Google Blogoscoped


Paid Links Are Spam?  (View post)

Hong Xiaowan [PersonRank 10]

Sunday, April 15, 2007
15 years ago9,468 views

Google Adsense Paid Links were not spam. The key is must to fit the content of the pages that links on.

But the internet need more free "health links". If links come to be not free, will break the nature rules.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> Google Adsense Paid Links were not spam. The key
> is must to fit the content of the pages that links on.

Below my post, there's an AdSense link reading "Does the world need disease to control overpopulation?"

How is that *not* completely irrelevant to the page at thand?

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

But who said that Google is going to ban or punish webmasters that uses paid links? I think they just want to tweak the algorithm to give such links less (or none) Google juice. And that's completely ok with me as an user. In fact that's the ideal way PageRank algorithm should work...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> But who said that Google is going to ban or punish
> webmasters that uses paid links? I think they just
> want to tweak the algorithm to give such links less
> (or none) Google juice.

OK, if you get this official statement out of Google or Matt Cutts, I will agree with your argument:

"We don't have any problem with sites using non-'nofollowed' paid links, and will never ban or lower the rankings of such sites, or increase the likelihood the site gets banned by assigning 'spam points'... provided, of course, that the advertised sites are trusted, which is the responsibility of the webmaster who doesn't use 'nofollow' to ensure."

Right now, Google/ Matt Cutts are sending a different message, because Matt specifically did not differentiate between related links to trusted advertisers (a "sailing news" link on a sailing site linking to a well-maintained sailing news portal) vs non-related links into bad neighborhoods (a "poker bots" link on a sailing site linking to a take-the-cash-and-run scheme). It doesn't get much more official than that: nofollow must now be used for paid links, not just comment links. The problem with this, as I've said, is that Google is one of the biggest (or *the* biggest?) web ad players around, and they're now telling you how to set up your non-Google ads... seemingly not accepting anymore those people who don't wish to use nofollow (because it's their argument that they trust their advertisers). And that's an interesting "cross-over" (the conflict of interest) of the Google search rankings and the Google ad-selling department.

JohnMu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I understand that they need to collect data on different sorts of paid links first. We all have different ideas about what is "paid" and what isn't. Before any kind of decision is made about how they should be treated, they have to have data. That's what they're asking for. That's fine, imho.

However, we all know that if we report things that end up being a basis for a penalty, the reported sites will be the first ones to get hit. They can't guarantee "penalty-freedom" for sites reported now (which is what would almost be required to get webmasters to report things honestly at the moment).

How else could they collect data? Or would you prefer that they make the decisions themselves and just inform (or penalize) the sites in question? I think it's a great move that they want to be honest and open about it, but I have serious doubts that they will get better data this way. We'll see what happens next :-)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> Before any kind of decision is made about how
> they should be treated, they have to have data.

This issue is not just about collecting data. I think we need to add a bit of context from another post of Matt from this weekend.

"As long as we’re talking about links, this seems like a pretty good opportunity to talk about a simple litmus test for paid links and how to tell if a paid link violates search engines’ quality guidelines. If you want to sell a link, you should at least provide machine-readable disclosure for paid links by making your link in a way that doesn’t affect search engines."

Again, Matt says: do not use normal links for ads, in order to quote "make sure that you’re in good shape." When the head of Google's search quality team, the team deciding how to ban sites, talks about your site being in "good shape" then IMO you don't have to do much of between-the-lines reading to know what they're talking about. But I emphasize that if Google decides to release a statement like the one I printed above in response to Ludwik, that would clarify this issue and we wouldn't have to second-guess whether or not paid links to sites you *trust* can get you in trouble.

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

<<Let’s reiterate some of the history of this issue>> reiterate is a commonly misused word.
iterate:run or be performed again; "the function iterates" ie. To repeat or resay.
reiterate:repeat: to say, state, or perform again; "She kept reiterating her request" ie. to repaet again and again.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago # defines "reiterate" as "To say ... again". So I'm curious, why do you think "reiterate some of the history of this issue" is wrong? (Or did you just want to explain the word?) After all, the subject has been covered many times before here...

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I just wanted to explain the words. A general election is coming up and the polititions say reiterate when they mean iterate. eg"i reiterate what Bertie Ahern said in todays Dáil session". this would be ok if it was not his first time to say it again but often it is. =>

Michael H.E. Roth [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

I thinks it's bad taste that Google obviously puts all paid links into the neighborhood of spam – if not declare it directly spam – just by urging people to report paid links via the spam-report-tool. As if Google hadn't the resources to launch a paidlink-report-tool... Yes some paid links are search -engine spam, but I – as a user – see the responsibility to recognize spammy-links on the Searchengines – not the tell-tale webusers. "Oops, that site is linking to my competitors site but not mine, let's quickly report it as paidlink = spam!" And a big company can quickly have all it's employees fill out such a report via their "private" google-account. BAD IDEA!!

And if a paid link is topic relevant, then why shouldn't it count? Google already killed the reciprocal link in general – also something I cannot follow. Why shouldn't two site link to each other to give the users a more complete picture of the topic. (reciprocal links of topic-unrelated site should be recognized by the search engines, if not: improve your algorithm, that's your job!)

One last thing: If there were not search engines, paid links would be even a much bigger business on the internet – until someone would invent a search engine :-))

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I saw Matt's post yesterday and was a bit confused on his desire to have people send reports about paid links. I found it interesting that it wasn't about links in comments per se but about any paid links you might have on a site. Right now it appears they are in the data collection mode to see how they can find paid links with a new algorithm but it shouldn't matter if I sell links on my site. It's my site and I am allowed to do whatever I want to it. Google wants all paid links to be related to the content on the page but I agree with Philip and some other users that have stated that adsense ads don't relate to content on a particualr page.

Targeted advertising is good for the visitors of a site but telling users of a search engine that they have to send paid link 'spammy' reports about links you have sold is not good. This makes me wonder if Google is trying to screw their competition by marking it spam in their results. Live by your Motto, Google! Don't be Evil.

Eytan Buchman [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I always thought that selling links was fine. As long as the site can stay popular while functioning as a link farm, let it be. A basketball stadium can fill itself up with tacky in-your-face ads and people will still come. As long as it can bring in the people, why does it matter? As long as there is nothing super-sleazy going on, like masking the links, why can't the matter police itself?

JohnMu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Eytan, the problem is not that the visitors mind – it's that it changes the idea behind a link. Google's algorithm is based on the idea that a (clean) link is a vote for a site. The sites with the most votes win (so to speak). This idea does not hold up when you can buy votes (links). Of course it isn't as simple as that (it never is), but that's one of the main problems. How can a site be judged partly from the links pointing to it when you do not know how honest those links are?

But .... haven't we had that for a long time already? Who hasn't suggested that selling (clean) links to anyone can be bad for your site? Who hasn't suggested that recognized, paid links are blocked from passing value? Isn't this just a coming out of what we had already assumed?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> Google's algorithm is based on the idea that
> a (clean) link is a vote for a site.

I think this is an important argument and I'm happy you make it... but I think it's also not what links were supposed to be. A link is not a vote to make a site win, it's supposed to be a pointer to something relevant. For example, I may discuss in a post on racism, and maybe I consider this site relevant to show how stupid the KKK is... so I might use a link to them. Today, blog authors are facing the choice whether or not to nofollow such a link, and I'm really divided myself (what if someone wants to find the Klan's site because they're researching the KKK for a paper on racism, but most people nofollow their links to the KKK site, thus lowering its rankings? Then the Google search result is becoming less useful). But in theory, nofollow was never meant for cases like these... it shows how quickly nofollow expanded to mean a lot more than "battling comment spam".

> Who hasn't suggested that selling (clean) links to
> anyone can be bad for your site?

I only ever assumed that happens when you link into a bad neighborhood. For example, when I used text links here, I researched the site before I added it. That was actually before nofollow came along. I think if you link to a spammy site, your site should be punished as well (at least get some additional "spam points" that move towards a threshold), and I believe that's exactly what Google always did. What's new in this discussion IMO is that now, there's some signals that any kind of paid link is risky, be it pointing to a good or bad neighborhood! Of course, I may be wrong... but right now, the signal Google is sending might confuse many more people than just me...

JohnMu [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

You're right Philipp, this whole nofollow business really creates some strange situations. It's not enough that we (who should know) don't know where / when to place nofollows (or perhaps feel safe for linking "only a few" sites that we know are not that hot), but the average webmaster doesn't even know that it exists. It's hard enough to convince them that spam links in their guestbooks / blog comments need to be pruned quickly, but how can you convince them that this little code snippet with no visible change is really important on the links to their "sponsors"? It's almost enough to make a guy want to run and remove all outbound links just to be safe. Or is that bad as well? :-)

I've seen a site that removes nofollows from links on the fly via javascript in an onload function. It fools all nofollow highlighters. It wasn't even a SEO-type site, but literally all links on the pages were nofollowed, even the internal ones. That guy must be scared. And his site is doing (as you can guess) terrible in the search engines – I bet he thinks that he needs to go even further. Sad.

I understand the situation that Google is in and I know they are just honestly looking for feedback (at the moment), but I think the webmasters – especially the simple ones – need *a very clear guideline on linking*. They can invent new attributes if they want. It just needs to be absolutely clear what happens with which kind of links and what is "allowed" (according to the Google Guidelines) and what isn't. I love their webmaster's guidelines, but it needs to go further – especially for links.

Michael H.E. Roth [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #


>I think if you link to a spammy site, your site should be punished as well

If that comes true, every outbound link is a time bomb for every site – especially for blogs.
Scenario: A blogger "votes" for a really good site within his post... Some time later the webmaster of that site get too excited and use some spammy techniques (I don't know how many out there aren't even aware that they are doing evil, they're "just doing what they saw worked for other websites") and then the blog gets punished for linking to a spammy site, which wasn't spammy when the link (vote) was set? Get real! Nobody constantly checks the quality of sites he/she once linked to. Do You? See!

All I see is that Google sees that the whole "link = quality vote"-concept is in jeopardy... (yes, mainly though paid links, but it's their vulnerability, and they should take care of this, not the webmasters)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Interesting angle Michael, I never thought about that.

That means a blog archive might slowly deteroriate into a bad neighborhood, and take down the blog frontpage with it. But isn't that what Google already does, assign negative scores to sites which have outgoing links to bad neighborhoods? Maybe it's just a matter of *how many* bad links you have in relation to good links...

alek [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I posted this on Matt's Blog, but figure it might also be of interested to Blogscoped readers.

P.S. When I first tried to post this, Philipp's anti-spam filter prevented me from doing so due to the word "mZZZortage" (remove Z's) ... this supports my point below!


Was out for the last weekend of snow skiing with wife and kids (they crushed the black moguls! ;-), but got a chuckle reading this thread as I re-enter the online world Sunday night.

As far as <i>"examples of paid links"</i>, these have been plastered on the main web pages of the mainstream media outlets in my (decent-sized) market for quite some time. I just spent about <b>10 seconds per site</b>, and of the 3 TV stations (ABC/CBS/NBC) and 2 major newspapers, I'll bet you a $100 (at 10-1) that at least three of 'em are selling text links – it's so obvious by the keyword rich text links used. I don't want to mention where I live, although obviously you can geo-locate my IP and figure it out.

But look at any major US market (I'm sure international as well) and you'll see these all over the place – heck, even look at the bottom of the Stanford Daily (Google's alma matter) and it appears they are selling keyword rich text links ... again! ;-)

<b>I.e. tell me with a straight face these aren't trying to game the search engines – <i>wedding favors, mZZZortgage rates, long distance cheap calling card rates<i>, etc.</b>

Sure, all these guys put a <i>"sponsored/paid links"</i> block around the text/links, but do you really think the advertisers are targetting Stanford students for long disance cheap card rates?!?

So would be curious how Google plans to handle examples such as this?

P.S. Don't mean to give you/Google a hard time – like it or not, page rank has become something of value, so people naturally capitalize on it. And while I don't buy/sell links (really!), as a free-market type of guy, I can't fault folks like the Stanford Daily for trying to make buck.

I.e. the genie is out of the bottle and you can't put it back in!

AjiNIMC [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

Natural link -> Given by choice -> a popularity count
Paid Link -> Bought with $ -> Wealth count

Till now wealthy people are more popular, Google is trying to fill in the gap. Let only popular things make you popular not your money, use your money to run a bigger contest to become popular.

Questions are:

1) "how do we know which links are bought?" – Matt says, "notify us"
2) "Who bought it?" – Punishing people out of it is going to be tricky.

Google rules are quite different from normal rules.

Land Laws : Let no innocent person be punished. Leave 5 criminals to save one innocent person. Every life is important.

Google Laws : Let no spammer (WWW criminal) go unpunished (or rank in SERPs). Let 5 innocent sites die while punishing a spammer. One site makes no difference.

Enjoy Google and dance with Matt

Michael Martinez [PersonRank 5]

15 years ago #

Google needs to stop allowing links to pass anchor text. Once they do that, the incentive to spam through links will be greatly reduced (though not eliminated).

Now that Google is asking people to report paid links, it's clear that they are being overwhelmed by the whole issue. And the declining quality of Google search results over the past few months shows just how ineffective their recent efforts to counteract manipulation have been.

The average visitor to Google performs over 30 queries. The average visitor to Live, Yahoo!, and Ask performs between 9 and 15 queries. Why is that?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> Google needs to stop allowing links to pass
> anchor text. Once they do that, the incentive to spam
> through links will be greatly reduced (though not eliminated).

But this is the basis of their algorithm...
or do you mean just stopping the passing of anchor text/ PageRank *for ads*?

Michael H.E. Roth [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

Now I've had some time to think about this, and I have to admit that you cannot deny the advantages of the idea of recognizing paid links and treating them accordingly by search engines.

Just, if they are simply tagged with the rel="nofollow" Attribute, a big chance to further differentiate is wasted. Why not tag them rel="paid" or similar? This kind of tagging would give the search engines the opportunity to treat links which are simply left (unchecked by the webmasters) in forums, guestbooks, wikis and blog-comments (tagged with rel="nofollow") differently to paid links, which are usually quality-checked by the webmasters.
These paid links will usually reviewed regularly, unlike most "normal" links.

Should those paid links point over a longer time to spammy sites, then a penalty for the linking site is also rectified. Google is able to give QulityScores to adwords landing pages. Why not also for landing pages of links? The consequences could be a lower value of the link, or even a penalty for the linking page/site.

Google is actually applying double standards: Entries in the Yahoo!-Directory, which are also nothing but paid links, are valued as a quality characteristic. Other paid links are considered spam!

Nevertheless, deep inside there are some positives in this idea, it just look as if it wasn't completely thought out, and it was also communicated pretty harsh, but that might have been on purpose... as well as the timing... nobody is talking about the DoubleClick deal very much... Coincidence???

Michael Martinez [PersonRank 5]

15 years ago #

> > Google needs to stop allowing links to pass
> > anchor text. Once they do that, the incentive to spam
> > through links will be greatly reduced (though not eliminated).
> But this is the basis of their algorithm...

Their algorithm has always been far more complex than that. They score for relevance first but they have always allowed link anchor text to influence relevance scores.

Eliminating the superfluous link anchor text from the data being used for scoring will instantaneously solve their problem.

Right now the search results on Google are not very good, large because anyone who can get a page to rank through linkage is doing just that.

So even though most of the algorithm is concerned with non-anchor text valuations, that people are mostly working only on links to assert relevance has skewed the results.

Rather than converting the entire Web community into little Googlite Vigilantes who report paid links and spam every time they come across such content (virtually every monetizable query is afflicted to one degree or another), they just need to pull the plug on link anchor text.

That will fix the problem and their results will become more relevant. They can even do away with the Supplemental Results Index at that point.

KC Kudra [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

So let me get this strait it’s ok for Google to sell billions of dollars worth of paid links (AdWords) and deliver these links all over the web (AdSense) but I’m suppose to do extra coding into my webpages for relevant links? I am glad you pointed out some of the true hypocrisy in this notion. A site that has built up a good PR and good traffic is not suppose to be able to sell what maybe their only real asset (a content site for instance with no product to sell) which is the advertising space on their site.

Even programs such as Commission Junction offer text links to their members as these often out sell graphic links 3 to 4 times over. Why because text links carry a much greater weight then graphical links even the most uninformed AdSense publisher knows if you want to generate more AdSense revenue you use only the text links.

Also as far as for non-related sites links on a “sailing” site what is wrong if the owner of that site also runs a site on say mountain biking to link their sites together? Does General Motors hide the fact that they make Chevys and Pontiacs? No why should they a company should be proud of all the companies that make it up. It would be like Google advertising its relationship with YouTube hello why not.

I personally pick all of the advertisers on any of my sites whether that is a reciprocal link or an affiliate link through a service such as CJ or just a paid advertiser. I personal make sure that my ads are relevant to whichever one of my sites I am placing ads for as I want ads that my visitors would find helpful to the subject matter at hand. I am also proud of every website I put my name to and do encourage my visitors to patron my other sites as I have some rather complimentary sites but also advertise my own directories and PPC search engines.

Which brings up a very interesting point; what about directories one of the most used backlink building strategies on the net almost all offer some form of paid inclusion or consideration in the ranking and indexing speed of your link. There are even many which only offer paid inclusion with Yahoo being one of them if I remember correctly. Is this to say that Yahoo is nothing but a Spammer? I think they would think differently.

Maybe Google should re-look at their search algorithms and reconsider what they feel makes a relevant site to a search as I personally prefer search engines such as Clusty which quarry multiple engines then deliver the results. I often find on Google that the results on page ten are more relevant to what I am searching for than the ones on page one which just have the money to pay for good SEO work.

Sorry, for the rant but I hate stories of Goliath trying to stomp the little guy just trying to have his piece of the pie.

Web Syndications [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

Matt-Cutts-Bashing and Other Blunders

Responses to what appeared to be an upfront disclosure and an honest solicitation of industry-input has quickly developed into a slew of Matt-Cutts-bashing. I've never met the man but, folks, he simply doesn't deserve that from you.

That said, I do find horrendous problems for Matt Cutts in finding ways to define, to identify and to monitor paid links. I'll just give you three examples here.

1. Define What is a Paid Link

At law, compensation doesn't just mean cash. It also means goods, services and even love. What is a paid link? If I write a 750 word article and allow it to be posted on a Web site in exchange for a link, do you not realize that I have just paid between $220 and $750 in time and talent for that single link even though no money traded hands?

If a philanthropist donates $20,000 to a nonprofit and that nonprofit posts a thank you for the sponsorship on its Web site and provides a courtesy link to the donor's Web site, is that not a paid link? If it isn't, than all link farm sites can become nonprofits and give away links for a "donation."

2. How Will Google Know For Certain How to Identify a Paid Link?

I just finished a backlink campaign for a client yesterday. I submitted 100 links. Not one was a paid link and not one was given a reciprocal link or a "no follow." If my record holds, 90% of these links will be accepted. But here's a problem. Five of these links were to directory sites (PR 6 or greater) that also post paid links and links that are paid for by reciprocal links. No one but the sites' Webmasters and I know for certain which category of link I applied for. I'm certain that the Webmasters of these sites would not want to volunteer how many of their posted links are given for free. Like all of us, they have mouths to feed.

3. How Will Google Monitor and Mediate?

If a competitor of my client's Website "reports" to Google that I have paid for links, will Google notify me so that I may initiate a slander or libel lawsuit? Will Google mediate so that I have an opportunity to refute the accusation? (How many new employees will Google have to hire to monitor and mediate the accusations and complaints?) Or, are we to be presumed guilty with no opportunity to prove innocence?

So Matt Cutts asked for a discussion, so let's discuss. I am seriously pleased that he gave us this opportunity to participate. And for all the panicking Web site owners, may I just point out that it is possible to garner a Google Page Rank 7, place #4 on a Google search out of 256,000,000 Results for a 2 word Keyphrase, with a Home page that does NOT contain the Keyphrase and a Web site which has only 20 inbound links. If your SEO expert doesn't know how this is possible, ask me at . CEO

[URL unlinked, it's a parked domain. -Philipp]

/pd [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

"I just point out that it is possible to garner a Google Page Rank 7, place #4 on a Google search out of 256,000,000 Results for a 2 word Keyphrase, with a Home page that does NOT contain the Keyphrase and a Web site which has only 20 inbound links"

Eh ?? that's awesome – 4/2560,00,000!! its like 'parking' a domain in a "no parking" zone!!

Forum home


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!