SEO Tip #97: Is It Okay To Sell Links As Long As We Use The No-Follow Attribute?

Matt Cutts: The answer is yes. The fact is what Google cares about is whether a link that you sell flows PageRank. And if it doesn’t flow PageRank, if it doesn’t affect search engines, it’s none of our business at that point.

Now if you are in Europe you might have some various laws that apply to you. If you’re in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission wants you to disclose those link if you have some sort of material connection to an endorser. So you might want to think about having a human readable disclosure as well, like “This is a paid link,” or “This is a sold link,” or something like that.

But Google’s policy is within search rankings, if you’re selling links, it’s your obligation to make sure that that link does not affect search engines. You’re the owner of your website as webmaster. You can do whatever you want on your website, but Google in turn is free to respond and rank sites according to how we judge the merit of those sites or the links coming into or out of that site.

So if you’re selling links that pass PageRank that violates our guidelines and we can take action on that. The best way to make sure that you’re safe is to make sure that any links that you sell don’t affect search engines and no-follow is a great way to do that.

By the way, that sort of answers a related question where some people say, “Well Google sells links. Why is it okay for Google to sell links and not us?” And the answer is Google’s links don’t affect search engines. We go through a lot of work like blocking out the redirector using robots.txt to make sure that no AdWords link on Google will affect search engine result pages.

In fact all major search engines take that step to make sure that any advertisements that they sell won’t flow PageRank, won’t affect search engine rankings. So that’s the basic difference. If a search engine link, if a link that a search engine sees doesn’t flow PageRank and doesn’t affect search engines we have no problem with it whatsoever. You might still want to think about making it clear to your website and visitors that are human so they don’t feel deceived or manipulated in any way.

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About the Author

Andy Johnson

Andy Johnson has been on the Internet since the its dawn(ie his first computer program was recorded on cassette tape) and his first hard drive cost about as much his current MacBook. His first byline was in 1993 for a local newspaper rag he eventually helmed, and his last “real job” was at a computer start up which ended when it ended. Throughout it all he’s freelanced and blogged. Now he is mesmerized by Search Engine Optimization forever trying to “rise to the top” for the right reasons. He’s been married to his wife Julia for as long as he can remember and has two lovely, wonderful children. He looks forward to sharing the latest in the technical best for all the online entrepreneurs.