Google to the world wide web: 'All your links are belong to us!'

Google to the world wide web: 'All your links are belong to us!'

Summary: It sure looks like CEO Larry Page wants to own the hyperlink -- and boost $GOOG's revenues into the stratosphere.

TOPICS: Google

There is something extraordinary taking place. Google's war on spam sites is tipping the online world upside down and now threatens that most fundamental element of the world wide web: the hyperlink.

There is a mass erasure of links happening right now and Google is helping with tools!

The communications lines are the spider's silk but it's the links that make the structure of the web. But because of Google's battle with spammers, the hyperlink could disappear in its current form, and become a commercial product that's bought and sold, instead of earned fair and square.

Let me explain:

When I ran into Matt Cutts, head of Google's web spam team, at the company's most recent Christmas party, he said that Google would start paying more attention to sites that had lots of links from low quality content sites. Because that would be a signal that there was search engine optimization (SEO) at work, which means those links were likely paid for, in a bid to deceive Google.

It made sense since Google's Panda algorithm, (a major rewrite of its core algorithm launched in early 2011) now had a measure of the "quality" of each page in its index.

Prior to this, Google was measuring the number of links coming into a site, and how many links were going to the referring sites. A link coming from a high ranked site was valued by Google as an important signal and it would raise the "pagerank" of a web site.

SEO's two-edged sword...

This became a weakness in Google's algorithm and huge numbers of sites tried to game Google. A massive SEO industry arose, which exploited hyperlinks and other chinks in Google's algorithm. Creating high ranked web sites for a particular service or product, could often be as simple as buying large numbers of links from other high ranked web sites, that are themselves created by other sites, etc.

These sites would often be disguised by populating pages with low quality content.

Google found it hard to distinguish between legitimate, original content on a site, and the spam, low quality web sites -- until the Panda update.

Panda now gives Google a measure of the quality of a web site. This means it can identify the fake, spam sites, created to link out to others, and it can punish the web sites that are receiving those links, because it's likely those links were bought and used to deceive Google.

Too much SEO = Deceit...

If you are deceitful, you are not trustworthy, therefore Google will sink your listing to the bottom of its search results.

It's a great method to shakeout all those businesses that have tried to trick Google -- you change the rules around links -- and all those companies that tried to game the system are neatly exposed.

What used to be best practices for ensuring a high Google rank: lots of links from lots of other sites, has now turned into a massive marker pointing to an over-optimized, deceitful site.

Unravelling the web, erasing masses of hyperlinks...

This is why there's an accelerating rush to erase hyperlinks. The world wide web is being unravelled. And Google is helping this unraveling, and helping the erasure of millions of links, by sending out warnings to web sites that they have questionable links pointing to them.

Danny Sullivan, a leading search engine expert, writing at MarketingLand:

"...publishers probably understand that links are important, but many of them probably really don’t understand what a mess the link situation is."

He notes that some sites are receiving legal letters to erase links while some directories are charging others for not linking.

Pagerank assassins...

Topic: Google

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  • If Google Lowers The Quality Of Its Own Search Results ...

    ... why should users continue to depend on it?
  • Just play it in reverse...

    So now I can knock a competitors site off of Google by just blasting it with a bunch of links from crappy sites?
    • Yes

      It's called Black Hat SEO and already in practice.
  • Excellent reporting

    I had read about this in bits and pieces, but this is a nicely researched and put together.
  • I think you're reading too much into this

    Google has long tweaked its search engine algorithms in an effort to deter this sort of trickery. This appears to be yet another effort to punish strategic website design. If so, we can expect every effort to avoid punishing employment of hyperlinks that actually benefits end users.

    From the headline, I was afraid that Google might have turned into a patent troll.
    John L. Ries
  • Are these 'scraping' sites legal?

    If legitimate sites are being outranked by 'scrapers' who just copy their content, wouldn't it make more sense to put a stop to 'scraping'? Launching yet another attempt to outsmart SEO without improving the underlying architecture of the web seems unlikely to work.
    • Not really

      It's not really legal... Technically, with other Google updates "Duplicate Content" is penalized. However, the degree of this pentalty is often questioned because of the ease in manipulating the system such as changing time stamps and being indexed before the original content.
  • nice roundup but

    Google isn't trying to destroy links as a whole or enable negative SEO tactics which have existed for a long time but generally aren't effective over time. Google is trying to harvest data on bad actors and bad links using scare tactics. The link warning mails actively encourage sites to rat themselves out. Many sites will do so, and often (justifiably) blame an SEO agency or a paid linking service for links that they know are bad.

    Google can them deindex these agencies and comb through the services that are reported by many sites and devalue them and their inventory.

    This is a tactic to get a crowdsourced signal for bad links and directly harm the SEO agency world which has plenty of shady characters in it. Who's going to hire an SEO agency that doesn't show up in Google (like this one which was dinged outside of an algo update: )?

    As for negative SEO as a tactic to kill competitors, when is the last time you have seen a major site (ebay, amazon or down the chain to a site such as dropbox or etsy) disappear from rankings overnight unrelated to a major algorithm change. Rarely if never. You would expect stories about massive rankings drops all the time if negative SEO was really a thing. It probably only matters in second tier niches where quality is harder to determine, like gambling and adult sites.
    • Negative SEO

      to justanotherseo...

      Negative SEO is simply SEO in reverse. i.e. a Spam Report is negative SEO because instead of "optimizing" content to move UP in SEARCH, you move it DOWN. i.e. negative instead of positive... promoting a brand's facebook page, twitter account, etc.. is positive SEO.. and it MOVES other things DOWN, i.e. bad reviews, etc.. THAT IS NEGATIVE SEO.

      Competitor's are NEVER involved.. that would be unethical... what you are speaking of is a negative link bomb which we have been doing since the late 90's.

      Please do your homework. Thanks...

      Sorry.. Tom... this negative thing has gotten out of hand... would love to tell you how and why people are so clueless about it... but supposedly would kill puppies by putting bullet points in the slideshow.. anyways.. back to your question.. =)

      Tom.. you and @seocopy asked me to comment...

      1. good article.. as usual.. few reporters besides you and @chapman actually ask.. Thanks.
      2. I don't DO linkbuilding for SEO.. it's just not worth the risk..
      3. i've been doing SEO for approx. 18 years.. (AOL bulletin search - nightclub event promotion - SEE "paisley")
      4. I work on fortune 500 clients and unless i am willing to stick my neck out to monitor everywhere i have a link, it's not a good use of my time. (i.e. link site becomes pr0n site overnight.. business client no longer shows up in Google Safe Search.. they lose MILLIONS, so.. no.. i dont do link building)
      5. Links occur naturally for good content.. you can use good content to do negative seo on weak link-boosted content all day long...
      6. And... also.. SEE "LINK SCHEMES" -
      7. SEE.. Paid Links -
      8. have NEVER used nofollow and will always request client remove them immediately or we stop work on search and halt any work we do.. yes we take this seriously..
      9. our clients have stockholders... and i'm not going to be the one that violated Google webmaster Guidelines and exposed my company or the client to liability.

      Provide the most relevant result for the user's query.

      Do this instead of Links....
      Hyper target long tail keywords that scale authority based on Google's index and user signal data for broad terms... works every time....

      Sorry.. would talk more but hope that helps.. must go put my time in for one of the Fortune 5 clients i was doing keyword input on nocturnally while i was speaking @searchexchange..

      Tom.. feel free to reach out and call if you need to.. always here to help you wade thru the misinformation in SEO... =)

  • re: negative seo

    Steve, what you are talking about could also be called rep management. Different than what I'm trying to respond to in many cases. Pushing content down for "company x sucks" or "company x" from competitive domains is different than pushing amazon off page 1 for "digital cameras".

    From the article:

    "Here's how it works: You pay for thousands of links on low quality web sites to point to your competitor. Google thinks they are spamming its index and sinks them like a rock."

    This claim is unfounded. People certainly try do this, but there's no evidence I've seen that it works on a large scale. Please provide one documented example of a major site being sunk by negative SEO (besides an algo shift like the one that sunk mahalo) to prove me wrong.
    • negative seo

      "what you are talking about could also be called rep management. Different than what I'm trying to respond to in many cases. Pushing content down for "company x sucks" or "company x" from competitive domains is different than pushing amazon off page 1 for "digital cameras"."

      There is your example... pushing content down for company x sucks.. aka.. negative seo...

      thanks for illustrating my point.

      Have a nice day.


      • re

        There's not much skill in owning brand terms when you are the brand. Counter my other example.