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