Google’s Chasing Its Tail

Author: | Posted in Google 3 Comments

I’ve already written one rant against Google’s attempt to eradicate paid links. However, as I read Jim Boykin’s “Can Google Find and Spank your Paid Links?” article, I had a bit of an “Ah Hah!” moment. I suddenly realized that Google has embarked down a road that has no end. Their massive effort to identify and root out paid links can never achieve the goal they’ve set. There is simply no way Google can stop the paid link market that they’ve created. Matt Cutts and the rest of the engineers at the ‘plex will spend a lot of time, and expend a ton of effort, but they’ll never get anywhere. In a sense, they’re chasing their tail and here’s why.

Let’s suppose for a moment that Google succeeds in identifying 95% of all paid links. Personally I think that’s a bit generous as links within text, such as my link in the previous paragraph to Jim Boykin’s site, can never be distinguished as paid or free. The internet is built on linking like this and not even a giant the size of Google will be able to tell whether Jim paid me for that link or not. (He didn’t, but then again, even if he did I’d probably say he didn’t.) Still, for the sake of this argument, let’s give Google the benefit of the doubt and imagine that they have identified and devalued 95% of paid links. Now what?

Matt Cutts mentioned that sites that routinely sell links might lose their ability to pass PR. Let’s assume that sites that are no longer allowed to pass PR also don’t pass “link pop” or “link juice”; basically they no longer have any effect on a site’s rankings in the search engines. Is Google going to share that information with the public? Will they tell us which links they believe were paid for or not? Judging by Google’s horrible track record when it comes to transparency I’d guess no. After all, if they did, they’d only alert link buyers and sellers that they have been caught and need to figure out a better, stealthier way to complete their transaction. Basically Google would be educating the public on how to better game the search engine. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that we won’t be seeing that any time soon.

On the other hand, if Google doesn’t tell the public which links they’ve pegged as paid, no one will know Google has actually been successful. If for example I sold links from this site, and Google took away my ability to pass link pop, my clients would never know. They’d continue paying for those links but receiving no benefit other than direct click-through traffic. I’d continue to collect my monthly fee and would be no worse for wear. Google could announce that they’ve solved the paid link problem, and could even provide examples, however there would still be that nagging 5%. People would be able to produce examples of purchased links that still helped their sites’ search engine rankings, and there would still be a demand for paid links. In fact, by cutting down on the number of paid links out there that still passed link pop, Google would inadvertently be placing a premium on the links that manage to stay under the radar. The demand, and consequently the price, of those links would skyrocket. Google would essentially be creating an even more unbalanced system where the site with the most money behind it would have an even greater advantage than they do right now.

As you can see, no matter which path Google chooses, they will never be able to eradicate the paid link market, nor stop purchased links from affecting the search results they serve up. Matt Cutts and Google are making a lot of noise and spending a lot of effort and resources on a task they will never be able to achieve. They’re just chasing their tail.

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  1. Posted by Mark Barrera
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