Paid Link Schemes Inside Original Content

I was perusing the FAQ over at Blogitive recently, and found an item I don’t exactly agree with.

Blogitive is a business that, in a nutshell, matches bloggers and advertisers with the caveat that the advertising is in the form of blog content, and within that content is a direct hyperlink with the desired keywords as anchor text. Please correct me if I am missing specifics, but that is based on the information I gathered.

This FAQ item in particular that caught my attention:

Q: Do the search engine mind this tactic?

A: No, search engines need people to create content that is unique and relevant. By supplying that, both you and the client are helping the search engines grow it’s [sic] index. Just make sure to supply as good of content as possible.

While I agree that both search engines and users love original content, I respectfully disagree with the way this question was answered. My opinion is that this particular tactic can be trumped by a specific part of Google’s guidelines, given that the tactic can make it difficult for users and search engines alike to know that the post is sponsored. Matt, in his update to his paid link reporting post, outlines methods to make content like blog posts in ways that don’t affect search engines.

A quick check of the query ["filed under Blogitive"] shows sites that are likely participating in paid blog posting. A sampling shows some websites show that they’re not completely forthcoming on the sponsored nature of the posting. While a site-wide disclosure policy, typically available via a navigational link, seems to be a common way to disclose the nature of some of the content within a site, as a user I’d appreciate that the post itself was labeled as sponsored.

Labeling the post itself as sponsored in machine-readable text moves the site more into alignment with Google’s guidelines:

Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

The takeaway is thus: To the extent the site owner employs paid link activity on their site in a way that works to obfuscate the nature of the links to search engines and to users, is the extent to which that activity can have a negative influence on their presence in Google results. The good news is that there are the aforementioned ways for sites to align with the guidelines and to also align with what users expect from Google’s natural search results.

Brian is a Google employee and a member of the Search Quality group focusing on Webspam. These opinions are his alone.

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5 Responses to Paid Link Schemes Inside Original Content

  1. aaron wall says:

    Hi Brian
    The ppa beta has text links only showing Ads by Google AFTER the user scrolls over the link. Are Google’s pay per action text links CLEARLY marked for consumers? Where is the line between optimization and obfuscation? Why does it seem Google sits on both sides of the fence?

  2. Brian says:


    I know a little about Google Pay Per Action, but the click looks like it’s a 302 through /pagead/ subdirectory on, which is disallowed by robots.txt. The machine-readable side of the equation is covered in the context of my post. I know that these links will by default not count for relevance and/or reputation, so I have no problem with them.

    The human-readable aspect of PPA is present in the pop-up text as well, which is going further in my opinion than some of the programs aiming to sell direct text links.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Hi Brian,

    First, congrats: Toprank’s BIGLIST.

    Second, we’ve an interesting discussion on paid links in blog posts on my blog, trying to guess Google’s take on different sort of links. It would be awesome if you could step in to set the records straight ;)


  4. Bill Hartzer says:

    I’d like to also say “congrats” on the top rank listing. ;)

    While I agree that when they mention that search engines need people to create quality content that can be indexed, what does that have to do with links? Am I missing something? Sure, it’s quality content is good. Just because it’s quality content doesn’t mean that it has to actually link out to other sites, though (paid links or not). Outoing links isn’t a prerequisite to quality content.

    Thanks for clarifying the Google ads, Aaron.

  5. Halfdeck says:

    Aaron, if Google jumped off a bridge, will you follow? If you held up a grocery store, will you justify it by saying the store owner overcharges for Twix?

    Google has its idiosyncracies (e.g. approving person A’s AdWords ad while disapproving person B’s ad which points to the same landing page). But Google is on the right trackhere. 90% of website owners will be locked out of front page listings if Google doesn’t go after paid links.

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