With all the Google changes post Penguin and post Panda, you may have noticed an increased occurrence of promotion companies offering to pay well ranked, high quality websites for placing adverts on their sites.
Many may consider this a bit of a dilemma, should they be taking money in order to promote another website or blog, or is that unethical and are they likely to get a Google slap for participating in Internet gaming?
Well the Google view on paid links is that they are unethical if they pass page rank and they will punish participating sites if they are made aware of the practice. There are ways of course to ensure paid links do not infringe Google and other search engine terms however. For example you can add a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the tag or redirect the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file. This effectively tells the search engines not to follow the link to the other website and cancels out any passing of page rank to the 3rd party site.
More recently I have actually been asked by one or two affiliate partners to go into their affiliate links and to add a ‘nofollow’ relationship. I am guessing that the reason for this is that an affiliate link is very easy to spot and they are concerned that not only the originating site will incur some sort of penalty, reducing its value, but that the affiliate site may also get a downgrade of some sort. Clearly counter-productive for both parties.
Given these recent revelations I have personally taken the stance of adding a ‘nofollow’ relationship to all my new affiliate links and have retrospectively started to add the relationship to existing affiliate links whenever I am updating. I really can’t see a downside to this, as I am pretty sure that Google, or any of the other search engines, do not pass pagerank from what are clearly affiliate links, and they may actually consider the practice of adding ‘nofollow’ to these links to be a benefit to a page, and reward it accordingly. I am currently waiting to see if any of the pages I apply this theory to actually gain a page rank mark or two and will let you know if they do.
All that said there are genuine occasions when you want to point to a 3rd party resource as a useful reference and as such enhance the standing of your own site by providing a genuine service to your visitors and actually rewarding the provider of the information with a link that does pass page rank. This is in fact exactly what Google et al want for good quality websites, they just don’t want businesses to buy that credibility.
What you have to remember if you add page rank passing links to your site is that there needs to be genuine relevancy between your site and the 3rd party site. So if you are writing about small business blogging for example, then having a link to a Casino site or some other totally inappropriate site that has nothing to do with your topic will be like a red rag to a bull for the search engines, and they are highly likely to smell a rat. This could be at great expense to all the hard work you put in building your site’s credibility. This final statement is common sense anyway and applies if you are considering link exchanges or just doing someone a favour, the only way it will work is if the links are relevant and not excessive.
So there you have it, paid ads for passing page rank are a ‘no no’ as far as search engines are concerned and any external links you place to 3rd parties should be on topic and relevant. Hope that helps and if you decide to sell advertising and links anyway at least it will be from a position of being informed.