Matt discusses how Google identifies paid links. As far as the first point - Explicit Link Sales – fair enough. In 2014, if you’re buying links, there’s a 98% chance you know those links should be nofollowed – especially if you’re buying a lot of them. But then shit starts getting ridiculous.2. Close To The Value Of Money
The essential gist here is no money (including gift cards, etc) and that if the giveaway, free product, free service, etc is worth significant value, then Google considers it a paid link. $10 in product is ok, a $10 gift card would not be ok, $100 in product would not be ok.
Personally, I was impressed by this one. I mean, who knew that Googlebot was so good at assessing the value of the product the user may or may not have been given – along with whether or not they were given the product vs. buying it themselves? (Note, if you don’t know me, that was dropping with sarcasm.) I obviously missed the <rel product value=“10”> and <rel product status=“freebie”> tag releases.
And let’s not even get into how arbitrary significant value is. I could send Bill Gates a free car and he probably wouldn’t consider that to be "significant value". If 8 different merchants send a stay at home mom $20 each in free product, that might hold very
significant value to that blogger.3. Gift vs. Loan
Once again I'm impressed at the awesome capabilities of a robot. So I can loan someone a car for a month and that’s not a paid link – as long as I make them return the car. No significant value there (I mean, we’ve all rented a car for a month for under $30 right?). But if I give them a $30 mixer, then that’s a paid link. And Googlebot is capable of deciding this. Got it.4. Intent of Audience
This one clearly aims to defend why Google giving away thousands of Androids to bloggers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars at conferences is ok while giving away a $30 mixer is not. Essentially, if you are a large brand who can afford to shell out thousands of dollars to hold a conference, and buy your links offline, you’re in the clear!
But wait – what about your intent? Matt says Google can give away phones because their intent is aimed at getting developers to develop apps for it. But if a conference gave away free laptops hoping for links, that would be bad. If Lenovo does it, they’re looking for “feedback”. If Engadget does it - because they don’t make them - then they’re spammers.
A human, much less a bot, cannot accurately determine intent. So, it comes down to if reported, Google will hand check and then determine your intent based on _____
. (Feel free to attempt to fill in the blank folks.)5. Surprise or Not
Matt’s final statement on how they determine paid links was "The final criteria is would the reporter or blogger be surprised?”. Are. You. Kidding. Me. Recently, I was given a free album to review on a hobby site of mine. I didn’t review albums. I was genuinely surprised they contacted me to give me a preview. They weren’t after a link – they were after the 20K plus fans I have via social for their target demographic. So – is this a paid link, or not a paid link? And why the fuck are we even having such a ridiculous discussion?Takeaways:
--- If you’re a big brand who can easily get a speedy hand review to explain your intent to a human being if the algo gets it wrong and torches you, you likely don’t have much to worry about.
--- If you’re not a big brand – well. Fuck you. #google #seo #wtf