Paid Links & Google: Hot Argument at SEOMoz
In a nice question and answer session on the Matt Cutts blog this week, Matt answers a concern about Internet advertising and the use of links (which are the backbone of the Internet and online advertising).
From the Matt Cutts Blog:
Q: “If one were to offer to sell space on their site (or consider purchasing it on another), would it be a good idea to offer to add a NOFOLLOW tag so to generate the traffic from the advertisement, but not have the appearence of artificial PR manipulation through purchasing of links?”
A: Yes, if you sell links, you should mark them with the nofollow tag. Not doing so can affect your reputation in Google.
Matt has been preaching this gospel for a while now and the issue of using NO FOLLOW tags, which were originally designed for blog comment areas where blog owners have little to no control over which links are posted in those sections, to slip a condom over links which are not ‘natural’ in an attempt to protect the spreading of any unwanted linklove has heated up into an argument by site publishers stemming from Jeremy Zawodny to now Rand Fishkin.
On SEOMoz, Rand brings up some mighty good points on why using a NO FOLLOW tag on a site to block spiders from following links or identifying ad buys is a “ridiculous statement.”
Fishkin gives these reasons (the first is reminds me of what Greg Boser has been saying for a while):
* Google should not have any influence on how markup is controlled. They are completly out of their jurisdiction in making this request.
* “Nofollow” was not created to say “money may have partially influenced my decision to provide this link.”
* The inherent arrogance in telling web developers to modify their content to suite your whims can not have good long term results.
* The Internet is not a commercial free, capitalists-shunned part of the world, and if you want publicity and recognition online, just as offline, you have to be prepared to spend.
In the comments to Rand’s Post, Jon Kemp adds this observation about Matt’s statement and Yahoo:
So by Matt’s statement, since you pay to be in the Yahoo directory (nevermind the editorial control), Yahoo should add a nofollow tag to all those listings and not pass on any link popularity to them?
This also leads me to this question : In Yahoo one is not really paying for the link, but for the time and the process of a Yahoo Editor reviewing the site which wishes to be listed in a relevant Yahoo category, and then revisiting that site once a year to make sure it is still relevant and up to speed.
So, is paying someone at a trusted directory or publication to review a site or news article (think the press and PR firm relationship) the same as paid link advertising?
And then, what about paying a journalist to write an article for a publication that includes links (via research or for whatever reason). Since the author was paid to create that content, should those links include a No Follow as well?
Michael Martinez asks:
I personally have NOT paid Yahoo! any money for listings. Nor do I sell links. But I have written some articles under contract on various Web sites, and the articles included links. Do those links count as “editorially chosen” or are they “paid links and therefore should not count”?
Matt’s generalized statement on links and NO FOLLOW brings with it many open holes & concerns, and I’d like to direct questions, comments and opinions to the thread on SEOMoz : Paid Links Under Fire… Again.