Selling Links

“Let’s face it, we’re selling links here. Call it ‘buzz’ all you want, but it boils down to selling links. That skews Google’s index and they’ve come out against that quite publicly. If we’re all given the freedom to disclose in our own manner, we’re a moving target. If we’ve all got disclosure badges everywhere, it’s easy for them to penalize/ban us all.”

The comments on this PayPerPost blog encouraging disclosure are interesting, it seems even their own users recognize that they’re doing something Google should/will penalize.

Perhaps rather than trying to find better ways to hide from Google, they should just stop the questionable behaviour in the first place. This is one of the reasons we took an early stance by banning PPP on WordPress.com, and other blog hosts should do the same.

34 replies on “Selling Links”

Wow, this post was deceiving, I thought it would be about you selling links on your website, not you talking about PayPerPost.

Yeah, that’s really what it comes down to Matt. It is just selling and buying links.

I, for one, am not against buying and selling links because I feel that those who put forth the effort to get those high search rankings, should have them. If a site cares so much about being in the top 10 or top 5, they deserve to be there.

On the other hand though, I am against PPP and like sites — to a certain degree. I can see how they are useful, but at the same time, it does abuse the ‘readers’ and the blogosphere since it was not a natural review or link.

Adam Lasnik does go to say that he doesn’t like NOFOLLOW though, he wishes “Nofollow didn’t exist.”

I guess you can avoid the whole issue by not selling posts, or ad space on your site. This whole monetizing a blog thing is completely out of control.

Hey Matt,

While the comments on Ted’s DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE post highlight the diversity of opinion in any large blogger population, I’m glad you highlighted a post that communicates PPP’s emphasis on disclosure so clearly. I’d love to see WP.com support a Disclosure Policy for every blogger
with the same fervor. It would do wonders for the blogosphere long-term!

I really don’t see why PPP should be banned on wordpress.com. This makes absolutely no sense because people give their own opinions anyway. It’s just like saying “hey, tell your friends/followers about this product and we will give you some cash.” There’s nothing wrong with it.

Congrats on getting on that 50 Most Important list. I’ve loved using WP for years now. I’m half surprised that you’re even younger than me by a couple years, but I suppose that shouldn’t come as a surprise to me (at 22 I became a lead on EverQuest II, and always got crap. I still get crap at 38 Studios at for being so young at 24).

Anyway, grats, and thanks for dealing with all of my crap with 38 Pitches. 😉

Has anyone suggested an alternative solution? What if PPP blogs that used a Microformat that identified them appropriately were not penalized in the same manner? I don’t get paid when I link to something I like (and I link to companies, products and other services regularly), but I wouldn’t be offended if someone who did link somewhere was not penalized for doing something that could be considered a reasonable business. Maybe this model wouldn’t work, but its worth considering.

Yet the ad-words campaign, which is basically “selling links” by allowing Google to link to certain words in your site’s text to products and services people might want to purchase is perfectly OK. What sense does that make?

So you would be fine with PPP/ReviewMe if they used Javascript links, right?

Therefore it is not link sales that you are against but the influence links have on Googles algorithm.

If Googles algorithm improved there would be no problem?

I’ve been blogging for coming up to a year – I enjoy it so I do it and it has become pat of my daily working life.

Part of my blogging is non-profit but I do run adsense ads to help what I get up to, while some blogs are commerical and link back to a client website.

Monetizing posting to my mind is not a bad thing per se – I think penalizing it is silly as it is the market that is dictating this trend, and the likes of Google are attempting to de facto regulate this market – that I believe is an abuse by them.

As a businessman I believe the search engines should simply be amending their algorithms rather than attempting human intervention to distort the market and the algorithms should concentrate on delivering relevant search results.

As a non-profit blogger, I want the revenue to generate my charitable efforts without fear of being somehow blackballed by an unwitting human or negatively skewed algorithm.

What also appears to be a highly distorting factor in this market is the near monopoly, oligopoly, of so few search engines to begin with – increasing competition would make this whole debate redundant – or SE’s could simply provide searchers with a choice – results that are pure i.e. have PPP included or search results that have the “penalization” filter sifting them out – and again let the market or in other words, the community decide which they wish to use.

@Nicholas: Scoble covered this same topic back in November and WP.com CEO Toni shared there ( http://scobleizer.com/2006/11/10/wordpresscom-doesnt-allow-payperpost-and-other-seo-gaming/#comment-165876 ) that it’s about doing any commercial activity on their free hosting service — not PPP-specific and not SEO-related.

@Matt: I understand the business model concern for your free platform. However, you could offer a paid hosting option (much cheaper than VIP) or rev-share with your bloggers, allowing bloggers the freedom to get paid for their efforts through any of the sponsored blogging marketplaces. You could also mandate disclosure exactly as WP.com wants it, resulting in a no-brainer win-win for bloggers and WP. I predict it will happen in the next year, so today’s posturing feels a bit like waiting for the elites to say sponsored blogging is here to stay…newsflash: it already is and sponsored blogging is the #1 option for the blogging masses to get compensated for their effort/creativity/expertise.

If any WP.com blogger is curious about sponsored blogging and would consider an option to pay/rev-share for that blogging freedom, make sure WP.com knows here, via WP.com support channels or your own blog…

And yet there are bloggers on wordpress.com writing sponsored posts. I know. I’ve seen them. But I’m not going to accept the responsibility of reporting them. That’s your responsibility…if it’s that important to you.

[…] Photo Matt » Selling Links I hadn’t realized that wordpress.com bans PayPerPost blog posts. Interesting. (tags: WordPress PayPerPost) These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

I have no problem selling text links … it is clear to my readers what’s what. I think they support the idea of making a living off my blog. I look forward to the day when more attractive banner offers come my way.

When it comes to pay-per-post (or on the flipside, stolen RSS feed content), I think people are forgetting what makes blogs work. Sure, you can play all the SEO games you want, but in the end, what gives a site value is the human interaction … that’s where we get this concept of “community” so many talk about. Am I wrong on this? you can build the perfect car engine, but it ain’t gonna run without oil.

I am thinking about accepting some “sponsored posts” … I see it as “avertorial” — that’s how print magazines do it. they sell space that looks similar to their editorial content, but it is clearly labeled as an advertisement.

Here’s the rub … I know that if I do too many of these sponsored posts, I will lose readers … search engines be damned.

There are:
1) ad-free blogs
2) blogs that sell links for click traffic (& use nofollow)
3) blogs that sell links for pagerank

1 is preferred, 2 is alright, 3 is lame

Good decision on wordpress.com’s stance

So what about Text Link Ads then? They put in links with no “no follow” tags. Yes, they use javascript, but the javascript puts in the direct links on our site.

And why only PPP? Why hasnt WP banned ReviewMe and a dozen other such enterprises which have popped up? Not to mention the link selling by companies like Text Link Ads…

There is far too little discussion about integrity and ethics when conversations turn to financial reward – and that’s what this boils down to, as I read it.

Working really hard at cheating isn’t the same as being honest. I don’t think that Matt is suggesting that this issue alone is going to create a utopia. That doesn’t mean it’s not an issue, nor does it justify ignoring it.

I find the whole PPP concept kind of perverse and wouldn’t do it myself. Most PPP posts I see are pointless regurgitation of some marketing talking points for a given product anyway. On sites that say ‘This is a sponsored post’, I just skip reading it.

That said – I have no problem with Text-Link-Ads. Yes I know it messes with the ‘purity’ of PageRank, but on my site they’re clearly listed as ‘Site Sponsors’ There is now misleading my readers – they’re ads. But I”m not so naive to think the $$$ I receive is for the PR boost they get.

But for those of us just trying to pay the hosting bill to write about the subject we love, at least for me, TLA is my top money maker by far. Adsense is pennies. Blogads just don’t sell for sites with low traffic. But if you write well and get a lot of links putting you at 5 or above – why shouldn’t you be rewarded for that effort? Don’t kid yourself – Google works hard to find TLA links and exclude them. But people still feel they have value and are willing to pay for it.

How is PPP different than TLA? Because it’s a writer writing something they don’t necessarily believe in – they’re writing for the money. Maybe that’s a fine hair to slice, but I do think there is a difference. So in teh end, I won’t fault a blogger for doing PPP, but I think lumping TLA in with them is apples and oranges.

Interesting point you have here. There arecomming up sevral new companies providing this kind of service, so I guess you have to be very careful what you allow on wordpress.com if you plan on taking a stand against it.

I believe it is important to be fair to the readers. They need to know that the article they read is genuine to trust what it says.

How can PPP ever be fair?

We have been running ads for ticket-selling businesses for 3 years now, which was okay, but I was just recently approached by a professional at iprospect.com with an offer from Scientific American to advertise on our site. This, to me, was a breakthrough for our site. It meant that our page rank on key issues was noticed by a major publication, and this publication wanted to advertise with us to promote themselves.

We didn’t go into this business to advertise or make big bucks, but to educate the public about important social, cultural, educational, and health issues. As it turns out, the two may not be mutually exclusive. We may be able to earn money because we are educating the public — achieving first-page google placement on key emerging issues in society such as “medicating kids.”

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