Matt Cutts, If This Paid Link Were A Snake It Would Have Bitten You In The Ass

PageRank for sale. Wednesday TechCrunch posted an article about a new ad product launched by MediaWhiz. The name of the product is InLinks, and it involves people being able to purchase anchor rich text links embedded into content in a way that is supposed to give it a “natural” feel. Michael Arrington called the product “insidious”. His whole take on it was that these new paid links would “be hard for Google to detect”. Quite a bit of discussion followed, sparked in large part by the fact that Matt Cutts chimed in on the matter. What no one seemed to notice, however, is that Matt, who most would naturally think of as an expert in detecting paid links, apparently missed one when it was staring him right in the face… the link that MediaWhiz bought from TechCrunch.

Check the source on the post by Arrington, and sure enough, you will find a nice, clean, non-nofollowed link back to MediaWhiz. I have to give them credit too… it was slick the way they covered their tracks on this one. First, they either purchased some links on a couple of lesser known blogs, namely Deep Jive Interests and Digital Inspiration, or they simply waited for someone to just blog about their new product without being asked. This made it at least somewhat plausible that Michael Arrington just happened to stumble across the release of their new product all on his own. Of course, it also helps that the link sale wasn’t discussed openly on a forum, and that Arrington doesn’t publicly list the cost of a content link on TechCrunch anywhere. No, a link sale like this would have been privately negotiated, behind closed doors and away from prying eyes (and out of the sight of potential Google snitches).

How much would a link like this cost? Probably not cheap. It’s not just the raw link juice that has to be factored into the price, either… it’s also the fact that blogs like TechCrunch are so completely above suspicion. It might not have been an all cash transaction, either… there could have been an expensive meal involved in the negotiations, or perhaps even some barter tossed in.

Do I know for a fact that MediaWhiz purchased that link from TechCrunch? Nope. Then again, neither does Google.

Now, I am sure that many people will be buying floods of new content links from this new service, and of course Google, seeing as they have historical link graphs to compare to, will probably easily spot link growth spikes of a certain level. However, there is no way that they will be able to detect content links like this new service is offering that are obtained stealthily. That doesn’t mean they won’t try. Their attempts to do so will no doubt cause much collateral damage to the rankings (and therefore traffic, and revenue) of many legitimate, quality sites out there. Google, however, doesn’t really care about that. You see, it’s not always about quality for Google. Often times, it’s about appearances.

Somewhere along the line, someone stated that they had PageRank for sale, that for a certain price you could buy higher rankings. One of the higher ups at Google caught wind of this, and thought, “Oh, no, we can’t have that… Google is supposed to be ungameable! This will make us look bad!” Right then and there, the war against paid links was launched… and it’s really not a battle that Google can win. Google cannot stop value passing links from being a commodity. What Google can do is drive up the price of links like this, the ones that truly will pass being manually reviewed. Sure, Google can do a ton of damage to the rankings of a lot of sites, and they might even hit an actual paid link here and there… but that won’t help with relevancy. If this really was a battle that was concerned with quality instead of image, then they wouldn’t care about links that were purchased to quality sites. The whole argument about editorial discretion would then actually mean something.

You know, here’s a thought. If Google quit worrying about whether or not a link was paid, and simply worked more on penalizing for linking out to crappy sites, then eventually people would stop linking out just for money, out of self-preservation. The issue of whether or not paid links lowered the quality of the serps would simply go away. It’s a much more elegant solution, don’t you think?

4 thoughts on “Matt Cutts, If This Paid Link Were A Snake It Would Have Bitten You In The Ass”

  1. But PageRank has an informational bias that leaves AdWords as the commercial links on the SERPs…not going after paid links at all would tilt many organic results toward the commercial space…leaving AdWords ads less appealing to click on.

  2. Who cares about selling paid links and Google penalizing you for doing it. I have sold quite a few myself and I still have Google’s authority in the form of the green bar to- 3. Does Google really know all those links that were bought/sold? I doubt it. So even if this product goes through in the market, who cares?

  3. Fact of the matter to take in to consideration is that MediaWhiz, who ownes TLA, who owns InLinks and ReviewMe Ads and others. They have the strong affiliate and publisher network (not to mention established relationships which Patrick is good at through the industry) to get the press out there for InLinks. You think they didn’t do any deals “off the record” to get the word out? Not to mention that it is a clone of LinkXL.

    We ( have taken the grassroots approach and let the word spread over the past 2 years and earned a loyal following that continues to grow month after month. Google has kept an eye on us and even made personal visits. Our advertisers or publishers have never been penalized. However, in my opinion they see this as a direct competition with their #1 form of revenue. Remember that they have shareholders to report to.

  4. “You think they didn’t do any deals “off the record” to get the word out? Not to mention that it is a clone of LinkXL.”

    Yup, I couldn’t help but notice that techcrunch and seobook etc. didn’t cover LinkXL when you guys launched this. Yea, Aaron and Gavin founded ReviewMe together…but networking be how the world works. But I guess if your business patent goes through than Inlinks will have a fight on its hands with you.

    Let’s see how long before Google infiltrates Inlinks. It is against the TOS of InLinks for a search engine company to use their service or sign up for an account, but the big G doesn’t care about such things. They twist what the FTC says and then does things that they can be held liable for like break the TOS of sites. That’s how they roll.

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