Yesterday, I wrote about my frustration with Google's crusade against paid links. While I pointed out some of the problems I see with Google's plans, I didn't go into near as much detail as I would have liked to. Thankfully, Dan Thies also put together an article on this topic yesterday and he does an excellent job of examining the FTC related issues at play in the paid link debate on his SEO Fast Start blog.

Dan breaks the issue down into several points:

From the FTC's perspective, defining a "paid link" isn't going to be as important as defining "advertising." When you look at it that way, all that really matters is that some financial consideration is given for the link.

He goes on to point out several examples of what is a paid link (Yahoo! directory listing) and what isn't a paid link (Chamber of Commerce membership) according to the FTC's perspective. While I see his point, I do disagree that the waters aren't quite as clear as he makes them out to be. I know I certainly wouldn't have a problem dropping paid text link ads on some of my sites and then "giving" those same ads away in exchange for products or services. (Anyone want to send me a new iPod Touch in exchange for a link?)

That said, even if you use a strict definition of paid links Google clearly contradicts themselves. After all, they don't seem to have a problem with the Yahoo! Directory, but they appear to be going after small paid review directories.

He also notes that while Google has referred to the FTC's requirement to disclose advertising on web sites, that may not really apply in these cases.

Dan says:

After all, the FTC isn't going to give a rat's tail about the effect of paid links on Google's organic results. true. Ultimately though, their reasoning doesn't matter. As long as people continue to search on Google and webmasters continue to be terrified of life without Google traffic, they'll be able to do pretty much whatever they want.

(Hat tip to Justilien.)

September 11, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Another Perspective on the Google Paid Link Controversy