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Outing Paid Links Now a Regular Feature in New York Times
graywolf

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 9:35 am on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Internet marketing experts say Teleflora, FTD, 1800Flowers.com and ProFlowers are trying to elevate their Web sites in search results with a strategy that violates Google’s guidelines.

The flower companies deny it. But all four have links on Web sites that are riddled with paid links, many of which include phrases like “mothers day flowers,” “mothers day arrangements” and “cheap mothers day flowers.”


[nytimes.com...]

[edited by: tedster at 3:23 pm (utc) on May 7, 2011]
[edit reason] I added the link [/edit]

 

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 3:26 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yes, it does look like the Times (and CNN and Forbes) are now in the business of outing paid links, and embarrassing Google in the process. Or are they up to something more? I can help but try on a little tinfoil in a situation like the one we've been seeing over recent months.

For balance in this thread, let's quote Google's response:

“None of the links shared by The New York Times had a significant impact on our rankings, due to automated systems we have in place to assess the relevance of links.

I have done a lot of backlink study in various industries, and I have seen many examples where what Google says is happening here was clearly happening. They can and do simply ignore paid links when they identify them.

robzilla

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 3:46 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Cleverly (re)crafted title for the article; it's now ranking #10 for mother's day flowers. The print version had the title "Using a Little Internet Trickery to Sell Flowers for Mother's Day."

[edited by: robzilla at 4:00 pm (utc) on May 7, 2011]

ErnestHemingway



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 3:53 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Tedster

100% agreed that is the only thing that I am liking about Google is their paid links class is working very well.

Pjman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 3:59 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think there might be a hidden agenda behind these articles. They are just too frequent.

The NY times or big ups, might not only be flexing their muscles to hold their ground. But also show Google a reason that they need the Times as much as the Times needs Google.

robzilla

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 4:23 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think there might be a hidden agenda behind these articles.

I agree. It looks to me downright shady, in fact. Surely they know that outing paid links will draw the attention of (i.e. links from) the SEO community, but that's just linkbait, I suppose. They must also know, however, that news articles from reputable sources like the New York Times have the ability to quickly (though temporarily) climb up in search rankings. This way, a single article released at the right time can relatively easily compete with, even outrank, brands that spend months preparing for the important traffic surges leading up to these holidays. You might say that's just good strategy, but combined with the outing of supposed paid links of the top competitors for that very same "mother's day flowers" keyphrase, it seems to me more like a smelly kind of piggybacking.

walkman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 4:56 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is the media trying to get Google to punish others so they get even more traffic. Panda clearly wasn't enough for them

ken_b

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 5:35 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

How hard is it to prove that the sites these supposed paid links are on are really selling links?

I'd guess that is probably not too difficult.

How hard is it to prove G discounts or ignores those links via the algo?

I'd guess this could be done given enough time and resources, but I think it could be a lot harder, unless we just take Google's word for it.

Is Google's word that trustworthy?

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 6:15 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

How hard is it to prove G discounts or ignores those links via the algo?

The word "prove" sets a pretty high standard - however I do a whole lot of backlink study. In maybe 90% or more of the cases I see, it seems clear that paid links are not moving the ranking needle. For the other 10%, it's not at all clear, and in a few cases it seems very much like they are helping.

In the case of these flower businesses, I don't even want to start checking - especially since it's already being reported and that changes things. In earlier reports like JCPenney, I'm not even convinced that straight-up paid links were the only or principal cause of their penalty.

This whole trend of the press wanting to play watchdog over Google may be a lot bigger than it looks like on the surface. I can only speculate, so I won't, but I'd say there is a very big chess game being played, and so far we're only at pawn to king-4.

walkman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 6:39 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Think about this:
How much e-commerce passes through Google serps.
Google can make or break any online company (organic Serps vs. expensive paid adwords)
Google says we can handle this and handle it fairly.
So the question is how do we know?

Free speech or "Google doesn't owe you anything" even if it works in court, doesn't fly in real life. And with a near monopoly different rules apply so the free speech might even be out of the question, especially if it's free $peech ;).

Tedster, I think that Goog took away a lot of their revenue with Google ads and is not being replaced by Google sending clicks. 'Google offers' might be one of the last nails in the coffin. Google tried to feed them some panda hastily but they are going for the jugular. Nothing personal, just business. Google rode the press for a good 10 years, not it's going full circle, minus many small web people to support and defend them.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 6:53 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Even more - Google News took away a lot of the press revenue by not sending traffic directly to the original story on the major press news sites but splitting a lot off to syndication sites of various kinds. The whole Rupert Murdoch, AP blow-up in the very recent past. All sides have said publicly, that they reached an accommodation but the blood was pretty bad and the lack of mutual trust has got to playing into this picture.

walkman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 7:13 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ouch, totally forgot Google buying AP /AFP /Reuters feeds. That's a major one since they cover virtually 100% of news and putting an AP story linked to Google.com/news/Bin-Laden-was-captured... sure takes away lots and lots of traffic that news sites got before. In the past Google sent you to washpost.com or nytimes.com etc to read the feed or maybe their own story about the subject, now you read the feed on Google and for most people there's no need to keep getting any more details.

Stepping on a lot of toe$, but should "never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel."

crobb305

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 7:36 pm on May 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google’s spam team studied the list...and sent this statement...“None of the links shared by The New York Times had a significant impact on our rankings, due to automated systems we have in place to assess the relevance of links. As always, we investigate spam reports and take corrective action where appropriate.”

In essence, Google said that these companies tried to game its algorithm, but for the most part, their efforts failed.


Google didn't say that at all; actually, in essence, Google said stay out of it.

FranticFish

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 12:30 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hmm. Well I see those companies at 1, 2 and 4 right now in Google.com for 'mothers day flowers'.

And, having a quick look at the number one result's link profile I find fake blog posts and fake sites a plenty.

Try it yourself; take the url and put it in your link checking tool.

Way to go Google; you tell 'em. No-one can put one over on you, eh?

walkman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 12:41 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

@FranticFish, read the article: Google can't really ban them, they're too famous.

FranticFish

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 12:50 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

That's not really the point though is it? If Google's algorithm was working properly then these links would be clocked and eliminated automatically.

As with JCPenney, as with Overstock, the algo IS NOT catching this sort of thing.

Whilst people agonise over Panda, and semantics, and what constitutes quality, and where to place their ads, and why scrapers outrank them, mass link creation/buying continues to rock the SERPs.

crobb305

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 1:16 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well I see those companies at 1, 2 and 4 right now in Google.com for 'mothers day flowers'.


The increase in rankings/traffic that NYT thinks they uncovered during the month of February also coincides with Panda. We all know that some sites saw significant improvements as a result of Panda, and that is probably what happened in this case.

I get the impression from the article that Google is trying to politely tell NYT to back off, that they can handle it, without malicious and public tattletaling. Despite the "in essence" paraphrasing by NYT, I think Google will be very subtle about penalty here (if any). If Google keeps responding the way they did with JCP and others outed by NYT, it will continue to give impetus for sabotage and tattletaling that will spiral out of control. Someone is working in cahoots with NYT to make these sites and Google look bad. I am happy to see the pages are still ranking; perhaps now, NYT will find more newsworthy topics.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 1:35 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

From what I've seen, Google tends to ignore paid links rather than penalize for them. Link SELLERS, however, often get a harsher treatment.

If Google's algorithm was working properly then these links would be clocked and eliminated automatically.

How did you come to the conclusion that the links are actually helping their rankings?

Planet13

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 3:27 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Someone is working in cahoots with NYT to make these sites and Google look bad.


With all due respect, I don't buy into any of the conspiracy theories.

People read the business section of the Times because they want to know how others are making money. The Times is reporting that others are making money by paying for links.

You might view it as "tattling," or you might view it as the NYT simply telling their readers that this is a money making opportunity. It is just a BUSINESS story, but since we are so close to the subject, I think we are reading way too much into it.

If you were an editor and you were scooped by a rival publication on something like this on a regular basis, you could probably look forward to a demotion pretty quickly.

WolfLover

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 3:36 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Think about this:
How much e-commerce passes through Google serps.
Google can make or break any online company (organic Serps vs. expensive paid adwords)
Google says we can handle this and handle it fairly.
So the question is how do we know?


Walkman, this is what is happening in my industry. I have ecommerce sites. For YEARS I ranked number one and two for some major keywords in my industry. Today, my sites rank around 20-25 for those same keywords. But here is who is on top now. A competitor who pays a LOT of money in AdWords. This guy is not only in the paid ads at the top and sides of the Google search results, but he holds spots ONE and TWO for these keywords and many more keywords. Also, ranking above me now are newbie sites, of course Amazon and wikipedia.

I'm sorry, but I really feel that those that are paying out AdWords are now being treated extra special by getting not only their ads up there, but they are now in the natural search results at the top of MANY MANY of our industry's top keywords. And this same guy is showing up in two out of four of the Google Shopping results as well. So, this guy appears a minimum of 5-6 times at the very top of the search results with his ads, his top natural search results and the Google Shopping results.

walkman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 4:02 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

With all due respect, I don't buy into any of the conspiracy theories.

People read the business section of the Times because they want to know how others are making money. The Times is reporting that others are making money by paying for links.

You might view it as "tattling," or you might view it as the NYT simply telling their readers that this is a money making opportunity. It is just a BUSINESS story, but since we are so close to the subject, I think we are reading way too much into it.

If you were an editor and you were scooped by a rival publication on something like this on a regular basis, you could probably look forward to a demotion pretty quickly.

Planet, I buy them both. First it's more than a legitimate story when e-commerce sites buy links and rank well for those keywords. Google might deny but we don't really know, we see them on #1-#3 and are inclined to believe that paid links work. Newspapers and media can either shrug it off, write a so so or go after you. The fact that now they are going after Google time and time again tells me something.

Planet13

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 4:21 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

The fact that now they are going after Google time and time again tells me something.


Well... you might be right...

The article mentions a company that sells traffic analysis software, and they state that they measured an upsurge of links to one of the floral companies starting around February.

Now maybe that analysis company new someone at the NYT and figured that they could catch some company red-handed buying links and get some free publicity for their company.

Or maybe google had prepared for this after doing the JCP article and, knowing that Mother's Day was the next big ecommerce shopping event, hired them out ahead of time to start tracking the big players.

But don't forget that writers in a newspaper / magazine are ALWAYS trying to scoop their fellow writers, and it might just be someone (a frustrated former webmaster, perhaps), who figured there would be some shenanigans and had the acumen to know what to look for and whom to talk to.

We tend to think of newspapers as these all powerful entities that set nationwide opinions, when oftentimes, the print media gets manipulated itself without realizing it (anybody remember WMD?)

tangor

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 5:55 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

and embarrassing Google in the process.


Some of these threads these days are ... less than interesting or of value for webmasters... that the "media" attacks "google" makes sense politically because google is in the White House and the media (at heart) loves google but hates being shut out, and it is all about power and control and... and ... and... it's all SO NOT CONFUSING!

Bin Laden is dead, that news cycle has perished. So, too, the floods on the Mighty Mississippi, but Google is always there, always a bullseye for (whatever) interest groups the NY Times takes a shot at to sell papers... after all, they are STILL a paper company desperately hoping to make it electronically... and shooting foot going after the "monopoly" while publishing misery tales of unions in distress because a different party is on office, and oh, the HORRORS.

Ignore half of what you read and disregard the rest. Do own research.

FranticFish

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 6:39 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

How did you come to the conclusion that the links are actually helping their rankings?


Because they don't have any that aren't either fake or paid. I had a quick dig (10 min) and saw...

- footer links on other online flower sellers (either they've created these sites, or their SEO company has, or they are affiliates, or they've paid to be there)
- cut and paste 'comments' in forums and dofollow blogs
- spam blog posts with keyword in article (on sites 'about' hearing aids, phone cards, back pain etc)
- articles on SEO-friendly article directories
- footer anchor text links on a wide range of sites including SEO-friendly directories, classified ads, local portals, travel
- blogrolls on irrelevant (and spammy) blogs like real estate, debt etc

It's a carefully balanced profile, but the only relevant links I could see were from the other flower sellers, and they are clearly paid or manufactured.

Have a look yourself. Do you see any links that you would call 'freely given', 'editorial', or as a result of 'social buzz'?

Planet13

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 8:23 am on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just to build off of FranticFish's comments immediately above, I have been looking at a few very narrow verticals and the sites that are ranking in the top ten are the exact things that FF listed - actually, even less diverse. I didn't see any blogroll links.

However, the keywords I look at get less than 30,000 searches per month, so they are very low volume key words, and there is no telling if the algorithm for keywords getting millions of searches a month is different than the algorithm for keywords only getting 30 thousand searches a month.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 6:31 pm on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

For years webmasters and SEOs have been complaining that the Google algorithm needs to use something besides links. Thinks there's a chance we may be seeing the evidence that in fact, Google has moved far beyond links and it just wasn't noticed?

Those flower businesses are really strong brands - I can see how regular Google users would expect to see them in search results.

I'm not saying this just to be devil's advocate. For a long time I've been researching SERPs where it seems that strong backlinks are far from the only factor at work, and in some cases other factors seem to be carrying the ranking almost completely.

walkman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 7:26 pm on May 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

OK, I'll bite Tester. So why is Google on a holy war against paid links? They can just say waste your money if you want and leave it with that.

Geico is a top brand, but maybe they will not rank for, say 'motorcycle insurance' or "Idaho car insurance" so buying $5000 of links and blog posts can bring them $XX million. It's still cheating, no?

We can argue that link value has diminished relative to other things or that Google can (better) spot paid links but that links don't make or break SERPS, I know it's false.

I wouldn't expect Google to admit that they have been gamed, especially when these stories just keep coming. Google says they haven't but we really don't know. Those that bought the links are #1 and we have legitimate reason, based on what we see and experience to doubt Google's version.

Another thing that needs repeating: If I did it I'd be out for maybe a year to 18 months, these will get a slap in the wrist, or may a 30 day demotion. Even if I had the product in the anchor text.

walkman



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 11:02 am on May 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

NYT has one more (other than Google) search engines this week:
[nytimes.com...] (yesterday for Blekko)
In 0.18 seconds, Google led me to 1.9 million pieces of advice, both good and suspect. Drink plenty of water and try to tough it out, but go to the doctor if it doesn’t go away — that seemed to be the consensus. But also among the search results were how-to articles like one saying that if I sipped tea brewed from ground celery seeds or corn silk, the stone would pass within hours. My laughter didn’t reduce the pain.

mgracen



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 1:32 pm on May 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just my $.02

1) Based on the last few years of blatant white collar crime going almost unpunished, many managers, higher-ups, and CEOs are willing to roll the dice to move their mice. If buying $10k in links can move the needle several million in sales, they take the risk.

2) Many (arguably most, IMO) large companies have mediocre SEO knowledge at best. When their internal SEO teams can't cut the mustard, they turn to link buying, etc. to get the results they want.

chicagohh

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4309224 posted 2:07 pm on May 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

mgracen - you may be on to something...Most of the large companies that I have worked with either have terrible SEO teams or the internal bureaucracy is such that competitive SEO is just not possible. Buying links is often the only thing some of these people can think of doing and so they start out buying press releases and then move on to more blatant methods.

This 43 message thread spans 2 pages: 43 ( [1] 2 > >
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