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?

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