Prisoners of War in the Battle for Paid Links

Yesterday I came across a post from Dazzlin Donna entitled Matt Cutts, Why Am I Still Being Punished, there are several points in that post worth noting and discussing in more detail.

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Ok if you didn’t read the post here’s a recap, Donna went through made some changes removing anything that may have been interpreted by Google as a link that was purchased in order to influence the algo. She then wondered aloud why Google hasn’t given her back her page rank. Wendy Piersall of EMomsatHome.com came by and dropped the following comment:

Yeah, well, when you get an answer to this question, can you please ask them why the same thing has happened to me?
I foolishly relied on my TLA income to pay my authors. Now my site is barely breaking even.

So what we have here is two people who tried to diversify their income streams by selling advertising. The problem is they did it with link advertising, and in the link advertising marketplace the price is primarily governed by Google Page rank.

Later in the thread Matt Cutts said this

In general you want to go with the reconsideration request approach rather than invoking me (that’s not scalable :), but since you submitted a request I’m happy to check on the status of the site in the reconsideration queue.

and further down he said this

P.P.S. Donna, I’m guessing your disclaimer might have been an issue; you still say “This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation… The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog…”

I’d check if the disclosure policy you have is accurate at this point.

OK let’s take a deep breath, and evaluate what just happened, Matt all but came out and acknowledged Google is instituting reductions in page rank for websites they believe are engaging in selling text link advertising. Having seen more than one website where this page rank penalty reduction has taken place, and having seen the corresponding traffic logs I can tell you I’ve never seen a reduction in traffic, the only thing missing are some green pixels in the toolbar.

Now I can completely understand the motivation behind monetizing your blog, and following Google’s recommendations, if you think that will help you. However the reality of the situation is once you do that Google owns you. You have traded your free will to do business the way that makes the most sense to you, for nothing more than pixie dust and some magic beans.

You did exactly what they wanted, they scared you into compliance. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I understand people have families to clothe and feed, mortgages to pay, and employees who depend on income from these websites, but where is the line in the sand? How much are you going to let Google bully you into doing things that are in Google’s best interests and not your own, and how long are you willing to take it? Are you going to wait until you’ve given it all Google and there’s nothing left worth fighting for? Google has already indicated it wants to own your data. Google may tell you it’s all about creating a higher quality web, but if that was the case the Adwords quality score would disable your ads, not turn a blind eye if you are willing to overpay $5 or $10 a click.

To be clear I’m not talking about hiding things from search engines, or burying text below the fold (which while not a technical violation is clearly a violation of the spirit of the recommendations), I’m talking about clearly labeled advertising, sponsorship, or reviews. Why is it OK to pay for a Yahoo directory review but not a review from a another service.

Google is trying to manipulate the internet to the way it sees fit. While they do try to keep from throwing the baby out with the bathwater, collateral damage is an inevitable part of every war, and just like the architect in the matrix says “there are acceptable losses to maintain the status quo”. That status quo is Google being the the leader in mind and market share of the search space, and reaping advertising revenue that goes along with that.

Google has one goal, ruling the internet in an unchallenged top-down dictatorial manner. If you stand up for yourself and challenge them, they will do everything in their power to smack you down, until you submit to their will.

Who’s next on their hit list, are you willing to sit on the sidelines and wait until they target you before to stand up to them … if you do it’s already too late …

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