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Why do paid links violate Google’s guidelines while other ads don’t?

Why do paid links violate Google’s guidelines while other ads don’t? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

MALE SPEAKER: Today’s question comes from India. The question is Google gives penalties to sites who do paid links, but doesn’t penalize sites with other ads, such as AdSense, Chitika, et cetera. Why? Basically asking, what’s the difference here? And I get this question every so often. Somebody on Twitter was like, well, why is it OK to buy ads on Facebook, but not to buy links? And the simple answer is one link manipulates search engines, and the other link does not. So Google is not against advertising. Advertising can be great for people. It can educate people, it can drive traffic to your site. It can alert people to specials, and it can inform them about all sorts of things. So there’s many different reasons to advertise. But whenever you’re paying for links that pass page rank, fundamentally, you’re paying for something that manipulates search engines. You’re paying for something that makes a worse search experience for users, and that’s something that we consider a violation of our guidelines. In the same way that people who would pay the radio to have their song played a lot, and not have it disclosed, no follow, or some attribute like that is our way of disclosing that that is paid. And so if you are buying a link, and you’re not making sure that it doesn’t pass page rank, then it looks a lot like payola to us. So you can buy ads, you can sell ads however you want. You can– Chitika, Facebook, Double Click, AdSense, whatever it is you’re interested in. That’s not what our concern is. Our concern is whether the search engines become worse. That is, whether page rank gets passed. Whether search engines are manipulated by a particular set of links. So you can make sure that they don’t pass page rank with no follow. You have links go through a JavaScript redirector where that’s blocked by JavaScript. The vast, vast, vast majority of banner ads in advertising and ad networks on the web, they know how that works, and they know how to do it such that GoogleBot doesn’t crawl all the way through those ads, and those ads don’t pass page rank. So it’s really, definitely the case that if somebody is selling links that pass page rank, primarily the intent there is to try to have an impact on the search engines. And if you just want to sell advertising, that is totally fine. Just make sure that it doesn’t pass page rank.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: