In a recent article by Mark Jackson of Search Engine Watch, the author expressed his frustration with Google on its lack of policy enforcement as it pertains to “paid links.” Jackson explains how hard it is to convey to clients why “paid links” aren’t a good idea all the while knowing that they work. In his own words:
“I want to scream to the spam police at the major search engines. If you want us to operate in an ‘ethical’ manner, show us that you're penalizing the Web sites that abuse your guidelines! Not just one here and another there. That doesn't get our attention.” (See reference)
I can think of no better example for Google to make a statement than with the #1 online retailer on conversion rates: Proflowers.com. As is common knowledge among many SEOs, Proflowers.com has been actively engaged in influencing Google’s algorithm through the use of “paid links” for several years now and is quite brazen about it.
I started writing about paid text links in the floral industry over a year ago and more recently here on Florist SEO Watch. The article I wrote over a year ago actually ranks in the top 10 results for the search phrase “paid text links” and directly covers Proflowers.com. I sure find it hard to believe that a member of Google’s spam brigade has never read it given its exposure.
Here’s my take on paid text links: Google’s policy may state that buying text links is outside of its acceptable guidelines, but the level of tolerance is by fact unknown. When I look at the link campaign for Proflowers.com I am utterly floored by the excessive amount of paid text links that I see. To me, when I compare their efforts to others of the same caliber, Proflowers.com stands out as a heavy link buyer. Is Google clueless to all this? I don’t think so.
It has been said by other SEOs that Google is more lenient & tolerant toward large company violations, but if that is true then Mark Jacksons’ “scream” falls on deaf ears and will continue to. Penalizing smaller companies is not a sign that Google is serious. In fact, giving larger companies diplomatic immunity sends a confusing message to smaller businesses who often try to copy larger businesses for success.