Like SugarRae pointed out a few weeks ago, it’s quite difficult for Google to find out which link is paid and which one isn’t. If you look at SugarRae’s post from the other perspective (like Google is doing with their current approach), it seems like you have to clarify which links aren’t paid in order to not receive a penalty. Some links that are editorial picks may look like paid links in some cases, right? Although I couldn’t care less about a PR penalty, I still think this is something Google should realize.
Since Google decided to reverse things by punishing webmasters for selling links and because it apparently is pretty easy to determine which links are paid, I’m writing this post as a paid link disclaimer.
So, Google, I’ll explain why these links may look a bit sponsored but really aren’t paid links, in order to avoid a penalty.
1) The Unrelated sidebar links
Check out the “Things I like” section in my blogroll. This includes links to Joox.net and 3dLiveStats. Not because I got paid, but because I a) like these sites and b) the owner is a friend. Although these websites are not 100% related contextually, they are 100% related personally.
2) The Related sidebar links
Yeah, I know, some companies are really good in buying links under the radar. This stealthy link approach usually contains buying links from really related websites. Sometimes even in homepage blogrolls of topically relevant blogs. But not in mine, Google, not in mine…
3) The Sponsored Links
When I started this blog a few months ago, I had a “sponsored links” section. Not to attract some quick bucks, but for testing purposes only. Don’t believe me? Check out the archive and verify the target URL of the link. That link was there to achieve this.
4) The Reviews
Unlike you may think, not all reviews are sponsored ones. Sometimes people feel like reviewing stuff just for fun or to share some findings with their readers. None of the reviews on this website are (or will be) paid ones.
5) The Footer Links
Ok, I admit, this one is tricky. I guess the links in my footer are paid ones, but I didn’t receive a penny for those links. Like I explained in my footer as well, those links are still present because I can’t design and used a free web template with a sponsored footer.
6) The new link in the old post
While adding a new link to an old post might trigger your Paid Link Alarm Bells, not every <a href>-addition to an obsolete page is a paid link. In some cases it’s just an editorial change, in some cases it’s just an update.
This post was written as an illustration to show how difficult it is to detect a paid link, whether it’s algorithmically or manually. Not everything is always what it seems, so I wonder what factors affect Google’s decision to penalize a website or not.