Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Paid Links Evil?

There’s a bit of controversy over paid text links, as used in Jeremy Zawodny’s blog, and it’s a tough issue indeed. Matt Cutts of Google says, “Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines.” Greg Boser suggests to use “link condoms” by adding the rel="nofollow” attribute to paid links, and Matt agrees. Such a link condom has two direct effects; it may decrease the value of the links one sells, but at the same time, makes sure advertisers arent signing up purely for linkjuice either.

Indeed, if a site pays for a link to them and they’re doing it purely for the linkjuice, it could be a dangerous neighborhood to be associated with; your own site may lose authority in the eyes of Google and others. When I accepted paid text links around here, I evaluated every site and rejected many if I found them too unrelated or too “affiliated.” In the end, I rejected more than I accepted. A forced “nofollow” would have been an option as well.

As always, it’s a matter of balance. Link to one irrelevant site (irrelevant or worse!) and you should be OK if your site is otherwise non-spammy, but link to a bunch of such sites and your blog might enter a bad search neighborhood. As for Jeremy’s choice of links, well, there is a share of “Super Affiliate”, “Website Hosting”, “Local Coupons” and so on. This could hurt his own site’s ranking, something which a “link condom” would prevent. Now, some things should be remembered here:

Matt Cutts’ main argument (and we should all remember he’s not Google, or speaking for them in any official way in his blog) is a humble “OK, you can all do what you want with selling links, but then give us the freedom to down-rank you, too.” The problem is, if Google would down-rank sites like Jeremy’s which have real authority on the web – let alone all the other sites with paid ads! – then Google has a problem, not Jeremy.


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