The paid links debate has escalated this week after Google apparently took action against a number of popular web directories.
As many as 60 directories, according to this report, suddenly dropped in rank, leading to suspicion that Google has begun aggressively (and likely, manually) targeting paid link directories deemed to be in violation of the search engine’s quality guidelines. Some have suggested competitor sabotage via the recently initiated paid link reporting form.
Some of affected directories included Aviva, Alive, Big Web Links, ewebpages, Directory Dump, Elegant Directory, and Biz-Dir. David Eaves, the owner and operator of Biz-Dir told WebProNews that about 550 of his directory pages have been dropped from Google’s index altogether.
Google has been quite public in the past about paid links that pass PageRank being against their quality guidelines. The confusing message from Google is that you should “Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.” Clearly they are not against the concept of a quality directory but seem to be against those that appear to be charging for link inclusion rather than charging an editorial review fee.
The biggest issue I have with this, and one most other people are not picking up on, is that the FTC only has authority in the US. There are no laws or guidelines in the UK requiring website owners disclose adverts or paid links in any way. If these laws existed then we would happily obey them but they don’t. Why should Google try to apply US laws to residents in the UK?
This isn’t the first time Google has tried to force US laws overseas. Recently they stopped Adwords advertisers bidding on the word “poker” in a half hearted attempt to enforce the US online gambling legislation in the UK.