Google Blogoscoped

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

O’Reilly’s Link-Spam

Phil Ringnalda caught O’Reilly link-spamming on their sites such as or; they sell link space for “mortgage leads”, “health insurance” or “Vancouver hotels.” Tim O’Reilly, who seems to be new to these issues, admits:

“It’s become clear to me on investigation that these folks are indeed paying us for our Google rank, and not just for clickthroughs. We just aren’t targeted enough for their ads to be justified on a click-through basis. What’s more, using Google’s link: keyword to check for top links to these particular advertisers shows that the O’Reilly sites they advertise on are among their chief link sources.”

Tim goes on to wonder:

“Where are the boundaries between legitimate “search engine optimization” to help people find stuff that they will appreciate, and “search engine gaming”, to inflate the rank of sites that are less useful? Whose responsibility is it to solve this problem? Should web sites turn away advertisers just because they are performing arbitrage on Google and other search engines? Or is it the search engine’s responsibility to adjust their heuristics to counteract any attempts to game the system? Or both?”

Well, my answer is: don’t do anything for search engines specifically (not if it’s visible in the browser), or let others do so on your web space. Google is mirroring what humans do on the web, and though they may have counter-measures for this kind of PageRank-inflating linking scheme, in the end it’s our responsibility. If you link to someone, it’s only fair for tools to assume you somehow think of this site as valuable or relevant; and we need those tools to filter & find information on the web. While it’s not a clear-cut issue, if you have those kind of links, it’s just a very shady neighborhood you’re moving into – and your reputation suffers immensely.

Tim concludes with a good first approach:

“I’m uncomfortable with these ads, and have tasked my team with coming up with an alternative as soon as possible. These ads are running under a long-term contract, and we’ll think hard before renewing it.”

[Via Andy Baio/ Waxy.]


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


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