A Solution for Google and the Fight Against Paid Links

One of the biggest debates raging in the search marketing world right now is Google’s stance on paid links. Google went a step further than just talking about it for the past two years, and dropped PageRank values for many sites known to sell links specifically for the purpose of passing PageRank and thus, rankings, on to the buyer’s site. My solution to the paid link epidemic goes one step further; but first, here’s a brief synopsis of what has actually transpired.

Google feels it is a violation of organic search engine optimization practices to pay for incoming links… but only certain kinds of links. Some webmasters do a great deal of business by simply selling outbound links off their high PageRank web pages. But there’s a difference between that and say, paying for a business listing to the Yahoo! Directory. There is more value and legitimacy in a Yahoo! listing than buying a text link on a pharmaceutical site pointing to your gambling site with keyword stuffed anchor text. Yahoo! also does not accept all submissions, so there is an element of quality to their directory. There are differences in paid links.

Sounds like Google’s just stepping up their algorithmic intelligence once again and defining new black hat techniques, right? Perhaps, but not without controversy. News in September spread that the once very popular Aviva Directory, among others, had suffered drastic drops in Google rankings, which ultimately would lessen the quality of the outbound links they list. Aviva was one of the more SEO-friendly directories around, which led to its popularity for webmasters. PageRank was passed on several levels deep, and the $50 fee was very reasonable for a permanent PR3 or PR4 one-way link.

Many argue that Aviva has done nothing wrong. Their business provides a service to webmasters that is transparent as well as valuable for a fair cost. But the point I have isn’t to say who is right and who is wrong. It is instead to say that Google is walking a fine line with this one. There was speculation that their stance has something to do with a Federal Trade Commission staff opinion saying that, “companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships.” This would extend to web sites presenting commercial listings of other businesses for a fee without sufficiently noting that in each case. According to Google, there are several linking options that web sites should use in these cases, or else they risk suffering the consequences like Aviva did. They include using a meta robots tag to disallow the Google crawler, using JavaScript links, and the “nofollow” attribute among others.

Whether the FTC opinion and Google’s unhappiness with paid links are just a coincidence, I found it worth mentioning.

Keep in mind that Google also runs the most popular Pay Per Click advertising platform on the Internet. If webmasters are paying for links on the Internet, it is certain that Google would like to do everything it can to encourage the use of their AdWords and AdSense services over text link buying from private companies. This includes offering a paid link reporting page – http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/paidlinks – which is the first of its kind in the search engine world.

The drop in PageRank of many high profile sites was indeed a wake up call. However, my solution is extremely simple, goes one step farther, and one I’m sure Google has already considered:

Stop making PageRank values public altogether.

Why? Well, for starters PageRank never really gave any accurate reading as to the value of a web page. One could get a single incoming link from an irrelevant PR7 page that would transfer a very respectable PR value to their site. Another web site could have hundreds of relevant PR1 links pointing to it and have a lower PageRank value than the first page. If I’m trying to determine the “worth” of a page, the second example could easily be more helpful to a user than the first. The value of a link doesn’t begin and end with the page’s PR value. There are other factors. Without knowledge of PageRank, link exchanges, article reprints, and other old school and still popular methods of link building could continue fairly unaffected. New-age methods such as social media promotion, press releases, and link baiting would also not be affected. Hiding PageRank would not turn the world of webmasters and SEO upside down.

But what’s more important is that PageRank plays such a massive factor in why people buy and sell links. The higher the PR, the more expensive a link is generally. Take away that value system and all of a sudden paid link participants need to re-evaluate their strategies. Sure, existing links would likely not change. Even though PR is hidden, you can bet most existing pages will hold their value for the time being. But all future link purchasing would have to be based upon a brand new system.

PageRank is a window to Google’s algorithm. It’s only natural that some people will try to manipulate rankings by using that data. But what purpose does PageRank serve anymore? To the casual web surfer (the vast majority of Internet users) the little green bar in their browser’s toolbar (if they even bothered to install the Google Toolbar) probably evokes the same reaction that a Windows “stack dump” error would: A scratch of the head. A shrug of the shoulders. A bewildered, “huh?”

As an SEO myself, I find it pretty annoying that my competition pays for incoming links to rank their clients well. It doesn’t put me out of business, as I’m a creative and resourceful online marketer. But the sheer ease of buying links for clients definitely leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. So I, for one, welcome Google’s crackdown on paid links and will be an active user of their paid link reporting form. Hopefully they get rid of PageRank altogether. Its day has certainly passed.

Website Promotion As Link Bulding

In the past few years, the use and size of the World Wide Web has grown exponentially. The largest database of information has proven useful to millions of people worldwide, providing information access to less-developed or isolated regions. Being so big and comprising so many topics, some considered it was time to organize it and they managed to do that using what is known as web directory.

It must be clear that a web directory is completely different from a search engine. This type of directory available on the World Wide Web has the ability to provide links for various websites, assigning them to diverse categories. The search engine provides Internet users with the information after relating to keywords; on the other hand, a web directory uses its available categories to list various Internet sites.

As with other programs related to the Internet, there are many things to know about a web directory. There are certain characteristics and requirements, website possessors having the possibility to submit their websites. The subjects presented by a link directory are more than diverse; they generally show how many information the Internet can contain. A wide range of categories are presented, each one having subcategories, depending on the spatial location and spoken language.

The quality level of the web directories is always open to argument or debate. The content must be only of high-quality, the various types of listings must be in clear and comprehensible terms. A link directory can be a wonderful way to explore the information you are interested in. For example, if you are looking for a painting you can try the link directory called ‘Art’. There you have several sub-categories, such as art history, performing arts and visual arts. From then you just have to look further and in the end you will surely find what you are searching for.

These interconnected listings of website categories can also present information about subjects such as: business, computers and Internet, health, home and sports. Practically, there is not one single topic a link directory cannot cover. There are particular categories, helping people to benefit from selective information.

Web directories and their subdirectories include a wealth of accessible data, demonstrating once more the communication opportunities of the Internet. Such websites present accurate and up-to-date statistics about available categories, active and pending links. The Internet and such URL directories are much more than a popular technology; they enable individuals to share and receive information with people from every corner of the world.

The growth of the Internet technology also allowed the development of web directories and link listings. Broad topics are available, offering the possibility of a refined search. More and more people are interested in creating link directories, wanting to help to the broadcasting of information and updating their links constantly. The information must be relevant and the categories as clear as possible. People have to go to a main category and find what they are looking for using subdirectories. It is not complicated; on the contrary, it is quite simple.

High-speed Internet connections have had a deep effect on people from all over the world. Information technology is an ongoing trend and web directories are extremely popular. They represent a common way to obtain various links, bearing useful collections of data. Their popularity cannot be denied and it is likely to increase in the future. You can submit links or search for the latest links; it is up to you how you benefit from this amazing technology.

A Short (Unofficial) History of the Air-Ground Digital Link – The Beginning


Talking to a group of young controllers the other day I suddenly realized that Controller Pilot Digital Link Communications (CPDLC) and its enabler, air/ground digital link were a kind of given for them… Their centre has either already implemented it or had plans for it and while their opinion diverged on the usefulness of the thing, they certainly did not consider it as anything exciting. In a way this is good. The more everyday air/ground digital link becomes, the more we can consider having cleared a major hurdle in implementing an important capacity enabler.

But not being familiar with the history of a particular development reduces our ability to understand its shortcomings and its future potential.

With this article I would like to put on the table a few, sometimes amusing, sometimes incredible, details from the last 15 years of so about air/ground digital link development in the hope that it will be provide some insight into what is after all a very exciting development in air traffic management.

The story will not be comprehensive; it is only a summary and is based mainly on my recollections. I was pretty close to the fire but possibly for that very reason I may have seen things in a light that was colored differently from the actual reality. If you have better information, do comment on my version of the tale.

The original double drivers

Work on digital link use in continental airspace was triggered by two concerns, both having to do with radio frequency congestion. On the one hand, experts calculated that with the forecast traffic growth, sector frequencies would reach saturation, preventing controllers from communicating with the aircraft under their control in a timely fashion. Making sectors smaller was not an option as their minimum size would have been reached earlier as dictated by traffic growth. Only an alternative communication means could offer a solution.

At about the same time, concerns arose about the possible forthcoming congestion on the ACARS frequencies, basically promising to paralyze this vital tool of airline operations. There again an alternative solution was apparently needed.

In the 1980s and early 1990s it was not easy to argue for starting serious work on air/ground digital link implementation. Part of the problem arose from what should have been a big help… but it was not. Seeing all the air traffic management problems in the world, Boeing pushed ahead with the airborne element of FANS, the Future Air Navigation System, which looked extremely promising except for one thing. Nobody on the ground took any notice with the result that hundreds of aircraft were flying over the world’s oceans with CNS capabilities that made the existing oceanic separation minima obsolete but still had to continue with them because the ATM providers on the ground balked at introducing the changes that would have made them able to use the new capabilities.

FANS was a bit like the FMS… the aircraft capability being light years ahead of the ground systems with the ground systems hardly moving at all.

In continental airspace, the situation was different. FANS was normally not installed on short and medium range aircraft while they faced the specter of ATC and ACARS frequency congestion, something that was not an issue (in this form) over the oceans.

ACARS has always been an air/ground digital link system, albeit of modest bandwidth and reserved for airline communications. Also the alternative means of communication for ATC has been identified as air/ground digital link with a set of new messages that would enable the controller to “talk” to aircraft even in the most congested situations. The previously strictly sequential method of voice communications could be replaced by the basically parallel method of digital link with the added bonus of enabling several members of the sector team to talk to aircraft without jinxing the system.

The idea was, and still is, to remove the capacity constraint represented by the limited ability of the controller to talk to the many aircraft otherwise able to operate in his sector.

Business case hurdles

It is well known that, safety issues apart, airlines will only bolt anything on their aircraft if there is a clear business case for doing so or if it is mandated. The real chance of ATC frequencies becoming totally jumbled was still far enough in the future to be considered a real driver and hence it was proving very difficult to make a business case for ATC digital link on its own… In the end, the ACARS problem first brought to the table by Lufthansa saved the day.

Combining the ACARS “replacement” with the elements needed for ATC digital link was able to deliver a compelling business case on the industry level. Of course, general digital link usage was not something smaller airlines took for granted… those without ACARS saw only one side of the equation, namely the costs and they were not particularly thrilled by the prospect.

But on the industry level the business case was water tight and it was explained to the nay-sayers that they too would benefit if capacity was not restricted because of communications issues.

Of course reservations remained. These were tied more than anything to the bitter experience with FANS where the reluctance of the ground to equip negated the benefits… Airlines insisted that any continental data link solution must make sure that the ground leads, period.

The war of technologies

While experts were already working on the kind of messages that would be needed for CPDLC, on the technology side the mother of all wars broke lose.

There was of course FANS 1 from Boeing (and its Airbus equivalent FANS A) and some thought this should be made prevalent everywhere… Unfortunately there were a number of shortcomings both from a technical and price perspective that made FANS less than ideal as a solution for continental airspace. Even more unfortunately, repairing FANS to eliminate the shortcomings was not an easy task and was therefore not even considered for a time. But it did not prevent Boeing from pushing FANS at every opportunity until they realized that the whole effort was becoming counter productive…

The war of technologies was being fought on two levels: the Aeronautical Telecommunications Network (ATN) versus Internet Protocol (IP) on the one hand and between the VHF Digital Link (VDL) modes on the other.

The war between ATN and IP was the least bloody. ATN is an ICAO standard and it took slightly more than forever to get agreed and standardized with the blessing of ICAO. When work on ATN started, IP was not even a gleam in engineers’ eyes and in the end ATN won not because it is so superior but because it was there in a standardized form and not many felt the strength back then to start the same effort on IP.

The VDL modes were another story. There, for a time, it looked like the US and Europe might end up with different and mutually incompatible systems that would have been a costly disaster for airliners operating on both continents.

The clash of 8.33 kHz channel spacing and VDL Mode 3

Although always claimed by the airspace users and never officially admitted by European States, the archaic and inefficient management of frequencies was leading to a situation where new sectors being opened to increase capacity would no longer be able to have their own frequency because there simply would be none left in the aviation spectrum with its 25 kHz channel spacing.

For some in the industry it was becoming clear that the whole VHF radio system used by aviation was outdated, inefficient and a blocking factor to the introduction of new capacity enablers of which the absolute shortage of frequencies was just one element. It was high time to devise something new. Something future proof, something that would serve aviation for many years to come… Of course this would have cost money but then there is no such thing as a free lunch…

Instead of taking the rational decision to force the development of a new communications system, the ICAO Special European Regional Air Navigation meeting (EUR RAN) in September 1994 decided to split the channel spacing in Europe to 8.33 kHz, thereby increasing the number of available channels. Replacing radios appeared to be the cheaper option in the short term…

In the United States where there has never been a shortage of frequencies (although the demand for frequencies is not smaller than in Europe) and 8.33 kHz was never considered seriously initially. Nevertheless, they too realized that a new communications system would be needed and they promoted VDL Mode 3. This system would be able to handle both digital voice and digital messages. In other words, VDL Mode 3 would offer a seamless service where a controller could talk or send text messages, depending on the prevailing operational needs.

For a time the map of the world seemed to have been fatally split. What has never happened in the past, no ILS or VOR being different on different continents was becoming the nightmarish reality on the threshold of a major ATM “improvement”. Aircraft would be required to carry voice radios with 8.33 kHz capability as well as VDL Mode 3 radios plus whatever Europe would come up with as the technology for air/ground digital link… Pilots would also need to figure out when to use what…

In the end, the implementation of VDL Mode 3 fell behind schedule and the danger receded… As we will see in the next section, at the end of one more major battle a single solution remained and that became the de facto world-wide standard.