What gets me about this whole "nofollow", Paid Links & Google nonsense is the fact that not anywhere is it stated in Google's TOS or Google's Webmaster Guidelines about "nofollow". So, let me ask you - how is a Mom & Pop type of small business just starting out on the web, suppose to know what the bleeping heck a "nofollow" is or what it means, if it isn't easily found on Google's own pages? If Google hasn't even defined nofollow in their TOS, TOS highlights or their Guidelines, how in the world can anyone who's not an SEO understand what in heck they did wrong or why all of a sudden their rankings dropped?
I remember sitting in the front row of a session at one of the SES's when both Yahoo and Google reps introduced NoFollow. NoFollow was about TRUST. It was suppose to help deter blog & forum spam links that webmasters could not "vouch" for and didn't want to give credit to. NoFollow was not about ads or paid links or all the rest of this nonsense.
Now, somewhere along the line, that changed for Google. Within the last few months, Google wants webmasters to mark paid links, including those in the sponsor areas, as nofollow. But wait, what about the trust part? Apparently it doesn't matter that we advertisers trust our sponsors or that their sites are even relevant. It just seems like this comes about because Google cannot truly detect what a "paid link" is. Google changing the meaning of nofollow isn't stated in the TOS or Guidlines, so was it just on Matt Cutt's blog or in a Google group somewhere?
I disagree with this latest tactic Google's taken on how to handle paid links. It seems like just because they can't really determine a "real" paid link for PR is, that they'll go after sites with advertising on it that don't apply nofollow. If we follow the original guidelines of nofollow, what it was first intended for, Google and Yahoo are suppose to be able to already determine you have a sponsor area if you mark it as such, with no need to add nofollow.
Sites like Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Guide and Search Engine Roundtable all TRUST their advertisers. If they didn't why wouldn't they link to them? Do you remember the panel when the search engines reps all said rather loudly - "denote your sponsor areas by notating it the area is 'sponsors', Google will know"? That was the same panel they announced nofollow at. I remember that, I remember it quite clearly, I remember that Danny Sullivan moderated that panel, too. By those sites denoting a "sponsor area" - all three denote that quite plainly and loudly - it is OBVIOUS they are not selling page rank, they are selling sponsorship.
Now lets flip the coin here, the small business advertisers who are buying these sponsorships - are buying just that - SPONSORSHIPS. If they didn't want to buy sponsorships, why would they agree to be put in the "sponsor" area in the first place - so why penalize those small business sites for adverting in a sponsor area? It just doesn't make sense.
It doesn't make sense, unless Google wants to control all the advertising on all the sites all over the world.
Sure, it's Google's index - I agree with everyone else when they say Google can do whatever they want. However if they are encouraging people to make pages that are relevant and not be "sneaky" about it, the least they can do is include everything a site can be penalized for in their guidelines and TOS.
While they are chewing on that , perhaps they could define their rules a little more plainly and come up with a better resolution than this crappy nofollow nonsense and confusion. If it's a sponsor link, why not have a "rel=sponsor" on the link? This will allow small business owners to denote it as advertising that is trusted by them, < begin rel=snark >since apparently placing the words "OUR SPONSORS" around the ads isn't apparently working. < /end rel=snark >