Most of the search world is buzzing about the rumors of a possible Yahoo/Microsoft merger. Obviously such a move would be HUGE news, however, I figure if there is going to actually be fire to go with today’s smoke, I’ll have plenty of time to weigh in and cover it. Deals this big take a lot of time and frankly, I am trying not to get my hopes up. That being said, Tamar, over at Search Engine Roundtable, highlighted a very interesting interview with Google’s Adam Lasnik. The interview of course, centered around the issue of paid links and the no follow tag. Allow me to highlight a couple of sections that immediately jumped off the screen for me.
Eric Enge: It seems to me that one of the more challenging aspects of all of this is that people have gotten really good at buying a link that show no indication that they are purchased.
Adam Lasnik: Yes and no, actually. One of the things I think Matt has commented about in his blog; it’s what we joking refer to as famous last words, which is “well, I have come up with a way to buy links that is completely undetectable”.
As people have pointed out, Google buys advertising, and a lot of other great sites engage in both the buying and selling of advertising. There is no problem with that whatsoever. The problem is that we’ve seen quite a bit of buying and selling for the very clear purpose of transferring PageRank. […]
Two, taking a step back, our goal is not to catch one hundred percent of paid links. It’s to try to address the egregious behavior of buying and selling the links that focus on the passing of PageRank. That type of behavior is a lot more readily identifiable then I think people give us credit for.
That last paragraph to me, speaks volumes. Google readily admits it won’t catch all paid links. Of course we all knew that and that should come as no surprise, however, the followig statement caught me a bit off guard. So wait, buying links is accepted as long as the intent isn’t to transfer page rank? After all they aren’t trying to catch 100% of paid links, just the “egregious” ones that are focused on PageRank. Does it sound like he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth to anyone else?
Then of course we’re given the healthy dose of FUD that we’ve all come to expect whenever a Google employee speaks. “Beware the great and powerful Google! We know a lot more than you think we do!” At this point, Adam, that’s not really saying much. However, if you geniuses can easily identify the behavior you’re targeting, then why try and turn webmasters into fear motivated informants? If you can already identify people buying and selling links for the “egregious” purpose of passing PageRank why have you and Matt Cutts spent so much time talking about this issue? Why have you had to resort to fear mongering and a bastardization of the “spam” reports? Just to make annoyed webmasters feel like they’ve been of some help? Give me a break.
Obviously I was less than impressed with Lasnik’s responses already, however this next exchange took the cake.
Eric Enge: What about the whole Nofollow business that people are upset about? Is Nofollow something that you still want people to use, and in what situations?
The emphasis is mine but I wanted to be sure you caught it. In that one half sentence, Google is declaring how links should be used across the internet. If you don’t comply with their desires, watch out. They might not be gunning for you now, but it’s only a matter of time. WTF? Maybe I’m just too riled up, or maybe I’m way too biased against Google already (both fair points) but for crying out loud, they aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they want to be the ones deciding how the internet works. Rather than tweaking their algorithm to improve their search results, they’ve decided to tweak the internet to fit their algorithm! What if I want to link to a site that I think is horrible? What if I wanted to link to a blog that I think is pure propaganda? Should I use the nofollow tag to do that? Here’s a news flash for you Google, the internet was around a long time before you were. People have been linking to other sites since the second website went up and even you aren’t powerful enough to change the way the web works.
To top it off, and hopefully allow my blood pressure to return to a normal level, I’d like to point out that paid links are votes for a site and should be treated as such. Just like CBS wouldn’t allow a hard core porn website to advertise on their programming, webmasters aren’t going to allow sites to purchase links from them unless they are willing to vouch for those sites. Granted, some sites have lower standards for their advertising than others but isn’t that the way voting is supposed to work? Each person decides for themselves what standards to apply and then they vote. Tiger Woods gets paid millions to endorse Nike, but do you think he’d endorse them if their product were crap? Every time I place a link on one of my sites, my reputation is put on the line. If I link to a site that rips people off, I’ve got to answer for that. Both my credibility and my site would suffer for that. So, if what Google says is true, and they just want links to be votes for sites, then they should immediately end their crusade against paid links. Often times paid links are put through even more scrutiny than the flippant “Hey, check out this crazy site” type links.