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Google Steps Up Efforts to Identify Paid Links


Over at the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog, Vanessa Fox announces a “report paid links” feature, after previously asking us to use the spam report to snitch on those selling paid links.

Today, in response to your request, we’re providing a paid links reporting form within Webmaster Tools. To use the form, simply log in and provide information on the sites buying and selling links for purposes of search engine manipulation. We’ll review each report we get and use this feedback to improve our algorithms and improve our search results. in some cases we may also take individual action on sites.

Ok, so some paid links are going to stick out like a sore thumb, but how in the world can Google tell what is and what isn’t a paid link? If I want to add an external link to a friends web site, that might look like a paid link to some. Meanwhile, a blogger might slip in a paid link as part of a blog post, and Google would never know.

I understand what Google is trying to do, but seriously, they’re the ones that opened up this can of worms, by relying heavily on the value of links for the algorithm. Surely paid links doesn’t effect that great of a chunk of the web, that they now need to re-think the entire linking algo.

  • http://thearticlewriter.com/blog/2007/06/11/buying-selling-and-shutting-down/ Matt Keegan

    Google’s quest to regulate the internet cannot be a good thing — if you want to “off” your competition, then all you have to do is submit a form with false information and Google is “on” your competitor.

    Seems like the term, fink, needs to be resurrected.

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    …. sigh

    add this on the list as more reason to dislike google.

    They are turning the whole game into a preschool taddle tailing party.

  • Jordan McCollum

    I do think that you’re dead on, Andy. It’s a lot more complex than Google tends to make it out to be.

    I really don’t think that Google’s trying to police or legally (or morally) censure the Internet by discounting paid links. They’re not going to arrest you or shoot you for having paid links. They’re working on how to return “untampered” results for relevant queries. They’re allowed to do that however they want. It’s their search engine. Why is it that webmasters and some SEOs seem to think they can do whatever they want with their own business/clients to get ahead in Google but Google can’t do whatever they want with their business to get ahead with relevant results?

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    I agree Jordan, however, I think the real issue at hand is the way they are going about doing it, in which is wrong.

    Why have they never made a tool to report MFA sites? Why have they never made a tool to report hacked edu sites? Those are the questions I ask myself.

    The main goal IMO of them doing this is to increase the value of the co. B/c devalued links, could possibly increase adword spending b/c sites can no longer rank where they want via paid links.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Oh, yeah, I totally agree with that. (That’s what I meant when I said I was agreeing with Andy. And with you, too.)

  • http://andybeard.eu/ Andy Beard

    There are so many variations that Matt has suggested are ok (e.g. paid “quality” directory links) but for some reason a quality review of a site on a blog for minimal compensation might be bad.

    Whilst it might be ok to think that Google have a right to defend their algorithm, they are in a monopoly position that they are extending by acquisition.

    Google over the checkout thing has shown that some companies hold sway over them, at least partially.

    Should Ebay be banned from Google Serps for Shopping.com and Epinions.com giving juice to Ebay.com (and possibly now SU as well), and should IMDB and Amazon also be banned?

    That is link buying on a corporate level.

  • http://www.webmaster-money.org Webmaster Money

    It is nonsense. I have some paid links on my sites and you cannot say they are paid at all. It just looks like normal link exchange because they are related to the content.
    I also understand what they want to do but this way it will be hopefully impossible.

  • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

    “Surely paid links doesn’t effect that great of a chunk of the web”

    The site ranking 10th right now for “search engine optimization” would disagree with you. Paid links work like a charm and some of them are ridiculously easy to detect.

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    Halfdeck,

    Keyword “chunk”.

    The vast majority of the web do not buy links.

  • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

    “The vast majority of the web do not buy links.”

    And the vast majority of the web don’t cloak, hide text, or employ doorway pages. But people don’t have any qualms about Google going after those tactics. I wonder why? I guess its getting too close for comfort.

  • http://www.markbarrera.com Mark Barrera

    “I guess its getting too close for comfort.”

    Yes, but again, the reason it is too close for comfort is because of the difficulty of determining the reasons/motivations for a paid link as Andy Beard suggested and knowing how Google will treat them.

    I think not knowing how/if/when Google penalizes you is what is causing a lot of discomfort as well.

  • http://www.hmtweb.com/blog/ Glenn Gabe

    I think everyone agrees that using paid text links to gain search power isn’t a good thing, but on the other hand, there are companies out there (some are my clients) that have used paid text links to generate targeted traffic. If paid text links are used to enhance your online business and not to tamper with Google’s algorithm, then I think they are ok.

    Just my 2 cents. :-)

  • http://andybeard.eu/ Andy Beard

    Glenn, you are not looking at the big picture.

    Some corporate within the next 12 months could well be tempted to buy WordPress.com for $100M and get themselves links from 1,000,000 blogs.

    The silly thing is, from a link buying perspective that would be a bargain especially for someone like Ebay or Amazon who could stick related products in all the tag pages.

  • http://www.hmtweb.com/blog/ Glenn Gabe

    Andy, I hear you…but that’s not what I was referring to. I was merely saying that paid text links have been used several ways…some to manipulate Google’s algo and other ways to simply try and get targeted traffic. I don’t think the latter should be penalized.

    And regarding large companies leveraging their power to beat their competition, that’s been going on since the dawn of commerce! You know, when Ug beat up Tor with this team of cavemen to make sure he could sell his dino repellant in front of the right cave. :)

  • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

    Andy, the fact of the matter is you don’t need to buy WordPress to get 1,000,000 links. Walmart’s
    “sister” site ranking #1 in the UK for “car insurance” in a matter of weeks proved all it takes to rank for any term is loose corporate change.

    Lets just let all the big companies dominate the front page; screw the little guys – I mean who cares about people who don’t have enough $$$ to pay for SEO services? Leave a few longtails for the moms and pops and they’ll be perfectly happy, I’m sure.

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    Halfdeck. How is that any different then what currently goes on in the brick and mortar retail sector! The internet is profusely better for the mom and pops b/c there are a multitude of ways to generate traffic, and eventually sales.

  • http://www.markbarrera.com Mark Barrera

    I actually think sites like PayPerPost and others are great for mom & pop shops. This gives them an affordable way to do what the big guys are doing but not getting penalized for doing. This is a reason Google needs to let paid link value continue as it has.

  • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

    “Halfdeck. How is that any different then what currently goes on in the brick and mortar retail sector!”

    It’s not. What should make you wonder is why 90% of webmasters out there seems to believe that paid links will help them rank, when in fact paid links will guarantee that most of them will be squeezed off the first page. Are people that stupid? Or is greed turning people blind?

    I sell links, mind you. And I will keep on selling, but I’m not gonna try to justify it. I get paid and that’s reason enough.

    “I actually think sites like PayPerPost and others are great for mom & pop shops. This gives them an affordable way to do what the big guys are doing”

    The big guys are spending $20,000+/month on paid links. The moms and pops are not in the same league.

  • http://bushidoblog.com.ar Dario

    I totally agree with you, Andy. It’s their problem, not ours. They should fix the algo.

  • Greg

    I think what Google is referring to here is the practice of selling link units through automated means such as link vault. Google has no interest in going after bloggers who make links to affiliate programs. Although I’ve seen quite a few people on Craigslist trying to buy links for as much as $35 dollars a month.

  • http://www.get-licensed.co.uk SIA TRAINING

    Google wants webmasters to pay google adverts instead of paid directory link websites thats why its cracking down on the paid links