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

Back in April 2006, I coined the term "pagerank assassination" a prediction that described the act of trying to sink a competitor's high rank in Google. It's taken six years and a major algorithm change but it's now possible to do exactly that. We now have negative SEO.

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.

Negative SEO will quickly become a war of attrition that no one can win if everyone does it. The only losers are the ones that don't do it.

Killing the hyperlink...

The hyperlink, that simple yet tremendously important, fundamental building block of the world wide web is under threat because of Google's new policies.

There's now very little incentive for anyone to link to other sites, and all types of risks if you do. Consider this: If Google determines that the site you've linked to is spam-like in any way, you might be tainted as selling paid-for links -- which is forbidden by Google.

Or, if you enjoy a high rank from Google because other sites have linked to you for pure reasons, but now those sites are measured by Panda to be low quality, you could be in trouble.

You can see how this would kill the hyperlink -- it becomes a very risky thing to do.

Measuring 'quality' by algorithm...

The kicker in all of this is that Panda is atrocious at measuring the quality of content.

I've met with several publishers who have been pulling their hair out trying to figure why their post-Panda rankings plummeted, while scrapers that copied their content, now rank higher.

There are probably tens of thousands of stories, in many forums, of small online business saying that the Panda update, resulted in them losing a third or more of their revenues overnight, and having to fire people.

Panda, and Google's preferential treatment of big brands, has had the effect of a mushroom cloud in terms of the destructive impact on small businesses. This comes at a time of high unemployment in the US where national and local governments are searching for ways to encourage small business growth.

[Aaron Wall at SEOBook has been doing an excellent job in covering Google's big brand focused strategy at the expense of small businesses.]

Damned by association...

A low rank from Panda doesn't mean you are operating a spam web site or trying to deceive Google. But because Panda can't distinguish original content from copied content, or truly measure quality, you could be judged guilty anyway.

If you get a link from another site, even one that you know is a good, high quality reference, it now carries a risk to you. You might ask the web site to take it down because Panda might have judged the linking site to be poor quality, or it might do so in the future.

The hyperlink is in danger because you can be damned if you create a link out to others, and damned if others link to you.

You might even get sued in the future for linking to another site! Boing Boing recently published this post: 

SEO company rep says it's illegal to link to his clients' websites

Also, even if all's well with all your links today, that's not true tomorrow. A future algorithm change could put you in peril from all your legacy links elsewhere.

The only good hyperlink is...

It's a brilliant business strategy by Google [$GOOG] because it makes all hyperlinks potentially toxic. All hyperlinks, that is, except those provided by Google.


Please see:

PageRank assassination and other nefarious acts of competitive online warfare | ZDNet

Big Brands As Media Companies - Google Makes It Possible, Destroys Jobs - SVW

Out&About: Media Masses At Googleplex And Why I don't hate Google... - SVW

Google's Search For Quality... And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance - SVW


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.