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Why Google Hates Paid Reviews

December 2, 2007 by  

I haven’t been able to post anything for over a week because something came up and I needed to take care of it right away. Anyway, since I’ll be away from the computer again tomorrow I guess it’s best to spend sometime writing to let you guys know that I am still alive and kicking :)

While browsing my RSS feed on a lazy Sunday afternoon looking for something to write about, I saw a post by Matt Cutts which I thought you should know especially if you are doing paid reviews.

I’ve written several times in this blog that selling and buying links that pass PageRank is frown upon by Google. In the post Matt gives an example, a serious one at that, of paid posts to illustrate his points how some paid posts writer couldn’t careless about the accuracy about their reviews. Inaccurate information is not only bad as far as the users experience is concern but it can potentially be a matter of life or death for the readers in certain situation.

To illustrate his point, he uses brain tumors paid reviews, and ask you to put yourself in the reader’s shoe. Matt’s main concern is that most of the reviewers knew nothing about the treatment before getting paid to post about it. As a result, the reviews were often inaccurate or uninformed. In the end of the day, the one who suffers are the end users who believe the reviews are accurate.

Now if using brain tumor treatment as an example is a little too serious for you, ask yourself if paid reviews actually offer good users experience and how it could unfairly affect the search engine rankings in the long run. If you think that it’s unfair for Google to stop people from selling/buying links as it closes the opportunity for small website publishers to advertise their websites at a low cost, imagine when all the big companies with million dollar budget join the party.

If Google were to allow buying and selling links to continue, I won’t be surprise to see one day that acquiring top search engine rankings is a matter of spending the most money to buy paid links and reviews. Gone were the days where the Internet was a level playing field, at least as far as SEO is concern. Surely nobody wants that to happen, not me, not Google and definitely not you, right?

I’ve posted a comment in the post and I hope Matt will answer my questions

I agree with everything about this article but I wonder if your algorithm is able to determine whether a paid post is well written/well research. What if someone writing a paid review about brain tumors and was able to write an amazingly accurate and honest article about it? Do you still demote their page rank just because they are writing paid review about brain tumors?

My guess is that, such thing might require a manual review. Take JohnChow.com for example, he’s ignoring everything Google says about not doing paid review or selling text link ads and he still have PageRank 4. Google is giving mixed message here for not demoting his page to 0. Perhaps Google realises that his readers actually find some of his paid reviews useful and that’s how he can get away with it. Is that an accurate assumption?

Then what happen if JohnChow.com suddenly writes a paid review about a brain tumor treatment and the information is not entirely accurate. Will he get a 0 PageRank then?
Perhaps even with PR4, JohnChow.com has lost its ability to pass along Google Juice so Google couldn’t care less about what he writes?

What about someone promoting an affiliate program related to brain tumors treatment? And let say the link was able to pass Google Juice along. Are you going to do anything about that?

What do you think?

By the way, I know I am selling text link ads here so some readers might perceive that I’m contradicting myself by not doing what I write. Actually, I didn’t escape the wrath of Google when my PageRank was reduced to 3 from 5. Hey they could be gone soon and I might start selling banner ads as an alternative.

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14 Comments »

Comment by Mr. Rajawang
2007-12-02 17:02:48

Finally you are back my friend, Good for you. But I guess if I am johnchow with a lot of traffics and own a ads company- I will not bother about the PR thingy..

:P

Comment by Gaman
2007-12-02 20:08:21

I suppose so but I mean JohnChow.com maintains its PR at 4 while most other blogs doing paid review get 0. Do you think that’s fair?

Comment by pinolobu Subscribed to comments via email
2007-12-03 15:02:00

Is Google slapping only PayPerPost bloggers with automatic PR demotion to zero, or are all paid posters are affected?

Do you know of any other blog doing ReviewMe that got demoted to PR0?

If Google is consistent in “even ONE paid post from ANY company (PPP, Smorty, blogitive, linkworth, blogsvertise, reviewme, sponsoredreviews etc) will result in immediate and automatic demotion to PR0, even if you currently at PR10″, ReviewMe, which made John Chow UDS4,400 in November, should cause him to get PR0.

In addition, he is also doing text link ads, which netted him more than USD2K in Nov.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
Comment by Blends
2007-12-02 23:54:43

Google just playing game. They want to control everything.

 
Comment by meh
2007-12-03 10:40:06

is pagerank rili that important?

Comment by Gaman
2007-12-03 11:47:11

I guess this post is more about paid posts than page rank.

 
Comment by pinolobu Subscribed to comments via email
2007-12-03 15:03:49

5xmom said it is, and that higher PR means higher traffic.

Hence she removed all paid posts / tla from her 2 main blogs.

 
 
Comment by Azmeen
2007-12-03 10:52:08

I think Matt doesn’t really John Chow (not surprising), your post was deleted/moderated :P

Comment by Gaman
2007-12-03 11:42:10

I am sure someone from Google knows JohnChow.com (the guy who removes John Chow from Google front page) but probably he’s not as famous as he thinks he is LOL. Yea I noticed several other comments besides mine were deleted today.

Comment by pablopabla
2007-12-03 14:22:43

Gaman, you mean your comment which appeared above was deleted at Matt Cutt’s blog? I think you raised very important questions which Matt or Google was unable to answer and hence, deleting your comment was the best option. Either that or the system thought you were a nasty spammer :D

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
Comment by helen
2007-12-03 17:30:07

Nope I don’t agree with what Mr Cutts is saying.

Quote: “Gone were the days where the Internet was a level playing field, at least as far as SEO is concern.”

With the intervention of Search Engine that profess to do more than it should, there is no level playing field for the little guys.

Bearing in mind reviews are merely the opinion of the individual blogger (yes, even paid ones), I see the hypocrisy there. Meaning what? If you’re not somebody (no PHD, MBA Doctor), you can’t give a decent review? I believe it is the readers’ responsibility to discern how much they ought to trust the source. Anyway, if anyone care to read through the cited examples of ‘unreliable’ blogs on Mr Cutts’ post, you will see nobody claimed to be an authoritive medical figure. Those bloggers were merely talking from a layman’s perspective. I don’t think they deserve to be called irresponsible.

Comment by Gaman
2007-12-04 11:25:34

Sorry I think you are missing the point. It’s not just a matter of opinion, it’s a way for people to make money regardless of whether the opinion is of good quality or not. Often reviews are written for a quick buck.

But it’s not only the reviews, it’s how the paid links could potential distort the democratic nature of search engine ranking.

BTW I’m the one who wrote this not Matt :)

“Gone were the days where the Internet was a level playing field, at least as far as SEO is concern.”

That’s the situation I imagine will happen when Google allows selling and buying paid links to continue.

 
 
Comment by cashmarble.com
2007-12-04 08:03:57

Gaman,

Google just can’t accept Competition. One of my blog is doing fine thou i post like 30 paid posting a week but i still maintain the blog PR.

 
Comment by Kay Kastum
2007-12-06 18:31:34

Paid post community need not worry much. Paid posting companies are already coming up with their own ‘Page Rank’ I think.

 
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