One more time: Selling links? Don’t be Stupid.

I’m going to say this one more time (that’s a lie, considering how stupid people have been at this, I’m probably gonna repeat it over and over again): when you sell links, nofollow them. If you don’t, you run the risk of being banned. If you knowingly run that risk, don’t be stupid and don’t get yourself caught. How you get caught? Well… Allow me to elaborate a bit:

My buddy Dave (who’s colleague posted a very nice review of my WordPress SEO Plugin yesterday btw) tweeted today about 9rules, a once well respected blog network I’ve tried to get into 2 times:

I didn’t know what he was on about but then Wiep, one of Holland’s best link builders, chimed in:

Ok, as you might guess, I was now overly curious as to what was going on. Wiep was kind enough to point it out to me in chat before I had to start search myself. It appears 9rules is openly selling links. It was doing so using a plugin that I’ve seen more blogs use to sell advertising, called OIO Publisher. The point? The links 9rules sells are not nofollowed.

Now, here’s the part where it got really interesting. You see that link where they’re selling links? It’s an interface of the OIO Publisher plugin. That’s what we tend to call a footprint. Let’s take some parts of the URL and use them in a nice Google query:

inurl:/oiopub-direct/purchase.php inurl:link

I ran the query and… Ouch… That’s a lot of results. Some of them turned out to be sites that were also selling text link ads, but they were nofollowed. Which led me to think it’s an option in the plugin. So I asked for a copy of the plugin on Twitter, went through the source and indeed: it is an option. Not just for links, but for the banner ads as well.

Here’s where it got really bad too: it has an option to charge a premium to remove the nofollow. Now if you’ve ever tried to tell Google that you didn’t know what you were doing while selling links, checking that box is the best way to make them never ever believe that. And it creates an even nicer footprint:

inurl:/oiopub-direct/purchase.php inurl:link "use nofollow"

All these sites charge you a premium to remove the nofollow tag from your link and deserve to be banned instantly for selling links knowingly.

So, to repeat it: don’t sell links without nofollow. If you do, don’t be stupid enough to get caught. The example above is a feast for Google. They’ll find plenty of link buyers & sellers while researching this footprint.

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118 Responses

  1. OzhBy Ozh on 17 December, 2010

    You’re doing it wrong, Joost. The post should be about how to sell links without nofollow *and* not getting caught :)

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 17 December, 2010

      Well read the post twice and you should be able to figure it out. Issue is, if I find you, I’ll still report you ;)

      • OzhBy Ozh on 17 December, 2010

        Yeah I was being ironic, it’s pretty easy to read between the lines :)

        • RamoonusBy Ramoonus on 28 December, 2010

          but there are not letters between the lines?!

  2. BurkeBy Burke on 17 December, 2010

    Joost – how is having advertisements on a site (with links) different than selling links?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 17 December, 2010

      There’s nothing wrong with selling links as long as these links don’t influence the search engines.

    • NabilBy Nabil on 17 December, 2010

      By selling links in order to pass PR and such, you’re manipulating the search result pages, also known as the SERP.

      Advertisements often have nofollow. At least they do here in Sweden :)

    • Rahul BansalBy Rahul Bansal on 23 December, 2010

      @Burke
      Advertisements by most ad-networks displayed via JavaScript codes. So even if they do not have nofollow, they do not influence target sites’ search engine ranking.
      Text-links often inserted via server-sider scripts. OIO plugin, text-link-ads plugin, etc do this only.
      On personal note, adding links this way is cheating your readers (apart from misleading search-engines)

  3. NabilBy Nabil on 17 December, 2010

    Those motherfu*kers just got caught by Joost! That’s some deep sh*t right thurrrrrrrrrr.

    Nice blog post, Joost. I’m loving how people from Google will visit your blog and most probably ban all those sites :)

  4. NabilBy Nabil on 17 December, 2010

    Sorry for leaving so many comments, Yoast! Don’t mean to spam. I just… happen to think of stuff after commenting.

    To those who do not want to get caught by the search query above: simply put /oiopub-direct/ in your robots.txt :)

    • The Bone ReaderBy The Bone Reader on 18 December, 2010

      Hooboy! Just building my first blog these past few weeks. Installed Yoast SEO (looks better than All In One SEO but I’m interested to hear comments from more knowledgeable people here. Then, I decided to research the best ad management plugs… Guess which one I got??

      Thank god I decided to get my SEOstuff sorted out first, then work on getting ads and activating/configuring Oio! :)

      In any case, I am a total SEO/ad n00b so let me clarify — the Oio plugin itself is not bad — it’s just that it doesn’t put “nofollow” as a default setting for ad links, correct?

      • The Bone ReaderBy The Bone Reader on 18 December, 2010

        …and sorry Nabil — I meant to clarify your point, foremost. Is this “/oiopub-direct/ in your robots.txt” workaround really a catch-all fix for this issue??

        • NabilBy Nabil on 22 December, 2010

          Correct. By not putting nofollow on the outgoing links (that were bought) you’re manipulating the SE’s and could get penalized.

          I personally believe that is a fix as you tell Google NOT TO index that directory.

          • MarcusBy Marcus on 26 December, 2010

            Note that you could still get penalized by using robots.txt. As far as I’m aware, the page is still visited by the SEs, just not indexed. Just because google doesn’t index it doesn’t mean it won’t consider it when doing searches for things like link sellers.

    • HeshamBy Hesham on 20 December, 2010

      I don’t think this will work the way you expected to, I’ve seen sites that has Disallow: /wp-content/ (which is the first level) in it’s robots.txt , and it still shows in Google search!

      Why I should include a particular sub or a sub category?!

      I am not sure about this!

      • Kamal HasaBy Kamal Hasa on 25 December, 2010

        I agree with you on this Hesham. Google never follows what is said and done. It just has its own way of dealing with stuffs like these.

  5. TrafficColemanBy TrafficColeman on 17 December, 2010

    Good advice..I really didn’t understand this until now..I will follow these rules when I start to build my sponsors up.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  6. YudiacroBy Yudiacro on 17 December, 2010

    This article is right on the spot!
    I still don’t get it, why 99rules is doing that.

  7. John WardBy John Ward on 17 December, 2010

    I wouldn’t say they deserve to be banned. I would put it based ont he way google currently views paid links they probably will be banned. I think this is a war that Google will never win (the anti seo war), but they won’t give up fighting. Black hats are always going to be looking for ways to exploit google as long as there is money in it.

  8. chrisBy chris on 17 December, 2010

    just a heads up that .nl link triggered my virus program

  9. EmilBy Emil on 17 December, 2010

    You can only imagine what are the Google capabilities when it comes to finding sites that sell links! People will be people making stupid mistakes like that and getting banned for something that is so easily avoidable. On top of everything Google is seriously hunting and “shutting down” ranking like crazy lately.

    Joost, let it be no need to warn them anymore, when their sites are nowhere to be found all of them will learn huge lesson and guess what? start from ground zero, but not with that domain that’s for sure.

    Good article by the way.

    Cheers,
    Emil

  10. GoobBy Goob on 17 December, 2010

    I agree that what 9rules is doing is idiotic, but it made me think of this: if a site is selling advertising, should a nofollow be used only on text links or on 125×125 banner ads as well (or whatever size banner ad you have)?

    • Andrew BBy Andrew B on 21 December, 2010

      I think that any paid links, whether they be banner or text links should all be ‘nofollow’.

  11. LeonBy Leon on 18 December, 2010

    Where does linking to affiliate products stand in all of this? Is that technically selling links too?

    • Andrew BBy Andrew B on 21 December, 2010

      If you were paid to write a post that contains links back to their product, in reality they should be set to ‘nofollow’ if you don’t wish to get caught.

      • LeonBy Leon on 21 December, 2010

        I wasn’t paid technically to write my review posts but I get paid a % every time someone clicks a link and buys. I can’t honestly see the need to nofollow..there’s too much confusion over what’s a paid for link or not..

        • JBBy JB on 23 December, 2010

          Why would you want to follow affiliate links? Your only interest is getting human readers to, based on the content on your site, have enough interest to click the affiliate link and hopefully buy something. That doesn’t require sharing pagerank with the site.

          • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 23 December, 2010

            You need to nofollow all affiliate links so you don’t get targeted as a “thin affiliate” and get a ranking penalty. Any good affiliate marketer will tell you to do this.

  12. StevenBy Steven on 18 December, 2010

    Thanks Joost, I was just googling how to monetize our site http://TheObituaries.org when I ran across your post in wp-admin section. Everyone was advising to first get good PR then sell links. We don’t want any trouble! Thanks for the heads up and the GREAT plugins.

  13. JebBy Jeb on 18 December, 2010

    Why would someone do that? It’s not that hard to get links is it?

    • Freddy @ InMktgWeTrustBy Freddy @ InMktgWeTrust on 19 December, 2010

      Very True Jeb,

      Getting links is definitely not that hard although I think it’s more a matter of laziness. Cutting corner by buying links will help you get your results to finish Q4 of 2010.

      Most of the rational linking is often made by SEO on their own properties. When you work for a large corp. you often find people less diligent to do the right thing in the long term.

      Hence the difficulty to find real “ethical SEO”.

  14. AlexisBy Alexis on 18 December, 2010

    Some people will learn it the hard way. I’ve learnt my lesson
    so. I hope others follow what you’ve said here.
    Thanks.

  15. Jason MillerBy Jason Miller on 18 December, 2010

    so what about the yahoo paid directory? (maybe it is nofollow already)

    time to revisit my affiliate/banners links to make sure they are nofollow

  16. JayBy Jay on 19 December, 2010

    I’ve noticed lots of people seem to get away with selling links these days compared to the past. Comluv uses the OIO publisher plugin and appears to sell do follow links.

  17. IvanBy Ivan on 19 December, 2010

    I’m actually using OIO in many of my websites as an ad
    server/plugin to deliver different banners on different spots on my
    website, but not for links. It is an excellent plugin and
    standalone installation software and gives us a lot of options as
    to the way we’d like to use it. Though I’m not using it to sell
    links, I don’t even deliver links with it, so does it mean that
    when google finds that I have one of those selling links software
    installed it should automatically ban me as a link seller
    ?

  18. Sher SinghBy Sher Singh on 19 December, 2010

    Thanks, I will make necessary changes to my site.
    Thanks again..

  19. Rajesh MerguBy Rajesh Mergu on 20 December, 2010

    Hey joost, i was buying blogroll from blogger to increase my backlink so far from DP. I didn’t understand how does google comes to know that we are buying links? can u please explain elaborating it in detail. As i have to explain this to my seniors

  20. Matthew EdwardBy Matthew Edward on 20 December, 2010

    What’s your opinion on selling text links and using external javascript to prevent the flow of link juice.

    I sometimes get emails from competitors of some of my side projects, offering to pay for links to their sites. They don’t realize that I know what they’re up to, so I’ve been tempted to take their money and give them links with useless no-follows. (You try to fool me, okay, I fool you!)

    I’ve never gone through with it; I assume Google only looks for the presence of a no-follow attribute, not at whether the juice is actually flowing.

    Thoughts?

  21. Paul OlyslagerBy Paul Olyslager on 20 December, 2010

    A while ago I was testing out some options and found text-link-ads. After several weeks I sold my first 3 text links. I found out that they weren’t using the nofollow in the source code of the plugin. I changed it manually and not even two hours later I received an email asking me to change this again. I’m not really sure if I should continue to use it.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 20 December, 2010

      No you shouldn’t, especially not after commenting here.

  22. KittyBy Kitty on 20 December, 2010

    You honestly believe that a site should be banned from Google for selling a link which they did not add a nofollow to? It seems a little extreme to me. I agree that the Google algorithm would benefit by devaluing the links but banning the sites just seems over the top.
    A person shouldn’t even have to know what the nofollow tag is, and a person should have the ability to monetize their website by selling links.
    Google should start ranking websites by relevance and not by popularity. In the absolute least “popularity” should not be so heavily weighted.
    I may be in the minority here but this post seems extreme to me. I feel like I typed in yoast and landed on SEOMoz. It is as easy if not easier to just devalue links of this sort as it is to ban a website for selling a link.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 20 December, 2010

      Not every link seller, but those who charge a premium for removing nofollow absolutely do. They’re willingly and knowingly helping people game the rankings.

      A search engine determines relevancy by popularity, not the other way round, unfortunately.

  23. KittyBy Kitty on 20 December, 2010

    Thanks for the clarification. Your reasoning makes perfect sense.

  24. MichaelBy Michael on 21 December, 2010

    What exactly is nofollow. I notice on some of my blogs there is a checkbox to make comments no follow. Should I make it no follow. Not selling links by the way.. Just want to understand this follow and no follow options.

    Thanks

  25. DanyBy Dany on 21 December, 2010

    I am trying to find an ad management system which will rotate banner ads from clients, banners are considered links to Google right?

  26. JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 21 December, 2010

    I’m not any more surprised 9 Rules is doing that than I am that people still don’t understand what it means. I get emails daily asking to buy text links on my blogs, and my answer is always the same “I DO NOT sell text links”.

    I’m also surprised that Joost hasn’t elaborated on this topic more in this post. 9 Rules is a blogging network, purported to be the “good guys” (Lorelle is a member). They have massive pagerank, and in terms of SEO these links are what both spammers and affiliate marketers want. The smarter affiliates understand that buying them will give only temporary value, since once 9 Rules is penalized in google – so will all the current advertisers who have links on that blog. Your only hope in buying one of these links is that it expires before the penalty happens.

    What I’m surprised Joost isn’t talking about is the difference (or in-difference) between paid links and big sites vs. small sites – or blogs vs. directories vs. media sites, etc. Google doesn’t want you to buy a link anywhere, and yet it doesn’t seem to matter if you buy a link in Yahoo’s Directory, or business.com – or any of the other top ones, it’s rare (if ever) you get a penalty for that. However, but a text link on a blog and you’ll get a penalty in almost no time. On the other hand – if you buy an ad with link (text or image) or nearly any American newspaper or major media web site, those text links come with nearly no penalty at all. It’s almost as if Google thinks that only real brick and mortar businesses buy the links there – so it’s ok. Google can’t seem to find a very good distinction between companies with million dollar budgets, and affiliates. In addition, many (if not most) times the sites that get penalized for selling links in my opinion are pagerank 5 and under. I’ve almost never seen a site pagerank 6, 7, 8, or 9 get penalized for selling links in any form or fashion, again as if google thinks they’re “exempt” from penalty because their authority is so great.

  27. ThibsBy Thibs on 21 December, 2010

    Very interesting post and ensuing conversation. Now what about companies that help you “exchange” text links with other sites? This is also a kind of link selling, right?
    As JTPratt Media says, I find it very frustrating that major e-commerce sites, in France at least, can “exchange” text links to build up their ranking, while smaller sites can be banned penalized by Google for doing this.

    • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 22 December, 2010

      As we know, Google cannot catch all of these services. However, they can catch some – and I can attest to the fact that they do change the algorithm for the ones that do get reported to them, and the sites they find do get penalized. If you participate, just don’t be surprised when the day comes when you get a penalty. On the other hand you may last a year or two before that day comes (if it ever does).

  28. VanjaBy Vanja on 21 December, 2010

    Never heart of a company selling links to others – even competitors. Curious.

  29. TrevorBy Trevor on 21 December, 2010

    Are you for real or what?? OMG

    This is a bunch of BS getting banned from Google for selling links.

    What about the Yahoo Directory. People pay to get listed there, did Google ban their site?

    What about using AdBrite to sell ads on your site?

    I think this whole thing about selling ads is getting just way out of hand. Untill you show me where it is on the Google site that they say that if you sell ads on your site, they will ban you from their index.

    • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 22 December, 2010

      Don’t be naive. It’s not BS getting banned for selling links. If you’ve never received a penalty, take it from someone who’s had nearly every penalty google has to offer – they are real. Maybe you haven’t been working online long enough to remember when paid link penalties started, and the most publicized case was the web site “text link ads” (google it), and they received on of the first big penalties doled out (as did those involved with them).

      Google gives all kinds of penalties to anyone it believes is selling, trading, or exchanging links. As I mentioned in my original comment, the big directories and sites with high PR (and newspapers and media sites) seem to pretty much be exempt, that’s something we know about.

      AdBrite isn’t even a discussion topic, their ads are placed with Javascript (as are Adsense), those are not the same and not part of this discussion.

      If you don’t know about Google’s Webmaster Quality guidelines – and the parts about not selling links, not creating link farms – they you need to do some more research about how SEO, linkbuilding, and Google indexing work. These are all things that have been in place for a number of years now.

    • LouisBy Louis on 2 January, 2011

      Joost is right.

      Here is Google’s view on paid links:

      http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66736

  30. AnthonyBy Anthony on 21 December, 2010

    I don’t get why people are blaming others for selling followed links.

    It is just like advertising.

    Ok it impacts search engines rankings.

    So what ?

    If Google results were based on revelancy instead of links this should not be an issue.

    Because of Google own weaknesses we now have no follow links everywhere, even where they should be followed (look at most newspapers sites).

    Everyone should sell followed links…

    BTW, why blame people that are selling links for money when Google does exactly the same when selling ads (they appear on top of organic search results).

    Anyway…

    • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 22 December, 2010

      Who’s talking about blaming people for selling links? Google is responsible for the bulk of the traffic online – and if you sell links they can give you a penalty of throw you out of the index (if they catch you). Before they started doing this – it was even easier to game SERP’s. Getting 1st page rankings is a billion dollar business – it’s like finding free nuggets of gold on the street.

      Google search rankings are currently controlled by an algorithm that has more than 200 rankings signals. Google results are ranked by relevancy – as best they can without having completely predictable ability to be “gamed”.

      On the issue of nofollow links, just google nofollow and find out that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be (and gets followed most of the time). I believe Yahoo (before bing) always followed nofollow links.

      Google doesn’t do the exact same thing when selling ads – adsense are put in place with Javascript – not the same as selling straight text link ads.

    • JBBy JB on 23 December, 2010

      Ok it impacts search engine rankings. So what?

      Look, it is Google’s search engine. They decide the rules. That’s the so what. You’re free to not like how they run their business, but that’s not going to help your ranking.

  31. Fernando VelosoBy Fernando Veloso on 21 December, 2010

    Hi Joost, question is: WHY should we or shouldn’t we nofollow our own links promoting our own sites? I ask cause a smelly competitor can grab 10 different Gmail accounts and do a report as “paid links”…!

    Point is: Google himself should be ready to learn how to differentiate. Right?

  32. DavidBy David on 21 December, 2010

    OK so if I want to get rid of a competitor all I would need to do is buy them a few links on some blogs? That makes no logical sense to me at all.

    • Liam BaileyBy Liam Bailey on 23 December, 2010

      That’s right, that’s what I thought too. Maybe if you have
      enough resources to buy those blog links whether it is about gadgets or anything, it may get rid of
      your competitors. I don’t know.

    • JBBy JB on 23 December, 2010

      I believe the way it works is Google will ban the blogs hosting the paid links, not the target of the links.

      • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 23 December, 2010

        No, google can and will punish both the posting blog and the target. Don’t believe what you hear, take it from someone who has had the penalty before.

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

          JT, that’s not true unless you were so obvious about it that they’re very certain you did it yourself, which of course is possible.

          • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 23 December, 2010

            well, we’re talking about a “footprint” here. If they can see that you’ve been buying multiple links, or using a services, software, or a script – a “footprint” they can follow – you will get the ban or a penalty. I’ve nevver seen somebody stop at just buying one text link.

  33. MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

    Well, that was….ummmm….terrifying. I’ve just spent a frantic hour tracking down the half dozen ads I have on my site and banging a nofollow tag into them, and that I was blithely unaware of until I read this article while doing some research on WP SEO.
    I suppose I can see (with the benefit of that wonderful thing called hindsight) where Google’s coming from on this, after all, if anyones going to make money selling adverts they want it to be them, right? And if those pesky site owners want ads, well they should just use Adsense then so Google can get the lions share of that cash too. But selling ads DIRECT to buyers? Without Google in between? Hey, that’s not fair!
    Is nofollowing enough, or do I need to actually remove the tiny paid links that were my only income on the site, and doubtless have to reimburse my advertisers?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

      Nofollowing them is enough, absolutely.

      • MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

        Hang on its getting worse! Having had you give me a bit of a fright I’ve been reading up on nofollow, and now I’m discovering people who suggest that simply adding nofollow to external links can, in and of itself, cause SEO damage to the page/site you’ve put it on!

        I’d no idea this was such a freaking minefield – it was quite a buzz to have a big-name car insurer approach little old me and offer me money to run an advert for him, but I’m beginning to wish he’d gone with someone else. Seriously, for the years of work put into my domain to get it ranked decently I’m now thinking about pulling the adverts entirely and refunding the insurer’s twenty pieces of silver.
        This is NOT the result I was hoping for when I decided to spend the holiday doing a bit of SEO on my site!!!!

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

          Adding nofollow to links on your site will not harm you. People telling you otherwise are talking nonsense. WordPress has been putting nofollow on outbound links in comments as a default for years now, and we’ve all seen WordPress sites quite capable of ranking, haven’t we? :)

  34. RichardBy Richard on 23 December, 2010

    Could someone please explain, or point me at an explanation, in very simple terms? Are you saying that ALL outbound links on your website, be they ads or anything else, should have NOFOLLOW ? I mean, Google has no way of knowing whether I sold an outbound link/ad, or just thought it would be interesting background for my readers.

    Also, a few commenters here mentioned javascript and AdBright but saying “AdBrite isn’t even a discussion topic, their ads are placed with Javascript” might mean something to most readers of this blog, but some of us don’t understand. Why wouldn’t AdBright be governed by the same rules for NOFOLLOW?

    My guess after reading all the comments here is that many people, such as myself, are not following the proper rules simply because we don’t understand them.

    • MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

      “many people, such as myself, are not following the proper rules simply because we don’t understand them.”

      You and me both :o(
      If you read that JTPratt bloke’s pages he even seems to suggest that Google can/will penalise both providers and buyers of paid links. Which….errr…. seems at least to me that having a link to a ‘commercial’ site can leave you open to some oik at Google believing you sold a link and therefore its banning time!

      • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

        If you sell links, you run a risk. Google doesn’t usually ban sites that buy links.

        • JTPratt MediBy JTPratt Medi on 23 December, 2010

          I’ve seen google penalize sites that buy links time and time again. I will agree that the time and severity of penalty do vary. I remember when Google went after Shopzilla for buy links all over the web, and their site was affected, as were every site that they bought links on. That cost one of my main sites a 1 year penalty from google (I was dropped from the index) – it’s the longest penalty I’ve ever had. That’s been 2-3 years now since that happened.

          I don’t know if Joost allows links here, but I’m going to try and leave anyone with questions this links to Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.

          For anyone who doesn’t know or doesn’t understand the rules, they in plain English on that page.

          The most important one is “Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.”

          That’s what buying links is – a trick designed to get you better search rankings. It also says “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank.”, which is also what buying links is.

          • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

            I do allow links here, especially good ones like that. I’ve seen Google ban link buying sites too, but to most sites, and for most people reading here, that simply doesn’t happen. You have to be quite agressive about it to get caught.

          • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

            Btw, can I just say: thanks! You’re doing an awesome job reacting to people here and even though I don’t agree with you per se on the getting banned for buying links we do seem to agree on all the other stuff :)

          • MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

            I’ve read that page, and similar pages, before but I’ve been back and gone over them again today. Especially the bit about “Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings”” And, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t DO anything designed to improve my (or for that matter anyone else’s) rankings. I have a site that has visitors interested in saving motoring costs. And I have some links, both plain text and banner style, where my visitors can go to an insurers website to get a quote. Neither of us are attempting to manipulate our rankings – we’re just capitalising on the hard work I’ve done to get targeted visitors who are attractive to my advertiser!

        • MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

          Hang on, somethin’ ain’t smellin’ right. If absofreakinglutely any text link, banner, button, that links out to another domain is gonna get your butt down on page 2000 on the big G, how come THIS site ain’t down there? There’s 8 buttons up there in that sidebar that each look like they go to websites that’ll pay for the incoming link, why ain’t YOAST banned?
          I’ll go along with this bit about nofollow, but not being able to have any adverts on yer site at all? Really?

          • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

            Nobody said that. Read again.

          • MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

            Well therein lies the problem Joost. My understanding of what you’re saying seems to differ from what you’re intending to put over. And as per some other comments, it doesn’t look like I’m the only person getting the wrong end of the stick. Perhaps it’d help to have a definitive answer to what, precisely, is the activity Google seems to have a downer on. Can I have an advertiser on my site, or can’t I?

          • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

            You can have an advertiser just fine, as long as you add nofollow the links to that advertiser, or those links are otherwise blocked from the search engine.

            To make it simple: just add nofollow to all your ads and you’re doing everything just fine.

          • MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

            But that’s not what that JPPratt chap is saying, and you’ve been (in the main) agreeing with him. He suggests that ad buyers and ad sellers can both be penalised, and I didn’t see any qualifying criteria there that says “only if its not nofollowed”.
            Let’s cut to the chase, for the morons like me who’re having comprehension difficulties. I have already changed all my external links, which are paid for by advertisers who have approached me and offered money in exchange for the ads being there, all turned to nofollow. I don’t have any ‘scripts’ selling links eiher – all ads I have are the result of someone emailing me and asking to place a link with me. Now, am I going against either the word, or even the spirit, of the Google TOS by doing that?

          • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

            You’ve done the right thing now, nobody will ever be banned for selling advertisements, only for selling ads that help people game Google rankings. I’m fairly certain JT Pratt agrees with me on that ;)

  35. Olivia BellBy Olivia Bell on 23 December, 2010

    Hi Joost,

    Thanks for the heads up. If I may ask a (dumb?) question… do TLA (text link ads) automatically do “nofollow”?

  36. Mark SimonBy Mark Simon on 23 December, 2010

    Using nofollow is a complete waste of time whether you are selling links or not. Matt Cutts of Google openly stated that they have ignored it for at least a year.

  37. RichardBy Richard on 23 December, 2010

    Joost, what’s the difference between selling “links” and selling ads? All online ads are “links” to the advertiser right? There are “links” all over every website – how could Google possibly distinguish between paid links and unpaid links for purposes of “penalizing” some sites?

    • Jason MillerBy Jason Miller on 23 December, 2010

      The article covered this.. if you sell links.. from a common script.. google will pick it up..

      also, text links alter the google algorithm.. ads and such.. are typically done in javascript which are ignored

      • RichardBy Richard on 23 December, 2010

        Jason, maybe “the article covered this” as far as you are concerned, but apparently many of us don’t understand and we would like to learn something new. So I’ll try again.

        1) Are you, and Joost, saying that ALL links to external addresses (regardless of whether you call them links, text links or ads) should have NOFOLLOW ? If not, how could Google possibly know whether I’m charging money for a link?

        2) Are you saying that “ads” are legitimate and not subject to penalties by Google IF they are displayed by using javascript regardless of the NOFOLLOW ?

        3) How do you define a “common script” that would cause Google to penalize a site? Surely it can’t simply be looking at the URL. Most sites use scripts that group content under common URL parts.

        Thanks to everyone for their help in keeping my site honest.

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

          1: no. They can’t until they see a pattern. That’s why I say: don’t be stupid about it.

          2: Well… yes. Although to be sure I’d still nofollow them just to be sure.

          3: well OIO publisher is a nice example: it’s got a serious footprint that’s very easy for Google to find.

        • Jason MillerBy Jason Miller on 23 December, 2010

          The article covered the example.. the paid text link is in the footprint
          /oiopub-direct/purchase.php

          I am no SEO expert.. and there is a ton of information both ways as far as nofollow to keep your link juice..

          as far as the javascript.. I think these are mostly ignored as bots do not read it.. although I may be wrong.. but with all the data google has collect from sites.. I think their algorithm is rather smart.. and ever changing

          the paid links gathered from emails and such.. well yes, google would have no idea if those are paid links or not (unless they read your email)

          There is one thing that hasn’t changed when it comes to SEO.. nobody knows exactly why/how google algorithm works.. and if you build sites/content for people.. everything else comes easy (real people will gladly link to your sites) the only problem nowadays, a lot more people make good livings by manipulating the site importance with links.. content itself is no longer king

          Great post/comments

    • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 23 December, 2010

      I saw your earlier comment, and I think I know what you’re asking. We are talking about “links” here, or HTML hyperlinks the a href= part in the code. Where I email you and say “I’ll give you $50 to put a link to my web site in your sidebar”, and you take my money and put up the link. That’s selling a link.

      Earlier you were talking about the Javascript links, services like Adbrite and Adsense do sell text based ads – which is fine. When you place the ads on your site you place some javascript code on your pages – and that’s how the ads get there. Google knows you’re not “passing pagerank” with Javascript ads – it’s not the same as a straight HTML link. So no, these ads are not the same as simple text links.

  38. jonathanBy jonathan on 23 December, 2010

    Joost, i have a good question for you… i understand that selling links will get you banned. Apparently trading links will also… in a wordpress blogroll, is it possible that any link that is not set to nofollow can get you banned, whether you actually sold it or not?
    Thanks in advance,

    • jonathanBy jonathan on 23 December, 2010

      in addition to my question, should we nofollow links to our own sites as well to avoid being banned? i dont have a problem following the rules, i just need a bit of clarification on what exactly they are.
      thanks again,

      • JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 23 December, 2010

        Now we’re getting into really grey territory. You need to do research and reading because this is a highly debated topic. I can tell you from raw experience, interlinking all your own web sites is fine “to a point”. I can’t tell you exactly what is too much – but I can tell you that if you have a blogroll on say a dozen sites, that links to all your other sites – that’s not a good idea. You can get a google soft penalty from that (I have). On the other hand, a link or 3 here or there won’t hurt.

        It goes much further than this. Some people that do SEO work will go as far as to have multiple web hosting accounts in different parts of the world so they can link their own sites and google won’t know it’s all from the same IP. Other people will register their sites in different names, or make the registrations “private”. Even others think that registering your site for 5+ years will help even more.

        I will (once again) go back to the google webmaster quality guidelines (google it) where they say basically “do not attempt to game the rankings). If it looks like you are, you probably are – and you will probably eventually get some kind of penalty.

        • JonathanBy Jonathan on 23 December, 2010

          joost, and your thoughts on my question?
          by the way, thanks JTPratt

          • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

            I fully agree with JTPratt’s statements in his comment above. You can link if it’s just “normal” linking. If you’re doing it to game the rankings and doing it aggressively, you run a risk.

  39. Jason MillerBy Jason Miller on 23 December, 2010

    So get your competition banned by buying links on their behalf?

    Maybe even dress it up with text saying this is a paid link
    ;)

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

      Nope, as said above, that’s not usually how it works.

  40. MikeBy Mike on 23 December, 2010

    By the way, just a ‘headsup’ for your future reference. When replying to a previous reply, rather than at the foot of the page, the text box for typing your message has been set at the full width of the area available for your main content area. Because each branch of reply is indented beneath its parent, the box goes ‘under’ your sidebar meaning that each line you type is partially invisible as you write it, making it difficult to edit if you’ve mistyped summat!

    Congrat’s on a very popular article which is getting lots of tracks and comments.

  41. LeonBy Leon on 24 December, 2010

    I’ve a pile of Review posts that now need nofollow added to product links if what you say is correct. There doesn’t seem to be a decent plugin out there that ads nofolow automatically or retrospectively to old posts from certain categories. How about adding this to your SEO plugin!?

  42. ThomasBy Thomas on 24 December, 2010

    This always cracks me up. I know Google is dead set against selling links that pass Page Rank. But comeone. Aren’t the most expensive billboards those in the most heavily trafficed areas?

    Instead of banning sites, couldn’t the Almighty Google figure out something? Maybe another tag (besides nofollow) that says this is a paid link?

  43. JTPratt MediaBy JTPratt Media on 24 December, 2010

    @Leon, I think you can find what you’re looking for if you just google wordpress plugin to add nofollow.

    If they don’t do exactly what you want, just use a search and replace plugin to find your links and amend them in past posts.

    @Joost – thanks. Since I’m an avid user of nofollow, and I build links, and have tried about everything – I’ve had more penalties from google than I know what to do with. It’s very interesting to me that 4-5 years after the demise of Text-Link-Ads people are still struggling with paid links and what the webmaster quality guidelines mean. I had no idea there were so many people that don’t know what these things mean with web sites.

  44. Kelly B.By Kelly B. on 24 December, 2010

    This post is very interesting especially that I am about to sell some dating sites of mine. Now, at least I had an idea on whether I will continue selling or not. I’ll make sure I’ll make a wise decision.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 24 December, 2010

      Those kinds of links get removed on the spot, Kelly :)

  45. Anthony FosterBy Anthony Foster on 24 December, 2010

    There is much talk in this article condemning people for “gaming the rankings”. Surely all SEO is considered as gaming the rankings if we’re honest?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 24 December, 2010

      Well no, of course not :) I’m just helping people claim their rightful spot ;)

  46. John LombaerdeBy John Lombaerde on 24 December, 2010

    There is only one White Hat interpretation to link buying and selling. Do not do either one, otherwise you may get banned by Google and the other search engines. In addition, do not link to sites that buy or sell links. It will not help your SEO efforts, since these sites may be considered as “bad neighborhoods”. Simple and clear instructions are best. Anything short of this, will inevitably be misconstrued by your readers, and will be problematic for them. Read Matt Cutts blog if there is any question about this. Note: I wish there were no exception to this rule, but a major directory like Yahoo or DMOZ that charges a fee to have sites reviewed manually, is OK, and can benefit your search engine rankings. I would not pay any other site than these two for a listing. Is that clear enough for everyone ? I you follow this advice, you will not run into trouble, and have hours of your hard work thrown away.

  47. SomeoneBy Someone on 26 December, 2010

    FUD.

    Love how it works.

    See it in action here.

    Google changes the rules as and when it wishes. There’s nothing wrong in buying and selling links; we do it all the time in the form of favours, testimonials, energy expended in creating ‘linkbait’ or even worthwhile content.

    There are no absolutes, only people willing to kowtow to the Borg.

  48. Scot ManaherBy Scot Manaher on 26 December, 2010

    I quit worrying about SEO for the most part because there are more benefits in marketing towards small communities than racking your brain over where you list in Search Engines.

  49. DavidBy David on 26 December, 2010

    Good article… Cheers

  50. UpenBy Upen on 28 December, 2010

    Hi Joost, i want to know, is it bad to put credit as no nofollow if we are using other images in our website.

    thanks!
    I will wait for your comment

  51. Clive at BlogBriefing.comBy Clive at BlogBriefing.com on 29 December, 2010

    So, let me get this straight. I have a site and I choose to offer links for money. HEAVEN FORBID! What is wrong with you people? My site, my server – I’ll do what I damn well please! NO, I don’t have Adsense on my site – why would I? My text link ads, and affiliate links, make me good money.

    Are you telling me that I’ll be marked down by Google anyway, for selling text links?

    Whoop! Whoop! Paranoia Alert!!!

    Sure if I’m also doing Adsense then that’s stupid and a No Brainer but this thread reads like a ‘scaredy cat’ charter!
    Gosh, better keep it secret that I’m actually trying to make a buck online!

  52. Latief@SimpleBloggingTipsBy Latief@SimpleBloggingTips on 30 December, 2010

    I just wondering if Google hate links seller why I saw few Ads on Google AdSense offering links from High PR Website? I’m not sure this is just a myth or this is real?

  53. Mari DavisBy Mari Davis on 31 December, 2010

    How would a third party know whether a link is paid for or not? My site is a fashion website and we link to the websites of the fashion designers. It is not paid. From this discussion, it seems that Google will punish anyone who links to other people. But, isn’t that is the web is all about?:

  54. GoaBy Goa on 31 December, 2010

    nofollow does not sounds to be a really good option. Linking is about referring visitors to another website, now if we use nofollow it means that we refer visitors to that link but do not want to refer the website to google. What a partiality with users? User might not know about nofollow tag, it is complicated according to me.

  55. TrevorBy Trevor on 31 December, 2010

    Well maybe I’m not understanding this whole “Selling Paid Links” thing. I’m not saying that I do this on my blog, or that I ever will do this.

    All I’m saying is that, I don’t even know what I’m saying. lol.

    How the heck can you tell if people are selling links?

    I do know for a fact that I see lots of blogs with sections that say “Paid Sponsors” and stuff, and they are still ranked and indexed in google.

    Like realy, how the heck could google even realy know if links that someone has on their blog are paid or if the webmaster just put them there?

    I have been doing SEO, building websites, programing, etc and stuff for a real long time and have never ever had any problems with my websites. Maybe this is because I stay away from all this bad stuff, or have been real lucky, but I always get my sites and pages ranked real quick, even the new ones.

    Great post though, I love it.

  56. LouisBy Louis on 2 January, 2011

    This is a good topic, Joost. Couple of things I’d like to point out:

    There is an advertisement that appears on many web design blogs nowadays that advertises “Link Building Services”. The destination of the ad varies, but one of them takes you to a site that helps you buy links that are not marked as nofollow.

    No website should allow that ad on their site, because they’re just promoting unethical practices. In fact, on the site itself they claim that the paid links will go undetected by Google, blatantly admitting that they’re breaking the rules, and encouraging you to do it.

    Also, I think it would have been beneficial to your readers for you to link to Google’s official stance on the matter of link building:

    http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66736

    Because it seems from looking at some of the comments that some people don’t believe this is a bad practice.

  57. StevenBy Steven on 12 January, 2011

    So is http://www.milliondollarhomepage.com illegal then? I was told this is not considered Black Hat SEO for some reason?

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