How Legal Fictions Can Break Google’s Paradigms on Greyhat SEO

Legal fictions can be used by greyhat SEOs to overcome Google’s nearsighted paradigms on buying websites and buying links. While Google is trying to pass off its guidelines as law – and is succeeding in convincing some people of that fact* – the facts are otherwise, and my two-post series on the topic will show that the law can actually enable people to skirt Google’s techniques and expose its faults.

For my first post, I will address how legal fictions in the common law solve the problem of having a website’s SEO strength reset upon purchase and transfer. (I’ve yet to grasp how the civil law handles this, though my understanding is that it has similar mechanisms.)

Everyone’s favourite competitive webmaster, John Andrews, recently liveblogged Matt Cutts’ presentation at Domain Roundtable . Matt explained that Google eliminates all or nearly all of a site’s value when it is sold.

Obviously this is not the case for corporate America (Myspace anyone?), which in any case has its own legal fictions defending it (News Corp bought Myspace Inc, and Myspace.com was just one asset…). But for your average independent/competitive webmaster, the situation is different. So hopefully this will be helpful to you search marketing folks without the benefit of Fortune 500 status to back you up.

Update: The post is live: Buying Sites? Use Trust To Avoid Google Domain Demolitions.

For my second post, I will show how another legal fiction enables the purchase of text link ads under the radar.

After my post on hiding/disguising text link ads as AdSense and other ad format, and Shady’s point on making paid links look like the result of linkbait , this tip is another tool in the link purchaser’s arsenal.

Google is broken: it gave up the original PageRank paradigm of valuing links based on the traffic they send in favour of some public relations notion of links as “votes” (next SEO that repeats that links are votes is getting their ass kicked by yours truly). Until Google fixes itself, buying links from craptastic sites with no visitors (the majority of link buys, imho) is going to keep working.

*”[B]lackhat tactics are [...] illegal ways to game the system to your advantage.” – Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics an Hour a Day, p. 206; otherwise an interesting and educational read and one which I’ll be reviewing here once I’ve finished reading it. Note also: I spoke to Avinash before publishing this and he wanted to highlight two points of context for the above statement:

  • First, he recognized that it was a mistake and poor choice of words. His point was merely that it’s unwise as your site might get banned (which is a more accurate statement and one I agree with).
  • Second, he highlighted that he wrote that prior to working for Google, and thus it wasn’t a statement that they had him put out there. (That said, I’m quite certain their public relations department was more than happy to see that statement put out there.)

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Comments

  1. Where you say that Google: "gave up the original PageRank paradigm of valuing links based on the traffic they send" you are highlighting your unfamiliarity with the original thesis, papers, and patents of the PageRank algorithm. Never once was any direct or indirect measure relating to traffic levels a part of the PageRank algorithm. Instead, it was modelled directly on a method for predicting the winner of the Nobel prize by counting citations in other science papers. Citations. Citations are what PageRank was always based upon. All that has changed over the decade since is that Google, (like the rest of us) worked out that some citations were more valuable and 'genuine' than others based upon more than just how many citations the publisher of a citation themselves had. Google discovered that authors could be bribed into citing one source over another, or in simply citing a source they would not otherwise have cited at all.

    Comment by Ammon Johns - May 8, 2008 @ 5:36am
  2. Ammon, while I can agree to debate, I think that your jibe at my own understanding above is a petty, ad hominem attack. My reference to links measuring traffic levels is based on the following quotation: "PageRank can be thought of as a model of user behavior. We assume there is a "random surfer" who is given a web page at random and keeps clicking on links, never hitting "back" but eventually gets bored and starts on another random page." Evidently, if someone buys links on a dead site that doesn't get traffic anymore - as is the case for many indexed but non-ranking sites - or else buys offtopic links that won't get clicked on (because they're not contextual), then according to that paradigm, Google wouldn't count those paid links. As to counting citations, the following quotation from the same part of the paper seems to highlight what you mean. "Another intuitive justification is that a page can have a high PageRank if there are many pages that point to it, or if there are some pages that point to it and have a high PageRank. Intuitively, pages that are well cited from many places around the web are worth looking at. Also, pages that have perhaps only one citation from something like the Yahoo! homepage are also generally worth looking at. If a page was not high quality, or was a broken link, it is quite likely that Yahoo's homepage would not link to it. PageRank handles both these cases and everything in between by recursively propagating weights through the link structure of the web." I think that shows Google already understanding that not all citations were created equal from the get-go. So, with all due respect - as having seen your name around in reputable circles, I know you're a leading SEO - I don't think your criticism stands up.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 8, 2008 @ 7:19pm
  3. No. Usually an Ad Hominem attack is made as a diversionary measure, something to attempt to turn an argument away from conceding a lost point. In this case, you use an attack - the claim that you've been targetted by a "petty, ad hominem attack" - to avoid conceding the truth: "Never once was any direct or indirect measure relating to traffic levels a part of the PageRank algorithm." Since you have the paper to hand now to quote, please accept my open invitation to quote the part about traffic. Petty accusations and slight of hand don't cut it. I'm rather surprised that you resort to accusations rather than having the maturity and grace to say "okay, it says nothing about traffic, just as you stated". Not that surprised anymore though, I guess.

    Comment by Ammon Johns - June 3, 2008 @ 9:14am
  4. So you respond to me quoting the paper again by making personal arguments. You're really making a great first impression.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - June 8, 2008 @ 1:12pm

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