Paid links, as far as Google is concerned its spam, and as any good search engine should do, Google plans to stem this so called evil in the bud, only problem is how does Google differentiate between a genuine link, and a paid link? Surely unless Google opens up the site, and assess without a doubt that the link was paid for, they cannot count the link as a paid link. Only problem then is how does Google know without a doubt that the link was paid? Do they subpoena the website’s financial records and see if in fact they have actually received a payment for the link? A little bit of a problem wouldn’t you agree?
But before I go into further discussion into what Google is doing to get rid of paid links, let me just first give a brief description of what paid links really are. A paid link as many search engine optimizers define it, is a link that does not constitute part of any directory service, and is a link that would other wise have not pointed to a website, unless the recipient paid for the link. Still confused?
Lets take the example of a website that has a page rank 7 and a website that has a page rank 0. Lets also assume that an SEO firm has analysed that a link from the page rank 7 site will benefit the page rank 0 site, only problem is that the page rank 7 site has no reason to offer the page rank 0 site a link, unless of course the page rank 0 site paid for the link, what I have just mentioned is in totality a paid link. Sure directories are also paid links, only thing is that a link from a directory makes sense, as an online directory is supposed to store links to websites, and store these links in various meaningful categories.
So getting back to the point I started the topic off with, how does Google figure out which link is paid, and which one is a genuine link? Well so far Google is relying heavily on people reporting competitors for buying paid links, any webmaster can log into Google webmasters and can report a paid link, by clicking on the report spam link, and putting the word “paidlink” (all one word), in the subject line; the webmaster can then enter a brief description of the paid link he wants to report with the URL and Google will ‘look’ into the matter.
The second and the AI (artificial intelligence) method is the Google paid links algorithm, designed to actually assess the genuineness of a link based on the relevance of the link. Google scouts the internet, and analyses the nature of all the links it encounters, it then calculates the probability of the link being a paid link, the criteria and the exact method that Google algorithm uses is not known, and like so many of Google’s algorithms we might never know how the algorithm is working. However we do know that Google has developed an algorithm to find paid links, and also that Google is actively looking to webmasters to report suspected paid links.
The new Google paid links algorithm, is not just targeted at paid links, it has been designed to take care of some of the many black hat methods that search engine optimizers have been using over the years, this includes hidden links, or back door links. The verdict on this aspect of the Google paid links algorithm is unanimous, webmasters and search engine optimizers alike agree, that it was high time Google cracked down on stuff like hidden links, and back door links. However the next section of this article will explain why the Google paid links algorithm is believed to be fundamentally flawed in its approach.
Criticism of the Google paid links algorithm
The first and the most basic thing to remember is that a paid link is not in any way different from a Google adwords advertisement, just like Google ads rewards users for displaying their text ads similarly; instead of using Google adwords a webmaster can go directly to a website and offer them money to place his text ad on their website. The purpose of the above mentioned link could be to increase page rank, or it could be a relevant site and the advertisement could be genuine. However the Google page rank algorithm will actually see such a link as a paid link, and if reported this link will not be counted as a valid link for link building or page rank calculation. The above mentioned case is a very strong argument against the Google paid links algorithm, and many search engine optimizers believe that Google is only against paid links, because it is taking away their advertising base.
Another criticism of the Google paid links algorithm is that like most of Google’s algorithms there is no mention of how to avoid being wrongly listed for buying / selling paid links. If for example a company has actually got a text based advertisement on their site, and they do use the rel=nofollow property on the link, does that mean the paid link is OK? Well apparently most search engine optimizers believe this little act will save the website some future trouble with the algorithm, another suggestion is that websites should clearly state that the link pointing outward is an advertisement or is a paid link. Eventually as is the case with most Google related changes, only time will tell if the measures mentioned earlier are effective or not.
Another talking point among most search engine optimizers is that Google is actually opening the door for future chaos and anarchy. If one search engine optimizer can actually report another for paid links, what stops the first from falsely reporting the second too? So far there has been no report of Google actually giving a webmaster a slap on the wrist for falsely reporting a false paid link, and for good reason; if Google were to start reprimanding webmasters and search engine optimizers who are reporting false links, then genuine webmaster will think twice before reporting a paid link. Also there is the rather underhand trick of company A buying paid links to company B and then reporting that company B is using paid links. What does Google do in that case?
With so much criticism and overall confusion surrounding the Google paid links algorithm, surely Google will come up with a system sometime soon that is more transparent and works much more efficiently than the one that is currently in place. After all Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil”.