PPC and organic search alike serve classic functions in the marketing mix. However Google is effectually forcing many advertisers into buying more AdWords PPC by systematically setting out to neuter SEOs, who are increasingly going underground.

We all know Google’s been eviscerating organic paid link-building tactics which historically have been a vital component of attaining prominence in natural (unpaid) search results. Let’s take a closer look at how Google’s organic linking policies are as much about selling AdWord as preventing spam.

Though aspects of Google’s paid link guidelines seem inherently unfair to some, give Google credit. This may be one of the most successful corporate profit-strategies in marketing history. AdWords is the center of what is becoming the primary dashboard for global media placement. It’s not in Google’s best interest to allow SEOs to influence organic SERPs with paid link-building, no matter how holistic.

Marketers are forced to buy AdWords because Google promotes anarchy’s unpredictability in the organic linking universe. The strategy is obvious and flat-out brilliant: If you want to be guaranteed that customers see your sales pitch, Google wants you to depend on paying them for AdWords.

Sacred SERPs, Huge Profit
In the holy name of relevant organic SERPs, Google’s apparent model is to hold your business hostage with an unveiled threat: attempt to influence Google SERPS by any financial method but Google AdWords PPC and they’ll kill you. It’s such an insidious strategy because no reasonable person could ever argue against their stated intent of offering users ever-more relevant SERPs.

Of course relevant SERPs are crucial and no one argues that point. However Google’s intertwined objective is to ship massive buckets of money home to shareholders. This does not make them bad. If you own Google stock you’ve invested in one of the most amazing companies ever. If you want to market anything without spending oodles on AdWords PPC, making huge investments in universal search or going underground to build links then you’re totally screwed. It’s the perfect business plan.

The Company Line
Matt Cutts, Google’s affable anti-spam ambassador describes links “likely to stand the test of time” (read “survive Google handcheck “) as those links that “are typically given voluntarily. It is an editorial link by someone, and it’s someone that’s informed. They are not misinformed, they are not tricked; there is no bait and switch involved. It’s because somebody thinks that something is so cool, so useful, or so helpful that they want to make little sign posts so that other people on the web can find that out.”

Wake up people! The entire professional marketing universe has always included one party spending money to gain someone else’s “voluntary recommendation.” It is not “bait and switch” for marketers to approach a local business partner or community member and ask that they accept valuable consideration (read cash & schwag) to recommend a client’s product with one of Mr. Matt’s “little sign post” links. It’s always been the way of the world.

Call it what it is: Google would just rather we all write checks to Google for THEIR little paid signpost program-AdWords. How funny is that! What the hell do you think AdWords is anyway?…moderately vetted PAID prominence that anyone can buy- if not completely game.

Whilst Google’s motivation is ostensibly centered on cleaning up a flawed system of reputation and recommendations with relevance as the primary objective, ultimately their jihad is about profit. Fear not! Only advertisers who are not socially adept and/or without classic business acumen will be fully frustrated. Everyone else will do what it takes in the boardroom, on the golf course, over 6 course meals with wine and at all expense paid weekends in the Catskills for A-list bloggers.

Now that Google has neutered many SEOs, some of the walking wounded follow like sheep and still others more brazen have taken link-building underground and offline. As expert after expert professed @ SMX Advanced, “all the old stuff still works.”

Google’s terms of services (though notably holistic on their face) are impossible to enforce, hypocritical within themselves and won’t succeed in shutting off the time-tested art of businesses procuring paid recommendations…not unless they join business folks at Chamber of Commerce meetings where they barter for links or on cruises on the intra coastal.

Don’t Mess With Big Brother
Finally, there’s been some high-profile buzz about the danger of expressing anti-Google-guidelines thinking in public and I’d hate to think the anecdotes are true. Maybe it is I who is Pollyanna after all, because I’d truly like to believe that Google is not evil.

That said we’ll be watching the PageRank of aimClear Blog (& the few sites we’ve let remain in our agency Webmaster Central account) to see if Google sends us a signal of some sort as a result of the SMX “Give it Up” session I participated in or recent posts. I’d like to take this opportunity to invite Matt Cutts for an interview in the future. Our conversation @ the SEOmoz party in Seattle was all too brief. 🙂

  • Todd Mintz

    To keep all their bases covered, advertisers should buy AdWords regardless of Google’s stance on paid links. Even if paid links weren’t forbidden, keeping top natural search results continually is far from a sure thing. Also, we’re only talking about Google’s stance on paid links because we know about it…most of the online community is still blissfully unaware and goes on with their business the same way as before.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Todd: I agree, there’s no question that PPC and organic SERPs work together both for branding and calls to action. We’ve tested many different combinations and sometimes use PPC in ways which still mostly result on the organic click, which of course defrays campaign costs.

    Reciprocally, we’ve noted a propensity for some PPC on direct brand searches to cannibalize clicks which were formally organic. Clients (and us) don’t like that sort of thing.That said, as a rule we like to be fer-sure fer-sure. 🙂

  • Doug Heil

    hmm. And all of this time I thought companies offline and online bought links for advertising so other people could actually find their brick and mortar business or their online business. I never gave it a thought that SEO’s would buy a link because of some search engine called Google. Go figure?

    You now think and believe Google is out to get SEO’s because they were buying links because of Google? Bad Google. Bad Girl. Bad Google. Shame on you. Don’t ya know you should allow SEO’s to manipulate you by buying up links? Shame on you Google.

    Let’s get this very straight in case there may be a few readers who don’t quite get it. MANY SEO’s do NOT buy links because of Google. I think this article is misleading in that regard so I thought I’d clear that up.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Doug: I totally appreciate your perspective and am grateful for your comment. Your point of view is true to form, aligned with what many believe and as one would expect from you. I think there’s a nice holistic cube for you @ the ‘plex in the anti-spam department. 🙂

    My goodness Doug, Google changes the algo one night and marketers doing hundreds of billions in ad-spend and sales (with methodologies built over YEARS) are expected to just change overnight. Remember that WE’RE the ones paying Google…ummm, we’re the customer.

    I hope you and I can meet in person some time at one of those nasty SEO conferences where luminaries talk about “safe” link-buying, DoFollow link building in social communities, scraping for .edu sites that accept sponsorships in exchange for links, Rand’s advanced operators to find linking opportunities and commenting in DoFollow threads.

    BTW, I’ve never personally bought a link in my life…not once (accept for Google-approved paid links like Yahoo Directory, BOTW, etc…). Yes Doug, Google likes some paid links and not others.

    That said, if we meet at a nasty SEO conference and hit it off…please don’t link to me after I buy you dinner & wine, even if you really appreciate the time spent together, my corporate perspective and techniques we might discuss. The fact that I bought you dinner would violate Google’s guidelines if you link to me.

  • Doug Heil

    Nope. You could not be any more wrong in your comparisons Marty, sorry. It is amazing the different mindsets just within SEO’s, etc. I can’t for the life of me see the angles as you and others see them. I just can’t. Holistic? hmm. I’d prefer to call it common sense. You didn’t buy me dinner for the expressed purpose of gaining a link from me. If I did in fact link to you, it was because I like your quality site and know my visitors will like it as well, and not because it was required. Common sense? Yep.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Doug Heil: I guess that’s the difference between you and I Doug. I don’t go around telling anyone that they’re “wrong” about anything because I respect all different points of view. Your choice of words speaks volumes sir.

  • Andrew Shotland

    Maybe you guys should skip the dinner and just head straight to the make-up sex.

  • Marty Weintraub

    L O L Andrew~! You crack me up.

  • Doug Heil

    Naw; Marty is too geek-like for me. 🙂

    Andrew; I had tried to post to an article you wrote recently, but couldn’t for some reason. I was going to praise it in a big way as I totally agreed with it.

    Anyway; Marty; sorry. I’ve never claimed to be this great diplomat when it comes to this silly SEO industry. I’m simply stating the facts as I see them. The way SEO’s see things is more different than any other industry I’ve been involved in. I’ve been in quite a few. I’ve also never been involved in an industry where people get defensive of criticism like the SEO industry does.

    And BTW Marty; I’ve often criticized Google and they know it. I hate the fact of penalizing or banning a site, and then turning around to sell the same damn site advertising via adwords. I’ve stated this many, many times and will continue to do so unless Google gets much stricter with blackhats and spam. Right now; it’s a slap on the wrist. I know directly how strict AltaVista was back in the day from being banned for one solid year for about 40 words of hidden text on a page. No one can tell me how bad Google is or how Google is out to get SEO’s because of that fact.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Doug: Ah, AltaVista…those were heady days indeed. 🙂

  • Andrew Shotland

    Doug, pls send me an email to localseo at localseoguide.com with your info. I don’t see you in my spam folders. Maybe if you register as a user it will let you comment?

  • Brian Carter

    Disclosure: I do AdWords (along with SEO but I’m better at AdWords) for a living, so I wouldn’t mind at all if AdWords did better than SEO.

    I’m not the sort to ascribe ulterior motives to people in power… I used to be, but I’m not anymore, so these sorts of opinions always come off as paranoid to me. Call me naive…

    I don’t think the paid link policy is contrary to good SEO- too many people, in my opinion, try to make things happen in search rankings that they shouldn’t. I think the line between white and gray is closer to white than most people do.

    Honestly, I can’t wait until search rankings are only about site quality and no gaming, including buying paid links, makes a difference.

  • Burgo

    Every time this debate comes up, I *want* to be on the populist side that the crusade against paid links are wrong.
    And yes, of course it’s obvious that this anti-paid links crusade is linked to Adwords.

    But in the end, as much as I try to argue the point with myself, it ends up coming down to this:

    It’s google’s search engine and they can do whatever they want. If you don’t like it, find somewhere else.

    (Yes yes, they’re influencing the other engines too, but that’s besides the point… the fact is, that they “reserve the right of admission”)

    As I say, I wish I could argue against myself with that point, but that’s where I always end up.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Burgo: “It’s google’s search engine and they can do whatever they want. If you don’t like it, find somewhere else.” Yup, that’s exactly right. Thank you for lending your perspective.

  • Yossarian

    They are becoming a bit over the top with the whole paid link situation but my main gripe is the questionable ways they deal with paid links / artificial links building.

    There are more and more cases proving penalties based on a websites incoming links even though Google say they will only devalue the links:

    “Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank.”

    Now I can’t really moan for Google dishing out penalties for questionable link building practices but it would be nice for them to at least confirm the penalty exists and inform the user when penalised and how they may solve it.

    Most/All SEOs should be aware of the consequences of their actions but anyone not in the industry is left a little clueless about the what the exact rules. Surely a -xx penalty should be more a warning and they should advise the person when they have gone wrong in order for them to learn from the incident.

  • luck

    Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank.