30 Jul 2008

How should Search Engines treat Paid Links?

Eric Enge did an excellent interview with Priyank Garge, the director of product management for Yahoo Search Technology (YST).

The interview was almost exlcusively centered around to topic of "links", and Eric did a great job of asking the right questions, and Priyank gave some great honest insights into his/Yahoo’s view on links.

Here’s what Priyank said about paid links:

There’s no black and white policy that makes sense in our mind for paid links. The principle remains value to the users. If a paid link is not valuable to the users, we will not want to give it value. Our algorithms are being organized for detecting value to users. We feel most of the time that paid links are less valuable to users than organic links.

If a paid link is not valuable to the users, we will not want to give it value. Our algorithms are being organized for detecting value to users. We feel most of the time that paid links are less valuable to users than organic links. But that’s not black and white, it is always a continuum. Yahoo continues to focus on the element of recognizing links that are valuable to users, building mechanisms in our algorithms that attenuate the signal and capture as much value from that link in context, rather than worrying about it being paid or unpaid.

Eric adds more of his thoughts and analysis on his SearchEngineWatch article called Google vs. Yahoo on Paid Links. It’s a must read.

Eric says there:

Yahoo appears to be taking a different route. As I read the comments by Garg, it seems that they focus more on the end user value of a link, whether it’s paid or not. To read between the lines a little bit, end user value is most likely being measured by the relevance and context of a link.

This saves Yahoo from fighting a difficult battle, a battle that has led some to say that there’s an arms race between Google and spammers. Certainly if this battle is inherently unwinnable, the Yahoo approach may be a pragmatic one.

It’s nice to see how Yahoo treats different types of links. The Yahoo method seems pretty reasonable.

Do you agree with how Yahoo acts towards links that may appear to be paid, or how Google acts towards links that might appear to be paid?


  1. Gregor July 31, 2008 at 5:40 AM

    That’s the most articulate and reasonable response I’ve yet heard about paid links.

    Forget (or at least, don’t worry too much) about whether the links are paid for or not – focus on whether they’re giving the user value, whether they’re relevant and whether they’re in a sensible neighbourhood.

    If a link ticks all of those boxes then give it the value that it deserves, regardless of whether it is paid for or not.

  2. Tony Tellijohn August 1, 2008 at 8:44 AM

    At least someone in the SE world gets it. I always thought Google would have been the one to figure that route out, given their love of using technology to try to determine eveything.

  3. Amin August 6, 2008 at 5:38 AM

    When I’m looking for information I don’t actually care whether a link is paid or organic. I care whether it will take me closer to what I want.

    And let’s face it, Google don’t mind shoving paid links in our face when we’re searching, as long as they’re the ones getting the bulk of the revenue.

    That’s all Adwords is, paid links that Google make sure you see.

    If a link is offering some kind of value to the consumer then who are the search engines to remove it from our view?

    Of course that does open up a can of worms about how the search engines will define ‘value’…

  4. Eric Enge August 9, 2008 at 9:52 AM

    Thanks for the commentary on the interview and article Jim. I have to admit when I spoke with Priyank that I was a bit surprised at the response. Given that Yahoo has normally been quiet on the topic, it was great to see them outline things the way that Priyank did.

  5. Joe Hunkins August 16, 2008 at 4:56 PM

    Jim thanks for this insight. I’m hoping (but not holding my breath) that we’ll see some breakthrough info on paid/traded/organic/whatever linking at SES this year. As far as I can tell Google is inconsistently punishing sites for paid links, less so for traded, and generally not at all for “friendly reciprocal” links which are the new currency of the web. Since most business owners (and even many SEO folks) do not understand all the link nuances, we see mom and pop websites getting killed off or downranked because their webmaster broke rules neither they nor he understood in the first place. Nofollow just seems to be an advantage for those currently ranked well – links are a LOT harder to get than they used to be!

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