Selling Links: The Implications for Bloggers
There are thousands of bloggers in the world wide web stratosphere. Excitedly chatting away about their passions and interests, each blogger has a story to share with potential and loyal readers. Foody bloggers, beauty bloggers and gaming bloggers are just a few of the cliques that have taken over the blogging platforms, making consumer reviews the forefront of product recommendations and suggestions.
It is an obvious pathway, that as a blogger who spends hours of their day writing content for others, that perhaps they want to benefit someway, somehow. By benefiting, I mean gaining something other than likes, shares and followers, although they are extremely rewarding. I am of course talking about cold, hard cash. Yet, benefiting has become a huge faux pas within the Internet world and with every Google update comes the downfall of someone who is knowingly, or innocently unknowingly, cheating the system.
Here’s my Vote!
Linking from your blog to another blog or brand is meant to be a thumbs up in their direction. It is supposed to be entirely trustworthy and a way of directing your traffic to their site because you wholeheartedly think they deserve it. It is not supposed to be because you have been paid off by someone desperate for a link from your website, for the purpose of gaining traffic and increasing domain authority.
Just in case you are new to the jargon, each website has a domain authority which in simple terms is a calculation of a websites credibility on the Internet based on its content, frequency of content and links pointing to the site. For example, a website of great credibility online such as BBC News, Facebook or The Guardian Online, have domain authority’s reaching nearly 100 on a 100% scale. If a brand was able to somehow have the Guardian mention their website with a link to their homepage, the brand’s domain authority would be given ‘juice’ so to speak and would be significantly increased. For a fashion brand for example, gaining links from fashion bloggers is a great way to increase their awareness, build up referring traffic and develop a web of links that will boost their domain authority. From the perspective of the blogger however, selling such links to a company in exchange for a mention manipulates Pagerank and reduces the credibility of referring links.
Google only gets Smarter
This sort of process is highly frowned upon by Google and with each update they launch, more and more companies are being punished for buying their links rather than earning them. It seems that soon, the blogs that are selling these links will also come under fire. So how does Google know?
Google is all seeing, all knowing and is even cleverer than you might give it credit for. If you are mentioning that you have been sponsored or paid to write a piece of content and add a link from a company who has contacted you, Google reads the ‘sponsored’ notice, reads the link and comes to conclusions.
Learn by Interflora’s Mistakes
You might have heard about Interfloras recent downfall at the hands of their link building strategy. Sending out bouquets to bloggers as gifts and reaping the domain authority rewards by hundreds of links pointing towards the Interflora website, it was only time that stood in the way of Google cottoning on. Whilst Google heavily punished Interflora by removing them from the search engines and submitting Interflora to a complete nosedive in traffic overnight, it is only a matter of time before they begin to punish those who allow brands to cheat.
As I mentioned before, bloggers are hoping to benefit from their hard work and are jumping on the sponsored post train as an easy route to a little pay off. With some bloggers sending out word documents to brands containing their ‘fees’ for writing posts, extra fees for more than one link and other fees to create trend boards and wishlist posts, it begs the question of whether they are aware they are diving into deep water.
Selling Advertising Space
Some bloggers mention the fact that they have advertising spots on their sites, charging newer or less popular bloggers upwards of £5 to have a 200x200px advert on the sidebar of their blog. Rather than linking to the blogs they love and read loyally, these bloggers are instead cashing in on advertising space and charging bloggers and brands to appear on their pages. This is allowing blogs and brands to gain untrustworthy links and is again against Google’s terms and conditions. Especially as some blogs openly label their advertisements as ‘Sponsors’, they are almost sending out a beacon to Google to flag their page. Here is one example from an anonymous blogger who sells their advertising packages at a price.
Google wrote about this recently in a clear reminder to all:
“The consequences for a linkselling site start with losing trust in Google’s search results, as well as reduction of the site’s visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google’s search results.”
You are allowed to charge for advertisers as long as you make the links no-follow.
What can bloggers do to stay safe in shark infested waters?
1. Be aware that charging openly for links on your website is against Google’s terms and conditions. Writing ‘Sponsored Posts’ at the end of your post to convey to your readers that you were paid or gifted to write it, will no longer give you a get out of jail free card. It instead shows Google that you charge for links and are enabling brands to buy you. The same goes for mentioning that you are a ‘Sponsor friendly Blogger’. If you have been paid to write content, make the link back to the brand a no follow link so that it will not manipulate Pagerank.
2. As above, do not advertise the fact that you charge for advertising spots. If people have paid to be on your sidebar, labeling them as sponsors will send out a warning flag to Google. At the end of the day, you should not be giving them fake votes for money, in order to raise their page rank. Instead, why not link to those blogs or companies for free if you are a loyal reader or fan, or instead make the links no-follow, to enable the websites to gain traffic without manipulating the page ranking system. The no follow attribute is easy to implement into all of your links after the a href attribute. For example <a href=”Blog Website Address” rel=nofollow”> Blog Name</a>. This tells Google not to count the link as a vote for the website when it calculates Pagerank and therefore you will not be bypassing Google’s terms.
Mainly, just be aware that you should not sell links for rewards and Google is cracking down on this much sooner than you think. The last thing you want is your hard work to drop off the search engines because you were not aware of the terms. If you are working on the Internet, it helps to know the rules of the game.
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