Matt Cutts and Paid Link Reporting: Finally Getting Some Answers

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It seems inevitable doesn’t it? The search engines have to keep their search results clean, accurate and free of spam so it’s really no surprise that Matt Cutts would release a post about Paid Link Reporting, especially when the paid link marketplace has become diluted and spammy. On the other hand this makes me concerned about link building in general and the fact that a competitor can report sites that link to mine as spam.

The first thing that grabbed my attention about this whole thing was that when search engines first appeared, it was all about getting inbound links. Today that method is still strongly ingrained in the Search Engine Algorithms as there is no other way to accurately determine popularity besides a sites inbound link count. Google asking people to report paid links seems to undermine this philosophy.

Some things that I immediately started thinking about were the different link broker services, directory services, all of the internet marketing deals I setup, contextual advertising and banner advertising which includes a link back to a site. Finally, I thought about all the hours spent in obtaining 3 way links and other forms of link negotiations and whether it was all for nothing. Rick from WebProNews posted on 7 reasons why Googles new Paid Link Snitch Plan sucks. It’s a good read so check that out.

These methods listed above are in my opinion tactics used to increase a site in the SERPS but by NO MEANS unethical, it’s what we call in the biz (Search Engine Marketing).

Gavin from Text Link Ads had this to say:

- At TLA we have always pushed our ads a dual benefit product. An ad that can send targeted traffic and help your natural search engine rankings. Our publishers have full editorial control and we encourage them to only accept relevant advertisers. Our advertisers want to buy from relevant sites so the marketplace seems to police itself nicely. At the end of they day if our publishers are selling links that are relevant to their audience and sending our advertisers targeted traffic then we feel we are providing a great service. My opinion is the search engines are looking to devalue sites selling ads for PageRank benefit only, ie links to unrelated sites. That is not our goal here at TLA.

This is a great answer. I have used this service and it has been very affective for me and my clients. With social media marketing being so new and only being able to market to a few niches successfully, social media leaves a huge gap for old school SEO tactics with the implementatioin of the Paid Link Reporting. Yes, with social media marketing you get natural linking but you are still paying for a service and in essence paying for those links. My point is that at least 95% of the links you get to your site are paid for, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. The SEO community has been up in arms about this topic and we have been waiting on Cutts to clarify some things for us.

We know that paid links are something that has been against Googles quality guidelines but people continue to get them and Google still uses these links to help evaluate sites in the SERPS. Matt did a quick Q & A update on his paid link reporting post and one question I really liked was

Do all paid links violate Google’s quality guidelines?”.

Matt replied by saying:

Not necessarily. Cutts says the only paid links he cares about are ones designed to game search engines. He cites an example of a Linux site with a group of sponsored links for casinos, drugs, and gifts. Aside from apparent spamminess, the links are presented in image format, which Matt thinks is to avoid detection.

“I’m sure,” he writes, “some people will happily defend links like these, but in my experience people who search on Google don’t want links like these to affect Google’s search results.”

“Google is not interested in reports on affiliate links or directories, just spammy gaming attempts like the example mentioned.”

Well this is great. It’s nice to know that really Google is only going after spammy sites. Matt went on to talk about how the paid link report data is not being used right away and is in the collection phase, so anything that gets reported is not being applied to the actual algorithm at this time. I am assuming that there is a level of human evaluation on these reports in order to see if a paid link report is trying to attack a competitor.

Make Cutts said this regarding competitor sabatoge:

“We’ve always tried very hard to prevent site A from hurting site B. That’s why these reports aren’t being fed directly into algorithms, and are being used as the starting point rather than being used directly. You might also want to review the policy mentioned in my 2005 post (individual links can be discounted and sellers can lose their ability to pass on PageRank/anchortext/etc., which doesn’t allow site A to hurt site B).”

So it looks like the game is starting to change. The more experienced link developers will know how to build inbound links without getting caught by a paid link report and for the ones that don’t, this is a great time to start learning and experimenting. This is why this industry is so great. This type of thing always keeps me excited.

About the Author

Joe Whyte has been developing, managing and implementing successful, innovative, bleeding edge digital marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies for over 7 years.

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5 Comments

  1. Elmer Studd

    The first thing that grabbed my attention about this whole thing was that when search engines first appeared, it was all about getting inbound links.
    Uh... NO - It was all about meta tags and keyword stuffing. I do agree that paid link reporting is stupid, but the game isn't starting to change... It has always been changing.

  2. You are right. I mis-spoke. Search Engines did start with meta search engines however not ALL search engines looked ONLY at meta data, these engines did use other avenues to evaluate rank. One of the other popular ways to do this was the link popularity and back in the day that was all about reciprocal links. You are also right it always has been changing and perhaps I should have put "starting to change again". That is something that I really like about doing SEO is that the game is always changing, it keeps me on my toes and keeps things interesting... at least it gives us something we can all talk about ;-) Thanks for helping me clarify my post.

  3. One part of me says that Google will always try to do the sensible thing and clamp down on spam while rewarding the good quality, high content sites. But. Another part of me is terrified about any change that knocks me down the rankings.

  4. I think that it's about time that this practice was dealt with. There's nothing worst than seeing some great sites with links to some very questionable sites. Natural Link Building should be given so much more value .... it's great when it happens!

  5. This is an older post but I'd liked revisiting it with the paid link discussion coming up again due to sites like inlinks.com. Webpronews.com had an interesting post on the subject Paid Links Debate