Google Has No Clue Which Links are Paid (and which aren’t)

Filed in Google, Link Building by Matt McGee on April 16, 2007 5 Comments

I have only one thing to add to the firestorm of discussion over Matt Cutts’ comments this weekend regarding paid links. Matt wants you to play policeman and tell Google who’s buying and selling paid links, so my suggestion is to follow Matt’s instructions and report every site with a listing in the Yahoo Directory, not to mention Yahoo itself for selling links.

I’ve never met Matt, but from the few e-mails we’ve traded, he seems like a genuinely nice guy. Others who’ve met him say the same thing. But this episode isn’t helping his Q Score. The comments about Google looking to target paid links were tacked onto the end of a post about hidden links — which is an entirely different topic altogether. The SEO audience reaction is summed up quite well here:

Since I write for an audience of small business owners and webmasters, let me reiterate what I wrote before about paid vs. earned links. This is from my Ultimate Guide to Building the Perfect Link:

Buying links is not evil. It can be a great form of advertising. If the search engines can’t identify it as a purchased link, it can help your SEO efforts because it would be treated the same as an earned link. But, there’s always the risk that the site selling you the link will be discovered, at which point the link you bought would likely become useless for SEO purposes.

Buying links is a form of advertising, and no search engine can decide when and where you should advertise. For me, the main takeaway from all this is that Google is admitting it has no clue how to identify paid links from non-paid links.

[tags]google, link building[/tags]

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