Adam Lasnik of Google on Paid Links & NoFollow

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Andy Beal had the priviledge of a sit down chat with Google’s Adam Lasnik at the Australian Search Summit early this morning.

Beal and Lasnik discussed Google’s stance on paid links and the use of NoFollow (more information on NoFollow). Andy reviews the discussion in his post; Google’s Lasnik Wishes “NoFollow Didn’t Exist”; and here are the highlights:

  • Google is “perfectly fine with people buying and selling links” but prefers them to use the nofollow attribute when doing so.
  • It is difficult for Google to identify a web site selling the odd link, or a blogger adding a contextual link, in exchange for payment.
  • Google looks for are patterns that suggest money is being exchanged for links. A casino site buying a link from a blog about gardening, would raise a red flag, said Lasnik. As would an influx of links in a single day.
  • Links from one relevant site to another, would not likely cause a reaction from Google

Penalties for Link Buying:

  • Punishments for buying and selling links vary.
  • Sellers that offer lots of links for sale, could find their outbound links filtered on a page level, or site-wide.
  • Buyers, purchasing links from dozens of locations, could trigger Google to filter out the value of their inbound links.
  • In the case of linking schemes,the link seller to have their ability to pass PageRank stripped away.

Adam Lasink on the NoFollow attribute and Google’s preference for paid lnks to use this tag:

It’d be really nice if nofollow wasn’t necessary. As it stands, it’s an admittedly imperfect yet important indicator that helps maintain the quality of the Web for users.

It’d be nice if there was less confusion about what nofollow does and when it’s useful. It’d be great if we could return to a more innocent time when practically all links to other sites really WERE true votes, folks clearly vouching for a site on behalf of their users.

But we don’t live in perfect, innocent times, and at Google we’re dedicated to doing what it takes to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in search quality.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • John

    This has to be the perfect match — in the feed, on the footer of this post:
    “Advertisement: Text Link Ads Smart Link Marketing”

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    Google just want webmasters to put Google AdSense up and nothing else to monetize the site.

    The things is that paid or not paid has nothing to do with vouching for or not. The two do not necessarily conflict each other. I link to what I like and sometimes to what I hate (knowing a thing or two about SEO makes me nofollow them), if I get compensated be it via revenue share, PPC, CPM or flat $ amount is even better.

    I can write about what I love and share my experiences with others and get paid while doing so and are able to pay my landlord who gives about Ranking algo’s as much as the color of the monthly lease check he gets.

    Again, this is rubbish. Is it about the vote or is it about money? It’s about money! Stock the BS and just admit it and get over it.

    It’s not the first example of Google bending their own set rules and it will not be the last time either. Its not the nice and cute Google from 2000 anymore, it’s a several hundred billion dollars big corporate behemoth.

  • Wendy Piersall

    I find Google’s attitude both dangerous and based on faulty logic. Just because a link is paid for on a site, certainly doesn’t mean that it should be valued less. What about an affiliate link that points straight to a site? What if the site I’m linking to is relevant?

    I deserve to be compensated for the benefit that my advertising client gets for the traffic that I send over. I PAY to get these visitors to my site in the first place (via PPC, advertising, or long hours spent on content creation, PR and promotion).

    Is there something wrong with advertisers wanting to earn better rankings from paid links? Google certainly benefits from this business model, why shouldn’t advertisers?

    Oh, I could go on and on…. but I’m starting to feel a bit irritated with the premise of Google’s thinking and that’s my signal to shut up. πŸ™‚

  • Max

    The sooner the engines move away from such a heavy reliance on link based results in the alog the better – When and if this will ever happen is a good question. It’s made a big mess all over the web, I remember the old days when you traded links to get visitors to your site and would never ever consider a link based on anything else.

  • Lucas Castro

    It’s hard to find a paid link pattern. There is no simple way to do this, so it is really hard to figure out if the link is a paid or not.

    A good point, is advice ppl that if they link to a site that is someway flagged as web spammer, they will be penalized too. There must be responsability in the linking act.

  • Peter (IMC)

    Now this is some useful information. I wish Matt Cutts would be more clear sometimes. But I guess he just isn’t the engineer anymore, but more the manager that knows that what ever he says can and will be used against him in the court of what ever… This case though, being less clear had quite the opposite effect.

    Good to see that Google is “perfectly fine with people buying and selling links”. That makes sense. I can understand that they like some help through the nofollow because it simply isn’t that easy to detect the intention of a link. (just for PR or for the visitor.) Very happy to see that the idea of “use nofollow or else….” is not correct. But that that idea had came up is understandable in an age of “either with us or against us”… πŸ˜‰

    Serious publishers will never sell advertising to whoever. A normal website editor won’t simply put whatever in their site, also, or more likely, especially when it comes down to advertisers. You can’t have your audience leave you because of who you link to. I would even go so far that many visitors would rather leave because of who you allow to advertise in your site, than a link in a page that simply says that the site linked to is bad.

    This whole thing will pass over,. Matt can sleep normally again,. πŸ™‚

  • Andi

    I don’t buy or sell links but I have put nofollow on all OB links as a default and have then selectively removed it from sites that I would like to represent as my profile to Google.

    I don’t think Google can be trusted to get it right. They’re not evil but neither is their method sophisticated enough for naive confidence.

  • Peter (IMC)

    ” It’d be great if we could return to a more innocent time when practically all links to other sites really WERE true votes, folks clearly vouching for a site on behalf of their users.”

    So there was no advertising done before Google? Advertising links always existed and they were paid for in those days too.

  • Long Term Advertising

    Penalties… lol Is Google
    A coach ?
    A referee ?
    A Parent ?

    Google has met it’s match, and it’s us. It better join us and help us sell better links or keep quiet.