There has been a fair amount of Hoo-Haa surrounding Tim O’Reilly in the past week or so, most recently about some dubious looking links on the O’Reilly websites. He has replied with a good round up about whether or not what has happened is wrong or not.
For mine, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, it’s a bit like Cash for Comment. It’s feasible that search engines should see the div or td html element that is notated as advertisement and assign lower ranking to those particular links. There are obviously technical limitations on this capability but it is a good concept.
This brings me to a topic I have been thinking about for quite some time, a variation (or extension) of XFN on a higher level than just human relationships. What got me thinking about this was adding links to my volleyball club’s website, how do I notate that this link is pointing to a sister association or a member’s website?. Companies have relationships with people (employee/employer) and other companies (sister/competitor/partner); Websites have relationships with people (author/editor/designer) and websites have relationships with other websites (advertisement/networked).
I believe that if these links in question on the O’Reilly sites were marked rel=’ad’ and the search engines understood this, and weighted it lower then we may be able to avoid this moral dilemna. This obviously has limitations in that it only works for the people who want to take the moral high-road but it could also provide hints to the search-engines about which sites are paying for advertising. As far as I can tell, passing meta data to the search engines can only be a GoodThing.