How Dare You Tell Me To NoFollow My Sponsored Links

Feb 18, 2011 • 8:50 am | comments (148) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Handcuffs Vector ImageI am getting upset, I rarely write stories when I am upset but hey - when you are in the heat of the moment, the writing should come out passionate, shouldn't it?

The other day, I broke the story that Forbes got caught selling links and didn't even know they were selling it. It turns out, it was a technical error and they apologized, removed the links and likely submitted their reconsideration request.

But if you read the comments in my post and even some comments in the Google Webmaster Help thread you will see people laughing at me because we sell links on the side bar here. Yes, scroll down, look on the right, there are "sponsored links." We have sponsors pay about $350 per month for those links and most have been there for years. You don't think I know I sell links on this site? Do you think I am that dumb?

Let me give you some history, so you have some perspective. In November 2007 Google started slapping sites who sold links that passed PageRank. It specifically was targeting paid links and this came with no surprise to SEOs, Google warned us, if you sell links, make sure they don't pass PageRank or Google can penalize you.

So sites, like this one, that did not listen began to see their PageRank drop significantly - yes, including this one. We saw our PageRank in the Toolbar drop from a six or seven to a four. It was upsetting, but I was stubborn and hey our traffic didn't drop at that time. Most sites hit with the penalty quickly removed the paid links from passing PageRank and asked Google for forgiveness. Some brave webmasters did not, and decided to live with the penalty.

As I said back in 2007, I think this is the smartest move Google could have made. They have to target link sellers, because link buyers target their search quality. I think Google is doing the right thing for penalizing sites for selling links. I have no ill will against Google for penalizing this site. Again, they have to do it and they are 100% right in doing so.

But at the same time, I have 100% right to build my site the way I want. I know, without a doubt, that the penalty this site (and other sites) have for selling links affects more than just the visible Toolbar PageRank. Back in 2007, I didn't see a ranking or traffic drop. But soon later I noticed the traffic and ranking in Google for this site dropped. There is no doubt that if I removed the links, my traffic would likely increase by 25% to 100%.

As you can see, I am making a conscious decision to leave the paid links here despite the PageRank and ranking penalty. Why?

  • I had those links there prior to Google's paid links guideline
  • I always clearly labeled them as paid links for humans to see
  • Google reads this blog, they know about the paid links and I know they discredit them
  • I am stupid
  • I am incredibly stubborn, ask my wife

You see, I just don't want to change. This is how I had it, this is how I want it to be. I know the links do little value to those buying them. I believe, I really do, that the sponsors of this site do it because they want to support the site and the industry. Proof? I am posting this, they can read it and pull their links at any time.

So why won't I nofollow them then? Because I am stubborn and I am one of the few SEO blogs that decided to not change when Google unleashed their penalty (again, Google has to do it and I commend them for it).

Does this mean I will never remove the links? No. But for now, and for the past three-plus years, the links are staying as is.

Feel free to trash (or support) me in the comments.

My Site's Penalty: Three/Four Part Series Post:

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Designbysoap Team

02/18/2011 02:04 pm

I see your point and understand it - but in that case (Google discredits the links and the sites that pay for them know that), why are they anchor text links? Why not just put the name of the company? In fact, if they're not affecting rankings, why make them dofollow at all? Why not just sell them as nofollow links, get your increased traffic and the sites that buy them still get their referring traffic. I get what you're saying but it seems to me you are cutting off your nose to spite your face. Why are the sites paying for dofollow anchor text links if they're being discredited? And if the answer to that is because of the referring traffic, then adding the nofollow should make no difference.

Bruce Rick

02/18/2011 02:06 pm

No trashing here. You are doing what you feel is right and you have to pay the bills somehow. You can keep your traffic up by using other sources, like twitter anyway :)

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:06 pm

Did you read the whole post? The answer to your question is, because that is how I had it in 2004, four years prior to Google's guideline.

Dave Naylor

02/18/2011 02:07 pm

support from ME

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:07 pm

nothing to do with paying the bills.

Liam Shepherd

02/18/2011 02:08 pm

Well said, why should anyone else be able to dictate what you do or say on YOUR website!

Rishi Lakhani

02/18/2011 02:10 pm

Dan Sharp

02/18/2011 02:11 pm

Barry, you are the man.

Peter Young

02/18/2011 02:11 pm

Support from me Barry, you have to ask the question. Say Google is not market leader in two years time? Whats going to happen then?? At the end of the day,Google have created an entire eco system that adheres to their own 'principles' and objectives (primarily commercially focussed) - stand your ground

Sam Osborne

02/18/2011 02:11 pm

End of the day would the increased traffic bring in the additional revenue that you get from making the sponsered links avaliable, propably not :p Support from me too


02/18/2011 02:12 pm

I see your point and I understand Google's, but you should be able to make money when working on a site like this that educates the web (which is what Goog is looking for) without penalties or worry. Nothing is black or white and Google needs to remember that.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:12 pm

I am not sure. Again, money is not the point.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:12 pm

I really do not blame Google. Like I said, they have to do this. If I was Google, I would do the same.


02/18/2011 02:14 pm

Its your website, you do whatever you want with it

Moosa Hemani

02/18/2011 02:15 pm

No Point to Trash! support!!

Barry Adams

02/18/2011 02:15 pm

Thumbs up from me. Google has a right to model their business as they see fit, but you have just as much right to give them the middle finger and do as you darn well please. I for one am happy to see more webmasters give Google the finger and do whatever the heck they want - Google guidelines be damned. Google doesn't dictate how the internet should work.


02/18/2011 02:16 pm

Support from me

Hannah Rampton

02/18/2011 02:17 pm


Matt Davies

02/18/2011 02:17 pm


Indicium Web

02/18/2011 02:20 pm

Absolutely agree. Most of all because you support (or at least accept) Google's rationale, and still choose to do it the way you want :-) People need to realise that playing by Google's rules is a choice, although also that the cost of that choice might be the traffic you might get through Google if you did.


02/18/2011 02:20 pm

I am with you! We just have to realize that Google also have the right to handle the paid links in the exactly the way they see fit. They have no obligation to count them in and no obligation to have this (or any other site) in their index. That said: I think they are too "difficult" in this case.


02/18/2011 02:22 pm

Excellent post Barry. Full support from me, I totally Agree with everything you have said, spot on!

James Lowery

02/18/2011 02:22 pm

Your blog, your policy, Google's index, their policy. I think you're entirely right to sell advertising on your website in the way you see fit.

Martin Macdonald

02/18/2011 02:23 pm

Suport from me. [Google Guidelines] != [The Law] Having said that, I wouldn't so brazenly sell links on my SEO centric site.

Jill Whalen

02/18/2011 02:24 pm

Barry, I'd like to know how you can tell that there's more than just a toolbar penalty for this. It seems to me that doing so by Google opens them up to lawsuits for competing with them in their ad selling endeavor. Which is why I'd be surprised that they would do any more than not allow your links to pass any PageRank. Would love to hear more about what Google traffic you feel you're not receiving that you might otherwise.

Matthew Taylor

02/18/2011 02:26 pm

As your links are clearly marked as sponsored not sure how its classed as much different from having other paid advertising on a site. Would be different if you were hiding the fact they were paid but you clearly aren't.

Ryan Jones

02/18/2011 02:26 pm

I say leave the links up for good. It provides a great list of SEO companies who are willing to use paid links as a strategy and therefore one might want to avoid hiring.


02/18/2011 02:26 pm

Barry, I support you.

The Landlord

02/18/2011 02:32 pm



02/18/2011 02:34 pm

I support your authenticity, integrity and your passion Barry. It's what's is most important in life.

Martin Macdonald

02/18/2011 02:38 pm

ROFL.... !

Barry Adams

02/18/2011 02:39 pm

"avoid hiring" Seriously? You're a noob when it comes to SEO, aren't you?

William Vicary

02/18/2011 02:39 pm

I have great respect for you Barry, even though I think you might be a little crazy! I think personally this is simply a toolbar penalty, but I would LOVE for you to change your mind, remove the links and see what happens - now I know thats not going to happen, but it would make for a great case study :-)

William Vicary

02/18/2011 02:43 pm

Paid links work, always have and always will do - if your client understands there is some risk associated with them and a lot to gain then whats the issue? The SEO niche has been flooded with companies adding a link to the footer of a clients "optimised" website - would you rather go with those guys? Cuz thats the only way you could compete for some of the top end SEO SERPs w/o paid links...

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:45 pm

Before November 2007, it would have made a difference. Now, no.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:46 pm

Or it shows those who support this site.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:49 pm

Jill, I have access to my analytics. I know where my stories should rank, compared to SEL, SEW and other blogs. I know my rankings have taken a hit from this. I see the traffic from Google on this site, compared to other sites I run, both in the search space and in other spaces. Again, I do not think Google is wrong for doing so. You may think so, but I do not. Google has to protect the integrity of their index beyond a PR penalty. Of course this site has a ton of Google power, but it would be multiplied tremendously if I removed that sponsored links section.


02/18/2011 02:53 pm

Is that $350 per link, or for all of them? If the latter, you sure you couldn't make more money if you had CPM ads instead of links?

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 02:54 pm


John Doherty

02/18/2011 02:55 pm

I totally agree with you, Barry. There has to be a middle ground I think. The no-follow passes nothing, followed passes all link power. Why don't they come out with a middle-ground that passes, say, 1/3 the link power for sponsored/paid links. People may buy fewer links because it doesn't do as much good (though maybe the big spenders will just buy more and screw the rest of us) and therefore be required to be more creative in their linkbuilding, or provide quality content that gets links (shocker!).


02/18/2011 02:57 pm

I think if I were Google, I would update my algorithms to better evaluate on-page relevance and quality factors so I wouldn't have to worry about paid links kicking my ass


02/18/2011 03:00 pm

Ah...then I guess I'd leave them too.


02/18/2011 03:01 pm

You got my support as well It´s your site, and you do an incredible job, so it´s your choice alone.

Tatiana Likhacheva

02/18/2011 03:11 pm

I do agree with some of the comments below that Google and other search engines should start recognising 'Sponsored Links' as type of advertisement if they are clearly labelled and not located within main content area. But, I do want to point out the we all love SEO and online industry because of it rapid and sometimes unpredictable changes, so saying you don't want to change is a bit strange. You only don't want to change in this particular instance, as your site did and is still evolve with new features (that Buzz button is just screaming at me right now). So how can you say that you don't want to change your site and use it as a justification for keeping paid links?

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 03:20 pm

Because I am stubborn about the paid links change, specifically. It is not about not innovating or redesigning.

David C. Minchala

02/18/2011 03:23 pm

I like that more people are saying out loud "Vox Google non vox Dei" - kudos for that, sir. I wonder how much of a penalty you really are subject to as a result of your sponsored links. Hugo made the point on twitter (!/hugoguzman/status/38604922526236672) that sites have sponsorships all the time with seemingly little ill effect. I suspect that among the primary reasons big sites seem to get away with it is the overwhelming evidence of quality that result from their steadily (organically) growing link profiles. And perhaps who they choose to offer sponsorship opportunities to. Nothing about your sponsored link list strikes me as "not making sense" and this site definitely has no problem earning natural links. So while you might see your TBPR slip, i wonder what (if anything) that actually means for your visibility. For example, your home page title has "search marketing community" in it. Sure enough you've got the top spot for that query (without quotes obvi). You're also top spot for "Forbes selling links". QDF aside, im sure if i keep looking i'd find more examples. Like anything else, there's a right way and a wrong way. I submit that you're totally going about selling links the right way and the proof is all in the pudding.

Ryan Jones

02/18/2011 03:23 pm

Really Barry Adams? yes, paid links work. but guess what, you don't need to use them. There are much better, more effective, google approved methods that work too. Paid links are a last resort for SEOs who just aren't good at their job and a great tool for spammers.


02/18/2011 03:24 pm

Selling links on your website to enhance page rank is illegal. Buying ads from Google to increase your placement in the search results (because you have poor page rank) is legal. Allowing Google to sell ads on your site is legal. So what makes having paid links on your website illegal? Because Google isn't making any money off of it.

Ryan Jones

02/18/2011 03:27 pm

I do want to say Kudos to Barry S here though. He's doing something that's rare in the link selling/buying universe: Not bitching about it or blaming google for not sending him more traffic. I still don't like buying or selling links as an seo strategy, but it IS his right to do it if he wants. so kudos for that.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 03:27 pm



02/18/2011 03:29 pm

Google sell ads on your site (to help customers with poor page rank)

Barry Adams

02/18/2011 03:30 pm

I find your view of SEO to be very naive. Either you haven't done any proper SEO or you've only done small-time jobs. Paid links are part and parcel of a solid SEO strategy and if you're not considering them you're not giving your clients the best bang for their buck.


02/18/2011 03:31 pm

I think its your choice - but if you think the SEO companies are paying $350 per month just so they can support you and the industry you're having a laugh. If they were doing that, we wouldn't be seeing the nice optimised anchor anchor text that we can. I'm can understand that you know about the penalty that Google slapped on you, but did they when you starting charging them the money. I know of one company who didn't when they were purchasing your sorry sponsored links


02/18/2011 03:31 pm

Well said Ryan!

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 03:37 pm

I never lie to them, ever. I never deceive them, ever. How long have you been reading this site or following me in this space? I am a bit insulted.


02/18/2011 03:37 pm

Illegal only in Google's Business Model (they don't make money). Perfectly legal in the real world (you make money).

Nick Roshon

02/18/2011 03:39 pm

Really happy you wrote this post - do you think the traffic decrease is closer to 25% or 100%? Did you ever get a notification in GWT about the penalty, or just something you observed from the toolbar PageRank decreasing? $3,500 per month for those sponsored links seems like good money to me, I'm sure you could run the numbers on potentital revenue from AdSense if the penalty were lifted versus Sponsored Links and find that maybe selling links is more profitable after all. I know for some of my blogs it sure would be...

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 03:41 pm

I got a notice a month or so ago. But I knew in 2007. :) It's $350 per month, not $3,500 per month.

Ryan Jones

02/18/2011 03:48 pm

No. paid links have no place in a solid SEO strategy. Yes, they work, but it's shortsighted and flawed to rely on them for your SEO. No major brand that I work with would want to risk a potential penalty. They'd rather spend the money on adding features/content that people will link to. I think you'll find a large portion of the SEO community who agrees with me on this and doesn't recommend using paid links. And for the record, my clients are all fortune 100 and measure their monthly natural search visits in the millions. What about yours? Can we leave the ego and name calling out of this and concentrate on the issue at hand?


02/18/2011 03:57 pm

I never said you lied to them Barry, but did you tell them?

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 03:59 pm

I hope so. I am human, so it is 100% possible I thought I told someone and then didn't. Anything is possible. But I would never intentionally hide or lie to a sponsor.


02/18/2011 04:17 pm

I don't think a small portion of the SEO community would even agree with you.

Michael Martinez

02/18/2011 04:31 pm

You don't owe anyone any explanations, Barry. People who criticize or ridicule you without asking questions or doing research are just demonstrating how stupid and lazy they are. Yours is one of the very few SEO sites I actively and continually promote. It's well worth promoting.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 04:33 pm

Thanks Michael.

Colin McDermott

02/18/2011 04:41 pm

^ A different Colin btw. Anyone that buy's a link/advertising takes their own risk. There is no duty of care on the website owners side.

Designbysoap Team

02/18/2011 04:42 pm

Of course I read the whole post. Did you read the whole comment? I can see that's how you had it before, but that's not really good reasoning for how you act in the future. What I'm saying is - if you're up front to the people buying those links, and tell them they're discredited and that you're a known link seller (buying links from a known link sellers is one of the strongest negative ranking factors), and they're STILL happy to pay that monthly fee, then why not make them nofollow and get the traffic AND the money from sponsored links? I suspect it's because you know that if you did, they'd stop paying for the links. The reason you want to keep them dofollow is because they're affecting rankings and making you money - which is fine, like you've said, it's your web site you can do what you want with it (which I agree with), but be up front about the fact you're doing it to make more money. Not out of the principle you've framed this post with. You've also claimed that those are the people who support your site - no they don't. They buy dofollow links from you because you sell them and own a domain worth having links from. I bet they don't have links to you, or genuinely support your actions and content. They're in it for the SEO value, not to support this site. Either way, you've got me to comment twice now, so I'd say it's some pretty effective linkbait! : )

Barry Adams

02/18/2011 04:49 pm

Funny that you say you want to leave ego out of it and then boast about your 'fortune 100' clients. If you've ever worked on an SEO project in a properly challenging query space - the financial industry for example, or gaming/gambling, or any form of competitive ecommerce - you should know that any type of SEO effort (regardless of how good your on-site skills are, and trust me mine are stellar) needs to include a healthy dose of what Google considers paid links. Without that, the campaign will ultimately falter and fail to provide any substantial ROI for the client. And that is always what it should be about - delivering ROI. Fine if your clients work in query spaces where competition is sufficiently weak that they can achieve ROI without paid links, but that's not particularly common. Google's guidelines be damned, paid links work and provide ROI so I use them. Most SEOs do - but few will admit it (for obvious reasons). And the risk is actually remarkably low. Google is both very poor at detecting paid links, and very reluctant to act on them outside of obviously amateurish spam efforts. If you're clever about your paid links you'll never get penalised.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 04:50 pm

Believe what you want.

Todd Mintz

02/18/2011 05:00 pm

Unfortunately, there will always be haters in this industry...and your response to them is far tamer than most of ours would be.

Rand Fishkin

02/18/2011 05:19 pm

Good for you, Barry. I loved this post - kinda hope you write more like it :-)


02/18/2011 05:33 pm

Forgive me Barry, but that was a "Politician" like answer. I may have or I may not have, I can't remember. When people have signed up in the last 3/4 years since you have known about the penalty, has it been your priority to tell them?

Ophir Cohen

02/18/2011 05:33 pm

Go Barry!!!


02/18/2011 05:34 pm

Absolutely, but on the same side, the owner doesn't kid himself along that those people are buying links to help support the site or the industry, its just bull. They are not, its to push SEO, and that is the reason the owner is selling them. If the owner is selling them without informing them that it probably won't help them at all then its all just crap The industry has always been split that buying & selling links = bad things, but as soon as its noticed that a prominent SEO blog is doing it then its yay or brilliant, go site for standing up against Google. Bloody fickle.

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 05:37 pm

I get like 5+ emails a day for pricing requests on that. I respond, "we charge $350 a month." 99% do not bother responding. After that, we get into a dialog. During that dialog, I almost always (again, I could have forgotten here and there) mention it. I can look through emails and check for exact words I used. But I remember specifically telling many (don't know if all) that the site is penalized for selling links and may not pass any value. I always (again, human) say that they should sponsor for supporting the site, not the link. Some sponsors tell me they see value from it even though I tell them we are penalized. I am shocked and assume it is something else.


02/18/2011 05:52 pm

Barry I do not see any reason why should Google penalize you or the buyers, since you already labeled those as "Sponsored Links"!

Barry G. Maurice

02/18/2011 07:19 pm

Fuck Matt Cutts. If they spent as much time trying to better their algo then chasing around link sellers as if they were drug dealers then maybe selling links wouldn't even be a problem.

Benjamin Rosenthal

02/18/2011 07:23 pm

Barry, I think you're giving Google far too much credit here. If Google wants to penalize a site for something like cloaking -- yes that's fine. Someone is out and out trying to trick Google to gain higher rankings. However, you aren't doing anything deceptive at all. You are following common web standards for linking with no tricks involved. You're being completely open about what you are doing. It isn't up to Google to tell everyone what format to set up ads in. If Google wants to algorithmically figure out what a paid link is and then try to discount the value of that link, then that's fine too. But I think that penalizing a site owner for putting up that link is going overboard. -B

Barry Schwartz

02/18/2011 07:31 pm

But Google needs to encourage link buyers to not buy links. PageRank and link penalties help. I understand and respect what Google does to protect their search quality. I just don't respect when people try to claim what I am doing is illegal. :)

Kenichi Suzuki; 鈴木謙一

02/18/2011 07:55 pm

I've known why you are putting those links without nofollow on your site. I will support you as well as Google. Both are right.

Clint Dixon

02/18/2011 07:57 pm

Barry 1000% behind you, if we all remember before Google came along and tried to assert themselves as the moral police the Internet was built by and for free spirits tired of over grown companies trying to dictate how things are run. They have dropped the PR on 50 out of 52 sites of mine and I don't buy what does that tell you?? F Google!!!! Clint Dixon You know where to find me El Goog.

Clint Dixon

02/18/2011 08:00 pm

Its also the sponsors responsibility to monitor what is happening with their purchase. The have due diligence to perform and being SEO companies all of them know what the ramifications are if Google gets their pubes in a knot......


02/18/2011 08:01 pm

Google want to deliver best search results to convince their customers to stay at their service. So fooling page rank is against their business.

Mark the Webalyst

02/18/2011 08:26 pm

What you are doing is fine because it is your choice, you understand and accept the consequences - i.e. you are not winging about how unfair it is. I think is is great that Google sets a policy designed to serve its customers and and kindly tells webmasters what it is so they can join in if they want. Mark


02/18/2011 08:44 pm

Glad to see you didn't take the martyr approach of "Since a web site can't exist on the internet without Google then clearly they're just oppressing me by trying to make my accommodate their policies." Google needs web sites as much as web sites need Google. If they impose a policy and lose sites that could have otherwise made desirable search results, they'll have to change their policies to accommodate. And if you decided that you couldn't live without the traffic from Google, you know full well what you'd need to change to begin getting back into Google's good graces. I'm reminded of Ian Laurie's post a week ago on "avoiding the 'you go'" mindset." But, in this case, the undesirable situation is where web site owners say "hey google, you go first...and I'll just do whatever it takes to appease you." The tension you're creating with a decision like this might serve to remind Google that they're not the ultimate decision-maker for the web. They're just a company making policies that people can choose to follow or ignore.


02/18/2011 09:15 pm

I think Nick was trying to say $350 x 10 links = $3500 per month.


02/18/2011 09:58 pm

Kevin, I was almost going to call the FBI! lol


02/18/2011 10:39 pm

Can you please rant more? I loved this.

Gautam Aswani

02/18/2011 11:05 pm

So Barry, you think Google will penalize those sites in your Sponsored Links section for having bought links?


02/19/2011 12:03 am

I've been selling those same types of sponsored links since '97, long before there was a Google. Not putting a NOFOLLOW on them just because the new sheriff in town says so either. F Google.

Jonathan björkskog

02/19/2011 12:10 pm

By posting this you also pleases the ones that buys the links from you, huh? :)


02/19/2011 02:05 pm

Barry, I believe you may be ignoring the bigger picture, but I could be wrong. Think about it. What's a link to a site visitor? It's a referral. You and I hyperlink to others each day in the real world. What happens if your neighbor asks you, "Barry, do you know a good painter?" You respond in all honesty, "Sure, I've used ABC Painting for years and they always do a great job." You get no money from ABC Painting for saying that. It's a true organic *hyperlink*, because you linked your neighbor to a great service. You solved a problem. But let's rewind the tape. You answer your neighbor, "Well, there's Bill and Ted and Ace Painting and Painters Plus." And you speak as you cough, "Oh, I get paid to say their names by the way." That's not so organic. In fact, you're not really so sure of the recommendation. You're only saying those names because you get paid. I believe the flaw Google was trying to correct was that of trying to clean up the ecosystem and reward sites that created true organic links. Sure, those don't pay. But if you want ad money - the $350 a month - then sell the people a display ad. You surely have the real estate in the right column as I see lots of white space. Do that and you'll get your money and it will clearly be an ad. Google has no problems with relevant ads. That's how they've made BILLIONS of dollars.

Peter Young

02/19/2011 02:40 pm

I suppose we should believe that all those ads in the papers sold to clients in whatever format are done purely out of the kindness of the newspapers hearts. Please - are really that naive to think that all links on the web were done purely out of pure goodwill????? I dont think so, many are done for vanity, for personal reasons or for financial reasons. TO think that we live in a perfect utopian world is naive to say the least At the end of the day, if I dont want to sell banner ads,why should I. I don't even mind denoting their sponsored - but I do have an issue with Google trying to determine intent behind links as even if they do look as if they are for pagerank purposes how could Google EVER be 100% sure ?


02/19/2011 04:40 pm



02/19/2011 04:40 pm

Agree :) with you. It actually made me click the link from RSS feeds :)


02/19/2011 04:44 pm

Barry, what if they ban google ads on your site like they did to mine, they say I promoted downloads to youtube,orkut or whatever the generic message was, but the day I had those links up next day Google Ads Puff Gone! I wrote an article on personal blog "how not to depend on google"


02/19/2011 06:30 pm

Preach on, brother. Who left Google in charge of the internet? Anyone who thinks Google's guidelines prioritize user experience over making Google money needs their head checked.


02/19/2011 07:30 pm

Tim, What you mention - a link is like a personal referral - is the basis for PageRank (back in the day search engines only looked at on-page factors, Google was the first to strongly consider off-page factors). It is how Google was different. But, just because Google thinks that does not mean the world has to.


02/19/2011 08:54 pm

Note to anyone who wants to buy this site... whatever multiple you pay is 1/2 off since you can double traffic just by removing the paid links.

Barry Schwartz

02/19/2011 11:56 pm

Probably not. But I don't know. I am not Google.


02/20/2011 01:17 am

Agree with you 100000%!

Julien ringard

02/20/2011 11:36 am



02/20/2011 07:23 pm

Why don't you dofollow comments as well ? I'm 100% behind you on the sidebar, but nofollow for people who take the time to post a comment is just not right. Nofollow was supposed to be for spammers, and nothing else. Sponsored links AND comments should be dofollow.

Barry Schwartz

02/20/2011 07:29 pm

Because I control sponsors not comments.


02/21/2011 05:56 am

Agree with you too Barry... both of you (Google & you) are right in your own acts.

Mitul Dadhania

02/21/2011 11:08 am

Lesson - Google can drop you at any time - never rely on it.


02/21/2011 08:55 pm

I wish most SEOs were like you.. would make it easier for the rest! Seriously though, I respect anyone who takes a stance and stands by it. No wonder i am a big fan of Md Ali for not going to war even at the cost of his career..


03/16/2011 09:58 pm

The problem is that Google's guidelines are quickly becoming the internet's guidelines because of the power Google has to effect your online business. Some of these guidelines are good and some are arguable.


05/02/2011 01:54 pm

I disabled Blog Plugins from my sites because the link back to the Plugin provider is dofollow and everything else is nofollow. The plugin providers give you the option to view posts from your own page on "their" network which means you don't have to visit the original home where you found the post. This means that the plugins are eroding your website value because people don't have to visit it to post. It also means you are leaking link juice to their site and increasing "their relevancy" at your expense.


09/02/2011 03:39 pm

Hey Barry  I have been experincing   a google penalizing    I have a blogroll wich  links to my other websites  do you think it cause this ? I would really appreciate  if you could answer


09/20/2011 07:42 pm

I love that one of your reasons was "I am stupid" though you are clearly, not. :) Allegedly.

Darren Johnson

11/08/2011 11:31 pm

Good on you for sticking to your guns, Barry. It's your website, you have the right to link however you like on it. Personally, I would cower to the might of Google and avoid a penalty. But I like that someone else wouldn't!

Rajeev aryna

12/03/2011 11:53 am

Hi i m Agree with you too Barry... both of you (Google & you) are right in your own acts. Thanks

Alireza Sefati

12/28/2011 08:37 pm

ya I think nofollow is a bullshit tag anyway. Google's algorithm should be smart enough to detect natural vs. untarual\paid links.  

Dave Fowler

05/11/2012 03:27 pm

And then along came a Penguin...

Barry Adams

05/11/2012 03:29 pm

Which all my sites escaped entirely unscathed. Yes, I'm just that good.


05/11/2012 03:47 pm

Now that's funny. We use some paid links for clients and they have reaped the benefits over the long haul. We have escaped every update so far unscathed as well... We cater more to the small business rather than the large scale type, but I like what I do and our clients get a measurable return. Maybe we stay under the radar because we have 100's of clients, but none that compete in the fortune 500 arena. Either way, we use a myriad of different techniques. If you want to use paid links, use paid links. I would never tell another SEO that their methods don't work, unless i know they don't work.

05/30/2012 04:49 am

Google doesn't allow sponsored links. Unless, of course, it's google adwords. How hypocritically convenient. Barry, it's your website and google doesn't own you. Fuck google!


07/24/2012 12:06 pm

Just for fun you should send a reconsideration request saying: I did nothing :). Will the reply be : you are still in violation of the guidelines ? :D


08/02/2012 02:02 pm

Link building pre-dates Google, lest Google not forget that.


08/02/2012 05:58 pm

Google major concern is providing human beings with the best results right? Well if they are concerned with what human beings see...I can see, being a human, myself, that you have clearly highlighted those links as "Sponsored Links" so the argument that you are somehow referring me to a painter without divulging that you've been paid to do so is moot.

Saif Ullah Butt ツ

08/02/2012 07:34 pm

barry, you will be hit by Penguin updates soon. ;)


08/05/2012 05:42 am

them just a web search engine. But at current time google like giving out direct orders to webmasters. Do you have idea what happen next, if them will decide to change % of naked/generic/anchor again??? Currently can expect anything from them, no trust anymore


08/05/2012 05:55 am

paid links it exact thing which happens in offline world everywhere. see billboards, top brand names in movies/magazines/press. Also google follow incorrect model (links is votes) from start, it where roots of this trouble.


08/05/2012 05:58 am

and google here is just a automatic content agregator, which makes money on your site also.


08/05/2012 06:01 am

it completely legal. you mean google webmaster guidelines? but it not have a law status.


08/05/2012 06:03 am

i not sure what them want. you can easily find lot of 404 pages in their help system, in webmaster tools, local listings, etc. I not think them cares about user experience, it just wording to not say 'pardon'.

Robin Brown

08/05/2012 06:10 am

yes, but not forget about our rights. But google forcing us to do lot of changes on our sites which we not like. But since this google pets, may be we will change our business model and will stay away from google (may be even robots/disallow their bot). Problem what no 'gold middle' right now. Google changing game rules by the way, but we need to pay to authors, hosting/etc.


08/05/2012 01:51 pm

All you had to do was add a nofollow attribute to the sponsored links. Continue to be subborn, and the drop in rankings will CONTINUE to follow.

Barry Schwartz

08/05/2012 01:53 pm

I'm fine with that.

Danni Shredder

08/06/2012 05:41 pm

Google SEO and their dictatorship will always be trivial, ultimately its up to you yourself what you would like to do with your space.


08/17/2012 05:47 pm

In your Paid Links section, currently, I can see the last two links and the 4th last link are NoFollow links. Would you like to comment on that Barry? PS Loved the article!


08/28/2012 03:35 pm

Presumably, his link-buying customers would pay less for nofollowed links.

Kyle Lelli

08/28/2012 11:39 pm

Barry, Just wondering if you (or anyone participating in the comments) could shed some light on this... Someone in the comments section of Matt Cutts' post "Why did our PageRank go down?"asked whether there could be a penalty applied to a site that uses followed footer links to other sites within the same network. He used the example of,, etc. Matt didn't respond so I figured I would posit the question here as I am curious on other's opinions. Historically, I wouldn't even ask this question, as 1. Footer links likely pass little value and 2. I wouldn't ever consider a penalty for something like this. However, considering today's landscape, I'm a bit more intrigued, especially for some of our larger clients that employ this tactic. Just curious on your opinion with this? Thanks in advance.

Barry Schwartz

08/28/2012 11:44 pm

Are they paid links?

SEO Steer

08/30/2012 10:00 am

Yes I agree ... in my humble opinion ... the links equal votes of relevance/quality model is flawed and always has been .... it only worked for a short time to get out of the mess caused by keyword stuffing of Alta Vista. What has happened is that SEOers have exposed this flaw ruthlessly to make money and now Google are trying desperately to make it work.


10/10/2012 01:45 pm

@randfish:disqus You are encouraging Barry against Google


10/23/2012 06:13 am

You sure have balls of steel :)


11/01/2012 04:11 pm

@twitter-213778814:disqus (y)

Johan Hedin

11/07/2012 04:11 am

Great Barry. I love it when you go against the current of Google. I wish more ppl could do it so they dont become like a dictature of the web...I wish there was more competition among the search engines so that not everyone would have to abide by Google telling you want to do...


03/06/2013 08:55 am

This article is Epic! I'm with you Barry! Lets fight against the evil guidelines of Google.


03/06/2013 08:56 am

Wow! Rand Fishkin! The SEO GOD! :D


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03/22/2013 02:03 pm

Incredible stuff, to see SEO specialist voice his opinion so strongly against a search giant... Well, but why don't they tweak their masterly algorithm to disregard "what they deem as dofollow paid links", instead of slapping publishers? Is it a simple, straight-forward question? or am i being dumb here?


03/28/2013 07:41 am

As far as i am concerned u r not misguiding the users.. u have clearly mentioned it as sponsored links. What more they want ?? Beware symbol with skull symbol in it ??

Craig Priestley

04/25/2013 10:58 pm

I enjoyed reading through the comments as much as I did reading through the article itself! There's some butting of heads going on for sure. My 2 cents is if someone wants to sell ad space on their site, they should be allowed to and should not be penalised, as long as it's not affecting the quality of the website.

Diseño Paginas Web

12/02/2013 04:15 pm

lol, that was cool, and you are brave, most of us try to follow google's rules, for now at least, just because he is the "king", its like a monopoly, we have to live like that

Heather Johnson

04/16/2014 09:25 pm

Selling links is not against the rules. But Google can also penalize a website in Google's rankings. Free market.

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