The terms of service that Google has published on their site are very specific, but they are also subject to change and they change on a regular basis. Linking techniques and practices that were once fine are now frowned upon by the search engine giant. Methods like reciprocal linking were once recommended, but now it is practically considered blackhat, and if you have a large amount of reciprocal links on your site you could be black listed as a spammer.
Who determines what is ethical in the online world of advertising? To be clear, we are not talking about tactics that are illegal like using viruses and malware to get more traffic and make money. We are simply talking about advertising methods that have been proven to be effective but are also considered wrong by Google’s standards.
Since Google owns such a large share of the search market they have taken it upon themselves to police the internet. Think you can ignore them and just build an awesome site with any old method of advertising and backlinking? You can go ahead and get those paid links or hire some SEO to get you a bunch of high PR links going to your site, but you need to be prepared to face the consequences.
We already have examples from Overstock.com and JCPenny as to what happens when a company tries to build its exposure on the web with methods that disagree with Google’s terms of service. What were they guilty of? Building spammy backlinks to improve their ranking in the search engine and get more traffic. This is also known as advertising. After all, isn’t advertising all about getting your name and brand out there as much as possible? One could argue that Google’s own practice of ranking sites for these spammy links only encourages this type of behavior.
In fact, if Google did NOT reward sites for loads of spammy backlinks who would bother to pay for them? The answer: no one. Since no one sees or clicks on these links the only benefit they have is to rank higher in Google. But Google is the one who does the actual ranking. So if they did not do this these spammy backlinks, spammy blog comments, and spammy forum profile links would not even exist.
While trying to police the internet and tell websites what they can and cannot do, Google has also contributed to the problem of spam online. But who made them the ethics police? We have. The only reason people even listen to what Google has to say is that they know most people use their search engine. They are huge. And since they want to keep their search engine traffic they do everything they can to feed the beast and keep it happy.
The day that Google is not the powerhouse of the internet is the day that their terms of service become irrelavent. After all, if you own a website the most important thing to you is getting more traffic, and whether that traffic comes from Google, Bing, Facebook, or Twitter, the more the better. So what do you do when the terms of service for search engine A conflict with search engine B? You find which site will give you the most traffic and you let them become your ethics police. Google does not own the internet, they just have the world’s best scraper and help us find the sites we are looking for. But this does not make their terms of service ethical just because they say they are. It just means we better pay attention if we want traffic from them.
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