On every blog, discussion board and conference agenda there is a similar topic… Paid Links. Now, most of what I have written here on Search Engine Journal was done to provide support, to give advice or to serve as a guide. Today though I’m feeling feisty… and I just want to go off on a rant here on paid links.
More specifically, I’m going to discuss why paid links are here to stay — despite the efforts of Google to penalize advertisers and publishers.
Before SES San Jose wrapped up, the “Are Paid Links Evil” session was what everyone was talking about. In particular, it was Michael Gray’s Powerpoint presentation that triggered recaps and reviews from Lisa Barone, Tamar Weinburg and Rand Fishkin.
In an instant, thousands of web marketers were tuned in and waiting for the next shoe to drop. Before we knew it, Michael made his presentation, called “A Tale of Propaganda and Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” available for download on his site.
And now, everyone has access to his arguments.
Admittedly, I wasn’t in attendance at SES San Jose. I am however wise to the fact that since that SES, there have been articles and debates, raging on and on for marketers to dispute. Paid links is a controversial topic… And if we’re always talking about them — they will never go away.
Paid Links are a Google Product
I know that you can launch a site and have it indexed without the use of paid links. If you plan to be competitive though in your search marketing efforts, then paid links are part of the equation. From paid directory listings to purchasing links on highly relevant web sites… paid links will help to deliver results.
Google has gone so far as to forbid paid links. They have become so intent on penalizing those buying and selling links that they are requesting users to report any knowledge of them. Isn’t it interesting then that one of the main factors in a link’s value is directly associated with Google’s PageRank? In other words, Google’s own proprietary methods of determining a site’s value — is what makes a link worth buying.
Combine that with the fact that you need links to get indexed and ranked well — and Google has essentially brought this upon themselves. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Paid Links are a Google Product… and one of the few that has easily gotten out of Google Labs because of it’s overwhelming success.
Become a Smarter Link Buyer
If you are buying or selling links, clean up your act. Google will try to cut down anyone caught buying and selling paid links for the purpose of altering search results. That does not mean you need to eliminate paid links from your arsenal of tools though. Highly relevant links are still useful for traffic and contextual purposes and if you know what to look for there are still many bargains to be had.
The key when working with paid links is to always do your research. Evaluating backlinks, PageRank, traffic estimations, domain age, link types and anchor text will all help you to become a more savvy link buyer.
Selling Links Discreetly
Google will never be able to fully police paid links. Paid links are a form of advertising and you have the right to sell advertising space on web sites that you own and operate.
When it comes to links though… If you hope to attract buyers willing to pay premium rates — you must be willing to protect them. Do not label your ads as being “sponsored”… Do not highlight links that have been bought. Keep them simple, and you’ll continue to earn link sales.