Paid Links Still Evil To Google

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Google continues to beat the drum about passing PageRank through paid links as Matt Cutts weighed in on the topic with another request that webmasters use the ‘nofollow’ attribute for them.

Paid Links Still Evil To Google
Paid Links Still Evil To Google

Though plenty of places in the Northern Hemisphere shiver in chilly temperatures, webmasters will continue radiating heat after the latest double-barreled barrage from Google’s loquacious engineer. Paid links have a long history of annoying Google due to the way they can affect organic rankings.

This has been the year of living dangerously for webmasters who engage in pushing PageRank through paid links. Google’s crackdown on sites using these links without a ‘nofollow’ tacked onto them means more websites will see the dreaded reduction in their PageRank as punishment.

Matt wrote about this at the Google Webmaster Central blog and his personal site. A couple of essential points he made will stand out for webmasters:

Q: Is Google trying to tell webmasters how to run their own site?

A: No. We’re giving advice to webmasters who want to do well in Google. As I said in this video from my keynote discussion in June 2007, webmasters are welcome to make their sites however they like, but Google in turn reserves the right to protect the quality and relevance of our index. To the best of our knowledge, all the major search engines have adopted similar positions.

Q: Is Google trying to crack down on other forms of advertisements used to drive traffic?

A: No, not at all. Our webmaster guidelines clearly state that you can use links as means to get targeted traffic. In fact, in the presentation I did in August 2007, I specifically called out several examples of non-Google advertising that are completely within our guidelines. We just want disclosure to search engines of paid links so that the paid links won’t affect search engines.

Several webmaster comments posted to the Webmaster Central blog took issue with the paid links stance, with some complaining of being penalized without cause. One commenter named Jason said one blog he has received the PR 0 hit, and has never bought or sold a link.

“What about sites that received the penalty by mistake?” he asked. “I’m hesitant to submit a re-inclusion request because it requires admission of wrongdoing. Is there any way of asking for a review that doesn’t require falsely stating that we’ve gone against the webmaster guidelines?”

In response, Matt suggested the drop could have been a result of canonicalization issues, and that PageRank does tend to fluctuate. As far as the language of the reinclusion request to which Jason objected, Matt had this to say:

I don’t want to force people to claim that they’ve violated our guidelines in doing a reconsideration request. I believe that we’ve already softened our language on that form once and that we added the option to say “something happened on this domain before I got to it.”

But your feedback is something that I’ve heard before, and I’ll try to have someone at Google look at what we can do to remove that concern. If you have suggestions for language or the best way to do it, I’m open to whatever you want to propose.

Google isn’t worried about whether someone’s site gets noticed in the search results or not. The other major search engines have similar views. To them, paid links skew what searchers see, and not always to the searcher’s benefit.

Matt’s example of this on his blog shows how a query for the very serious topic of cancer-fighting radiosurgery brings up useless and misleading results when paid links pass PageRank.

“If you stumbled across these entries on the web, you might not know whether someone got paid for writing these posts. In the same way that a regular surfer would want disclosure to know if a post were paid, all the major search engines also want to make sure that paid posts are adequately disclosed to search engines as well,” Matt said.

Use paid links without identifying them, and Google will penalize the site. It’s a cause and effect that enrages webmasters who want to rate well in the world’s dominant search engine. Many are going to feel this is part of a ploy to drive them to buy ads on Google to get noticed.

That is a side effect of Google’s attack on less than useful content. One can see why webmasters will feel this way. Google is a business, not a public utility, even if it seems otherwise to Internet users. They make the rules for their SERPs, as the other engines do, and playing on their site means following them, or going to the bottom of the list.

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  • Harald

    Great article.

    However, why can’t you point out that the $14 billion in profits that Google is set to generate this year is all from Paid Links.

    Matt Cutts spewing the corporate line is just another example of Google trying to control the public relations debate and make everyone believe they are a search engine when in fact they are the worlds largest online advertising agency.

    The bottom line is the bottom line.
    It is perfectly acceptable for me to pay Google for traffic Google. But God forbid I choose to pay some other website for exposure.

    How in the world can anyone take a word Matt Cutts says seriously?

    They don’t even come up on the first page of their own search engine for the keyword “search engine.”


    Their results are pitiful. Paid link would help them out quite a bit.

    The ultimate hypocrisy.

    • http://www.secretmarketinglinks.com Secret Marketing Links

      I completly agree with what Harald said. The core business of Google is not creating a good search engine, but selling links. In two years I have seen my income going down on Google in relation with the number of pages I hand coded, with 60 %, and all my content is relevant to the keywords title of page, and description . Also the result they deliver are less good than before in my eyes, with less relevant results. I have seen a heavier weight on
      scolarly results, but ofte
      n the results are absolutly not going to the essence of the question. They still don’t understand the questions like a human do, and the semantic indexing they claim is not working.
      Proof is that if you ask a plain clearly to understand question, they still don’t get it, see the first result at:

      I guess it won’t take two years to see some new search engine appear that will deliver much more usefull results, and that don’t penalyse webmasters for irrelevant things.

      If I have a site on a specific topic, and I sell links about this topic to people who want to promote a product I can stand behind I don’t see what is wrong doing.

      When I see that 90 % of the paid results in Google are going to clickbank products, and other linkshare affiliates or paid inclusion result pages, you can ask yourself who is doing wrong things. The paid results from Google are absolutly not in relation with relevance of content.

      David Norden

  • http://www.tothefuturewithlove.net deni

    I liked the last comment- Google is business no matter how much we would like to think otherwise, or how Google tries to convince us it’s all in our best interest.
    However, I would like to comment on paid-for links. For many people Google is the ultimate source of information, thus often, the less experienced would take the first few entries for the best information available. And if those are just paid content, or Adsense templates with little copy and paste from here and there-it’s definitely against people’s interest to see the paid links first. I think Google should separate them entirely from the search and put all of them to the right. This way the users will always know what they click(and btw, they will, i’m sure, if they are positioned right-for example if google switch the places-paid to the left, unpaid to the right). Or the other alternative-the sites with paid links should be under constant checks for relevancy of the content.
    As much as people who use adwords to drive traffic to their sites would dislike it, for me, this is the right way. If you’re site has good content, it’ll gain visitors probably. If it you want more- use normal ads on similar sites. Or paid links could be only for sites that sell something as it’ll make sense then. But for serious stuff, seeing paid links is real pain in the ass.
    And just one example-I checked my analyst and for some keywords my site was after 10 or even number 40 and it was clicked!!! What that tells me-people are very unsatisfied with the way Google shows them results. And you know,unhappy user adapt very quickly.

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