Old Google Link Allows PageRank Sales

    June 1, 2004

WebProWorld’s been buzzing with talk of a link on one of Google’s pages to a page (with PR 9) that sells links. That’s right – it appeared that Google was deliberately sending PR to a page whose business was selling text links to the highest bidder.

The link was apparently taken down on the 27th.

Here’s the Google page where it appeared: http://www.google.com/options/defaults.html.

Here’s the page that Google linked to: http://gu.st/proj/SearchGoogle.html.

Google has a cache of the page with the link existing.

Rumors of how this happened ran from a disgruntled employee selling PR to a super hacker who discovered a back door into Google.

The truth, as discovered by Daniel Brandt of Google-Watch, is not so dramatic.

It started with Jack Gust, a programmer from St. Louis, Missouri. “Over two years ago, Gust wrote a program for the Apple Mac that allowed easy searching on Google. He began distributing it for free, and Google linked to it without asking him.”

Gust moved the application and informed Google of the change, but the link from Google’s site remained (of course he could have sold links on the page with the download too).

According to Brandt, two months ago an advertiser offered to buy a link, and he soon received more offers from other advertisers.

Bill Hartzer, who posted this first in WebProWorld, found the ad page Google was linking to by “checking backlinks and using Optilink to analyze all the backlinks of a site that had a PR8 that didn’t really deserve to have a PR8–it was very suspect.”

Read Daniel Brandt’s account.

I first heard of this on SEORoundTable, though WebProWorld was right on top of it too.

Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.