Why Google wants tattletales on paid links. Why they are completely wrong.
In the beginning, there were links.
Hyperlinks, to be precise. Search engines that searched the Web for you did not provide anything close to a useful result. The best way to find a good site was to follow links to get there.
Nearly every site had a favorite links page.
Often, this was the first page you went to. Unless the site you were at already had what you were looking for. If not, you followed the favorite links on each page till you found what you were looking for. Or, at least something interesting. It was called surfing the web. Oddly enough, if you are into Web 2.0, you seem to need a toolbar for this now.
Since there was no penalty for having too many links on a page (Google does not seem to like you to have too many on a page -it might seem spamy), webmasters would add any link that seemed good.
Because, they wanted to. Of course, if they did not think the site was good, they did not link to it. It did not really matter if the link was relative to their site, as long as the webmaster felt it was good, it went up. There was no penalty for providing good links (or even bad ones) as long as the webmaster felt it was good.
One day, a couple brilliant people decided to try to categorize links.
Yahoo! was born. The first "portal." Looking for information on a subject? Yahoo was a great place to start. Just find the section of Yahoo on your subject and you would find a list of Websites related to it. Most of them were fairly good too. Those sites also had favorite links on them, just in case you did not find exactly what you needed.
Search engines started to show better results.
It may take a few pages of spam sites or unrelated subjects, but you could find something useful. They kept getting better too. Instead of relying on metatags, they started to pay attention to the page itself and other factors to judge relevancy. The only real trouble was spam sites that were not what they said they were in the search engines.
You could type in a search and many of the top search results were simply worthless.
Clicking on the link often took you to a page that did not have what was supposed to be there. Even a search for children’s subjects could turn up porn spam. If you were lucky, it at least was not porn. Often, several links went to the same spam site. Most search engine sites also had directory listings in case you grew tired of sifting through spam results.
Almost overnight, Google appeared.
Here was a search engine that seemed to have eliminated much of the spam. It gave fantastic relevant results. it seemed to find anything you wanted. Suddenly, the Internet seemed much more useful. Since Google seemed to like Web pages with relevant content, content was what you got when you click on a link in the results. It was simply amazing.
Of course, there are always those that will figure out a way to misuse a system. Yep, there was still spam. Cloaked sites look like content sites to Google, but what the reader saw was something not related to what the listing stated. But, the Company Whose Motto Was "Do no evil," made changes and improvements that kept spam relatively in check.
But something has happened that promoted one of Google’s own to make the following statement:
One thing I heard at SES London was that people wanted a way to report paid links specifically. I’d like to get a few paid link reports anyway because I’m excited about trying some ideas here at Google to augment our existing algorithms. Google may provide a special form for paid link reports at some point, but in the mean time, here’s a couple of ways that anyone can use to report paid links:
What could cause a Google employee to make such a statement?
Is Google asking for tattletales? Why would anyone need to get paid for linking? Why would it matter to Google if a link is paid for or not? What does Google consider a paid link anyways?
There are really two things that have created much of the current spam problems:
Adsense and Pagerank are the primary motivators behind most link spam schemes.
Take them away, and nearly all comment spam stops. Link spam is a way to get Pagerank and get listed high in Google. Adsense is the primary method that link spammers make money on spam sites.
So, are paid links really that evil?
I’ll discuss that in Part Two of this series. I’ll also try to answer many of the questions above. I’ll also add a whole new can of worms to the mix.