In what many are calling just a warning volley across the bow of many link-selling sites Google has initiated a penalty of sorts by reducing some sites’ visual PageRank score, one such site is Search Engine Roundtable which provides us proof that their rankings and traffic have not been affected.
Clearly a reduction in PageRank for a site selling links is a signal that Google feels that they are breaking the rules as written in the webmaster guidelines. Regarding link selling they state,
Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:
- Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag
- Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file
Which is a practice that Search Engine Roundtable is not ready to take part in as made evident by Barry Schwartz (rustybrick) in the above linked article,
On a personal note, I trust my sponsors, I value their sponsorships and I couldn’t do what I do without their financial support. Some sponsors can’t afford huge sponsorships, so they sponsor in their ways. It is what enables this site and many other sites to function and operate on a daily basis. I turn down sponsors all the time because they are simply not relevant or useful to my reader. I hand select them and for them to be on my site, means I trust them. Why nofollow someone you trust and want to thank? Is that a slap in their face? Will I have to and will they continue to sponsor? Time will tell.
So we have a site that outwardly sells links, does not want to conform to the webmaster guidelines by marking paid links in the manner in which Google desires, and has been hit with a PageRank reduction. Clearly a signal that the site could be considered not only a rule breaker but a bad neighborhood to be associated with.
In Google’s webmaster’s guidelines it clearly states,
In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
I find it quite ironic then that Google’s very own official blog links to said site which has admittedly broken the rules and publicly been admonished. ( screen shot ) Are they not taking their own advice and linking to a bad neighborhood? This is not the first time Google has talked out of both sides of their mouth. Even during this last wave of anti-link-selling assaults the largest link seller in the land has gotten off scot-free with out any sort of PageRank deduction. Matt Cutts has even come out and said that they are allowed to sell links because they review the links before they publish them and not every one makes it into the directory. If that is the standard to be followed perhaps Barry Schwartz and others like him to accept advertising dollars should just charge for the chance of being listed on his site, add an element of uncertainty to the equation. Maybe then he will get his PageRank back while making more money as he could oversell the advertisements 10 fold. To me that seems highly unethical but for some reason is the only method of linking endorsed by Google without the use of machine only readable declaration of a paid link.
If reducing one’s PageRank for selling links is really a penalty, I would expect Google to do the right thing for their own blogs ranking and not link to such terribly bad neighborhoods (t.i.c.) and will be watching the site as an indicator.
Before anyone get’s upset at me, I’m not calling Barry Schwartz a spammer or even personally think he did anything wrong. The PageRank degrading has been widely published and I am just drawing the connection between what Google says and what they do. I follow Barry on Twitter, his own Cartoon Barry, Search Engine Roundtable, and his contributions on Search Engine Land. He is considered a leader in the industry sector and I value his opinions and expertise. There’s at least 4 links in this article to his properties that are genuine followed editorial links of endorsement, not like the link to the Yahoo! directory which is nofollowed due to their blatant breaking of the rules.