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    Google Penalise Paid Links A Restraint of Trade


    I realise there are other threads about this but this is a more specific critique of the issue so i have started a new thread


    Let me say up front i am not a lawyer and i don't sell links - trade em sure sell no never and hate search engine spammers as much as the next guy but i am uneasy about what is happening with this latest call to dob in a paid linker and feel it has the potential to disadvantage legitimate well meaning webmasters in a significant way and may hhave significant legal implications

    In particular i think that Google going after paid links could be construed as a restraint of trade and some of the heavy hitters in the PR / link selling biz could take this as a serious impingement on their ability to trade.

    that is "An action or condition that tends to prevent free competition in business, as the creation of a monopoly or the limiting of a market."

    The logic being the search engine / internet industry has created an environment where having a popular site (however that is defined links / traffic) has value as a product much like newspapers and televison do, hence an owner has the right to trade on a sites popularity.

    if by its algorithm Google or any other search engine gives links into a site weight in its calculations and that by its nature gives a site more value then removing that for a specific site by manual penalty could be seen as constaining that sites value and hence its ability to trade

    if on the other hand it was done algorithmically via some type of filter tripped by a set of conditions on a site i think that would be ok, because this happens all the time, and would feed back into the calculation of a sites relevance to a search query and presumably the set of conditions could be articulated which webmasters could conform to if they don't want a penalty

    but by saying tattle on a paid linker google is saying we (and others) made the conditions which made your site popular and now you cannot trade on that if you are selling that link or someone says you are - whilst it is understood by most SEOs that buying links can influence a sites relevance particularly those links from well themed marque sites and we understand this causes a problem for Google

    and others i think its a fine line to draw because its argueable that many sites will only sell links to relevant quality sites which
    have value to their visitors and presumably search engines and this could be considered a form of quality controlled recommendation

    which has value as a fee for service (eg buying a link) which has value to visitors site owners and search engines - this presumably

    doesn't breach the spirit of Google and other search engine want in the links they spider on the web regardless of whether they sell a link or not.

    take the paid directories (and i don't own one) a booming market for obvious reasons - are these to be penalised as opposed to free directories which may request a reciprocal link or nothing or both - if i owned a paid directory and spent my time reviewing sites and i value my time i would think it not an unreasonable thing to ask for a fee - if that benefits a site in the directory via the google algo

    then so be it its value adding and taking that away because some paid me for my time to review it devalues it - even though it could be argued not penalising the link benefits the search engines and a directories visitors.- google has no real understanding of the motivation of the arrangement, boost in the search engines mere presence in a directory or both the value will be different to different people

    to sum up - i think Google is now treading a very fine line that assumes every site which sells links as a form of illegitimate linking and i think that is an incorrect assumption and could ultimately disadvantage the web as all it will do is drive the search engine manipulators into buying up old sites with some back links restructuring them to create free one way links on a much grander scale than they do now (if thats possible).

    This is an unpaid stream of conscieniousness from a concerned and poor webmaster
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    An interesting perspective anthora. I do not doub't that google will end up in many court cases as time goes on and their decisions affect many people.

    I who are also not a lawyer though do not see how google could be sued if for example it removes a company from its index because that company has broken googles TOS. Google indexes your company for free. But it insists that to reamin in its index you must obey its terms of service. If any organisation decided to freely advertise a site but than chose to remove it because the displayer beleived the company was abusing its rules I cannot see where this would create an issue that the law could do anything about.

    The analogy I would draw would be if a library decided to remove a book from its library because the libraian objected to the content of the book. I cannot see how the author would be able to sue the library.
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    An interesting and thoughtful post, indeed. I think the likelihood of Google ever having a legal issue of this sort is very small, though.

    1. In order to be an unfair business practice, the assumption has to be that web sites have a right to Google PR for links they receive. Without that assumption, Google giving them no PR cannot be infringing on any right. And I think making the argument that any site has such a right will prove unsuccessful. I certainly regret the day that I am wrong about that.

    2. Google has approx. 50% of the search market. A long way from a monopoly. And, they can argue (rightly so, I think) that they won that market share by providing better results, as judged by searchers at large. Further, they can argue that the quality of their results is a result of their rankings methods. Thus, being regulated as to what they can and cannot use for such methods would A. directly harm their business, and B. ultimately harm the market by reducing the quality of Googles search results.

    3. No one can prove that Google even takes paid links into account in its ranking system, and as their ranking methods are pretty clearly covered under trade secret laws, it is unlikely anyone ever will. Look how long big tobacco was able to keep their methods and practices a "secret" even after everyone knew they were deliberately acting in ways that they knew would kill people. It wasn't until an insider testified that they were deliberately, and maliciously making their products more addictive that any significant legal action came to pass. Somehow I don't see complaints like "they didn't give me the PR I deserved" getting much attention in a court of law.

    Still, I'm sure you are not the only one thinking what you're thinking. We will likely see such a suit before too long. I just don't think it will fly.

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    You can run your website in any way that you see fit. Google can not tell you how to run it, nor can the government dictate that as long as you comply with law.

    Just as you run your site as you see fit, Google can run theirs. If you get ranked with traffic it is a generous gift from Google. When you feel that you have "earned" that ranking or traffic then you are thinking too highly of yourself - even if you have done so through considerable time and expense. You have simply figured out how to take advantage of the access that Google leaves open to you.

    You have every right to pursue those rankings and traffic in any way that you see fit as long as you comply with the law. However, you have no right to the rankings and traffic themselves. You get whatever Google decides because it is their search engine and they can run it as they see fit.

    Comments on this post

    • Bazza UK agrees : bang on!
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    Just as you run your site as you see fit, Google can run theirs. If you get ranked with traffic it is a generous gift from Google.
    My sentiments exactly.
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    You are also ignoring the governments role in all this ...

    A post from a couple days before on Matt Cutt's Blog was also revealing ... Google’s quality guidelines are more concerned with the machine-readable aspect of disclosing paid links/posts, but the Federal Trade Commission has said that human-readable disclosure is important too ...
    They may simply be trying to get into compliance.

    Of course the conspiracy folks figure they just want to cut off Yahoo! and bCentral. Maybe they are just going after paid bloggers.
    Last edited by rtchar; Apr 18th, 2007 at 12:43 AM.
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    interesting argument but Google has made it no secret that they were not fond of paid links....
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    I posted the below on another similar thread, but believe it applies here more than there:

    "Google is not saying you cannot buy, sell, or exchange links. Google is saying "have at it". It is just that for Google to place your site/page(s) high on THEIR page(s) of SERPs that they will not count those "advertisements" as links. It is up to each one of us if we want to comply with what Google wants. We can tell Google to go to hell and do what we want (and suffer loses in Google SERPs), or attempt to do whatever Google dictates is required to place high in Google SERPs. Nobody is forcing us... it is our decision as webmasters."
    ...Never mistake activity for achievement...

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    Yahoo Fading Fast


    On the heels of DoubleClick comes the advertising collapse of Yahoo: Yahoo! profits fall as hopes fade for new advertising system (http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2059764,00.html).

    It would appear that Google is quickly becoming just about the only game in town. I, for one, like the money Google helps me make and FOR FREE. I like my Adsense checks AND my major income driven by Google SERPs (all natural backlinks).
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    Rant #2


    thanks for comments guys

    at first i thought, so what, and who cares it won't effect me - but then someone somewhere wrote what about paid directories i thought hmmm this could be tricky in a philosophical way - whilst many directories are developed for paid links and their value is built on the understanding that search engines gives them that value its what many very large sites trade off - yahoo and the like botw etc - yeah you are paying for their intrinsic popularity but you are getting some extra value by getting a link from them presumably in addition to the mere presence in their directory (i think this arguement can also be expanded beyond directories btw) and really many will have the same experience that links in unpaid big directories like dmoz aren't worth the electron they are written with when it comes to traffic

    so i tried to think of some similar situation to make the arguement clearer - here goes

    what if bill gates and microsoft said given recent events we don't like games of violence and goth death metal music (some of us might cheer) and we are going to ban them from microsoft operating systems by adding something to the next windows update of all windows operating systems - its my software we can do what we like - i bet the game industry would go berserk and action would follow

    google and other search engines (there really are only a few) and microsoft are monopolies to some degree - microsoft don't own all the computers but their software controls a lot of them and likewise google etc doesn't run the internet but lots of people use it to find stuff almost as a reflex or brainwashing or clever marketing depending on which conspiracy you adhere to - and there is a huge inertia from users when it comes to search engine usage - users don't move search engines even when there are stuff ups for periods of time and we have all seen that happens - users don't understand the subtleties of search engine engineering and nor do they care - and the result is that for google and microsoft how they do things influences the livelihoods of others because of this control they have and i see that the artbitary penalisation of some sites for paid links is a potentially fraught process without clear definitions as it could lead to big problems for the website concerned - its their monopoly and algo and because of that and they way the internet functions they have created the market for link value - now they want to change that to some degree

    I think that like it or not Google and others have a duty of care given their powerful monopolisitc position not to take action which will unduly harm individuals or companies because of their search engines are incapable of weeding out the scumbags

    it could be construed that this monopoly controls searcher behaviour to a large degree and when they arbitarily decide, based on a some ill defined evidence that some paid non natural links should be penalised they are restraining the tradability of a website when these penalties are applied even though its value is based on a market they created by that monopoly - an obvious question to ask is why are some paid links better than others for example why is a paid link in yahoo more valid than a paid link in a lesser albeit large directory or a well known website - i bet they wouldn't penalise yahoo (go on Serge & Larry do it do it) and who is to say the same degree of effort and quality control isn't applied to the paid links they put on their website - why wouldn't a paid blogger only review sites and are of general interest to their readers (as another example - and i don't do that either) and why should that be penalised

    but what if google turned around and publicly stated we have devalued yahoo links because they sell the links or at least some of them - i am sure some people would only buy links from them because they carry some value and otherwise would not - i would gusess that yahoo would be none too happy though yahoo might say well people buy links because its from us and we don't care but i bet it would effect, even if minutely, their revenue. Who is to say a paid link doesn't have value to the web

    ultimately what Google need to do is define more carefully what is an acceptable paid link and what defines a link purely intended to distort their search engine results - at either end of the spectrum that probably easy but in the middle a pretty grey definition i would think - so this is why i am disturbed about the Matt Cutts call to do in a link buyer / seller - i have always been told by my less algerbraically challenged friends that maths (especially when they are drunk) is the ultimate in logic and expression - its pure man (say it with a geeky slur it is more realistic) - do it with the maths and or clearly define what the problem is - at the moment its more like porn - you know it when you see it the trouble is the religous right (Google) see it differently than a whole bunch of more liberal people.

    i don't normally get too concerned about these things but i do love a good rant but its time i got off that soap box now and someone else have a go - next
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    Originally Posted by anthroa

    ultimately what Google need to do is define more carefully what is an acceptable paid link and what defines a link purely intended to distort their search engine results -

    i don't normally get too concerned about these things but i do love a good rant
    Hey my friend rant away this is one of the reasons i love this forum.. i agree with you completly before google takes any extreme action it needs to clarify in its TOS exactly what it considers a 'paid link fro manipulating it algo'

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