While doing some research, an astute coworker of mine noticed that the Google Enterprise Solutions page has links to their partners’ websites who are part of their Enterprise program. What’s interesting about this is that the page has a Google PageRank of 7/10, and to get listed on that page you have to pay Google $10,000 per year to be part of their program.
Before you claim I’m overreacting, let me state my case with some evidence:
1. The only way to get a link on this page is to pay Google $10,000 per year.
2. Google is against the inclusion of paid links in their Pagerank algorithm that helps determine search results. Here is a quote from their Corporate Technology page:
PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value. Important pages receive a higher PageRank and appear at the top of the search results. Google’s technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page’s importance. There is no human involvement or manipulation of results, which is why users have come to trust Google as a source of objective information untainted by paid placement.
3. Google’s most prominent blogger Matt Cutts has spoken out against paid links and recommended use of the rel=”NOFOLLOW” attribute.
4. Google could add the “rel=NOFOLLOW” attribute to the links on that page in order to not pass Pagerank credit from the page to the partner websites. According to the Wikipedia page on Pagerank:
In early 2005, Google implemented a new value, “nofollow”, for the rel attribute of HTML link and anchor elements, so that website builders and bloggers can make links that Google will not consider for the purposes of PageRank â€” they are links that no longer constitute a “vote” in the PageRank system.
Why isn’t Google putting the rel=”NOFOLLOW” on these links?
As a side note, the links to Google in this blog post have the rel=”NOFOLLOW” on them because I don’t want to be passing on PageRank to that Enterprise Partners page.
5. Google could also just not rank the Enterprise Partners page with PageRank as they appeared to have done with their Adsense Case Studies page. You’ll see it is not ranked, and the page has existed for a long time meaning Google has intentionally chosen not to rankthis page. They also don’t even link to the publisher websites or in the case studies themselves for the most part, they just write out the text like ApartmentRatings.com with no link. However, I did find that a couple of the older case studies like the Weblogs Inc. one that do have links out. Of course, there is no page rank on the case study giving them no benefit.
Why do the partners paying $10,000 seem to get links with a high PageRank?
6. Google IS including the Enterprise partners page in their index which leads me to believe they are counting the Pagerank on the page. See the #1 result on the search query for “google earth specialist”.
The counter argument to my evidence is that the partners really aren’t paying for the link, but that the $10,000 fee is for the overall Enterprise partner program. True, but the ONLY way to get listed on the Enterprise Partners page is to pay Google $10,000 per year, which means the ONLY way to get a link on that page is to PAY FOR IT!
From what I can tell Google is not taking the steps to exclude the power of those links in their algorithm. Those are not just “editorial votes” as a natural link is supposed to be in the algorithm, those links are there because money exchanged hands.
I actually agree with Google’s stance on not including paid links in their algorithm, but there’s really three options here:
1. Google is being sloppy and not intending to be counting paid links, but they are.
2. Google is taking money for links and looking the other way.
3. I’m missing something, please let me know if I am.
In closing, I see that Google acquisition YouTube.com has now been added to the Google Products page that happens to be a PR9 page. If they’re charging $10,000 for a PR7 link, let’s hope YouTube didn’t have to give back too much of that $1.65 billion to be listed on this page!
Apparently Google had a different but somewhat similar problem with using NOFOLLOW on most of the links on Google Video except for the links to their advertisers. Matt Cutts responded in the comments that it was a mistake and would be fixed as fast as possible. Good to see them fix and own up to the mistake. But the question remains, is the case I mention above a mistake?
UPDATE Part 2:
The page in question no longer carries a Pagerank. I’m guessing from the comments Matt Cutts had this changed. Thanks for taking action Matt, as I believe Google should be careful with links that may be considered “questionable” on whether or not they are pure natural links.