Listen up, companies! I know you want to engage with bloggers, and get our sweet sweet Google Juice, but I’ve had an extraordinary number of requests recently from people asking me for paid ‘dofollow’ links, so I feel a PSA is necessary. Here goes: if you nag me for a paid ‘dofollow’ link, I will not work with you. Not just on your link building, but on anything.
Update June 2020: Google now has specific tags you can use to mark links as ‘sponsored’ – all the advice in this article about not selling a follow link still stands, but now it’s even easier to denote a paid link: use rel=”sponsored”
Info for bloggers: paid ad transparency
When your average consumer reads an advert in a magazine or newspaper, they expect it to be clear that it’s an advert. The ASA in the UK has a set of rules for paid advertising, the most basic of which – the first one people usually learn – is that you need to tell consumers what’s an advert and what isn’t. Hence, if you look at the ads at the side of my website, you’ll see a bit of text near them that says ‘sponsored.’ What’s more, if any of my advertisers tried to make an ad that looked suspiciously like it was just part and parcel of my site content, I’d ask them to go back to the drawing board.
So far, so simple. But it isn’t just consumers who need to be told what is paid and what is not: robots need to know too.
What is a ‘dofollow’ link?
A ‘dofollow’ link is one which passes Pagerank (or Google Juice, or SEO kudos, or whatever you’d like to call it) from your site to the site you’re linking to. It’s essentially your way of signposting that you like this site and you are recommending it because you think it’s good, not because someone’s shoved a fistful of twenties into your sweaty little hand.
You create a ‘dofollow’ link (or its opposite – a ‘nofollow’ link) by adding an attribute to the link when you type it into your blog. These attributes are mostly meaningless and invisible to humans, but they tell the magic robots who live in your computer what to do when they’re clicked.
For example: <a href=”http://sexysextoywebsite.com”>Here is a link to a sexy sex toy website</a>
<a href=”http://sexysextoywebsite.com” rel=”nofollow”>Here is a link to a sexy sex toy website, with the correct ‘nofollow’ attribute</a>
You can do fancy things like telling links to open in a new tab, or you can do boring things like alert the robots to the fact that a certain link is an advert, as above.
This is where ‘nofollow’ comes in. It is basically the equivalent of that little text which says ‘sponsored’, except it’s aimed at robots. It tells the robots ‘this was paid for, it’s an ad’, in a way which is not only consistent with Google’s guidelines, it is also consistent with ETHICS and INTEGRITY.
“A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use
nofollowon such links. Search engine guidelines require machine-readable disclosure of paid links in the same way that consumers online and offline appreciate disclosure of paid relationships (for example, a full-page newspaper ad may be headed by the word “Advertisement”).”
Why do people ask for ‘dofollow’ paid links?
Google doesn’t want you to use ‘dofollow’ for paid links, and it has expressly said that it wants site owners to mark paid links as ‘nofollow’. More importantly, Google has been very very clear on what the impact could be for site owners if they do not mark paid links ‘nofollow’:
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
“But GOTN!” I hear you cry, “If a paid ‘dofollow’ link is going to negatively impact a blog’s search ranking, why in merry hell would a company ask me to give them one?”
There are two possible answers to this, in my opinion.
- The company does not know that this kind of deal could have a massive detrimental impact on your blog.
- The company knows this, and they do not give a single gram of fuck. They care only about their traffic and SEO goals, and have no regard for who they shit on in order to achieve them.
Number 1 is possible, but unlikely: anyone who knows enough about SEO to ask for a ‘dofollow’ link almost certainly knows what Google’s take on this practice is. Number 2 is much more likely. Infinitely more likely. So likely as to be a virtual certainty.
If someone asks you for a paid ‘dofollow’ link, please tell them exactly where to get off. It may be that you get away with it, and you can spend that $£ on something you really need. It may also be that the $£ this shitty company is offering you is the last money you ever make on your blog, as you drop like a stone in the search engine rankings and your traffic all but dries up.
If you are a company asking for a paid ‘dofollow’ link
I am writing this post mainly because I’ve had so many requests recently for paid ‘dofollow’ links, it’s getting really irritating. I don’t mind so much if you’re asking in the first email – I am more than capable of reporting you for spam the second you pop up with one of these sneaky requests – but it massively fucks me off when I have seemingly professional interactions with companies looking for advertising, which mutate partway through into them begging me for a ‘dofollow’ link. It’s a waste of my time, and it makes me worry for newer bloggers who might not know the rules around this. I didn’t just spend the last couple of years pouring time into things like Eroticon, to get more people started in sex blogging, only to have you fuckers torpedo their chances by tricking them into getting their own blogs trashed in Google.
Chances are if you’re asking me for a paid ‘dofollow’ link, you’re asking other people too. Don’t do that. It’s unfair to bloggers, who might end up losing significant traffic (and therefore income, potential new work, etc) if Google penalises them for including your link, and it’s unfair to readers too, whose likelihood of finding good services is being clouded by your spammy activity. Ignoring you, and marking you as spam, means you’ll just move on to the next person. So instead I’m doing this little bit of meta-blogging – I can send unscrupulous companies to this page, and send bloggers to this page, in the hope that if we all know about this terrible behaviour you’ll get so many ‘fuck no’s’ you’ll eventually stop doing it.