It never fails that I get 2 or 3 emails requesting link exchanges on a daily basis. Most of the requests are from people with low ranking sites that have some relevance to us. However, I typically turn all of them down unless it is a member of our online real estate network. The biggest reason that we do this is because we are not here to promote sites of non-members. We created this network to promote our members and that is what we try to do.
With that said, yesterday I received an email that was requesting a link on our site and even went as far as to state that they would pay for the link. I replied to the email and it did not take long for the person to respond to my email. I basically told them the ONLY way that we would accept a paid link is if the link could have a "nofollow" attribute added to it. The person said "NO" and ran away. Now, why would I have told him that? Why not just take his money? Well, let's turn to Google Webmaster Central for the answer to that:
Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation. A site's ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. Link-based analysis is an extremely useful way of measuring a site's value, and has greatly improved the quality of web search. Both the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of links count towards this rating.
However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results.
Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:
- Adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the tag
- Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file
Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank. If you see a site that is buying or selling links that pass PageRank, let us know. We'll use your information to improve our algorithmic detection of such links.
In closing, I am hoping this will help to shed some light on how Google actually looks at paid links. Many of the other search engines are starting to follow this same path. Matt Cutts of Google once stated “The best links are not paid, or exchanged after out-of-the-blue emails–the best links are earned and given by choice.” I have to 100% agree with him. Earning links or getting them because someone likes your site is so much better than obtaining them by having them built by paying for them, selling them, or even link farming.