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Google: If We Mistakenly Penalize You For Paid Links, There Would Be A ‘Ton Of Collateral Damage’

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There has been a lot of talk about Google and paid links in the news lately, so it’s only fitting that they’re the topic of the latest Webmaster Help video from the company. In this one, Matt Cutts responds to this question:

On our travel site, we recommend and link out to hotels and B&B’s in our niche. Our readers find it useful. They’re not paid links, so we don’t add the nofollow attribute. What stops Google from suspecting these are paid links and penalizing us?

“The short answer is: if you’re linking to high quality sites, and you editorially think that they’re good sites, that’s how most of the web works,” says Cutts. “We get into this tiny little area of search and SEO, and we’re convinced all links are nofollowed, and if a link looks good, it must be paid or something like that, and the fact is that for the most part, whenever you’re looking at links, people are linking to stuff that they like. They’re linking to stuff that they enjoy.”

“So, if we mistakenly thought that those were paid links, and as a result, penalized you, there would be a ton of collateral damage,” he says. “There would be a ton of algorithmic damage to our search rankings. So it’s in our enlightened, best self interest, as well as in the interest of our users to make sure that we don’t accidentally classify links as paid and penalize the site. And normally, even if we would classify links as paid, we might not trust the links from your site, but we wouldn’t have things where your site would necessarily stop ranking as well. It can happen if somebody is selling a lot of links, they’ve been selling them for a long time, and those sorts of things, so we do take strong action in some situations, but a lot of the times if we think that a link might be sold or if we have very good reason to suspect, we might just not trust that site’s links nearly as much or maybe zero.”

Concluding the video, Cutts reiterates that it’s in the company’s best interest to be precise when it comes to getting paid links right.

Google: If We Mistakenly Penalize You For Paid Links, There Would Be A ‘Ton Of Collateral Damage’
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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/seo-training-workshops Nick Stamoulis

    “Cutts reiterates that it’s in the company’s best interest to be precise when it comes to getting paid links right. ”

    It makes perfect business sense to me, but I wonder how many site owners would disagree. I think we sometimes forget just how much information Google has to process about each and every single site on the web every time the create a SERP. A few too many mistakes and they would actually hurt their own product by not serving up the best results.

  • http://www.gethotelsoffers.com Danny

    I have been wondering for quite some time, as to what extent Google actually takes action when it comes to paid links…and as to instances where sites have been punished, accordingly…

    There is a large number of established, and an even greater number of “start up” sites, that have businesses that are built around the sale of backlinks(articles, social likes, paid traffic, etc,etc) and the backlinks portion is a big part of their business model….

    Also, there seems to be a grey area when it comes to buying or selling bulk backlinks, and whether there are any negative affects to a site or business, for doing so…

  • http://www.difrances.com J. DiFrances

    At times there seems to be a disconnect between what ‘should’ happen and what ‘does’ happen with Google. Understood that the Matt Cutts is speaking here ‘in general’, but of late there seem to be a disconcerting frequency of instances where exceptions to the general rule occur and when that happens, the fact that it may be the exceptional case lends little comfort to the website owner impacted. As Google is the proverbial 1,000 pound gorilla in search, they should establish some means by way innocently impacted website owners can gain redress on a timely basis with real ‘human’ intervention. As a business consultant, I encounter instantces where small companies are simply wiped off the marketing map almost overnight when they apparently have not broken Googles rules. Some simply don’t have the resources to survive until Google corrects their mistake.