I’ve been blogging since 2011, and over the years received hundreds of requests from brands and companies asking to share their content on this blog and include a link back to them.
If your website or blog receives similar requests here’s why you shouldn’t accept payment such as money or a ‘free’ gift in exchange for posting content with a link that doesn’t indicate to Google the real incentive of the link. But if done correctly, feel confident and continue to monetise your website by accepting sponsored content, knowing that it’s tagged adequately.
It’s not a good idea to accept payment in exchange for links
You’ve worked hundreds of hours over the years to create, post and manage the content on your website. If you don’t flag a sponsored link to Google, you run the risk of your website being considered a ‘link scheme’ and therefore penalised. You are, thus putting the traffic from your Organic channel at risk!
If someone is asking you to share content on your site and insists you include a link that is a nofollow link – show them this blog post and explain to them that you don’t want to run the risk of having your site penalised by Google.
Here’s a detailed list from Google’s blog of other common examples of what not to do when it comes to exchanging links on your website.
Here’s how to correctly handle link exchanges without affecting your organic traffic
Nofollow used to be the way to handle these links, with the nofollow signalling to Google that a particular link is sponsored. The rel= “nofollow” method previously tried to cover everything and was Google’s preferred method of treating sponsored content. But now we can go into more detail which allows Google to understand what type of sponsored content is on your site.
Why is this important? Well, Google’s search engine became famous for its PageRank algorithm, which continues to be one of the most influential ranking components of the search engine today.
In simple terms, the PageRank algorithm considers every link from one website, to another a ‘vote’ for the credibility and trustworthiness of the ‘linked-to’ site. Think about it, if you find a website you love, that provides fantastic value – you want to tell the world, Google works off this same logic to help display the most relevant and trustworthy sites to its users. So knowing this, you can understand how the system breaks down pretty quickly once these ‘votes’ become influenced by ‘payments’ where the legitimacy of people sharing links now becomes incentivised by money (or free gifts), rather than the site’s interest or value.
Google introduced new methods you can use (see below) to notify their search engine of the nature of your links used in the content posted on your website.
Scenario one – Links as part of a sponsored or paid blog post
rel=” sponsored”: Use this sponsored attribute to identify links on your site created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.
Scenario two – Use when your readers leave links in their forum or blog post comments
rel= “ugc”: This User Generated Content attribute is for links within content generated by your readers such as their comments and forum posts.
Examples of how to treat a sponsored link on your website
In the HTML editor of your websites’ CMS, here are examples of how you implement the code for each type of link. I’ve also included a table below from Google, which illustrates in more detail how to qualify your links.
- Nofollow: <a href=”/my_link” rel=“nofollow”>My Link</a>
- Sponsored: <a href=”/my_link” rel=“sponsored”>My Link</a>
- Ugc: <a href=”/my_link” rel=“ucg”>My Link</a>
Below is an example from the Daily Mail of a story they published which included a link at the end of the story to this blog. If you right-click on the link you can see how the “nofollow” link (containing extra information) has been tagged.
Finally, here’s how to make sure it’s working
There are applications out there available to do this, but the easiest way is simply hovering over the link, right-clicking and selecting ‘inspect element’ if you’re using Google Chrome and you will be able to see whether the correct attribute has been applied to the link.
So there you have it. An easy to understand explanation of why it’s a bad idea to accept money or product in exchange for a request for a backlink. Let me know in the comments box below if you’ve ever been offered money or gifts in exchange for a link on your site. Or if you’ve found it hard to convince others of what to do to correctly publish sponsored content.
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