Search Engine Optimization is a constant game of cat and mouse between the Search Engine companies and the webmasters of the world.  Seems like last week, one of the biggies on the webmaster side got caught by the biggie on the search engine side, and in the process, I learned a new industry phrase called “link juicing.”  Now, I’m sad to say that all of those first page links out there may need to have an *asterisk* placed beside them.

The story goes like this:
1.  Findlaw, due to its being owned by Thomson Reuters, and being a highly visited web site, gets a special ranking by Google, and in turn, Google promotes links found on Findlaw to a higher ranking (thus pushing some law firms higher on the results page than others.)
2.  Seems that Google asks for those websites like Findlaw to tag any advertised links as such, and the ranking for these links will get downgraded and will keep the “true” links at the higher ranking.
3.  Findlaw allegedly was selling “high-octane” links on its site to law firms and others promoting the links as a way to increase traffic to the firms’ sites at the tune of $2,000 a month.
4.  Loose lips (emails) at Findlaw’s sales team, sent out an email that promoted this in a way that caught the attention of Google.
5.  Google then lowered Findlaw’s ranking in its PageRank.
6.  Findlaw apologized, tagged the links as “paid links” and Google then returned Findlaw’s higher PageRank value.
7.  whew…
8.  Now, I’m sure there are going to be some law firms lining up for a refund.
Legal Technology Blog is adding information on this story as it comes out.
I’m assuming that the Search Engine Optimization team at Thomson Reuters is going back to the drawing board and determining how they can leverage their highly ranked websites like Findlaw against the search engines out there in order to sell those links again.  If Google and other search engines are finding ways to test for  “link juicing,” then I’m sure the webmasters are out there finding the next method to work around the testing.