60-Seconds #313 : Google Link Removal schemes raise a lot of questions

by Fred Showker

60-Seconds article about Google As you have heard me mention many times in the past, I'm friends with Chuck Green, and his excellent "Jumpola.com" web site of links for designers. Back in 1993 I registered the domain "dtp-jumpstation.com"* and for several years offered the very exact same thing. Unfortunately someone forgot to update the domain, and it was nabbed by German cybercrooks -- game over. Seven years later, Chuck launched Jumpola and the rest is history. But it's not all good, and Chuck's Jumpola is seriously excellent.

Chuck wrote on Facebook* that he received an email from a printing company wanting him to get rid of links in Jumpola . . .

 > We're trying to contact the owner of jumpola.com. 
 > Unfortunately, we've been notified by Google that 
 > a link on your site pointing to our site didn't meet 
 > Google’s guidelines and might be 
 > getting viewed as a Link Scheme.

Chances are, if you own a web site with links to other sites, you too may have received the "Link Removal Requret" email. We've received hundreds of them. There are many, many, many in the world who will swear that what I'm about to write is pure fantasy. Well, maybe so. But this is the way it looks to me. What if I am right?

Having been in the online world since 1986, and linking on the web since 1992, I have amassed my share of outgoing links. In the days of the real World-Wide-Web, linking was encouraged. Linking is what made the web the web. When Madison Avenue* and organized crime* caught on, linking became a very lucrative venture. Then, an upstart named "Google" comes along to discover that people would actually pay for keywords. A lot more people than they thought. They discovered that along with the billions paid for keywords, there were as many web site owners who would do anything for a buck. Rapidly becoming the Lord of the Internet, they created AdSense*.

AdSense is Google's "affiliate" program, inspired by Amaozn's affiliate program, where you make a few hundredths of a cent when a user sees a Google AdSense ad in your site, and a few more hundredths of a cent if someone happens to click on the ad. Hey, it was a sure-fire way to get millions of little mom-n-pop web owners to give you free ad space on their site while believing they would get rich. Yup, me too ... see that tall ad over to the right? Yup. That's it. Many did get rich, in the very beginning. Just a few are getting rich today.

Quoting  beginsMake easy money selling books on your web site!Quoting  ends

Both Amazon and Google have done very well over the years, riding on the backs of millions of web owners who wanted a piece of that pie in the sky. But the goose(s) became very posessive of that golden egg. Even though they were becoming very, very rich, the people making them rich were taking too much of the profits for themselves.

When we, the affiliates, began to make lots and lots of money off those books and "AdSense" ads, both Amazon and Google began quietly and cleverly instituting "policy" changes that would effectively throttle back the amounts we made and bring more profits into their own coffers. All the while, they maintained they were doing us a favor.

Amazon instituted the "Buy Used" button and put it right next to the "Buy Now" button. It was a devilishly delicious idea -- because the 'used' sales did not give a commission to the Affliiate who brought that customer to buy. That day, 89% of affiliate fees went away, and the bottom dropped out of Amazon Affiliates checks. No consumer with a grain of sense will pay retail when there's a button that lets you buy it for half, or a third. Poof. Fees gone. That left hundreds of thousands of sites still promoting Amazon books, sending ready buyers to Amazon for zip. Not a penny, zero, nill.

Sometime later, Google decides to goes public. They were no longer a 'servant' site. They now owed their soul to the shareholders, and had to start making real profits. The days of "doing no evil" were over.

Quoting  begins Our shareholders are not going to like these millions of private web owners making too much money off our advertisers' links. We need a plan, and we need it quick. Let's design a method of throttling all our affiliates back to pennies -- without them realizing what's happening Quoting  ends

After all, the success of Google's AdSense also depends on the millions of sites where these ads appear -- without those affiliates Google would have no ads to sell in the first place. So they really had to be a lot slicker than Amazon in finding a way to extort those existing web site owners. We don't know what they did, but something they did cut the revenue in half. (Sometime in February, March and April of 2009) But it still wasn't enough to fill the big shareholder pockets. Google realized they needed something a lot more powerful, and more effective. They needed something that would soften the sudden drop in revenue for all their "friends" -- something everyone would rally behind. So they invented the Panda and Penguin algorithms threat. This would bring the world "quality" search results. (Picture the Grinch told little Sue Who that he was taking the tree to fix the light, and he'd bring it right back? ) Everyone cheered. Well, except me. To me, it was fairly obvious where they were headed with this.

As the planet's only search engine of diety, Google's Matt Cutts speaks:

Quoting  begins we will do what ever we need to in order to return a high quality index. If we find bad quality links on your site, you will be penalized in the search engine rankings.Quoting  ends

It was brilliant. It was deliciously brilliant. People cheered and rallied. It not only solved the revenue problem, but it switched everybody's attention away from Google's revenue and pointed back it squarely back into the "service to the world" yarn. It generated a whole new smoke screen, spawning the "SEO" industry, generating a billion "experts" who would now be able to re-configure your site to be "Penguin" friendly! It was brilliant. All Google had to do was program a couple of apps that would scan your site and analyze the revenue potential of the links compared to all the other sites with similar links. Any links that are generating traffic away from Google's profits would be tagged BAD! A little letter would be generated on the web site owner threatening penalties, and the owner would quickly come and ask YOU to remove the link. You gasped! They gasped. If the links weren't removed, the clouds would open and both sites would be struck with "Google Death." The plan was so brilliant and worked so well Google's bottom line took a huge jump!

STOP

If you're one of those web developers who follows all this, and believes in Google's benevolence, then that's perfectly okay. I'm sure things will work out. But, you'll want to stop reading now. You're okay, and you've got your work cut out for you. Those of you who want the rest of the story, can just hit the next page button . . . .

... continues on the next page!

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