Google Selling PR7 Links For $10,000!

paidlink.jpgWhile 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 — 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 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.

Google is taking money for links and looking the other way.

I’m missing something, please let me know if I am.

In closing, I see that Google acquisition 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.

  • Andy Beal

    You’re paying $10k to join the program. The link is a nice benefit, but not what you’re paying for.

  • John K

    I agree with Andy, this is a common enterprise software VAR / channel program type of arrangement.

    What you are missing is that not EVERYONE in the world sees every link as an SEO would…

  • Michael McNeeley

    Google linking to their (paid) partners is not the issue…

    I think Pat’s point is that the links should be rel=”nofollow” to ensure everyone that no one is doing it for SEO benefits.

    Where’s Matt Cutts when you need him?

  • Pat McCarthy

    It doesn’t matter if you’re paying $10k for the program or if it’s common in the Enterprise world. Is it a pure link?

    If it’s not entirely pure, shouldn’t Google remove the Pagerank from the page or use NOFOLLOW? They push NOFOLLOW, so why not use it on these unpure links?

  • Shoemoney

    Great find.

  • Matt Cutts

    “I agree with Andy, this is a common enterprise software VAR / channel program type of arrangement.

    What you are missing is that not EVERYONE in the world sees every link as an SEO would… ”

    John K is exactly right; these are real companies joining an enterprise program for training, developer consultation, participation in a developer forum, etc. But I’m happy to ensure that these pages don’t flow PageRank, just so there’s no cause for concern whatsoever.

    Your “Google Selling PR7 Links For $10,000!” went live late Friday and I’m responding before 7am Pacific on a Saturday; I think that’s a pretty good turnaround time for a response from Google, yeah? :)

    I’ll go post a similar response on your self-dugg story, just to clarify this on the different places you’re promoting the story.

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Thanks for commenting Matt, but again why isnt rel=”nofollow” not being used on these links?

  • Sean

    Matt, your clarification was good until the last line. You responded quickly and professionally until you snuck in that little insult about it being a “self-dugg” story. The bottom line is that a lot of people find this interesting. Google has nobody to blame but themselves for any less-than-desirable publicity here.

    It is poor form to criticize the person who makes this information public.

  • Pat McCarthy

    Impressive response time Matt. I understand that it’s part of a program, but that doesn’t change whether the links should be getting a Pagerank benefit when Google is a leader in pushing the notion that only pure links should be counted in their algorithm.

    If you are going to ensure Pagerank isn’t passed, then I take that to mean you agree these links aren’t entirely pure?

    Yep, I dugg my post because I thought it was interesting. I believe Digg allows people to vote to bury it if they don’t agree.

  • Hesky

    Matt Cutts replied on digg, he says “it’s untrue”

  • John

    Matt Said, “on your self-dugg story,”

    That rock-star smuggness is starting to wear on me…time to stop reading your own press clippings Matt and be a normal person like the rest of us.

    As far as using nofollow or not nofollow, this isn’t the first time Google has had two sets of rules (see cloaking and WMW as example #1, they seem to make them up as the go along.

    With them it’s always been, “Do as I say, not as I do”

  • Matt Cutts

    Sean, sorry if the “self-dugg” comment came across as too critical. This is a real program for enterprise companies. If you wanted a custom plug-in written for the Google Search Appliance, this is the directory of companies you’d want. Writing a headline like “Google Selling PR7 Links For $10,000!” and submitting it to Digg made me feel that the post was at least slightly about getting attention. :) I do think that there are more productive ways to communicate with Google if someone is concerned about something (leave a comment on my blog, leave a comment on the webmaster blog, start a thread in the webmaster help group).

    Jaan, my guess is that the links don’t have nofollow because no one has ever even suggested before that the program could be construed as selling links. I’ve already submitted a change to ensure that there’s no PageRank benefit from these links, and when people get in on Monday I’ll be happy to ask that they add nofollow on the individual links or a nofollow meta tag or something similar.

    Pat, I believe the program was intended to help people find companies to assist with enterprise solutions, not in any way to sell PageRank. But to avoid even the appearance of anything improper, I’m happy to make sure that this directory doesn’t flow PageRank in Google.

    John, you mention cloaking and WMW, but you may not know that I told the administrator of WMW earlier this year that the site would be removed if it met the definition of cloaking. As the result, the administrator of WMW made code changes to WMW. I haven’t circled back around to check on that issue recently, but any site that violates our quality guidelines can be removed from our index, and that would include WMW if we found that it violated our quality guidelines.

  • Michael McNeeley

    Digging your own post is not deceptive… Communicating to your customers via a secret identify for years is deceptive.

    Hopefully ‘Googleguy’ doesn’t pull a MyBlogLog and axe your PageRank while he’s at it. :)

  • Jonathan

    “Communicating to your customers via a secret identify for years is deceptive.”

    Low blow.

    There was no deception whatsoever. He was just some guy working for Google, and it didn’t matter if his name is Matt Cutts, or Meriwether Lewis. At the time nobody had ever heard of Matt Cutts.

  • Mike McNeeley

    Blast! Jonathan you commented on that before I could post a follow-up…

    Matt I’m sorry. That was wasn’t what I really meant to say, and it was more for Google as a company practice than you personally. You’re doing the right thing by removing the PR and add no-follow to those links/pages.

    Good catch Jonathan.

  • Philipp Lenssen

    I don’t buy the PR-selling angle at all. Google doesn’t care about this kind of cash if it hurts the image, and it would be overpriced, and the whole purpose of the page is clearly to show partners. And I think it’s kinda sad that “nofollow” is now being used for normal links like these pointing to partners, if the changes Matt suggested will go live.

    > John, you mention cloaking and WMW, but you may not
    > know that I told the administrator of WMW earlier this year
    > that the site would be removed if it met the definition of
    > cloaking.

    Matt, will it also be removed if it meets the webmaster guidelines definition of “sneaky redirect”?

  • h3ll3n!c

    Umm hello its called business,

  • John andrews

    Hmmm…. an observation of inequity between market players is exposed, there is an acknowledgement (with snarkiness) and a promised fix (however unverifiable). And a “sorry if it offended you” follow up. Typical Google.

    Andy gets first comment, and notes how it’s not A but B, although it might look like A. That’s one professional dude. He knows how to play the game.

    Others note it’s simply “business” while others desire discussion of the details of the inequity, and still others long for precedence they can utilize. Sorry guys, it’s simply business but we can’t say so. We have to say it’s not A but B, even though it might look like A.

    One thing left to admire: Matt notes the expose was attention-seeking. Well, duh! When the school marm trains the kiddies with rewards of ATTENTION (traffic), how can she be surprised when they act out to get more rewards?

    What a crazy “industry” this is…. really.

  • Matt Cutts

    Philipp, I agree that no one at Google had any intent of selling links for PageRank with this directory, but I’m happy to act in order to make sure that there’s no chance that this partner program could be misunderstood.

    On your other question, I wrote enough that I think it makes sense to make it into a separate blog post in the next few days.

  • Pat McCarthy

    Thanks for the great discussion guys. Creating the discussion was the intent of my post, and sometimes you need to draw attention to something to do that.

    As I originally stated, I know these links are part of the program. The question is more on if these links should have pagerank and/or NOFOLLOW when they are not clearly editorial votes. Since people in these comments disagree on whether they should or not, doesn’t this make it confusing for site publishers who are linking to other sites when sometimes a paid partnership or money is involved?

    While the comparison isn’t totally perfect, when an advertiser uses a service like ReviewMe, they could argue they’re paying for the review, not the link from the blogger. Should those links be counted? Is Google alllowing those to pass Pagerank? Should those links contain NOFOLLOW?

    In this Google case, the partners are paying for more than a review obviously, but the intent of why someone is paying money can be a gray area with services like ReviewMe and others.

    If Google is going to enforce such things, shouldn’t they be a stickler for the rules and not have gray areas on their own site?

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Thanks for the response Matt. I agree “selling PR” was not the objective here by Google. I would just have assumed that Google would add the no follow attribute on these by themselves, understanding the potential “benefit” from these links more than anyone else in the world. If these links would not benefit the Google clients in any SEO way, then that is something new as well for us to learn from all of this.

    Either way this was an interesting topic.

  • Justin

    Hi Pat,

    I am glad I found this page.. and also read through all the comments.. obviously Google would not bother with chicken feeds like 10,000… Was a nice discussion.. and lol thinking about it quite funny.. since how come no one ever thought of that.


  • Jasonwashere

    Wow, 10,000 is a bit much and I think its a PR8 now, but could be where I am at? How many people sign up for that? And I wonder what the conversion rate is for them?
    Again thanks

  • Paul Martin

    My opinion: you’re overreacting here. Beginning from the article title. Is that really the truth? Do you honestly think that most of the value of those $10,000 is(was) in that link? Do you think that any of those companies had that link in mind when deciding to become a Google partner. It sounds just like the promotional emails I receive from time to time, all with a bombastic title and unrelated content.
    Why is it so wrong to place your partners on your site. Are you arguing that Google’s results will be less relevant if the links are there? On the contrary, I believe.
    A simple question: if anyone had $10000/year to spare would he be able to get on that page? No, because he doesn’t have anything to do with Google Apps. So the main reason those links are here is that they have something to do with Google Apps; they’re not paid links, they’re related to that page and a resource for anyone that reached that page.
    And why is ‘self-dugg’ an attack? It’s nothing more than the truth, a simple, clear fact.

  • Retail jobs

    If the Enterprise program is worth it, then 10K is a good price?

  • Bob Mutch

    Ah come on this was just another good example of link bait that worked well. I just feel sorry for the sites that er, paid $10k for the PR7 only to have the PR turn off.

  • kris


    I am wondering what happens to a website which is listed on the google book library. Does google consider it as a valid link from a trusted site ?

    I have another question.

  • meeero

    a good pagerank doesn’t mean that the page is good too…

  • Promotional Products

    This is all very interesting. And it seems to have been resolved.

    What I don’t understand is how Google or any SE is going to compensate for ‘advertising’ text links on high PR pages that have zero to nil to do with the subject of the pages the text link points to.

    Use a backlinks checker on a site like 4imprintDOTcom, and you’ll see what I mean. I can’t find ONE on-topic back link other than those from a few pages of their own site. All the rest are non-related, but have a high PR.

    Not cool at all. But I understand it’d be a sticky wicket to address.

  • Mark

    I can see the different sides to this argument.

    Yes it looks as if Google are selling PR Links, but I’d say $10,000 might be a little bit too much for a PR7 if that is what what they were doing.

    They have signed up to an enterprise programme, a programme that includes a link on a PR7 page amongst other things – for people to complain about this is a bit ironic if not a case of the green eyed monster, to forbid people a link from a pagerank 7 page because it “looks like Google are selling PR links” is a tad harsh in my opinion. If the programme was just $5 to join, I’m sure most if not all of you would do the same thing.

    $10,000 is a lot of money and I seriously doubt that anyone paid this amount simply to gain a PR7 link.

    On the other hand, Google does seem to have double standards – things such as this, $10,000 per year to join the programme (with a pr7 included!!!)

    Also, someone I know was banned from adsense as they set an automated hits programme on there site and google said the person was generating false impressions on the google ads displayed. Yet you can advertise a site with adsense ads using google adwords, which is practically the same thing – paying for impressions & clicks.

    I sometimes wonder if Google doesn’t get lost up its own backside on occaisions

  • Dugu

    Agree with Mark. 10000$ for a pr7 link is too much. But for people don’t know and have loads of money, this kind of program looks very interesting…
    I wonder what is “Google” thinking about :) ….

  • Jonathan Franzone

    Can I bum $10,000 from anyone?

  • Angelas

    Not bad here “Google” has charged, $ 10k in a year for PR 7 I consider it is not necessary, for these money it is possible to make very strong project and to support not one year.

  • Apoorv Khatreja

    Why would Google deface their own creation?

  • Alberto

    I think it’s too expensive for only one link of pr7.

  • Michael

    I agree that no one at Google had any intent of selling links for PageRank with this directory, but I’m happy to act in order to make sure that there’s no chance that this partner program could be misunderstood.

  • Sneezy Melon

    bah! I could get pr 8 links for less than that. Google must organise a sale :P

  • Dizi

    Google must not stop link selling

    Because google must think about webmasters

  • sell house rent back

    I thought google was dead against buying or sell high pr links why has this changed

  • SEO Ibiza

    Interesting then that Microsoft appear to be selling PR6 links to their new free website customers for only the cost of signing up to their PPC scheme? :)

    Microsoft selling PR6 links to free website customers? ??

    I hope Google will be as firm with MS as anyone else ;)

  • ext

    very good prise Links For $10,000!
    i like it

  • Marc Klein

    I must agree with the author of this blog. And everyone with a little common sense will. Is it not simple for a company to start some program or develop some software to cover up link sales by selling memberships that include a link ? I have seen exactly the same thing happen with W3C. I did a post
    on my findings, I did some seo on a clients website and when I analyzed the competitors links I noticed that W3C was giving this specific website a link of such strength that it was close to impossible for any competitor to beat unless also prepared to invest in a similar “membership”. The membership with W3C costs roughly $6000 per year (depending on company income lol), and as a member this page was mentioned as a so called GOOD example of how to create a page that complies with the W3C web standards. This is nothing more than a hidden link selling technique. Small blogs get punished for removing the nofollow attribute of blog comments and the big companies can do as they please making huge sums of money selling their links ! These so called web authorities are loosing face and in my eyes they are not web authorities as they engage in practices where others get punished for much less. Once someone notices what they are doing they simply correct their doings and all is fine. If I start selling links I will get punished or will it be fine just to remove the links I have sold ?

    And when Matt agrees that EVERYONE sees links from an seo point of view then I must frankly ask you Matt from what other point of view can this be seen ????

  • Marc Klein

    And one thing I forgot to mention to all those smart asses that are mentioning that paying $10 000 for a PR7 link is to much… A PR7 link with good link juice might just be more valuable than any PR 8 link with less link juice….

    If paying $10 000 for a links gets your page on position 1 and in effect helps you get an increase in sales of several $100 000 then how can the value of the link be questioned ?

    Don’t all you smart guys think that someone that pays so much does not know what u guys think u know ????

    So much ignorance hurts….. Half of you guys are probably Indian search engine optimizers right ???

  • SEO Ibiza

    hahaha. well said mark. but lets not forget, pagerank is dead anyway, right? :)

  • SEO Ibiza

    ..sorry about mispelling your name

  • Resim

    Google must stop link selling. :P

  • firmalar

    Google must not stop link selling.
    Because google must think about webmasters. thanks

  • Martin

    Too expensive for PR7. How much they wants for the PR4? :)

  • hekimboard

    very good prise links hekimboard

  • Jeremy

    I agree with you Marc Klein. Usually if a company needs to buy some PR7 links they are in a very very competitive market. If you are selling wood birdhouses, I can see how it would not pay and seem very expensive.

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