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I'm pretty sure I know the specific SEO that broke Google's guidelines and paid for links that pass PageRank, which led to this site not ranking as highly. But I'll leave it to the gift basket company to see if they want to call out which SEO it was that got them into trouble.

I love this! Company gets nailed for going "too far" in an industry that clearly stretches the limits, and then begs for reinclusion. It strikes a deal and gets back in (worth millions). They then publish an article praising Google and denouncing SEO... clearly part of the bargain? And now Matt Cutts suggests they might even name the particular SEO firm.. "if they want to"?

Classic SEO world.Google rocks... you all know it.

"They then publish an article praising Google and denouncing SEO... clearly part of the bargain?"

John, just to debunk your question, I had no idea that this article was coming out. To the best of my knowledge, no one at Inc. asked Google for a comment for the story either; certainly I didn't hear about it if they did ask for a comment, and normally I would.

Hi. Very nice to see you here Matt. Logically, what is the difference between paying for links and spamming sites, or, spamming webmasters, or other active link building practices?

Also, I wanted to ask, what is the difference between advertising on a website by the way of them putting my link on their site, somewhat like the google link ads I suppose, but on a more permanent basis, that is, at what point does direct link advertising for exposure to the traffic of that certain website become link buying?

Should google not try and rely on other variables which are more reliable determinants of quality than links?

Or what is difference between paying for spamming ads and paying for google ads?

Oh wait, I know this one: with the second one Google makes billions.

Andrew, the difference with buying normal ads (as opposed to links) is that ads don't affect search engines, while buying links that pass PageRank does affect search engines--and all search engines, for that matter. Imagine if you bought an ad in a magazine and you started to get better "rankings" from the magazine in terms of more positive coverage. Most people wouldn't want that.

To your last question, Google absolutely does have hundreds of signals that we use in our ranking; we don't rely only on links. It's a hard problem to assess quality accurately, but we try to find different ways to do it.

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