In Matt Cutts' most recent video blog he explained how the team at Google evaluates paid link building services. In the past few months Google has gotten even stricter on link building strategies including backlinking and guest blogging. In this particular video he explains the fine line between paid link building, which can be the difference of receiving a free trial to receiving a gift card for providing links.
Due to all of the restrictions now, people are finding different ways to acquire link building services other than just paying with money, since they know Google will penalize them for that. But what is the difference of a paid link when you are still getting/giving something in return, although it may not be actual money?
“The vast majority of the time things are incredibly clear, people are paying money out right for links based on page rank, flowing the page rank, trying to get high rankings,” Cutts said. “..Ever so often people like to split hairs and they will ask questions like ‘OK, Matt but what about if I don’t give the guy money but maybe buy him some beer and pizza and then he happens to write about my site?’”
Cutts outlined four ways the Google web team deciphers what is a paid link building service and what isn’t:
1. What is the value of what you’re getting?
Cutts explains that free items that you receive at tradeshows like shirts or pens will most likely not make a difference in the way you feel about a company or a product. Thus, it’s not a form of paid link building. If you choose to go home and blog about them and include a link to their site, that pen you received was not a form of compensation. Generally, free items will not change how you behave.
However, if someone pays outright, which is what we are typically familiar with when we talk about paid link building, then that is not OK. Although, anymore it’s not always in the form of money but things like gift cards which still have a value of money. Whereas, if you gave someone a free trial or took them out to dinner months back can be “iffy” but generally are not considered of the same value.
The question you really need to ask yourself is how close is something to money?
2. Is it a gift or a loan?
Google is generally OK with writers being loaned something in order to write about it. Cutts used the example of a tech gadget writer and how they would need to assess the product before writing their review of the item, therefore they are receiving a loan. Where it crosses the line of not being OK is if that company originally gifted it to them or just allowed for them to keep it in the end.
3. Intended audience and intent for that audience
This is where it gets hard for the Google team. It can be difficult to know who their intended audience was and what their intent was when purchasing those paid links.
4. Is it a surprise?
Lastly, Cutts says they look for if something is a surprise, out of the ordinary, unexpected. If you’re a movie reviewer it’s not much of a surprise that you will often get a free pass into the movie theatre, he explained. Out of the ordinary would be someone saying they would write blogs about your business or product only if you send them a laptop to do the work on. The laptop in this situation would equal a type of compensation.
Most people aren’t using these tactics for link buildings services just yet, but they very well may become more popular as Google continues to crack down.
How did you interpret the video? Any thoughts? Comment below or download our free offer below to learn more about link building and its role in internet marketing.