'All your base are belong to us' - Google

Matt Cutts has just announced Google's new witch hunt for paid links. He's been against paid links for sometime, but it now seems the world's biggest vendor of paid links is serious about striking competing paid links from the web.
Just to be on the safe side, and so everyone is clear, this is NOT a paid post for Google.
And, the title of this post maybe misleading - Matt didn't really say "All your base are belong to us", I'm just reading between the lines and summarizing here.

While I concede some of the points made, there is way too many questions left unanswered here. I'm not saying Google has an easy task, and every change they make will result in people figuring out a way to game the system sooner or later. I'm sure it's no easy task algorithmically sorting through links to find the good from the bad.

Actually, what constitutes a paid link?

If you are a directory owner, who's entire livelihood is based on selling links, you would be forgiven for being just a touch confused about what this all means. Google needs to clarify in much much more detail what a paid link is. Are we just talking about Text-Link-Ads, Review Me, and clear-cut link schemes, or are we talking about every paid link which is not nofollowed?
  • What does that mean for paid directories such as Yahoo directory? I really hope that Google isn’t saying it’s ok for them to sell links but not for the rest of us.
  • What does this mean for links traded for a box of beer or some other non-cash goods or services?
  • What does this mean for Wordpress template footer links? Surely this is an example of link bait - provide a free template in exchange for links - surely that’s ok right?
  • What does this mean for paid reviews where the post is clearly marked as paid, but it includes a natural link. In the grand scheme of things, surely a post about company X is a natural place to expect a natural link?
  • What about web designers placing a "Web design by …" link on their client’s sites? The client has paid for the site, and included in that package is a link.


And then, what happens to the guilty site once they are reported?
  • Does the whole site get deindexed by Google?
  • Is the ability to pass PR stripped from the whole site?
  • Or is the ability to pass PR stripped from that page?
  • Or is the ability to pass PR stripped from those paid links only?
  • Do you tell site owner when said penalty is applied?
  • Once the paid link is removed or nofollowed, is the penalty removed 100%?
  • Some website owners have contracts in place for links, and can’t legally change the links for several months. Is there a grace period?

Throw us a bone

To me, this clearly violates the "don't be evil" policy Google has, and is the sort of behavior we would expect from Big Brother Microsoft, not Nice Google.
This recent change is going to significantly impact many businesses and site owners, so it's a bit worrying how little information Google has given us to work with. This is a change that effects people's revenue streams, so it's fair to expect webmasters to do the bare minimum they need to do to comply with the new regime. So it's reasonable to expect some good, solid, comprehensive and official guidelines from Google - not just an passing post by a Google employee before he heads out for dinner.
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Tags: links