In October 2009 Matt finally added a disclosure policy to his blog and it is very comprehensive.
- He doesn’t nofollow links to the companies he invests in
- When he mentions Google products, he doesn’t nofollow the links, or generally have specific disclosure in posts
- In social media for his investments he does disclose which is grea, but not when Tweeting about Google
The FTC Guidelines state
Example 8: An online message board designated for discussions of new music download
technology is frequented by MP3 player enthusiasts. They exchange information about
new products, utilities, and the functionality of numerous playback devices. Unbeknownst
to the message board community, an employee of a leading playback device manufacturer
has been posting messages on the discussion board promoting the manufacturer’s product.
Knowledge of this poster’s employment likely would affect the weight or credibility of her
endorsement. Therefore, the poster should clearly and conspicuously disclose her
relationship to the manufacturer to members and readers of the message board.
Will The FTC Investigate Google & Matt Cutts For Paid Links? (updated)
I don’t think so but…
- Matt probably earns a salary from Google as head of webspam
- Matt has been with Google since 2000, so probably has a few stock options
- If Matt says something about a new Google service that encourages other bloggers to write about it as well, it probably has an effect on Google’s share price, so there is a specific financial incentive.
We have seen how blog discussions can have both a massive positive and negative influence on large company share value, especially with Apple.
Full Disclosure From Google – No Way?
- Matt doesn’t have a comprehensive disclosure policy – he does have a short disclaimer to hide behind
- Matt doesn’t use nofollow on links to his source of income
- Matt used to post messages on popular SEO forums as “Google Guy”, but there was never any specific disclosure
Now whilst Matt has mentioned the FTC in relation to paid links before, it has always been in the sanctuary of his “private” blog. At SES San Jose I believe he is there in his official capacity.
Here are quotes from 2 live bloggers
Tamar at SEO Round Table
Matt is up first. Are paid links evil? He says that this is the wrong question. But the right question is – Do paid links that pass PR violate search engine quality guidelines? The answer is yes.
The FTC has said that you must disclose whether you are being paid to market.
Disclosure on the web: the web is used by both people (surfers) and machines (search engines)
What is adequate disclosure on the web? It is understood by both machines and people.
Make a clear disclosure: this won’t pass PageRank –
– Redirect URL blocked by robots.txt
– redirect through URL that does 302
– Meta tag with nofollow
The Lisa at Bruce Clay Internet Business Consultants
Matt says that asking if paid links are evil or not is the wrong question. He says the right question is, â€œDo paid links that pass PageRank violate search enginesâ€™ quality guidelines?â€ The answer to that is yes.
He adds that the FTC has said that word of mouth marketing is like any other kind of marketing, and if youâ€™re being paid to say something you should disclose that. Adequate disclosure means it is understood by both people and the machines.
How do you disclose a paid link to the search engines?
* Redirect through URL locked by robots.txt
* Redirect through URL t hat does a 302
* Nofollow the link
Google says you can buy links within search engine guidelines â€“ meaning they canâ€™t pass PR. Google doesnâ€™t care about those links. However, you cannot buy links that pass PageRank.
Examples of PPP links â€“ fundraisers, donate cars, online, credit, super slots, providers, junk yards, online casino, bypass pill, dating advice, USA online poker, etc.
Both people and machines have to be able to understand the disclosure?
Also why does Lisa use the PPP acronym and not that of paid links rather than paid reviews?
Lets Take A Look at… YouTube
There is no requirement for disclosure
Views and ratings are counted whether a video is commercial or not, and commercial content can make it to the top of YouTube rankings.
Lets Take A Look At… Referral Units
Seven months ago I first published an article about how Google’s guidelines for their referral units don’t tally with FTC and WOMM.
3 Months ago I highlighted that specific questions regarding WOMM with referral units in response to articles on the Google Adsense blog were going totally unanswered.
So Many Different Compensated Links
Just the other day I wrote about the need for a level playing field for paid links.
Based upon current logic the WOMMA should be kicked out of the SERPs for having paid links on their site, along with all their members.
Hey guys, it only costs $1000 per year to join WOMMA, but you could probably barter a little SEO help and get them to pay you, with all those member pages being counted as duplicate content and supplemental.
Matt is known to be a supporter of WordPress, and Google are going to make a lot of money displaying advertising on their high ranking blogs.
Matt Cutts still retains a link to WordPress.org on his blog.
From the WordPress default theme (hidden in a comment)
If you’d like to support WordPress, having the “powered by” link somewhere on your blog is the best way, it’s our only promotion or advertising.
So you are paying for use of WordPress by giving them a link – it is advertising without a nofollow on millions of blogs, not to mention the default blogroll and half the WordPress developers selling text links – yes Matt Cutts is using blogging software funded in part by text links.
At least one of the following sites is sponsoring a very popular WordPress plugin that gives them links, lots of them, quite certainly from millions of pages.
Digg, Del.icio.us, Netvouz, Dzone, ThisNext, MisterWong, Wists
If you want to be standards compliant as well as using script tags, you also use noscript, and include a link.
1000s of top search terms are dominated by people using links hidden in noscript that most users never see, and copy and paste without even realising it.
Do these huge corporations using these tactics have to now include nofollow on the noscript links?
For a light-hearted look, I have to post this video
Rentvine created this video, which isn’t their niche – they are a home rental site.
Ultimately it is Google’s search engine, and they want to provide better search results and encourage ethical SEO practice.
When I write a compensated review of a service, I almost always spend hours on them, far more than your average Yahoo intern working for the directory, and I earn far less.
The reviews are always relevant to my audience, and I am selective having turned down the last 3 offers I was made to review sites, over $400 I could have earned but didn’t because I respect my audience, or didn’t feel qualified. I only review a service when I can offer insight, opinion and feedback.
As I have mentioned in the past, this topic is of specific interest because of my future startup plans, where the links will be as “whitehat” as Matt Cutts linking to Google, or Robert Scoble to Podtech
If 100,000 shareholders, employees and companies for whom I provide a very specific service for link to my site, is it going to be webspam if they are linking through to authoritative and highly relevant content? I have no plans to ask them to nofollow the links.
Update: I just read Rand’s writeup at SEOmoz on this paid links session at SES San Jose and it offers insight into the tone of the session, further clarification and there were also revelations from the Q & A afterwards.
To Matt Cutts – can Google remove the ability of individual pages to pass linkjuice
Matt says that not only can they remove single page’s ability to pass PR, they can also remove the ability of only certain links on a page from passing PR, and do.
To Matt Cutts – would Google ever ban a large brand for an extended period of time for engaging in manipulative link practices?
Matt says that Google had removed a very big site in the past for 43 days in total from the index, and this was noticed by Ben Edelman (sadly, I haven’t ID’d the site or post and Matt did not mention it)
The Ben Edelman reference seems to be in relation to WhenU 3 years ago and it seems that was mainly to do with cloaking.
Andy Beal sums up this SES session
I encourage you to read the notes and digest the information. Like me, youâ€™ll probably come to the conclusion that buying select links from highly relevant pages isnâ€™t going to get you into trouble with Google. Buying tons of spammy, non-relevant, run of site links, probably will.
On a subject like this I will quite happily link through to Fantomaster who sells cloaking software
Will it work? Will the Google monster, the paragon of Web Apartheid, finally relent?
Dana on the Online Marketing Blog likens this to a Transformers battle between Optimus Prime (Matt Cutts) & Megatron (Michael Gray)
I am sure the Toprank team recommend buying links on Yahoo, why is a paid review worse?
Yesterday Duncan Riley on Techcrunch attacked the general WordPress attitude to paid links.
It would be interesting to look at how many WordPress developers, theme designers and plugin developers are heavily funded by the sale of text links.
Duncan also attacked Akismet, and he is quite right to do so. Spam Karma, with or without the addition of AKisment is actually equally or more effective at handling spam, and can be integrated with Akismet as an additional check.
As I mentioned recently, WordPress Sponsored themes still exist in large numbers on the theme database. In the comments on Techcrunch, Matt Mullenweg seems to be claiming that they have been all cleared out, but that is far from the case.
Duncan mentions the oft used phrase “people in glass houses” which does ring home my earlier article – A List Bloggers in Crystal Palaces Shouldn’t Throw Stones
Michael Gray has now published his powerpoint presentation on Google Paid links.
I am not a user of Text Link Ads, but it seems emails have gone out about some code changes, and that they will now be using TinyURL for the links
TinyURL in itself is a 301 redirect, which could however then link to a further redirect or tracking script. I am not sure a chain of 301 redirects would be a good idea, and using TinyURL on its own is still passing juice.
Aaron Wall is also binging out the big guns, arguing why linkbaiting (which Google supports) is not suitable for all businesses.
Some of Aaron’s bullet points against linkbaiting include:-
- it is expensive
- it is time consuming
- the results are hard to predict
- it requires social connections
- it provides off topic low value traffic
- it typically creates content of limited commercial value (other than the ability to pull in links to rank other pages for stuff they did not have enough relevancy or authority to merit ranking for)
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