In Google's latest blatant exhibition of ridiculousness, Matt Cutts has now created an informal way to report paid links.  Matt, of course, like Mr. Ahmadinejad over in Iran, blames it on the Brits:

"One thing I heard at SES London was that people wanted a way to report paid links specifically."

Damn those Brits.  Damn them to hell!

So here's how to report paid links:

1.  Sell your soul.
2.  Report it just like spam with subject "paidlink."

Matt does claim its only to collect data to dogfood some algorithmic approaches; but I don't buy it.  If he wanted to do that, he'd just scrape text-link-ads.com and a few other high profile link brokers.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for detecting paid links algorithmically. 

But tell me, Google; are you going to penalize topix.com, Answers.com, Scientific America, Forbes?  They all sell paid links (some of them, rather pricey!).  Or are you just going to start frustrating the little guy while providing immunity to the worst offenders?

After all, cloaking is A-OK for The New York Times, but would get me nuked … 

My take on text links is in my black hat chapter in my SEO Book:

On Buying Links
"As a result of the new focus on link-building to acquire relevant links, instead of the historical focus on on-page factors (discussed in Chapter 2), an entire industry of link-buying has sprung up. This is expected, because it is a natural reaction by the search engine marketing industry to facilitate their jobs. It is Matt Cutts’ (of Google) opinion that purchased links should include a rel="nofollow" attribute. However, in practice this has proven to be Matt Cutts’ wishful thinking, because this policy has never been widely adopted for obvious reasons.

We consider buying links completely ethical, so long as the links are semantically related. Realistically, a content provider can reject placing your link on their site if it is not relevant, and if they consider it relevant, there is no reason the authors can think of to include the rel="nofollow" attribute. It is trusted, audited content. Buying links, when done properly, is not a black hat technique in and of itself. When done aggressively and improperly (irrelevent links, identical anchor text, etc.), it may, however, be perceived as spamming by a search engine."

So it's final.  You're probably a black hatter.  Welcome to the dark side!

A more nefarious idea was proposed by "Jeffrey" on Matt's blog:

"Cool! I will quickly buy some links for my competitors on text link ads and then denounce him. Good idea, thanks Matt."

Cute.  Note that this post on Matt's blog, as Carsten Cumbrowski points out is a definite step backwards for Google.  Relevant paid links should not raise any red flags — or require a rel,nofollow attribute.

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