Google’s Line is Just Too Thin

4 Feb

Last month, Jim Boykin wrote a great post about where he tries to determine where Google draws the paid links line. In the discussion at Sphinn, even Matt Cutts joined in to leave a comment, but he also wasn’t able to make the line clear. Well, after seeing something like this, it’s getting more and more clear to me that it’s not possible for Google to draw a line anywhere.

The paid link line (what’s a paid link and what isn’t) is so thin, that one single sentence could be enough to cross it. Notice that last line in the post at ProBlogger (“We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible. May the best comment win“)? This sentence could be interpreted as “write about this site at your blog and share your comments”, or as (what I think was intended) “leave a comment below in the comment section”. See the line here? Neither do I… Would that be paying for a review or is it just encouraging comments? On the other hand, if someone reviewed the website on his or her blog, but didn’t win the 5,000 visitors, would the link in the review still be a paid link? And what if Skellie offered 500 SU-visitors for the first ten people who drop a comment?

Although I think that it was Skellie’s intention to just simply request feedback, I’m sure that not everybody (like the first commenter) will see it this way. If even trained readers (yes, I consider online money making bloggers to be pretty Google-trained) can’t see the difference, how the heck is Google’s algorithm going to do this? Like others have said before, the paid links aren’t the problem, but it’s the algorithm that relies on them.

4 Responses to “Google’s Line is Just Too Thin”

  1. Gyutae Park February 5, 2008 at 2:37 am #

    Hey Wiep,
    I definitely think you’re right in that there is a fine line between a paid link and an editorial link in many cases. Google simply is not able to distinguish one from the other and this whole controversy is just a way for them to put their foot down and scare webmasters from manipulating their rankings via links. It’s really nothing to be afraid of unless your site comes under heavy scrutiny.

  2. Demerzel February 5, 2008 at 6:21 am #

    Touche and extremely well said. People definitely tend to overestimate Google’s algorithm and turn that into a fear of not doing anything whatsoever.

  3. Andy Beard February 5, 2008 at 11:14 am #

    I have been thinking Darren was walking a tightrope on the community reviews project for a while, because you have to pay to be included to cover Skellie’s time, but it also goes towards the prizes given to the people leaving comments.
    I haven’t checked the value of the prizes against the amount you are paying, but at the end of the day you pay $250 and get some links.
    Is there a difference between paying money for a community review, and paying money for a review from a blog author?

    If it is how the money is used, I have donated money to plugin authors

    Does it just come down to the payment processor – Paypal is ok, PPP is not

    I Stumbled a great SEO review the other day that was paid for, and currently the site owner hasn’t got a penalty.
    I could easily charge as much or more for a private reivew, but prefer to make my review process public and effectively give a discount for doing so.

  4. Wiep February 5, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    Gyutae; You’re right that Google’s techniques to distinguish a paid link from an editorial is far from ok, but they’re using it nonetheless.

    Andy; Those are some great points! I guess that’s just an indication of how strange and unclear this whole situation is.