Could selling links harm my blog's ranking?
November 8, 2012 3:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm being offered a sizeable chunk of money to add a link to an article on my blog - what potential downside does it have on the way Google sees my site?

I run a tour and most clients find me through the website. It has several pages explaining the services I offer and a blog section where I post interesting stuff I've seen on the streets, or bits of history, or things I find interesting in the city. It's not the focus of the site and doesn't really generate a lot of traffic - the main pages are the Tour and Contact.

I've been offerred a good chunk of money to write a 300 word article which includes a link to their clients page, with an appropriate keyword. I know enough about SEO to know what's in it for them. The link they want to use is related to tourism and wouldn't look hugely out of place, nor do I have faithful, savvy following that I would risk alienating. If I do it, I'll do 4 or 5 although at the moment they're only asking for one.

My question is, what negative effect could this have on my own site? I've spent a fair bit of time building the site up with relevant, unique information in order to improve my PageRank for the main keywords I'm interested in and get a small but not inconsiderable reasonable amount of traffic through organic search - is selling a link or two going to harm that? What potential repercussions, if any, am I not aware of?
posted by jontyjago to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Google isn't hot on people selling links. They *might* consider it linkspam. But, if link is contextual to the article and the article isn't something that doesn't seem out of place on our blog, then odds are probably fairly low that this will hurt your rankings. Make a babit of it, though, and you may see repercussions.

I personally have a "no paid links" policy on my blog, unless I'm allowed to add the "nofollow" attribute. Of course, my blog has made exactly $0 (not counting one or two very small freelance writing gigs that I've earned as a direct result of the blog), so from a business POV, I may not be your man.
posted by asnider at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2012

You should look into the disclosure requirements for paid links in your country - I know that US bloggers who receive free product need to disclose it, and need to disclose affiliate links; I don't about other countries or being paid for links. Then, you can decide about whether the disclosure is a problem for you or not.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2012

What is "sizeable"? Keep in mind they are buying an intangible "reputation" and that is worth a lot.

The repercussion you haven't mentioned is that Google will not just associate you with the site you're linking to, it will associate you with all the other sites that link to that site. It's a neighborhood effect. What other company is that site keeping? What scummy sites have also been paid to link back? Are there any link farms, spam-ridden wastelands, scummy black-hat operations, etc.? Usually there are. And in that case, that's to whom Google will compare you. It'll likely hurt your ranking in a noticeable way.

One site I was involved with sold links to one purchaser for about $13,000 a year. Just the same two links on every page. But then Google noticed and the site's traffic from searches dipped by a staggering amount (I believe it was more than half). It took months to recover and the AdSense revenues took a dive -- a bigger dive than we were being paid for the links.

We were able to convince some purchasers to buy links with "nofollow" attributes. But they never rebought because they didn't want traffic through us, they wanted reputation through us, and they were at first not savvy enough to understand what "nofollow" did. That's knowledge arbitrage working to our advantage.

The kind of arbitrage you should be worried about is value arbitrage because what's really interesting about your question is that these kinds of link sales require that there be some value gap that a link purchaser can take advantage of. There's not much of one for most high PageRank sites. That is, the amount of money it costs one to buy a link on a site with good PageRank is likely going to be higher than it would cost for the same outcome with other kinds of marketing or ads.

Where there is a gap is when the site owner undervalues their web property. So think about that. If they're readily agreeing to your price, then you're probably not charging enough.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:50 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do guest blogging on behalf of my clients all the time, in order to get a link on a relevant 3rd-party website. It's interesting that they are offering you money, and while it is not clear to me, it seems this is because you are the one doing the writing?

Besides what others are saying, I don't see there being any sort of issue, but it kind of depends on the quality and relevance of the site you are linking to. Is it relevant to your website? Does it (both the article and the site you are linking to) provide value for your readers? Those are the two biggest questions.

Typically the sites that get penalized for buying links are the the sites that are buying links, if that makes sense. For example, for a long time it was possible to buy links on generic directories that somehow had good PageRank and linkjuice. Google aggressively tackled this problem over the last couple of years. Obviously the directories suffered, but so did the sites they linked to.

You're not in the business of linking for profit, so you should be fine.

But like I said, the two considerations are 1) is the article relevant to your readers? 2) is the site you are going to link to going to help your readers.

If the answer is "yes", then drive on and don't look back.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:48 PM on November 8, 2012

I'd do a bit of research and find out who else they're doing a similar deal with, see what their Google power is and if they're the kinds of sites you want to be in the company of.

Probably the easiest way to do it is to use Google's "What links here" feature. The query would be something like After you find sites that link there, search for terms found on those sites (headlines, etc) and see if they rank at all. If they look like reputable sites and they aren't buried on page 10,000 then go ahead.

I would probably periodically check the link you're directing people to, in case they set up a bait and switch. You can even get an email when text on a web page changes using a service like Monastic.
posted by Ookseer at 9:19 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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