21 Reasons Why Anti-Nofollow SEOs Can’t Think Straight
Paid link buyers and sellers are nothing but black hat spammers (though you’ll never catch me saying spamming is right or wrong - to quote Vlad from Max Payne 2, “you have to do what you have to do.“). Now I’m hearing alot of regurgitation going on, so I compiled a list of 21 major compelling (and not so compelling) anti-Google-paid-link-policy objections I came across on the Net in the last few days.
And the nominees are…
- Google, you’re just trying to make more money on Adwords.
Rebuttal: Just because I make money on a product doesn’t take away from the value of my product. You’re gonna tell me Sony’s evil because it doesn’t make PS3s for free?
- Innocent sites will get penalized if Google guesses wrong or if a site owner isn’t familiar with Google’s Guidelines.
Rebuttal: None. This is a fair point and Google needs to address it.
- It’s Google’s own fault for building a link-dependent algo.
Rebuttal: There’s no way Google can judge the quality or accuracy of content on a page unless they build a machine that can read and think. News flash - We’re not there yet. Google HAS to rely on links. There’s no way around it. You might bash NASA for not being able to build space colonies, but I got no respect for armchair quarterbacks that don’t even understand the game.
- There’s no other way for some niche sites to link build.
Rebuttal: Graywolf argues against people “who don’t think linkbaiting can be used to their boring clients such as carpet cleaners, when I came up with five ideas in less than 15 minutes.” Porn is one tough niche to crack because no one links for free, but other niches in comparison aren’t so tough. Is no one linking to you? Maybe your website isn’t offering anything new or valuable.
- Google is telling webmasters to build for search engines, not for people.
Rebuttal: Have we all forgotten that Matt Cutts said build for both search engines and people?. Now I agree rel=nofollow is building for search engines. Absolutely. Most users won’t even know its there. So we’re stuck in a grey area. But so what? Building for search engines is what SEOs have always done. Why do you pay $10,000 a month for links that send you 2 hits a day? Why do you waste hours writing unique META description tags? Why do you charge $600 an hour for SEO services? To improve usability? Gimme a break. And if you really have issues with building for search engines, maybe its time you quit your profession, because SEO isn’t about content building.
- Paid links are whiter than other spam tactics like cloaking or hidden text, so why doesn’t Google go after more nefarious tactics first?
Rebuttal: Who says Google isn’t working on a solution for better cloak detection? If you assumed paid links is the only thing Google’s spam team is working on, you assumed wrong.
- Small site owners who make a living off selling links will go broke. You don’t wanna see them get evicted or something, do you Matt?
Rebuttal: You’re making a living off contributing to spam and my heart should bleed because … why? Find something better to do with your websites.
- This is all FUD. Google is lousy at paid link detection.
Rebuttal: Yeah, some of it is FUD. If Google could detect paid links, they wouldn’t need site owners to tag paid links with nofollow; they’d just auto devalue paid links without all this media hype and move on. And for easy-to-detect links (can you say Text Link Ads?) they probably already do. If a big chunk of your paid links are automated or above the radar, this isn’t FUD. You are fucked. If all your paid links are contextual, relevant, and point to high quality sites, then yeah, its FUD.
- Most links involve some sort of compensation, even if money doesn’t exchange hands.
Rebuttal: Compensation isn’t the problem. Even marriage is a kind of a trade. I get to have sex every night with a beautiful wife in exchange for providing a roof over her head, helping her make babies, and giving her money to buy expensive jewelry and clothes. Ok so did she marry me for my money or did she marry me because she loves me? Compensation is a non-issue; almost everything in life is a trade. It’s the intent that’s in question.
- I aint’ worried. Some paid links are impossible to detect.
Rebuttal: Yeah, some individual links are undetectable. But many aren’t that hard to detect. And if Google detects a pattern of manipulative intent, your entire IBLs will become suspect.
- Google, you’re not being realistic. You can’t expect dishonest people to behave honestly.
Rebuttal: None. Google needs to find a completely automated paid link detection method that doesn’t depend on people’s good will. Rule breakers will always break rules. From that POV, nofollow doesn’t work.
- Google makes money off link sellers like Text Link Ads by letting them run Google ads.
Rebuttal: Google’s out to make money like everyone else. Besides, don’t blame Google’s Spam Team for what Google’s Adwords people do. They’re two completely different breeds of people.
- Pay Per Action doesn’t offer disclosure until you mouseover.
Rebuttal: Big deal.
- Reporting paid links is snitching.
Rebuttal: Spam Report’s been available to the public for years, and most people (except Sugarrae) have used it at least once. You’ve even bitched about Googlers not acting on your spam reports fast enough (34 million results? Wow). So why the sudden uproar? There’s no bad karma in filing a spam report on a spammer. If you buy links, yeah, that makes you a spammer. But why worry? Googlers go out of its way not to manually penalize sites because manual bans don’t scale. That means hours of tweaking and testing before you see any spammer get penalized. As for “paidlinks” report, Google doesn’t even have a working algo in place yet. So why are you panicking?
- Matt, be clearer about what’s a paid link and what isn’t. How about charities that links to a list of donors. Are those paid links?
Rebuttal: None. Even though some links are obviously paid for, others aren’t so obvious. Google needs to clearly define what constitutes paid and what doesn’t.
- You can damage your competitor by buying links to his site then reporting those links to Google.
Rebuttal: Google is running a beta test on an algorithm that targets thousands of sites, not just one particular site. And history says Google punishes link sellers, not buyers. That may change over time (Andy Beal: “Lasnik explains, why penalize hundreds of sites that sell just a single link, when it’s the recipient that is clearly benefiting?”) but I don’t see that day coming anytime soon. This is SEO FUD defense against Google’s FUD - and it ain’t pretty.
- Using paid link reports to spot spam introduces a human factor in Google’s algo.
Rebuttal: According to tedster, a WMW mod, “Google is already using human input to a degree, and they’ve even patented a more scalable method for integrating editorial oversight without needing to rely on it for everything.” I don’t see Google fully automating everything. There are always going to be Google Adwords reviewers, Google Video submission reviewers, people who read spam reports and site reinclusion requests, engineers who think up new algorithms, PHDs that develop new BETA products… Sure, I’m sure Google would like to automate everything, but a human factor isn’t being “introduced” - its always been a factor.
Google, why are you cramming the Ten Commandments down webmasters’ throats?
Rebuttal: Wanna cloak? Keyword spam? Use hidden text? Build doorway pages? Buy links? Go ahead. No one’s stopping ya. Do whatever you want with your site - it’s your site. But when you walk into someone else’s house you respect their rules or you’ll be asked to leave. It’s that simple. I like what Linkmoses said on Matt’s blog:
Ultimately we only have one choice to make. We either follow Google’s reco’s or we don’t. Nobody is forcing anything on us. Like the speed limit, we can -choose- to drive faster, and usually don’t get caught. Like the speed limit, we have no right to act shocked if we are pulled over.
- If a link points to a relevant, quality site then compensation is irrelevant.
Rebuttal: Everyone has a price. Anyone who insists he/she won’t link to a crap site for any amount of money is blowing smoke. If I offered you one million dollars to link to a page that said something really nasty about your mother, you’ll not only link to it but send 10K uniques/day to it using Flash banners and Adbrite.
- Paid links improve search results. Successful companies with quality products and the baddest buying power deserve top rankings.
Rebuttal: Let me introduce to you the players in this game. SEOs: These guys make money off fortune 500 companies who pay them $550/hour to buy up links. Without this tool, SEOs lose their edge. As Rand Fiskin says, “you’d be at a huge competitive disadvantage to your slightly less pointy-white-hat competitor.” Link sellers: these guys live off this monster of a marketplace; they do not want to lose their ability to make thousands of bucks a month on links. Big companies: their ranking depends heavily on paid links - these guys don’t want paid links to go away either. Mom and Pop website owners (yeah, you): you guys are basically screwed. The top 10 spots will be dominated by companies with millions to blow on links and these small website owners can’t compete. The delusion is that every webmaster is made to believe that by buying links, he can someday rank in the top 10, or if not rank at least a few spots higher. The reality is that no matter how much money you spend, if 10 websites outspend you, you’re never gonna show up on the front page. If the 10 richest companies dominate top SERP positions, 99% of you are screwed.
- Google, you made PageRank a commodity by displaying it in the Toolbar.
Rebuttal: Only novice link buyers rely on the toolbar to find potential link sources. I assume Jim Boykin does alot of link buying, but I doubt he ever looks at the toolbar when measuring up a potential buy.
- Google, you’re being hypocritical. You said Yahoo Directory is ok because people pay for the review, not the link. So if someone pays me, I review his/her link, and then add the link to my site, why should I get penalized?
Rebuttal: None. I can’t wrap my head around this one. I understand Google needs expert pages like Yahoo! Directory or DMOZ to calculate topic-dependent authority scores or calculate TrustRank, but to me it sounds like you’re skirting the issue. Alot of people who sell links review and reject link requests.
- Aren’t Adwords and adsense paid links?
Rebuttal: First, Google has no problem with paid links for traffic/advertisement. Get that through your thick skull. Second, neither Adsense nor Adwords pass PageRank. Google’s search pages are disallowed. Notice the line “Disallow:/search”?
- It’s not our job to police the internet..
Rebuttal: Did Matt Cutts offer you money to report paid links? If not, I don’t consider that a job. As for policing the internet, you’re not policing unless you spot a cheater and get him banned. Google isn’t interested in banning anyone. They’re interested in BETA testing their new algorithms. So its more like collecting guinea pigs than playing the town sheriff.
You want to see me try to counter them, right? I might later, but its Monday and I got alot of other stuff to do. *ducks*
For now, here’s my off-the-cuff advice - something you already know. If you’re shopping around for links, buy them under the radar. There are some paid links Google will never be able to detect, but a service like Text Link Ads isn’t one of them. Those links scream “paid links”, and the company is too visible. Assuming Text Link Ads links still carry some juice, they’ll be the first sinking ship among many if Google has its way.
UPDATE: This list is growing by the minute - 24 objections and counting. I updated this post this morning with rebuttals so people like Nick will have something to sink their teeth into.