Sorry this site requires JavaScript to be enabled in your browser. See the following guide on How to enable JavaScript in Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox and Safari. Alternatively you may be blocking JavaScript with an advert-related or developer plugin. Please check your browser plugins.

Another example of a reputable site selling paid links -- and another example of why no average person will understand that this is supposedly bad, since the site will see no visible penalty.
Comments13 Comments  

Comments

Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 2539 Days ago #
Votes: 2

A few recent references, on how this all piled up on me today. On Sphinn earlier today I saw this: http://sphinn.com/story/2363 talking about the still relatively new guidelines Google issues on paid links, warning not to buy them. I mean, Google’s had guidelines like this before, but they were beefed up. Later, I’m over at SEO Book where Aaron Wall had a great post on how if you’re an authority site, you get away with whatever you want: http://www.seobook.com/archives/002401.shtml So then back at Sphinn, I’m reading about someone who wonders if Yahoo is spidering their Google ads: http://sphinn.com/story/2403 And in checking on that, I discover a lot of links from New Scientist to the site. What’s up with all these backlinks? So I look at a page like this: http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7616 They’re not nofollow. They’re not delivered via JavaScript. They’re direct links, as best I can tell, spidered by Google as you can see here: http://209.85.135.104/search?q=cache:http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns%3Fid%3Ddn7616&hl=en&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-13,GGLD:en&strip=1 And below the box, you’re invited to get more info about buying them here: http://www.newscientist.com/contactperson.ns?recipient=linkad New Scientist, fair to say, is an authority site. It’s hardly the first to sell links, and it won’t be the last. My post from earlier this year, Time For Google To Give Up The Fight Against Paid Links? http://searchengineland.com/070420-111550.php Lists other big places that have been caught with their hands in the paid link cookie jar, so to speak. And this is another example that underscores why Google’s failing to stop selling. As I explained in that article, an outsider is going to see no reason not to sell links. Google won’t yank NS out of its index. It might prevent it from passing PageRank, but only a tiny few site owners will realize that. So all they know is NS sells links, so why shouldn’t they? Oh, and well after a year since the Stanford Daily was dinged for selling paid links, it still does -- $350 per month off a PR9 site. I doubt they pass PageRank, but what person buying them will know that or assume there’s something wrong with selling them on their own site?

Avatar
from todd 2539 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Great thread. Buying paid links is still relatively new for many businesses. Danny, what’s your take on paid links?

Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 2539 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Buy paid links because you think the traffic from the link itself is worth the money, not because you think you’ll get ranking value. Plenty will disagree with me, but I think that’s especially good advice for the newbie. And make sure the paid link you buy has nofollow on it, if you’re wanting to stay even safer (though as some will point out, potentially someone could link to you from a known paid links site and get you in trouble. But then again, the trouble simply tends to be that the link won’t give you weight, not hurt you). Don’t sell links if you’re worried about Google, or put nofollows on them or deliver them with JavaScript. Realistically, if you’re a big enough site, you’re not going to get banned or penalized. You’ll just not be able to pass link juice, with really hurts other sites (including people who keep buying from you thinking they’ll get link credit). I don’t recall any smaller sites saying they were banned for selling links, but it would worry me enough not to do it. And wishful thinking but for Google to figure out a way that if people buy and sell links, they’ll evaluate them to assign credit as makes sense or not, rather than just feeding a lot of fear. The links are continuing to be sold -- so stop saying don’t buy and sell them. Instead, shift to saying that those buying or selling links should be aware that Google might not credit those links in the same way as other ones. It’s kind of what they say now, but it’s also a shift to acceptance that might help.

Avatar
from AmyGreer 2539 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I’m curious about where the ethical distinction (in an algorithmic sense) lies between the nefarious sites that buy links for terms they have no business ranking for, versus legitimate businesses who should be ranking for key terms, but aren’t - and therefore buy links to bolster their rankings. It seems to me that if the intention of Google is to produce the most relevant search results then an acknowledgment of such a distinction should be a necessary component of their algorithm.

Avatar
from seobook 2539 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Old search spam used to be irrelevant, and thus there was the issue of relevancy. With the death of CPM ad buys and the rise of cost per action affiliate networks most newer search spam is on topic. What really defines it as spam is one of the following: - a lack of brand development - a small AdWords ad budget - using a technique that Google may not like with one of the above. The fight now is no longer for relevancy. What they are currently fighting for is to try to require commercial sites to buy their AdWords ads. That is a hard pill to swallow when much of the traffic goes to the organic results and in some cases ad quality scores price many business models out of being able to compete in the AdWords ad market.

Avatar
from ciaran 2539 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I used to work for RBI (the publishers of New Scientist) and we frequently asked them to abandon or amend this policy. I wonder whether they now will.

Avatar
from ciaran 2539 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I’ve just spoken to an old contact at RBI and whilst this isn’t gospel, I would think that you won’t find the paid links on any recent articles. I think that they have now stopped selling them and that they just haven’t removed them from old articles, or got rid of the option of asking for them on the sales page. I THINK that this is the current situation, but I would expect to see an official comment on this in the near future.

Avatar
from MattCutts 2538 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I wouldn’t say that they’re new either. We’ve known about those links for quite a while.

Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 2538 Days ago #
Votes: 1

New to me :) But that just underscores (hyphens?) the situation more. If Google’s known about the links for ages, you’re probably discounting them. But if I’m newbie site owner showing up there, I go oh, links to buy, yum. So I get some, and now I’ve violated the Google guidelines without knowing it. Now, if I bought the links just thinking nice ad opp, thinking or knowing nothing of PageRank, no loss. I’ll get clicks, and Google despite the threats on the guidelines isn’t likely to ban me. Link credit just won’t flow to me, in most cases, right? If I am buying for PageRank, fair enough -- I should also be smart enough to have read the guidelines and known not to do this. If I’m wasting my money on links, I had fair warning from Google. Or did I? Aaron and I talked about this yesterday on the Daily SearchCast: http://dailysearchcast.com/070809-222639.html The guidelines, let’s see them again: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66356 Are all about fear. Being in link schemes can "negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results." Yet we’ve quite famous also been told that "there’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking." http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=34449 One guideline says buying links can hurt you. The other at least leaves open the opportunity a competitor can hurt you. So there’s fear not just that buying links directly might hurt your ranking but that someone could do this against you. Fear, fear, fear. Now, I understand Google itself fears an explosion of paid links will hurt relevancy -- but I also think more and more people are pushing back at the fear campaign. That’s especially so when you can see big sites that sell links clearly aren’t being harmed in the least, from the ranking side of things. Shift it, Matt. Skip the fear part, and also skip the paid links part. Rather than paid links being a violation of guidelines, just say that Google regularly tries to spots schemes or systems that involve links given for payment, barter, scratching someone’s back or other reasons that aren’t based on editorial value -- and if these links are spotted, they won’t carry as much or any weight. So site owners are advised not to buy links on the assumption they’ll get better rankings, because that’s not guaranteed. I also like this because there are plenty of links that aren’t bought or paid for but still aren’t deserved. I always come back to that time Scoble was so proud that he linked to his brother who wanted to rank well for some term. Seriously, Google should have nailed that link and stopped the credit going. After all, it wasn’t deserved. It was just someone who knew someone else with a lot of PageRank that could push. Overall, it shifts Google from being seen as a fearmonger and more to consumer advocate. After all, it’s your search engine -- you can do what you want within it. But warning people not to do this or that versus saying you’ll measure things as you want, regardless of what others want to do, it’s subtle but important difference. One other thing. If you know about New Scientist -- then it makes a mockery of nofollow. Why bother? Why should a site owner have to worry that they’ve nofollowed all the right things when New Scientist clearly hasn’t and yet clearly gets to stay in Google. Heck, Google itself keeps getting nailed because you link to someone from some program that’s then deemed by a search marketer to be a way for Google to buy and sell links.

Avatar
from iBrian 2537 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I could have sworn that New Scientist had been selling links for quite some time - I remember trying to email them either last year or the year before to buy links from them for their paid links section, but never received a reply, so stopped trying.

Avatar
from Lorel 2537 Days ago #
Votes: 0

The problem with gathering links without paying for them is that Google penalizes sites for using the same anchor text to excess and yet you have to use your official site name when submitting on most sites UNLESS you want to pay for the link. So the only way to increase rank for an alternate term is paid links. Also I’m wondering how Google can discern between links that were free when the site started vs links that were paid for at a later date (usually after their link pages gained PR). Google could be discounting free links as well as paid.

Avatar
from Teddie 2534 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Danny, those links have been around since 2004.

Avatar
from simplepixel 2534 Days ago #
Votes: 0

If anyone (including Google) were to look at the backlinks from one of the advertisers’ site it would be obvious who is selling the links and who is buying the links. I agree it is more of a fear campaign, since there have not been any obvious repercussions some of the major publications. Seeing a site with 10,000 backlinks from sites that clearly are not related indicates something. The trouble is that the buyers and sellers are not in fact being penalized, and so in order for others to compete they have to play the game too. It then perpetuates itself.

Upcoming Conferences

Search Marketing ExpoSearch Engine Land produces SMX, the Search Marketing Expo conference series. SMX events deliver the most comprehensive educational and networking experiences - whether you're just starting in search marketing or you're a seasoned expert.



Join us at an upcoming SMX event: