Matt Cutts Says Financial Arrangements Should Affect All Links Within a Post

I was notified about this post via email and have to say if it’s true I do find it somewhat disturbing. Ted Murphy of Izea (formerly Pay Per Post) sat down with Matt Cutts at Pubcon and had a discussion about links in sponsored posts. According to Ted here’s what was said …

I explained to Matt that in SocialSpark all links required by an advertiser would carry the no-follow tag. I thought this would be a great thing. Matt commended the decision, but then added ALL links inside of any sponsored post should carry the no-follow tag period, regardless of whether they are required, not required or even link to the advertiser paying for the post. That means if Nikon pays me to review a camera and I link off to a site about photography that link needs to be no-follow, along with the link to the blog of my buddy the photographer. His reasoning was that the sponsored post wouldn’t exist without the sponsor paying for it, therefore all the content is commercial and should be no-follow.

If that statement is true (and yes Matt it would be nice if you clarified it) boiling that down to it’s barest components any page, post or content that was commercially motivated should have all of the links no followed.

If that’s true why is this post on Google Checkout still without any no follow tags? I know you mentioned you were going to fix it but as of the time this post was written it still contains straight links. What about this press release on Google announcing a partnership with Motorola, where Motorola gets a nice straight link? Or how about this post on the Google Blog where Ingram Micro gets a nice straight link? What about this page over on Intuit announcing a partnership with Google, should Intuit get their webmaster to no follow it too, just to make sure they aren’t violating Google’s TOS?

Let’s get even stickier, what about this page over on the Make-a-Wish foundation site which acknowledges the charitable financial support of the Walt Disney Company. I happen to like both organizations, but when you boil it down to it’s bare essentials it’s nothing more than a hosted content page that would not have been created or exist without commercial sponsorship, and according to the rules mentioned above, it’s in violation of TOS for not having a no follow link. The fact that it’s for charity really should not enter the equation at all, unless of course you are going to allow Viagra and poker companies the same algorithmic leeway you allow Disney and Make a Wish.

It boils down to intent, Google wants to know was the link and any subsequent transactions motivated by a desire to manipulate rankings within it’s algorithm. In the case of the Disney and Make a Wish Foundation probably not, in other cases the motivation is much less clear. If Google put as much effort into solving the problem instead of working the FUD campaign we’d all be much better off. C’mon Google sit down put your heads together and solve the problem already, instead of walking around with your hat in your hand begging for paid links reports. It’s a weakness in your algo, not a problem with the internet, unless of course your hubris has grown to a level where you think YOU ARE THE INTERNET …

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