Last fall, the paid links debate was raging across the Internet as nearly every industry blog and forum focused in on what Google was demanding and how it would impact everyone's bottom line. I wrote a five part series on the nofollow controversy to bring small business owners up to speed. There's been even more news since then, so you may want to check out an excellent recap by Vanessa Fox over at Search Engine Land.

Vanessa shares some quotes, links and updates on Google's further expansion of "requirements" for the nofollow tag. She shares information from Ted Murphy and Andy Beard, each of whom had conversations with Matt Cutts about how the nofollow tag should be applied in pay-per-post situations.

Vanessa quotes Ted as saying:

I explained to Matt that in SocialSpark all links required by an advertiser would carry the no-follow tag. I thought this would be a great thing. Matt commended the decision, but then added ALL links inside of any sponsored post should carry the no-follow tag period, regardless of whether they are required, not required or even link to the advertiser paying for the post. That means if Nikon pays me to review a camera and I link off to a site about photography that link needs to be no-follow, along with the link to the blog of my buddy the photographer. His reasoning was that the sponsored post wouldn't exist without the sponsor paying for it, therefore all the content is commercial and should be no-follow.

The ramifications of that statement and policy didn't hit me until I was on a jet back to Orlando. Is Google really saying that all content that is commercially driven by a sponsor should carry no-follow tags?

Yes, you heard that right. If Google's stance is really as Ted explains it, Google expects you to nofollow EVERY link in a sponsored post. Even the ones to sites other than the sponsor.

Matt's response was that he'd been taken a bit out of context and while he's not saying Google will "require" the nofollow on those links, it's certainly a good idea.

The full article and the included links will take some time to sort through, but they're an important read for anyone who buys or sells text links, sponsored posts or any other type of sponsored content.

January 3, 2008

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.


I am finding much confusion from business owners who have been told in the past that link buying was a great idea. Unfortunately, many business owners do not keep up with the latest news from the search industry. I am hearing from more and more every day who think their web site rankings were hurt in the link buying rerankings. It would seem many have been affected but are just now noticing the drop in traffic.

The really sad part is, many of these businesses were advised to buy links from agencies that have now never mentioned the real danger of those purchased links now that they have become a problem.

No Follow is a bit of a disservice to how the internet was built, but I can see how it came about and why it is used.

But some blogs blanket 'nofollow' everything, which means sensible discussion across blogs gets no credit. These are often sites that heavily monitor for spam.

However, I have seen some blogs where comments are moderated and the moderator can choose whether a link is no follow or not. That is a fantastic development. Let's hope it catches on.

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Get Up to Speed on the Paid Links Debate