Google’s Crossed the Line on SEO Publicity Stunts

by Jon Cooper
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Some of what you see & hear being penalized by Google is a publicity stunt.

For example, when the blog networks that got deindexed roughly a month ago, only the biggest & most well known ones took a hit. Other smaller networks that you’ve never heard of went on their merry way. I’ve even used a couple for my niche sites during the last few weeks. Of course Penguin did a way with some of them, but nonetheless, at the time those big dogs were being deindexed and as the outcries over “blog networks don’t work anymore!” were everywhere, it was just to send a message. 

But a recent publicity stunt crossed the line, big time. After iAcquire was outed for paid links, their site was deindexed by Google. Although it might be a coincidence or a bug, I see it as just another manual action that is meant to send a message and doesn’t hold any real weight outside of this occurrence.

Except it did something that was way, way worse. It penalized a site that never actually violated their webmaster guidelines. It penalized a site for the services it was performing for its clients, and if they’re going to do this to iAcquire, then they need to do it for every website that offers services that violate its guidelines.

They’d have to start deindexing black hat forums & black hat software providers. They’d have to go down the line on their own results for queries like “link building services” and “link building packages”.

And honestly, it’s a shame, because they honestly think they’ll try & manipulate us into thinking paid links have no place for the Web.

I’m not going to bash Google without giving them a solution, and it’s simple:

Make obvious paid links pass no value.

It completely solves your problem. If paid links won’t work, then we’ll stop spending our money on them. It’s that simple. You don’t have to penalize us for them, you just have to make us look like an idiot for spending our time & resources on these when we could be obtaining white hat links.

And about the obvious part – really, there are so many obvious paid links I see everyday that pass value & work that Google completely misses. From what I’ve seen, the majority of paid links have footprints and are somewhat obvious, and if there any type of paid links that are screaming at us saying they work, then it’s this kind.

The funny part is that you wouldn’t have to come up with that complex of an algorithm to find them & make sure they pass no value. Here are a few obvious signs that would root out a ton of paid links:

  • 10+ exact anchors in the sidebar
  • An edit to a post that only added a link to an existing piece of exact anchor text months after the post was first indexed
  • Exact anchors in sidebars that are completely unrelated & irrelevant
    • Set filter to do this 99.9% of the time for adult, poker, & similarly spammy links
  • 3+ links to the same website in the same post (and if they’re the only links, then it’s even more obvious)

Those are just off the top of my head. There are flaws in a couple of them, but I bet if you spent a few hours working out the kinks, you could figure it out down to the last details.

So in conclusion, Google, stop with the publicity stunts. If you want people to say paid links don’t work, then make them actually not work. Make us go through so many hoops to make them happen that it would be more worthwhile to build white hat links than to pay for these. It’s the only way you’ll be able to win.

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This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 119 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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  1. Jeff says:

    Hey Jon-

    This post kind of got me wondering about paid links and how you mentioned “people who are smart about it.” It seems to me that Google may actually be making a large mistake by doing what they are doing. For instance, there are those of us that realize many paid links still work, and with the growth of semantic search Google is asking us to manipulate anchor text to be unique each time. Well Google, that sounds okay to me, I have no problem using your updates to create the perfect link profile and start using creative ways to work around your ‘publicity’ related attempts to stop spam.

    To me, it has become incredibly obvious what kind of link profile needs to be created, and I can use semantic targeted anchor text to make a final push on any page of any site that fits the right criteria.

    Seems to me they just want the paid links to get more sophisticated and harder to find…

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Agreed Jeff; what they’re doing (or at least should be doing) is trying to make them so sophisticated that it’s more difficult to do them than to do it the way they want things to be done, because honestly, there will always be manipulation in SEO for as long as it’s around.

  2. Bob Jones says:

    I think it’s weird, I mean if this is a manual penalty, why are super obvious sites such as text-link-ads.com still indexed?

  3. Dee SEO Guy says:

    A lot of people say that social signals will continue to become a bigger factor in the ranking algorithm. HELLO, how hard do you think it is to manipulate Facebook Likes and Tweets!

    It’s just as easy as creating link spam…. and even harder for Google to judge if it’s natural or not. What’s next, the Google Puma update? The one that penalizes content for being too popular? LOL

  4. AJ Kohn says:

    I probably won’t win many friends with my opinion but here’s how I see it.

    The Contract Killer
    The grizzled cop finally breaks the husband in interrogation, getting him to confess that, while he had an alibi for the time of the murder, he’d actually hired someone to kill his cheating wife. A commercial break later the cops find out that this contract killer has been quite busy, with a pile of bodies attributed to his work.

    No, I’m not equating buying links to murder. But the idea that you’d simply go after the clients and not the vendor doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    The Speeding Ticket
    You’re pulled over on the side of the road watching the cop slowly walk up to your car. You were speeding and now you’re getting a ticket. As you’re waiting there for what seems like eons for him to write the ticket you notice someone doing well over 90mph whiz past you. Why does he get away with it while you don’t?

    Lots of people speed but the reality is that not everyone gets caught. That’s just the way it is. You often increase your chances of getting caught if you’re in a red car or a fancy sports car. Is that fair? Not really. But the bigger and flashier you are, the easier you are to spot and catch.

    Oh, and just because you think that the speed limit on this road isn’t right or that there should be NO speed limit, it should be like the autobahn and you’ve got a list of reasons why it would be better … it’s still the posted speed limit.

    Now, should Google work harder at identifying paid links? Yes. Do I like some of these suggestions as ways to identify them? Sure do, particularly the second one. But that’s probably tough even for someone with the computing power of Google. And I’m sure that, if implemented, a number of good links would be hit too and the industry would be irate.

  5. Isaac says:

    Yeah Google is really starting to push the boundaries and allot of people don’t like it.

    100% agree on the paid link solution. Some days I think Google is super smart got it all figured out, then some days I think the opposite, they really don’t think about some stuff enough.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. Donna Duncan says:

    If Google wants to master its domain, then like a parent, it needs to be clear about the rules and consistent in their application. Instead, in my opinion, it’s acting like big government and going after Martha Stewart to make a statement.

    Thanks Jon, for a thought provoking and stimulating discussion.

  7. I am not sure whats going on. I see every update by Google every now and then in last 60 days. Really, doing seo has become quite hard for me.

  8. BrewSEO says:

    RE:… “An edit to a post that only added a link to an existing piece of exact anchor text months after the post was first indexed:

    Google already does this. Editing an article after it’s been idle for a long time, doesn’t usually pass a lot of link juice. When Google re-crawls the page, it looks at what % of the text is new, if 99% of the page is the same, then the link doesn’t pass very much (I think exactly how much link juice depends on the authority of the site) link juice.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      You’re correct, but they’re still passing enough juice that people are still paying for them. I’ve been asked 3-4 times now in the past month on a couple of my sites for a link to be exactly that, and seeing that as I’m getting more requests, it must be working for them.

  9. philip says:

    “An edit to a post that only added a link to an existing piece of exact anchor text months after the post was first indexed”

    would be a hard one as there are all sorts of reasons for pages to get updated. Just take for example… the testimonials page… there are probaly trillions more…

  10. Jake says:

    Competition is needed. But it should be healthy. Cheap publicity stunts should be avoided at any cost.
    Whatever be the news, I am still a big fan of GOOGLE

  11. David Crader says:

    Paid links are also against FTC guidelines if not enclosed that they are paid. Though, the FTC isn’t specific about where your enclosed statement needs to be (hidden in privacy policy should be ok). So, this isn’t just Google’s rule – it’s the governments to a certain extent.

    IMO – iAquire deserved to be punished. They bought links which clearly violates Google’s guidelines. If a lawyer represents you in court after you tell them you committed the crime in private – they go to jail. The lawyer is supposed to know the law – that’s why you go to them. iAquire is supposed to know Google’s policies – that’s why customers go to them (not entirely, but you get the point).

    Interesting point on de-indexing sites like BlackHatWorld.com for providing link manipulation services. Honestly, Google should. It’s their engine. Rather than get pissed go buy their stock. That’s what I did…. and got my AdWords certification lol. It’s nearly impossible to provide whitehat link building services to clients nowadays.

    I’m guessing this post was a result of our e-mail exchange yesterday. Glad you commented on it. I went through a ‘denial’ phase of whitehat link building being over too… It will pass.

  12. Colin says:

    It can be kind of a headf#@k being more or less a newb, and seeing evidence that these kinds of links hold value, but then hearing over and over again that google will be/is penalizing for them…so this was an great read
    Either way I think anyone who could have pages of content like THIS relevant to their niche would be in a pretty damn good spot. Tons of great insight here as always thanks Jon and everybody else!

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