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Will Paid-for Links Jeopardise Your Search Engine Ranking?


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6 replies to this topic

#1 Mikl

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 08:52 AM

A company I know has a successful website. It enjoys good search engine rankings and gets a steady stream of traffic from Google and the like.

This is not an e-commerce site. It contains authoritative technical articles, and earns its keep from pay-per-click advertising and affiliate links.

The company is now thinking of accepting paid-for links. These would be links embedded in the text of existing articles. They would link to sites that sell products that might only be vaguely related to the subject of the article. So, for example, an article about the proceedings at a technical conference in a particular city might include a link to a hotel booking service for that city.

The guys at the company are currently discussing the ethics of this - in particular, whether it would jeopardise their editorial integrity.

But leaving that discussion to one side, I'm planning to advise them not to accept these links, purely for SEO reasons. I believe that this type of paid-for link would be against the quality guidelines, and could seriously hurt their search engine rankings.

Before I tell them that, I thought I'd run that point past you experts. Am I right that this sort of link would hurt them, or would it in fact be harmless? I stress this is only from the SEO point of view. They're capable of working out the other implications for themselves.

To put it into perspective: The site has about 150 articles. They are currently planning to accept a paid-for link in about ten of these (one link per article). But that might increase in the future.

Thanks in advance for your input.



#2 Jill

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 09:01 AM

If they did them using nofollow links it would have no SEO implications. If they didn't use nofollow it's unlikely that google would notice, but technically, if they did, they might stop those pages from passing PageRank.

#3 Mikl

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 06:51 AM

Thanks for your reply, Jill.

Just to be sure I've understood it right .....

You're saying that the worst that can happen as a result of these links is that they won't pass any page rank to the linked-to site? There's no danger that the search engines will penalise the pages containing the links?


#4 Jill

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 08:46 AM

Mikl, that is my belief, yes. But that doesn't mean it's for sure what would happen or what Google might threaten would happen.

#5 Mikl

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 08:56 AM

Thanks, Jill. This is all very helpful.

#6 Amy9

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 09:39 AM

I wouldn't necessarily say that the worst Google would do is not pass juice to the site in question.

I'm quite sure Google has and will again punish sites that sport too many spammy links. However, this will usually only happen to sites that sport thousands of spammy links, and that have few 'legitimate' links.

Remember that it's very easy for a rival site owner to buy spammy links for a competitors site in the hope of getting the site penalsied. Google knows this and so won't go around punishing any site with a few bad links.

Ten or twenty links of this nature are highly unlikely to cause any problems.

However - just as they're unlikely to cause any problems, how much value are they likely to bring?



#7 Mikl

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 08:10 AM

Thanks for your reply, Amy. But I wonder if we're talking about the same thing.

You talk about rival sites buying spammy links to a competitor site in the hope of getting the site penalised, and you say Google won't punish the target site. I understand that. But my question concerns the site that hosts the links, not the one being linked to.

I agree that the unwitting competitor shouldn't be penalised in the case you mentioned, but the site I'm worried about is the one that is being paid to host the links. That's an action that is completely under its own control, so there's no question of a competitor trying to do it down.

Also, you asked what value it's likely to bring. The value is the revenue that the links will generate. Given that the site in question exists purely to make money from advertising, that seems perfectly legitimate. They already have hundreds of links to advertisers and affiliates sites.

My worry was that the fact that the links I'm talking about are embeded in the main text of the page, and could be mistaken for editorial content. That's where the spammy-ness (if any) might come in.

I hope this makes sense.




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