Does your web design firm “require” a link on your web site, back to their web site? According to Matt Cutts, the Google Quality/Spam team manager, those back links will now be detected and labeled by Google as “search engine spam”, and your site will suffer in the search rankings. Matt doesn’t give a time schedule for the new rule, but does say that Google has not only already developed the detection algorithms, but is actively testing them right now. Matt has asked people to send in reports when they see such links. It seems that Matt wants those “sure thing” sponsored links so he can test the reliability of the new penalty algorithms.
The practice of including links back to web design firms is an old one. Commonly you get two price options for your web design: price one, which does not require a back link, is much cheaper than the second price. The second price includes a requirement that you credit the designer firm with the work, by way of a promotional advertisement Google is now calling “paid links”. According to Matt Cutts this past week, it is that price break that makes the link illegal in the eyes of Google, and Google will diminish the value of sites that include such links as a way of dealing with them.
Naturally there is a good deal of discussion on the web right now about this flex of muscle by TheMightyGoogle. Non-profit agencies that link to their sponsors and donors are looking at Google penalties for doing so, under the new rules as described by Matt Cutts. So are membership organizations which list their paying members on their web sites (with back links to member’s sites). It’s all illegal under the new rules.
The new rule also hurts web hosting companies , who commonly provide reduced cost hosting for selected projects or customers, often non-profits and good causes. Sometimes they require a back link, but many times the grateful customer gladly places such a link as a means of saying “thanks” for the help. Now, that link will hurt the charity, as Google calls it “spam” and takes action to devalue it, whethe rit really is a padi link or just looks like one (or is reported to be one by some oddball Google fan out there). Geesh. This is getting scary, no?