Never before have we been in an era where links have become a commodity. You can sell them, buy them, trade them, barter for them even try to fish for them as link bait with crazy ideas and good information.
But what is the real value of a link? Should we be buying links, should paid links be considered only for the purpose of ranking better in the Search Engines?
The list of links as a community goes on and on, but one reason is that everyone and their Mom knows the Search Engines’ biggest secret, links work for ranking (shhhhhhhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone). Another reason for paid links is that links are advertising and offer traffic on portals that have tremendous traffic.
Recently Google has taken a well-disputed public stance on links, in particular on link buying. The problem here is terminology. You need to determine the motive, if the motive is to use the links to manipulate search engine rankings, then the site may be penalized, however if the ad is related and may offer traffic, then it may not be a malicious motive. How accurate is the determination of motives, especially if competitors are submitting the ad complaints? Also some webmasters give links away to other webmasters that help them and place them in paid sections as that is where all external links go.
Matt Cutts, the leader of Googles anti-spam team, has stated publicly his and Googles’ position on paid links and how you should get them. Recently Matt Cutts says paid links should be reported as spam and he has taken much slack on this subject, as many webmasters believe Google is trying to control the use of links for numerous reasons. There have been numerous debates on every forum and social site as to Google’s intentions.
Link buying is so common now that even the biggest sites and blogs sell them, as links generate a large percentage of many bloggers revenue. Yahoo and MSN have taken a different approach then Google and have not banned or penalized for the use of paid links.
The simple fact is that links, like or not, are a commodity and with Good Reason. Links are fueling the online economy and giving webmasters added value to their sites (other places for you to go to). Links help people get traffic, traffic, and did I say traffic?
Of course, since they may help rankings, they have added value as a commodity, and this is the exact factor that Google wants to eliminate. Google wants people to earn links. Which is a great concept, but the least cost effective, especially with the pricing of Social Media Marketing. Some SEO firms may offer this as part of a package and help companies develop the best strategies for their SEO campaigns that will pass the test of time.
I do agree with Google on one thing, having Viagra links on sites that are not health or Viagra related should devalue ALL the outbound links, unless the Viagra market is the visitors of the site (this would be rare). I do disagree that anyone should ever be penalized for buying a link, as the rest of their work may be highly valued and years of accomplished work.
Google is giving the impression of believing that all paid links are bought solely for the purpose of its ranking algorithm, this is simply NOT true. NOT at all, and NOT everyone. Links pass traffic, sales and offer exposure where their industry visitors or service buyers are. Links can be an image (banner) or the most common is text links as they have converted better than banners for years. Of course there are those that buy the link solely for the purpose of PageRank. Others buy it because their competitors have it and of course the strategic advertiser buys it for multiple benefits.
Google simply has to discount sitewide links and network-wide links from its algorithm and this can counter most of the issues. Unfortunately Google is trying to determine the reason and will listen to whoever submits the paid link report. Honestly, our competitors will stop at nothing and fake things to get us removed, why not buy ads for competitors now, duplicate and syndicate our site and submit a report because someone at Google thinks these people are trustworthy?… Food for thought.
A link is simply a link and in the Internet world, it is a commodity that is even proven to convert by Google themselves. Trying to determine the use and penalize for it is ridiculous, in my opinion, I would prefer simply discounting the links if Google feels they represent an issue. Smarter marketers will keep links that offer the best exposure and traffic.
Links, for sites that do not have Google rankings, will accommodate for the missing rankings and pass visitors strategically to the site and offer the same results for sales and conversions. Paid Links on Google (Adwords) would be another great way to get traffic, and again this is Google selling the same commodity.