25 Apr 2007

Can Google Find and Spank your Paid Links?

Can Google Find and Spank your Paid Links?

So last week Matt got the SEO industry a little riled up when he asked people to send him information on who’s buying links, and from where.  The Fear Uncertainly and Doubt (FUD) that followed was partially Matt’s to blame, but mostly the fault of those who misperceived what’s going on.

Sure, Google is trying to "not count" links that are paid for.  Websites that are really bad offenders (basically sites that have been deemed to not be worthy of passing link value ) will not be able to pass link juice on to other sites. People can report (and Google can easily find) the "High Pagerank" totally pimped out sites and then decide if they want to outright stop the site from passing link value on to the sites that are advertising.  Look at The Stanford Daily (back in March 2005). If you were Google would you want to count those advertising links? I know if I were Google, I’d slap a PageRank Block on that site…..even if it was my Alma Matar.  Talk about "Above the Radar" link buys….damn, wonder who said "let’s buy a link from the online newspaper of the alma mater of the founders of Google and Yahoo". 

From what I’ve seen, these sites are probably blocked from passing this link juice via a Google Hand Job (You sell so much we can’t trust a thing your site links to…the end). Hand Jobs are hard, harse, and slow. Can you blame google for trying to algorithmically find what may be paid links and just filter those out?

I don’t think that Google is trying to ban entire sites anymore, but to rather be able to algorithmically detect links that might be paid for on any webpage. Hum…If I were Google..let’s see…how could I tell if a link might be paid for….well I know I can get rid of 90% of them by finding words like "Paid links", "Sponsors", Paid Ad", "Paid Advertising", etc….and if that word is followed by a bunch of links going to other sites, I’m not sure if I’d trust those links….hum would I trust links in footers and sidebars? would I trust a list of links all going to unrelated places? would I trust a "stand alone link" (a link that’s not part of a sentence)? What else could they find as "flags" that a link is purchased?

My favorite quote on this whole issue comes from SugarRae:

The bottom line is that good paid links are un-detectable by the search engines. These deals are done via emails and personal meetings in a way that is not obvious and un-detectable by algorithms, when done well. So, Google is making up for their incompetence at detecting well done paid links by enlisting the general public to report what they guess are link buying activities. But, again, good paid links aren’t obvious, so the end result is that Google will be taking these reports and guessing too… *guessing*… whether or not those links truly are paid and possibly penalizing your site accordingly.

So let’s say that your site is reported to Google for either Buying, or of Selling Links. What’s the Penalty?
Danny did a great post titled "Time For Google To Give Up The Fight Against Paid Links?" where he talks about what can happen:

What’s the price? Google is the main search engine that talks about this, with the key penalty being that a site might not be allowed to pass PageRank. Specifically, that means a site might find it can’t transmit any ranking link love to other sites. Fine, sell your paid links, Google says. If we detect it, we might prevent those links from getting any gain.

There’s an expansion and a refinement here, also. The expansion is potentially, a site could be banned from Google. I’ve rarely seen anyone talk about this happening, a site being thrown out because of paid links. As you’ll see, it would really screw Google up to do this, as well.

The refinement is that Google might specifically exclude paid links from passing along link love. It’s not that hard to identify where paid links appear on some major sites, then flag that segment of the page to be ignored or excluded when link rankings are calculated.

Google is constantly evolving and getting smarter at judging what can be trusted and what can’t. Link trading died, 3 way linking died, buying huge above the radar PR links died, buying advertising that detectable will also die too.

Think Stealth. Think Ninja Links:

Go ahead Google, find those paid links. Find those SEO’s who can’t keep up with the changes. We get a rise out of it.