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Will Google penalise text link advertising?


Brian Clarke

12:40 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am sorry to bother you, but I have a question that is important to us.

We are a small voluntary team who run a non-profit site, that scans Christian mediaeval writings of all form, and then reformats it to our extensive online library.

We get a good deal of traffic, especially from search engines such as Google, and Yahoo to a lesser extent, as well as universities and colleges. Recently it has been suggested that we will need to look at getting a dedicated server because of the resources we use. This we don't mind, but there are costs involved.

A friend suggested that we should take up text link advertising on the website, in the form of sponsored links, to provide an income to save for paying for a dedicated server. These would be in the form of unobtrusive text links at the foot of our pages.

However, someone else has told us that some search engines, especially Google, will penalise websites that offer text link advertising to 'sitewide' links, or even penalise the sites we link to.

I do not think there are many mediaeval sites who, in any number, are going to be care to pay for advertising at the extent that we will need. And though there is the possibility of research grants being offered, I have been clearly warned that funds cannot be forthcoming for months.

Do Google and Yahoo and other search engines have a policy that only websites dealing with the same subject matter can link to each other? For example, if search engines ran TV, they would insist that only healthcare adverts appear during healthcare programs?

I am sorry if I am rambling but I am trying to work out our longer term options for the internet. The idea that we could get various screened internet companies to advertise on our website seemed like a potentially perfect solution to providing at least short to mid-term funding. Especially as apparently we have a good 'PR' which advertisers seem to like.

I am quite confused as to whether we will be penalised for this form of advertising, though. While I can appreciate that if search engines remove our site from their results, will lose some traffic, it somehow seems a rather perverse way of dealing with the issue.

I am told that people at WebMasterWorld are very knowledgeable about these things, and that important people from the internet world are here to offer advice. Could someone please advice us if either ourselves or the links we link to face being penalised for advertising in this manner?

Apologies if this post is in the wrong forum but this seems to be the main forum for Google questions.

- Brian Clarke


1:29 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

There's a bit of a text link frenzy going on at the moment, with nobody really knowing what if any action Google may take.

I realise your content limits your options, but unless desperate, I wouldn't dip my toe in those waters until the situation clarifies somewhat.

Now if you could find a hosting company that's interested in reaching your university/college viewers....


2:02 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I notice a few sites that sell text links have the PR blocked from passing. What I mean is, you can't see any of these sites appear in the backlinks of the buyer.

No penalising or anything. Just blocking.


2:16 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Looks like the tables are turning. Having high PageRank these days can have a negative effect. It puts you in a category that is more closely scrutinized. Any form of text link advertising and you may fall prey to whatever Google is doing to prevent the selling of PageRank.


2:17 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

... or another common practice is to pass the link through their database, which essentially leaks PR and it never reaches your site. Buying text links for the primary function of a PR boost is a big mistake in my opinion. Do so to get qualified traffic, and if you get a PR boost, that would be an extra Waborita you didn't pay for. :-)




2:52 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Adsense may be the answer to your problem.

One big plus is that you will see some results ($$$) within 24 hours, and be able to gauge whether or not it can be a viable option.

I'd bet my bottom dollar on it ;)


2:56 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ditto. I'd go with AdSense over link selling. Less administration also.


3:33 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

adsense advisor and googleguy both chimed in on this topic in another thread. They essentially said: selling text links as paid ad placements was fine (because, otherwise, how could you advertise on the net aside from a button/banner with alt text)-->but selling pagerank was not fine. What's the difference between the two? In practical terms none. The difference seems to be in what you CALL IT. If you advertise that you sell text links as ads, ok. If you advertise that you sell text links for PR, not ok, despite the fact that you're selling (or buying) the same text link. Did anyone else get something different out of what AA and GG had to say about this?

Brian Clarke

8:50 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thank you for all of your responses. ownerrim, yours seems particularly helpful. I will try to avoid going beyond simply selling links as links.


9:28 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Brian Clarke -
Do check out Adsense over at Adsense Forum: [webmasterworld.com...]
Also the official website: [google.com...]


10:02 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

*selling text links as paid ad placements was fine....but selling pagerank was not fine.*

This is where things for me become confusing, I can understand where no "penalty" is involved for selling or buying links, but I can't understand how Google could value a bought "vote" equally to a voluntary one.

Granted I haven't seen them say that yet, but...


10:28 pm on Jul 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bigdave is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

This is where things for me become confusing, I can understand where no "penalty" is involved for selling or buying links, but I can't understand how Google could value a bought "vote" equally to a voluntary one.

In the Real World it works that way. Buying an ad in the super bowl will make you far more important than having Joe, the barber on the corner, telling one of his customer's about your product. And there is no real difference between the ad you buy and the one that the NFL and the network donate to the United Way (I'm assuming that it is donated, I don't know and I don't really care, it was just and example)


6:07 am on Jul 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This is where things for me become confusing, I can understand where no "penalty" is involved for selling or buying links, but I can't understand how Google could value a bought "vote" equally to a voluntary one.

How could they know the difference?

I buy PR all the times for a couple of sites. The sites I buy it from call it by the archaic colloquialism "advertising". I don't think they've ever even heard of PR, or would know what to do with it if they did, since they’ve been doing it before google or PR existed. Still, they sell PR to all comers, and if they were accused of doing something unethical they’d probably sue whoever said it. Of course they don't advertise that they're selling PR.

The fact that google has actually stopped some sites from passing PageRank is just another sign of how truly naïve and benign the good gang at google really are. Perhaps it just hasn’t sunk in on them what they’ve done. To them it’s just an algorithm. Ingenious as it may be, it’s still just a formula that could have well been scratched on the back of a napkin in some coffee shop by a couple of college students. To them it’s a way to sort meaning from the madness of the web. To us, it is currency. Maybe “commodity” would be more apropos, I don’t know. What I do know is that google has created something that can be traded, sold, bartered and turned to commercial advantage.

The PageRank formula is in itself beautiful (http://www-db.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html), the kind of formula that theoretical physicists dream of for something like the unified field theory. PageRank is a method of calculating the value of a webpage by using the values of everything linked to it. While PageRank does have its limitations that make it no less perfect in its conception and application, it is still just one tool of many that contributes to bringing order to the web.

PageRank wasn’t invented for the purpose of being commercialized. That was probably the furthest thing from the minds of Brin and Page at the time. PageRank is simply a tool whose existence rises naturally from the very fabric of the web itself. The formula is such that some might argue that it was discovered and not invented. I believe they were probably shocked to have this child of their minds become perverted by commercial interests in pursuit of profit.

Another example of just how naïve and innocent the good guys at google are is gmail, a web-based free email service with 1000 MB of free storage, automatically indexed, sorted, and organized by google, and paid for by advertising targeted by the content of the email itself. A brouhaha has arisen over this because to serve such ads the email must be scanned and recognized for keywords, and a lot of folks are uncomfortable about other people reading their email. Yet the people at google aren’t going to read your email. They don’t care what’s in your email. That others thought they might was a slap in the face for the good guys at google. That such should be an issue likely came as a total surprise to google because of their naiveté and pure innocence. Such thoughts had simply never occurred to them.

PageRank is by its formulation a dynamic process. It is not something that exists solely on a page but between pages, in the ether of fabric of the web itself. It is so elegant and natural in conception while so functionally beneficial that it is likely to remain with us for decades to come in some derivative form or another.

The commercialization of PR did not spring forth overnight, yet the possibility of such commercialization has been inherent in its implementation since Day 1. Once PR became broadly disseminated and stabilized, people became accustomed to it, and learned how to pass it from one site to another, to exert some control over it, to meter it, commercialization became inevitable. At first, the commercial exchanges of PR were via bartering. You give me some of yours, I’ll give you some of mine. As sites developed PR surpluses, the need for exchanging it for like in kind became unnecessary, and as a result today you can simply buy it, for money.

Is it possible then that a few rogue bandits might jeopardize the use of PageRank by all the rest of us? Has PageRank been so cheapened by its commoditization that it will lose its value in contributing to sorting order from the madness of the web? I don’t think so. Here’s how it may play out:

Google will continue to sabotage PR sellers who blatantly sell PR for some time to come. However, eventually, they’ll realize they cannot stop it entirely because it is traded for commercial reasons and/or methods beyond detection. Their PR police force will become disenchanted as the PR sellers become low key as an old word, advertising, creeps back into more common usage. The marketing of a site is more than just adsense and overture, which is only as effective as long as you pump the pump. Long term marketing goals should always include efforts to provide better content with high SERPs in the organic engines, because high SERPs is the most effective means of bringing your site targeted visitors.

Just forget about search engines for a moment, they don’t exist. How would you get targeted traffic to your site? You would get other sites to post links to your site using your keywords. You would pay for these links if you had to. How would targeted traffic find your site? They would track through the various link directories that there are on the web, at their favorite sites and follow a trail of links from site to site. Now throw the search engine back into it and how does a search engine find content on the web? The same way people would if there were not any search engines. It follows the links that are out there and even scores them by “values” it places on the sites the links are coming from. These links have been there before google and will be there after google. PR is just an objective way (some will argue with this, and to those I say look at the PR method of calculation itself p://www-db.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html, The Anatomy of a Search Engine, 2.1.1 Description of PageRank Calculation, it’s simply a converging iteration of values inherent in the web itself) of valuating the web and it’s constituent websites. Why should this value not be used by others in pursuit of commercial gain? It’s been done all along. Just because we now call a sight’s intrinsic value PR does that make it as sin to get links from sights of high value and link to other sites of high value. By it’s very definition PageRank is passed from one page to another. As an astute advertiser, I expect to place ads on sites where I will not only get traffic but PR and linkpop, and even perhaps, some kind of score in the mysterious hilltop landscape as well. I don’t doubt they’ll run a filter list on some sites for a while who have so shamefully shocked the innocent minds at google, but it will pass. Google can’t live in its fairyland childhood forever.

Google got to where it is today by providing great SERPs. It was until recently the only major engine which did not have any form of paid inclusion in its natural SERPs. Google is The People’s Search Engine. If you have a free, non-monetized, non-commercial site, providing content-rich information of value you will have a truly natural web woven to your door. Other sites will link to you to provide valuable resources to their visitors. A lot of the sites that will link to such content are commercial sites. Such sites have always found themselves with generous SERPs in google. This is why google has since inception owned the web and will continue to do so. I mean, their company’s mantra is “do no harm” for goodness sake. They may not really own the web, but they do own the “free web”. These free sites will always find a well-ranked home at google, with little SEO work done to them. This is what distinguishes the google brand from other search engines. Preventing casino sites from dominating the SERPs for “games” proves that with every update.
Commercial sites have always promoted their sites at a cost. The expense of commercial name branding and advertising varies by industry and I’ve seen it exceed 50% of gross profits. This can amount to a very pretty penny indeed, again depending on the industry. Along comes google and suddenly there is a “free” way to get customers. However, to do it, these companies have to emulate “free sites”. Free sites get links for free from other sites, and commercial sites are willing to pay for links of this type (advertisements) because they make money from increased traffic through the link or the search engine boost. It takes time energy and effort to establish these links.
I have a friend with a hard rock/heavy metal music site and she has never done anything to promote her site. Nothing except provide great content. I’ve only recently been able to get her to monetize the site by selling T-shirts and videos from some of the parties that happen after these concerts, and only by convincing her “the fans want it”. Her concert photos are on album covers, in books, and in the homes of rock stars all over the world. She goes on tours for free. When she gets home she doesn’t have a single penny more in her pocket than when she left, but still she is living the type of life many of us only dream of. All made possible by the fact that she has great content and people link to her because of it, and because google ranks sites according to how many other sites link to it.

Some people pay for incoming links by doing nothing more than the labor of providing great content. Others trade links in kind, and yet others pay cash money for links.

Text links are the very lifeblood of google. These links are natural vectors of page value, now re-inforced with some semantic qualities. We all pay for our links, we just pay in different ways. A link is a link is a link is a link is a link is a ....

So, for all that verbiage, no, google is unlikely to penalize text link advertising. That would be like shooting themselves in the foot.


6:51 am on Jul 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Check your sticky-mail, please: I might be able to help you from the other end of the money pipe.


9:25 am on Jul 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Great post Neuron ;-)

*they were probably shocked to have this child of their minds become perverted by commercial interests in pursuit of profit*

That's how I saw it, and was mystified that 5 years experience of manipulation appears to have brought no major development of the original formula.
I had assumed there was a cunning plan somewhere, and once the proper tools were in place we'd see a concerted effort to wrest back control.

Maybe we'll have to wait for their exclusive licence to be up before seeing what they've learnt....


2:27 pm on Jul 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ownerrim, I checked back on the thread I think you meant, and GG quotes the "Don't participate in link schemes designed...." guideline and states that it still holds true.

As someone mentioned in the thread, clear as mud...



11:29 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

neuron, that was a great post


12:07 pm on Jul 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Mods seem to have mopped-up here, was there blood on the floor?


7:08 pm on Jul 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

this place doesn't need any blood to get a good mopping


10:55 pm on Jul 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

If it's a legitimate ad they shouldn't, but, doesn't mean that they wont. Something like "Click here for Blah, Blah, Blah" is legitimate ad in my opinion.

Keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword,
Keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, Keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword,
Keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword,

on the bottom on the pages seems fishy.


3:20 am on Jul 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm surprised at the amount of requests I've had lately from websites that would like to advertise on my site. I had not been selling advertising, but since they were 'on topic' I went ahead and did it.

The way I see it, it is not much different than Adsense except I get the money upfront. I also view it as a good return for the work I did to get my sites traffic where it is.

I would recommend checking out the websites you will be linking to just to be safe.



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