BIG Google Crack Down on Blogs Selling Links?

policeIt looks as if Google is really cracking down on blogs selling links ads. For instance, a little while back I noticed several popular city-blogs in my area which lost Google PageRank on most of their pages except the home page and maybe one or two others that I missed. These are well-respected blogs in their community. The thing all of these blogs have in common is that they have DoFollow links in the sidebar and throughout the site where advertisers are linked to through either a text link or a banner link.

Two example blogs are the West Seattle Blog and the B-Town Blog, which used to have Google PageRank visible throughout their sites, but now show a PageRank of zero on nearly every page except the home page. I haven’t paid close enough attention to say for sure whether those websites have actually been penalized in any way other than not showing PageRank in the toolbar, but I bet they aren’t very happy about it and it definitely doesn’t look too good.

Part of me thinks it is great that Google is cracking down on them because I feel like most bloggers or businesses outside of the SEO industry can get away with selling frowned-upon type services, or manipulating the search results for their own websites as long as they play ignorant. Whereas someone who acknowledges themselves as an SEO is likely have their every action scrutinized. It would be nice to have a more even playing field. But on the other hand, it is obvious most of the major websites with bigger pockets are still free to do what they want. Which furthers my conclusion Google is getting even worse about showing favoritism towards the already wealthy major brands. Thus making it even more difficult for most of us to compete with them.

I know of several of these brands, or brand-backed investor websites that can get away with just about anything, and I’m sure Google does too. But, I’m not sure I want to start outing anyone specifically just yet, on this blog. It’s not going to help me any, and will probably only hurt my reputation and my business going forward. So instead of telling you who’s getting away with what, I think my time is better spent sharing what has worked for me, and what I watch out for. In this case it appears the smaller guy really has to go by the book, whereas the brands don’t really have to fear being penalized for the same things. Which is notable – by recognizing how you fit into these categories can be a total game changer regarding how you’re allowed to practice SEO and operate your website, without fear of being penalized by the search engines.

Do you think it is good that Google is cracking only down on these “smaller” websites and blogs? Have you seen this with any of the larger brands too, or do you think Google is playing brand favoritism?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  • March 23rd, 2010 at 6:02 pm khairul2311 said:

    last week my 4 blog has been ban…sad bout that… i not monitize my blog,why google do this to me?

  • March 23rd, 2010 at 7:05 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Khairul,
    It’s tough to say without knowing the name of the blog.

  • March 24th, 2010 at 1:55 pm Maximus said:

    Hi Wes! Very interesting post my friend. I think Google definitely is always trying to crack on link buying, but it seems like if Google was going to dilute their PageRank, I would imagine them to hit every other page. In the past, if Google finds any bit of black hat, I’ve seen Google black-listing the entire domain. (not that I’ve engaged in any of that :])

    Looks like these blogs don’t have a sitemap, so I wonder if they just spread themselves too thin and lost pagerank from not having a good internal linking strategy.

    Either way, I think this is a very interesting post!

  • March 24th, 2010 at 4:08 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hey Maximus! Looks like you’re somewhat in my neighborhood.

    Yeah, it is tough to say what has happened to them for sure – other than the loss in PageRank being displayed. Especially since I haven’t had the need or desire to watch them that closely. Best just to keep playing it safe.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • March 30th, 2010 at 8:37 am Tracy at West Seattle Blog said:

    Hi. I happened onto this during a routine search for our site’s name and it greatly disturbs me. Your original post alleged that we have engaged in something that is apparently unethical, and we have done no such thing. We sell advertising, like any news website – which is what we are, not a “blog”; we are a commercial, journalist-run news website that just happens to publish in blog format. I request that you change your copy before I have to flag our lawyer about it. The terms “manipulate search results” and “frowned-upon type services” are particularly problematic. We have never done ANY such thing.

    Our ads are almost all jpegs with links to the sponsors; a couple are classified-style text ads. I have no idea what “link-selling” you are alleging but we have NEVER done anything but sell ADS, not links – ads for LOCAL advertisers – and I would appreciate if you would make that correction.

    Meantime, why in the world would Google “penalize” a news website for selling advertising? Would they penalize a newspaper or broadcast website? Same thing. And regarding displays of “page rank,” that’s not something we have EVER paid attention to – I wouldn’t even know how to find out what our pages are “ranked” – our site has the top Google spot when people search for our community and almost everything/anything in it, and that’s what matters. It’s only because of hard work covering everything in the community (we even won our Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year award).

    Is this something we should be complaining to Google about, in your opinion? It’s certainly nothing that’s on the radar of the community members we serve with news and information, but if you think we have been hit with some sort of “penalty” I’m a bit concerned – but more concerned with the tone of your article suggesting we have done something unethical. We are a news website with revenue generated entirely from local advertising that we sell and place on our site ourselves. That’s it.

    Tracy Record
    editor/co-publisher, West Seattle Blog

  • March 30th, 2010 at 11:17 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Whoa there, Tracy. My intent wasn’t to imply the West Seattle Blog “intentionally” participated in something mischievous, but that it appears Google thinks you have. Something my readers definitely would want to know – so they don’t make the same mistake.

    The truth is, your ads are structured in a way that does pass PageRank. It doesn’t matter if they are images or not. If my observation is correct, and you have been penalized, I think it is ridiculous! At the same time I think if Google is going to crack down on some websites for selling ads that pass PageRank, then it is only fair if they crack down on everybody. However, If they are going to take the time to penalize a site like yours for selling ads, then I think they need to at least give you the courtesy of a warning email first. Because I agree, most people don’t understand the significance of these types of ads, and how much Google frowns upon them – intentional or not.

    Also, I never said that your ads were unethical. Actually, I don’t think there is anything unethical about it at all. Quite the contrary! I have been into a heated debate or two over the issue myself; in defense of your situation.

    Last, I 100% defend the right for “all” site owners to sell normal ads/links on their website, without being penalized. However many people don’t, and Google even asks us to report each other. If you knew anything about me, you would know I think most people who report these types of ads/links are weasels, because they are likely being very hypocritical. But the truth is you were probably reported by some jealous turd who wishes they were operating at your level.

  • March 30th, 2010 at 11:19 am Ian Lurie said:

    Hi Wesley,

    West Seattle blog may be under penalty, but if so, it’s a light one – they still rank #1 for ‘west seattle’, for example, and a check shows nice, deep indexation of their site.

    That said, here’s how either site can fix the problem:

    1. “Nofollow” all links to other businesses on the right-hand side of your blog: Banners and text links.

    2. Get your site verified in Google Webmaster Tools (very important).

    3. Submit a Google sitemap.

    4. Then submit a Google reinclusion request.

    One bit of preaching: These are small sites and small businesses in which their owners have invested a lot of time. I’d be much more careful about throwing statements about penalties and link spamming around, or at least do the site owners the courtesy of an e-mail, first.



  • March 30th, 2010 at 11:32 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Ian,
    Thanks for adding your recommendations!

    P.S. You and I submitted our comments at almost exactly the same time, so I think you missed my reply to Tracy. I believe Tracy didn’t understand the intent of this article.

  • March 30th, 2010 at 2:05 pm Patrick Sand said:

    The real question here is about the context that was created by the post. By placing our site in rough proximity to Mahalo after using the words, ” it definitely doesn’t look too good” could, in my opinion, suggest that we follow the practices you find unethical.

  • March 30th, 2010 at 2:22 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    What I meant was It wouldn’t look to good to me if I were you. I would be disappointed if Google penalized me without giving me a heads up for something like that.

    Did you guys see that I started off the article with this first?

    “These are well-respected blogs in their community.”

  • March 31st, 2010 at 11:03 am Patrick Sand said:

    Nonetheless you create a context which says that if I try to defend myself then it’s little more than a cynical attempt at plausible denial.

  • March 31st, 2010 at 11:24 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Defend yourself from whom?

    The only accusations and threats were made by you and Tracy.

  • May 24th, 2010 at 1:30 pm Scott Schaefer said:

    I Publish/Edit The B-Town Blog, and, like Tracy, find your implying that we knowingly have done unethical things somewhat offensive.

    Accusatory phrases like “selling frowned-upon type services” makes me cringe. We don’t sell anything other than Ads (and just a few text links – are these all “frowned upon”?). When we do sell an Ad, we post a “Blogvertorial” that was inspired by Digg’s “Sponsored Posts” – are these considered unethical/frowned upon? If so, nobody told me, but then again, I’m not an SEO expert – just a former TV Writer turned Local Blogger who saw a need and filled it.

    And quite frankly, most local Advertisers don’t know what Pagerank is, nor what SEO means – they just want eyeballs, which we deliver for them. Most of our Advertisers renew with us too.

    BTW, I’d appreciate any SEO experts’ opinion on what we should do differently. We use a customized version of Streamline for WordPress which we find gets us excellent search results.


  • May 24th, 2010 at 2:23 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Scott, I haven’t said anything about anyone doing anything unethical.

    Google discourages selling links that pass PageRank, regardless if they are textual or images. In fact, it is against their guidelines. However, not everyone who sells ads/links gets penalized. Google makes that decision on a case by case basis. So whether you have or will ever get penalized for selling ads that pass link juice, I can’t say for sure. The safest way is to always add rel=nofollow to all outbound links that have been paid for, regardless if they we’re bought in the form of ad. If someone is in the business of selling advertising and not links, they should have no problem adding the Nofollow attribute to those links.

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