Here in the Netherlands we have this long history of having so called startpagina’s. They’re basically collections of links to websites around a subject, with each subject having it’s own subdomain. They’re named after startpagina.nl, the first, biggest and probably best of it’s kind, and there are many, many, many, many clones.
These pages were notorious for selling links and creating very weird link profiles for loads of Dutch pages, and luckily enough, these clones have recently been dropping hard in the rankings. Not the original startpagina.nl though, which is still a source of a lot of traffic, traffic that often converts very well. As such, people are very willing to pay for links on these pages, and in my opinion loads of companies should be buying those links.
The problem is that the company which sells a lot of those links wrote an article on MarketingFacts today, one of Holland’s biggest marketing blogs, highlighting the traffic and conversions these links provide, but also highlighting the search ranking aspects of these links. I’ll try to literally translate the sentence I took beef with: “Google sees paid text links as spam, unless (bolding mine) they’re placed in a relevant context.”
Now my personal opinion on this doesn’t really matter, but by putting it like this, in my opinion they claim to have gotten some sort of “ok” from Google, or know that they’re doing the right thing. Now of all I’ve seen in the discussion around paid links over the last months, my conclusion is that Google does not look at it that way, and instead just thinks that all paid links should be marked as such with a nofollow link, whether or not they’re relevant doesn’t matter.
Because the debate about this can go on forever in Dutch, since there’s no one from Google to chime in, I’ve made the above post, and hope that allows for feedback from Google. I also hope that if I’m drawing things out of context or putting them wrongly, the Dutch people who followed or joined in the discussion at MarketingFacts will correct me.
Update: while checking out the site of AdLantic, the company selling those links, I found this:
AdLantic adverteert uitsluitend op thematische linkoverzichten met een hoge pagerank. De linkoverzichten hebben meestal 1 specifiek onderwerp (bijvoorbeeld: hypotheken, vakantie, dating, computer, etc), waardoor ze bij Google een zeer hoge relevantie hebben.
In English: “AdLantic advertises solely on thematic linkpages with a high PageRank. The link pages usually have one specific subject (f.i.: mortgages, travel, dating, computers, etc.) which makes sure they have a very high relevance in Google.”
I’d like to say: case closed.