Remember that Uncle Sam poster where his finger points directly at you no matter where you are standing? Well it looks like Google is taking over for ol’ Sammy and pointing it’s omnipotent finger at every person on the net who is buying links. What am I talking about? This weekend Google engineer Matt Cutts, made a few posts (1, 2, 3 to be exact) about paid links. Aaron Wall started off a great discussion over at Threadwatch and grabbed some key parts from Matt’s posts:
Start with this:
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. … I wanted to give a heads-up because Google is going to be looking at paid links more closely in the future.
Then see here with Matt asking for help in ratting out paid link spammers:
As far as the details, it can be pretty short. Something like “Example.com is selling links; here’s a page on example.com that demonstrates that” or “www.shadyseo.com is buying links. You can see the paid links on example.com/path/page.html” is all you need to mention. That will be enough for Google to start testing out some new techniques we’ve got â€” thanks!
OK – let’s look at just a few of the ways this won’t work:
1) Supposing that they actually did take these link narcings seriously… You want to knock off your fiercest competitor and have been trying to find a clever, new way. So you buy a few links on a bunch of different sites for your competitor and then go on over and fill out the link spam report with all of the juicy details. Your competitor gets banned from Google and you move up a spot in the SERPs.
2) Again – let’s suppose this will really be in effect. You are a small business that doesn’t even know what a paid link is (in Matt’s sense of the term) but you do know a good advertising opportunity when you see one. You meet someone at a party who has a bunch of good forums, blogs and genuine resource sites all related to your niche. The two of you work out a great deal for you to advertise on her site with a mixture of banner ads and text links. These text links are actually driving qualified traffic to your website and converting sales. One of your competitors sees these links, reports you to Google and you are effectively banned from Google. After months and months of begging & pleading you still haven’t found out what you did “wrong”.
3) You make “paid link spam” reports everyday on every company that you can see. They are ignored. All of them.
Michael Gray summed it up perfectly:
Lastly if you’re one of those people who think Google is in to make the world better, let’s remember Google is a for profit company. Their interest in keeping the organic side clean and spam free, is really governed by their need to maintain a spot people are willing to visit for them to put paid advertisements on.