Posted February 27, 2007 12:26 pm by with 11 comments

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Since when is listing a company on a web page who is part of a true partnership program, paid or not, considered selling links? Since never, that’s when. But some people like to make a stink about anything they can find.

Conversion Rater blogged about Google linking to companies who are part of a paid partnership program that Google has. They titled the article “Google Selling PR7 Links For $10,000!“. An obvious piece of bait to say the least.

A blog posting some link bait doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is Google’s reaction. Matt Cutts put in a work order in response to the blog post and within hours, the page containing the links is PR0 and no longer passes rank.

If the sites that are linked to from that partner page are not trust worthy enough to allow PR to pass, how are they trust worthy enough to be part of the partner program? Let us not forget Google links to many other sites and has many different partner programs. Some examples just from a quick one page search:

Books Partners
Analytics Partners
Checkout Partners
Adwords Partners
More Enterprise Partners (Click through, the individual pages have the links)

So is Google planning on nofollowing or PR0ing every single outbound link they give? If so, that’s a shame. Google either trusts these sites or they don’t. They need to make up their mind.

  • It’s a tricky situation. This seems to go against the essence of PageRank. You determine value through backlinks, and my negating the importance of a link you violate the value of the system. NoFollow and the like are poisoning the Internet.

  • Yes, I have to agree. PR values quality and popularity. And with this news out, it would really start a great debate between those who chose to be part of the white hats and those who prefer to be black hats.

  • I think the case Jeremy here is that Google is the leader in determining what a paid link is and isn’t for publishers everywhere. And how do they know how much the publisher really trusts the link they have? It’s quite possible that I really trust a site that buys a link from me. How would Google know if I trust them or not? They don’t.

    So why does Google get the benefit of the doubt that because they “trust” the partners, they can take money and link to them and pass Pagerank, while they don’t bother to find out if I trust paid partners on my website?

    Answer me this, would those links be there if the partners hadn’t paid $10,000?

  • It does seem Matt had a knee-jerk reaction. You’re not paying $10k for just a link, so why nofollow that link.

  • I think no follow really is a slippery slope.
    I can see why google panicked and changed the links but I think Andy is right, if company can’t link to its partners who can it link to.

  • IMO it’s not about whether the links are paid for or not – as much as Google being seen to be objective.

    If you’ve ever checked out Google’s robots.txt, they’re pretty keen to keep most of their content blocked.

    Pretty curious, really – they want to index the web, but disallow the web indexing them.

  • Pat, those are not paid links. You are confusing two different issues. Companies in a developers partner program are obviously people you trust very much. If not, they should not be part of such a program. So is dell not allowed to link to Microsoft without adding a no follow since they have a relationship based on money?

    Matt didn’t even nofollow the links, he just PR0’ed all the pages. That was an odd move if you ask me. I think it was done that way as Andy put it, because all this was a knee jerk reaction. I see Matt having the power to quickly get a page PR0’ed while getting no follow links added to code taking a bit longer.

    If you look, Matt didn’t even get rid of the most powerful links. Have a look at the examples I gave above “More Enterprise Partners.” All those companies still have multiple PR6 links which are even more powerful than the one PR7 link because they are not sharing their individual pages with anyone and there are more than one for each company.

    The rules for who you can link to without a nofollow according to Google are just getting…. well I don’t think I should say the word. Google knows this and is doing damage control by trying to appease bloggers even if it goes completely against common sense.

  • Nofollow for commercial links isn’t sensible, and if bloggers keep pointing out these problems, eventually we might get a more reasonable solution.

    Matt really should nofollow every link to his employer

  • Wow. This is starting to get pretty scary. It seems to me that these links should not be nofollowed or have the link juice removed. If Google has partnered with them, why not give a link?

    I think a major problem with the nofollow is that people think that by not using this attribute, you “trust” the site you are linking to. The definition of “trust” is what seems to be the issue. In this case, I see the link as saying “Google trusts this site to provide the services mentioned in their profile (to an extent that is reasonable).” Google is not saying “Google trusts this site to provdide superior and flawless services and also represents all that Google stands for.”

    A link without a nofollow is not like stamping a “Guarantee” on that site but it seems like that is what Google is asking anyone who links anywhere to do – Guarantee that the site they are linking to has some specific value – and that REALLY can never be determined because no business is perfect.

  • “Companies in a developers partner program are obviously people you trust very much.”

    Why is that so obvious? Because you trust Google?

    If I sell ads through Text-Link-Ads and only accept links from sites I trust, then put them under a Partner Links header, Google won’t like those. They don’t bother to give me the benefit of a doubt on if I trust those sites or not. So why should they get subjective benefit of the doubt.

    I’m fine if Google leaves pagerank on those pages and says that they can choose to trust paid partners, but then they should make that same decision with their algorithms and treatment of paid “partners” everywhere.

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