

    That for a few bucks more the SEO folks are willing to do anything they can even if it means damaging such an invaluable service such that Google has become to many of us simpletons like me that just appreciate it for what it is able to deliver and trust it for delivering relevant results.

    What the pay-per-post and paid link crowd is attempting to do is far, far more harmful than what Google EVER tried with placing links high on the SRPs to Google-related services, yet it caused such an outcry from so many people from around the world.

    What’s even sadder is, if this sort of “paid linking/post” is going to go on through Google it’s likely going to happen through Yahoo and MSN and we’re left with trying to sift through more garbage posts and links as a result.

    TomLee

  22. Hi Robert,

    Avid reader, don’t post much. After reading this column I couldn’t help but think why so many in the SEO world would have their panties in a bunch. These are the same folks who cry foul when Google places a Google service high in the rankings; Checkout, Picasa, etc., explaining that this is not an organic result and shouldn’t be listed, and in so many words concluding that Google is spoiling the natural and organic resault that so many people have come to appreciate Google for.

    These smae folks are upset that Google is going looking for people/sites that want to exploit the Google SRPs for pretty much the same motive; exposure and money.

    It would be merely humorous if it wasn’t so upsetting to those of us who use Google on a daily basis for the simple service that it is for finding valuable pieces of information everyday for both work and personal research.

    That for a few bucks more the SEO folks are willing to do anything they can even if it means damaging such an invaluable service such that Google has become to many of us simpletons like me that just appreciate it for what it is able to deliver and trust it for delivering relevant results.

    What the pay-per-post and paid link crowd is attempting to do is far, far more harmful than what Google EVER tried with placing links high on the SRPs to Google-related services, yet it caused such an outcry from so many people from around the world.

    What’s even sadder is, if this sort of “paid linking/post” is going to go on through Google it’s likely going to happen through Yahoo and MSN and we’re left with trying to sift through more garbage posts and links as a result.

    TomLee

  23. Define “paid.” Is it just “here is money – give me a link” or is it “if you like me you’ll link to me?” What about people who blog about their companies products? They get a paycheck, they are often encouraged to blog, is that paid links? I think that there is so much gray here that you have a CAPCHA effect. Good luck getting a computer programmed way to pick this stuff apart.

  24. Define “paid.” Is it just “here is money – give me a link” or is it “if you like me you’ll link to me?” What about people who blog about their companies products? They get a paycheck, they are often encouraged to blog, is that paid links? I think that there is so much gray here that you have a CAPCHA effect. Good luck getting a computer programmed way to pick this stuff apart.

  25. Alfred, #16, Matt and I had dinner a while back and he told me Google’s worried about the systematic paid link sites, not one offs like your blog or my blog. Disclosure is a key way to avoid being penalized. If Microsoft turns on 3,000 new blogs without explaining that they are Microsoft employee blogs and then on the same day 1,500 of them link to the same thing, well, then, I wouldn’t be unhappy to see that link get penalized.

    Even if you are disclosing, the sheer link power of Microsoft’s employee blogs is something I’d worry about if I worked at Google.

  26. Alfred, #16, Matt and I had dinner a while back and he told me Google’s worried about the systematic paid link sites, not one offs like your blog or my blog. Disclosure is a key way to avoid being penalized. If Microsoft turns on 3,000 new blogs without explaining that they are Microsoft employee blogs and then on the same day 1,500 of them link to the same thing, well, then, I wouldn’t be unhappy to see that link get penalized.

    Even if you are disclosing, the sheer link power of Microsoft’s employee blogs is something I’d worry about if I worked at Google.

  27. I would rather see them solve a real problem like TrackBack spam. Those people steal to get higher Google results. At least PaidPerPost every one wins, except the searcher( but they lose anyway since search is based on links)

  28. I would rather see them solve a real problem like TrackBack spam. Those people steal to get higher Google results. At least PaidPerPost every one wins, except the searcher( but they lose anyway since search is based on links)

  29. Robert #17

    Like I said above in #8, it would make sense to have a threshold and if few known paid link sites share that particular link, then there is likely some other reason for the match. One link likely wont put people at risk…correlation over time with known paid sites likely would. They’d need to have a common threshold in order t protect themselve legally, wouldn’t they?

    Its a pesky problem for the bad guys to overcome. Creating new paid blogger sites won’t help. Nor would providing each paid blogger a different link on a different domain. Perhaps not “checkmate” to the game but definitely a tough approach to defeat.

  30. Robert #17

    Like I said above in #8, it would make sense to have a threshold and if few known paid link sites share that particular link, then there is likely some other reason for the match. One link likely wont put people at risk…correlation over time with known paid sites likely would. They’d need to have a common threshold in order t protect themselve legally, wouldn’t they?

    Its a pesky problem for the bad guys to overcome. Creating new paid blogger sites won’t help. Nor would providing each paid blogger a different link on a different domain. Perhaps not “checkmate” to the game but definitely a tough approach to defeat.

  31. Robert, I know people who do not distinguish ads from content, especially on a search engine. They do not know that the link on the top and on the right are paid. Since this post is about Google, I have a question about Matt Cutts (I know this criticism applies to other companies, including mine too).

    What Google is doing about this? Does Google do experiments with UI to find the best way to educate people that these links are paid. Some experiments to do:

    1. Try changing the color of “Sponsored Links” from invisible Gray to a bright color. Everything else seems to be quite bright on their search page.

    2. Try changing the wordings from “sponsored links” to “paid links”.

    As far as I see, Google and many other companies tries to find ways to hide the “payment” expect. Many companies simply hide and many other tries to do so in a hypocritical manner — sort of an analogue of fine print. For an example try to blend your ads with the content. Sort of Google is saying, we did mention that it is a paid link, but people you missed to read/interpret this information. We do not see that we knowingly tried to mislead people by blending our ads with our content.

    I think “values” must be self created and not imposed. I would love if people disclose like you do, but this decision must be made by that individual. That individual has to see tha trade-offs. This is called freedom of speech. Whether it is done for money or not.

    As far as for a public campany or an institution, I think they have a lot to lose if they do not follow the values. Such as telling their conflicts or other incentives to their audience.

    Disclaimer: The commentator is a senior researcher in microsoft. This opinion is his own.

  32. Robert, I know people who do not distinguish ads from content, especially on a search engine. They do not know that the link on the top and on the right are paid. Since this post is about Google, I have a question about Matt Cutts (I know this criticism applies to other companies, including mine too).

    What Google is doing about this? Does Google do experiments with UI to find the best way to educate people that these links are paid. Some experiments to do:

    1. Try changing the color of “Sponsored Links” from invisible Gray to a bright color. Everything else seems to be quite bright on their search page.

    2. Try changing the wordings from “sponsored links” to “paid links”.

    As far as I see, Google and many other companies tries to find ways to hide the “payment” expect. Many companies simply hide and many other tries to do so in a hypocritical manner — sort of an analogue of fine print. For an example try to blend your ads with the content. Sort of Google is saying, we did mention that it is a paid link, but people you missed to read/interpret this information. We do not see that we knowingly tried to mislead people by blending our ads with our content.

    I think “values” must be self created and not imposed. I would love if people disclose like you do, but this decision must be made by that individual. That individual has to see tha trade-offs. This is called freedom of speech. Whether it is done for money or not.

    As far as for a public campany or an institution, I think they have a lot to lose if they do not follow the values. Such as telling their conflicts or other incentives to their audience.

    Disclaimer: The commentator is a senior researcher in microsoft. This opinion is his own.

  33. I think it’s humerous to have Google announce this when they just bought a division of Doubleclick – Performics – which has an Search Engine Optimization division.

    Rather than focus on a non-problem, they should be focusing on banning splogs and made for adsense sites.

  34. Google gets paid only when you click on those ads, so I think there’s a lot of pressure to make the ads appear like regular search results.

    That said, this was about making sure that other companies don’t try to get in on Google’s main business. Google clearly wants to be the only place you can legitimately buy search engine results. Both to keep its organic results clean and with high relevancy but also to protect its advertising business.

  35. I think it’s humerous to have Google announce this when they just bought a division of Doubleclick – Performics – which has an Search Engine Optimization division.

    Rather than focus on a non-problem, they should be focusing on banning splogs and made for adsense sites.

  36. Google gets paid only when you click on those ads, so I think there’s a lot of pressure to make the ads appear like regular search results.

    That said, this was about making sure that other companies don’t try to get in on Google’s main business. Google clearly wants to be the only place you can legitimately buy search engine results. Both to keep its organic results clean and with high relevancy but also to protect its advertising business.

  37. Robert@22,

    You got the point right. It is a typical business practice to undermine other ways of creating values which do not pass through your own. Google itself tries to confuse people at least does not help much for people to differentiate between organic links and paid links.

    Google own business model is around paid links, and therefore they want to hurt such business models from others — as long as this can be covered as consumer friendly. I do not see why should I be punished for putting a link for reasons other than genuine. I do not understand Google’s definition of genuine, but for me a link given for money is quite genuine too. The only thing wrong is that Google ranking algorithm has assumed one definition of “genuinity” which they want to force on others, instead of improving their own algorithms.

  38. Robert@22,

    You got the point right. It is a typical business practice to undermine other ways of creating values which do not pass through your own. Google itself tries to confuse people at least does not help much for people to differentiate between organic links and paid links.

    Google own business model is around paid links, and therefore they want to hurt such business models from others — as long as this can be covered as consumer friendly. I do not see why should I be punished for putting a link for reasons other than genuine. I do not understand Google’s definition of genuine, but for me a link given for money is quite genuine too. The only thing wrong is that Google ranking algorithm has assumed one definition of “genuinity” which they want to force on others, instead of improving their own algorithms.

  39. I don’t think google can handle the issues involved around paid links. They are just letting the idea float and hoping the content providers correct out of fear of being dropped from the results.

  40. I don’t think google can handle the issues involved around paid links. They are just letting the idea float and hoping the content providers correct out of fear of being dropped from the results.

  41. Yeah Google! There should be only 2 techniques for SEO: build your site correctly and put something worth reading on it. Do that and you’ll do well.

  42. Yeah Google! There should be only 2 techniques for SEO: build your site correctly and put something worth reading on it. Do that and you’ll do well.

  43. I think we need a second, ad-free Internet that is completely non-commercial. No ads, nothing sponsored. Just blogs, info, etc.

    This could easily be done and paid for by people willing to use the system.

  44. I think we need a second, ad-free Internet that is completely non-commercial. No ads, nothing sponsored. Just blogs, info, etc.

    This could easily be done and paid for by people willing to use the system.

  45. I think Matt Cutts confirmed what many believed was true long ago, and I appreciate him doing it.

    I disclose at the top of every paid post (and there aren’t that many). It’s not a big deal, and it’s required by PPP anyway.

    Here’s something that really bothers me, though. Google has just introduced an augmentation of their text links that includes linking text within a post to their own advertising. (3/21/07) Isn’t it a little bit of a conflict of interest for them to come out and say that undisclosed links will devalue one’s search results when they are doing the exact same thing?

    Ad formats: You can create text ads, image ads, or our new text link ad format in your pay-per-action campaign. Text link ads are brief text descriptions that take on the characteristics of a publisher’s page. These Javascript-based ads will display like regular hyperlinks and allow publishers to embed these links inline with other text to promote your product or service.

  46. Kamal: relevancy on a search engine is a tough topic, which is why Microsoft still hasn’t caught up to Google even after spending a LOT of resources on it.

    But, not grokking that organically-gained links are more important than links than are gamed through financial gain defines for me one reason why Microsoft hasn’t caught up to Google.

  47. Kamal: relevancy on a search engine is a tough topic, which is why Microsoft still hasn’t caught up to Google even after spending a LOT of resources on it.

    But, not grokking that organically-gained links are more important than links than are gamed through financial gain defines for me one reason why Microsoft hasn’t caught up to Google.

  48. I think Matt Cutts confirmed what many believed was true long ago, and I appreciate him doing it.

    I disclose at the top of every paid post (and there aren’t that many). It’s not a big deal, and it’s required by PPP anyway.

    Here’s something that really bothers me, though. Google has just introduced an augmentation of their text links that includes linking text within a post to their own advertising. (3/21/07) Isn’t it a little bit of a conflict of interest for them to come out and say that undisclosed links will devalue one’s search results when they are doing the exact same thing?

    Ad formats: You can create text ads, image ads, or our new text link ad format in your pay-per-action campaign. Text link ads are brief text descriptions that take on the characteristics of a publisher’s page. These Javascript-based ads will display like regular hyperlinks and allow publishers to embed these links inline with other text to promote your product or service.

  49. Robert,

    I disagree. I suggest to you that if you took a poll on this very blog, you’d find quite a bit of support for an ad-free, commercial free “alternet”.

    People like me who block ads and who hate the monetizing of every last scrap of the net would buy into something like this.

    Why don’t you run a poll and ask. It’s very easy to set something like this up. As a matter of fact, in NY and other large cities, there are “alternets” which are invite only, and they are substantial in membership. Nothing commericial allowed and people love it. Now, extrapolate this into something like craiglist, but only the masses are allowed (the punters, everyday people), blogs and personal sites only with no commercial interests allowed.

    I know this would take off if given the attention and time required.

  50. Robert,

    I disagree. I suggest to you that if you took a poll on this very blog, you’d find quite a bit of support for an ad-free, commercial free “alternet”.

    People like me who block ads and who hate the monetizing of every last scrap of the net would buy into something like this.

    Why don’t you run a poll and ask. It’s very easy to set something like this up. As a matter of fact, in NY and other large cities, there are “alternets” which are invite only, and they are substantial in membership. Nothing commericial allowed and people love it. Now, extrapolate this into something like craiglist, but only the masses are allowed (the punters, everyday people), blogs and personal sites only with no commercial interests allowed.

    I know this would take off if given the attention and time required.

  51. Wreck: I don’t care if 100% of you want to start such an alternet. I guarantee you that it would turn commercial within a week. Why? Because when money is involved people change their behavior. And money WOULD get involved in such a system. Guaranteed!

    It might look different than the system we have today.

  52. Wreck: I don’t care if 100% of you want to start such an alternet. I guarantee you that it would turn commercial within a week. Why? Because when money is involved people change their behavior. And money WOULD get involved in such a system. Guaranteed!

    It might look different than the system we have today.

  53. Google, like MS’s OS/Office monopoly, has become far too powerful in it’s control over a large portion of how the Internet is presented to people and how they interact. This is further proof that the Internet needs less commercialization, not more.

  54. Google, like MS’s OS/Office monopoly, has become far too powerful in it’s control over a large portion of how the Internet is presented to people and how they interact. This is further proof that the Internet needs less commercialization, not more.

  55. Wreck,

    You’re dreaming if you think you can have an ad-free Internet and not have money change hands in some fashion. It’s just that you’ll have a pay-to-play model instead of an ad-based model. It’s similar to the differences between cable TV premium stations and commercial TV. You can pay the cable bill and skip the commercials or you can put up with the commercials and keep what you’d spend on cable (assuming you were in an area that picked up commercial TV…some areas you’re just stuck with it no matter what.)

    How do you propose site owners pay for bandwidth and hosting? Should they just give it away? Why? What incentive is there for them to do such a thing?

  56. Wreck,

    You’re dreaming if you think you can have an ad-free Internet and not have money change hands in some fashion. It’s just that you’ll have a pay-to-play model instead of an ad-based model. It’s similar to the differences between cable TV premium stations and commercial TV. You can pay the cable bill and skip the commercials or you can put up with the commercials and keep what you’d spend on cable (assuming you were in an area that picked up commercial TV…some areas you’re just stuck with it no matter what.)

    How do you propose site owners pay for bandwidth and hosting? Should they just give it away? Why? What incentive is there for them to do such a thing?

  57. @34,

    Easy. People pay to surf through their ISP, some monthly, some annually.

    A company could be set up that is, in effect, an ISP of sorts, but which controls this commercial-free alternet. You pay to play, but all sites within this private network are forced to remain ad-free, no commercialization whatsoever. Easy to do and easy to enforce. By default, no links from outside sites would enter in or leave this alternet, done by ACLs/firewalls. Easy as pie.

    I see no ads on the net if I choose not to. I don’t like being marketed to. So to say it’s impossible is simply not true. Of course, there would need to be a certain threshold of users to make it feasible, but feasible it is.

  58. @34,

    Easy. People pay to surf through their ISP, some monthly, some annually.

    A company could be set up that is, in effect, an ISP of sorts, but which controls this commercial-free alternet. You pay to play, but all sites within this private network are forced to remain ad-free, no commercialization whatsoever. Easy to do and easy to enforce. By default, no links from outside sites would enter in or leave this alternet, done by ACLs/firewalls. Easy as pie.

    I see no ads on the net if I choose not to. I don’t like being marketed to. So to say it’s impossible is simply not true. Of course, there would need to be a certain threshold of users to make it feasible, but feasible it is.

  59. Robert@29, I am not saying do not give different weightage to link organically gained vs paid link.

    But a search engine’s job is to observe the internet as is and report back the relevant site to a searcher. Design new algorithms as necessary. But dictating what people should do is wrong for the longterm. It is against the very notion of liberty and if I could use the “e” word, it is pure evil.

    Let people do whatever they want to do with their websites. May be new business models will come out which are beneficial for people. May be that’s the reason that the idea of paid-links creates a notion of punishment from google. If there were several equally popular search engines then one would not see the dictation on how the web should look like from a search-engine.

    I should re-emphasize, a search-engine’s job is not to dictate the evolution of web. Its job is to observe the web as is and list the most relevant websites to a searcher.

    Microsoft followed this in the development of its core product, i.e., OS. Microsoft never said you should not use your computer for such and such use. Even if those uses sometime create security risks. Instead Microsoft tried to adapt the OS to people’s need and not adapt the needs of people to the OS. If you do not dictate people and give a tool then you empower them.

    Google has empowered the people by improving a tool, called web-search. If they dictate the web then they are going for short-term gain at the expense of long-term.

  60. Robert@29, I am not saying do not give different weightage to link organically gained vs paid link.

    But a search engine’s job is to observe the internet as is and report back the relevant site to a searcher. Design new algorithms as necessary. But dictating what people should do is wrong for the longterm. It is against the very notion of liberty and if I could use the “e” word, it is pure evil.

    Let people do whatever they want to do with their websites. May be new business models will come out which are beneficial for people. May be that’s the reason that the idea of paid-links creates a notion of punishment from google. If there were several equally popular search engines then one would not see the dictation on how the web should look like from a search-engine.

    I should re-emphasize, a search-engine’s job is not to dictate the evolution of web. Its job is to observe the web as is and list the most relevant websites to a searcher.

    Microsoft followed this in the development of its core product, i.e., OS. Microsoft never said you should not use your computer for such and such use. Even if those uses sometime create security risks. Instead Microsoft tried to adapt the OS to people’s need and not adapt the needs of people to the OS. If you do not dictate people and give a tool then you empower them.

    Google has empowered the people by improving a tool, called web-search. If they dictate the web then they are going for short-term gain at the expense of long-term.

  61. The system its self is flawed. They should work on fixing the system rather than controlling people within it. I can understand and appreciate the desire to differentiate between paid and unpaid links, but Google’s attempt appears disingenuous. It looks more like they want to control the link economy that they created than accept the natural effects of such an economy.

    Here’s my response:
    http://www.elainevigneault.com/2007/04/15/dont-make-money-online-make-fun.html

  62. The system its self is flawed. They should work on fixing the system rather than controlling people within it. I can understand and appreciate the desire to differentiate between paid and unpaid links, but Google’s attempt appears disingenuous. It looks more like they want to control the link economy that they created than accept the natural effects of such an economy.

    Here’s my response:
    http://www.elainevigneault.com/2007/04/15/dont-make-money-online-make-fun.html

  63. @38: “…They should work on fixing the system…”

    Matt’s call was for reports of cases where people see paid hyperlinking going on, and is designed to solicit feedback in order to do precisely what you suggest.

  64. @38: “…They should work on fixing the system…”

    Matt’s call was for reports of cases where people see paid hyperlinking going on, and is designed to solicit feedback in order to do precisely what you suggest.

  65. Would you sell out for a link

    Several people the past few weeks have been asking this question. Is getting a link on a well known site so important that you would be willing to put your integrity at risk? Would you be willing to be less critical of that site just because they linke…

  66. i’d be happy to teach you farsi. here’s a poem you can tell maryam-joon:
    ====================
    Gar bemirad dokhtari
    Az ghabr-e u ruyad goli
    Gar bemirand dokhtaraan
    Donyaa golestaan mishavad
    ====================

  67. i’d be happy to teach you farsi. here’s a poem you can tell maryam-joon:
    ====================
    Gar bemirad dokhtari
    Az ghabr-e u ruyad goli
    Gar bemirand dokhtaraan
    Donyaa golestaan mishavad
    ====================

  68. Bottom line: Fear sells.

    I’ve seen Google penalize sites and whole networks for crappy SEO paid links since 2002. This is nothing new. But the timing and targeting of this piece of FUD with the DoubleClick purchase is rather interesting.

    Google’s whole business model is based on paid links, which is becoming more in-line with competitors like Text Link Ads and Pay Per Post as Google gives AdWords/Adsense users more control over exactly where their ads appear. Independent text link advertising agencies or even worse, independent site owners selling their own link advertising, are Google’s biggest threat to their bottom line. Therefore making webmasters think that setting up their own text link advertising or going through a non-Google source could potentially get you penalized in Google organic search is a great way to drive fear-driven Google sales.

    Just keep saying it over and over: Google is not the web. Google has indexed a sliver of the web and is a fine and dandy tool when it works. But really, content and links, which are simply relationships between websites are the web. And for the web to grow, people need to be able to monetize their websites in a free market economy as they please without feeling bullied into giving anyone else a cut of the revenue. Monetization is the only way that people can afford to create the high quality content that should be the basis of search engine rankings anyhow.

  69. Bottom line: Fear sells.

    I’ve seen Google penalize sites and whole networks for crappy SEO paid links since 2002. This is nothing new. But the timing and targeting of this piece of FUD with the DoubleClick purchase is rather interesting.

    Google’s whole business model is based on paid links, which is becoming more in-line with competitors like Text Link Ads and Pay Per Post as Google gives AdWords/Adsense users more control over exactly where their ads appear. Independent text link advertising agencies or even worse, independent site owners selling their own link advertising, are Google’s biggest threat to their bottom line. Therefore making webmasters think that setting up their own text link advertising or going through a non-Google source could potentially get you penalized in Google organic search is a great way to drive fear-driven Google sales.

    Just keep saying it over and over: Google is not the web. Google has indexed a sliver of the web and is a fine and dandy tool when it works. But really, content and links, which are simply relationships between websites are the web. And for the web to grow, people need to be able to monetize their websites in a free market economy as they please without feeling bullied into giving anyone else a cut of the revenue. Monetization is the only way that people can afford to create the high quality content that should be the basis of search engine rankings anyhow.

  70. One thing that really bugs me with this is “rel=nofollow” was designed to annotate untrusted links. It has been stigmatized to mean, “I really can’t vouch for this link”. Google is trying to strongarm webmasters by creating an army of self-interested snitches to brand paid links as “untrusted”, irregardless of their relevancy to my content and my feelings about the advertiser.

    It seems to me that rel=”nofollow” was a Trojan horse after all…

  71. One thing that really bugs me with this is “rel=nofollow” was designed to annotate untrusted links. It has been stigmatized to mean, “I really can’t vouch for this link”. Google is trying to strongarm webmasters by creating an army of self-interested snitches to brand paid links as “untrusted”, irregardless of their relevancy to my content and my feelings about the advertiser.

    It seems to me that rel=”nofollow” was a Trojan horse after all…

  72. Im fairly new to the blog scene, but it is unavoidable not to notice the blogosphere bowing to the gods of google.

    There does seem to be some basic freedom violation here, though Im not sure what it is yet.

    Robert, do you see this ever winding up being a class action law suit against google regarding this paid link thing?

    Eric

  73. Im fairly new to the blog scene, but it is unavoidable not to notice the blogosphere bowing to the gods of google.

    There does seem to be some basic freedom violation here, though Im not sure what it is yet.

    Robert, do you see this ever winding up being a class action law suit against google regarding this paid link thing?

    Eric

  74. I predicted something like this a while ago, and I actually think reducing the PageRank effectiveness of paid links will be a good thing. It will level the playing field and put the onus back on producing quality content that people want to naturally link to, not what search engines want to count.

  75. I predicted something like this a while ago, and I actually think reducing the PageRank effectiveness of paid links will be a good thing. It will level the playing field and put the onus back on producing quality content that people want to naturally link to, not what search engines want to count.

  76. What if Google had a party and nobody came? I’m guilty of using “google” to mean “search the internet”… What if I just said “search inquiry” instead? What if I took “google” off my list of “favorites”, and entered every search engine known to function on my list of “favorites”, and used them each in a random fashion? Would one small voice, mine, help to shape the future of the internet? Because I just want to embed CJ text link ads wherever I want to, thank you very much! And if I want to blog about my favorite paper towels and window blinds, more power to me! And if I happen to get a check for my time, how is that different than writing copy for television commercials? If I said “Winston tastes good” would you say “like a (clap, clap) cigarette should”?????

  77. What if Google had a party and nobody came? I’m guilty of using “google” to mean “search the internet”… What if I just said “search inquiry” instead? What if I took “google” off my list of “favorites”, and entered every search engine known to function on my list of “favorites”, and used them each in a random fashion? Would one small voice, mine, help to shape the future of the internet? Because I just want to embed CJ text link ads wherever I want to, thank you very much! And if I want to blog about my favorite paper towels and window blinds, more power to me! And if I happen to get a check for my time, how is that different than writing copy for television commercials? If I said “Winston tastes good” would you say “like a (clap, clap) cigarette should”?????