Jun 16, 2007

Google Launches Plan to Attack Paid Links

I started writing about this topic, but came across a well-written post at Mike Driehorst's site. It seems that Google is concerned about website owners buying links to improve PageRank, and has developed a sort of anonymous tip page to encourage the ratting out of buyers and sellers of links.

For those unfamiliar with the concepts of search engine optimization and the value of links, I'll give you a 30-second explanation: Search engines such as Google use links as a means of determining the relative "worth" of a website. More links equals a higher PageRank (Google's term for this complex algorithm), and links from a higher-ranked page are much more valuable than from a lower-ranked page.

Read Mike's post for a lengthier discussion of Google's plan to sniff out link selling, but I have a few questions: a) how does Google plan to "punish" those it deems are participating in this behavior? b) if I am paid to review a product, and in essence "sell" a link, will I too be branded an algorithm scofflaw? c) will Google also attack its own AdSense program, perhaps the largest buying and selling of links on the Internet?

Seems like the height of hypocrisy to me on Google's part; perhaps Google executives are just jealous that they cannot monopolize the valuable commodity known as Internet links. Besides, just how, exactly, is Google going to tell what is a paid link and what is not? If, for example, I talk about term life insurance in a post, how can Google tell this is a paid link or not? For all the Google algorithm knows, I might be friends with the good folks at any given site.

Besides, if a product (let's call it the WidgetThingy) is a poorly-designed or overpriced item, there will be more than enough negative publicity about it on the Internet to swamp the handful of links its manufacturer might purchase. At best a company can buy some short-term gains in the search engines, but ultimately consumers will prevail.

Besides, as a wise old man once said to me: "It don't matter how much shoe polish you put on that shoe, boy: if it's got dog s**t on it, it's still gonna stink."

Full disclosure: the author of this post sometimes accepts compensation from third-party companies that link bloggers and advertisers. More inormation about this on my disclosure statement.


Anonymous said...

M-O-N-E-Y. What's it spell? "Google's motivation." You figgered it out quick.

historymike said...

I agree, Anonymous, that money is an issue, but there remain a core of code-crunching geeks at Google for whom the "purity" of search engine results is still a Holy Grail.

This seems like a power play - or just internal conflict - between the profit-oriented sectors of Google and those who were part of the original Stanford-era folks.

Stephanie said...

Control of the Internet is still a big thing for a lot of people.

Imagine for a moment that there is a (relatively) cheap resource available that allows just anyone from just about anywhere to connect, discuss, and exchange goods and services with just about anyone from just about anywhere else. Ideas, products, conversation, all available and all exchangeable with mutual intercourse (the old, old fashioned kind) and never any need for physical interaction.

While those of us who've latched on to the Internet as a tool take our rights and preferences for this tool for granted -- an unalienable right for the world over -- it is a fundamentally bizarre concept considering human history. We have been gifted, through our technology, to do what others never could without great expense; and to do it faster than they ever could, no matter how much money they had.

It is revolutionary. It is contrary to the fundamentals of human nature. And, everyone with just a taste for power/control are going to try to harness it in some fashion. Google already has a pretty big piece of the Internet pie; and they're willing to do what they can to make that piece bigger.

If they're willing to work with China, what makes this a surprise?

historymike said...

Interestingly, Andy Beard noted that he reported himself for paid links, and a short while later, he had 4000 pages indexed, and almost none of these were listed as supplemental.