How Google Tells the Difference Between Paid and Normal Links


How Google tells paid links apart
So we have been talking in some length regarding paid links, and why they are bad for you. The whole purpose of this exercise is to highlight the fact that things are changing in the online game. While they are not paradigm changes as yet, there does seem to be a change coming in the way people think about the internet, which in-turn effects how search engines think, or rather, act. Getting a boost in SERPs through paid links that pass PageRank is a thing of the past - I assume you all know that much. But how can you avoid using paid or chap links? And how does Google actually tell the different between paid links and actual links?

Before you read any further, you might be interested to know that this post is part of a series. So if you missed out on any post, here's a listing of this series.

Part3: How Google Tells the Difference Between Paid and Normal Links

As indicated by Google, if you have a high PageRank, say 4 or above, you might be getting emails from various companies asking you to give them a link-back in exchange for money, or paid links, if you will. Tempting as it might be, such links can do you more harm than good. Google is strictly against this practise as we mentioned in our previous post, and you must not fall for such offers.

Why ads are okay, but paid links aren't?

Some of you asked us this question, and I think it's a very genuine question. And with a very simple answer too. You see, the whole concept of paid-links revolves around the idea that some website wants to get an unfair advantage by 'buying' backlinks, and hence increasing its authority. This will in-turn improve its ranking in search results. This is not how Google wants websites to rank, however. Google wants high quality, and the most relevant results returning to its users. And paid links will inevitably impact the accuracy of those search results. So anything that manipulates search results is against Google's quality guidelines and TOS.

Ads, on the other hand, do not manipulate search results. They are used for increasing awareness, improving traffic, and reaching out to more potential customers. They don't have anything to do with search results, which is why they are deemed completely safe by Google, and permissible (except for some type of ads Google doesn't approve of).

How Google tells paid links apart from normal links?

At the back-end, it's mostly a game of keywords. But then again, we don't know what exactly goes on at Google's end, so we can just speculate. But one thing we can be certain of, and that is relevancy. Google will check the relevancy of the site you have linked to the content you have put the link in. Now in most cases, paid-links won't be highly relevant to your blog's content. Google will decide the content on both sides to verify the authenticity of the link. A lot of the times, these paid-link buyers end up automating the process by using robots, which is manifested by the fact that many links might have the same, or similar anchor text, among many other facts. That's a pointer to Google right there.

But what about links you make to other blogs that are not paid? Well, Google has a way of checking that as well. Google will analyze what sort of links are present on the linked website, and what sort of links it is getting. It will also evaluate links on your site to get a feel of the bigger picture. So most likely, your link, if not paid, will pass the scrutiny. We will, however, recommend that you avoid linking to sites not related to your own.

A few people also asked me about guest posting. Well, when you guest post on another blog, or accept others' posts on your own, you usually are accepting content that matches up with your site's keywords. In such situations, putting up links is fine. This is probably why you should mostly guest post about stuff related to your website, and not something random.

If you must link to other websites or content that your own content doesn't really relate to, you can always use the rel="nofollow" tag to identify links you don't want crawlers to follow. And this is basically how ads work. They should be marked with a nofollow tag, otherwise there might still be a bit of a penalty.

Here's something I really want all of you to understand. I don't claim to be a Google expert. I am just sharing my experience. Google, of course, uses advanced algorithms to identify paid-links, and also some other methods known only within Google. All we can do is speculate, because Google has never really told anyone how they do it. If you think some of the above information is wrong, feel free to tell us in the comments below. We'd be glad to correct our mistake. Cheers :)

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