The other day I read the great post about Matt Cutt's SEO tips and tricks that were gleaned from his great blog. It was probably one of the most helpful SEO articles I had read in a minute. It summarized some points that I had learned throughout the years with just a couple sentences. Good work.

While the article was still fresh in my mind I was talking to Jacob about how our host, rackspace, now advertises on the DECK. Which is pretty neat. I like rackspace and I hope they get some good feedback from the web 2.0 crowd. They have certainly made my life better. I think its cool because the DECK isn't like other advertisers. They are not at all like adsense or like adbrite. You seemingly don't put a bundle of JavaScript on your page and then have them server you ad content that you don't have control of.

The DECK seems to be a discrete group of content publishers that are offering targeted links to their users. And the advertisers don't pay per click - they have a solid price for the set of months. Its pretty steep - but the sites are pretty dope sites and like the DECK site says - you are paying for the influence. So as their site say:

Plus, The Deck ads are not redirected and the average page rank of the eight Deck sites is 7.125 which can make a significant difference in an advertiser's search rankings during and well after a campaign is complete.

So the DECK is leveraging the PageRank of their sites as a reason to buy into their program. And because the ads are not redirects - but in fact true links - the PageRank should trickle down to the advertisers site.

This leads to an interesting problem. With this in mind, isn't the DECK just a fancy, pretty and superstar big brother of the link spammers who are selling and buying links on high pagerank sites? Don't get me wrong, as a consumer I blanketly trust the DECK more than I do adsense, and I feel that the philosophy behind it is pretty solid and correct. But in this day an age - can a good and "not evil" philosophy beat the Google engine?

As per tips from the Matt Cutts summarization - the DECK theoretically breaks two of the rules:

Earned-links are earned and given by choice. Google does consider buying text links for PageRank purposes to be outside our quality guidelines. Vanessa Fox. 2006.


Google’s is against selling/buying links, and Matt indicates they are good at spotting them — both algorithmically and manually. Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines. 2006.

The DECK links are not earned in a normal way. I am sure that people that run the DECK don't let the cialis/mortgage people place an ad, so in a sense that editorial right of refusal allows the DECK to uphold some of its idea of an earned link. The other problem is bigger - their isn't a way around the fact that the DECK either on purpose or on accident is selling links. And the fact that they mentioned their high pagerank doesn't really help matters in regards to the above mentioned rules.

I am seriously doubting that Google is seeing this as plain jane link spam. But it does seem that with Google's algorithmic approach to finding PageRank link violations - the DECK may be in violation. And the reputation of the sites that advertise with the DECK and the DECK sites themselves may find their ranking being affected. This excerpt from the Google webmaster guidelines is pretty clear on this issue:

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.

I think we can all agree that the DECK is not a "bad neighborhood" and it isn't a link spammer - so what is it. If we were to scale the program to include thousands of sites instead of under 10 - their might be a problem. But as it stands now - they are just selling links and promising good things to happen - while causally mentioning their pagerank.

It just seems interesting that the Google rules that govern all of us web people would happen to place a cool advertising program like the DECK into the same category as a common link spammer.