I Don’t Like Conflict (But Google Doesn’t Think SEOs are Criminals)

SMX Advanced was a whole week ago but that doesn’t mean we’re done with the controversy. Today, the SEO community is buzzing about how Matt Cutts sat up on that stage and, in Lisa Barone’s words, “openly stated that Google profiles SEOs like common criminals.” I’ll be honest, that sentence shocked me to the core — Matt Cutts stated anything openly? It must have been a pod person.

surprised girl
Photo by Tetsumo via Creative Commons

Clearly we need to get to the bottom of this. Our fearless leader, Bruce Clay, was also in the audience that day, making like the livebloggers and getting awesome notes. I asked Bruce what happened to cause this shocking statement. Why on earth would Matt stop being vague long enough to call a room full of SEO professionals criminal?

What did Matt say exactly?

Well, first off, that’s not what Matt said. (You already knew that was coming.) It’s actually what Michael Gray asked. Matt’s reply was:

The closer you get to money and the closer you get to people who are doing it deliberately for links — and there’s a certain segment of people who are doing whatever they can just to get those links — that’s a higher risk endeavor in our opinion.

You know, even though what Matt said was rather mild and nothing we haven’t heard before, there’s a couple good lessons here for SEOs to remember.

On Twitter, when this all started, I casually stated that I could sum this whole thing up in one sentence. (I still could. Brevity is the soul of wit, but not of blog posts.)


Here’s my one-sentence blog post:

Yes, SEOs are held to a higher standard than mom and pop shops; SEOs are professionals.

See, sometimes people get really good at something and then they start selling that something and making a lot of money doing it. Other people might learn to do the same thing but it isn’t their job and they don’t want it to be.

For example, Lois Lane is an ace reporter for the Daily Planet. Sometimes when she’s on a story, she’ll take pictures to go with it. But everyone knows that Lois isn’t a photographer — that’s Jimmy Olsen. If Lois takes a bad picture for the paper, oh well, that’s not really her job, even though it’s related to her story. If Jimmy takes a bad picture, people are going to judge that more harshly.

SEOs and webmasters are pretty much the same. SEOs are Jimmy Olsen, sent out there to get the shot, make it awesome, and win that Pulitzer for photography. Webmasters are Lois Lane; they’re just supposed to get some kind of picture that will go with their stories.

Superman by adjustafresh on Flickr
Photo by Scott/adjustafresh via Creative Commons

But wait! It’s not just about webmasters taking bad pictures (or making bad sites). It’s about how they get away with stuff that SEOs can’t, like giving away pizza and getting back thousands of backlinks. And that’s not fair! That’s a good point.

Let’s look at Lois and Jimmy’s friend Superman. He stands for truth, justice and the American way. He can outrun trains, stop bullets, blah blah blah, you know the story. His job is to do the right thing all the time. If Superman starts breaking the law, no one will put up with it. He’s supposed to uphold the law, help the innocent, play by the rules.

But what about Google?

All right, I’m done with the superhero analogy for a minute. What about Google not holding itself to the same standard? They know the rules too and they’re ignoring them. How come Google can give away brand new Android phones but Michael Gray can’t do the same without warning the recipients that they can’t link back without a nofollow attribute?

Michael’s got a point, and it’s a different one than Lisa’s. Why does Google get to manipulate their SERPs with giveaways that would have any SEO on the planet slapped for suspicious intent? Unfortunately, the answer here sucks because it’s that life isn’t fair. Google isn’t the government (yet) so they don’t care about the First Amendment. You don’t have a right to free speech and if you want into their clubhouse, you have to play by their rules.

These are the hard truths:

  1. It’s Google’s index, they set barrier to entry wherever they want to.
  2. Google gets to play by its own rules, like with the Android phones giveaway.
  3. Google gets to change the rules when it wants in order to improve its SERP quality, not to make SEOs’ lives easier.

But come on, we know all this. We’ve always known this. This same conversation has been going on since before I got into the industry four and a half years ago and it’s never ever going to change. So relax, because in the end, it doesn’t matter.

Forget fighting Google. Make good sites.

Look, if Google really thought that SEOs were common criminals, that they hated the whole industry, that SEOing a Web site was a show of bad faith, why would optimized sites be ranking well? Maybe this is a chicken and egg question but it really does baffle me. It’s not like it’s hard to tell if a site has been touched by the sticky fingers of SEO. Heck, I’m just a writer and I can tell when a site has been optimized. I’m sure the big brains at Google can do it if I can.

Money by Andrew Magill
Photo by Andrew Magill via Creative Commons

If SEOs are making sites that rank and are following guidelines that Google considers “good for users”, why would Google hate that? Google wants things to be good for their users because that’s what makes them money. They’re a multi-billion dollar company that relies on their search engine to keep customers coming back and clicking on those oh-so-important text ads on the right rail. They don’t do it with flashy branding or look-at-me gimmicks. They do it by consistently delivering results that their customers are happy with. Make sites that make customers happy and you’re on the right track.

Now go forth and optimize. Oh, and don’t forget — there are other engines out there too. Maybe give them some love.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (39)
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39 Replies to “I Don’t Like Conflict (But Google Doesn’t Think SEOs are Criminals)”

Very good thread…
“Forget fighting Google. Make good sites.” is really the name of the game. Not only should SEOs be concerned about getting their customer that #1 ranking, they should be concerned about their customers ROI as well. If the company you are SEOing has a poor site, the end user is not going to make a purchase.

Google actually does not follow all of their guidelines. For instance, there is a very well known site that certainly violates Google’s quality guidelines in many ways. It is a high profile site known as ROR (acronym..I don’t want to give them any link juice, relevancy, noteworthiness or anything), that in my opinion , I feel is a very evil site in what it does. Google has even had to deal with high-level controversy because of it before, but it continues to rank this site well, and / or not ban it. Google are certainly proponents of hypocrisy for not taking care of this.

Nice article I liked it…
Nice work Susan

Bruce, seriously dude… tell them about the Inktomi whitelist incident where there were definite “white knights”… The yahoo! webmaster que etc. There’s profiling… has been forever…
BOB Massa stalked on Forums
Ummmm there’s also good SEO profiling so if you’re not in the business of “screwin’ with SEs” you got nothing to worry about. However if you’re selling advertising… users must know… bloggers don’t like it because they talk a good game but… use BS like links to do what we know is doable with none of that crap. Buy links as promotion… if you buy links for advertsing don’t expect to get SEO benefits! Yes people exchange gifts for advertising… they don’t care if it’s nofollowed… whatever… they want traffic and audience visibility… the webmaster can do what they’re comfortable with when it comes to how they want to handle nofollow. The ad buyer shouldn’t have to say no because of the webmasters decision IMO, that adds risk inappropriately to the buyer who may care less what rel= means… they buy advertising not do SEO.

I’m just in it to make a living, it’s my job to get sites ranking and keep them ranking. I’ve worked on many a big corporate site where the name of the game has either been, OK so we have this specific problem we need you to trouble shoot, or it is a case of general house keeping and removing on site obstacles. Very rarely is it about aggressively targeting keywords. This is why Google seem to be more forgiving.

My point is people like to bitch about the big brands throwing their weight around in the serps but I honestly don’t think these big clunky organisations have any idea what’s going on with their rankings, much less how to manipulate them.

Google forgives them for their sins as they see it’s rather ignorance than malice. That and they see brands as a way to keep the SERPs cleen.

"the answer won’t come by keeping brands from the space; instead, the web needs them to help clean up the net."
Eric Schmidt, Google, CEO.

Let’s face it, we all expect to see the big brands in the SERPs and Google knows that’s what people are looking for. That’s why they forgive them for having archaic monoliths of sites, creaking their way forward from 1995 on custom built appalling CMS systems of SEO death. I’ve seen URLs longer than the address bar, so many pages with no readable content, massive internal duplicate content (67 repeated domains is the record so far!) and many other pieces of ridiculousness. When multiple teams of people work on one site all driving it in slightly different directions this is what happens.

Doug Heil

Alan wrote:
“Two years ago I validated that these DO get the most successful free page counter “sponsors” higher in Google and Yahoo. Bitched to Google. Griped. Complained. Used the Webmaster “report spam” system. Several times. Never got nothin in reponse. Sites never degraded. AdWords campaigns flourish to this day.
Personally I throw that right in there with Google allowing sites that don’t have SEO as being allowed to get away with what we are slapped for.”
Well yes Alan. But that goes back to the fact that Google is a machine. They hate looking at spam reports and simply targeting that one site reported. They love to figure out a way to fill the exploit using automated means. Some of that stuff gets through, but some of it doesn’t either. Spam will always been in the se’s indexes. You can’t ever get rid of it totally. You can only stress that it works for a site until it doesn’t work anymore. If you are caught, you get penalized or banned.
I agree with all the rest of your post.
My beef with Google has aways been that they accept advertising money from blackhats or anyone else who was banned or penalized. My beef with this industry as a whole as always been related to the same thing. Known industry “experts” and spokesmen who sell advertising to people/firms who spam, but yet continue talking about whitehat stuff and how you should not spam. It makes me sick. Go to a few SEO blogs and communities out there and check the ads, etc. Who wants to actually clean up this industry and who does not? Who is only in it for the money? It’s very obvious to some of us. I cringe when I hear of someone talking a conference or writing something about spam or whatever, and that same site has prominent ads on it for a firm who does their very best to trick the se’s. Those people can kiss my blank.


I’m with you on the “good debate” aspects. My reference points weren’t head to head in their details – it was “we feel we have a legitimate complaint about unfair business practices” comparison. So maybe it was apples to oranges.


Here’s one I’ll go with – Google takes money for adwords for “free page counter” sites that give away tens, hundreds of those little suckers that sit on the bottom of trashy little web sites all over the world and where there’s a link wrapper around the counter that points to law sites, insurance sites, etc.

Two years ago I validated that these DO get the most successful free page counter “sponsors” higher in Google and Yahoo. Bitched to Google. Griped. Complained. Used the Webmaster “report spam” system. Several times. Never got nothin in reponse. Sites never degraded. AdWords campaigns flourish to this day.

Personally I throw that right in there with Google allowing sites that don’t have SEO as being allowed to get away with what we are slapped for.

As far as I am concerned, if a site is doing something we should be slapped for, the person / people doing it KNOW it works and thus that is using SEO as well. Highly crafty marketers sure as heck know what they’re doing these days. That’s where Google’s using the “intent” card is a crock of dung.

I don’t get all hung up in page sculpting on the few sites of that scale because I’ve always felt it was such a minor value gain in comparison to doing more of the other “traditional” best practices things.

I’ve never lured people to give me or any clients links through “questionable” tactics. Yet any savvy marketing maven today knows full well that a well crafted marketing initiative should involve building buzz. And they know that buzz includes links. Intent is a sham excuse. You think Google targets BBDO, Porter Novelli, Hill & Knowlton? They sure don’t. Because those are “marketing” companies. Even though they have in-house SEO teams.

I agree with Doug Heil on the google adwords thing. outrageous.

Doug Heil

Hi Alan; Matt has it exactly right. It’s “never” been fair at all when it comes to SEO’s who try their very best to find every single loophole ever made in SEO and search engine history. Infoseek use to combat the SEO’s the best they could. They tried many different ways to fight and close up holes. They failed. Heck; they got so fed up that at the very end, they excepted emails from SEO’s with lists of keyword phrases corresponding to the domain that the SEO wanted to rank on. I sent in a big o’l list to them. The next day the sites were bombarded by visitors of all kinds and for many different terms. I think they were pissed off. LOL

My point being is that search engines have fought SEO’s it seems like forever now. The very idea that search engines worth a damn might not do some profiling would be shocking to me. They have done so since day one or day two. :-)

This same type of whining doesn’t stop. It’s the same stuff over and over again; just disguised in different clothes. Sometimes new outfits. Sometimes just a belt change, or a new style of shoes, but looking closer; it’s the same damn arguments. It always is.

Some of us are just getting tired of it all. Matt Cutts says anything at all and immediately SEO blogs around the world put their spin on what he said. Most times it’s WRONG. Most times what they write is NOT what he said at all. Not even close. Like the pagerank sculpting thang. I’ve read some far out stuff out there that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s ridiculous to read. It’s mind boggling to know we have some real gems in this industry who just will never get it. Never. This sculpting business was NEVER going to work from day one anyway. How many sites did I try it on? NONE. Why? Because I knew what Google was saying about it since day one. That’s why.

Yeah Matt; you go. I’m with ya. Stop crying you silly industry. LOL

BTW: If you want something to rant about I’ll give you one. It’s one I’ve hated for a long time. How about the fact Google Adwords still insists on selling advertising to known people who try to trick them? Now that’s something to whine about and something I’d get behind. I’m sick of people in this industry who preach about being clean and whitehat, but turn around and sell ad space to blackhats. It’s pathetic. You all know exactly who I’m talking about. If the shoe fits, etc.

“If indirectly purchasing a few, well-guised links regains that #1 listing in the mean time while they work on other strategies, you’re saying you’d recommend they don’t do it?”
There are huge industries that purchase 10’s of thousands of dollars worth of links a month and Google doesn’t and can’t do anything about it. That is where things get really ‘unfair’ IMO.

I totally get where you’re coming from, Alan.

On point 1: Would you have had the same attitude about the civil rights movement, or women’s suffrage? What about Microsoft’s monopolistic unfair business tactics not very long ago?

If we were arguing AdWords, I agree with you. Clearly there Google benefits financially by using a veiled algorithm. I think there’s a monopoly there by definition as the field is not only uneven, it’s not identified. Regarding SEO, I don’t see how Google benefits from not displaying the right results the way they as a business choose to define them. In the example everyone uses with Microsoft, they controlled the desktop and the browser and forced companies to pay to play. If you could prove Google excludes organic results to force them to pay, there would be a case. Here, Google displays what it believes to be the correct results to protect its necessary search base. And, in most cases, they’re right. The reality is that users wouldn’t google things if the results were wrong. So, while it may not benefit SEOs and people may not like ranking factors, the reality is that the object is to be correct, not optimized.

2. Every time Google does something that even smells of impropriety, it fuels the Black Hat sector to say “well why should we play by the rules when Google doesn’t?”

Good point. Sounds like the same thing 90% of our country says every time the government does something an individual can’t. The reality is that google tries to gauge intent. People want to argue semantics, like the android thing, but the reality is google is not trying to get links. It’s easy to isolate incidents anywhere and take pot shots anywhere. But, let’s call it what it is. They don’t need to game their own algorithm.

I’m sure you know I’m arguing with you with no harm meant, and love a good debate that can never end :-)

Thanks for the great post. So many SEOers have been so quick to post the frantic article about Google criminalizing SEOs. This makes much more sense and stays inline with what Google has professed all along. Take a breath SEOers, the world isn’t caving in.

@Matt @Susan @ Doug

Here’s the flaws in the “stop whining” argument.

1. Speaking out about legitimate unfair business tactics is NOT whining – it’s being vocal about a perceived injustice that we believe causes us to have a legitimate grievance over.

Would you have had the same attitude about the civil rights movement, or women’s suffrage? What about Microsoft’s monopolistic unfair business tactics not very long ago?

You know what YOU guys sound like?

Jul 10, 2008 … Gramm goes so far as to call the economy a “mental recession,” says that “We have sort of become a nation of whiners”

Yes those are extreme cases, yet it speaks to the point of people who whine about those of us being vocal about a legitimate business concern.

2. Every time Google does something that even smells of impropriety, it fuels the Black Hat sector to say “well why should we play by the rules when Google doesn’t?”

Personally I have yet to ever do anything that Google would have reason to “slap down”. Yet the fact that we’re held to a different standard is inappropriate, and sets the stage for unfair advantages against us.

Forget fighting Google. Make good sites.
Susan, you are so right.
I’m amazed that people still whine about Google. Seriously, Google’s job is to give what they believe are the best results, because that will keep users searching there. Google is a business that serves itself, not you. You can try to be the best, and optimize your site. Or, you can be crap, and try to optimize your site.
When you get picked out as crap, maybe you’ll learn to be better. Do you really expect Google to not identify people that have the potential to manipulate it’s results? Would that not be the dumbest thing a company could do? Does your business not identify potential threats? If you can manipulate their results and rank a crap site, they should profile you.
Also, crap is whatever Google defines as crap on a given day. It’s their search engine, and their right. Learn other ways to advertise to protect yourself. Paid ads are there for a reason. Unless you’re so damn good that you would never pay a dime for advertising and everyone just does it free for you. Obviously I work in the same industry as everyone here, but what a bunch of self-righteous fools you sound like whining how it’s unfair. This is the real world. I can only imagine how most of you would do in an off-line business when the time comes to apply for a zoning license. Bottom line…Susan is right, Google is right. You’re not entitled to a damn thing for free. You’re not entitled to a level playing field. Be glad you even get one.

Doug Heil

Well Michael, I’d say the only people really interested and also reading the SEO blogs are SEO types. They either are owners who know enough to try to learn SEO, or are people already SEO’s. It’s hard to believe that a business would not be doing a form of profiling in any industry. It’s not just targeting criminals either. It’s being business savvy enough to know what to look for. The web site owner who knows how to do a little SEO is also being profiled, and not just people who do SEO for a living or who are high profile.

It’s more a case of if a site is being overly SEO’d, it will get flagged for a penalty or a review, etc. This is simply common sense stuff. It’s not like Google really cares which sites Doug Heil is working on now. They just don’t. Only if I started doing shady type things would they care. It certainly is a matter of intent, just like it’s been for a long time now. Intent and real actions on the site speak volumes. This is NOT something new at all and something anyone who knows anything at all can clearly recognize.

On a side note; I find it amazing that Google emails people like you “ahead of time” with friendly advice. Do you know how many millions of SEO’s and webmasters and site owners would love to have that kind of connection? You should feel lucky instead of constantly finding some kind of conflict and picking at the business who actually feeds you.

This is not saying Google doesn’t have it’s flaws though. My stance on what I don’t like about Google is documented. I’m not afraid to yell at them either.

@Doug Heil
remember not everyone playing the game today was around back in 96 or 98, in fact I’d say most weren’t. It’s incumbent on those of us who where or know better to educate the newer people, pay it forward whenever you can.



I can see your point, but it is misguided. What this post does is defend the Evil Internet Empire – controlled by the SEs.

Google’s motto is (as they are very proud of saying) – “do not be evil” – but most of us have learned the hard way that they are.

Google is an advertising agency first, and a SE second. Period.

Doug Heil

I commented on the Lisa article, so here’s this:
I agree with Susan. Actually totally. For some reason the industry as a whole just never seems to get it. I really don’t know what the confusion is at all.
Gosh; the gall of Google profiling SEO’s. I think I new this in 1996 when starting out. It was confirmed I believe in 1998 or so when someone discovered a “SEO Black Book” that Inktomi use to have. Remember that? I sure do. Major search engines have “profiled SEO’s” for years now.
This is not new news. Heck; it isn’t even news.

Susan Esparza

@Adam – I was being a bit tongue in cheek about “sticky fingers”. I obviously don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing SEO or I wouldn’t work for an SEO company. By holding to a higher standard, I mean that when the spam team does its reviews of sites, it’s usually pretty simple to tell if SEO has been applied on any level and so they’re going to be less forgiving than if a clearly clueless webmaster screwed up something.

If knowing math-brained people has taught me anything, it’s that sufficiently advanced math is indistinguishable from magic to my poor little writer’s mind. So it could be mindreading for all I know. (I’m joking again.)

My only agenda here is to keep people focused on controlling what they CAN control and Google has not and will never be one of those factors.

“It’s not like it’s hard to tell if a site has been touched by the sticky fingers of SEO. Heck, I’m just a writer and I can tell when a site has been optimized.”
Did I just read those two sentences back-to-back? Not all SEOs have “sticky fingers” Susan. The “sticky fingers” are usually belonging to the mom and pops.
“Yes, SEOs are held to a higher standard than mom and pop shops; SEOs are professionals.”
Would you be so kind as to enlighten me on this, Susan? How exactly would Google hold SEOs to higher standards? And please don’t point me to Graywolf’s, “How Google profiles SEOs” post again because that doesn’t quite explain _how_ does it?
You do realize it’s all just math and code and that Google can’t read people’s minds, don’t you? Of course you do, so it leaves me wondering what Bruce Clay’s agenda is in this “controversy.” I know what Graywolf’s agenda is. I think his exact words were, “what we can do is band together and continue to point out where google profiles SEO’s.” How convenient for Graywolf and friends. Let me guess, are we going to be “pointing out” bruceclay.com as well, Susan?

Susan Esparza

I’m going to try to catch the main points rather than responding individually. Sorry, guys.

On building good sites: I agree with Skitzzo, it isn’t “just build good sites”. SEO is necessary to ranking a site, being good at SEO is necessary for good rankings. Yura has it dead to rights. Building linkworthy apps, generating buzz, etc. are all part of good SEO. It’s not about “just” building great site. It’s about starting with a great site and building on it.

Should SEOs be treated like big name media sites (like TechCrunch, Scoble, Guy, Gawker?): No. Should big name media sites be treated like SEOs (because they do know better)? Yes. Will they ever be? Sure and Google Japan really was hurting after they got their PageRank yanked. [/sarcasm]

My question is, since you can’t control or change how Google is doing things, shouldn’t you be focusing on the things that you can do that you know will work?

@streko – What would I do with a Datsun?

I wasn’t there for the phone giveaway but I’m having trouble drawing the direct connection between Google giving a phone away and that being a call/solicitation for links.
I understand that viralconversations.com connects a product/service and a consumer and maybe a link would have come from that (if not for nofollow) and I understand what companies do with “celebrity” marketers who blog about a product. But just because some practice this why are we assuming that this is why Google gave away phones?
Maybe I’m missing something here.

A different Susan

I agree with Skitzzo. I’ve seen a lot of great sites that simply can’t get indexed in the search engines b/c of their technology. If anything great sites can’t rank in Google. It’s very frustrating telling our creative team the award winning sites they build can’t be read by Google. So which is it Google, do we build great sites or sites your search engine can understand?

What disturbs me about this “intent” question brought by Matt Cutts is that he’s assuming that there’s one overall intent within a promotion. When someone creates a promotion, I would imagine their intent is to: a) gain more customers/sell more things b) gain additional visibility for their products (which *gasp* means more links for their website). Getting more customers/selling more products is certainly going to trump getting more links. [Rankings/traffic don’t mean much if it isn’t moving product out the door.]

Should companies get in trouble for offering promotions that may ultimately cause them to gain more links? Should their efforts be discounted or restricted because they sought 3rd party vendors (SEOs) to assist them with promotions? Not in my book, but then I’m not Google.

It’s difficult if not impossible to understand the intent of a user without asking them directly. Even then, they just might not tell the truth when asked. (I’m not naming any names…) Why not just evaluate the links by their relevancy? If they’re coming from sources that are outside the niche topic, then discount them. Don’t punish the companies that had the good sense to hire a professional.

Skitzzo, I don’t know what the Bruce Clay family considers as building good sites, but for some people it might also mean creating great, linkable stuff and building engaging, word-of-mouth-worthy apps.

I wouldn’t rule promotion out completely, but I think a good amount of attn to product quality is a must.

Can we please stop with the “just make good sites” BS? If you honestly believe that, you’re either too inexperienced & ignorant to know better or you don’t belong in this business.
If all you have to do is make a good site and presto good rankings fall into your lap SEO wouldn’t exist.
If you want to debate whether or not SEO’s should be complaining about this, that’s fine. But respect yourself and my intelligence enough to not spout off that nonsense.


Im with Susan on this. Shock and horror, big corporations have double standards? Say it aint so. These massive companies have been using double standards for centuries now and you are shocked because this is one of the few instances that Google has done such an "evil" thing?

Most of us in the industry would be making far less $$$ if the big G wasn’t around and I think we should give credit where credit is due for all the work that goes into minimising the spam that actually finds its way into not only Google but all the search engines. Jason also surmised this pretty well, more eloquently than I could.

It’s outrageous! Some of the SEO’s I know always talk about Google as a big bully and to some extent I agree with them, but they created the game so if you want to play then you play by their rules. such is life. Just make good sites and all will be well.


Maybe we could try to be as smart marketers as Kawasaki, Scoble, TC, Pizza guy are ?

If we can’t, and if trying to convince everybody (with a little help from some friends) that we are the smartest (SEO/Marketer/Social media expert…) fail, we can keep whining about how life and business is unfair.

And next, I don’t know, try to adapt to the rules we cannot change, stop outting and blaming others for theirs success… I’m sure there is many options available to professionals, unfortunately, I’m not one of them, just a pizzaiolo (I’ve got a personal online diary (blog) too, hope it doesn’t upset any professional writer ?)


I got the feeling at SMX Advanced that the point was that Michael Gray is running a site that offers multiple different giveaway opportunities in exchange for blog posts about the produce/service received, WHEREAS, a company that runs a single promotion (even if the intent of the promotion may be “inherently obvious”) is still running ONE single promotion.

Michael Gray is running multiple promotions. His site is geared to match promotions with bloggers. He can cry foul all he wants, but he has set up a business to put product A in blogger B’s hands. His intent is clear. Google does not make a practice of this – and neither does anyone else running a single promotion (regardless of the so-called intent of the promotion).

There is a difference. Learn what it is, understand it, and then manipulate it to the best of your ability.

Wow, I agree with Michael, and I agree with a ton that you say as well. Bottom line is do as you wish, stay under the radar and earn a good living. I sell links and help people monitize their sites for a living. I started LinkXL.com to protect link buyers and sellers and earn a dam good living. Many, many of you have or still buy links one way or another. It’s just smart to be quiet and not be obvious. Guy and Robert have their ways and so does Lisa, Rae, Michael, Rand and you to Rebecca.

Google can do as they wish, but I am certain that the link buying (no matter the form through actual rental, purchase or exterior stunt, speech or trip etc) business won’t die anytime soon. That says enough.

If i send Bruce, Virgina & Susan each a free loaner car, most likely a 1987 Yellow Datsun, can I get a link off this blog to one of my Viagra sites?

I’m with Michael Gray on this one.

If a person/company is to set the rules, then they need to SET THE EXAMPLE as well.

Should we allow judges, police officers, and prosecutors to break the law because they serve the community? NO!

I have seen a lot of good content on pages 3, 4, 5, and so forth. They’re probably never going to get to page 1. Guess why? Because they lack SEO. Who’s fault is that? Google will probably tell YOU to link to those ‘good articles’, but you’ll also give away juice. So you’re in a catch 22 spot.

I went ahead and posted about SEO profiling, and how to avoid Google’s radar. http://centuryhouse.net/seo-profiling/

It’s a shame that we need to now look at countermeasures because the CHECKS/BALANCES is not in place!

Susan, the problem with this post is that you act like SEO’s want to be treated the same as mom & pop shops.
We don’t.
We simply want to be treated the same as the bigger sites that Google let’s get away with just about everything under the sun.
TechCrunch is certainly no mom & pop shop, and yet Matt Cutts allowed them to buy links without penalty because he asked & they claimed it wasn’t a paid link.
Bloggers like Guy Kawasaki receive all sorts of gifts and “previews” in exchange for links but Google assumes that the intent isn’t to manipulate rankings.
If I do those same things, Google assumes I’m up to something nefarious.
They are assuming I’m doing something that they deem to be wrong, despite having no clue about my true intentions. I’m not sure what you call that if not profiling.


While you do a good job at helping to point out this has been known forever, I feel it’s also true that you take the position that we should not expect a level playing field. You claim we, as professionals are held to a higher standard. Are you also then saying that Google is not a professional participant in the online search community?

The excuse that they get to make the rules is just that. An excuse. A justification. Rationalization. Of an otherwise inexcusable position.

Why SHOULDN’T Google be held to the same standards? In fact, they should be held to an even higher standard. Because as much as we earn a living in search, they make a killing off of the profits we drive to them.

Think about it. If it wasn’t for Search marketers, do you think Google would be making a fraction of what they do in AdWords or AdSense?

If there were a court based mechanism for us to take this to the next level, it would, I venture to say, be contemptible.

I agree with Susan. Everyone should make great Web sites and then unicorns and lollipops will sprout and the best content will rise to the top. And hopefully it will all be properly silo’d.

But we shouldn’t have to accept those ‘hard truths’ just as we shouldn’t have to accept any hypocrisy. It’s not okay to have set the rules and then no abide by them, even if you are Google.

There is lots and lots of money in ranking well. I have some clients who earn around $4k because of a single #1 ranking for a high-traffic (and highly-qualified) keyword.
They have a great site too.
But if that #1 ranking slipped to a #2 ranking, they’re stand to lose roughly $2k a month (based on Compete.com traffic share numbers).
If indirectly purchasing a few, well-guised links regains that #1 listing in the mean time while they work on other strategies, you’re saying you’d recommend they don’t do it? Just because Google might find out and not like it?
You’re saying they should just trust that their site will move back up because it’s “good” – or that maybe it deserves to be #2?
Since when is business about getting what you deserve?
There are risks involved in buying links – that much is clear.
I appreciate Michael Gray (and others) being so outspoken on this topic because it plays a small part in keeping Google more honest. Of course there’s a double standard with Google – they’re a for-profit corporation and they own the house. But sometimes, when someone gets loud enough and pulls back the curtain, it forces policy change in a small way – or at least makes us all more aware and less blindly trusting. We need those people and their voices.
I say, “yes, build great sites,” but it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there – it’s not about fighting Google, it’s about fighting for survival.

let’s just hope that guy kawasaki doesn’t get any more “loaner” cars and give links to any one your clients compete with. Let’s hope Robert Scoble doesn’t get any all expense paid trips in exchange for “coverage” from someone who’s your client.

I haven’t checked but I think I’m safe assuming those two consider themselves professionals and not at the “mom and pop” level.


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