The End of Paid Links is Near

Author Note: This is speculation and is not currently a tool Google offer’s via Webmaster Tools. It is merely the expected next-step in Google’s fight against Paid Links. It was my intent to help prepare SEO’s for what I believe to be a huge blow to the Paid Links industry

To be honest, I am shocked that Google has not yet implemented such a technique, but after a few conversations, it appears that a Paid-Links killing system is in the works. The solution is simple, elegant, and will silently poison all multi-site paid-link networks (whether or not those networks are open or closed).

The method is quite simple: using Google Webmaster Tools, Google can easily allow webmasters to type in CSS classes or HTML elements within which all links are nofollowed.

Such as a system could deal a death blow to most paid-linking systems as neither the advertiser nor the advertising network would be able to efficiently determine whether the links being sold are nofollowed. While Google can continue to use its traditional methods of targeting Paid Links, this system would cause an internal rift of trust within major link networks.

Advertisers may have to buy hundreds if not thousands of links to get the same impact and, subsequently, Google could use buyers whose links appear within nofollowed CSS classes to backtrack in finding other non-nofollowed link sellers.

While I have not been able to get true confirmation of such plans (yeah, like Matt would let us know in advance), it seems like this is the inevitable next step in the fight against paid links.

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  1. Yet another interesting move by Google.

    This would easily allow link sellers to short-term rip-off link buyers who are not aware how to TEST their link purchases.

    While I do believe that this might lead to some links being no-followed altough they don’t have the NOFOLLOW attribute, I think this will also add more confusion and anti-google/anti-nofollow behaviour in the web community

    Author Note: Just to make clear, this is something I believe Google is planning, not something they have already implemented. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Is this a fake? I don’t see that “No Follow Class” in any of the webmaster console accounts I manage for my own stuff and clients

    Author Note: I have updated this blog post to make it clear that this is not an actual tool that Google has implemented, but merely speculation of what Google’s plans might be. So yes, it is, intentionally and not for deception, a fake.

  3. Dominating SEO
    Jul 8, 2008

    I cannot see any such tool in my WT. If its implemented by G then this is going to be very crucial step and danger for link sellers as well buyers

    Author Note: As mentioned in the above blog post and in many of my comment responses, this is a speculative piece talking about what Google MAY do, not what Google has already done. Google has not yet implemented such a tool.

  4. Brandon
    Jul 8, 2008

    I like your foresight, but how can you assume just because Google would offer nofollow code that webmasters would use it?

    Even better, why would they feel compelled to use it?

    Are you saying that webmasters will have the ability to kill all links from their website?

    Furthermore, how many webmasters use WT?

    In my experience of buying links, I have expressed that there be no ‘nofollow’ tags, and have even had it written into contracts.

    The reason why Google beats the paid linking drum so hard is because if you buy links under the radar it is extrememly difficult for them to find out.

  5. Robert
    Jul 8, 2008

    Um… nice idea but… what if the website’s webmaster doesn’t use WT?

    We’re back at square one. Or could Google then come out and confirm… what is already suspected, that they rank sites that have verified WT higher?

    Very interesting times. Then again as you can’t complain if Google don’t rank you, for what ever reason, will the time come when we have to start opting in?

  6. blackhatzen
    Jul 8, 2008

    This is a very interesting projection. My personal feeling is that the death blow will be the integration of higher level latent semantic analysis wherein the semantic relevance of the content directly surrounding the link will be more seriously analyzed. While they are certainly doing something similar to this now, it’s negative impact does not appear to be that much of a deterrent.

    Author Note: You bring up some interesting points; however, any kind of theming or LSI technology will not be able to stop, for example, paid blog reviews. Link network poisoning will.

  7. Jeremy
    Jul 8, 2008

    Complete waste of time? How many outbound links have a CSS class associated with every link? I could write a script in a day to detect any link with an individual class for the link that isn’t on every other link on the site.


    Author Note: Who said that the class had to be on every link? You could easily make it so that the class is applied to a surrounding div tag or span tag. Google would not, actually, even need to use classes. They could use simple CSS selectors, which would be impossible to detect. You are underestimating this.

  8. Melvin
    Jul 8, 2008

    Isn’t it that you’re giving Google a hint to actually do this one? 😉

    Editor Note: Hell no. I have just heard it through the rumor mill, and connected the dots. I really hope it takes Google a few more years to roll something like this out, as Paid Links are still a cheap, effective way to gain rankings.

  9. Jason Green
    Jul 9, 2008

    A very interesting insight that would work very well.

    A way to fight back is for text-ad networks to simply request that sites don’t use Google Analytics or offer a higher payout to those sites that don’t use it.

    Editors Note: Those webmasters could still use Google Webmaster Tools, without using Analytics. I think losing a few Google Analytics clients via protest would be worth it to Google to end the game of paid links altogether

  10. Alex
    Jul 9, 2008

    Brilliant idea, but for savvy webmasters – those who use Webmaster Cenral. On the other hand – most link sellers & buyers ARE savvy webmasters

  11. Jonathan Bentz
    Jul 9, 2008

    You bring up some good points here. I agree with Brandon that the main reason Google doesn’t like paid links is because its something out of their control. And also, there would be further implications in contracts for links, where it would be (and probably should be) expressed that the links must be dofollow. Nice post.

  12. Barrera
    Jul 9, 2008

    Why would a site owner sell links, only to out the networks that is paying them for these links?

    Seems a little odd that I would sell links without nofollow and then ‘secretly’ add nofollow without the advertiser knowing that I did this…

    Editors Note: Odd? What if the police told you that you can go on making all the money you want running an illegal, very profitable scam. That you are granted permanent immunity. As long as you make sure no one else profits directly from your business? It is a complete get-out-of-jail-free card, which no one knows about except you and Google. This kind of network poisoning can and will be very effective. Honestly, if you are an SEO and you know selling Paid Links could result in a ban or penalty, why wouldn’t you sell out and sign up at Google Webmaster Tools?

  13. yaph
    Jul 16, 2008

    Your post may inspire some people over at Google 😉
    If they’d really implement something like that linkbrokers would need to create tools to run automated checks to test whether the links are considered by search engines and eventually ban webmasters you sell links and try to trick link buyers.

  14. Rob
    Jul 26, 2008

    Unfortunately, every time Google patches an exploit or other questionable tactic, it just causes the spammer, or paid link broker, or hacker, etc. to develop the next black hat trend of the day.

  15. Claudia
    Jul 29, 2008

    I have read that Google is not agains paid links if they use nofollow. I don´t understand why would they go after advertisers that buy the links.
    In this scenario I think advertisers would finally understand that pagerank is not the same thing as ranking.
    I have a PR0 blog that is not at the bottom of searches. It has a lot of backlinks and visitors and it could be useful for advertisers if they understand how useless PR is.
    Another note, SocialSpark is already working with links with the nofollow tag, so at least for them it wouldn´t be the end.

  16. SEOsnafu
    Sep 8, 2008

    It’s all in where you got them from. If you pick them up off a broker, what’s to stop G from doing the same and blacklisting the inventory?

    Fly under the radar!

  17. It is about time paid link directories or link farms are given no value at all.

  18. Gold Coast Golf
    Jan 21, 2009

    Say no to paid links! Google should have slapped paid links on the head years ago!

  19. Jean
    Aug 17, 2009

    This is good and bad.
    Good because you can kill all the extenal links in your site and increase your PR with only direct links to you. Bad if the people you’re linking back do the same.

    This is not only the end of paid links but the end of the exchange links is well. I guess the only option left will be blogs and articles… It looks like google keep following the same line from months ago…

    Jun 1, 2015

    u’re too young but speak like granny


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