Matt Cutts sometimes has some really kookie ideas:
- Sign in to Google’s webmaster console and use the authenticated spam report form, then include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report. If you use the authenticated form, you’ll need to sign in with a Google Account, but your report will carry more weight.
- Use the unauthenticated spam report form and make sure to include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report.
Word to Matt: OK, this is a really bad idea for several reasons. First, Google got the ball rolling on making links valuable in the first place. Remember? It was the first search engine to place significant importance on back links. Because of Google, every other search engine places value on back links. People tend to pay for things that are of value. If Google wants to discourage paid links, all it needs to do is change its algorithms so that links are no longer important. Otherwise, people will pay for links.
Secondly, how are you going to enforce that? What determines a paid link? Is a one-for-one trade or quid pro quo considered a “paid link?” If so, how would you know? For instance, if I trade a handful of blog posts for a handful of one-way links from a sister site, is that considered a “paid link?” Furthermore, how would you know that I have this agreement with another webmaster unless one of us told you about it and why would we tell you about it if you’re going to penalize us for it? It isn’t practical.
Thirdly, why on Earth would Google encourage business owners to spy on each other? I mean, is it really anybody’s business what Webmaster A and Webmaster B agree to? Why should Webmaster C be concerned and why should Webmaster C report it to Google? You aren’t the Internet police, Matt. You’re a search engine. Your job is to help searchers find information, not penalize the world for engaging in commerce.
Which brings me to my fourth point: Such a policy will only encourage false accusations. Google will simply get bogged down in chasing rabbits as webmasters seek to discredit their most fierce competitors. There will undoubtedly be more false reports of paid links than real reports and Google will have to pay someone to investigate all claims to determine their validity. That would be a lousy business to be in, Matt. Seriously.
I agree that the paid link situation has gotten out of hand. Anyone and everyone is getting in on the bandwagon and using every strategy they can think of to increase their inbound links so that their rankings at the search engines will climb higher. It’s almost to the point of ridiculousness and schemes are just getting schemier. It’s a game that Google has encouraged and because of the proliferation of link selling schemes the value of all links are being devalued. This is much like the phenomenon of currency valuations as governments print more paper currency. The new currency undervalues the old currency and soon no currency is worth what it was last year. So it is with links. And Matt’s answer is to have webmasters spying on each other and reporting common practices that are being encouraged by his company’s own policies. Sorry, Matt, it won’t fly.
I’ve got a better idea. How about changing Google’s algorithms to place less emphasis on inbound links and more emphasis on on-page factors. How about an algorithm that rewards alt tags, design elements, use of photos, videos, and other multimedia elements? How about keeping it simple and end the goofy Google link dance, replace it with tried-and-true old fashioned SEO techniques, and stop acting like Big Government blaming everyone else for the problems it creates. How about that, Matt?
P.S. I still like you, Matt. It’s just that … well, it is a ridiculous idea.