Just two sentences, a mere 57 words. But more than enough to destroy someone’s business. Except for one small detail, the words are coming from Microsoft Live Search, perhaps the least relevant (to make a wee joke based on the subject matter) of all major search engines.
Now being received by an unknown number of webmasters, the message from Live Search is this:
“Your site is acquiring links through posting to or exchanging links with sites unrelated to your site content. Techniques which attempt to acquire unrelated spam links in order to increase ranking are considered spam and your site has been excluded from our index as results. Please contact us once you’ve removed these links and we will reevaluate.”
If you got a message like that from Google, you’d have cause for panic and a similar message from Yahoo might occasion some alarm, but coming from Microsoft, it’s just another of those “What is the Redmond Starbuck’s putting in the coffee now?” riddles.
Why should having a courtesy link to your dentist or brother-in-law get you blacklisted from a search-engine? How is it that Google can tell the difference between high-quality relevant links, legitimate irrelevant links and link farm or other spammy link schemes, but Microsoft can’t?
You might as well ask why Vista is running farther behind schedule than an Amtrak transcon? Why folks visiting the Microsoft Download Center while running Windows XP 64 and 64-bit Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 would, until recently, get an alert telling them they could browse the site with the 64-bit version of IE, but would have to use the 32-bit version to download files?
The answer to all these questions is corporate menopause. Microsoft, once a fast-moving innovator geared to plowing the likes of CP/M, Netscape, OS/2 Warp and Word Perfect into sewage-filled ditches, has become mired in its faded glory, a victim of its success … a company once run by eccentric-but-brilliant engineering giants, now directed by bureaucratic pygmies.
Think Eisner’s Disney as opposed to Walt’s. Disney makes more money these days, but it hasn’t produced a “Snow White,” “Fantasia” or “Mary Poppins” in a long time and the few good movies that bear its name – like “Pirates of the Caribbean” – are the work of outside producers, not the Disney studio. Come to think of it, speaking of Pirates, the Eisner era hasn’t produced any truly creative, imaginative theme-park rides either.
Google, on the other hand, is everything that an entrepreneurial internet company should be. Technologically brilliant, responsive to the market, open to new ideas, willing to question everything related to search-engine functioning and quick to respond to the answers when necessary. Google doesn’t always get it right – nobody does – but they try to get it right harder than any of their competitors and that’s what’s made them the number one search engine in the world and the one which all of us who operate websites must be most conscious of.
There is some irony in all of this. Here at LinksManager and LinkPartners, we have been preaching the gospel of relevant linking since 1999. If you use LinksManager and carefully follow all the guidelines and suggestions contained in the LinksManager documentation and the LinkPartners Linking School, it is virtually impossible to run a link campaign that will get you downgraded – let alone completely blacklisted – by any search engine, even Microsoft Live.
So we should probably be rejoicing that Microsoft is taking a position that could potentially drive thousands of frightened webmasters into the LinksManager family. But we aren’t celebrating. Far from it. This issue is one of right and wrong, exclusion and inclusion, boycotting and blacklisting – and those kinds of things, as we see it, outweigh our own self-interest.
When Microsoft says that legal, legitimate websites which don’t precisely meet their arbitrary standards will be banished from their index, they are preaching exclusion and blacklisting. Google’s approach, on the other hand, is inclusive. Google appears to have always awarded extra “ranking points” for good, relevant links, ignore honest-but-irrelevant links, subtract points for unethical spammy links and only axe sites completely in cases of very extreme abuse.
We agree with Google. We believe the web – and the search engines which are so crucial in helping us navigate it, should be open to virtually everyone. To start exiling large numbers of sites to the gulag is to start imposing a form of censorship on the freest, most accessible source of information the world has ever known. And that cannot and should not be tolerated.