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December 15, 2005

Is Google’s algorithm working against them?

A large debate has sprung up on the Internet between Jeremy Zawodny and Matt Cutts on the practice of selling links. In a post by Zawodny, he has discussed the many ways he has attempted to profit from his popular blog. It seems the latest is by selling sponsored links to clients who also benefit by receiving a piece of his well-ranked site with a PR8. It seems that Cutts had no objections until it came to the practice of selling sponsored links outside of the large advertisers such as Google. Recently Google has been altering their algorithm to fight against the purchase of links by penalizing sites that purchase links to gain a higher page rank. There also seems to be a different issue that must be addressed. Google itself makes the majority of its revenue by selling ads through its contextual advertising program, Adsense. The issue at hand is whether Google can really start penalizing sites for selling links, because this is what Google itself is doing when it plasters Adsense all over the Internet. It seems as if they deem themselves the Internet authority so everyone must play by their rules or else suffer at their hands while they don’t have to abide by any rules themselves. Google is attempting to influence these link sellers to use the rel="nofollow” attribute in order to prevent the passing of page rank. This leads to the question of for whom websites are created for….Should programmers focus all efforts on making Google happy or design for the benefit of the reader as well as the company who owns the site. It seems as if Google is attempting to force its rules on all web developers and punish people for practices that have been common since the introduction of the Internet. Matt Cutts seems to take the argument that Google should be allowed to down-rank pages such as Zawodny’s for selling links if they choose to do so. How fair is it to punish a site with some of the most relevant information just because people are willing to pay for links from such a popular site? It seems as if Google, by putting such a strong emphasis on page ranks may be causing some problems that may not have been foreseen and are now coming to the forefront of discussion. Also, it seems that Google may be worried that webmasters may take the selling of ads into their own hands and stray away from the use of one of Google’s cash cows – Adsense. I would like to say however that I do think that some standard should be created to prevent spammy sites from attaining high PRs in order to just gain a buck, but punishing everyone who sells links even when they have relevant content just doesn't seem to be fair. Google should be VERY careful in deciding how to attack this issue as I predict that an algorithm change in the near future may be focused on this issue.

On a side note, it seems that Matt Cutts had been linking to Zawodny's site and not using a "nofollow" tag. After Cutts' comments on this topic, the links have now been changed to include this reference or removed all together. Removing PR benefits from a non-paid link? Hmm....can't everyone do this and essentially eliminate the whole idea behind page rank?

Ahh.....the things we do to make Google happy.

-Mark Barrera
The MasterLink Group, Inc
Search Engine Marketing Services

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