Many blogs are abuzz with the news about a recent fake piece of linkbait that ended up capturing the eyes and ears of many big traditional news outlets and bringing the originating story thousands of backlinks. After the community went up in arms about the "snakeoil" tactics of this piece of bait, Nick Wilsdon and Barry at Search Engine Land talk about the ramifications of the action, especially with how Matt Cutts is responding to it from a Google perspective. In a Sphinn thread (that is REALLY long; you have been warned), Matt says:
My quick take is that Google’s webmaster guidelines allow for cases such as this:
“Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it.”
There’s not much more deceptive or misleading than a fake story without any disclosure that the story is hoax.
Numerous forum members at Sphinn are disappointed in the approach taken here, especially since it was fake and deceptive. Others think it's unfair for Google to assert control over web content. Yet others understand that Google wants to link to the most trusted and relevant website, so they're going to obviously take action. I'd argue that the piece of linkbait in question is the most relevant piece of the pie here and should rank #1 for the query.
The question is: what would happen if nobody admitted that the linkbait was fake and everyone assumed it was true? Even if people contest the motives of this particular piece of linkbait, it was confirmed as fake, but do you really think that every piece of linkbait out there is legitimate?