Google provided the most specific and actionable guidance on purchasing paid links to date during the “Are Paid Links Evil?” session of SES.
I think this fact has been overlooked.
I have often been critical of the way that Matt Cutts has distributed information on “nofollow” and paid links in the past. It is hard to be critical now, he defined it.
Most people concerned about this issue are concerned not in the sense of a debate, but more in the sense of “How can I promote my website, and how can I do it in such a way that I do not run the risk of losing rank?”
If you want to promote your site via paid links, but do not want to risk being penalized by Google, here is what information Google put out during this session.
Google does not have a problem with people purchasing links if those links are providing clear and machine readable disclosure that they are paid links.
Buying such links is within the Google webmaster guidelines.
What are machine readable links?
Matt Cutts put up a slide providing examples of linking methods that provide both “clear disclosure” and is also “machine readable”.
The four examples provided were…
- redirect through url blocked by robots.txt
- rel=”nofollow” on individual links
- <meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow” /> on entire page
Google provided actual names of organizations where you can buy links from.
Another slide stated that “You can buy links within search engine guidelines” and listed some examples
- any site that doesn’t pass PageRank in links
The slide also states explicitly…
“Buying paid links that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines.”
There was a time when one of the biggest complaints about Google was that they were not providing enough guidance. The information provided in this session was impressively clear and transparent. It defined well what actions are and are not within the Google webmaster guidelines as far as Google is concerned.
For those seeking to follow the guidelines, there was ample information provided to make actionable determinations about your linking strategies. I appreciate it always when Google defines so clearly their position.
I feel it is also worth noting that this information is important to anyone selling links as well. It would be very nice to have your company listed on a slide by Google as a place to buy links. I will be getting into the link selling arena, and plan to do so in the way recommended by Google.
My personal, random observations on this session…
- With knowledge comes responsibility. Often when Google expresses something so plainly, they start enforcing it more. Worth a thought.
- There are enormous benefits to links that do not pass PageRank (there was an internet before PageRank) and whatever side you fall on this debate, seeking links for traffic rather than PageRank is a tried and true method that works.
- As a publisher, I do not deal with ad networks that violate the Google webmaster guidelines. It seems short sighted to believe that authoritative publishers will do so for very much longer either. They have interests to protect and rank to maintain.