The debate continues to rage on about link buying. Rand posted yesterday that he disagrees with Danny and Google, and Jim Boykin adds his comments early this morning. Clearly there is a lot of confusion over this. So here we go again … in this post, I will try to put forth what I believe the Google position is. Note that I am not a Google representative, so this is simply my interpretation of what I have heard.
Google wants to value a link for it’s editorial value.
This is the essential point in all of their logic. Editorial input by third party web sites is at the heart of all ranking algorithms (I believe that this applies to the other search engines as well). There are certain types of links that do not pass editorial value:
- Purchased links
- Reciprocal links that are traded without regard to relevance
- Links from domains known to be untrustworthy (or perhaps even links from domains that are not yet trusted)
Danny, in his comments in Rand’s blog, argues, with some merit, that Google is trying to put a genie back in the bottle. People are out there buying links, and it’s a fact of life. It’s also true that there are links that you can buy that are “under the radar” that Google will not detect.
But let’s return to the essential value proposition of Google’s search engine. Their goal is to offer the highest quality search results on the planet, bar none. Links offered on an editorial basis are used as a voting system to find the sites most likely to answer a question relevant to a user’s search query. Note that an essential part of this process is the relevance of the links to the query, and the relevance of the content on the page to the user’s query. That said, links carrying editorial value are at the heart of their algorithm.
While the genie may be out of the bottle, don’t expect Google, or any other search engine for that matter, to relent on this point. It’s about the core value proposition of their search engines. Having the most relevant results can equate to increases in market share. A drop in relevance can lower their market share. Purchased links are seen as a threat to their business.
These directories all have published policies where they can reject any submission, even though you have already paid them, and your money is non-refundable. In addition, they can take your listing and put it wherever they want, even if it differs from your suggested location. Thirdly, they are seen as businesses whose basic value proposition is centered around the quality of their editorial process.
This results, again, in our opinion, on these cases being a scenario acceptable to the search engines for purchasing links. This is notably distinct from lower quality directories that have not earned the trust of the search engines for the quality of their editorial team (note: my list above is not meant to be a complete list of “trusted” directories).
I don’t think that the search engines will offer up any other scenarios that they consider acceptable. They are running multi-billion dollar businesses that depend on their algorithms, and purchased links just don’t fit into that.