Google Caught Selling High PageRank Links, Again & Again

Aug 9th

Google is buying marketshare for Google Checkout by profiling merchants who use it, and giving them free high PageRank links from Google sites.

The Google Checkout blog, currently a PageRank 8 site, recently posted about the success of GolfBalls.com on their blog. Not only does that post provide direct links, one one of the links is a deep link with targeted anchor text.
The blog post about GolfBalls.com contains the following passage:

In addition, Google Checkout helps make it even easier for consumers to find us when they search for items like Titleist Pro V1 Golf Balls by displaying the Google Checkout badge next to our search results.

They talk about searching for an item, and instead point that link at a product page on GolfBalls.com. That is like me telling you to search Google for something then dropping an eBay affiliate link in the post.

If Google does something like that it is a co-brand cross promotion, and all is well. If I do something like that it is an attempt to manipulate Google and/or a spammy link buy.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying I would do it differently than Google is doing it. I would just like to remind Google engineers that they would call me as a spammer if I did the same things they do to make their business model work.

This is a mistake Google has made many times in the past.

How can Google ask webmasters to police paid links then do that kind of crap? What a bunch of hypocritical garbage.

Published: August 9, 2007

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

Comments

August 12, 2007 - 8:41am

Can't believe I'm defending Google, but they're not "trying to police the web" - just their own search results. A nofollow link doesn't mean diddly to any of their users beyond webmasters and SEOs, and if webmasters are stupid enough to start adding them out of some misguided sense of duty or honor, then it's on our heads, not Google's.

But to your point - yeah, the deep link is definitely sketchy :)

August 12, 2007 - 11:53am

We have a saying in Italy: "fai quel che prete dice non quel che prete fa" - I'd translate that as

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.

But then this concept that some are allowed to do as they please or say anything they like is pervasive - I see it every day in blogs, but then we are only SCUM BAGS as you rightfully mentioned just a few days ago in a great post so we really shouldn't get upset ...

T
August 13, 2007 - 5:34pm

Nice!

August 21, 2007 - 5:26am

Ya, this is not surprising. They also give a PR7 link if you buy and use their enterprise server. It's a bit of a shame when they openly frown down upon the buying of links and the services of a company like LinkXL. They were quick to point out that their TOS was stating clearly that it was a no-no, but I guess that they can just call that anchor text for Titleist Golf Balls a case study...?

August 14, 2007 - 1:38am

Now all I need is to site to use Google checkout on.... :)

August 15, 2007 - 4:31am

I really don't see anything wrong with it. It's an editorial link for one of their customers. It's not like the bottom of the blog has 10 links about casinos, dating and making money from home.

August 15, 2007 - 1:30pm

I sorta agree with Reuben. Not like they are actively selling links or anyone with the money can buy it. They only referenced a company that was efficient in selling their own products and using the product.

I doubt the golf company envisioned getting a link from Google, too.

If you think this is a paid link, why not think that any link is paid, because the people with websites usually work for them and spend their time (their own or employer's money) to link to your site. Most likely, after you have spent your time and money on writing the post and socializing with the other people.

Then again, I do think that Google needs to get its head out of its behind and not support nofollow at all. Links are references, not votes. Plenty of people link to sites/products they hate and it'd be hard to call that a vote. Just count the number of times people linked to TrafficPower or some other page abou them to show the scam.

August 15, 2007 - 1:32pm

I guess not supporting nofollow at all is an extreme.

Not telling people how to link should do it, since they are proud of doing everything algorithmically, not manually, anyway.

Practice what you preach, indeed.

Pimp C
August 9, 2007 - 4:49am

Ha - that's hilarious. Google whoring out links like this wouldn't bother me if it weren't for the fact that they are constantly proclaiming from the mountaintop how virtuous they are.

August 9, 2007 - 5:07am

That is totally not fair for Google to do that. I would have thought it was a company policy to make everything they link to a nofollow by default.

Hendy
August 9, 2007 - 5:24am

Make that two links, with targeted anchor text. ;-)

DP
August 9, 2007 - 5:38am

And if that Blog was being run by anyone else would it be PR8 in the first place? Google is out of control and needs to be reigned in. Their "do no evil" is pure BS.

How can a search engine consider its results accurate when a search for any specific domain name can EVER return anything other than that domain if it is a live site?

How can a search engine in 2007 consider its results accurate when "auction" and "auctions" doesn't list ebay on the front page for either search?

August 9, 2007 - 7:28am

Thats not all, check out this PR8 page, no nofollow and not blocked using robots.txt http://www.google.com/checkout/m.html

NickB
August 9, 2007 - 7:37am

Aaron, et al.

First, I want to say that I agree with you guys 100%. What Google is doing is BS.

However, I think that everyone is forgetting something.. And I think that is happens a lot all over the place(web):

- Google is not a public service. They are a private (but publicly held) company.

- It's their SERPS, their results, their little world.. They can do whatever they want. The company belongs to shareholders now, and that means that profit is #1 and everything else is secondary.

- You have to play in their world - it's likely pretty useless to complain. But the post is valuable as a reminder that Google can do whatever they feel like doing.

I'm with you guys - I think it's pretty screwed up the way things are working out with Google... I'm about to launch a new site (retail) and it's going to be a huge uphill battle forever with Google. I think posts like this serve as a reminder though that Google can do pretty much whatever they want.

And what they want is profit.

Everything else is secondary.

August 9, 2007 - 7:42am

Hi NickB
I think your comment forgets the fact that much of Google's authority comes from web publishers.

If Google gained authority under false pretenses and is carving up the web with bogus rules and regulations that they themselves do not follow they deserve to have the brand and traffic knocked back a bit.

If the only thing they care about is money (and unfortunately I think you are right about that) then their hypocrisy needs to get highlighted again and again until it starts costing them money.

August 9, 2007 - 7:57am

Sweet find!

August 9, 2007 - 8:13am

I wonder when there going to give me a link for our contextual links that we sale :).

August 9, 2007 - 9:25am

Little hint without going into the bitching mode:

"This is a mistake Google has made many times in the past."

"many times" are two links linking to the same post and I figured you probably wanted to make that two links...

August 9, 2007 - 9:58am

The only real way to prevent anything like this from happening is to put link condoms onto google links

although can you honestly say google arent going to manually intervene and give itself a PR10 anyway??

What we all need to remember, is google own there web pages, just like we own all of our web pages, they choose (down to a basic business model) to provide links to other websites who they see as beneficial to themselves

The SERPs are simply just autogenerated pages they own based on a algorythm of ther choosing, if they wish to be unfair and pass link juice out to a single retailer through a case study, quite possibly someone who one of the employee's of Google plays golf, or gets his/her supplies from - unfortunately for us it just means we have to work harder.

The only question we need to ask is did money pass hands for the link as a traffic increasing measure or as a pagerank exercise?

August 9, 2007 - 10:08am

The only question we need to ask is did money pass hands for the link as a traffic increasing measure or as a pagerank exercise?

Nathan you sorta missed the point. Since they are using Google Checkout of course money is exchanging hands.

It is not that I hate paid links. I just think that it is so blatantly hypocritical that it is hard to take Google's guidance on link buying as being credible in any way at all.

August 9, 2007 - 10:28am

Its just another way in which Google are breaking their own rules - had several of my clients now being directly approached by Google for SEO work!

looks like they're battening down the hatches and forcing the market into monopolization.

August 9, 2007 - 11:07am

Hey Aaron,

great finding as usual!
Google is just closer to it's own stuff than to us, and obvioulsy they have shown over the past years that they CAN BE EVIL. (and are!)

I appreciate you pointing these out all the time to get rid of the "google is good" meme that spready for a couple years with great success.

cheers
christoph

Matt Keegan
August 9, 2007 - 2:07pm

What strikes me the hardest is that someone like NickB can say that profit comes first and everything else is secondary. Really?? What about integrity? Why do some people give companies a pass when the lift up profits above all else?

When you toss out ethics, everything is fair game. I shudder to think what kind of world we are creating when common business decency is cast to the side.

August 9, 2007 - 2:13pm

Not the first time it happens :)

August 9, 2007 - 2:26pm

Matt - I think you are misreading Nicks comments :)

August 9, 2007 - 4:19pm

How can we prove that google links carry pagerank? Perhaps it's part of the algorithm not to assign as much weight to Google.com links ?

August 9, 2007 - 5:24pm

This is unfair. You cannot buy a link without nofollow, but you can use a Google Product and get a really good one...

Google the nofollow please, follow your own rules.

j
August 9, 2007 - 5:54pm

AMEN.

August 9, 2007 - 8:14pm

Looks like google has market share and selective link share at the price of google check out.

I guess they can do whatever they want and ignore their hipocritical actions.

My girlfreind knows alot about stuff like this. Do what I say not what I do!

Rdiddy
August 9, 2007 - 8:24pm

There is an exception to every Google rule, especially when you are Google.

August 9, 2007 - 10:04pm

I couldn't agree more. It's discouraging to see that Google calls the general public out for "spam", when they themselves are doing the EXACT SAME THING to push one of their products. The double standard kills me...

August 9, 2007 - 10:05pm

Aaron, I think you should nofollow your own link. :) Don't give them any more PR.

Bruce
August 9, 2007 - 10:06pm

I have been reading about this for a week or so. Unfortunately, like most people I don't have the $2000 the link costs.

JB
August 9, 2007 - 10:08pm

What you guys fail to realize is that we use google's free services to find web pages, they make their own rules, who are we to moan and complain how they run things? If someone doesn't like it, then they can just use someone elses search engine, someone elses rules, and someone elses algos.

jeanne
August 9, 2007 - 10:15pm

well it is frustrating when someone writes an Adwords success story basically kissing google's behind, and moves from obscurity to number 1.

August 9, 2007 - 10:23pm

What you guys fail to realize is that we use google's free services to find web pages, they make their own rules, who are we to moan and complain how they run things?

What you fail to realize is that Google doesn't just try to run their own website. They try policing the web, creating policies about who can link where and how. And when they don't follow their own rules neither should anyone else.

Also worth noting once again that if Google penalizes any of your sites there is likely an AdSense site that stole all of your content ranking where you once did. If Google wants to rank things on an ethics scale where does them promoting that financial relationship rank?

August 9, 2007 - 11:33pm

Good point Aaron

Nate
August 9, 2007 - 11:38pm

I contacted Google about this earlier in the year. They assured me that links from all of the Google Checkout pages (in particular http://www.google.com/checkout/m.html) do not pass any link love to merchants. I'm unsure if the blog is treated differently, however, as it's a separate subdomain.

August 9, 2007 - 11:50pm

Perfect example of why people still buy links...its a business model that works. Google like it or not has to agree with it. You can't play the ethical card either. I built a great site and am willing to sell a piece of it to others. Whats the problem?

August 9, 2007 - 11:51pm

It's about talking out both sides of their mouths and claiming they only have one single message. Out the one side is how they expect everybody else to maintain an ethical standard; from the other side, however, they are behaving in ways that suits themselves and no longer an altruistic cause. And we must not forget that the ethics they now preach are not for what you and I might agree was right or wrong, rather what is simply going to create profit for themselves. In other words, their decisions benefit them. They are not interested in other motivations. So the dollar now leads Google instead of how it used to be -- wherever Google went, the dollar usually followed. Now, when the dollar speaks, Google listens. The dollar sends them this direction, they follow. So the idea of Google holding to any form of ethics, other than the dollar's voice, is now just a mirage.

August 10, 2007 - 12:02am

What bothers me some is the fact that if we did the same we could get penalized. All I am asking is for some fairness, so I agree with you.

August 10, 2007 - 12:02am

What bothers me some is the fact that if we did the same we could get penalized. All I am asking is for some fairness, so I agree with you.

August 10, 2007 - 12:14am

I think that lately Google have been more and more about making money, the whole linking thing sucks. Glad you spotted this it stinks of collaboration, and as you say if we do it we are called spammers. Read my blog about links where I mention Google creating a spin off industry where people buy links for increased page rank, now they are actually doing it for their clients how corrupt is that?

andrew
August 10, 2007 - 12:28am

This is a great example of why you shouldn't rely on Google (or paid links) for all of your traffic. I just searched "Titleist Pro V1 Golf Balls" on Google and golfballs.com is not in the top 100 results. The real story here is just how far behind in the game Google Checkout is. My guess is a link from Paypal's blog would have got them on page one!

August 10, 2007 - 1:39am

What was the address for reporting paid links again?
:)

Canadian Real Estate
August 10, 2007 - 1:40am

Google can do what ever they want. This is a free market and they are at the top.

Christian
August 10, 2007 - 2:17am

Good observation, DB -- it is really hard to find ebay on google. I guess ebay is not targeting keywords like "auction"? They are right up there if you search for "used electronics" or "collectibles", but I wonder what their search engine strategy actually is?

I think the marketing of Google Checkout customers is completely off base. I was not aware of some of their rules, but now I am less inclined to follow them when it's not necessary. They are not the internet cops.

August 10, 2007 - 3:21am

Aaron, thanks SO much for bringing this to my attention. Talk about hitting close to home! Golfballs.com is actually the #1 competitor of a client of mine (Customlogo.com), though my client doesn't do any retail--primarily larger orders which are, what else, custom logo'ed.

I knew that Golfballs.com was getting a link from the main Checkout merchants page as part of my typical competitive scanning, but like Nate I assumed that this didn't pass any link love. This seems completely separate.

There do seem to be advantages to signing up for many of Google's services (Webmasters, Public Calendars, etc) & I figured that Checkout would have its rewards as well. Just not rewards that go against Google's OWN policy about buying and selling links.

August 18, 2007 - 7:16pm

You should report them!!

M.-J. Taylor
August 10, 2007 - 4:25pm

I am sorry, I just cannot see your point. The closest voice of Reason is NickB who at least recognizes that it is Google's prerogative to set whatever rules it likes.

I don't think Google using an example of a client site is hypocritical or the same thing at all as selling links for PR.

Google wasn't suggesting you search, and then throwing in a link ... it is selling its Checkout product and demonstrating a benefit. How many checkout clients have benefitted in this horribly unfair way?

If Adwords carried PR, I would have to agree with the point, but a few examples of how Google Checkout works does not a hypocriite make. Now that would be apples to apples. But all I hear are sour grapes.

If you examine what Google is really trying to do when it discourages paid links for PR, it is trying to serve results that will keep the web users using Google. It's trying to deliver a good product. And so far, it's the best search engine the web has seen.

Do I wish Google would leave paid links alone? Sure, that would make my job easier. But it's not going to happen, so I accept 'what is' and move on ...

BTW, I am a big SEOBook fan! Well done!

August 10, 2007 - 4:54pm

it is selling its Checkout product and demonstrating a benefit.

They didn't need to put a keyword rich deeplink in the post. If they wouldn't have done that I wouldn't have mentioned it. That Titleist Pro V1 Golf Balls

idiotmachine
August 10, 2007 - 10:44pm

Noah went through all the trouble to build the ark. He had every right to get onboard.

December 12, 2007 - 5:06pm

I think this actually might be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. I'm sure managers with the shopping product are knowingly gaming their own tool. There's no escaping the big black hole that is Google - everyone, even internally has to play the game.

November 23, 2008 - 11:50am

Any idea on how much those high PR cost? I know I spend many hours beyond the actual web design just trying to contribute quality information to various blog just hoping to get a quality link out of it.

October 6, 2012 - 9:59pm

In romanian is translated: Fa ce zice popa, nu ce face popa

On topic: if their motto was "Be evil" no one would bothered about this isue

September 13, 2007 - 6:42am

"I really don't see anything wrong with it" . Yeah , me too .

swiss

December 23, 2007 - 11:52pm

i never sold a link from my site ucables.com, but this summer i put a link to my new girlffriend website about real estate: ibizaloft.com to help her to get some traffic and from october i lost my pagerank from 5 to 0.
i have send some messages to google to reconsider my site, but i have not received any response after 2 months. My traffic decreased 20% and continue decreasing. I have removed this link already from my site.
I think google should try at least to contact with owner before to do this type of action.
Why not decrease rank of payed links from adsense too?
Some years ago, when google was created we love google because, all service that offers was free, and contributed to the original internet spirit to share all, with easy and simple way.
As in the real life google is corrupted and bad directed for the money.
Sorry my bad english i hope you can understand me.

Happy Xmas!

May 2, 2008 - 1:32pm

I know how frustrating it is with Google saying one thing and doing another, but shoot, they are really really good.

For example, I just watched one of the YouTube videos about Googles new A/B split testing software, which probably would cost thousands of dollars, but is free.

So for as many times as I want to send them nasty email, they turn around and hand me more great free stuff..

oh well.

May 26, 2008 - 2:19pm

Google maybe make some bad stuff sometimes, also my site yaguza.com had page rank of 3 and now without any changing become 0 but how we can live without them ;)

June 16, 2008 - 3:26am

hahah ya now if only i used google checkout

July 27, 2008 - 1:02am

haha awesome job google

August 4, 2008 - 8:03pm

Good point, often some internet businesses take a "holier than thou" attitude while often doing the same things themselves. As soon as a website makes it big, they immediately start dissing others and taking a moral superiority posture. Needless to say they do it because they can. But the lifespan of computer businesses is relatively short so today someone is on top, tomorrow someone else.

September 19, 2008 - 8:12am

Yeah any corporation with a name like "do no evil" is clearly run by a bunch of commies from Berkeley.

The biggest hypocrites are the left wingers who want to tell you how to live your life and what to do, while they send their kids to private schools, private health care, drive SUV's, private jets, spam and sell adwords, and penalize us for doing the same thing.

Think about it, Oprah, Gore, Etc. Private jets anyone?

December 26, 2008 - 5:45pm

Yeah...I have no money to buy high pagerank links..I am a student..Also you have fantastic seo methods..
Best regards..

February 4, 2009 - 11:34pm

Thanks, interesting comments. Hey, if they promote their cart, I wouldn't see why they couldn't do it any way they see fit. Wouldn't you? Regarding buying the PR link? I'd be surprised if they paid anything for the link - nothing against a free link, right?

February 5, 2009 - 5:01am

No the links were not free. They were issued to business partners for giving Google a piece of their revenues (and customer information).

If they are doing something and then telling the rest of webmasters that they are spammers for *doing the exact same thing* then they should...

  • be called out on it
  • be viewed as a bunch of hypocritical self promoters
  • not be trusted
November 2, 2009 - 3:37am

Haha this is rediculous.

But google is the leading search engine and nobody is going to stop searching on them because of this. Well at least not enough people to make a difference.

Thanks,
Sean

December 16, 2009 - 8:27pm

Google is very similar to the police in my town it's ok for them to run a red light but if you run a red light you get a ticket!

January 8, 2010 - 8:25am

i used to like google for their products,, but if they are doing like this, then all need to think again..

February 15, 2010 - 4:16am

and here i was thinking they were a fair business. I really am green to the seo world!)

April 16, 2010 - 2:02am

nice post, thanks so much.

mada94382
June 30, 2012 - 7:31pm

I like the post very much, thanks!

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

  • Over 100 training modules, covering topics like: keyword research, link building, site architecture, website monetization, pay per click ads, tracking results, and more.
  • An exclusive interactive community forum
  • Members only videos and tools
  • Additional bonuses - like data spreadsheets, and money saving tips
We love our customers, but more importantly

Our customers love us!






    Email Address
    Pick a Username
    Yes, please send me "7 Days to SEO Success" mini-course (a $57 value) for free.

    Learn More

    We value your privacy. We will not rent or sell your email address.