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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is buying and selling text links risky?

To answer the question above: Yes, selling links can be risky, buying links is quite safe, and I do recommend link brokers. I don't want to fuel the heated "paid links evil or not" debate, but there is so much misinformation out there that I feel I've to step in. Two things pointed me to this topic today, TLA's affiliate program and an article by Jill Whalen.

I got an email from Patrick Gavin from Text-Link-Ads.com (TLA) introducing his new affiliate program. I know he's a nice guy, so I've signed up and placed his banner on all related pages of Smart IT Consulting Internet Services. Checking the link I found this statement on the landing page:
...our ads can ... help your link popularity which is a top factor in search engine rankings.
Well, I disagree respectfully, so I wrote an article How to buy and sell (text) links and linked it as editorial note below the ads. Don't get me wrong, I won't promote TLA for 'lousy' $25 per signup. I do believe that traffic brokers like TLA provide extremely valuable services, and although I don't use TLA's service myself I got a few recommendations from trusted sources. So please consider TLA's program recommended when you buy traffic.

Ok, next I stumbled upon Jill Whalen's good article Buying Text Links - Is It Evil?. Jill does a terrific job in explaining why paid links confuse the hell out of the search engines and why they dislike selling link popularity. Basically she says that buying links isn't evil and bought links will not get a site penalized by the engines:
It’s not a matter of if this [dropped rankings] will happen with paid text link ads, but when. It could be next week, next month, or next year. Regardless of when the engines decide to lower the boom, you can bet we’re going to hear a lot of crying in the forums about it! For now, if you’re buying text link ads, or have been thinking about it, I wouldn’t really worry about it. Just make a mental note to yourself that whatever boost to your rankings they may provide now could vanish at any time.
That's right, the destination page may not get the PR boost, but the page carrying the link may get penalized, and unfortunately she doesn't mention the latter fact.

If Google or another SE takes away a site's ability to pass reputation in links that's fatal. It may be not that big deal with outgoing links (although that's pretty much questionable!), but internal links do lose their power too. If a site concentrates incoming links on the home page or few points of entry, the result may be that all the content pages attracting the money terms in lower link levels disappear from the search results.

So if you sell links, via broker or not, you really should make clear that your links will be castrated. Selling links with condom is fine with the engines. If you buy links, don't worry but don't expect an everlasting ranking boost, if any - just enjoy and convert the traffic.

Related links:
Sell and buy links via Text-Link-Ads.com (affiliate link to TLA)
Jill Whalen's article "Buying Text Links - Is It Evil?"
My notes on buying and selling text link ads

UPDATE: Patrick's statement: "We recommend only purchasing links on websites that have a good chance of sending you targeted traffic that converts for you. If you are getting your money's worth in targeted traffic you don't have to worry about how the search engines treat the link and any benefit will be a bonus."

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