Reign of Bread and Whip. The New Google Aristocracy II

This is part two of the article:  “Reign of Bread and Whip. The New Google Aristocracy“.

Now here is a misconception that I would like to correct. People that buy links do this to gain ranking for a term that is relevant for that page. Even links on sites about Linux that say “buy Viagra”, point to places where you can buy the blue pills by Pfizer.

The anchor text is contextual relevant to the page the link is pointing to. If it makes the site rank #1 for buy Viagra in the SERPs, great, that is exactly what the user was looking for, or not? We don’t live in the pre-dot com crash days where the number of page impressions mattered for advertising rates and thus traffic was everything and relevance was nothing. Sites that were selling porn tried to rank for popular off topic keywords like “Disney” for traffic. That is definitely harming users. It has been a long time since I saw a SERP that had complete irrelevant results for my search phrase. Stuff I was not looking for I get plenty nowadays, especially for ambiguous terms.

The keywords can be found on the pages alright, Google just did not understand what I meant. Even with queries that included a phrase, 3-4 additional keywords and 2-3 negative keywords did I not find what I was looking for on the top 100 results. Only a few of sites returned were spammy.  Personal search enabled did also not help. Paid links had nothing to do with this, but the lack of understanding what I was looking for. After 10-15 different queries would have the “slowest” human being understood what I was looking for and what I was exactly NOT looking for. I only ended up with supplemental results that actually were spam for the same stuff I did not want to see in the non-spammy results. Good job. This happens to me more frequent nowadays than it did in the past. There is something you should really be concerned about.

The “buy Viagra” link on the Linux site (example by Matt Cutts) is an off topic link for the page where the link is placed on, but on topic in regards to the anchor text of the link to the other commercial website. There is no harm to the user and you can’t compare with intrusive Ads like PopUps. It only could harm the reputation of site that allows those Ads. The exception are visible links to adult sites from sites target to children for example, but that harm has nothing to do with SEO and search engines. But why do people do buy links? The types of links that are sold the most give you an answer to that question.

White hat SEO will help you rank and in many spaces and verticals might that be enough, however, for some verticals it is not.

For very competitive verticals do you have to exploit the flaws in Google’s ranking methods to get the extra little boost to make it in the business. The PPC verticals (Pills, Porn, Casino) are the most competitive ones, followed by the financial businesses vertical.

But a link helps everybody in this game so why not buying relevant links that are good for SEO, branding and traffic (in that order)?

While aggressive off topic link buying does exist, is most of the link buying actually done where the site the link is purchased is not extremely off topic to even completely on topic. A site selling books that links to a travel website to book flights is contextual off topic, but not entirely. Some human traffic is probably generated, but the conversion will be very poorly. A link purchased there will probably serve SEO purposes the most, but it will also generate traffic and revenue and can as well help with your branding. If the link is on a site that is completely on target, the human traffic, conversion and branding benefits will be larger and the SEO benefit might or might not be less than those other benefits. It’s still there though. Why should you render the SEO benefit of the link useless, because Google threatens you to penalize you and the advertiser if you don’t? Does that sound right?

Now it becomes even more complicated with links in editorial content, especially affiliate links. The whole business model of an affiliate site, is the monetization of your content or service by linking to an advertiser with unique tracking code to pay you commission for referred business.

CarstenCumbrowski
Carsten Cumbrowski has years of experience in Affiliate Marketing and knows both sides of the business as the Affiliate and Affiliate Manager. Carsten has over 10 years experience in Web Development and 20 years in programming and computers in general. He has a personal Internet Marketing Resources site at Cumbrowski.com.To learn more about Carsten, check out the "About Page" at his web site. For additional contact options see this page.

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6 thoughts on “Reign of Bread and Whip. The New Google Aristocracy II

  1. I completely agree with all points mentioned in this post. And the concept that people who obey a leader out of fear are never loyal to the leader.

    Google is really creating unnecessary issues here by keeping the webmaster in fear and anticipation all the time. Take for instance, the q3 google update. No one knows what’s going on. There are speculations everywhere. Does google really think that delaying an update will make people drop their paid links? If it does, then the strategy is totally stupid and is based only on a minority of webmasters. Google probably will not update the q3 and go straight to the q4 update in a belief that the PR values will be more accurate then. This is again entirely stupid. Why show people the PR if showing accurate values is going to be so much pain?? Why not kill the PR and remove the mean green bar?

    And I completely agree with nofollow being a nonsense too. But it seems that this blog in itself has scumbed to google’s hypocracy by adding a nofollow to the comments. Probably google is now punishing blogs that do not add a nofollow by dropping them in serps.

    1st thing: A search engine should be unbiased. It should not be biased towards big sites with thousands of backlinks and an era of existance. Don’t you think a new site put up yesterday could have better info on a topic than the one on wikipedia?? Are wikipedia articles always accurate? Infact wikipedia is filled with inaccuracies and incomplete articles. But have you ever seen a webpage outrank wikipedia? Probably not. Not the best SEO can do that, cause google has blind faith over wikipedia and sites like about.com which are so filled wit ads and are highly unusable.

    Somehow google’s rules are very similar to that of Christianity:

    1.) Google’s free will: You are free to buy and sell paid links but we will penalize you and throw you into the invisible web

    Sounds very similar to Christian free will: You are free to choose good or bad, but if you choose bad you go to hell. The fact being, that good and bad is only a state of mind.

    2.) Christianity keeps satan alive and asks people not to fall for him. Very similar to how Google keeps PR alive and asks people not to sell and buy paid links

    3.) Christianity has the Bible telling you what to do and what not to do to avoid hell. Google has it’s own webmaster guidelines (only difference, the guidelines are updated every once in a while)

    4.) Christianity had Jesus and Google has Matt who has come to save webmasters from committing sin

    5.) Christianity has judgment day and google is preparing for its own jday when a number of sites will be dropped out of index for buying and selling paid links.

    LOL

  2. Hi Mukesh,

    thanks for the detailed comments.

    Nofollow on the comments here at SEJ? You are right. I have to check with the owner of the blog. It was disabled months ago. Maybe he upgraded wordpress and it was enabled again.

    The domain age thing. That is another issue and I think that how Google does it today is too extreme. I understand though why they don’t let a site shoot to number one in a day or few days. They did that in the past and had only problems with it. A lot of spam techniques still work if Google would not take the time to check stuff for a bit first and remove everything that they consider fishy. I would assume that their filters and algos are not that fast to handle a large amount of new data and determine if it is okay or not.

    I addresses the trust isue in more than one of the posts I referred to at the end of the post. For example the Fixing Google Web 2.0 Style, which is actually a four post series talks about this is greater detail. See post 3 of the series.

    Hehe.. I did not pull religion into this, because I already made the mistake to pull something else into the discussion which was then completely misunderstood and diverted the discussion away to something completely unrelated. Scroll down to the “Notes” part of my post “Is Google Thinking That Affiliates Are Worthless” and follow the link there to see what I mean :).

    Cheers!

  3. Hi Carsten,

    huge post. I have to disagree with you on a few things. The most people I know do infact only buy links to improve in ranking and to receive a better pagerank. There is no building up a brand, getting visitors whatsoever.

    With a rel=nofollow being added, they would not buy the link anymore. So their only goal in buying links, is to influence the SERP’s which is of course a manipulation Google does not want.

    You say that links are only relevant or irrelevant and it should not matter if the link was paid for or not. But then with the right money, you could buy as many relevant links as you’d like and pay your way up. So how is this a solution to the problem of paid links?

    I think that the rel=nofollow attribute in general is a good thing and I don’t see how it signals mistrust. I just see it as an optional indicator, to tell a search engine that you are selling links to people. The only thing I question about this, is Google penalizing webmasters if they sell links and do not add the rel=nofollow attribute to a link. Instead, these links should just not have any impact on the search rankings.

  4. Reik, thanks for your comment

    I know do infact only buy links to improve in ranking and to receive a better pagerank. There is no building up a brand, getting visitors whatsoever.

    I am aware of that, but the reason for that is not only the economy Google created, but that marketing on the internet is still segmented for the most part.

    It is more the exception that the rule that a companies marketing efforts are consolidated to A single marketing effort where every channel is being used coordinated , channel conflicts being identified and avoided wherever possible and useful overlapping of channels being leveraged whereever possible.

    But then with the right money, you could buy as many relevant links as you’d like and pay your way up. So how is this a solution to the problem of paid links?

    That boils down to the question: “How much worth is your reputation to yourself?”. Keep in mind that we are talking about visible links here and not cloaked once (different issue) . People will see them and no matter where you place them on the page, people will also click them.

    Which links you allow on your site is your choice as webmaster, it’s not AdSense or sold banner inventory space managed by a display ad network. If you put irrelevant links up there that are not helping your visitors, chances of them coming back to you become smaller.

    If you go to far, people will think (rightfully) that you seem to be somebody who would sell his own mother, if the price is right. Not very good for retention either, isn’t it? If you have a brick and mortar store that sells toys and put up an ad for gambling, male genitals enhancements or pornography on one of the wall deep in your store, because of the money you get, good luck running a successful business.

    You see, Google is not part of all this and should not regulate something that does already regulates itself or is already regulated by other laws and regulation’s.

    Google is not the FCC nor the government. They are also not a church to institute moral behavior guidelines that tell people what is good and what is bad.

    ” I just see it as an optional indicator, to tell a search engine that you are selling links to people.”

    I did not know that you were paid to make a comment here. Okay SEJ conducts an experiment and the NOFOLLOW on the blog comments are temporary, but some blogs has NOFOLLOW enabled permanently. Its the default by WordPress even. Remember the original purpose of NOFOLLOW? Its to fight spam in places with user generated content where 100% editorial control is hard or virtually impossible.

    NOFOLLOW should only be used with content that was not reviewed yet. It actually should be removed after it was checked and considered okay. This does not happen in reality, because it is impractical. That nofollow did not help at all to reduce spam, even though more than just the spam became tagged with the attribute is a different problem.

    If Google wants to use it to identify paid links, the use of nofollow for user generated content that was not editorial reviewed has to stop and removed from the existing content.

    You can’t use it for both and make it ambiguous, because search engines would have to be able to distinguish a nofollow for a paid link from a nofollow for a non-editorial added link. If they would be able to do that, we would not need to have this discussion in the first place.

  5. Btw. Somebody might say, then don’t use NOFOLLOW, but make paid links unreadable for the search engines. This can be done by using JavaScript. Great advice. I know that the vast majority of users have JavaScript enabled, especially since it’s revival thanks to AJAX.

    The old and still valid issues with JavaScript took a back seat, but there are people that have JavaScript disabled by default and maybe enabled for sites they trust (maybe). Javascript opens a lot of attacks points to the computer of an inexperienced user. Most browsers today still have not solved the problem to make it work, but at the same time safe to use and easy to control by a non-tech savvy user.

    This suggestion is not a good suggestion that can be or even should made a requirement by the search engines. It would be as good as requiring to send sensible information (CC #, SSN # etc.) via email only. We know how secure that is, don’t we.

  6. Very nicely written and it goes to show how much Google has been dictating webmasters what to do and what not to do. Is it worth it to fight against Google? Not now i guess. We can only wait till the next platform (eg. Yahoo!) that can over run Google in the search volumes.