Saturday, August 18, 2007

Paid Links and AdSense are not the same

One of the infuriating defenses those supporting paid links use is to compare paid links to AdSense. The next step is to criticize Google from influencing how you monetise your site.

Just to be clear; AdSense is a combination of JavaScript and iframes. The presence of AdSense on your site does not effect the PageRank or the search positions of the sites displayed on the advert.

I don’t think I’ve seen people object to what Google considers spam before.

People do not object to Google calling white text on white background spam. Why would they? No one pays webmasters to put white text on white backgrounds so perhaps that’s the issue. People don’t even object to avoiding light greys on white or dark greys on black.

The money is clearly an issue. The fact that you can get money from selling links means that the paid link issue is entirely separate from hidden text.

That said, I wonder if the people who are happy to sell links would be happy to take money to hide text on their site or sell hidden links on their site. I doubt it – they would be risking their own site and that is not a risk they would be willing to take. However, I suspect we wouldn’t hear the defense “Google can’t penalise me for monetizing my site!”.

People made money from linkfarms. They were advert supported. I’ve not seen anyone object to Google cracking down on linkfarms. Why not? I suspect this is because linkfarms came and went long before many of today’s popular SEOers were in the industry. Heck. Search engine optimisation wasn’t even an industry back then. Back then we did not a “blogoscope” large enough to let people voice their collective dissatisfaction or even gain kudos for being outspoken about their dissatisfaction.

Paid links did work. Paid links were a toy that people had. Paid links were a toy that made money. Google’s now taken that toy away and that’s why people are upset.

I can see why people are upset. I can sympathise as well. I can sympathise to a point. Trying to compare paid links to AdSense confuses the issue.

Paid links without nofollow are simply there to try and influence search engine rankings. They are.

Paid links with nofollow must be there for the traffic. Paid links with nofollow do not influence search rankings.

AdSense is there for the traffic. AdSense does not influence search rankings.

Do you know what? I won’t be liked for this post. It’s probably a good time to point out that my I Support Nofollow campaign as been running since January. The campaign has only one signature so far: mine.

4 comments:

Neil said...

Interesting comments. Perhaps you should request that a no-follow tag be added to your agency's e-consultancy sponsored (paid) links (in the name of "I Support No Follow")?

Andrew Girdwood said...

Hi Nick,

The e-consultancy links redirect via a robots.txt folder which disallows spiders. That's the hardcore no-follow option! :)

neil said...

Nice to see it has been sorted. I have a few Google cached results in front of me dated up to 04/09/07 without the redirect.

I've never seen no-follow "enforced" using this method; interesting as I can see that it would allow for more control on your end.

Regards.

Andrew Girdwood said...

Yup. You’re right. The links went live without the redirect.

Actually, it’s a good example of why nofollow works for me. The badge on e-consultancy resulted from a conversation between our marketing team and them. Not our SEO team but the crazy people who came up with The Optimisers http://www.bigmouthmedia.com/downloads/files/the-optimisers.pdf and the chin movie http://www.bigmouthmedia.com/movie/.

E-consultancy were clearly happy to link to us as is – if they worried that we were a bad neighbourhood or wanted to try and push above us on some search terms then they could have added ‘nofollow’ in there. Our marketing team wouldn’t have cared they wanted the advert for the sake of the advert (showing off the new strapline – big, clever digital marketing).

The SEO team noticed that we were getting a lot more traffic from e-consultancy (typical SEO geeks; noticing the web traffic before noticing the shiny badge on one of our favourite sites) and investigated. As sure as punch we thought “Great ad – but I bet something thinks we’re trying to slyly link buy” (did you?) so we asked e-consultancy to use our redirect instead. They’re nice guys and made the change quickly.

You’re also right about the control side of things. If Google and the other engines were to say “Actually, we’re cool with paid links now” then we’d be able to take that robots.txt file away (or edit it) and the link would be worth something in the SERPs (albeit still coming through a redirect). If we do more advertising which might be mistaken for a bought link then we’ll be using the redirect approach again. It just seems to make sense.

Nofollow works because people don’t need to worry about working out how the redirect code works on our site. If they want to link to us but not vote for us or pass PageRank then they can nofollow their own links without fuss or drama.