I think it is mostly the timing of these events that make this particular recipe of irony so compelling. I mean, they both do have merit on their own, but when viewed together a certain cosmic sense of “wtf” is inspired within. For me, anyways.
Event the First:
Matt Cutts announces that Google is now encouraging fellow webmasters to snitch upon one another about the use of text link ads (either buying or selling) via the Authenticated Spam Report found in Google’s Webmaster console
This raises all sorts of controversy in the community, having to do with a combination of issues. Among these are the facts that he calls “paid text links” spam, and that he asks webmasters to rat one another out about what is decidedly a gray area, rather than a black and white one. There are many reasons to buy text links on another site. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the practice (much like the sister practice of exchanging links) completely pre-dates Google as a search engine, or Sergy and Brin even conceiving of using it as the basis of an algorithm in the first place.
Hey guys, we have this great idea! Since y’all like to link to each other, we decided to build a search engine using those links as votes! Whoever gets the most links, wins!
Do us a favor though, will ya? Don’t try and cheat on this one, k? Stop linking to each other unless we say it’s allowed.
Thanks! You guys are swell!
Now, let’s set that aside for the nonce, and take a quick look at:
Event the Second:
It comes to light that lumped in with a recent Google acquisition is a company that offers, among other things, Search Engine Optimization services:
Via Doubleclick, Google Is Now An SEO
Well, ok. Package deal, that’s all fine and dandy. Sure, might be slight conflict of interest in there somewhere, but since we all know that Google will do no evil, we can all sleep soundly knowing that they will sort it out in the end. In the meantime, however, we do get the chance to really relish in a wee bit of irony.
I was poking around the website of this newly acquired company, Performics, when I come across their list of client sites:
As I looked at the list, I recognized some of the companies. I used to do work in the same field as a couple of them. That’s when it suddenly dawns on me: I first discovered how well buying text link ads can help improve your rankings by studying these same companies linking patterns! Unbelievable!
I checked a couple, and it turns out that they still appear to be using the same tactics, and they still appear to be working. Now, I’m not saying that Performics is the company that arranged these text link ads to be purchased, because obviously there is no way to know that. However, I checked a few on the list, and on a couple of the ones I checked they do seem to be doing the same thing. For instance, doing a check of Full Spectrum Lending’s links, we find this page on Forbes website:
Forbes » Lifestyle » Real Estate
On this page, near the bottom right, we do indeed find a link:
<a href=”http://www.fullspectrumlending.com” style=”font-weight: bold; font-size: 8pt; color: #003399; font-family: Verdana; background-color: white; text-decoration: none; padding: 0px”>Refinance Home Loan</a>
According to Matt Cutts, there is one glaring omission in this link that would otherwise make it on the up and up:
If you want to sell a link, you should at least provide machine-readable disclosure for paid links by making your link in a way that doesn’t affect search engines… You could also use the rel=nofollow attribute.
I guess the people at Forbes forgot to read Matt’s blog that day. Now, if Full Spectrum didn’t actually rank for this phrase, perhaps that would be one thing, but they do indeed appear in the top 20 for it when I checked, suggesting that this is in fact a likely reason for buying ads with that anchor text.
With another client, Answer Financial, I dug around a little bit, and found what is obviously your standard link exchange page:
Checking a couple of the links, I do indeed find some reciprocity (although perhaps Answer Financial should check those pages more, some links lead to dead sites altogether). Answer links to a UK based company called Loan Finder 4U, who in turn links back to them on their links pages:
Now, do not get me wrong, in my opinion neither company is doing anything heinous or repulsive, it is Google that seems to be taking this stance. Which is, of course, what makes the discovery that Googles newly acquired SEO clients are participating in purchasing text links completely ironic, and funny as hell to boot.
11 thoughts on “Google Owns SEO Company Whose Top Clients Use Text Link Ads To Improve Rankings”
Interesting to say the least……and a bit of “Do as I say, not as I do?”
SEO’s will learn to start using other systems out there like LinkXL.com that place organic links untraceable by the engines in the content of website.
i just read about this because i was looking for a company to help with my seo campaign… im not sure how to respond to it other than if you cant beat them join them… so im going to price out how much it will cost for them to setup an seo campaign for my real estate website…
a) Technically Google doesn’t actually recommend any particular SEO firm over another (I saw your referral search phrase), but yeah, I would think one of their own companies might be the way to go. 😀
b) I would really, really like to know how they do, if you do hire them. Would you mind keeping us updated on that?
Goolge is not all-knowing and all-seeing. The main problem with taxt-link-ads is that publishers don’t have enough power over the links that are published to ensure that only quality, relevent sites are linked to. Google wants for publishers to only pass a pr vote to an advertiser if they have actually reviewed and approved the site they are linksing to. Text-link-ads takes this part of the ‘voting’ out of the picture.
Actually, no, that’s not true. Google insists that webmasters are not bright enough to review and judge whether or not advertisers are worthy of link juice. If money is involved then the advertiser must be crappy, and no link juice should be passed. Read this:
Matt Cutts: Industry Leaders Are Incapable Of Performing Editorial Discretion
That’s purely speculation, and I don’t see how it states anyting contrary to what I’ve said. In fact, Google has said repeatedly that paid links are acceptable, as long as they are very carefully selected, and as long as the intent is not solely to manipulate PR. Purchasing and publishing links to quality, related sites for the purpose of traffic is perfectly acceptable. For example, Google’s toleration of the yahoo paid link directory. Not all links are accepted, even if you pay. yahoo makes sure that each link they publish is to a high quality site with original content. You don’t see a bunch of sites in there who’s main or only purpose is to get people to click on ads. That’s becuase those sites are rejected by yahoo. Google approves of this practice, and therefore yahoo isn’t penalized.
Google has never said anything of the sort. Matt Cutts has come right and said that if a link is sold it should not be passing PageRank, period. Please tell me where you think it was that you saw differently.
Buying your way to the top is horrible. Especially since those doing it tend to have really horrible and even spammy websites.
This was a very interesting article…thanks for sharing
What about the Farmer Update (Panda update)? Now they are saying Page Rank means nothing??? Google is almost Big Brother now!