New Paid Links Service Sparks More Debate

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InLinksQuite a storm of debate has erupted over a new service called InLinks – essentially a paid text link service that allegedly makes it hard for Google (and other search engines) to detect them. And mouths of  Internet marketers begin to salivate.

The debate has basically turned into Matt Cutts vs. the "Yeah, let’s stick it to Google" crowd. .As far as I can tell, this started with TechCrunch reporting on InLinks, which prompted Matt Cutts to send them an email from which the following is a sample:

Google has been very clear that selling such links that pass PageRank is a violation of our quality guidelines. Other search engines have said similar things. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also given unambiguous guidance on this subject in the recent PDF at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2008/03/P064101tech.pdf where they said “Consumers who endorse and recommend products on their blogs or other sites for consideration should do so within the boundaries set forth in the FTC Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising and the FTC’s guidance on word of mouth marketing,” as well as “To date, in response to this concern, the FTC has advised that search engines need to disclose clearly and conspicuously if the ranking or other presentation of search results is a function of paid placement, and, similarly, that consumers who are paid to engage in word-of-mouth marketing must disclose that fact to recipients of their messages.”

Matt CuttsAfter getting into some region-specific issues, he wraps up with "The reality is that accepting money to link to/promote/market for a product without disclosing that fact is a very high-risk behavior, in my opinion."

I don’t think anybody is surprised to see Cutts trying to defuse the situation before everybody gets too excited, but of course a topic like this isn’t going to be left at that. Debate is sparking up around a variety of popular search blogs. You know Michael Gray for one is going to get involved in a discussion about this, but he made an interesting choice in how he decided to handle it:

IMHO the key to buying links is using them over the short term 6-9 months, to jump start your rankings while you swing your PR machine into full gear, shaking hands  and kissing babies. Google has a top down preference for brands and the more you work normal PR and advertising tactics to reach that goal the better you are. Use viral marketing and linkbait to start securing links over time. As you start to acquire natural links, revisit your links buys and slowly start phasing them out (ultra competitive and non mainstream topics have different rules).

My position on paid link advertisingwell known and at this point I don’t have anythingto add that hasn’t already been said . The most important thing I learned from Pubcon this year was stop wasting time on drama, so comments on this post will be closed. Shoemoney

Where the debate really takes a turn on Google though, is when Jeremy Schoemaker points the camera back on the company’s own practices. He writes:

Every time paid links is brought up Matt Cutts brings up the FTC’s “suggestions” on bloggers disclosing things they have been compensated for. In no where in these “suggestions” does it talk about paid links. But even if it did they are just suggestions.

They are not law and if Google was following the FTC’s suggestions I doubt Google Adsense/adlinks would be engaging in some of the most deceptive advertising methods I have ever seen on the internet.

He also mentions Google’s paying of $66 million to the allegedly non-profit Mozilla to be the default search engine for Firefox. From there a slew of comments went pouring in on Schoemaker’s post, bashing Google’s practices, calling the company names like "evil" and "hypocrite." Mentions are made of Google’s own sponsored results being made less disclaimer-like by the lightening of the hue surrounding them. Eventually, Cutts weighs in here too amidst a sea of criticism.

I’m not going to take the Michael Gray approach and stay out of the "drama". I’m leaving comments on, and I want to see what everybody thinks. Flamebait you say? Come on, you know you love to talk about this stuff. Ok….go!

UPDATE:  I contacted Schoemaker and asked him to talk a little bit more about Google not being able to track the paid links with InLinks. He responded with:

The key word I used was if done properly it would be impossible to detect.   Lets look at the current TLA and how easy it is to detect yet Google still can’t get a grasp on it.

Detecting the old text link ads was stupidly easy.

For instance –  weblogtoolscollection.com  pr6 been selling TLA text links for a long time.  Never dinged in google

but look at how easy it is to detect.

footer image

and now look at the html source code:

<!– Begin Text-link Ad code –>
<ul style="border: 1px solid rgb(0, 0, 0); margin: 0pt; padding: 0pt; overflow: hidden; width: 100%; border-spacing: 0px; background-color: rgb(240, 240, 240); list-style-type: none; list-style-image: none; list-style-position: outside;">
<li style="margin: 0pt; padding: 0pt; width: 33%; float: left; clear: none; display: inline;"><span style="margin: 0pt; padding: 3px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); width: 100%; font-size: 12px; display: block;">  <a style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-size: 12px;" href="http://www.kars4kids.org/">Donate your car</a>  </span></li>
<li style="margin: 0pt; padding: 0pt; width: 33%; float: left; clear: none; display: inline;"><span style="margin: 0pt; padding: 3px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); width: 100%; font-size: 12px; display: block;">  <a style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-size: 12px;" href="http://www.cashnetusa.com">Payday Loans</a>  </span></li>
<!– End Text-Link Ad code –>

How hard is that to detect?

So of course Google thinks they can detect that… I mean a monkey can detect that.  Am I wrong?

Now lets say the person didnt put the footer links like a idiot and didnt include the TLA HERE code in their html.

Its still easy to detect cause you just look for the plugin within the wordpress plugin directory.  If its found the server returns a 200 code if not a 404.  If its a 200 google knows you have it installed. (emphasis added throughout response)

So basically what Schoemaker is getting at is that if people "randomize the physical name of the plugin" and use some brains when writing the HTML, Google will not be able to detect it. Because as he says, they’re "not even detecting the ones that are VERY EASY to detect."

Thanks for the insight Jeremy.

New Paid Links Service Sparks More Debate
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  • http://www.seochester.co.uk/ SEO Chester

    Lol, nice write-up Chris. I wont start any furious debate I just think as "paid for" link services are against Google guidelines, well, why bother?

    I work for long term sustainable benefits for my clients with my SEO’ing, not instant lose-it in a flash benefits, so I normaly just look at all the fuss caused by events like this and the endless debates and just LAUGH. ;)

    • Chris Crum

      There certainly is plenty of fuss.

  • http://blog.mvisearch.com/author/dylan-brent/ DylanBrent

    It doesnt matter who ends up siding with who cas the winner undoubtedly is going to be InLinks, the bigger the fuss the bigger the smiles on the owners of InLinks faces, I mean could they dream of better publicity?

    • Chris Crum

      No doubt.

  • http://www.realstudio.ro RealStudio

    Jeremy is right. As long as the FTC’s suggestions remain suggestions, there is very little the google guys can do about inLinks. And after all, many blogs are out there to produce benefits. And traffic means PR, and vice-versa. And PR means money. So it’s always going to be a race against the clock to get higher ratings and bigger cheques.

  • http://blog.sa-nethost.com Cape Town SEO

    I dont see any problem with putting a link onto your high PR site for a fee. Even if there was no fee, its still nobody elses business. Some people link to their friends sites, churches, charities etc, free of charge, just because they want to.

  • LSexton

    Here’s the deal Guys,


    Go ahead and game Google short term. When they find out, and they will eventually, through their own algorithm or someone reporting it, they’ll penalize the site. Simple as that.

    Ya don’t punch a 500 pound Gorilla in the face.

    • Chris Crum

      Haha. Good analogy!

    • http://www.seochester.co.uk/ SEO Chester

      100% agree, great comment :-)

  • http://www.linkxl.com Dwight Zahringer

    Funny this topic comes up again, but the PR, ads and paid posts by TLA for InLinks is getting them noticed. What’s even more funny is that InLinks is merly a copy of LinkXL that has been around for 2 years now. And LinkXL allows contextual text links, no footprint for detection, making your links DoFollow or NoFollow (Matt Cutts approved) and allows advertisers to buy text links in blogs and websites- not just blogs alone.

  • http://www.startattractingwomennow.com/ Joseph Walker

    This is a pretty interesting article..

  • http://www.insuranceblog.co.uk Insurance blogger

    What as ridiculous discussion!

    All Internet objects with an Href  are  paid links in some way or another including banners, tv ads, adsense, affiliate schemes, brokers, directories etc etc etc

    They are all paid link recommendations

    How the hell can you legislate on this.OK lets just get rid of every website and keep wikipedia.

    For google to try to differentiate between links and paid links is a ridiculous concept – especially if you place all the paid links within the content!

  • http://msso.co.uk Gary

    The best comment I found in here was to not get lost in all the drama!  If Google really goes after this, I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to trap it – but doesn’t this just come back to "content is king"?  Sure – you can try and game the system, but if you just keep putting good quality content out there, addressing whatever need your website is targeted at, and have some patience while everything gets indexed and propagated – then you have nothing to worry about.  Play games and you run the risk of getting burned – not just losing your current rank, but being blacklisted.  Your call – I’m going for the long term, solid approach!

  • Guest

    I do a ton of Adwords and the backlinks has increased my page rank. I BUY these links from Google, Yahoo, and MSN. So what’s the problem with buying links from link sellers!?

    • http://bradstinyworld.com/ WTF Parenting Magazine

      What is wrong with it?  You have to be kidding, google didn’t make any money on it so it is obviously akin to committing terrorism.

  • http://bradstinyworld.com/ Brad Hart @ A DoFollow Blog

    What this really comes down to is Google wants to be the next microsoft and pretend they are the avenging angel that will save the web from itself.  What it is really setting itself up for is eventually being dismanted under antitrust laws and fair business practices from countries around the world.  You don’t get to be the biggest content server, the biggest advertising agency and then turn around and say we pwill enalize your content for not exclusively using our advertising system, especially when they are so keen to kick people out of the service with absolutely no explanation or reinstatement.  If the feds really wanted to they could push a number of rico cases against google as it is, and that is to say nothing of the EU which has far tighter laws.

  • Guest

    How can I have a fucking comment when you will not let me read the story


  • http://easyadshowplace.com GLenn

    I think google is afraid to loss some adwords revenue, hey a link is a link, saves the time of checking to see if the companies you link to are still linking back to you 

  • http://www.wtfis.com Comedy Blog

     Neither Text-Link-Ads or InLinks are very sly, but there are ways around it. 

  • http://www.nameerasolutions.com Guest

    Where does the above leave companies that offer SEO services? More job cuts looks imminent. A link is a link but a suggestion is just a suggestion.

  • http://thebutlerbureau.com Guest

    Why is everyone running scared on what Google thinks? We’re getting into a silly mindset here – Text links? Ok let’s see how it goes – worried about getting a ban from Google / Use your Aunt Sissy’s account.

    What? She hasn’t got one? WORK IT OUT!

  • http://www.earnblogger.com Earn Blogger

    Why people bother about Google? Or why Google always worry about people making money from their blogs or websites? They are the lord of Internet? Huh. When they can make money, why can’t a little fish?

    BTW, do they disclose everything?

  • http://qualitytale.blogspot.com Quality Tale

    Chris, first I would like to congratulate you to open an important issue. All we guys are waiting for this stuff exactly after 3 months cycle. And the basis which is important here is only the links. It never relates to google that has been paid or getting on free of cost.

    I am strongly agree to computer tutor on this ground.



  • http://www.sangmoneyholic.blogspot.com moneyholic

    nice  write … ill try do it anything for earn money ..

  • http://tech-wonders.blogspot.com/ bobby

    Whats the problem with google??… why are they making all these changes… aren’t the white has SEO at google that smart as black hat SEO’s out there on net   or        google is jealous  of those who earn on net or wat??

    anyways nice article… Webpronews rocks!!!!


    Also do visit my blog @  http://tech-wonders.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.homeonlinegames.com Dirk of Brisbane

    This service could be just what i need for my liitle games site,(not to be confused with another site here sounding similar).

    As a rather unimportant presence in googles scheme of things,and never going to progress to dizzying heights in the online games market,this Inlinks thing may help to make my website FAMOUS! wow; So i think i will give it a go.

    See you all on easy street sometime soon folks

  • http://www.homeonlinegames.com Dirk of Brisbane

    I knew there would be a catch.

    I need to have good content in which to have the hmm (secret sshh,paid) links inserted.


  • http://www.hemorrhoidshemroids.com/ Hemorrhoids and more hemroids


    I think the problem is that people see the link, just like the search engines do, but detection is the first part, the second is what do we do with those links? 

    I believe Google devalues them considerably.

    In fact I have several websites, for example, one on hemorrhoids and one on health conditions, they are interlinked – very obviously, as I try and move traffic from one domain to another.

    Google does see these links, they do appear in Google tools, and I know Google devalues them to just about nothing, if not nothing.  They don’t pass on any real PR

    The purpose isn’t about paid links, which they are not, they are my other websites and i would hope that people who enjoyed one website would benefit and enjoy the other if it was relevant to them – but it’s about moving traffic.

    The point is, the very example you give about paid links – well that code is essentially the same as mine – so you see, if you came to my hemorrhoids site, you would incorrectly assume I sold links to my teeth website.

    Google is more savy than what the article portrays Google as.

    Kind regards.

  • http://www.diamondonnet.com/ Diamonds

    Uh-Oh, Another monopoly on the works…

  • http://www.arucc2006.com Article Man

    Why this double standard from G, when they are already devaluing the PRs of blogs which do sponsored reviews and giving a full stop to legitimate income of some blogmasters…and when they themselves are selling sponsored links on their SERPs….and talking about FTC "guidelines" spelling them as rules to webmasters….where is the big G taking us…quite confusing i must say….well seems to be they themselves are confused

  • http://www.seowebmarketing.co.uk Guest

    I guess they are now sending out mixed signals, well basically stick with us or be penalised if all doesnt work out well in the text links services (once Google figure out a way to automatically catch users of the service!).  I work on organic seo so was glad to read the weeding out of them also, so I won’t bother at all and will stick with Google!  Thanx for the interesting article Web Pro News.

    Have a lovely day! – Sue,

    SEO Web Marketing – Freelance Google Expert



  • http://supladoonline.com suplado

    if google wont understand hopefully advertiser who buy link do

  • http://dhablue-greentea.blogspot.com dayat

    thank’s alot for this site, I especially found it useful where you stated…

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  • http://www.sinonetworks.net Shanghai Web Design

    Google is getting unfair…They should realize it, the sooner the better…And what do they mean by "Other search engines have said similar things"?…

  • http://www.mynewswire.co.in MyNewsWire

    why are they making all these changes… aren’t the white has SEO at google that smart as black hat SEO’s out there on net   or        google is jealous  of those who earn on net or wat??

  • http://www.redtube.eu Guest


    • http://pdfoxy.com/ pdfoxy

      Just wanna say thanks for this good article

  • http://www.realstudio.ro RealStudio Webdesign

    As long as they’re only guidelines, nobody has to follow them; they’re just encouraged to do that. so all debates are useless. Google can either find a way to penalize them, or get used to it.

  • http://www.StorbyferieGuiden.dk Storbyferie

    I agree.

    Adwords is also paid link (even though they do not give you PageRank). So what is the difference?

  • http://vizlog.rs/ Vizlog poslovni adresar

    What about Google AdWords=also a paid link? AdWords isn’t a free advertisement.

    • http://www.mardigra.co.uk Partyman

      This “Paid for Links” issue could be more complicated, everyone agrees that TLA is against Google / Adsense terms of service, but I have seen ADWORD adverts such as the following (this one on Googles own Adsense forum !!!)

      Page Rank Checker
      Huge selection of Powerful Links
      Relevant Links on Authority Sites
      (wxw to stop it creating a link on this post?)

      So, google accept payment to promote a service that google bans ?

  • http://www.pacifictechseo.com Pacific Tech SEO

    I still don’t understand why they have such a problem with it other than there not making money off of it them self’s. I know they want to return good results and that’s a good thing but as long as the paid link returns relative results I think its fine.

  • TheRightTone

    I loved the articles and the posts the only annoying thing is the way you have that darn script make the page jump after it downloads so you can get your pageview. Could you just earn your pageview without the tricks?

  • http://vb.maas1.com/t77254.html ???? ????

    thanks for post

  • http://www.byfchat.com Jay

    Seems to me almost everywhere you go to have your link added is either a “paid” link or they want to “exchange” links. Both are violations. Who is going to add your link and give away PR for nothing in exchange?

  • http://www.infomreza.com/ Guest

    Google is classic monopolist, thats very wrong, everithing is in their hands and no one can get a chance to maybe make a better search engine….

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