• http://twitter.com/todayztrendz Andrew Lang

     Yep – and look at how one single paid link tarnishes a company – never mind if they won a ton of natural links.  Therefore, there’s ample opportunity to tarnish a company’s image by paying for a link to their site, and then reporting that paid link to Google.  There’s so many ways to do this, it’s not funny, and it’s hardly expensive.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz Andrew Lang

    It’s actually worse than that.  If you have a weak link profile (which 99% of sites that don’t proactively link build will have), then you STILL have a high chance of being penalised via a competitor fiverr blasting you – after all, you have no authority links to protect you from unnatural links pointing to your site.

    So it’s more like :-

    1) High chance of getting penalized
    2) High chance of being penalized and INVISIBLE.
    3) Buy a bunch of authority links via directories (as they are somehow – not sure how, but somehow – still acceptable paid links, til the next Zebra or Orca update)

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz Andrew Lang

    The solution is to rank quality content, Danny.  In fact, I’d go further – the answer is to rank businesses that provide quality products and services.  It’s Google’s problem to figure out how to do this.   To have so much weight on off-page signals is no longer the answer in 2012 – might have worked in 1998 and early 2000s, but hasn’t worked for ages.  Now, I’m talking about commercial / business areas of the web here, not the SEO commentator / “blogerati” area where it’s much easier to see the connection between link spikes and content ranking. Not so easy in the e-commerce sphere. In fact now in 2012, Google are putting even MORE weight onto off-page factors after Penguin – now off-page factors have both positive and negative impacts on pages – meanwhile the actual quality of content is not related to where you rank in the vast majority of commercial SERPs, nor the quality of the service or product you provide.

  • John Sams

    Orkin buys links like nobody’s business and Google only ranks them higher…

  • http://twitter.com/MaryKayLofurno Mary Kay Lofurno

    I have always used interns for link building, the only thing it takes is supervision.  I have used high school students in the past, they are fine. 

    As you know, if you have a good content syndication/marketing program, it goes along way.   I am not sure why a big brand would even take a chance like that.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I’m with you on the solution. I like to run for the cover of “it’s Google’s job to figure this out.” But again, if everyone can openly buy links, what do you think they’ll do?

    Go back to on-the-page signals? I don’t think that’s going to work at all. I think they’ll rely more on social signals myself, maybe traffic patterns. And if they did let everyone buy links, I thinks would just get devalued overall. Ironically, they’re more useful kept “banned” than not, I suspect.

  • RoachTracie

    my co-worker’s aunt makes $72 an hour on the internet. She has been without work for five months but last month her check was $15580 just working on the internet for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more CashLazy.c&#111m

  • Mike H

    Great post.

  • polite request

    One solution would be for Google to just devalue links they don’t like, versus penalizing the source or destination of the link. 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    They could. And, in fact, they do. But they also take actions in some cases to discourage the purchasing of links. I suppose if they just went all for discounting, then it would be harder to know if the link you bought even worked.

  • concerndseoer

    Well, it appears that Google has taken the extreme step to deindex iAcquire completely. That is an interesting tactic

  • concerndseoer

    Interestingly enough Google has taken the extreme step to deindex iAcquire’s site. That is an interesting move.

  • concerndseoer

    Interestingly enough Google has taken the extreme step to deindex iAcquire’s site. That is an interesting move.

  • http://twitter.com/stuntdubl Todd Malicoat

    >You are now Matt Cutts

    I’ve never been presented with such a prestigious offer *blushes*.That’s bait I think I’d be best advised to avoid.  It’s truly a job I could never accept.   I’ve been sucked into this debate more times than I care to admit, and there is rarely ever any benefit or satisfaction in it aside from sharing an opinion that I think a lot of folks share, and don’t want to express for fear of penalization.  I really don’t enjoy the guilt by association that comes from saying I don’t agree with this google policy.  I’ve discussed this with Matt, Brian White, and other engineers in person and in sessions over the years, and while I respect the job they have to do, I can’t say I would want it myself.   I would much rather be a fisherman than a spam fighter (or creator for that matter).  That’s much more power and responsibility than I’d ever want to have to wield.I do think trying to rid the world of paying for link citations is like trying to rid the world of capitalism.  It’s at best inefficient, mostly ineffective, and borderline communist :).  It’s assuming the moral position that just because a citation is paid for, it shouldn’t be counted.  I think Goto first proved financial incentives aren’t always bad, and helped improved relevance with PPC.  When we start judging people and websites based on “intent” it’s a pretty slippery slope.  It always reminds me of the “precrime” unit in minority report. I think it’s even more dangerous when you start making decisions about large “datasets” as a whole.G itself spend millions on political lobbying – about as close as you can get to “buying votes” if you ask me – but again, it’s always semantics.  The thought that “buying votes” decreases relevance still doesn’t even hold that much weight with me.  This is the MAIN DEBATE that single handedly blurred the line between making ONLY “algorithmic decisions” and making “editorial decisions” in the search results.  As a journalist, I would think you could respect what a pivotal point that is.  To me, it was incredibly significant the first time I heard Matt say “we reserve the right to make editorial decisions about the search results.”Fortunately for the webspam team, they’ve muddied the waters with this issue for long enough that they now have the social graph data they’ve realized they needed since this issue arose.  “It is easier to reliably detect social spam than link spam.”  Social will serve as validation, and serve to further “define” intent on an individual basis.  There’s enough other signals to draw from that most of this isn’t necessary any longer.  In my opinion “devaluation” alone always seemed to be among the best solutions.If I ever knew ALL the working pieces of the algo, I’m sure I’d be much better suited to at least take a hypothetical stab at that question.>stand by what I wroteDumb yes.  Dangerous no.  Sending a bad link request is laziness.  Backing up on a highway is recklessness.  If we want to speak in terms of intent, I think the comparison is still extreme.Like probably many others, I am mainly frustrated with the implied assumptions that buying links is “evil”, and outing link purchases is moral and okay.I’ll play the game like everyone else, and just barter, trade, ask nicely for links, and do guest posts.   We all know the search result space for phrases with commercial intent is limited and valuable – and it seems people (buying links or not) will go to greater and greater lengths to achieve these.  I just really enjoyed the few years where the little guys (buying links or not) could compete with the big brands for the large generic phrases.  I think we’re seeing those days dwindle if they’re not already gone.  As a (former) consultant and business owner – this makes me sad.  For that reason, I’ll never be able to qualify “buying links” as totally evil, and accept the moral decree from on high.Also at the root of this debate is certainly that of “outing” – which I know is an exhausting debate to have which you have covered thoroughly.    I can’t say that I always agree with you (or Rand) here entirely, but my job responsibilities and priorities are certainly much different than yours.  I do see and respect your opinion on the matter, and you’ve done a good job of making it clear, and helping to further define the line, and at least get search engineers to discuss the matters of paid links and their algo.  It’s not easy to be in the line of fire from both sides I’m sure.  I don’t know how you deal with these debates daily – I’d be exhausted.>Those aren’t good companies. I sure hate to see a determination like that made from a few chance encounters.  SEO is a results driven industry, and getting results often calls for pushing the envelope.  Clients know the risk – agencies know the risk.  It’s always been high risk, high reward with marketing campaigns in highly competitive verticals.  Furthermore, I hate to see someone like Josh enjoy even 5MB of fame, and a self-indulgent baby boner from seeing his pageviews go up 300% for 3 days by helping tear down someone else’s business because he didn’t like their techniques.  I’m sure his web marketing strategies are infinitely more complex and ahead of the curve, and he will never have them come under the scrutiny of client or competitor.I think, with this, I’ll do my best to re-retire from this debate for a while, and go back to just trying to make my websites better.  Lord knows I have plenty of work to do “de-optimizing” and “pruning my links”.  It’s never been easy working on a moving minefield, but you do get used to dealing with a few explosions here and there.  I appreciated the thanks from all the folks who recognized this debate is a bit like running into middle of the line of fire.

  • http://twitter.com/stuntdubl Todd Malicoat

    >You are now Matt Cutts

     

     

    I’ve never been presented with such
    a prestigious offer *blushes*.

     

    That’s bait I think I’d be best advised to avoid.
     It’s truly a job I could never accept.   I’ve been sucked
    into this debate more times than I care to admit, and there is rarely ever any
    benefit or satisfaction in it aside from sharing an opinion that I think a lot
    of folks share, and don’t want to express for fear of penalization.  I
    really don’t enjoy the guilt by association that comes from saying I don’t
    agree with this google policy.  

     

    I’ve discussed this with Matt, Brian White, and other
    engineers in person and in sessions over the years, and while I respect the job
    they have to do, I can’t say I would want it myself.   I would much
    rather be a fisherman than a spam fighter (or creator for that matter).
     That’s much more power and responsibility than I’d ever want to have to
    wield.

     

    I do think trying to rid the world of paying for link
    citations is like trying to rid the world of capitalism.  It’s at best inefficient,
    mostly ineffective, and borderline communist :).  It’s assuming the moral
    position that just because a citation is paid for, it shouldn’t be counted.
     I think Goto first proved financial incentives aren’t always bad, and
    helped improved relevance with PPC.  When we start judging people and
    websites based on “intent” it’s a pretty slippery slope.  It
    always reminds me of the “precrime” unit in minority report.I think
    it’s even more dangerous when you start making decisions about large
    “datasets” as a whole.

     

    G itself spend millions on political lobbying – about as
    close as you can get to “buying votes” if you ask me – but again,
    it’s always semantics.  The thought that “buying votes”
    decreases relevance still doesn’t even hold that much weight with me.  

     

    This is the MAIN DEBATE that single handedly blurred the
    line between making ONLY “algorithmic decisions” and making
    “editorial decisions” in the search results.  As a journalist, I
    would think you could respect what a pivotal point that is.  To me, it was
    incredibly significant the first time I heard Matt say “we reserve the
    right to make editorial decisions about the search results.”  I remember shuddering just a little
    bit, and thinking it was a pretty important announcement that everyone seemed to
    miss.

     

    Fortunately for the webspam team, they’ve muddied the waters
    with this issue for long enough that they now have the social graph data
    they’ve realized they needed since this issue arose.  “It is easier
    to reliably detect social spam than link spam.”  Social will serve as
    validation, and serve to further “define” intent on an individual
    basis.  There’s enough other signals to draw from that most of this isn’t
    necessary any longer.  In my opinion “devaluation” alone always
    seemed to be among the best solutions. 
    If I ever knew ALL the working pieces of the algo, I’m sure I’d be much
    better suited to at least take a hypothetical stab at that question.

     

     

    >stand by what I wrote

     

     

    Dumb yes.  Dangerous no.  Sending a bad link
    request is laziness.  Backing up on a highway is recklessness.  If we
    want to speak in terms of intent, I think the comparison is still extreme.  Like probably many others, I am mainly
    frustrated with the implied assumptions that buying links is “evil”,
    and outing link purchases is moral and okay. 

     

     

    I’ll play the game like everyone else, and just barter,
    trade, ask nicely for links, and do guest posts.   We all know the search
    result space for phrases with commercial intent is limited and valuable – and
    it seems people (buying links or not) will go to greater and greater lengths to
    achieve these.  

     

     

    I just really enjoyed the few years where the little guys
    (buying links or not) could compete with the big brands for the large generic
    phrases.  I think we’re seeing those days dwindle if they’re not already
    gone.  As a (former) consultant and business owner – this makes me sad.
     For that reason, I’ll never be able to qualify “buying links”
    as totally evil, and accept the moral decree from on high.

     

     

    Also at the root of this debate is certainly that of
    “outing” – which I know is an exhausting debate to have which you
    have covered thoroughly.    I can’t say that I always agree with you
    (or Rand) here entirely, but my job responsibilities and priorities are
    certainly much different than yours.  I do see and respect your opinion on
    the matter, and you’ve done a good job of making it clear, and helping to
    further define the line, and at least get search engineers to discuss the
    matters of paid links and their algo.  It’s not easy to be in the line of
    fire from both sides I’m sure.  I don’t know how you deal with these
    debates daily – I’d be exhausted.

     

     

    >Those aren’t good companies. 

     

    I sure hate to see a determination like that made from a few
    chance encounters.  SEO has always been a results driven industry, and
    getting results often calls for pushing the envelope.  Clients know the
    risk – agencies know the risk.  It’s always been high risk, high reward
    with marketing campaigns in highly competitive verticals.  Furthermore, I
    hate to see someone like Josh enjoy even 5MB of fame, and a self-indulgent baby
    boner from seeing his pageviews go up 300% for 3 days by helping tear down
    someone else’s business because he didn’t like their techniques.  I’m sure
    his web marketing strategies are infinitely more complex and ahead of the
    curve, and he will never have them come under the scrutiny of client or
    competitor.

     

    I think, with this, I’ll do my best to re-retire from this
    debate for a while, and go back to just trying to make my websites better.
     Lord knows I have plenty of work to do “de-optimizing” and
    “pruning my links”.  It’s never been easy working on a moving
    minefield, but you do get used to dealing with a few explosions here and there.
     I appreciated the thanks from all the folks who recognized this debate is
    a bit like running into middle of the line of fire.  It really isn’t all that pleasant to be the counterpoint for
    this one.  I’m just glad Aaron Wall
    does most the work J

  • http://twitter.com/blossomnu Jenni

    The problem is that Google contradicts itself about buying paid links. I forgot where I saw it but there’s a video with Matt Cutts defending why Google allows paid directory submissions and doesn’t consider it a violation. His answer was something along the lines of it’s because web directory owners can be more picky and selective about the sites they include. That’s clearly not true – you’re far more likely to agree to something if someone pays you for it. Even if you’re not, it’s still exactly the same as a company contacting a blogger for a paid link – they still have the choice about whether to accept or reject in exactly the same way.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Todd, I’m happy to say I don’t agree with Google’s policy. I’ve said that in the past; I’ll say it again. I’m not fearful that I’m going to be guilty by association.

    But let’s say Google does drop any penalty on paid links. What happens? One possibility is that they simply penalize those links they decide were paid for and not earned. That stops everyone running around worrying about outing or whether Google somehow has a right to penalize people and so on. Potentially, that’s a way forward.

    Google’s fear, I suspect, is that by doing so, then it would open the floodgates to paid links. They wouldn’t be able to stop them all. Maybe. But maybe if it says that it will not credit any links it doesn’t believe in its own opinion deserve credit, suddenly a lot of people won’t want to buy them, if they can’t trust they’ll do what they were promised.

    And maybe nothing will happen. I don’t know.  But I do know, as I wrote when Google itself had to ban itself over paid links and Chrome, that if Google can’t figure out all these rules, it becomes increasingly harder for anyone to do so.

    But if you want to talk about the “main” debate here, it’s pretty clear to me. Someone seems to have done an inept job of buying links. They hardly stayed below the radar, which is an essential if you’re going to do it now. And they did a link request without disclosing the risks to the person they were buying from.

    The reaction I’ve largely seen is to attack someone who isn’t firmly in the SEO space for “outing” and somehow excuse the ineptness of the agency under a “blame Google” excuse.

    I’ve read Josh’s piece, his comments and some of the other posts on his blog. I didn’t get the impression he thought this was all something he’d do for page views. He just seemed curious that what he thought was a large company was doing this. This could just have easily been doing if someone had emailed an editor at say Boing Boing, who might have written it up. And then it wouldn’t be an outing piece, just some story.

    How do I deal with these debates? I don’t really have to. We don’t run around writing outing stories here. We cover them when they come up elsewhere, and if you go back through this story above, it wasn’t about “oh look what someone did” but what parties all around, including Google, might learn from it.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Google does have confusing rules, yep. But no, in this case, it’s pretty clear whoever sent that link request would know this violates Google’s policies and was deliberately choosing to go against them.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    The images means there’s no anchor text to pass. The ad server (which is Google’s own) means no link credit is passing. Those aren’t paid links.

    On link signals, you should go back and read the post I had about social and the new link building.

  • http://twitter.com/ajmihalic AJ Mihalic

    I agree with Todd’s inference that it’s Google’s task to maintain their own SERPs and algorithm. 

    Google wants to provide a search engine service without disclosing how they rank sites. Then they want to determine what industries can and cannot be created as a result? Of course they can run a business, and hopefully run it as well as possible, but they have no jurisdiction over businesses that will arise because of this. They created the value of the link, yet they want no-one to use this new value for profit. Of course they don’t but they can’t stop it, and more importantly they have no right to whether ethically, morally, economically, or philosophically. Webmasters, SEOs, etc are all entitled to creating whatever businesses they like, and to permanently damage those businesses because Google asks you to makes me wonder for what possible motive(s)?

    Nobody who doesn’t work for Google is “manipulating the algorithm”. 

    Penalizing sites because some of the links appear “paid” makes no sense in actually creating an index based on providing quality SERPs. Iteratively improving the algorithm is a necessity if Google is true to it’s missions, however penalizing on something as arbitrary as “paid” seems crazy. It IS arbitrary if Google really does use “relevance” as their main signal. It’s obvious that “paid” and “relevance” have no absolute relationship. Indeed it’s easier to argue that often “paid” DOES imply relevance rather than the reverse. In the real world a sponsor agrees to a relationship because the business, cause, whatever is in line with what they do, supports the image of who they are, and either brings in more customers or improves their relationship with existing customers by further strengthening that common link (in interest).

    It seems that Google is relying too heavily on macro views of “link profiles” to determine value for links. If you were building a ranking system for sports tournaments you would ideally use the strength of the teams in the tournament to distribute points afterwards. You would NOT take into account how some of those teams got into the tournament, because it is irrelevant. 

    I don’t consider the DBCC an instance of “spam”. They aren’t trying to rank for terms that have nothing to do with their business, are they?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rita.grohowski Rita Grohowski

    Google doesn’t owe us a living. I believe that.. but I also believe:
    We, as webmasters don’t owe Google anything too.

    The second Google cares about us, as business owners.. that’s when I’ll start caring about helping Google do it’s job! 

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see iAcquire sued into oblivion by those companies as they may have hired them to provide “SEO” and what they got was “Paid Links” and these companies wouldn’t have a hard time making a case that they were sold a clean fancy picture of SEO when the reality lead to their links being devalued and their brands now being dragged through the mud.

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    The truth is bad for sales Danny. =)

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    There are plenty of people in Leadership seats, even over Internet Marketing agencies, that don’t have a clue about actual execution.  A board like that would be more focused on hiring, investing, sales growth, etc, not on day to day SEO tactics.

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    But Best of the Web didn’t get DeIndexed here and no one is trying to make that point, they bought hundreds or thousands of blogroll style sitewide links on thousands of sites and sold them to the same people in a way that let Google follow the pattern and say “Oh, so this site about Tennis Balls has these 675 links in common with this totally unrelated site about King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (mmm sweet rolls), couldn’t possibly be something fishy about that, could it?”

    I swear everyone wants to paint iAcquire as these James Bonds of Link Building but really, they were overtly spamming people about Link Opportunities and trying to add more websites to their list of links that they could sell.
    They tried to put both hands in the cookie jar and didn’t even care that Mom was looking, and they got caught.  Tough cookies!

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    I’m sure that Danny’s advertising team DOES follow advertising guidelines when approving an advertiser, most sites do.  Those sites also have to make money, despite Obama’s utopian vision where business owners like me pay for everything for everybody else, a website like this doesn’t just run on hopes and dreams.

    Additionally, all advertisements on Search Engine Land are properly tagged as advertisements.  You don’t see Danny writing an Editorial Promoting iAcquire, that they paid him to write, that would link back to their Link Broker Landing Pages.
    When you run an ad, and it’s in the sidebar as an advertisement, that is different from having an advertisement snuck into editorial content and not clearly labeled as a paid promotion of that brand.

    This is nothing new.  News Papers are required to put “Advertisement” when they run a full pages “sponsored story” but that label at least notifies the reader that “Hey, I am being paid to show you this, so obviously I wouldn’t be showing it to you otherwise.” and then it leaves it up to the reader to act accordingly.

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    Well, they are paid links, they’re just the good kind, properly labeled as advertisements, per Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

    Paid, Exact Match Anchor Text Links, are what this post is about.

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    iAcquire goes out and pays big bucks to hire Mike King, who speaks about White Hat SEO tactics, they see Mike speak, they say “Hey we should hire that guy” and they call up iAcquire, but then obviously what they got wasn’t the White Hat SEO that Mike King is known for preaching.

    I have no doubt in my mind that that is the exact reason they hired the guy.

  • http://twitter.com/ImageFreedom Matthew C. Egan

    Or you could just do the actual WORK of EARNING links and building them organically and not take the shortcut of buying links and taking on that undue risk?  The more Google cracks down on link buying, the more honest strategic SEO is worth.

    The sooner this spammy crap is off the table it’ll mean the sites that are actually ranking deserved to be there because their teams worked their asses off to EARN those links, and leveraged all tools at their disposal to get the job done WITHOUT adding undue risk to their client.

  • Xristos Kostouros


    For those being approached about selling links, this is a reminder that Google really doesn’t like you to do that and has penalized sites for doing so since 2007.” 
    Ok, so why isn’t seoroundtable.com banned for selling those SEOe’d anchored blogroll links?
    Stop joking. Matt just got mad and banned them!

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I don’t know if he got mad, but he or someone on his team sure did decide to ban them, as they’ve reserved the right to do.

    I suppose they could do the same to SE Roundtable, if they wanted. I believe they’re just discounting the links there, as they might do for many, many other sites. But Barry’s post last year explains this more:

    http://www.seroundtable.com/sponsored-links-12978.html 

  • Xristos Kostouros

    Hello Danny & Thanks for the reply.
    I read Barry’s post and i highly agree with him saying that “I am webmaster, i own my website and yes, i can link to whatever i want to” because, internet should be “free” for all and i bet, all webmasters may agree with me (and with Barry ofc)

    Now, i highly disagree with the other things he says about PR and Traffic loss but this is off topic.

    Well, i think that sometimes Google is really getting mad and i think the reason behind the ban of iAcquire was this : http://blog.iacquire.com/2012/04/10/googles-2012-phishing-expedition/ 

    I think that they got cocky and that led them to where they are now but i am speaking always with just “claims” and not facts (just to let you know :P )

    Thanks

  • http://www.seobuilding.net/ SEOBuilding

    I think bottom line is the intent of how the links are purchased – but here’s the kick, iAcquire is being demonized and was removed from Google search results – well, ok, what about other companies that are blatantly selling backlinks,  namely: text-link-ads.com, where do we draw the line? 

  • http://www.webstatsart.com/ Webstats Art

    What is wrong with selling links? I guess it is wrong to get caught. The multi billion dollar underground link system is still alive but facing attacks.

  • http://www.webstatsart.com/ Webstats Art

    What is wrong with selling links? I guess it is wrong to get caught. The multi billion dollar underground link system is still alive but facing attacks.