We all know Google doesn’t like it when we pay for links. They see no difference between paying cold hard cash, trading favors or promising services – it’s all the same to them, and it’s all a no-no – at least as far as using paid links to give your rankings a boost.
Oh, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it; just make sure you no-follow such inbound links or otherwise arrange for Google to disregard them. Paid links in the right places can be valuable for driving traffic; Google just won’t use this type of link to determine your site’s value.
There remains a grey area, however; links from blogs and social sites that you might try to show up on. Digg is of course the primary one that comes to mind, so if people watching the world unfold Digg style see your information and want to link to you, that is their choice – no grey area at all. But what if you pay for a review?
In an interview with Eric Enge Matt Cutts proposed the idea that ‘Whenever you pay money to a social media consultant to try to show up on Digg, you are not paying for links. You are funding some creativity; you are sponsoring your page for some creativity.’
Not exactly relevant, Matt, as Digg doesn’t like content submitted by such ‘media consultants’. Might be more relevant to other sites, though, that don’t monitor as closely.
A better answer might have been one that addresses the outright paying for a review on a social site or blog. Suppose I ask you, as the owner of CoolestBlogEver to plug my imaginary online pet clothing outlet PetStyles on you blog, with a really terrific review of my new product Home Dawg Hoodies.Well, I know I should probably no-follow any link you put to me on your blog, ‘cause I did pay for that one, but what about the (hopefully) hundreds of people who read the blog, check out my site and decide to link because of the ultra coolness of my Hoodies and other pet gear?
I didn’t pay them. I didn’t cajole, bribe or give away free stuff. I certainly didn’t hold a gun to their head. Those links are as natural as they come, and I don’t have to no-follow them; these people really truly are linking to me because they think I have something of value to offer. The fact that they wouldn’t have known about me except for the blog review has no bearing – except for the fact that it shows how savvy I am when it comes to publicity and advertising.
In other words, I was being creative, just like Matt said. Just don’t get too carried away and create a story about a 13 year old boy, and X-Box and a couple of hookers. That would be wrong.
As always, little webmasters everywhere: Keep your nose clean and you’ll have no worries.