Give or Sell Links on Your Blog? Google WILL Stop You…

  • Comments: 16
  • Written on: May 9th, 2007

Webmasters who sell links on their blogs, forums, and websites to keep the lights on need to find another way to monetize their sites, or they will risk an all-new form of the “Google Death Penalty.”

A couple weeks ago Matt Cutts informed his readers that Google was looking for a way to differentiate paid links from non-paid links. He asked his readers to help Google grow a dataset for testing purposes.

I’d like to get a few paid link reports anyway because I’m excited about trying some ideas here at Google to augment our existing algorithms.

This short post on Matt’s blog sparked a 500+ comment storm accusing Google of doing everything from attempting to corner the advertising market to creating a reincarnation of the Communist “inform on your neighbor” doctrine.

What is Google Doing?

Apparently Google might be developing a new algorithm that will devalue websites that post paid links without disclosing that those links were sponsored by labeling them with a machine-readable attribute. This would include forums, blogs, corporate websites, news websites, and the like.

The idea is that one webmaster with deep pockets can buy enough backlinks to outrank a poorly financed webmaster who might have better content.

Under the new system, a webmaster who posts paid links on a website without a rel=”paidlink” tag could have ALL links from their website devalued in Google’s algorithms.

What This Means to Webmasters

This new development means that the days of buying links to boost your website’s PageRank and search engine results position ranking are numbered. In addition, if your website is labeled as a paid link spamming website as Google “collects data,” the value of all links from your website could be devalued.

Right now, Google is asking people to report websites that sell text-based links manually. However, the dataset Google is manually building will undoubtedly be used to perfect an algorithm that will detect and devalue links from websites on an automated basis.

Obviously, many advertisers buy link ads for their websites to influence search engine results, and webmasters use that revenue fund the ongoing development of their websites and maybe even make some money.

If a website that sells text ads suddenly starts labeling those ads so as “paidlink” so Google can pass over them for indexing purposes, that website’s revenue will drop faster than a lead balloon on Jupiter.

However, if the webmaster of that website fails to comply with Google’s request, then Google may devalue ALL of the links coming from the website to achieve the same result. Either way, the hey days of selling text-based ads to influence SERPs is coming to a close.

How Can You Protect Your “Link Juice”

That is not exactly clear at this point. In reading the 500+ comments on Matt Cutt’s blog and his responses, he seems to carefully avoid talking about what Google will do with the data it collects.

Because no one really knows what will happen to a website that gets included in Google’s experimental “dataset,” there is no 100% guaranteed way to work within this system yet.

Technically, ReviewMe, TextLinkAds, and even Alexa’s website reviewing system could be considered as dealing in paid text links. Will they be devalued, will Google exempt them for some reason, or will they comply with any new rules that Google puts out there?

If Google implements this new algorithm successfully it will be the biggest development in the SEO community since the introduction of the rel=”nofollow” tag. Except this new rule will touch almost EVERY website on the Internet and compliance might not be optional.

Maybe I should rethink my top commentator plugin… Am I paying people to comment by rewarding them with a high-value backlink?

  1. Peter P.
    Peter P. said on May 9th, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Wow, that is a good peice of info to know. Time to do some more research and rethink some acitons, hu?

  2. William
    William said on May 9th, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Wow, who knew?!

  3. Thor Schrock said on May 9th, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Its been coming for a while. I am just surprised it took Google this long to figure it out.

    It would have been batter if Google would have addressed this earlier on before an entire cottage industry sprang up to meet demand.

  4. Garry Conn said on May 12th, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    I made a comment here yesterday and figured it went into moderation… but I commented on another post and that one posted instantly, so I guess my comment made here might have not transmitted.

    I think that this would be a good system if Google had good intentions with the system. I feel that they are using this to their advantage by trying to knock down their competition. (Is that an inaccurate assessment?)

    The part where they say they are doing this to help the little guy get better results in the SERPS based on relevant content… maybe so, but that almost seems like a cover. I am interested in hearing more opinions on this matter. Anyone else want to chime in?

  5. Thor Schrock said on May 13th, 2007 at 7:33 am

    I think that Google’s intentions are pure, and that any unintended consequence that might occur that suppresses their competition is exactly that – an unintended consequence.

    I think the main reason people are so upset is because Google took so long to do anything about link spam. Webmasters have learned the hard way how to play the link spam game unless they want to get trounced by superpages or some other massive directory website.

    So now if Google takes that away, there is a degree of panic in the minds of some webmasters because they are not sure where to go next to influence their Google rankings.

    I personally don’t see how Google could just plug an algorithm in like this overnight. I think a phased approach is likely that devalues paid links, but does not discount them entirely. Either way, its bad news for link sales schemes, directories, blogs, and link exchanges everywhere.

    If Google launches this new shield, there will be one massive market for the guy who makes the next best sword…

  6. Matthew Jabs said on May 13th, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    This sounds like a huge opportunity to me.

    It’s funny though, the more time goes by, and the “bigger” Google gets…the more they start to appear Microsoft-like. When Google was first starting out, everyone was in their corner, but as time goes by, they start doing little things here & there that piss people off, and I’ve been seeing more & more disdain toward Google…

    Per the article, I agree that this algorithm could not be implemented overnight & I’m not too worried about it. Once it comes out, people will find a way to get done what they want to get done. And like I said in my first statement, it sounds like a huge opportunity to me!

  7. Robert Kingston said on May 15th, 2007 at 5:45 am

    The more I think about this the better I think it will be in the long run. I just feel sorry for all the people who have built entire careers and businesses around paid links.

    It’s pretty obvious that it needs doing at the moment – It’s next to impossible to find a good website designer these days… Those guys have backlinks pouring out of their ears and it’s obviously making it harder to find them.

    Personally I don’t care how big Google gets – they are still the best search engine out there at the moment and they’ve done so much for the internet.

    As for their monopolistic plans – by devaluing link exchanges and paid links, they’ll effectively generate more adwords customers.

  8. MoneyNing said on June 10th, 2007 at 2:09 am

    I don’t think Google is doing something that is fair. For all intends and purposes, they monetize their blog by posting paid links also.

    It’s almost like the US government making a legislation saying that companies will be taxed more if they buy ads from cable television.

  9. Thor Schrock said on June 30th, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    It looks like Google is taking this a step further and Bloggers are starting to pay attention. My friend Garry Conn has a post on the immediate changes he is making to his blog to reduce the risk of peoblems with Google:

    http://www.garryconn.com/its-googles-way-or-the-highway.php

  10. Garry Conn said on June 30th, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Thor, I really do have a lot to learn about this though… As Andy Beard says, I am a typical victim of Google FUD. Unfortunately, I am not financially in a position to argue with Google. My finances depend on it. And that is scary. Since this post, I have been working my tail off towards taking additional measure of balancing out my traffic across the board on all my site. Granted, Google is the leader in the search engines. Granted, Google supplies me with the most traffic on my sites… but, there are other means of gaining a good solid balance of traffic. This is my priority now… having something to fall back on. Because at this current state of my sites, if I were to lose Google… things wouldn’t be good.

    My site just made it out of the sandbox. I am very pleased with the results. I can now write articles and have them actually appear in the SERPs. I have worked very hard to get my personal site to this level. Unfortunately, I may have lost readers because of the changes I have made. These changes would have been in place a long time ago if I knew had know better how Google worked. As it stands now with my site is I will openly add just about any great quality blog into my super HUGE blogroll so that my readers and visitors (who are now also coming from Google) can have the opportunity to click and view the list and click on blogs that interest them. However, I have modified my WordPress install to include the rel=nofollow on my blogroll. I have over 85 links in my categorized blogroll. These number will continue to climb as bloggers continue to request to have their site added. Having that large amount of links on every page within my site (especially the individual post pages) puts a huge drain on my ability to have my own content indexed. The blogroll is there for readers and pass by readers to get linked up with great quality blogs. My blogroll is NOT there to aid others with gaining PageRank. PageRank can be achieved when a blogger writes excellent things and other bloggers willingly link to the post and or to the home page of the blogger.

    The Good news, which everyone SHOULD be happy about is the fact that I have modified my WordPress install and I have actually OPENED up my individual post pages by removing the rel=nofollow.

    Long story short… I have done the opposite what a typical WordPress install has. Out of the box, WordPress does not have NOFOLLOW on the blogroll but does have NOFOLLOW on the comments.

    I have reversed this… I have NOFOLLOW on my irrelevant links which reside in my blogroll and have opened up links in my comments. The comments are from readers who read my blog and have sites that have a logical relevancy to my site. The people that comment on my site are contributors and they should be rewarded. I have lost a few readers due to the complexity of what I am doing with this site… however, everything I am doing is in the interest of my readers.

    This will buy me time until I can figure out how to properly configure Spam Karma, as Andy Beard suggested. Once this is done… I guess I am more able to tightly control my external links.

  11. JoshtheAspie said on July 16th, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    It would be the other way around. Your commentators would be paying you for a back link by generating free content for you, since you are talking about selling links.

    Though really, it would just be a “thank you” or “appreciation” link, the same way that you link to people who let you borrow great content from their blogs, or base a post off of one of theirs.

    Although I am a bit curious about a few things. First of all, your top commentator plug in seems to have reset it’s numbers. I may have missed the post relating to this, but when did that happen, and why? Does it only count comments with a certain amount of recency?

  12. Rob
    Rob said on July 17th, 2007 at 1:02 am

    They reset monthly unless you set them otherwise, inside the file. I think it’s to deter people from trying to get free back links. I disabled that on mine since most people who *comment regularly* on my blog (i.e my subscribers) aren’t in it for the links.

  13. Josh the Aspie said on July 31st, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for the info Rob.

  14. Textbooks said on October 4th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Are there any updates on this? I’m pretty new to this subject, and I don’t understand how Google could ever differentiate between a paid link and an organic one – how can you prove that there was a financial transaction that went on?

  15. Dropping Text Link Ads - h0bbel said on July 21st, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    [...] Thor Schrock: Give Give or Sell Links on Your Blog? Google WILL Stop You… [...]

  16. h0bbel.p0ggel.org said on September 7th, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    [...] Thor Schrock: Give Give or Sell Links on Your Blog? Google WILL Stop You… [...]

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