Google Adds Paid Links Reporting

Google added a new section to webmaster central today entitled “report paid links”. How anyone other than me or quite possibly my book keeper know whether a link is paid or not is very questionable, but let’s dig just a little deeper shall we.

You can get the full data on this page but I’ll reprint it here because some of you might be concerned about privacy issues as far as Google is conceded:

We work hard to return the most relevant results for every search we conduct. To that end, we encourage site managers to make their content straightforward and easily understood by users and search engines alike. Unfortunately, not all websites have users’ best interests at heart. Some site owners attempt to “buy PageRankâ„¢” in the form of paid links to their sites. Buying links to improve PageRank violates our quality guidelines.

Google uses a number of methods to detect paid links, including algorithmic techniques. We also welcome information from our users. If you know of a site that buys or sells links, please tell us by filling out the fields below. We’ll investigate your submissions, and we’ll use your data to improve our algorithmic detection of paid links.

Let’s address some of the points in those paragraphs shall we …

Some site owners attempt to “buy PageRankâ„¢” in the form of paid links to their sites.

First off no one aside from Google owns PageRankâ„¢ so how I can sell something I don’t own is kind of funny. I guess it’s like those cans of Florida Sunshine you see at the tourist stops when you go on vacation. Seriously you want to stop people from selling your page rank take it away. That’s right take it off the toolbar and stop giving the data out. Of course that would entirely screw up your spyware application … err … toolbar data gathering that will supposedly enhance my personalized search but I digress …

Unfortunately, not all websites have users’ best interests at heart.

That is quite funny. Assuming that I’m not buying text link advertising to screw with my competition, or more correctly use the flaws in Google algorithm to make Google screw with my competition, there’s a 99.9% chance I’m buying that text link ad because I’m actually selling the product or service that’s in the anchor text. Ok I might by “Coke” as a keyword if I was selling “Pepsi” because it’s direct competition, but more often than not if I buy “coke” chances are really pretty good that I sell Coke in one form or another. Want something else to think about, we all complain about crazy JS redirects through “.EDU” sites for terms like [buy Viagra] but when things work the way they are supposed to you’re almost certainly going to end up at a website that is selling Viagra. So when Google kills those results do they really have their users best interests at heart? I think it’s slightly more self serving on Google’s part, as they are really attempting to counter the perception that their ranking algo can’t be easily manipulated, because letting people who search for “buy viagra” get to a site that sells Viagra would seem to me to really be in the users best interests.

If you know of a site that buys or sells links, please tell us by filling out the fields below.

I can’t believe we are still having this discussion, how do you or anyone else, know with any reasonable degree of certainty, that I was paid to put up a link. Maybe Matt slipped me that nice black Google polo shirt I was wearing at SMX because I linked to him. Maybe he gave it to me so I wouldn’t point out that Google secretly hired Sasquatch to camp out on the Grassy Knoll and assassinate Kennedy or any other anti-Google conspiracy theory that I come across. Does throwing a great party at a conference count as paying for a link? Maybe I don’t get the cash directly, but I did drink some carbonated beverages (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) and eat some food when I was there. Didn’t some one have to pay for the food and drink? If I write about it after the party and put up a link didn’t I get something of monetary value for that link. Food and drink is certainly a lot more real than toolbar pagerank dontcha think?

To use a real world analogy, when you hear two kids fighting in the other room and something crashes and breaks on the floor, do you come in and ask “which one of you two broke this” if you already know who did it? If Google knew who was selling text links they wouldn’t need you to tell them, and they wouldn’t be asking the equivalent of “which one of you two broke this” now would they …

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