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Monday, Apr. 16, 2007 at 7:40 am

Google Can Afford A Clue; Instead They Want Informers?

By Jeffrey Eisenberg
April 16th, 2007

Matt Cutts’ comments on how to report paid links raised a stink. It seems that paid links are undetectable by Google. The transactions take place by email or completely offline so, if it’s done well, Google wouldn’t know.

It seems Google wants to recruit the public to report on link buying. Good paid links aren’t obviously paid. So, Google will be divining whether or not those links are paid and then penalizing your site. Might some nasty competitor buy a textlink ad or, for that matter, a Yahoo! directory listing and then rat you out?

Here’s a summary of some of the questions and comments being raised:

Small Business SEM says: “Buying links is a form of advertising, and no search engine can decide when and where you should advertise. For me, the main takeaway from all this is that Google is admitting it has no clue how to identify paid links from non-paid links. ”

Scobleizer says: “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.”

Sugarrae says: “My general opinions on paid links aren’t important and neither are yours. This isn’t about whether or not paid links should or shouldn’t have value. What matters is that Google is going to decide whether you’re good or evil based on a guess they know full well has a coin flip toss chance of being accurate in the case of paid links done well. What is important is that Google stands up and admits their own weakness and finds another solution to their issue that doesn’t involve penalizing me or you, based on their “best guess” to a problem they themselves created when they based their entire algorithm on links.”

SEOCLASS offers a broad round up of comments in the blogosphere here: Google Wants To Tell You How To Run Your Website

Obviously, there are a lot of opinions on this. Few of them are full of love for Google. What do you think?

P.S. Do you think this might be hurting the Do No Evil brand?

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Comments (6)

  1. I don’t buy links or sell links on my websites, but I have a few problems with this:

    1) Competitors can EASILY manipulate this system.

    2) This is a Google double standard. How can Google penalize sites that sell paid links while at the same time encouraging them to place AdSense on their websites? Does Google want to be the only company that benefits from a popular website’s link love?

  2. Julie, You make good points. These are the questions others are asking.

  3. In one of my enthusiastic but brief flashes of participation in the SEO world, at an SES 4+ years ago, I stood up and asked the Google panelist how they could make a distinction between “just links” and links that were covertly paid for. (To me, that spelled a big hole in the premise that PageRank measured pure reputation.)

    The Googler didn’t respond to my question, but did give me a speech about “what I need to do is to focus on x, y, and z for my site,” even though I really was raising it as a fundamental issue of concern, nothing to do with “my site.”

    It was then that I learned that large search companies are prone to dodging fundamental issues of concern when it comes to organic spam tactics. Here we are in 2007 – 2007, Jeff! – and Google still seems to have this gaping hole in its algo.

  4. I’d have thought if the system relies heavily on links then you’re going to need a LOT of links to make a real difference – and it would be cheaper to buy an adwords advert?

    Of course advertising with adwords is a black art in itself and not cost effective for many sites, mine included.

  5. [...] Google Can Afford A Clue; Instead They Want Informers? … form of advertising, and no … I don’t buy links or sell links on my websites, but … Google penalize sites that sell paid links while at the same time encouraging them to place AdSense on their websites [...]

  6. Why would you ever report a good place to buy links? Getting back links is 80% of today’s seo game.

    Thanks you Jeffery for all your hard work.

    We look froward to having you on Webmaster Radio again

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Jeffrey Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark. You can friend him on Facebook.

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