Aug 22, 2007 115 reads by Navneet Kaushal

Search engines, especially Google, say don't do 'em. But some search marketers say paid links work. Are paid links subverting search quality? Or are they simply a fact of life, here to stay? We explore the issues, in this session.


  • Jeffrey K. Rohrs, VP, Agency & Search Marketing, ExactTarget


  • Michael Gray, President, Atlas Web Service
  • Matt Cutts, Software Engineer Guru, Google Inc.
  • Todd Malicoat, Independent Search Engine Marketing Consultant, Stuntdubl
  • Greg Boser, President, WebGuerrilla LLC
  • Andy Baio, Founder, &

The second day's most anticipated event (barring the dance, obviously) opened with a fabulous little video.

Google's anti-spam and software engineer guru, Matt Cutts clarifies that the question should not be 'Are Paid Links Evil?' but 'Do paid links that pass PR violate search engine quality guidelines?'

According to Matt, one misconception people have against Google is that the search engine company does not allow paid links. Denying this, Matt confirms that Google accepts paid links on the condition they (paid links) have a clear disclosure to search engines otherwise the paid links are in complete encroachment of search rank guidelines. Google handles Paid links through both humans and algorithm. In this regard, Google feels that IndustryBrains, Quigo, Adbrite, etc do not pass PageRank and therefore are seen as okay. However Google is vehemently against PPP (Paid Links Passing page rank) links and will be taking action those who use them.

Techniques that allows one to sell links without passing PageRank, and therefore not violating Google's guidelines are:

  • JavaScript
  • Redirected URLs blocked by robots.txt
  • noFollow Meta Tag
  • noFollow
  • Redirected URLs that does have a 302

Next up is Michael Gray, President of Atlas Web Service dressed in a Google shirt. Apparently, he jokes (who knows) that Matt Cutts paid him ($100) to wear the logo emblazoned shirt. He opens his discussion on Paid links saying, “Google is not the government”. The near perfect anti-establishment slogan. Gray says Google saying don't buy links is the same as Mc Donald's saying don't buy a whopper.

The slogan was just the beginning of his onslaught on Google. Grey's first attack on the search engine was their algorithm. This according to him is flawed as webmasters and users are all expected to change and adapt their business models regularly to accommodate errors in the Google algorithm. Even though the company generated $1.12 billion within just one quarter, you are expected to surrender your yield so that they make more money.

Michael says that NoFollow which was supposedly created with the sole purpose of countering blog spam hasn't helped at all. As Google once again altered the rules to generate more income. Michael affirms that Google is anti-paid links for the sole purpose that it works. Simply put, it is futile to have a high rank without employing paid links (except wikipedia). Paid Links does not help Google in keeping afloat and generating moolah through their advertising product.

The best was yet to come. Michael vehemently adds that Google is not the government and it cannot call you unethical or declare that you were breaking laws. Its only purpose, as its motto states, is to gather the world's information and not tell you how to run your website or business model.

Sure enough, in the end, Michael received a hero's applause.

Next is Todd Malicoat an Independent Search Engine Marketing Consultant from stuntdubl.

7 reasons for why he is a link libertarian.

  1. Semantics: Every link has a relative value and cost
  2. Incentive- blame the algorithm: The Google toolbar uses PageRank which tells how much one should spend on links. These boost your rankings. Top rankings are steeply priced. This algo further boosts linking.
  3. Economics: The indifference principle. Ultimately people will be tired of paying for links and will eventually stop. Efficient markets hypothesis.
  4. Transparency and Relevancy: Advertising was never ever transparent. As a consumer, he likes it. As a marketer, he loves it. As an SEO, it’s not his responsibility. Paid links help with traffic.
  5. Fear, uncertainty and Doubt vs. transparency.
  6. Competition is Good: Competition makes AdSense work better.
  7. There is such a thing as search engines: swap links that will help your user. Purchase links to heighten your site's visibility. Were there no search engiens to ebginw ith, we would not utilise noFollow.

Reasons why Malicoat wouldn't report paid Links:

  • Prices of links will be on the increase.
  • I doubt much would get done.
  • I buy links too and think it's okay.

Bottomline: Use paid links on your own risk.

WebGuerrilla LLC's Greg Boser is up next. Boser says sometimes when he's late he drives in the carpool lane as reaching his destination has a higher value than the ticket. Abut stopping the pollution of the web, Boser says you can do it by not stuffing stupid videos like the RentVine video that was just played. That, to him is the pollutant (so to speak) and not buying links from a quality site. Besides, siteowners are answerable for editorial choices.

The Yahoo! directory is filled with spammy sites. The directory charges money to evaluate whether yours ite is good enough o be added to their directory which is an example of a paid link. Boser says to stop giving brownie points to anchor text and it will go away on its own.

Last to speak is Andy Baio, Founder of (recently purchased by Yaho!) & . Baio says he is here to speak on behalf of everyday users and not Yahoo! Alone. Apparently the only reason he agreed to be part of the discussion panel is because he feels strongly about the subject.

Buying links to leverage your website's rank is the same as fooling search engines. However, when you are caught you will be punished by the search engine as the site may be a bad one.

Popups were a novelty when they began but eventually they effected the quality of life online. Paid links may seem harmless now but they will go down the same route.

Closing Points:

Matt Cutts: For long term success use white hat methods to receive editorially picked links.

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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