Toolbar PageRank penalties are nothing new to the SEO world, we see them all the time. But when Todd Friesen broke the news that FindLaw.com is marketing a new advertising service to sell links that will “help you increase your company’s visibility, rank and penetration within natural search results on major search engines such as Google,” as the FindLaw email said, the legal industry was somewhat shocked.
Back in October 2007, we reported that Google officially said that selling or buying links can hurt your PageRank and/or rankings in Google. We then saw the sledge hammer hit and sites noticed that their Toolbar PageRank scores dropped drastically. But even with all this publicity and all the official Google documentation, FindLaw.com managed to send out an email marketing blast to sell text links that are marketed to increase a site’s rankings.
What happened? FindLaw.com noticed that their Toolbar PageRank score dropped from a 7 to a 5.
Google’s Matt Cutts even commented at Todd’s post, saying:
Yup, somebody forwarded that email to me too.
Then soon after, FindLaw’s PageRank fell.
Kevin O’Keefe was upset with FindLaw.com’s actions and laid out a “course of conduct” for how FindLaw.com should handle this situation. Steve Matthews was shocked by how “blatantly overt” FindLaw.com was about selling the text links, going as far as sending out:
spammy marketing materials, unsolicited emails, selling links based on PageRank, training lawyers how to show ‘link love’ and apply link text, and just generally having the feel of a total Machiavellian manipulation of the system. Frankly, it was arrogant.
FindLaw.com has yet to comment about this penalty. They were impacted by the visual Toolbar PageRank score, and yes, there is a difference between real PageRank and Toolbar PageRank. But FindLaw.com’s Google rankings seem to not be impacted, which is the norm for these cases. Google was to discourage link buyers from buying links on the basis of PageRank. At the same time, FindLaw.com has quality content they want the Google searcher to find. So all they need to do is take away the visual PageRank in order to discourage the sale of links on these sites.