Should you become Google’s stoolpigeon?
Are paid links a real problem?
In Part 1 of Google’s Tangled Web I looked back (maybe too fondly) of the way the web worked before Adsense and Pagerank. Links were free and freely given, for the most part.
Why would anyone want a paid link to their site?
Well, the obvious answer is the hope the link brings traffic. This is the primary reason people are always trying to get on the front page of Digg and other social networks. The link to their site brings traffic.
A second reason someone would pay for a link is to increase Pagerank or PR.
This is for SEO purposes. The more links to your site, especially from high PR pages, the more PR your page or site will get. A link from a PR7 page will not make your page a PR7, but it will get you started on the way. It can take a lot of low PR links to build a high PR. Of course, you’ll need fewer links if they are from high PR pages.
Why does Pagerank matter?
Pagerank is a measure of a page’s authority in Google’s search engine. The more links a page has to it the higher the PR and the more trustworthy it should be. Not too complicated.
A higher PR should move you higher in search engine standings. That will bring more traffic. Higher PR will also increase advertising income. Some advertisers will also consider PR before they will accept your site as a publisher.
Finally, if you have a high Pagerank, others will pay you for it.
Getting a link from your PR7 page can help another site gain PR and get indexed by Google. So, why not just link to everyone who asks? The more links from a page, the less PR is transferred per link. While Pagerank is not a limited resource, building it takes time and the ability to transfer it is limited. Money is a good motivator in getting something someone only has a little extra to give. Buying a high PR link can save time and be very profitable with the traffic it can also bring.
So why does Google care if you are paid for a link on your page or not?
It messes with the naturalness of their algorithm. You see, an unmarked paid link looks just like a paid link. They can’t tell. At least the bots can’t. Unless a link is tagged with a no-follow there really is no difference. If the link is paid, there is the question about if the link would occur naturally. Google is now concerned that the link would not be there if you were not getting paid.
At least, that is what we are told to believe.
Of course, if no one cared about PR or being penalized for too many links, it wouldn’t really matter anyway. Back in the old days of the Web, you linked if you liked the site. There was no worry about diluting the site’s PR or even messing up your search ranking. If someone asked for a link and you liked it, why not. It was your decision if it fit the page or not.
Now, putting a link on your site can be a major consideration.
Will it penalize your site? Do you need the PR for your own pages? Do you have too many links already (Google has stated that too many is bad if you want a good ranking and PR)?
What about your cost in placing a link on your page?
This is where Adsense comes in. If you want to make money with your site or blog, you want them to click an ad to leave, not a free link. The made for Adsense spam sites are even worse. They do not even want you to read the content (usually there is not much in the way of readable content anyway). They just want you to click on an Adsense ad and leave that way. Any non paying link someone may leave your site by, is actually a possible loss of site revenue.
Paid links are also a competitor to Google’s Adsense.
Google has a near monopoly. They want to keep it. Google makes its money from selling advertising. Text links are starting to become a real competitor with Adsense. When you place a paid link on your site, Google is not getting paid when a reader leaves through it, even though you are paid. More and more publishers are finding this a good solution to lower paying Adsense rates. Advertisers are liking too as well as publishers looking to increase PR.
Here’s what Aaron Wall of SEO Book had to say about this:
The more I think about it the more I realize why Google doesn’t like the various flavors of paid links. It has nothing to do with organic search relevancy. The problem is that Google wants to broker all ad deals, and many forms of paid links are more efficient than AdWords is. If that news gets out, AdWords and Google crumble.
He is not alone among Webmasters and bloggers that see Google as starting to dictate too much. Is it right for Google to tell you how to monetize your site? Is it right for Google to tell you how to mark your links?
Right now, Google really can’t tell if links are paid or not without human intervention.
So Matt Cutts posted easy instructions to rat out your competitors:
As far as the details, it can be pretty short. Something like “Example.com is selling links; here’s a page on example.com that demonstrates that” or “www.shadyseo.com is buying links. You can see the paid links on www.example.com/path/page.html” is all you need to mention. That will be enough for Google to start testing out some new techniques we’ve got — thanks!
Google wants you to work for them – for free.
They get paid very well at Google. They just do not think this would be profitable for them to do, so they are asking you to do this time consuming job for free.
There are some bitter people who will do this for Google.
Not because they believe the garbage about this making the Web better. They will do it because they assume that if someone is making money it must be wrong. Especially if they are not able to get a text link themselves. They will talk about how it evens the playing field. Meanwhile, their successful competitors will simple go back to beating them using Adsense, Google’s version of paid links.