Does Google Allow Links Through Customer Discounts?

Apr 23, 2013 • 8:07 am | comments (12) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

incentiveA WebmasterWorld thread asks a question about offering discounts on products in exchange for a link - is it against Google's webmaster guidelines?

What I find somewhat funny is that we covered the topic at least twice. Depending on when you ask it, different SEOs would answer differently. We covered it in 2009 where prominent SEOs have said, this is a great idea. But in 2011 Overstock was penalized for offering customers discounts in exchange for links. So if Overstock was penalized, wouldn't any site doing it also be penalized IF discovered?

If you read the Google document on link schemes, Google says:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a "free" product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.

That seems to cover discounts in exchange for links.

So why are SEOs and webmaster confused on the topic?

One Webmaster said:

I disagree, if you offer a discount for some reason and sites link to you highlighting that, then that is entirely natural.

WebmasterWorld moderator said if you are not asking for the link, then why not:

You're not even really 'asking' for the link, simply notifying the site that you offer a discount.

The problem is that line of "intent" and who is judging your "intent" is not black and white. It is up for interpretation by a Googler and who are you to know what someone at Google may think your intent is or is not.

So to be safe - I wouldn't suggest offering discounts for links or even implying it. That is, if you want Google traffic to your site.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for fish and hook

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: April 22, 2013



04/23/2013 01:10 pm

The only Google approved links are Adwords.

Michael Martinez

04/23/2013 02:53 pm

Just offer discounts and take the links out of the equation. You may get them anyway.

Marie Haynes

04/23/2013 03:35 pm

It's all about the patterns. If you offer a blogger a discount in return for a review of your product (and a link) you're not going to get penalized. But when there are a hundred bloggers all reviewing your product and linking back to you with keyword anchor text then you're asking for problems. Some of the sites that I do penalty removal for have a large number of mommy blogger reviews. I'm noticing that when I visit these sites, often the mommy bloggers have had their PR reset to N/A. If it looks like it could be a link scheme, then I would avoid it!


04/23/2013 03:48 pm

Where does Google get off policing the Internet, telling people whether they're allowed to link to others and under what conditions? This is ridiculous; they are a power-hungry company.


04/23/2013 05:25 pm

You do not have to do what Google wants. But if you want free traffic from Google of course you have to play by their rules.

Mike Kalil

04/23/2013 08:50 pm

Companies send free products to magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc. all the time in hopes of getting them reviewed. I doubt most are savvy enough to understand the value of an inbound link. They're just hoping to get their products reviewed - and, yes - some cheap publicity. Are they supposed to put a note with their mailings saying, "If you do post a review, make sure to nofollow any links back to our site?" Come on. Google has to stop thinking everything revolves around them.


04/24/2013 07:18 am

Agreed.Is their house, so you have to play by their rules to get organic traffic. And as for offering discounts on products with the single intent of getting links to pass PR then obviously you are violating Google's policies.Same as buying a link in my opinion.

Spark Infosys

04/24/2013 07:26 am

Of course google will pay after follow all rules ...........

Ben Guest

04/24/2013 12:37 pm

Well, it is Google's product (, and they do get to set the rules therefore everything does revolve around them. The "nofollow" is being more adapted than you think. If sites do not do this, they are also in line of being penalized. Not just the site it's pointing to. This is why companies should hire advanced, technical SEOs, and do their due diligence when researching for one. Too many pretend entrepreneurs in this industry because there actually is a technical side. Not just link planting and some nice titles and title descriptions.

Ben Guest

04/24/2013 12:37 pm

It's simple, "One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch." It is what it is.

Mike Kalil

04/24/2013 05:00 pm

I'd bet that most companies can't afford - or think they can't afford - a technical SEO. Clearly, I think we all wish they could for our sake. I just don't think they should be punished for their ignorance on this. Google does have the right to do what it wants with its product, but it's also reliant on everyone else's content to thrive. If everyone blocked Googlebots from their sites, Google would be irrelevant within weeks, so it's only fair they be fair to site owners.

Ben Guest

04/25/2013 03:10 am

Oh yea, I completely agree Mike. But it's the only way Google can protect themselves. It's the whole "one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch." And unfortunately, until this industry can find a way to separate the goods from the bads, Google is going to continue to hurt the little guy.

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