Alright, it's pretty clear to me that I've stirred the pot on a never ending debate. I might as well have come out arguing against (or for) abortion and legalizing drugs.

So I'll make a final pass through some reactions I've seen since last night and then go back to my regularly scheduled random blogging until this trial runs its course (roughly two weeks from now) and the Lemur Auction begins...

Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogscoped weighs in on Paid Links Evil?

Over on SEO Scoop, Matt is being pressed for details:

If Matt or Google would simply be slightly less Googlish (vague) and more clear in what they mean, they could probably stop all the arguments immediately. So what is it Matt? Does Zawodny's site deserve to be penalized for selling links? Will you do so?

Of course, it's the wrong forum for getting a policy answer like that. (Hint: my blog is an equally wrong forum for that.)

Over on SiteReference, there's a Purchasing Links for Pagerank post that goes into many of the issues brought up here. Of particular note is this:

Of course, you might want to make sure that you don't get in trouble for buying links, even if your intention is completely innocent. Although Google has gotten better at determining what links are purchased and what links are natural, they still can not determine a person's intent. To keep yourself safe, always request that the person you are buying the link from adds the “nofollow” attribute. This will protect both you and them from getting penalized.

That leads to a question. Do any of the popular link brokers recommend this to their publishers? I haven't done an exhaustive survey of their sites, but I've yet to see one that includes a nofollow recommendation in their publisher documentation. Might one expect them to at least drop in a footnote?

Finally, I received a private email which said the following:

As a personal user, I want to thank you for being bold enough to make the moves you've made with sponsored links. Experimenting is important.
I was thinking just the other day---mainly thinking about the Protestant Reformation; it's what I get as a Methodist for being friends with lots of Presbyterians who idolize Calvin and Luther---that those who are often the biggest defenders of orthodoxy must live in the conundrum of loving and praising those who were, in and of themselves, unorthodox. After all, you don't build a new orthodoxy or restore and old one without being outside the bounds of the present orthodoxy!

It's refreshing to see that there are folks out there who actually get what I'm doing. I thought it was pretty clear when I wrote this:

It's one thing to hear about this stuff second hand (or from the folks on either end with a vested interest in "selling" their idea to publishers), but it's quite different to become a participant in the system. I've experimented with AdSense an YPN in various forms. I've tried paid job listings (never worked out, which is a story for another day). I've used's affiliate program. I've even tried AdWords. And each time along the way it's been a useful exercise. Sometimes it works well, other times not. My success rate has been rather mixed so far.

But people have a way of reading only what they want to read. And my success continues to be mixed, but that doesn't mean I should just walk away, does it?

Let me close with a final question. How do you know none of my other links were paid? Is paying me via their affiliate program for linking to one of their product pages when I say something nice about a product I like? Does that help their rank, their brand, and their sales? They are text links without nofollow.

Posted by jzawodn at December 14, 2005 10:20 AM

Reader Comments
# Preston Wily said:

I can't believe that nobody has even brought up the issue of relevancy - everybody assumes that buying text links is going to lead to a bunch of irrelevant sites floating to the top of the SERP's...

I don't think that somebody willing to pay $300 for a TLA is going to optimize for an irrelevant term... that makes monetizing the traffic they actually do receive very difficult. I'm not saying that TLA's necessarily increase relevancy in the search engines but I think it's up for debate as to whether they really are that detrimental.

This is a fundamental assumption of the TLA ad debate that I would like to see more people confront.

Jeremy: I'm glad you've got the guts to experiment. You stand out among bloggers as one that does not necessarily push your company's agenda.

on December 14, 2005 11:29 AM
# Mark Scholl said:

Maybe I'm confused. Why would it matter so much if you sell a few text link ads? All sorts of sites have sponsors. It's called advertising. It's no different than running Google ads, except, wait... the advertiser is paying Google instead of you. Is that their beef?

on December 14, 2005 12:00 PM
# Michal said:

My take on it is that Google jsut can't handle their link-based algo and Matt is their PR (not pagerank) guy. I see a tendency forming that whenever he writes something about "unnatural links are bad" and readers read the "I concur" comments on his blog, many webmasters go and remove their links.
I am very glad that you this "debate" between You and Matt started, as people may see that your blog's PR8 will not vanish and it won't be penalized in Google. Well, if it were then Google's SERP relevancy would be a big question mark.

Selling links on websites is natural advertising and no search engine can direct the way that it is done.

Matt says that search engines will penalize link sellers and buyers if they don't use the nofollow attribute. I hope that Yahoo's spam guy Tim won't "concur" on that.

on December 14, 2005 01:21 PM
# Jim said:

Jeremy, Can you ask Tim to start blogging too. I'd love to see what Tim has to say on this issue as well.

on December 14, 2005 03:27 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Which one? Tim Mayer?

He might be setting up a blog, but I dunno if he'll talk about work stuff on it or not...

on December 14, 2005 03:45 PM
# Joe Zawodny said:

I'm only beginning to understand the ramifications of this experiment. I'm not sure I ever will have a deep understanding. In lieu of that, just tell us when this house of cards is about to collapse so I can short google. Seriously, the point in your last question is the real key. Just think product placement in films and you get the gist of this. At least on his blog, Jeremy has his paying sponsors clearly identified as such. What's a google to do when the tier-1 bloggers follow the movie and TV industry model via product placement? Quite a stirring of the pot - nice job.

on December 14, 2005 04:10 PM
# JJ PanCake said:

TRUTH - Google dosn't want anyone to sell links except Google. Think about it...

on December 14, 2005 04:16 PM
# Mark Scholl said:

"TRUTH - Google dosn't want anyone to sell links except Google. Think about it..."

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner.

on December 15, 2005 06:27 AM
# John Jonas said:

I don't think that before a year ago (Google IPO) you would have seen such a negative sentiment about Google.

Not that this debate hasn't been brewing for a long time, with Google making it impossible for themselves to rank a new website, which is just as relevant as an old one, near the top of the serps.

It just seems to me that the 'don't be evil' motto is slipping...

on December 15, 2005 07:20 AM
# Search Engines Web said:

Why is your blog link no longer on Matts page...hope it wasn't due to this...hope these professional differences can be worked out.

on December 17, 2005 07:56 PM
# John said:

google just dont want you wasting your money on text links when you could be wasting it on their adwords :D

on February 4, 2006 02:29 AM
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