Cutts On Paid Links, PageRank, Subdomains

The wild debate about Google’s increasingly hardline stance against paid links looks like Wimbledon, with Matt Cutts taking on Rich Skrenta, while Danny Sullivan volleys against Michael Gray.

Internet Drama, in the form of the ongoing paid links debate, received a couple of new entries to fan the flames. Webmasters see paid links as a way to boost their search engine presence against the competition. Google perceives paid links as a mechanism that devalues their core organic search results.

Rich Skrenta posted his stream-of-consciousness thoughts about the paid link debate. He said “PageRank wrecked the web,” a reference to part of Google’s model of weighting search results based on inbound links.

“Links used to be for human navigation,” said Skrenta. “Google made them count for money and they’re ruined now. Nofollow isn’t going to put it back the way it was.”

Cutts answered from the comments, defending Google’s position:

I truly believe any successful system (be it eBay, Amazon, Usenet, Wikipedia, DMOZ, or government spending) will attract people who try to optimize for that system or even game it. When Google came onto the scene with its new way of ranking search results in 1999/2000, it was inevitable that people would try to optimize for Google and link-based reputation.

Tools like rel=nofollow give site owners a method to decide whether to flow PageRank at a link-level of granularity.

Over on Graywolf’s blog, Gray called Google crybabies over the paid links issue.

“The problem is you figured a way to make money off of a link based analysis, and now you’re upset and ridding the waaaaaaaaambulance when other people move in on your cash cow,” said Gray. “You feel like you have some god given right to be the only one who makes money off of it.”

Sullivan answered back in the comments:

If we’re talking crybabies, then include the website owners that have tapped into the PageRank economy and now are upset with the Federal Reserve Of Google has decided to cut interest rates.

Hey, newsflash – Google’s an independent company that at least in the United States has a court-backed decision that says the First Amendment gives it a constitutionally protected right to do whatever the hell it wants with the PageRank meter.

So you built your business around selling ads linked to PageRank, and now you’re upset when Google pulls the plug? Suck it up – the writing’s been on the wall that this WILL happen (not could) since 2003, and all Google has really done is finally made it more visible that many sites selling PageRank weren’t actually passing along credit at all.

The point about Google being an independent company summarizes the whole paid link issue, though we understand it will continue to be a sore spot for many. It’s Google’s game, and they can change the rules. Betting that they would continue to favor outsiders as much as Google favors itself looks like it was a poor wager.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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