Paid Links & Reviews Are Necessary For Relevant Results

I have written about this a few times in the past, first of all questioning Google’s definition of paid links and more recently with my post on linking payola.
OK I have probably mentioned this a few more times than that, but those articles cover the core points quite nicely.

This article was written around 24 hours before what is becoming the most notorious session at Search Engine Strategies – San Jose 2007.
I have now followed up this post with commentary on what was discussed, and provide evidence that Google itself is not the white knight it pretends to be.
Bonus points for anyone who spots the affiliation between the plugin mentioned and a long term SEO detractor.

There Needs To Be A Level Playing Field

When Ebay purchase a site like StumbleUpon and eventually includes a footer link, and possibly some contextual links to product pages that are search engine followable, are they paid links also?

They only paid… what… $75M for 1.5M blogs (and growing) located on subdomains, so $50 per blog

Damn that is cheap link buying, how can the little guy compete? Actually I have been told there have been much better deals.

What happens when someone buys WordPress.com, not because of the advertising revenue which apparently currently keeps them about “break even” but for link equity?

Those innocent “An Ebay Company” aren’t so innocent when you look at how they are controlling Google juice on some of their other acquisitions, it is not always a 2way flow.

How A Little Guys Can Compete

  • A little guy can buy paid links from a site like Yahoo for $300 per year, which Google still give a weighting for.
  • A little guy can pay to have some kind of linkbait developed which is only loosely related to their core business, but will bring in links.
  • A little guy can pay for press releases that unleash mass duplicate content on the Web
  • Rather than buying a whole Web2.0 Social network, a little guy can buy up expiring domains, stick some content on them with links, or redirect them to their primary site.
  • A little guy can use a devious trick and use an affiliate program that has SEO friendly redirects, eventually robbing affiliates of the search positions they worked hard for that allowed them to send traffic.
  • Rather than buying a complete website, a little guy can buy a single page review of their product or service from someone who can relate to it or give expert opinion (paid posts)
  • Even cheaper, at least short term, a little guy can buy text links from relevant sites – high quality relevant links are not always possible for every industry, so sometimes they have to buy them from lower quality sites, or sites that get relatively little traffic.

I totally disagree with Aaron at SoloSEO that paid links and paid reviews should be discounted & devalued, because we are not looking at a level playing field. I could agree that irrelevant links should be discounted, in fact that should happen regardless of whether a link is paid for or not.

Robin Good has been having some problems with reduced traffic, and thinks a broken sitemap might be to blame.

Later he determines that it is not the sitemap, and one of the causes might be non-compliant text-link-ads (Sphinn Story)

What I had not paid attention to was a notice inside GWT that clearly said that while the errors it had reported for Master New Media did limit Google ability to fully index our site, these errors would have not impacted our Google search results or rank. In fact nonetheless visitors were still a small fraction of what we normally see, all of Master New Media pages were properly indexed by Google and the official PageRank was also firmly set at 7.

He then writes a 3rd article thinking that it definitely is text link ads to blame.

In the 4th article he has determined that TLA are probably not to blame, but will not be reinstating them.

He has some duplicate content problems with multiple domains apparently hosting the same content for possibly a different audience. Ultimately in that situation you are splitting link equity between multiple variations of the same content, but you wouldn’t expect a massive penalty from Google for all your content (75% drop in traffic)

In the end the little guy ends up buying more contextual advertising from Google in the form of Adwords on both the search and content networks.

Paid Links Above The Fold

Here is a slightly new concept for you.

Place paid links more prominently for users to click on, rather than hiding them in your footer

  1. You are going to make sure they are highly relevant to your audience
  2. They are clearly intended as advertising with the SEO benefit secondary
  3. You will get paid more for them

Alternatives Going Forward

Google can remove emphasis on links
or
Google should concentrate on the people with the biggest wallets, Ebay, Amazon, Corporate America (or China for that matter) and find a way for massive link equity acquisitions to be discounted… retroactively.

The core business of a dental practice isn’t paying someone to create a funny “tooth pulling” game in flash just to get links.

How many real estate agents does it take to write an article “the top 10 mistakes in buying a house” to reach a consensus?

Those Real estate agents really do have to compete with Ebay owning Rent.com
Just take a look at the footer of Epinions.com and Rent.com to see how Google Juice is being channelled around by corporate players.

As a general rule, companies that can afford to advertise are making money and looking to expand their services. Companies making money are more often than not pleasing their customers.
If they are pleasing their customers, then surely if they appear at the top of search results that is a good thing.

If they appear at the top of search results because they are effective at SEM, and possibly buying links, that doesn’t mean that text links are creating poorer search results, in fact it could be argued that it helps for better search results with current algorithms.

For further reference take a look at Michael Grey’s previous writing if you are new to paid link and Google F.U.D. discussions.

Update: Whilst I wouldn’t class Aaron as an egomaniac, he has written a great lists of ways to buy links without being called a spammer.

This article was written around 24 hours before what is becoming the most notorious session at Search Engine Strategies – San Jose 2007.
I have now followed up this post with commentary on what was discussed, and provide evidence that Google itself is not the white knight it pretends to be.
Bonus points for anyone who spots the affiliation between the plugin mentioned and a long term SEO detractor.

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Comments

  1. Affiliate Marketing says

    If I want to start a website, and do NOTHING BUT review other websites, isn’t that my business? Perhaps you find my website reviews entertaining, or perhaps you find them spammy, and a waste of space.. if the ladder is true.. why not just .. avoid my website.. unless of course, you’ve already finished the internet.

    I can sort of see google’s POV, they want webmasters to look at the net from a surfers viewpoint. But can they see my point of view.. free market? whereas I for instance sell THEM space on my websites via adsence.. I don’t particularly care for porn, or a few other topics that come to mind but I’m not trying to say I just flat out don’t want to see them, they are spam.

    And here’s another POV for google. They say tht the paid for links are not a true measurement of website content value.. that’s why they don’t want them.. it’s cheating.

    If I paid you to review my website, isn’t that some sign that I am putting forth quality content.. or at the very least making a true effort to share useful information.

  2. free dating says

    Hello
    First of all giving us a article so comprehensive and detailed about paid links.
    Well i heard that Google wont be considering paid links from now on. I don’t know how much this holds true. I have started a free dating. I was considering buying paid links and i hope this article helps me a lot in considering to again buy a paid link.At least it will bring me some traffic.
    Btw can you pls confirm this whether the paid links are still considered in SERPS and for PR or not.It would be a gr8 help
    Thnx

    • says

      I would say buying pure links should be the realm of someone with experience.

      Buying paid reviews you should target only highly on topic sites.

      • free dating says

        HI Andy
        Thnx for the reply. Well i do beleive in buying links from topic sites as whatever little i know i have heard that google doesnt give importance to links which are not coming from relevant topic sites(I can’t confirm this becz i am not a SEO expert like you). But yes i am trying to learn SEO and just want to get some paid links from some relevant sites so that i can atleast get a head start and then i can build on that and i hope there is nothing wrong in that.
        As you have seen i have started that site which is completly free and its not used for any affiliate marketting or some adsense.I just made this site for fun and do want it to prosper.
        Thnx

  3. says

    There is a huge reek of hypocrisy around this whole paid links argument, and as you say it is far from a level playing field.

    What it needs is for someone like Ebay or Amazon to acquire PayPerPost…..

    • says

      I think it will be Yahoo, MSN or maybe even Ask… or Google preventing one of them buying PPP.

      Best match would be Microsoft. Then they will just run $20-$50 ops to write about Microsoft new products, and maybe supply samples. I have discussed that possibility a few times.

      The only negative is that PPP with their most recent cash injection raised the purchase price bar a fair bit higher.

  4. says

    I absolutely agree. In fact, I first learned of companies buying whole blogs to accumulate links when a porn site bought a feminist blog for the link juice. The blog had many, many deep links. Morever, because the blog topics included sexual violence, gay rights and other topics, the deep links often contained specific search terms porn sites find valuable.

    Intrestingly, every link to the feminist blog would be was and still is editorial in nature and was granted without any monetary reward.

  5. says

    “that should happen regardless of whether a link is paid for or not”

    Exactly!! We can submit our links to web directories, which effects search engine rankings, for free but we can sell advertising space on our pages??

    What they are saying makes since but it turns into a double standard from hell!

    What you said about purchasing links in the Yahoo directory is also a great point.

    I know for a fact Google gives alot of “link juice” to those links.

    And then, similar to my first paragraph, theres dmoz, which google uses for their own directory. They have editors that moderate the links and these editors aren’t employees of Google. I’ve seen some TRASH links in dmoz. All they had to do was submit their site and theres a high PR link that Google gives alot of “juice.” How is that any different than paying for a link? other than the fact that it was FREE.

  6. says

    Andy,

    Great post. I totally agree with you.

    I think Google needs to change their Search algorithm soon, or they are going to be left in the dust by the next “breakthrough” way of organizing and finding great content. Using links to determine the relevancy of web pages is WAY to easy to manipulate even without paid links.

    Paid links aren’t the problem, they just cut into Google’s bottom line.

  7. says

    Andy, thanks for another great post, always a pleasure to read them. There is hardly anything more I could add as you covered it so well.

  8. says

    great points all around.

    you got me thinking…i work at a company that does web design and seo. whenever we design a new site we always add something along the lines of “web design by” w/ link back to our company site in the footer. i never even considered that could possibly be interpreted as paid links. though we don’t pay them for the link, rather they pay us for the site and in turn we place a link on it. it’s a win win for us of course, but there is money being exchanged none the less.

  9. says

    some awesome points here that I hadn’t come across/thought of. buying paid links isn’t cheap. in my experience, 9 times out of 10 the business needs to buy those links to get to the top and they actually do belong high up in the search results. Many times it is to get in front of spammy or irrelevant sites who have been able to leverage the PR of their base URL…

  10. Doug Heil says

    LOL

    It’s amazing to me how the “majority” of people/firms in this entire industry seem to not have a clue, or are being extremely naive.

    Sorry; but the true hurts guys/gals.

  11. says

    Interesting post, I haven't bought any links yet and I am climbing quite well organically. I may need to start buying links for more competitive terms, but I am not prepared to put any money in until my organic improvements start to tail off.

    I would think that the better quality and relevant your website is, the lower price of a link that can be negotiated. Do you agree from your experience?

    Regards

  12. says

    That was a 2 year old post before the Google crackdown in October 2007 – I would advise not to buy or sell links in the current climate for/on any site you are not willing to burn.

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