200816 jan

The Value of Paid Links

Patrick Altoft asks if people ever report paid links.

I’ve never reported paid links.  The idea had never even occurred to me since I’ve never been encouraged by a search engine or anyone else to do so.   It seems to be one of those things that you only know how to do if you are somewhat obsessed with the issue, like the four people who complain about wardrobe malfunctions when most people just shrug.

Beyond that, paid links are a form of advertising.  I don’t see how they are inherently wrong.  I think it is much more valuable to report splogs – sites with no original content and sometimes no meaningful content – that exist as advertising venues.  These do far more to ruin our collective experience than paid links.  How can I report splogs?

Some very respectable directories (e.g. Yahoo!) charge for the pleasure of being in their directory.  This serves a few purposes:

  1. It destroys the economics of splogging and provides a first-level quality filter.  Sites that exist only to provide referral traffic would hopefully be priced out and newer sites that have real content, and few incoming links, can pay to be seen.
  2. It allows high quality directories like Yahoo! to recover their costs when verifying that a site has legitimate content.  In theory, this should improve the quality of the directory.

In fact, and this is just a theory, it may be that if paid linking were more widespread, it might balance some of the overblown voices of the new media elite (e.g. the 100 top Diggers and Commander Taco,) and push splogs to the bottom of the results.  New voices could pay to be heard.  If no one liked what they said, they would have to keep paying.  If people did like it, the new site would get organic links and may be able to stop paying.  Sounds like a decent result to me.

As someone who is trying to build traffic to a new site, paid links can offer an attractive way to get some early users.

Back in the olden days, the old-timers felt the internet was dying when advertising first appeared on the inter-web.  Today, Google is making billions by putting advertising next to your baby photos and no one seems to mind.  My belief is that paid linking and even paid blogging will gain acceptance once the ethics of disclosure and honesty are better understood.

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