It seems like many moons ago when Google “got tough” on paid links. Fact is it was only a little over 2 years ago when Google started handing out penalties for paid links.
When Google attacked this issue, they did so in a combined attack. They formulated new facets to their algorithm to help them identify “paid” or “sponsored” links and links created as a part of a linking scheme. They made big news by changing their quality guidelines to include the proper handling of links for advertising and clarified their guidelines regarding link schemes. In the end, Google is unable to fully police the huge number of linking schemes and paid links… So they initiated “spam reporting” and anonymous reporting to bring webmasters to turn each other in, which has been far more effective.
Now, following the launch of Bing, Microsoft has applied for a patent to attempt to squash out and linking schemes as well, only with a much more ominous means of doing so.
In fact Microsoft intends to mine search engine optimization (SEO) forums to find and identify such link schemes and link trading to apply penalties for link swapping (reciprocal links).
This genuinely intrusive means of trawling SEO forums for link exchanges isn’t quite bad enough… They also appear to intend to catalog potential offending links and then drill deeply in posts and other information and sites associated with the domains deemed offenders.
United States Patent Application
An anti-spam technique for protecting search engine ranking is based on mining search engine optimization (SEO) forums. The anti-spam technique collects webpages such as SEO forum posts from a list of suspect spam websites, and extracts suspicious link exchange URLs and corresponding link formation from the collected webpages. A search engine ranking penalty is then applied to the suspicious link exchange URLs. The penalty is at least partially determined by the link information associated with the respective suspicious link exchange URL. To detect more suspicious link exchange URLs, the technique may propagate one or more levels from a seed set of suspicious link exchange URLs generated by mining SEO forums.
I am a bit offended that “SEO Forums” are named specifically, when most marketing and e commerce forums are far more likely to have link exchanges going on. I am additionally, rather miffed that “known link exchange programs” are not included, nor targeted. In any case I have always told folks, not to swap links and advised they refrain from making this information public if they insist on reciprocal linking.
This is a pretty vague patent application, in my opinion, and I really think that mining data in this way should not be legal, nor approved. Fact is, the means in which this is presented is very combative, and identifies SEOs as the cause of link spam. It’s like saying lawyers are the reason for lawsuits, or dentists the reason for cavities. As honestly opposed I am to link swapping, I think that this patent is in fact unjust and violates the rights of forum posters and the ability to generate income for the forum owners. Let’s face it, Microsoft is going to effectively mine this data from forums, analyze it and the NOT screw it up? No, there is no way that this can be done properly by mining this data algorithmically.
Additionally, there is no mention of preventative measures to stop the abuse that will come from dubious webmasters posting each other’s links in a mock exchange to cause a penalty.
For example, I am a web store owner and I post a link to my store “The exchange Mart” for help or advise with an issue I am having. Then Joe blow posts a link for me to go look at similar to what I am attempting to accomplish…. Tell me Microsoft will know that is NOT a link exchange. No dice, this will likely trip the filters in the algorithm.