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Valleywag vs TextLinkAds, or: Should Bloggers "Nofollow" Text Ads?  (View post)

Splasho [PersonRank 10]

Friday, June 23, 2006
14 years ago6,896 views

VW:"Michael may be against spam on principle, but hey, a blogger's gotta pay the bills. So he had no problem taking sponsorship from Text Link Ads, a company that violates Google's terms of service by selling links for higher search ranks."

PL: "Not sure if it was a Freudian slip, but you don't need to accept Google's ToS to use the internet :D"

Cameron [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I think you may find this post interesting, as it's related to this whole thing... ...

Tadeusz Szewczyk [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

The way you describe the subject Phillipp is really respectable. So I will attempt to analyze it for you and your readers from the more prefessional SEO perspective. On the other hand, what Valleywag writes is just offending someone and pure crap on the level of expertise.
I don't know and don't read Valleywag but I know Patrick Gavin from reading, in fact I just happened to check his links the day before yesterday to find out where more well known SEOs than me get their Google juice.

But let's return to the topic itsself because fighting someone on the personal level is not really my style.

So what's the problem? According to Matt Cutts (paraphrasing him) any sold links are bad because they lead to a bias in search results. Why? Because Google judges a websites authority based on links. That works as long as they are organic and can be interpreted as a recommendation by the linking webmaster.

That's easy to grasp, a voluntary link is more of a recommendation than a paid link. There is a very simple logic behind that and it's very plausible.

Matt Cutts wants advertisers to hamper paid links by "nofollowing" them, making them worthless for Google. Nofollow links not only do not increase your PageRank, the green bar on the Google Toolbar that says how much authority you have in points from 0 to 10 (maximum) or push your ranking (position in the search results). Nofollow links do net get sipdered at all by Google!

That's perfectly reasonable for blog or guestbook spam of course. And intended for that in the first place. But wait, do ads equal spam?

Well, I don't think so. As I said earlier in this comment they are just less of a recommendation. Someone put a link on a page because he was paid for it. But like you said yourself: a webmaster or advertiser checks whether the link is acceptable or hers or his site. So he still thinks the link is acceptable.

Let's compare this with a linking strategy Google itsself recommended webmasters for years: catalogues/directories like DMOZ and Yahoo. Well most of the best known ones, indeed Yahoo too, make webmasters pay for inclusion of their links. The catalogue editors check them in the same way as webmasters check their advertisers. So what's the difference? I am not sure. Matt, tell me please.

So let's take up the Valleywag post once again: It's purely polemic. It calls Text Link Ads "Google spammers" and states that it breaches the Google TOS. Well, in the first place Valleywag mixes up the TOS and the Webmaster Guidelines: ...

As a white hat SEO those guidelines are what I attempt to perfectly meet in order to please Google in the best possible way and get better rankings by meeting those guidelines as good as I can.

There is no guideline in there that says (text link) advertising is an unacceptable practice. Indeed there is only a blurry paragraph that says, quote:

"Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links."

If you want you can read it like "do not do link building at all" because every link that you get with the purpose of making your website better known is a scheme "designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank". But there is also a moderate interpretation of that and that's probably the realistic one, that means "do not participate in automatic linking schemes with the sole purpose of increasing your site's ranking or PageRank". But of course do link building so we can find your page, crawl it and rank it based on the incoming links. That's why Google supports even paid entries in catalogues and web directories.

So of course if the paid link adds value to the user and is still some kind of recommendation it should count as one. A paid link is not the same a a spam link in your weblog comments.

I personally do not use services like Text Link Ads, so I can't judge them by their virtues or lack there of, but as far as I understand the nature of such services for the webmaster is similar to those of web directories, people linking to you because they are asked to and they are paid for their work.

Why that is Google spam the wacky Valleywag post does not explain. It is just a personal insult. I get insulted like that very often by people that do not even know what SEO is. The more humble ones just ask me "but is it legit or manipulation?". I explain again and again: like in every other field, there are legit techniques and those which are not. As to paid text link advertising I didn't make up my mind yet. It's difficult to say, but it's certainly not spam per se.
But indeed the recommedation is still there it's just not as valuable as an unpaid one.

It's a shame most people are to crude to ditsinguish. It's easier to rant and insult.

Here is an interview with Patrick Gavin from 2004: ...
It still is very useful to discren how "spammy" his company is.

Btw. his own page is linked all right, more legit than many respectable commercial sites out there.

Thomas Bindl [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

I think there's some generalization in place here that shouldn't be.

Having been on a panel with Patrick multiple times I think he knows exactly where to draw the lines of clean link buying. There are several good ressources where you can buy links that make a profit just because of the click-through traffic.

Buying links can be done for multiple purposes and shouldn't be evilized in general.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Solve the dilemma by having two advertising rates.

The standard rate is for nofollow ads. The premium rate is for linked ads which entail the overhead of checking that the ad will not destroy the integrity of your site.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I agree with most of your points Tadeusz. Maybe we can say for now: whether or not use nofollow on ads is up to the blogger? Further discussion upcoming as things evolve?

By the way, I know Valleywag is often totally over the top for comedic effect – with seeds of truth, as in all good comedy. So let's forget about "everyone's a spammer" (or "Marissa Mayer's a robot," for that matter), but the real issue here, I think, is the problem for a blogger of separating text-ads-which-are-normal-advertisers from text-ads-which-are-PageRank-gaining-ventures. And that's a very real issue I think, one for which using nofollow is a possible solution.

Hashim [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

"if an advertiser doesn’t accept the link in its “nofollow” variant, she may be out for PageRank only after all, which would be gaming the search engines."

I don't think that's gaming the search engines. Often advertisers in traditional media are looking to assign themselves with a publication not just for direct sales, but also to receive warmth from their brand halo. Pagerank is part of a site's brand online, and it's ok to sell that off.

Stephan Locher [PersonRank 9]

14 years ago #

The W3C, or whoever is making the standard version of nofollow needs an additional attribut to describe why it's nofollow:
"advertisement", "guestbooklink", "anonymouspost", "hatespeech", "interestingarticlebutidontlikethewritersoimakeitnofollow" and so on.

btw. Switzerland doesn't play against Spain in the soccer world cup, yeah ;-)

Andrew Hitchcock [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

What about introducing a new relation? Instead of nofollow, you might use advertiser, advertisement, or sponsor.

Andrew Hitchcock [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Oops, I forgot to add. The advantage is that it more accurately reflects the relationship between the sites and the nature of the link.

Nofollow often implies untrusted, but you might trust your sponsor, but still want to make note of the nature of the link. Also, now the search engines can treat an advertiser relationship differently than nofollow.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Agreed Andrew. Nofollow might have been a bad choice, especially as it's a verb. Something like "sponsor" or "unknown" might be more meaningful relations.

Komedy Kollective [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Without the UK's Monty Python, there wouldn't have been Spam in the first place.

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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