Should You Be Selling Links To SEO Services?

In recent weeks we’ve received a number of emails from SEO companies asking if they could add a link, almost a Google Adsense style, to specific and targeted pages in exchange for payment. Fraser popped up a Twitter message on the subject of paid for links yesterday and it reminded me to blog about one of our most recent enquiries.

A request came in from an SEO company asking if they could “sponsor” a domain that we own. This was a bit of a surprise as it’s one of those sites that needs a bit of TLC (the polite way of saying it’s not very good).

Now I’m far too nice (yeah it’s true) and said that sponsoring the site, as I assumed sponsoring would involve banners etc, isn’t really in anyone’s best interests (they get nothing and we look bad for taking money for nothing).

The reply was along the lines of they weren’t bothered by the fact the site had no traffic as “if not one user is gained from this link it shall not change the contract, so please do not worry about site traffic”. All they wanted was “a contextual text link reading for ‘keyword’ to be held within the first line of text”.

Now I much prefer creating my own content and adding my own links, affiliate related or not, but when someone offers you a few pounds for an easy job is taking the money a good idea? Should we be tempted? Are we missing out? And if we take the money what would be the impact on our domains?

Well according to Google: “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.”

It goes on to say that links purchased for advertising should be designated as such could/should include the “rel=nofollow” tag. There’s a load more to digest on paid for links at Google Webmaster Central.

I’d be very surprised if one someone asking for a paid for link was going to be happy about having “rel=nofollow” in their links as surely that negates the reason for buying the link in the first place – especially if they’re not bothered about the volume of clicks they get as in the case above!

My philosophy when it comes to things like this… if in doubt, don’t do it! A few pounds for copying and pasting a line or two of text to a site sounds like easy money, but in the long term it could prove to be a very costly decision.

8 Comments Should You Be Selling Links To SEO Services?

  1. Fraser Edwards March 13, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Good post and I’ve stuck with your philosophy too although now I think I could be selling half a dozen links a month at £50 if I accepted the offers and £300/month would be a nice little extra but it’s not enough to make me risk the site in googles eyes.

  2. Jason March 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    It is tempting, but I guess if someone wants to advertise on your site to engage your audience as opposed to just gaining Pagerank, then they’d be happy to pay and accept nofollow in their links (I guess). Although that then begs the question how does Google and other search engines differentiate between an ad for pagerank vs one that’s for attracting your users to their site purposes?

  3. Kieron March 13, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I get absolutely tons of these emails every week. My advice? Don’t touch with a barge pole. Sure you’ll lose out on a bit of cash but it’s better than being banned by Google for link selling.

  4. John Cronin March 13, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    It’s not worth the risk in my opinion. Running the risk of adversely affecting other sites in your portfolio by selling links on one “neglected” site isn’t worth it.

    Suppose if you can get paid for no-followed links then it’s not so risky?

  5. Lee McCoy March 16, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I’ve had a few of these and ignored them. In a perfect world bare links should be given based on the merit of the content you’re linking to and not incentivised in any way.

    However, we don’t live in that world. Useful reciprical linking is almost dead, but that still doesn’t stop mate’s swapping links where no cash has swapped hands. To my mind, that’s acceptable. But saying here’s something (cash, content, access to wife) for a link/PR is just plain wrong.

  6. Graham Keen March 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Interesting post. I agree with the other comments that the risk outweighs the gain – however playing devils advocate how would Google find our that a link’s been paid for?

  7. Leigh UKFlashBanners March 17, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    I receive these e-mails each week and just don’t think the risk is worth taking. The moment Google discovers the links on your website, the site is likely to be banned. Weighing up the cost of this in comparison to the quick £££ from link selling just doesn’t seem worth it.

  8. Blogercise April 7, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I also think, as someone who prefers to build long term recurring income, one off micro payments are a drain on resources. If you start selling links here and there you need to start dealing with the emails, negotiating terms, track where the links go, keep your side of the deal limiting future updates, etc.

    I’d rather use my time elsewhere. For the same reasons I turn down ad hoc ad requests too. I prefer to use mainstream automated systems such as Adsense which manage themselves.

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