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The Greenpeace PageRank Lottery

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 02 June 2009 08:53

Innocent mistake or blatant manipulation?

Ok, where’s a Googler when ya need one? Can someone please page the link police to the customer service area please? I have a question….

In particular a little campaign Green Peace is running which makes some bold statements in order to purposely ‘Google Bomb’ or at least dominate the space of a particular CEO all in plain SEO-speak! There is simply NO way that this is a legitimate tactic... you tell me what U think, m'kay?

Here’s the speech (emphasis mine);

“Play for traffic

Greenpeace webpages are often #1 or #2 in web search engines like Google and Yahoo for popular environmental keywords, because people link to us about those topics. With your help we can make this webpage the first thing Kuniaki Nozoe sees when he Googles himself!

To make it more interesting for web publishers, we're linking back to all referring sites. Every month we'll pick the three best referring webpages (based on the creativity of the content, not number of referrals) to add to our featured links list.

Only the featured links get a share of the PageRank from this page, so be creative. (All the other links are included here using javascript which search engine crawlers can't read.) ”

Ok, I’ve heard of trading links before and certainly buying them; but a PageRank lottery? The wining 3 pages (out of however many play along) are to be rewarded with PageRank? WTF? I am REALLY curious as to how that plays out with Google’s TOS when I’d imagine any of use that tried this little ‘game’ would likely run afowl of the the Mighty G.


PageRank Hoarding

You know they mean business when it comes to hoarding the PR on this page too… there are def some SEOs behind the scenes over there. They really can't claim ignorance if you ask me. Just have a gander at the outbounds in the content;

the PageRank lottery

And the internal links in the footer nav;

PageRank management

Good guys or eco-bullies it doesn’t matter – this type of link building needs some clarification. Last I checked trading ANYTHING for links was somewhat poo poo’d no? And openly looking to bomb their own page to #1?!? Yikes...


Is this a legitimate tactic?

Thus the question remains, is this a legitimate link building (and hoarding) technique? Can we all start SERP bullying our chosen causes?

If we look at the Google webmaster guidelines we see (emphasis mine again);

“Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?


“Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.”


From the actual ‘linking schemes’ page we see;

“However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site's ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:

  • Links intended to manipulate PageRank
  • Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
  • Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging ("Link to me and I'll link to you.")
  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank”

Hmmmm.... They sure seem to fit under a few of those categories form what I can see. I know we all bend the rules to differing degrees and that is fine.What is troubling is if this is allowed to persist, (by the fine folks at Google and the other engines) when we are assured that it is a level playing field out there. Unless of course this is a legitimate manipulation, then great... it's fair game for all then. Somehow I don't think this one will fly..

Is it just me or has the gang at GreenPeace gone too far? Can Link Juice be offered as a prize?


Green Peach PageRank lottery


Sound off…..

UPDATE - it seems they've adapted the campaign to ensure it complies with Google's guidelines. Nice work there G! For those smacking me about 'cause I am 'outing' anyone, rest assured no SEOs were harmed in the making of this example. The fact they changed it an no harm was done (to their indexation/rankings), does speak to that.

It is the 'intent' of an approach - one simply can't (overtly) state ANYTHING is being done to game the system... duh... or you're outing yerself IMO




0 # Robert 2009-06-02 09:26
Well, what are Google really going to do? I mean, penalize GreenPeace? That's like picking on mother Theresa, right? Regardless of the rules Google are kind of stuck on this one after all their attempts at "earth hour" and so on to then penalize GreenPeace.
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0 # David Leonhardt 2009-06-02 09:42
It clearly violates the spirit and several terms of Google's guidelines. Then again pretty much any attempt to attract links, does. So this could go either way.

It's funny. Just because it is so creative and all up-front - nothing sneaky going on here - I am inclined to applaud.

However, I think Google has to do something, just because it is so out in the open. It's like Greenpeace is sticking out its tongue at Google, even if Google is not its target. Google needs to demonstrate that you can't get away with Google bombing. Google should do something also about those "SEO contents" that wave it in Google's face, too.
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0 # @steveplunkett 2009-06-02 09:50
i think that qualifies for a link scheme.
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0 # Hugo at Zeta 2009-06-02 09:53
If anything, this just helps to further expose one of the primary weaknesses in Google's algorithm.

They can police it if they want to, but their real goal should be to prevent Google Bombing from existing by tweaking their algorithm so that anchor text and links don't wield such an overwhelming influence.
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0 # Craig Parker 2009-06-02 09:56
I agree with Robert, despite the fact this is clearly against their ToS Google are not going to take action, partially because its Greenpeace but partially because this happens every day.

If I had a few quid for every SEO whose "advice" to me is to run a link bait competition I would be able to quit work, people do this every single day, sure its not as high profile as Greenpeace but it doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

I think the wider issue is why have Greenpeace sold this competition almost exclusively to SEOs, if they had just put link to this page to get your FaceBook picture here it would not bee as hit by the SEM world. It's Greenpeaces willingness to flaunt the rules when we all have to tiptoe that's the issue not the competition itself.
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0 # Dave 2009-06-02 09:57
@Robert - at first I was also inclined to let it slip... but the lines are the lines and we all have to play by them. At the end of the day it is important that we;

A. know where the line are
B. have a level playing field.

It is certainly a conversation worth having and getting clarification on.

@David - yea, it is novel, but kinda old school IMO and there are far better ways an organization such as theirs could go about building quality links.

I mean come on, the visibility (not to mention resources) alone should be enough to create a wondrous organic link profile... sheesh

And not Just Google really, all the engines, G has just been more communicative on the whole link shenanigans thing..

I am curious on this one... I've seen sites spanked for lesser misdeeds.
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0 # Casey Yandle 2009-06-02 10:11
I'm not so sure why people would think they wouldn't penalize them no matter who they are. And to me they should. Like you said it should be a level playing field. And, if you remember they did penalize BMW and for TOS violations.

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds...
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0 # Andy Beard 2009-06-02 10:14
Link to us and we might link to you back - seem like all the link competitions people play, Calacanis with his free Apple laptop for follows on Twitter etc.

With David Airey the ultimate problem wasn't the links, but he requested specific anchor text.

Greenpeace possibly crossed the line, but they didn't ask for specific anchor text.

They did ask for links to help ranking...

Borderline call
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+1 # Gwa 2009-06-02 10:24
I want play with and win one ecological link.
Everybody treats a minimum google, by exchanging links... Rules are to limit and here, we look for the buzz for webmasters.
And with your article, they win!
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0 # Dave 2009-06-02 10:27
@Steve - I certainly think it MORE than qualifies on a few levels.

@Hugo - well, it's not a classic 'Google Bomb' but it is an open admission of trading PageRank/links as a sort of prize. In my mind this is no different than paying for links - accept in this case PR is the currency.

@Craig - they are most certainly flaunting it and do seem somewhat SEO knowledgeable. That is what is also important here IMO. IF this is acceptable, we can all now go out and offer PageRank as the lottery winning in a linking scheme. I can't see that being allowed... So a good talking to is at least in order.

*Note - I have no desire to see GP get smacked... merely to get clarity on the tactic - if they are in the wrong, simply remove it. Dats it from here...
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+1 # Dave 2009-06-02 10:27
@Casey - well, I believe it's 'guidelines' more than TOS, but either way. I remember some of the prominent ones and have seen others quietly be nudged. Once more, I really am just curious if it is legit or not... can we all do this? If so.. great, I am off to craft some campaigns..

@Andy - one question that comes to mind is; can we use (perceived) PageRank as a currency for potential prizes/bait?

There could be a few ways to use such tactics, and it does favour the authority pages/sites. Said currency flows greater at such locales...

lol... ok, it is a bit funny. Green Peace should have little trouble acquiring far better links at the end of the day... either way.
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+1 # Joe Hall 2009-06-02 10:34
Is this a linking scheme? Yes. Do I think they should be penalized? No, in fact I think Google should only penalize paid linkers.

And you got to hand it to them, they aren't asking for folks to create crap hat content. They are only rewarding good creative work.
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-1 # Foot In Mouth 2009-06-02 10:37
I'm sure I'll be firebombed for this but I'm not really surprised that Greenpeace would have no qualms in breaking rules and guidelines to advance their cause. There's a long history with their organization pushing the limits and breaking laws for their agenda...this is them taking that ideology onto the web...

I think that it would be shameful for Google NOT to take action, because it would signal that politics/activism is more important to them than maintaining a rational set of guidelines.
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+1 # Virginia 2009-06-02 11:40
Go GreenPeace! I agree, Dave, that they're not in the dark on this. They have a clear understanding of how links can effect ranking and how to leverage it. While the Google TOS question still stands, I'm impressed that a "traditional" organization (one not born in the Internet age) has adapted to -- no, mastered! -- life online. Even if it wasn't a game for a worthy cause, I'm inclined to think that contests like this are innovative means of online commerce. Google, however, may disagree!
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0 # hempoilguy 2009-06-02 13:52
i did a google for:

fish and mercury
air pollution
carbon credits

and all failed to bring up a reference to Green Peace.

even 'save the whales' only showed them as #6
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0 # CJ 2009-06-05 10:16
Greenpeace are hardly aiming to get traffic off that keyword phrase. Nobody looking to donate money is going to use those terms. I genuinely believe it isn't done in a malicious way and also that nothing stops you asking for a link.

It's a non-profit, it's not malicious, it isn't going to hurt anyone...I'm happy to just let them be and hope it works for them. A bold move and I applaud it :-)
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0 # Hurtownia Tkanin 2009-06-08 05:52
They're pretty clever though. I read it before and didn't think it's link trading. Your post opened my eyes - they'll regret starting this competition.
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0 # Andrea 2009-06-17 02:45
Violating or not the google guidance... I think I will link it anyway...the cause may be is stronger then all of this and sure this strategy will work...
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0 # rusli zainal sang visioner 2009-07-01 02:14
great oppinion, It clearly violates the spirit and several terms of Google's guidelines. Then again pretty much any attempt to attract links, does. So this could go either way.
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0 # belajar seo 2009-07-01 02:15
They're pretty clever though. I read it before and didn't think it's link trading. Your post opened my eyes - they'll regret starting this competition.
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0 # Gab Goldenberg 2009-07-01 22:50
Sorry Dave, but they're offering links to whoever
comes up with the best content.

That's like saying you're gonna do a link roundup n for people to get in, they have to vie for a spot by producing great content, and also link to you. Trading links is and has always been fine, in moderation and done judiciously. Here the links will be relevant, so imho this is (maybe unintentionally ?) manufactured controversy...

p.s. No, I'm not some hardcore Greenpeace lover.
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0 # sumit 2009-07-08 03:23
This kind of articles is good for awareness for the online lottery player also. Because in online lottery is now contained with number of scams. So it needs to control to make Online Lottery available and acceptable to all.
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