free html hit counter It's A Bloggin' Smackdown: Jeremy (Yahoo) v. Cutts (Google) - John Battelle's Search Blog

It's A Bloggin' Smackdown: Jeremy (Yahoo) v. Cutts (Google)

By - December 14, 2005

Matt and Jeremy are having a swell disagreement and we all get to watch.

The topic: Selling links.

Jeremy: I’ve experimented with AdSense an YPN in various forms. I’ve tried paid job listings (never worked out, which is a story for another day). I’ve used’s affiliate program. I’ve even tried AdWords. And each time along the way it’s been a useful exercise. Sometimes it works well, other times not. My success rate has been rather mixed so far.

However, my latest test (sponsored links) seems to have stirred the pot a bit. …

I’m a little (but not completely) surprised by this.

Matt: Just to be clear: it’s Jeremy’s site. Of course he can try any experiment he wants (YPN, AdSense, BlogAds, AdBrite, Chitika, Amazon affiliate program, selling links with nofollow, selling links without nofollow, offering flying lessons to the 10,000th visitor, selling pixels, auctioning lemurs, etc.) to make money. Many such experiments cause no problems for search engines. But if a web site does use a technique that can potentially cause issues, it’s understandable that search engines will pursue algorithmic and manual approaches to keep our quality high.

Matt says selling PageRank is wrong. I agree. But arguably Google is penalizing folks who might *appear* to be selling links, as well as folks who might be selling links for perfectly good reasons. This I think is bad. In short, one could argue that Google is penalizing folks who don’t use Google for paid links. The debate rages on….

(Thanks, Joseph…)

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9 thoughts on “It's A Bloggin' Smackdown: Jeremy (Yahoo) v. Cutts (Google)

  1. ///But if a web site does use a technique that can potentially cause issues, it’s understandable that search engines will pursue algorithmic and manual approaches to keep our quality high

    Whatever “issues” a site uses does not mean that the linking site is any LESS RELEVANT for the keywords it is coming up on in the SERPs.

    Why should searchers SEARCH harder than they have to, to find the most relevant listing for their queries. It is not fair to them, also it is eating up unnecessary bandwidth of Google.

    So, the Linking sites should ONLY be judged on how RELEVANT they are for a keyword query.

    The LINKed-TO site is another matter altogether;
    just tweak the ALGOs, so that practices Google feels are distorting the relevancy of potential SERPs are neutralized.

    But the only criteria should be: DOES IT DECREASE THE RELEVANCY!!!

    What difference is it when one has a repectable PageRank – AND LINKS INTERNALLY (thereby transferring the PR to the other Webpages on that site)?

    There is nothing inherently wrong with selling PageRank if a site is reviewed thoroughly and seen as offering a valid service or product,… as opposed to selling blindly to to the highest bidders!!!

    When deciding on policies – the prestige of the site doing the linking should be factored-in.

    A very prestigous site, that need vital income to continue offering HIGH QUALITY, will probably be VERY discriminating about the quality of their links.

    You can not get too much traffic from any site, Except a directory, because WHY WOULD A COMMERCIAL SITE WANT TO HAVE USERS CLICK AWAY TO ANOTHER SITE — So selling the PageRank may be what makes the Text Link buyers spend their cash.

    Text Links are subtile – if you really wanted traffic – would you NOT insists on Flash or DHTML effects to get attention and pique curiosity????

  2. jr says:

    Actually, I can think of lots of reasons a commercial site might want to have folks click away.

    Travel agents may include links to various Convention and Visitors Bureaus, hotels and attractions to highlight a region’s offerings. A vertical shopping sites might highlight other larger shopping destination and use some affiliate program, or may just do it for good will (see “Miracle on 34th St.” for a Web 0.0 example).

    I guess my problem is that as far as the search engine goes, there’s no way for them to know why a given link exists on a page, nor should they. If there’s any sort of attribute that need be applied to such an item, it’s the responsibility and discretion of the site owner to do so. Would Jeremy or anyone else be dinged for not including a NOFOLLOW tag for items he links to in his articles?

  3. Santa says:

    Whoa, dude. Too many bold tags. I say score one for Matt and pass the ammunition.

    Y’all sure you aren’t arguing over tulips?

  4. Joe Hunkins says:

    UR Welcome John…

    My worry is that Google is close to following the maxim: “Extremism in the defense of the Google Algorithm is no vice!” I hope this is not true.

    Sure, you can EXECUTE people for running a stop light (or kill sites for selling or buying links), and this will reduce violations, but this type of harsh penalty distorts things in very unnatural ways.

    Also it’s just … evil …Google, please don’t be evil.

  5. I don’t really see anything wrong with selling text links (and the pagerank that goes with them). If highly respected sites are willing to put the links on their site then it’s likely the links will point to pretty good sites, and not just random porn sites. It fits into google’s algo just like normal links.

    Remember that Google makes their money by selling text ads. The fact is that text links are a great advertising method, and they will not be stopped. Fact 2 is that google really has no way of determining a paid text link from a friendly link for the vast majority of cases.

  6. Adam S. says:

    Add me to the group of people who isn’t so sure that selling page rank is inherently wrong. Page rank is essentially attention in monetizable form. Just because it also forms the basis of Google’s relevancy algorithm doesn’t make is sacrosanct for any particular reasons that I can think of. Google is making quite a bit of money off page rank.

    I’m struggling to find the right analogy with which types of old-school media advertising we find appropriate and which we find inappropriate. Paying the New York Times to run a favorable op-ed piece? Clearly inappropriate. Running a large, clearly-labeled ad on the op-ed page of the New York Times? No one seems to mind. Clearly there are nuances in this business. So condemning the selling of page rank as inherently wrong seems a bit overzealous.

  7. Mark Scholl says:

    To me, this is a non-issue. All types of sites have and try advertising. Nearly every bit site I visit has advertising of some sort.

    The issue here is who is doing the selling? Or rather, who is getting paid. Jeremy is doing the selling directly so the money goes to his pocket. But if Jeremy used AdWords, then Google is selling links and the money goes to their pocket first.

    The bigger question becomes, what does Google ultimately value more? Natural listings or paid?

  8. pwb says:

    This “controversy” is lame. The onus should not be on the publisher to tweak his content in order for PageRank to supposedly work more correctly.

  9. Matt Cutts has removed
    Jeremy Zawodny blog link from
    “PEOPLE” links – on the Blog’s front page today – now only Nelson Minar link is left.

    This stance is really a passionate one!