Google Buys Links with Hidden Anchor Text
I was awestruck today when I noticed that the perhaps most important German blogging conference re:publica sells high PageRank links.
and Google has repeatedly asked webmasters to report paid links aimed at manipulating Google's PageRank algorithm over the recent years.
The more astounded I was when I discovered that
Google itself, Google.de to be more exact buys a link on the same page.
It's right there on the homepage. It has PageRank 7 and the links are easily identifiable as Sponsors.
So I took a look at the source code and was quite sure that my Quirk SearchStatus extension has overlooked the obligatory "nofollow" attribute you have to add to sponsored links to stay within the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
I mean after all, these people, the blogging elite of Germany are Internet savvy professionals. They have to know it.
The more I was dumbfounded when I discovered the actual source code. In it you can clearly see anchor text that doesn't show up on the page itself. It's hidden. You can see images only that is the logos of the companies buying links at re:publica.
In the source code it says though:
<ul class="sponsors kooperationspartner">
<li><a target="_new" href="http://www.sony.de/" title="Sony">Sony</a></li>
<li><a target="_new" href="http://www.google.de">Google</a></li>;
So not only are these paid links. This site and with it Google itself violate the Google Webmaster guidelines by using hidden text as well. It's one of the oldest spam techniques there are on the Web. Here the site uses CSS to hide the text.
So what does this mean? Has Google revised its stance on paid links, now the it buy links itself?
I don't know what to believe by now. In the past Google departments all over the world have been caught buying links but in most cases they a good excuse. What's the excuse here? Will Google.de and re:republica get penalized by Matt Cutts? We'll see.
This blog is probably not important enough to make Google.de and the German blogging elite revise their site so I hope some more important publications cover this story as well.
As far as I'm concerned I don't think it's OK to force the little guy with a blog to remove a few paid links on a blog that make a bit extra money while allowing huge corporations like
itself to buy links with hidden anchor text to manipulate PageRank and search results.
It smells like double standards.
Btw.: re:publica sells links all over the site, not just on the homepage. There are dozens of them. It's not just one of two.
Of course you can become a cynic and consider site that sell links to Google as a save haven from now. Whenever you want to buy links on high PageRank sites make sure to do it on sites that sell to Google as well.
P.S.: The webmaster of re:publica know what nofollow is. They have links on the homepage that use nofollow. They use nofollow on links from Twitter updates.