|Paid link double standards?|
I run a small site that got hit hard by Google two years ago, because I wasn't quick enough to put "nofollow" tags on my paid links. Wasn't terribly happy at the time, but it seemed like other sites were hit as well, and in the long run, I figured it would all pan out. Most importantly, if ALL sites can't post paid links without "protection", it's still a level playing field as far as advertising revenue is concerned.
Today I've snooped a bit around and noticed that there are a ton of large and very prominent sites out there which are happily selling links without "protection". The <900 pound gorilla in my market> is just one example - if you click on <a key link there>, you'll arrive at a number of pages with healthy PR and big fat ads (I'm sure those cost handsomely).
I haven't paid much attention to new developments for a year or so, so before typing up this post, I checked the FAQ in this forum, but it seems like the rules of '07 still apply. Still I have the feeling that I'm missing something. I guess it would be too cheap to assume that the "big" sites can get away with anything, or that "nofollow" is simply a plot to drive ad revenue towards the strongest and most established sites. But something tells me that, once I start removing the "nofollow" tags from MY site and try and get some of the advertisers back which are now buying ads <from the 900 pound gorilla>, I will be back to PR0 in no time at all.
Can somebody tell me what I am missing?
[edited by: tedster at 12:46 am (utc) on May 26, 2010]
There have been similar comments around our forums and elsewhere. I can say that Google has many tools they use in their war against selling links for ranking purposes. And in the beginning they seemed to be a lot more harsh.
Foir example, they can just change visible toolbar PR; they can ignore one link, or one page, or a set of pages -- or even ignare all the site's outbound links. Going beyond just ignoring the links they suspect were sold, they can also apply a penalty at the page or site level, too.
I'd say Google is up against the wall on being even-handed. If their organic search results don't include the obvious "900 pound gorilla" in the space, then their search engine looks broken to the end user. If I had to guess, I'd say that's the factor that can create a kind of double standard.
Thanks for the reply. I guess maybe I should have defined more precisely what I meant by getting "hit hard". I maintained my ranking, it's just that Google removed the "visible toolbar PR" (in other words, I kept the traffic, but lost the ability to fully monetize on it). Some advertisers I lost for good, the others I had to convince that the white PR bar doesn't mean my site will vanish tomorrow. Ironically, I don't think I lost the other advertisers because my ads are nofollowed - I lost them because they can go elsewhere and buy "unprotected" links for the same money. Which also means that most of them don't even buy my explanation that a higher force changed the rules of advertising - to them, it is just me who shot his own foot (I guess that's what you call "adding insult to injury").
So that's what I was wondering about the "900 pound gorilla" - their pages (especially since we're not talking main page) could be easily stripped of visible toolbar PR without the search engine looking broken. But that's not happening. Even if Google does ignore the PR that is passed through the ads on their page (which I doubt), that's not the same thing. I guess the main point is that nobody actually ever sells *Pagerank*. What you sell is the "unprotected" link on a page with a high toolbar PR. To Google that may seem like hairsplitting, but to any webmaster that's a HUGE difference. In one case, Google destroys the sellable product, in the other case they don't. Among other things, that grossly distorts competition (talking budgets and the ability of sites to survive!).
Every now and then I'm wondering if I shouldn't just go ahead and put the unprotected links where they used to be. But given the "many tools" Google has, I guess that's out of question.
On a more productive end: Knowing Google (well, at least a bit) I wouldn't be that surprised if, by their own standards, they are actually being consistent. E.g. if you have a site dealing with red widgets, and the ads are for blue widgets, they take away the visible Pagerank, but if the ads are for red widgets as well, they only discount the link (something like that). Do you happen to be aware of any such theories floating around?
That's the first I heard the idea - and it could make make sense. Also, when it comes to toolbar demotion, not all sites go to white bar (or gray bar). Seems like I saw a lot of "down 3" or "down 4" going on.