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September 8, 2007

psst Want to buy a Link?

My name is Tim and I’m a serial link seller, I have said it I buy and sell Links!Tim Nash Link Buyer

Now don’t go looking at me like that it’s not like it’s a crime or anything, yet as an industry we are approaching the subject of buying links like it is, indeed I cannot think of another subject that so polarises an industry.

The arguments put forward by both sides get bashed down, we fight it out in a struggle with one side never quite convincing the other and ultimately it was going to come to a head. The first victim of the war of the links was John Chow but was he a victim? Did he deserve to no longer rank for his own name? Does it damage him or his business model?

Ultimately John will be forever known as the guy Google removed from the index, from an outsiders point of view this would seem a rather petty act after all John Chow is hardly a top search term is it, as penalties go not ranking for your own name seems quite mild. Let us ignore the personal branding issues and the idea that the act was petty it certainly sent a warning shot across the bow of many SEO’s ships, Google was making a statement that they controlled the index and they could delist or penalise anyone at any time. I think for many the message may not have gotten through and so Google adopted plan two the battle of PR

Public relations is something Google is good at they are one of the few companies in history whose motto is almost as well known as their name. They are also experts at turning negatives into positives, a good example is when a Google user wrote to Google to complain that while using their ‘beta version’ of Google transit (a public transport route plotter) he was left on the wrong side of a multi lane highway. Google response; send him a Superman out fit. So you would expect a charm offensive instead we get to see Matt Cutts again, and again lashing out at the community now Matt is a charming guy and he has helped many people out just think what the web spam unit would be like without him? Did you just shudder?

But why is any of this important why is Google so worried about paid links are they destroying the web are link buyers no better then email spammers?

The humble hyperlink has come along way since its first appearance in the 1960s now it is the central part of the web infrastructure its also a critical method for search engines to collate, analyse and determine relevancy of pages and relationships between pages and sites. Gone are the days where if you wanted to link to a page you just did, now you are making a statement!

Googles’ algorithms rely on links as statements the presumption is that if there is a link on a page then their must be some relevancy, a reason it was there. Googles’ algorithms are smart, and Google quickly realised people don’t always link to relevant things so it created ever more complex mathematical pattern detection systems to weed out irrelevant links to discounting any weight that they parse. Paid Links present a problem because a good paid link (i.e one that’s worth paying for) are exactly that relevant to the page that the link is on. After all the aim of the link is to generate leads and traffic it’s unlikely a knitting web site will generate to many leads for a sports car company!

But the real problem for Google is it doesn’t matter if the person is out to game the system or to just increase the potential clients, they are both looking for links that are on target and relevant and if the links are on target and relevant can they really be spam and if we presume for the sake of argument they are not spam why should there relevancy not be counted?

Now this is the point that you say but Tim not all people are out to get relevant links some just buy links for search engine traffic or links on high Page Rank sites and of course you would be right but and here is the big ‘but’ Google already has a method of discounting these links, remember that clever algorithm they have designed to pass juice only to relevant content if the page contents are not relevant to each other then Google will discount it, so either Googles’ system does not work in which case they need to be putting their money into getting it working not hounding SEO’s or it does work and there is another reason that suddenly highly relevant links are now spam?

What is Google – it’s a simple question ‘what is Google’ the answer of course one of the largest advertisement companies in the world, if not the largest. How does it make money? Simple it sells sponsored links on its search pages, now go back a moment and think that through, how does Google make money? Paid links are as much a part of its business model, its links are not considered to be spam because they pass no weight which of course they don’t need to yet those bought and sold by others are?

So why is Google fighting a battle it cannot win? Two reasons 1 to put the genie back in the bottle, you see Google has a dirty secret when it released the Google Toolbar it included a little green bar suddenly the world didn’t care about traffic stats when linking or paying for links now all they cared about was the green bar. Page Rank or rather the publication of page rank for sites meant a whole industry was set up around the idea of enhancing, and promoting a green bar almost cult like in its fever to find ever more of the green stuff. Google effectively caused the purchasing of off topic irrelevant links with the Google toolbar now it feels it must put the genie back in, though to be fair most of these links already we’re being discounted. This hard stance then is more about education then retribution, hence the recent penalties handed out to leading directories again hardly anything more then hand slapping but the message I think is slowly getting through. The second more problematical issue is PPC campaigns are becoming more expensive while link building is becoming cheaper which will big companies the sort Google relies on choose?

Google cannot stop paid links, no one can, I’m sure by the time you read this at least 1 US state will have on its books a law to prevent paid links but even legislation is not going to stop it happening. Branding those who practice link purchasing as part of a larger strategy spammers is not the way to encourage us to stop all you do is alienate your potential allies. I think Google has to do something about page rank I like many directory owners have profited from naive people looking at high ranking directories as some great tool I won’t lie and say I wasn’t pleased when a PR update saw my directories go from 5s to 6s not because I was a member of the green bar club just the dollar one. My sites got high PR from a mixture of interlinking good link baiting both paid and non. My clients continue to provide highly relevant information to countless hundreds of blogs and sites and I challenge Google to say otherwise!


p.s At least one of the links in this article was paid for so Google can you tell which one? (sorry Melanie only kidding honest)
no links were paid for during the writing of this post!

Thanks Tim,
What a great write...funny guy too!

Visit Tim's sites
Venture Skills Blog
Site reviews from SEO Forensics
Affiliate and Internet Marketing


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double glazing quote said...

thanks for the advice, paid links is an ongoing battle which I cannot see how is administrated but lets see what the new wave of google does.

Martin said...

Amusing and topical post there cog,I put a link to it in our forum , may even annoy you with a guest post , cheers

Online Marketing said...

Found this artcile through Tim's blog and I found it to be a very interesting read.

I think it was a bit harsh on Chow, but it finally made Google show us their stance on teh paid link theory.

UK Directory said...

Links to free online directories are useful even if rumours say that these sites may be penalised by google. The many sites that have backlinks are increasing their PR rapidly, and besides, isn't yell and yahoo just a list of websites?

Matt Inertia said...

A site cannot get penalised for dodgy links pointing at it. Those links may be discounted but they never have a negative effect.

Voucher Codes said...

I agree with Matt, Google can only really discount suspect paid links. After all, if it was that easy to get a site penalised or banned for buying link you could quite easily buy a load of links for a competitor and then get them removed from the SERPS.

Fun Casino hire said...

Google does seem to track down paid linking, but only the obvious ones that advertise very boldly on their sites that their primary function is to sell links. That said, there are many "advertising" sites that offer links for sale via sites affiliated to their network and they seem to be doing a roaring trade right under googles noses. on balance I suspect Google are not proactive, merely reactively to paid link reports.