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Report paid links - new in Google Webmaster Tools


Oliver Henniges

9:19 am on Jun 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This morning I discovered a new tool on the frontpage of my webmaster central account -- Report paid links.

When has this one been added? I only take a look at my sitemap-account every few days. What are the consequences?

[edited by: tedster at 4:53 pm (utc) on June 13, 2007]
[edit reason] remove secure https url [/edit]


2:00 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

That Google now wants snitches in addition to Matt Cutts webspam team simply shows, that their algo concept doesn't work.

It doesn't prove that at all. It merely suggests that Google is eager to have data on paid sites for QC purposes (e.g., for confirming what Matt Cutts & Co. already suspect and for "training" Google's black box).

If you don't like the idea of reporting paid links, don't do it. Nobody is being required to "snitch" (which is a good thing, since most of us aren't paying any attention to who is or isn't buying and selling links).


2:36 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Buying a banner is nothing more than a legitimate form of advertising. Same is true of many types of text links. Is that going to hurt us? If so, should we stop advertising our sites for fear that we may upset the web's number 1 search service?

Yeah, itís just wrong Ė no doubt there... Google are the only ones that can sell links now?

I spend several hundred $ per day on Adwords, and Iím not allowed to purchase a $100 banner here or a $50 year long link there?

I could understand if Google didnít sell links.

I canít abide one group, in one company, in one city, in one state, in one country making up the rules for the rest of the worldwide internet.


2:49 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I could understand if Google didnít sell links.

1) If you're referring to AdWords, those aren't plain-vanilla HTML text links, and they don't transfer PageRank.

2) Matt Cutts has said that Webmasters can sell links without running afoul of Google's guidelines, as long as those links don't transfer PageRank. (Surely you've heard of the "nofollow" attribute and JavaScript?)

3) If you don't care about getting free traffic from Google, you can simply ignore Google's guidelines. But it's naive to think that you can bite the hand that feeds you without getting bitten back.


2:51 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It's not the form, rather it's the substance that concerns me.

Google feeds itself - very well - its not there to feed me.

Or is it actually webmasters that feed Google?


3:13 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Like anything else, there could be a lot of collateral damage from this. While Google may try to stop the big guys but it might also hurt that work-at-home lady who sells home-made dolls and bought a link or two from a related website hoping to get some traffic her way. Her business might die due to this while the big guys will outsmart Google.


3:44 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Or is it actually webmasters that feed Google?

Not the kind of Webmasters who buy and sell links. Do users really care if one of several weather sites stop passing PageRank, or if widget-seller-number-5731.com disappears from the SERPs?


4:24 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, you can have a lot of discussions also on what is the definition of payment.

If you compensate an incoming link with an outgoing link from your sites, isn't it a way to pay (reward) a service?

Or by payment they intend "brutal reward in good currency"?

There are many way to reward a favour (i.e. an incoming link).

If there is a link on the official website of an Embassy of my Government, and that link is directed towards a business competing with me on the market (a profit institution) and this cannot be hosted there, can I report this as "paid this with bribes as Embassies should not supposed to host links to commercial sites or else, to host links to all the commercial entities of that industry?"

Also: excluding the obvious cases of websites set up for the unique purposes of selling links (come on you cannot ask the name of them to me, there are a lot of sites like this and their names are public) how do you discover a paid link if not via an investigation of the "contract" which might well be hidden or not published, or not public or simply not said?

In any case, there should be a "trial" for every case as my sites that have thousands of spontaneous incoming links cannot be penalized, not even for one or two only links, simply because an evil competitor will like to damage my business and Google will have to automatically believe their declarations.

"Hei, GiulioRapetti's website is benefiting from paid links: he's linked from the site Widgets.com and he paid 300 euros for this!"

Ok, what can Google do in this case if not asking Widgets.com's owners?

Unless Widgets.com's site has a clear public policy on their pages stating "you can publish a link on my site by paying me #*$! euros/dollars" of course Mr. Widgets.com's sitre owner will reply to Google "no no I'm not doing this"... as he/she will have all the interest in protecting this "now illegal" source of revenues...

As I can't believe that Google will blindly believe anyone's statement , there will have to be a very deep and difficult investigation behind it. Which is somethign that will make sense (in terms of time spent) only if we are talking about big and a few sites.

If this is an activity to be done on tens of thousands of cases, I think that we, honest spontaneous linked sites, are all in danger or at least exposed to sabotage...


5:03 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I think google should devise its own internal system for valuing and ranking websites,

The impact of its actions , its utterances, however carefully phrased clearly have a real impact on a lot of our collegues

Oliver Henniges

5:13 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

A link that is bought as an advert is OK, a link that that is bought to manipulate ranking is not.
In my sector the links I have a problem with are those that have been bought en mass to manipulate the PR part of Googleís algorithm. The sites buying these links are low quality and should not be ranked where they are.

How can Google tell what was the motivation behind a link? In many cases it must be impossible.

You are certainly right in principle from an ethical point of view, but I doubt it is google's intention to dive down that deep to the level of splitting hairs.

From the very beginning Brin and Page preferred the scalable, algorithmic approach. So besides some occasional manipulation by hand, the result of the set of sites reported will primarily be used to develop some very abstract structures in addition to the existing algo, which should help to improve overall search-quality.

Most of us look at the SERPs from our very own frog-perspective and of course it is quite bitter, if one's quality site doesn't receive the ranking it deserves. But we should not forget what it basically means to "bring order" to the information contained in presumably more than 20 billion web-pages, with millions of webmasters trying to fool the algo or hack the databases.

Google's only advantage in this game is the bird-perspective over structural relationships between websites, which none of us can have. This was brought into form by the page-rank concept from the very beginning, and I assume that quite a number of other statistical patterns have been destilled and added to the algo meanwhile. The data gathered from these reports will only be another brick in the wall.

I think googles quality guidelines are relatively clear. Broadly. They are unclear as to the DOs and DON'Ts of dancing the cutting edge of SEO, and in contrast to many webmasters in here I find this quite natural and would never expect the googlers to 'clarify' those issues.

In general, the algo works amazingly fine, considering the mass of data available. Now we have three tools to report cases where we think the algo is inappropriate:

A1) Report Spam
A2) Report paid links
B1) Send a reinclusion request.

I expect B2 will be a tool to report quality-links to our own sites that don't yet show up in our webmaster-central backlink-statistics (or maybe even links you do NOT want to see there?).

Oliver Henniges

5:23 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Besides: I just took a look at my webmaster central: I found the number of backlinks in that statistic is much lower than a few days ago, and a brief look revealed that some obscure scraper sites seem to NOT show up any more.

Amazing, how fast the reports seem to have had impact.

I also found some backlinks from my own newsgroups-postings listed. This is also new, I always thought these wouldn't count anyways.

Anyone else observing changes there?

This 40 message thread spans 2 pages: 40

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