22 Jan 2008

Link Buying: Reviewed and not Guaranteed is the line in the sand.

In Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, they say you should:

Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.

I know a lot of webmasters have questioned what is the difference between paying Yahoo for a Directory link, and paying any other web entity for a link.

This issue has been brought up as far back as on December 11, 2005 when Josh asked on Matt’s blog:

Question: Generally doesn’t Yahoo’s directory require payment? Isn’t that pretty much the same as getting a paid link? I might be wrong on that, its been a while since I’ve looked at them, just curious.

Matt’s response was:

Josh, with Yahoo, you’re paying for the manual review of a site by an editor–it’s not automatically approved by any means.

A year later, on December 19th, 2006, in Rand’s post called "I Disagree with Danny & the Google Engineers About Link Buying Practices" , Matt commented

I think I’ve been straightforward on Google’s behalf: paid links should have a nofollow attribute. Other choices run the risk of losing trust with Google in various ways.

Which doesn’t seem to address paying Yahoo for a link. But later in the comments robertk asks,

If I paid money to Yahoo to review my site for listing in their directory, would that be considered a "paid link"? Money did change hands and without it, my site would not have been added to the directory. However, there is no guarantee the site will be listed.

So.. is it a bought link, one that Google would like me to ask Yahoo to add a "nofollow" to it, or am I okay to leave things as they are?

Gotta love grey areas

Rand then chips in with:

or paying Citysearch.com for profile listings or paying MSN Small Business directory for inclusion or buying an online newspaper classified and getting a link or paying local directories, industry niche directories for a link. Or buying a BBB membership and getting a link, or donating money to the local Elks club and getting a link… Oh how the list goes on.

The following day (Dec 20, 2006) I picked it up that question about the Yahoo directory being a paid link in my blog post about Paid Links and Loosing Trust. In my comments, Eric Enge from Stone Temple said

Regarding the Yahoo! directory question, there is a clear difference. As I posted in Rand’s blog on this topic, a Yahoo! directory link involves a human review by a trusted editor.

I believe that Matt has been clear that the problem that Google has with paid links is the lack of editorial judgement. It’s the editorial judgement that they are wanting to value when they see a link. A purchased link involving no editorial judgement is what they see as a no-no.

Whereas the Yahoo! directory reserves the right to reject your submission, even though you have paid. In addition, they will put your listing in a directory different than the one you picked, if they feel you recommended the wrong one. 

Later that same day, (Dec 20), Eric Enge at Stone Temple did his own post weighing in on link buying, where Matt commented

I think you put this pretty well, Eric. Search engines want links to be real: editorial votes based on quality and merit. 
With Yahoo, you’re paying for the reviewing service; Yahoo rejects plenty of submissions.

The following day, Dec 21, 2006, Graywolf made reference to Matt’s comment above and said:

So it seems it’s not ok to buy links, however it is ok to pay for an editorial review which may get you a link as long as it’s not guaranteed.

Where Matt replied:

Huh, it feels like I said something similar recently. Oh, I did:
http://www.stonetemple.com/blog/?p=100#comment-2259

(comment 2259 says "I think you put this pretty well, Eric. Search engines want links to be real: editorial votes based on quality and merit.
With Yahoo, you’re paying for the reviewing service; Yahoo rejects plenty of submissions.")

So I see a pretty clear consistant line that’s been drawn by Google over the years.

I’d say the message is pretty clear "Links that have been humanly reviewed, where they are not guaranteed a listing, are OK".

On a side note….the Yahoo directory has a description for We Build Pages of "Designs business web sites and offers search engine optimization, link building, and pay per click services."….We don’t design business web sites, we don’t do design at all. When I sent my suggestion for a description, I never said anything about design. Their editor never really reviewed our site or he would have seen no where on our site anything about "design services". They are no better, no worse than webmaster…maybe worse if anything…a webmaster will probably review "submissions" for thier own site better than an editor hired by Yahoo.

So if one were to write to a website with: "Hey, I’d like to pay you to review this "listing", "ad", "site", "page", paragraph", etc. and that webmaster applies his editorial judgement and does not trip any "trust" filter, because the listing is relevant, …the links should be fine….right?

…..feel free to sphinn this to drum up the talk.