Please Register Your Link Intent with the Google Borg

Since when does the world revolve around pleasing Google?

The fact of the matter is they are a publicly traded company and are in it to make money off your advertising dollars. So when Matt Cutts starts telling webmasters that they need to write code to please Google’s agenda, I say “please!” He recently wrote:

If you want to sell a link, you should at least provide machine-readable disclosure for paid links by making your link in a way that doesn’t affect search engines.

Since when is Google in the business of regulating disclosure for the types of links you have on your site? And why is Matt speaking like a representative of “search engines” as a whole? Matt is also encouraging snitching on those who are “selling links”. (Note to self: report every single commercial website to the Google link nazis.)

This whole business of paid links vs. unpaid links vs. semi-paid links is getting pretty ridiculous. Google created the link buying economy by making links such a central component of their algorithm. Every market and platform that achieves critical mass and starts to drive commerce eventually gets gamed, and contrary to popular belief, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – just the way economies work.

Google has become a platform. They drive a massive part of the economy. If my site stats are any indication they have the lion’s share of the search market. Even Matt Mullenweg is scared to piss off the Google borg:

I’d be the last to recommend any of us should tailor what we do to please Google or any other search engine, but at least on my blog it accounts for 60% or more of my traffic, so I’d rather stay on their good side.

And Mullenweg himself has recently gone on an anti-SEO tirade denouncing themes that contain sponsored text links. I love WordPress and I’m really thankful for all the work he’s put into the project, but you gotta take this with a grain of salt considering he’s a reformed spammer himself and someone who does the same thing that he’s condemning others for – aka putting his “Matt” link by default into every WordPress installation.

Does the “Matt” link provide a better user-experience? (Since Google seems to boil everything down to “we’re doing it for the users”). Where do you draw that line? How can you justify that your part of the slippery slope is cleaner than those of others?

Hell, maybe we just need to create new linking standards since rel=”nofollow” is a little lacking these days. How about:

rel=”pure_and_organic”
rel=”paid_for_with_cash”
rel=”paid_for_with_googlecheckout”
rel=”as_a_favor”
rel=”I_own_the_parent_company_stock”
rel=”affiliate_link”
rel=”indirect_benefit”

Update: For some more related reading check out Rae’s take and why equating paid links with spam is misguided.

Update #2: Check out Shoemoney’s post about WordPress themes and ensuing comments from Matt, Scoble, etc.