Some wars can't be won. We've spent a week wrestling with Google's stance on nofollowing advertising and what actions we should take. We believe strongly in our principle that site owners should not have to make changes that do not benefit their users simply to remain in Google's index. We've struggled trying to balance our stance on principle with our desire to remain in Google's good graces and their index.
Jennifer felt it was important for me as the publisher to make a follow up post to my original message last week explaining our situation. As much as I hate writing, I knew she was right. We decided it would be easiest if I'd compose a letter to our advertisers explaining what we planned to do. Then, I would simply publish that letter so our readers could be brought up to date as well.
This reminded me of a post Matt McGee made on Sphinn asking us, and other publishers, to be open with our decision making process and to share what we planned to do regarding this situation. I think Matt has a good idea and being open with our decision may help other publishers. So, I've taken a step back and I'd like to share some of what we've been through the last week making our decision and composing my letter.
Jennifer and I communicate throughout the day using instant messaging. You may find it ironic that we use Google Talk. I like Google Talk and we use it to record all of our IM conversations which can be archived and searched later. Anyway, what I've decided to do is share some of our instant messages over the past few days. I don't know how to be any more open and transparent than sharing IM messages. It also has the added benefit of making my job writing this easier. Keep in mind this isn't polished writing, it's quickie messaging with non-relevant parts of our conversations removed.* Other than providing the dates, I'll let the conversations speak for themselves.
Sunday, October 28:
me: you there?
Jennifer: yep, what's up
me: we have to make a final decision on what we plan to do.
Jennifer: ok, what's our decision?
me: I think we're going to have to comply with Google demands.
Jennifer: this entire issue makes me want to bash my head into a wall
me: it's not a big deal. i'll email the advertisers, we'll take a hit, life goes on. it will be over and done with in a week.
Jennifer: it IS a big deal. it's a big deal anytime someone else dictates how we run our business. I'm fine with doing what we have to do to stay listed and to minimize risk but let's not fool ourselves into think this isn't a big deal.
me: look, it's time to be pragmatic about this. Just because we are right, doesn't mean we can win. What's that quote... um.. "cowardice is the better part of valor" I'll write something up and you can approve, k?
Monday, October 29:
me: I decided the best approach was to just get to the point. short and sweet and take whatever arrows people choose to shoot at us.
Jennifer: ok, so...
me: check it out
"Regardless of my opinion on the situation, it's Google's index and we have to abide by their rules if we want remain in their index. I want us to remain in their index."
"Therefore, effective immediately, we will be nofollowing all advertising on Search Engine Guide and our sister sites. We surrender."
Does that sound ok to you? the surrender part waas just to lighten things up a bit.
me: no, there are speling errors... or no, you think I need to change a sentence.... or no, you don't like any of it? can you expand upon this "no" a bit
Jennifer: What I see is you, on your knees going...
"oh mighty Google overlords, take my ads, take my firstborn, take anything you wish. By the way, give me a minute to bend over and here's some lube to make it easier on you."
me: ah, ok. i thought is was perfect... short and sweet... everybody knows our stance.. we move along with our lives... apparently I was wrong
Jennifer: uh yeah, you were wrong. Try again please. :)
Later that evening:
me: geeze, what's with you women today?
Jennifer: uh, what'd we do now?
me: Heidi just walked by and asked when I was going to be done. I told her it would be a while because I needed to get the message sent and then I needed to start adding nofollow to our links.
me: her response to me... "Great. Are you going to email Google to have them come do your work while you do theirs?"
Jennifer: ROTFL - this is why I love Heidi
Tuesday, October 30:
me: yo, you there?
me: I have a new version of the letter for you to review. it's more "business-y"...
"After much thought and careful consideration of advice given by our panel of advisors, we've decided that we will concede to Google's demands and apply nofollow to text links. I would also like to express my appreciation to the search community for the thoughtful, and at times stinging, feedback they have provided over these past days."
Jennifer: who are you?!
me: sigh - not again
Jennifer: first of all, your dogs do not count as "a panel of advisors". second, it doesn't sound like us - it sounds like corporate spin
me: lol, you are actually kinda funny when you are mad.
Jennifer: i'm not mad, I'm actually in a great mood today.
me: lol, ok Grumper-stiltskin... you aren't mad but you aren't helping me either. I'm just trying to make the right decision and get the message out.
Jennifer: there's a difference between making a smart business decision and acting like an ant about to be smushed. Protect our site and our traffic sure, but anything that makes us look like wusses - it ain't flying with me
me: so we don't publish anything?
Jennifer: didn't say that .. just no rolling over for google
me: fine, you decide what to say because I'm obviously too much of a google fanboy
me: seriously, you write it
Jennifer: "Dear Google, bite me!" There you go. Done.
me: headdesk look, how about I just send a message to our advertisers and leave it at that. we don't need to tell anyone else anything. I don't want to do a publicf post anyway
Jennifer: you know one thing I don't abide by is sending something out to 120 people and trusting that it will never get in front of "the public"
me: remind me why we work toegether again??
Jennifer: just put something together that says we are going to remove the front page text links. I'm ok with that anyway...having read comments from the industry, I'm more concerned about people viewing the links as a link farm than I am about Google. Perception is reality and many of our visitors don't remember the days when sites featured all their sponsors. They don't know we've had them there before Google, they think we have them there BECAUSE of Google. So I'm more than happy to give in on that one...So let's pull the front page links.
me: and that's it? I don't want to send something today and then have to turn around and email the advertisers again in a week with another update.
Jennifer: um, so what if you email them again?
me: advertisers are like asbestos... leave em alone and they are fine... you start messing with them too much and you get problems. :-)
me: seriously, we are going to lose advertisers not because of pagerank, we'll lose some simply because they'll go, oh yeah forgot about that... Christmas is coming i need to save money so i'm gonna cancel
Wednesday, October 31:
me: any new thoughts on our nofollow situation?
Jennifer: I think it's a big fat load of crap
me: not exactly a NEW thought, but thanks for sharing. look, the clock is ticcking... let's just use what I originally wrote.. it's google's index.. blah blah... we'll be nofollow...blah blah ... we surrender. the end
Jennifer: only way you can do "we surrender" is if you include in the post....
"I had to wave my tightie whities to surrender because Jennifer wrestled me to the ground and took the white flag to keep me from giving up."
me: lol, ok so I'm cleared for that then?
Jennifer: as long as you put that line in there. wait and you have to find an image of white underwear on a flag pole
me: progress = none ... I'm going to take some meds and nap for a while. need to shake this gunk.
Later that day:
me: review new message?
me: first paragraph...
"In light of where things are going with Google becoming stricter regarding text ads we've decided to make some changes with our advertising packages. As wonderful as Google is, they aren't yet able to discern intent when it comes to text ads. And in an effort to protect the quality of their results they are targetting anyone who buys or sells paid links."
Jennifer: "As wonderful as Google is" ? ... I think I threw up in my mouth a little
me: i don't actually mean they are wonderful .
Jennifer: Uh huh. Then don't say it. Hey...let's have a contest for our readers to see who can write the best letter of capitulation
Jennifer: no seriously, that'd be funny. we'll have the "What's Your Favorite Message of Surrender?" contest. but again, any post you make like that, has to have the tightie whities and state I stole the surrender flags to keep you from giving up. and the picture
me: clarification... does it have to be me wearing the tightie whities in the picture?
me: yeah, that makes me feel good.
Jennifer: lol, it's not that I necessarily think it would emotionally scar the readers.. but... eeewwwww
me: and again, thank you
Jennifer: just kidding. I know you want to get this done so I wrote the message we can use for our advertisers and your blog post...Hello,
In an effort to combat the impact of paid text links, Google has announced they are targeting anyone who buys or sells paid links. In light of this, we've decided to make some changes to our advertising packages.
While we firmly believe each business should make the choice of how to sell ads on their own sites, the reality of life on the Internet in 2007 is the need to maintain a position in Google's index. Because of this movement by Google toward actively punishing text ad sales, we've been discussing the best course of action with our advisers and analyzing traffic flow on our sites. We've decided to make two simple changes we feel will help keep us and our advertisers out of Google's cross-hairs.
First, we are going to move the marketplace directory listings to our small business resources directory. This will make the listings trackable by redirecting them through our ad server. Second, we are removing our home page text links that we've used to showcase all of our advertisers. Your remaining 300x100, 125x125 and text box ads won't need to change because they already use a redirect through our ad server.
Because this move will result in the loss of one of the five ads we sell in our Site Sponsor package, we will immediately begin to experiment with extra placements of your 300x100, 125x125 and text box ads to compensate for this change. In fact, we are certain you'll come out with greater exposure due to the fact that your larger ad units will be utilized in more places.
These simple steps will help keep us all in good standing with Google.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Robert Clough - Publisher
Jennifer Laycock - Editor in Chief
Search Engine Guide
me: wow, that's perfect. we make our final position known and explain why we have to give in to G's demands and we move on. thank you!!!
me: no wonder we are such a great team, I have the beauty and you have the brains. :-P
* Names, dates, events and conversations may have been fabricated - errr - "changed" to protect the innocent. No snuggly lava lamp loving G clones were hurt in the production of this article. Don't believe everything you read.
Search Engine Marketing Columnist
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