Jason Calacanis: Screw You Google, Now I’ll Sell Links Too

By now Google has to be getting more than a little embarrassed about the behavior of Mr. Jason Calacanis and his site, Mahalo.com. Aaron Wall did a very well written piece explaining how Mahalo Makes Black Look White and the spammy techniques they were employing. This isn’t the first time Aaron has blogged about Mahalo either, and talked about exactly how this makes Google look bad. For those who might not know, I have also been blogging about this recently.

While Google will ban smaller websites from their search results or from AdSense on a whim, usually it takes heavier coverage for bigger players to get hit. Like, for instance, when Google Blogoscoped outed BMW for spammy doorway pages. The story spread relatively fast, and Google wound up banning BMW for a short period of time. So when someone has a “special” relationship with Google, as Jason appears to have, and keeps getting second (and third, and fourth, and fifth…) chances to clean up their act, yet continues to snub their nose in Google’s general direction, it makes one wonder. Google has to be at least somewhat concerned that someone in the mainstream media will eventually notice and start to ask why someone like Jason would continually be allowed to get away with this stuff. Considering the unfairness and lack of impartiality of letting a site like Mahalo slide while punishing so many smaller sites for lesser offenses, my guess is that Google doesn’t actually want to discuss their reasons behind ignoring it. And so, each time Google does nothing, Jason decides to push things a little more.

This time it looks like Jason has decided to go ahead and violate the rules closest to Matt Cutts heart. While the layout I am showing here will change with time, since the header contains rotating articles, currently if you go to Mahalo at the top of every page (on the non-Answers side, anyways) you will see the following block of stories that Mahalo is highlighting (usually this area contains trending or hot news items):


(Click to enlarge)


While technically speaking just by looking at them there is nothing to distinguish one of those “featured stories” from another, the one that doesn’t actually belong is the third one in, with the caption “Best Pickup Line Ever?”. The reason that one is different from all the rest is simple… it’s not a Mahalo featured story at all, and has nothing to do with anything going on in the news. It’s an ad. It is a paid link that Mahalo.com sold, one that leads to a site built to market a wine company. There is nothing visual to distinguish or disclose that as an ad, and if we view the source of the page…


Wheres the nofollow...?
(Click to enlarge)


… we can see that there is nothing machine readable (ie. nofollow attribute) to distinguish it as an ad, either.

Matt Cutts has been very, very clear on his take on sites that sell links that pass PageRank, or ones that don’t disclose that they are in fact ads: they are spamming. No if, ands, or buts about it, they deserve to get punished. In fact, he has even gone to far to state that in his view undisclosed paid links violate FTC guidelines.

So, Matt, recently you put out a call for link spam reports, including “paid links that pass PageRank”. Really, though, is there any point in reporting Mahalo to you? Are you going to actually take action, or, like you have done with Jason’s spam in the past, will you continue to simply look the other way? Any other site would be faced with a penalize/ban first, make nice nice with Google later. Hell, with the BMW site you penalized them after they cleaned it up, just to make an example. I get the strangest feeling, though, that won’t happen with Mahalo…

Can you at least say something about this issue…?

Update: in response to a comment below and a question posed by Matt Cutts about what makes me believe that this is indeed a paid link:

The Mahalo Paid Link Evidence Trail.

13 thoughts on “Jason Calacanis: Screw You Google, Now I’ll Sell Links Too”

  1. Oh Jason Calacanis, imagine you are but one solider with a rifle facing a platoon with machine guns..

    Taking person attack shots at one of us or only addressing one us that did not fully bring up points probably will not work anymore..

    Stop pulling the Zuck move of taking the easy way out an do some work to solve these issues and points.

  2. That wine site runs a white label version of mahalo answers. The links are probably not paid for, instead Jason is sending some traffic their way so the community grows.

    Not much different from what many major sites do for partners.

  3. I don’t really understand this whole thing aside from the fact that an ad is masquerading as a ‘hot topic’. Page Ranking, in my mind, and passing on authorative link backs is what this whole thing is about no? How else do you get good ranking if you cannot find appropriate sites to link to and from? I would like to order a nice bottle of Red Malaho 1996 thanks 🙂

  4. Dude,

    Could you get you head any further up MAtt Cutt’s ass if you tried?

    Why don’t you remove your internet Sherrifs badge and let google worry about whose spammy and whose not. Perhaps they could even build like an Algorithm to do it?

    Jesus Christ you people…

  5. I dont care how you put it, or what other sites do, you have to disclose that its an ad, if any of us did that we will get banned or sued. Mahalo gets away with many things, the funny thing is that they are trying to become bigger then google thats their goal.
    How can you beat google if they are the ones accounting for most of your traffic? and any ways whats innovative about mahalo.

  6. So if this “ad” as you call it is really a question/answer site, yes, sponsored by a wine company, but nevertheless, populated by Mahalo member/contributors who get paid to work there, is that still spam? That “paid ad” as you call it is a question that a Mahalo contributor posted, just like the questions that are posted on the Mahalo site. It’s not an ad. It’s a link to a question on a question/answer site. You’re misrepresenting this entire thing so badly, I can’t even believe it. You should be ashamed.

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