• Durant Imboden

    “I’m at the point where I kind of feel like the only way to be safe with Google is to nofollow all your links”

    If advertorial is a big part of your business, why not simply default to “nofollow” and remove the “nofollow” for legitimate editorial links?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    It’s not a big part of our business. it’s also complicated to try and untag all the links much less tag them all. It’s easier for us to just drop those pages from Google.

  • Durant Imboden

    Makes sense. Who wants to find ads in a search index?

  • Wendy Piersall

    I have been penalized in the past for links that were not purchased – but that *looked* like they were purchased, because I linked to a brand. I had to file a reconsideration request and get the penalty removed. I removed the link to save my site, but I felt like I had just sold my soul to the Google devil – I really wanted to give kudos to a brand doing something cool, and kept my mouth shut to save my own hide.

    “High Quality Content” is supposed to draw links “naturally”. Yet when that happens in a commercial or B2B situation, it becomes a liability for the publisher. So their guidelines – and this ridiculous scenario you’ve just described – live in a perfect, idealistic world that simply doesn’t exist in real life. And I have to say that it increasingly seems as though the people and brands who are working hard to try to stay above board are the ones losing… and the spammers who have all day to game the system are winning.

  • Marc Winter

    Oh right! Since when is Google following their own rules, such as concerning above-the-fold ads? Ever since Google Images turned into a giant scraper site amassing copyright violations, this company has lost all credibility to me. Google’s rules are first and foremost, just that: their rules. Not law. Follow or ignore at will.

  • Marc Winter

    Apparently, Google users? Or why are the Google SERPs more and more dominated by them, and still Google is gaining market share? Oh right, I forgot: these are GOOGLE’s ads, those are good ;-)

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    The links in your article don’t provide any evidence that the “paid links” are passing value in Google’s index. However, this link MIGHT be a better example:


  • http://www.facebook.com/dora.odri Dora Attila Odri

    Of course they won’t penalize themselves, because google has to show a profit every quarter so its ok for them to sell advertisements, but for others no!

  • Akash

    Why crying over Google’s relying on links for ranking web-pages? Since long ago Google has moved away (not completely) from link matrix and using more than 200 signals like Social media, Page Rank, Time-spent, and even Co-occurrence etc. to rank content in search results.

    Google is ever evolving, and will be enough powerful one day to know the exact intents of webmasters to make its punishment system better.

  • TmWe

    Google’s view on links depend on what way the wind is blowing.

    It would have made just as much sense for Google to say these companies are buying the editorial features in (online) newspapers/magazines as they have done for decades, and the outbound link is just a minor part of that, as the value is in the editorial placement and the site visitors.

    This would be rather along the same lines of some directory listings not being regarded as paid links as the purchase is not for the link. but the listing and all which that involves.

  • victortuszing

    No doubt, Google is the king of hypocrisy – its employees set rules just for us, the “suckers”, not for royalties…

  • victortuszing

    Of course, Goggle can do anything since it has 70% search share in US and 90% globally…I’m still waiting somebody from government understand the huge threat represented by this malefic company that, if not stopped, will switch to Big Brother some day.

  • http://twitter.com/danclarkie Dan Clarke

    This article makes great points, but it is an absolute train wreck of English grammar and spelling.
    Why has nobody proof read or edited this?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    It’s a long article. I did read through it twice, but I went through it again now and maybe about five further changes.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Google hasn’t moved away from links. Those remain among the most important ranking signals out there.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    They have penalized themselves many times before, as the article covers. I’m virtually certain they’ll do so in some way again.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    It does show evidence that they are not blocking value from being passed. That’s what Google’s rules require — that if you have a paid link, you block it in some way from passing value. Google, of course, might prevent links on its end from passing value. But that’s besides the point. That doesn’t get a site off the hook for selling. It can’t file a reconsideration request and say, “Oh, but I thought you were going to block for me.”

  • Vic

    Looks like Google hit a little too close to Danny Sullivan’s home, sponsored content and guest posts. Well, this may have awakened Danny up.

    Google hasn’t cared about fairness or best for the users since Larry Page became CEO. This is the latest thing to scare businesses and to force them to advertise. The only good link is one from Adwords.Panda, Penguin and every update has that goal in mind: driving people to ads and businesses to adwords.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    We don’t have guest posts. We have columns from regular contributors, and rarely, a one-off contributed post. That’s pretty normal for a publisher. As for our sponsored content area, I’d guess it’s like 0.2% of our pageviews. It’s not designed to attract search traffic. It’s designed to be promoted within our own pages.

    And if you go back to the post that I mentioned writing in 2007, you’ll see that I’ve further written about problems with Google war on links before that. So no, there’s no sudden wake-up here.

    What there is, instead, is that further crackdown that Google is doing is causing ordinary publishers who had absolutely no intention of trying to sell links to technically get caught in violating Google’s rules.

    Google has very good reasons to dislike the practice of selling links, and Google users have very good reasons to want Google to fight to prevent someone who plunks down a little cash to suddenly rank tops even if they are irrelevant.

    But the rules that are based on technicalities aren’t cutting it, just like the rules about cloaking that are based on technicalities didn’t. Google needs to have rules based on intent.

  • http://twitter.com/alancperkins Alan Perkins

    > I’m at the point where I kind of feel like the only way to be safe with Google is to nofollow all your links

    And if everybody feels the same way, as well they might, then that brings us full circle to pre-nofollow days. If all links are nofollowed, then nofollow becomes as useless as it was before it was invented! To paraphrase Dash from The Incredibles, “If every link is special, then no link is”.

    This shows the futility of using nofollow for paid links. Nofollow should have been left for what it was designed for – labelling links of uncertain trust.

  • http://www.nick-andrews.com/ Nick Andrews

    Way to go Google, another massive demonstration of hypocricy! Google will have no choice other than to penalise themselves as they have done before in a vague attempt to save face.

  • http://www.cbil360.com/ Web Design Company

    It’s a general point to be noted that – If you like to rank in SERP then you must have to follow all rules and regulations set by search engine otherwise there are more chances to get penalized if you break them.

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  • http://www.michaelmerritt.org/ Michael Merritt

    The fact that you’re sweating over one link that was inadvertently not tagged with nofollow shows how broken the system is.

    For most folks, who may have more important things to think about on a daily basis, like finding ways to support their hosting costs, the situation is likely worse.

  • Lisa Repensky

    Great article. I find it ironic that an educational site can get away with that and the typo in “I am curious about learning what you experiences are…”

  • http://twitter.com/GnosisArts Gnosis Media Group

    I’m confused

  • http://twitter.com/mikegracen Mike Gracen

    The hypocrisy here on Google’s part is staggering, but is anyone here really surprised?

    While there are certainly philanthropic, talented and exceptionally brilliant people working at Google, the company as a whole continues to live in a fantasy land where they believe they are actually helping make the World a better place. In actuality, they are simply another monopolistic corporation forced to uphold shareholder value – consequences be d*mned.

    And the idea that they will penalize themselves (like they have done ‘many times before’) I find laughable at best. The right wrist is going to slap the left, the hypocrisy will continue, and poor Matt Cutts will be forced to sell another little part of his soul as he reactively warns webmasters to do as Google says, not as it does.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    You may have proposed the next generation of SEO reconsideration requests…. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/therealbenguest Ben Guest

    It’s as easy as “nofollow”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.piersall Wendy Bauer Piersall

    Have to wonder – are they also going to punish the sites that posted the advertorials for Google? If they do, it will be a huge breech of business ethics. If they don’t, it will be the height of their hypocrisy in action. They can’t win either way – kind of like it is for the rest of us.

  • http://blog.michaelmichelini.com Michael Michelini

    Google wishes it had more social data. this is why they’re forcing us all to use Google+ …. they dont want to be paying for or dependant on Facebook and Twitter social data.

  • newyorker_1

    Chrome didn’t rank well for searches on “Chrome” for two months….Is this a penalty? Two months? Anyone hit by Panda or Penguin or for selling links knows that you cannot recover in two months. If you recover in a year or ever, you are lucky…This is an illusion of penalty, a joke…

  • Unbound Marketing

    You mean like monitoring everything you see and do and driving your car for you?

  • Unbound Marketing

    Getting a temporary penalty from Google is a great bit of natural link bait.

  • Deboti Chowdhury

    This is a very unfortunate situation. If I am happy with a particular brand’s performance, I should have the right to share my experience without being penalized by Google.

  • http://www.marketingtechblog.com Douglas Karr

    Nice job on this @dannysullivan:disqus . Way to keep up the pressure and it’s great to have an advocate in the marketers’ corner that Google actually pays attention to and responds to. We honestly don’t do outreach anymore and have eliminated any risk of backlinking from our clients’ strategies – focusing more on paid relevant advertising and building far more remarkable content like infographics and interactive tools for our clients. My personal belief is that Google is really just wanting to bury the search industry so people have no option but to pay for Adwords when they can’t get ranked.

  • http://twitter.com/TheModernSEO TheModernSEO

    Although Google do tend to be more flexible with its rules for its own purposes, I’m not sure that these two sites show wide-spread ignorance to their own rules. Also there is no way to prove that Google themselves have bought or even asked for these links. Could it be that Ben Johnson (Edutoipia) has just decided that Google Hangout was such fun he wanted to put a link into his post so everyone could go and have the same experience he did. Afterall when someone asks “Where did you buy your new laptop?” its commonplace to tell them the store – a verbal link if you will. We weren’t paid by the store, we just want to give our friends the opportunity to have the same experience we did.

  • http://www.phplinkdirectory.com David DuVal

    And Google is totally missing hacked pagerank as well. Sites like Creative Commons and Columbia University had hidden links on their site. I would love to see this story get some traction. http://www.v7n.com/forums/web-directory-issues/332381-directory-network-gaming-page-rank.html

  • spongeblog

    It’s like when you would search for hail and locust on google and an ad would come up about buying hail and locust on ebay

  • FlyingSq

    How about *you* stop scamming your viewers instead of blaming google. Google penalizing this behavior is the right thing to do. Good for Google.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trav-Lee/883885219 Trav Lee

    The article would be much better written if included a definition of what advertorials are in the first paragraph. The assumption that people know what advertorials is a poor one.

  • newyorker_1

    I am not blaming Google. I think they should do it. I just say that being penalized for 2 months is a joke, not a penalty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=520503461 Josh Kruk

    Is what Outbrain does considered an “advertorial”?