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Google Backlinks Culture
The inherited weakness in Google ranking system
reseller




msg:3338508
 8:31 am on May 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi Folks,

It looks like that at present everybody is talking about backlinks. savvy and novice webmasters and even the SEO gurus keep preaching backlinks. Our good friend Matt Cutts also very focused on backlinks these days. Not to talk about yours truly whom keep posting messages related to backlinks ;-)

Sometimes it helps to step back and rethink the situation of backlinks. How and why we have ended on paying so much attention to one factor related to ranking pages on Google and ignoring to some extent a very important factor in the existence of our sites; to cover our sites visitors needs and provide them with pleasant experience.

In fact we have ended up in a very poor culture governed by backlinks and links baiting. No more talk about quality contents. Some times ago contents was a king. Today only "well linked" content rank on Google regardless of the quality of that content. Maybe we together with Google have killed the king and have announced instead "Dictator Backlink" to govern Google's serps.

The problem with the backlinks culture is that it encourages primitive thinking about a website presence on the internet as well as a website ranking on search engines. Almost everything could be explained nowadays by the presence or lack of backlinks ignoring the rest of the so claimed more than hundred factors which decide ranking on Google's serps.

It mightbe also therefore we see a huge growth in the number of SEO gurus. Some of those gurus are nothing but backlinks puppets. Backlinks all what they know and preach.

Maybe Google has based ranking on its serps on a very fragile backlinks system that can't protect itself and very difficult to mandate and police.

In such situation, we as human need somebody else than ourselves to blame, of course. As such I'm blaming it on Google ;-)

Or should I blame it on the webmaster communities that haven't been successful in educating their own members as well as those blogger happy SEOes who keep preaching backlinks and links baiting?

 

The Contractor




msg:3340049
 2:00 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

And if the folks at Burger King do want to get free publicity, they sponsor the library's summer "Reading Camp" program or come up with something clever that the newspaper and 10 o'clock news will want to cover.

Wouldn't that be the equivalent to buying/sponsored links? If Burger King "sponsors" something - I would imagine they have to provide something of $ value?

Would the newspaper ban them for purchasing more advertising ...maybe black-out their ads? Maybe the phonebook publishers should remove the full-page ads before delivering the phonebooks since they "bought them"? It is unfair after all when one company has a larger advertising budget than another and takes their business serious....

This whole thing about link buying is silly..all links are bought/bartered for in one way or another. I would rather have a bought link on my site than 100's of recip link requests emailed to me everyday...what's the cost of a recip link?

Google has a problem because it never looked ahead when constructing their algo...now they want to change how HTML markup is done on the internet to fix/comply with their problem....

europeforvisitors




msg:3340080
 2:40 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would rather have a bought link on my site than 100's of recip link requests emailed to me everyday...what's the cost of a recip link?

I'd rather have a real link that wasn't bought.

Mind you, I don't have an corporate or e-commerce site, but quite a few corporate and e-commerce sites do get real links. (I should know--I've linked to some of them myself for editorial reasons.)

rekitty




msg:3340118
 3:26 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Last week the Today show on NBC in the US did their annual "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" segment where he travels around the world to different interesting destinations each day.

Day 1 of Matt's trip was a visit to the Boeing Factory in Everett, Wash. Interesting, but not exactly a popular tourist destination. Anybody think maybe Boeing paid NBC for that exposure? I would be naive to think otherwise and most TV viewers know that.

Google is extremely self righteous these days, much like Microsoft, Sun, DEC, and IBM were in their prime.

europeforvisitors




msg:3340203
 4:40 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Day 1 of Matt's trip was a visit to the Boeing Factory in Everett, Wash. Interesting, but not exactly a popular tourist destination. Anybody think maybe Boeing paid NBC for that exposure? I would be naive to think otherwise and most TV viewers know that.

You're off the mark in several respects:

- Boeing's factory and aviation center in Everett are an extremely popular tourist attraction.

- NBC News would be extremely foolish to sell news or feature coverage; that's not how the news business works.

- The statement "most TV viewers know that" should be amended to read: "Some TV viewers may think they know that, but some TV viewers are clueless."

The Contractor




msg:3340215
 4:57 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

EFV...not going to let you off the hook that easy as you defend almost every move Google makes unless it affects your site..hehe

You never answered my question.
Wouldn't that be the equivalent to buying/sponsored links? If Burger King "sponsors" something - I would imagine they have to provide something of $ value?


The problem of purchased links affect two entities:

Entity A) Those that whine constantly about their site not ranking and the sites that are above them "purchase" links. They will never be happy as they are the whiners of the world that believe everything should be given to them. They do not believe in investing in their site, but believe they should be able to compete equally with those that do. Sorry, but it's not that way in the real world, why should traffic/ranking be any different? Go out in your kitchen, make some "Very Best" salad dressing and take it to market. See if you can play with the big boys... Doesn't matter what product, field, or industry.

Entity B) Google. They can change their algo a lot easier than the world can change the internet. Why not give less weight on backlinks? A company should NOT expect the world to change for them. Quite simply they created the beast without thinking of how to tame it, so they want others to do it for themÖfor free of course.

europeforvisitors




msg:3340223
 5:08 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Let's get back on topic (there's another thread on paid links) and consider a question that the OP asked:

Or should I blame it on the webmaster communities that haven't been successful in educating their own members as well as those blogger happy SEOes who keep preaching backlinks and links baiting?

My answer: Blame it on the stupidity of Webmasters and SEOs who think Google's search engineers are even stupider than they are.

[Rant] I get a constant stream of link-exchange requests (many of them obviously generated by software programs) that are no better than "Meet Russian Brides" or "Buy herbal Viagra" spam. Just a few minutes ago, I got an e-mail from some mope with a construction business who wanted a link from my site. Does he seriously think that Google's engineers aren't smart enough to figure out that <wildly off-topic links> aren't worth as much as links that are on-topic and (even better) that aren't the obvious result of a link exchange? And is it fair to blame Google for that guy's stupidity? If you want to blame anyone, blame his parents, or blame the failure of Darwinian evolution to move quickly enough. [/end of rant]

[edited by: tedster at 6:39 pm (utc) on May 15, 2007]

rekitty




msg:3340242
 5:24 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

EFV, GE owns NBC. GE also sells jet engines to Boeing. Was it just a coincidence there was a shot of Matt Lauer standing inside a GE jet engine?

[edited by: tedster at 6:08 pm (utc) on May 15, 2007]

The Contractor




msg:3340247
 5:28 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

And is it fair to blame Google for that guy's stupidity?

In a way, yes it is...it's Google that uses backlinks as a key algo ingredient and it does not pick/choose if they are "on topic" or not.

BTW, I got the same email today that you did I believe to a couple off-topic sites...hehe

Like I stated before...it would be a lot easier for Google to change their algo, than it is for the world and/or millions of site owners to change their sites...

[edited by: The_Contractor at 5:29 pm (utc) on May 15, 2007]

europeforvisitors




msg:3340258
 5:46 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

EFV, GE owns NBC. GE also sells jet engines to Boeing. Was it just a coincidence there was a shot of Matt Lauer standing inside a GE jet engine?

Dunno, but guy-standing-inside-a-jet-engine makes for a nice photo, and I doubt if many of Matt Lauer's viewers are in a position to spec jet engines.

[edited by: tedster at 6:09 pm (utc) on May 15, 2007]

reseller




msg:3340483
 10:30 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi Folks,

I wish to elaborate more on what I wrote in my first post on this thread.

Maybe Google has based ranking on its serps on a very fragile backlinks system that can't protect itself and very difficult to mandate and police.

Allow me first to recall what our friend Matt Cutts wrote in 2005 [mattcutts.com] :

Google (and pretty much every other major search engine) uses hyperlinks to help determine reputation. Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and link-based analysis has greatly improved the quality of web search.

Under ideal laboratory environment and a perfect world the use of hyperlinks to determine reputation and considering them as "editorial vote given by choice" is an acceptable approach.

However it seems that the fathers of that theory and choice haven't taken into account and haven't considered at all the risks and possibilities that the "hyperlinks determination system" would be under vigorous attacks and continuous manipulation attempts. I.e the said fathers have introduced and deployed unprotected system which is easy to be manipulated. A system which might not survive at all if it would be subjected to attacks for example from linkexchange networks and paid backlinks.

As to Google, I believe that Google Search Quality Team / WebSpam Team are doing all what they could in an honest attempt to defend the "hyperlinks determination system". Unfortunately what they are doing is too little and too late.

Today they are faced with a very critical situation. On one hand Google should fight back on attempts to manipulate the "hyperlinks determination system" by for example linkexchange networks and paid backlinks..
On the other hand Google isn't ready at all to penalize such attempts by either deindexing linkexchange networks and Paid Links sellers site nor at least to deprive them of their current PR.
I.e Google today isn't able at all to protect itself of attacks on its "hyperlinks determination system".

IMO what Google is doing now to protect its own "hyperlinks determination system" is similar to treating a deadly ill patient with trancolizers in the absence of a real cure.

Therefore I'm in big doubt that the "hyperlinks determination system" would survive during the coming years.

europeforvisitors




msg:3340496
 10:43 pm on May 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Therefore I'm in big doubt that the "hyperlinks determination system" would survive during the coming years.

Pure, unadulterated PageRank is already a smaller much part of the whole than it was in 1998, and I seem to recall a Google patent that talked about using as few as 200 "seed sites" to spread "TrustRank" around the Web.

I don't think Google has any intention of resting on its laurels. (Windows Vista doesn't carry a lot of baggage from DOS 1.0 and Apple's OS X isn't being held back by the Apple II operating system, either.)

potentialgeek




msg:3340715
 6:37 am on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

... it seems that the fathers of that theory and choice haven't taken into account and haven't considered at all the risks and possibilities that the "hyperlinks determination system" would be under vigorous attacks and continuous manipulation attempts...

To think about this topic, you have to go back right to the beginning. What exactly were Brin and Sergei doing? What were they thinking?

I'd have to read the full story, but I wonder if the SE was based on a closed system, like within academic circles. (In the early days, that was the use of the internet.) Links or votes from academics would be a solid system, because not too many of them would link to something they thought was junk.

I don't know if B&S ever discussed the risks and gaming they anticipated in the early days or before they even started, but given the long delay before addressing the gaming--and we're talking years here, aren't we--you have to wonder if they really thought it through.

B&S built a nice mansion from the ground up, but is there a crack in the foundation?

The other thing I wonder about is if Google's early success was when people didn't know how it worked so well, i.e., based on links. (If you don't know how the system works, how can you game it?)

Is it possible B&S didn't anticipate the success they had, so didn't worry too much at the time about gaming and manipulation? But just because it was better than the other engines, its fundamental flaws were nothing to worry about.

Who knows if the PhDs at Google will be able to solve the abuse problems over time. One can only hope. They don't have great competition from MSN and Yahoo, so progress could be very slow.

p/g

thecityofgold2005




msg:3340815
 10:41 am on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Therefore I'm in big doubt that the "hyperlinks determination system" would survive during the coming years.

ditto. and it will not be easy for google to move away from the thing that made it unique in the first place. there must be a reason they have not dumped the toolbar pagerank display already, despite admitting it's been basically a useless toy for the past few years. pagerank made google and without it there cachet as innovators among the public will be diminished.

if only there were strong competitors working to find an alternative.. there aren't. yahoo is run by a movie mogul with no idea about search and microsoft hasn't been great at innovation (just ripping off the ideas of others) for more than 20years..

get behind wikiasearch. who knows what will come of it but wikipedia is a huge success so who knows?

penfold25




msg:3340823
 10:47 am on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Pure and simple, people new to the game are upset that links are part of the algo and that quality links take time, even years. Their is a huge reason why google is the best brand in the world and the google owners have 16 billion each. They are just simply awesome - i use them all the time. They are obviously doing something right so no need to question this, this is a dumb topic.

thecityofgold2005




msg:3340824
 10:47 am on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

if the altavista engine from 1998 was implented in search today, how well do you think it would do?

personally i think it would do very well because its emphasis purely on page content would surely deliver very relevant content? most sites have cleaned up their content to concentrate on link-spam and avoid being penalised by google..

it would of course be a mess again very soon after launch as the 'optimisers' kicked into gear once more.

mattg3




msg:3340837
 11:20 am on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Even in academia they try to cheat by citing their own papers getting postdocs to do so and so on.

europeforvisitors




msg:3340933
 1:23 pm on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Who knows if the PhDs at Google will be able to solve the abuse problems over time. One can only hope. They don't have great competition from MSN and Yahoo, so progress could be very slow.

I don't think more competition from MSN or Yahoo would speed Google's rate of progress significantly. Research takes time. (If competition alone could solve problems, cancer and heart disease would have been eliminated years ago.)

mattg3




msg:3341007
 2:37 pm on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

An inherent flaw of the link system is also, that backlinks in academia is mostly done by experts and not ALSO by searchers that tend not to know the subject, otherwise they wouldn't be searching. Besides that it is also not democratic as one can have many votes depending on income and so on.

Besides deciding if a vote counts based on word lists.

On the other hand democracy isn't that great either since someone that has no idea about global warming, finance and so on is allowed to vote on it.

It will be interesting where we go with the backlinks in 10 years time.

User behaviour is a problem too, as most people that search don't know the subject area as they are searching. How could they possibly decide if a text is correct.

Inherently the world is unfair, so the Google algorithm will be too, especially as it is a dumb robot, albeit programmed by intelligent people, or so goes the spin. ;)

Still large areas that could show quality are neglected images, flashs, videos.

I find youtube a great example of the difference between quality and popularity. Quality is usually medium view count higher ranking. High vote count + high view count seems to be popular like a lady punching someone in the face.

Trustrank et al make a small dent in the trade-offs, but will it be enough against human competitive inventions to trick Google? How high will be the collateral damage?

ogletree




msg:3341362
 8:35 pm on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google does not have things together. Right now you can create 500 websites all with the same content and point them to one main site and rank well. Backlinks are a big deal.

reseller




msg:3341789
 7:30 am on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi Folks!

It should be clear by now that Google present ranking system is based on an assumption (as per Matt Cutts 2005) which Google itself doesn't support anymore!

"Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and link-based analysis has greatly improved the quality of web search."

Allow me to explain:

- Reciprocal linking between sites might be considered as "a vote given by choice", right?
Accordingly one might expect Google to encourage reciprocal linking (to help improve the quality of web search). However Google doesn't encourage nowadays reciprocal linking, on the contraray!

- Google is waging war against paid backlinks (which I support Google in doing that). However, one can always argue that paid backlinks are still "votes given by choice". I mean nobody has forced the backlinks sellers to add a backlink to another site? Right?

- Google disencourage webmasters to participate in LinkExchange networks (which I support Google in that too). However, one can always argue that participants in a LinkExchange network are "giving votes by choice" too. Right?

So much about the basis of Google ranking system ;-)

The remaining question to be answered by Google is:

why does Google continue in using ranking system which Google itself doesn't support its fundement anymore?

thecityofgold2005




msg:3341829
 9:19 am on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Reseller, I know I sound like a stuck record but they support it because it is what made them, they are synomonous with it, and to ditch it would be to fundamentally devalue Google in the eyes of the world. It would be admitting defeat. That their one big search idea had ultimately failed.

And indeed, their one big search idea has created a monstrous Google-mutated internet of PR networks, irrelevant link exchanges, and irrelevant paid links. Their very success has changed fundamentally the structure of the internet. For the better? Maybe. They got rid of the previous keyword stuffing brand of spam but, alas, only to see it replaced with another brand of spam.

They are acting like any large corporation in defending their technology to the last despite it being patently unsuitable for the job at hand. They have a share price and shareholders to support.

Google is good at many things and I still use it for personal search but PageRank as a concept has had itís day. Votes by webmasters might have been a decent proxy for votes by the user several years ago but they most certainly are not now.

I would expect Google to come out with a big launch of something new, a new idea to push them forwards sometime soon. They need to do this because simply papering over the cracks in PageRank cannot last forever.

USER GENERATED SEARCH IS THE FUTURE!
THE ONLY ALGORITHM THAT CANNOT BE GAMED IS THAT OF MULTIPLE TRUSTED USER VOTES!

The Contractor




msg:3342021
 1:58 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have to agree with reseller and ogletree along with others sharing the same concepts.

I get so tired of the Google cheerleaders that spout off the talking points, have holier-than-thou attitudes, yet they seem to choose very "incriminating" link text when hyper linking within their circle of sites or within their own sites. I keep forgetting they are above all this and they only do what they do for "editorial" purposes.

Google could kill 50% of the unsolicited email others and I receive if they would turn-back the knob on backlink importance...

europeforvisitors




msg:3342022
 1:59 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google is good at many things and I still use it for personal search but PageRank as a concept has had itís day.

You could say the same thing about keyword matching. Maybe the only way to fight spam is to return results only for pages that don't have the search phrase's keywords in the anchor text, title, body text, etc. :-)

otes by webmasters might have been a decent proxy for votes by the user several years ago but they most certainly are not now.

Sure they are, if Google is aggressive enough in filtering "votes" that aren't likely to be worth much. (Note that I said "filtering," not "penalizing for.")

I would expect Google to come out with a big launch of something new, a new idea to push them forwards sometime soon. They need to do this because simply papering over the cracks in PageRank cannot last forever.

To judge from the patents that have been discussed on this forum, they aren't standing still. An overnight "launch of something new" probably isn't going to happen, though--incremental changes are less likely to be disruptive to users, to Google, and to Webmasters than throwing out the baby and the bathwater with one big swoosh.

USER GENERATED SEARCH IS THE FUTURE!
THE ONLY ALGORITHM THAT CANNOT BE GAMED IS THAT OF MULTIPLE TRUSTED USER VOTES!

Who decides which users can be trusted?

Who makes sure that those users don't violate their trust?

And how would such a system be scalable to include valid user ratings for new pages or pages on obscure topics?

ScottD




msg:3342027
 1:59 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Many sites aren't as good as their owners think they are. If they submitted the same "quality content" to a newspaper or magazine they'd get laughed at, thrown out and told not to come back.

I love this quote. It's spot on. And these are newspapers and magazines we're talking about - it's not like their standards are even very high!

Quality content must be as rare as honest politicians

thecityofgold2005




msg:3342073
 2:46 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Who decides which users can be trusted?

Who makes sure that those users don't violate their trust?

And how would such a system be scalable to include valid user ratings for new pages or pages on obscure topics?

A system similar to Ebay's feedback system would give some guarantee of only trusted feedback. People could build up a trust rating over time which could then give weight to their votes. This type of system would certainly be infinitely more policeable than the backlink culture we have today. Plus it wouldn't distort the web the way PageRank has.

Such a system would have as it's backbone a search engine (perhaps even Google) which would then be augmented by trusted user votes for popular searches. A user vote system would only be feasible for popular searches anyway, otherwise it would be too open to corruption. The bar could be set at say 1000 votes before user feedback is taken into account and added into the ranking mix.

nonni




msg:3342155
 4:12 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

It was brilliant in the early web to consider a link as a vote. Page rank made sense when people had little reason to stuff the ballot box. Today, stuffing the internet ballot box is a large and profitable industry.

Europeforvisitors - one thing that you may not be thinking about (but which hits others hard) is that there is an economy of scale. Quality content on smaller websites is not being recognized in the SERPs, while drivel on larger websites often does well. You are right that quality content still can do well via organic results, but that is not nearly as common as it was a few years ago. This is a logical result of the fact that the system rewards SEO effort and link building to such a large degree, and does a relatively poor job of distinguishing between quality and quality.

You are right that if someone is doing this as a business, they need to think about it in business terms (investment, roi, competition, etc). And if they are doing it as a hobby, then they don't really have to worry about traffic or income. All those writers and musicians that thought that they could eliminate the middleman on the net are finding out they can only eliminate the middleman by becoming the middleman themselves and doing all the marketing/sales/revenue generation, etc.

I think much of the frustation that people express is from a mistaken belief that the internet would create a level playing field where the cream would naturally rise to the top. This belief has been encouraged by the tech pundits and the search engine companies and in the webmaster forums. But it is only occasionally true, and is becoming rarer. It's really a new version of the old delusion that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door to buy it.

europeforvisitors




msg:3342190
 4:43 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Quality content on smaller websites is not being recognized in the SERPs, while drivel on larger websites often does well....This is a logical result of the fact that the system rewards SEO effort and link building to such a large degree, and does a relatively poor job of distinguishing between quality and quality.

If large sites are doing better than small sites (which is true in some cases, and not in others), it isn't necessarily just the result of link-building: It may also be the result of statistics on user behavior. We just don't know

Even as far as links go, any favoring of larger sites probably reflects link-building less than it does natural linking. I doubt if Wikipedia spends a lot of time on link-building; it gets one-way links the old-fashioned way, by publishing content that people link to without payment or encouragement. Similarly, I know of several camera-review sites that do extremely well in Google; those sites get links because their owners do a great job.

I do think Google needs to be careful to avoid letting sheer size influence search results (which probably has more to do with internal linking than with backlinks). In my sector, for example, there are several sites with millions of template-based, keyword-driven, computer-generated pages--some populated by "user content," some with virtually no content--that rank high for zillions of terms. Still, mom-and-pop sites often outrank the megasites for important search terms, including keyphrases that generate millions of search results.

idolw




msg:3342227
 5:17 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Many sites aren't as good as their owners think they are. If they submitted the same "quality content" to a newspaper or magazine they'd get laughed at, thrown out and told not to come back.

right. but it works the reverse way, too. just put a crappy article on a trusted website and it turns out to be quality!

nonni




msg:3342281
 5:51 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

I agree that trusted users should make up a larger percent of a good algorithm. Sure, there are problems in any implementation. But I have been to conferences where the math-ers have developed some pretty decent formulas for spotting cheats. In fact, why even think of them as 'cheats' - they are just people that give high votes to a different kind of site.

The people that submit MFA scraper sites get assigned to a class of people that like those sites, and their reccomendations don't carry over to people that always give a negative rating to such sites. Trust can be derrived from self-selected friends, or from similarity indexes.

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