Google doesn’t trust all links

In O’Reilly Radar > Search Engine Spam?, Tim O’Reilly addresses concerns that their network of sites, which includes Perl.com, XML.com, and others, is “selling PageRank” via text link ads.

As Danny sullivan points out in his comments, a lot of companies (including the former owner of Danny’s Search Engine Strategies conference) are selling the same type of advertising, cashing in on the economy created by search engines’ reliance on anchor text to generate search engine rankings.

Google engineer Matt Cutts chipped in to support the use of the rel=nofollow attribute on ad links. He also stated that he had been aware of O’Reilly’s link sales for some time, and that “parts of perl.com, xml.com, etc. have not been trusted in terms of linkage for months and months.” Further, that “just because a site shows up for a ‘link:’ command on Google does not mean that it passes PageRank, reputation, or anchortext.”

Those words, if they are heard throughout the SEO world, are sure to shake the confidence of many text link brokers… it’s about time. Smart link traders will be moving toward a model that makes it easier to use their networks for advertising that isn’t solely targeted at spiders.

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  • http://www.lowter.com charmedlover

    Google just doesn’t want others to make money off of it. It makes me quite angry as I make a small deal of money from my website only because of my PR (although I don’t make much). If Google were to restrict that then it would truly destroy an entire business.

    Google is extremely inconsiderate. Half the webmasters buy their links in the first place. Sadly I wasn’t able to as I don’t have much money. :D

  • http://www.SitePoint.com Matt Mickiewicz

    At SitePoint, we’ve made the concicious decision to reject all PageRank based advertising, because it looks tacky, unprofessional and adds no value to our Website.

    By forcing all ads to be relevant to a Web Developer or Web Professional audience, we hope to encourage our visitors of forming a habit of at least looking at our ads – because they know, the ads won’t be for cuban cigars, hotels, online poker, or a canadian pharmacy.

  • http://www.seoresearchlabs.com DanThies

    Does Google really owe you a living?

  • http://www.rideontwo.com z0s0

    But I like cigars, hotels and poker ;-)

    Dan – couldn’t agree more. So sick of people bleating about every change Google makes destroying their “business”.

  • Jimmy Cerra

    Matt Mickiewicz, I applaud you for the relevant, non-spamy advertisements and good content. However, I can not purchase any of Sitepoint’s products (like the book I noticed in the bookstore) or anything from your sponsors until you stop launching popups using JavaScript intended to defeat Firefox’s anti-popup measures. I find popups of any kind to be very unprofessional as they force my attention to focus on those ads. This breaks my concentration while reading the main content, and leaves me with a bad impression of your sponsors/products. I would form a more favorable opinion of your products/sponsors if I, the reader, was simply allowed to chose to read those ads rather than be forced to via popups.

  • http://sabatos.net SG111

    I can really dig this. I always thought buying links to gain page rank was kind of sleazy.

  • http://www.seobook.com awall19

    >At SitePoint, we’ve made the concicious decision to reject all PageRank based advertising, because it looks tacky, unprofessional and adds no value to our Website.

    Point taken.

    Goes off to check out some “Cheap Domain Registrations” from your page footer.

  • http://www.rideontwo.com z0s0

    You clicked through on that ad, then, awall?

  • jimbo_dk

    Jimmy Cerra Says:
    I find popups of any kind to be very unprofessional as they force my attention to focus on those ads.

    I usually close the pop-up before it loads.

  • Etnu

    I used to work with one of the worst offenders in the PR spamming thing.

    Personally, I just wish Google stopped publishing page rank. How do you do well in search engines? By having the most relevant content. Simple.

  • http://percept.be Percept

    Etnu, you are joking right ? There are still a lot of spamsites ranking well simply by inserting hidden text on each page. Is that something you call the most relevant ?

  • http://percept.be Percept

    Btw, I was trying to make the point that you can’t blame everything on the displaying of the PageRank value.

  • http://boyohazard.net Octal

    I very rarely get the Sitepoint pop-up ads. When it does happen I choose the option “Do not show this again” or something to that effect and it seems to work.

    Goes off to check out some “Cheap Domain Registrations” from your page footer

    Matt was talking about pagerank based advertising and ads that were irrelevant to web developers and web professionals. As one such developer I find a link to “Cheap Domain Registrations” to be very relevant.

  • http://percept.be Percept

    The ‘Cheap Domain Registrations’ adlink has also been there for years and if I remember correctly it’s a client of Sitepoint.com.au.

  • jimbo_dk

    maybe off topic…but I was wondering for a long time if sitepoint.com.au had any connection with this sitepoint?

  • http://www.seoresearchlabs.com DanThies

    “Relevant or not” isn’t the only question, as Danny Sullivan has pointed out on his blog, discussing SEW’s decision in the wake of their ownership change.

    Like O’Reilly, SitePoint could eliminate all doubt by adding the rel=nofollow attribute to the ads. That’s certainly how the search engines would like us all to handle ads.

    That pop-up is what keeps me from entering the site via the home page. In fact, SitePoint.com was my browser’s home page a few years ago, before the age of the unstoppable pop-up.

  • http://www.SitePoint.com Matt Mickiewicz

    Regarding the pop-ups, as long as you don’t clear your cookies, if you click on the “Do Not Show Me This Pop-up Again” link, we really won’t show you the pop-up again.

    RE: The DomainGuru.com link, that is the actual service we use to register and manage all of our domain names – just like with the other services/companies listed in our footer.

  • http://www.adacprogramming.com ADACProgramming

    Pop-ups are still tacky even if you can turn them off. It’s an attempt to control what you view without your permission.

    If the content is relevant then then the link should be there. You are already endorsing the site by displaying it on your site, which seems to be the reason Google and others count the links as important.

    If you are a link farm you are not endorsing the site so the link should no count in page rank.

    My Opinion of course :)

  • http://www.visualdevelopments.com maartenvr

    I think the rel=”nofollow” is a great way to go. I am even using that on client websites already that link back to me…

  • http://buy.Azam.biz 1Lit_com

    I like pop-ups. Like Sitepoint, I provide world-class content on my sites, content which days and days to research, write and rewrite, and pop-ups are a source to generate some money for all the hard-work.

    More pop-ups I say! And, if people don’t like them, they can go buy a £40 computer book.

  • Ryan Wray

    I know I simply close the popup before it even has a chance to render, and hence, didn’t even know there was an option to stop it. Most people don’t like popups, and most people have developed an instant reflex to close them (though, hardly get them anymore, SitePoint still manages).

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    The buying of text links predates Google. Sure, Google has made the practice much more popular but paying someone to advertising your site via a link has been around pretty much as long as link exchanges.

    Of course we all know the biggest seller of text links, a little company called Yahoo. They charge $300 yearly for a link from a decent PR ontopic directory page.

    I do not personally have a problem, nor do I think Google has a problem, with small scale text link advertisements. Unless you publicize the fact they don’t know if that link is for sale, or if it is a genuine link. As such I feel there is no risk in accepting paid links from ontopic sites, sites which you might link to anyways. Just don’t publicize the fact.

    Google doesn’t like automated link exchanges, and they don’t like people selling PR, but what Google really doesn’t like is public knowledge of these practices.

  • hermen shermen

    google doesn’t like automation when it isn’t “their” automation.

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  • http://www.seoresearchlabs.com DanThies

    Of course we all know the biggest seller of text links, a little company called Yahoo. They charge $300 yearly for a link from a decent PR ontopic directory page.

    The difference, of course, is that Yahoo does an editorial review of submitted sites, uses the name of the company as the ‘anchor text,’ and links to a substantial number of sites that have not paid for a review – even in commercial categories.

    There are a lot of directories that don’t have the editorial standards of Yahoo. Many of these have been subject to an editorial review by Google, so that their links are no more trusted than the paid ads on O’Reilly’s network.

    paying someone to advertising your site via a link has been around pretty much as long as link exchanges.

    Indeed, and anyone is free to make their own advertising decisions. Still, as a user of search engines, I’m very happy to see them taking steps to reduce the influence paid links have in search results.

    A lot of the text link ads that you see across the web perform perfectly well as advertising. If you’re depending on a search engine ranking boost to justify the expense of paid advertising, you may find that your money doesn’t go as far as it used to… and that’s a good thing for the web.

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  • http://www.deronsizemore.com deronsizemore

    It just seems to me that Google created the monster. They made their system based around PR and backlinks right? There are always going to be people out there willing to cheat and bent the rules to get ahead of the game. I don’t think its right that Google can dictate whether or not I sell a link to my site because I’ve got a high PR? They should have realized that was going to happen when they started with all the PR stuff.

    I saw a post where someone asked something like “does google really owe you a living?” Well no they don’t, but if they are going to set the rules for getting ranked high, don’t punish someone from your search engine becuase they found a loophole…I mean hell they are still making billions of dollars, who cares right?

    I’ll admit I don’t know a great deal about SEO and PR and such, so if I’m way off base here, someone let me know and please explain why.

    Thanks

  • http://www.seoresearchlabs.com DanThies

    Deron,

    Nobody’s getting punished, unless you think Google owes you a living in the first place. If you sell text links, fine. If Google decides not to count the links you sold in generating search results, that’s their business.

    The link rental “industry” that was thriving a year ago is not going to last forever, operating the same way. That doesn’t mean people won’t buy links. I buy advertising all the time.

  • http://www.deronsizemore.com deronsizemore

    Dan,

    Thanks for the reply. I see your point. I guess it’s like anything else. Google has rules and if you don’t follow them then you don’t get listed on their SE. How would Google every really find out I’m selling links anyway unless I openly made it known what I was up to?

  • http://www.seoresearchlabs.com DanThies

    Deron,

    You’re misunderstanding the situation. Google won’t drop your site or anything like that. All they’ll do is stop counting the links pointing out of it.

    I couldn’t tell you what their internal process would be to identify sites, but it’s not hard to spot sites that are selling links.

  • http://www.deronsizemore.com deronsizemore

    Yeah I suppose that I did misunderstand it totally. Thanks for trying to clear it up. So say I sell a text link on my site to another website because I’ve got a PR7, and Google finds out about my doing so, they will just stop counting any links like this toward search engine results?

    Sorry to keep asking questions. I’m just trying to get on the right page since I was way off with my first couple comments.

  • http://www.seoresearchlabs.com DanThies

    So say I sell a text link on my site to another website because I’ve got a PR7, and Google finds out about my doing so, they will just stop counting any links like this toward search engine results?

    That’s about it, based on the public comments we’ve seen. Of course, it’s likely that *all* of the links out from your site would no longer be trusted, not just the ads.

  • http://www.affiliatedatingsites.com seermit

    I work for an affiliate dating company, we have thousands of sites under different domains, all with links back to our main site – http://www.world-dating-partners.com. Suddenly doing a search for “link:domain” and “@:domain” is returning very few results.

    There has obviously been some sort of filtering by google not on our links out, but our links in. Has anybody else had experiences of this?