Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that - at zero cost to you - I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to my business.

Google Invests in Creating Paid Links?


  1. Dan Deceuster says:

    Wow, now this is interesting. Hopefully this brings about a change in the paid link policy. I think it may. I did a blog post you can read here: http://www.leadgenix.com/blog/seo/to-buy-or-not-to-buy-that-is-the-question/

    In it you clearly see in my screenshot that Google allowed advertisers to bid on terms like “buy links.” I found that to be quite a double standard. Yet today, no matter how I search for buying links on Google I do not find any ads at all. Maybe the attention to the double standard caused a change, what with the added exposure of paid links from the websites you mention in the article.

    Very good insight here. I think when these things are pointed out about Google that it can bring some good changes about.

  2. any comment yet from google? curious minds… want to know what their response is

  3. Thank you for exposing this. The more we “out” Google’s hypocrisy, the better. It looks to me like the marketers are tired of Engineers ruling the roost, while they make all the gold.

  4. Brian Shoff says:

    Ha! “Antiquated Algorithm.” Love it.

    I too am frustrated with the hypocrisy.

  5. Andrew Shotland says:

    When a company gets into as many different markets as Google it’s inevitable that different divisions will not always be in sync, although the whole link thing is kind of one of the crown jewels so you’d think they would be more on top of this.

    That said, I hope you are using VigLink in your links to their site. It sounds pretty genius. :)

  6. This Viglink looks a lot like BANS to me and Google deindexed the heck out of those sites once they found the footprint. Same with PHPBay.

  7. Ralph Remkes says:

    In England you have Skimlink which is huge and doing the same

  8. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Dan – it probably has more to do with advertisers knowing that they put themselves in line for penalties and to be slapped by announcing they sell links with Google’s own PPC. Least I would think so.

    Allyn – I know Google penalizes sites that sell links… the question to me is if 1. why they’re investing in technology to help sites sell links and 2. if they’ll hit their own company.

  9. Brent Nau says:

    You can also add in the Hubspot (a company that offers search engine optimization) investment made by Google Ventures as well.

  10. chris faron says:

    I agree Google needs to change their outdated Algo, counting links is so old now.
    I use Skimlink as well, their service differs in that their code is added via JavaScript

  11. Steve Johnston says:

    Okay, so does this differ, in principle, from Amazon stripping affiliate codes and permanently redirecting Google (not users) to the canonical form of the product URL? Because Amazon has its own affiliate engine, it can manage its link profile in real time in a similar way, but at the target, not the source. And if it doesn’t differ, we’re left with the question as to whether an affiliate link should pass juice or not. I don’t think Google is hypocritical here, I think it is conflicted, because in the ideal world of an editorially-selected affiliate link, it has been selected because both the product and the retailer are likely to satisfy the visitor. Isn’t that a link worthy of passing juice?

  12. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Steve, the difference (in my eyes) is Amazon’s affiliate links have a definite footprint Google can easily identify and discredit if they choose.

  13. Steve Johnston says:

    I agree Google could discredit Amazon’s links, but I haven’t seen any evidence that they do. Amazon’s product and category search performance continues to be peerless, which is likely to be very much due to their affiliate link profile. To me, this suggests that allowing affiliate links to pass juice is not viewed the same as the issues in Matt Cutt’s article that are about ‘paid posts’, or ‘sponsored conversations’. I hold the position that I have for a number of years now, that affiliate links are likely to improve the ‘usefulness’ profile of a target page in Google’s perception. Which, if true, means that it is not hypocritical of Google to invest in systems like Viglinks.

  14. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Actually, to my knowledge, Google has actually stated that they can and do filter (figure out, whatever) affiliate links and prevent credit from passing, thus they don’t care if they’re nofollowed. Whether or not you believe them is another story.

  15. Dan Deceuster says:

    Here is part of an interview of Matt Cutts with Eric Enge:

    Eric Enge: If Googlebot sees an affiliate link out there, does it treat that link as an endorsement or an ad?

    Matt Cutts: Typically, we want to handle those sorts of links appropriately. A lot of the time, that means that the link is essentially driving people for money, so we usually would not count those as an endorsement.

    I believe you are right in that Google’s stance on affiliate links is to not value them. With VigLink, I don’t know how Google could ever tell they are affiliate links, so I believe there is a paradox here. Heard any Google response to this story yet?

  16. Steve Johnston says:

    Thanks Dan. Matt, as with any publicly-speaking Googler, chooses his words very carefully, and I’ve learned to read such statements very carefully in order to get as close to the truth as I can. ‘A lot of the time’, ‘essentially’ and ‘usually’ leave a few gaps for quality endorsements in the form of affiliate links to squeeze through, IMO. Large scale feed based affiliate sites are very unlikely to acquire much of their own reputation so are likely to be filtered out in this assessment, whereas a site like dpreview, with it’s Amazon affiliate links is likely to get through and add value. The algorithmic approach Google takes will not simply exclude an affiliate link – should it detect it – from passing value simply because it exists, because it isn’t logical for it to do so. I’m going to go away and have a think about what this all means for VigLink…

  17. Seconding Andrew’s comments: Ventures is probably separated from the algo team by lots of corporate structure. Nevertheless, now that this has been brought to light, I wonder if they’ll eventually divest, or have the company make their links more recognizable.

  18. This “paradox” doesn’t surprise me at all. What Google says and does are two different things, and the paid links debate/war seems to be more in the public relations sphere rather than the technical side of SEO. Anyone that’s taken the time to look at the backlinks of big companies/websites can clearly see the level of paid linking going on that goes unpunished. It seems as though large companies – JCP, Forbes, Overstock – get punished when their paid links become too apparent, in quantity or context.

  19. The things Google says shouldn’t be done historically mean the things their algo stinks at detecting so they use fear and those that bow down at the alter of Google to intimidate as many people as possible.

    It’s funny, Google says they do not manually tweak the algo to make exceptions, yet when you see examples of Google themselves violating their own guidelines the only conclusions to draw are that they manipulated the algo for their own gain or that their algo is ineffective at detecting supposed violations.

    Making Google and those that blindly follow and defend them look foolish.

  20. Viglink is implemented with a chunk of Javascript so wouldn’t that be an easily identifiable footprint?

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