Google's Matt Cutts On What Is A Paid Link

Mar 4, 2014 • 8:59 am | comments (24) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google's matt cutts paid linksYesterday, Google's Matt Cutts posted a detailed video trying to define how Google's manual spam fighters determines what is a paid link versus what is not.

Now, 99% of the time, Matt Cutts said it is clear if a link is paid or not. It is a clear transaction that the link on a site was paid $X for. But sometimes it is not clear. Matt summarized it on Google+ these are the other criteria Google uses to determine if a link is considered paid or not. Google asks these questions when looking at a suspicious link:

  • What is the value of the gift, product, or service?
  • How close is the gift, product, or service to actual money?
  • Is it an outright gift or a loan?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the intent of the gift to get links?
  • Would the gift be a surprise to third party?

Here is the video:

I strongly recommend you listen to it once today and once again shortly after.

Now, of course, folks at WebmasterWorld ask:

I never got this, how will they know if someone is giving another money for a link. I know Google is big brother but I dont think the spam team as access to that happy!

I guess it depends on how clear it is. Like if the link is from a paid link network or from a site known to sell links.

Matt said they reserve the right to change or adapt the "criteria" they use for determining what is a paid link. But he also suggests you review the FTC guidelines as well.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld & Google+.

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Durant Imboden

03/04/2014 03:54 pm

As usual, Matt's video is just common-sense advice that shouldn't be necessary (but apparently is).

PM Fiorini

03/04/2014 05:14 pm

It is what it is.

Hudson Hornick

03/04/2014 05:56 pm

Summary for those of you who don't want to waste 7 minutes of your time like I just did: if your link is germane to the topic you're writing about, you're probably ok.

SEO Cowboy

03/04/2014 05:57 pm

Sad but true.

austin power

03/04/2014 08:37 pm

What is a paid Link? The answer ADWORDS! yeah baby yea, shall we link now or link later.....grrrrrrrr

matt cutts

03/04/2014 08:38 pm

Thanks Durant, most don't see it my way.

Durant Imboden

03/04/2014 10:37 pm

Apples and oranges. (AdWords don't pass PageRank.)


03/04/2014 11:17 pm

Very interesting write up, overall it is what it is.

Jitendra Vaswani

03/05/2014 04:43 am

It is very interesting but I am still unsure how Google will determine paid link.... It is too difficult to determine.

Jitendra Vaswani

03/05/2014 04:43 am

Good answer Durant

Mangesh Singh

03/05/2014 05:23 am

This is not clear picture......


03/05/2014 08:13 am

Well that was pointless...

Jawad Latif

03/05/2014 10:43 am

What was the purpose of this video. We already know these things. It would be great if he would have told that how Google identifies difference between Gift and Loan etc.

Aman Sareen

03/05/2014 12:07 pm

What he want to say..


03/05/2014 02:58 pm

You already posted this yesterday, more than 24 hours ago on SEL where the debate rages on in earnest.

Yo Mamma

03/05/2014 03:10 pm

A 'paid link' to Google is an illegal link and worthy of them permanently sandboxing your site, IF THE LINK is not a Google Paid Link

Yo Mamma

03/05/2014 03:12 pm

I am amazed your beard is still so white after crawling up Google's rear

Gracious Store

03/06/2014 12:21 am

How would you classify links from paid directories? Some directories charge their users certain amount of money to list their website in their directories. Are links from such directories classified as paid links?

Soni Sharma

03/06/2014 04:35 am

There are many signals of paid links. Well described but still many things are not clear in this


03/06/2014 02:33 pm

As usual, talks a lot but says nothing...


03/06/2014 11:30 pm

I like the shirt haha.This video was actually useful for me. It helps draw the line better for review bloggers.

Daniel Delos

03/07/2014 06:25 pm

Honestly I thought this video was not very useful. Rather than pretending Google is omniscient and knows all your secret financial transactions, he should have talked about the links themselves. E.g. most sitewide links and off-topic blogroll links are clear paid links and if they're not, Google will still probably think they are. While if a link fits on the site or post, has good/useful content and looks natural, it's going to be treated as natural, paid or not.


03/07/2014 11:26 pm

I am sure the paid monkey army google hired read through the FTC guidelines and assess with each link weather it's paid link or not and able to ascertain every link if money has been exchanged. Because they know about the dinner or beer you bought for someone who link to you. Or if that link is acquired via a loan of a car. I am sure Google has that good of a survellience on our lives. As with the usual Mad Cutt's rambling, a sense it makes none :-p

Robb Young

03/10/2014 02:45 pm

As a business that sells gift cards (for activities such as Skydiving, cooking lessons etc.) it's literally impossible to review our products/services without mentioning gifts or gift cards. I would hope Google has smarter ways or detecting how and in what context the gift is mentioned; but given how our site is currently suffering this might explain a lot.

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