Jeremy Zawodny Sells Out-bound Links


Jeremy Zawodny works for Yahoo! and has one of the top 500 blogs. Recently he added a few sponsored links to his blog. A couple well known SEO bloggers have questioned Jeremy's link selling.

Should search employees sell link reputation from their personal blogs?

The results are mixed.

Greg Boser thinks there is a bit of a conflict of interests:

All search engines (including Jeremy’s employer) have made it very clear that they despise paid text link advertising. Sponsored text links on trusted sites like Jeremy’s causes all kinds of problems for search engines because they don’t believe a paid link should count as an algorithmic vote.

but JasonD loves it:

Persnoally I think it is GREAT news. This must surely mean that link based advertising has now ben legitimised by some senior Yahoo reps, and just goes to show that Google are behind the game!

I think JasonD is spot on with his comment. Keep in mind that this is not just any old search employee selling links. Jeremy has on multiple occasions posted how much he hates spam. So long as the link is not pointing at spam Jeremy sees no problem with it.

Jeremy legitimizes link selling even more than Matt Cutts posts saying not to.


Don't do as I say, Do as I

Don't do as I say, Do as I do.
Actions speak louder than words.
Definate Green Light from Jeremy IMO.

Go Buy Links from your favourite Link Salesman and have the official Y! seal of approval.

Sounds good to me :D

Doesn't Satire exist in

Doesn't Satire exist in December ?

You know that other old saying though. - Many a true word said in jest!

from the se perspective

there is a very simple way to sort out whether you're selling traffic or link pop, put in the nofollow tag as cutts mentions. i've not read jz in a while nor checked his source code but assume that this thread is here because the nofollow is lacking.

>do as i
just to be clear, i sell ads on my sites but they're for traffic. years ago they ran through a cgi counter but now they have nofollow. do i get requests for straight links? you betcha, but i don't sell them --not worth the risk, imo.

Jeremy is saying pretty much

Jeremy is saying pretty much what site owners have been saying from the start about their right to sell ads on their own site. Google is the most threatened by this on two counts: Google is completely dependant on linking for relevency; Google wants to be the gatekeeper to publisher ad revenues with Adsense. Google is terrified the serfs might actually look up from their labors and start making money for themselves.

To some extent Yahoo is also in the same boat.

Links - LinkCondom != Goognorrea

I disagree with you RC. I believe that any and all links / content / whatever we want to put on our pages, in whatever manner we want to put on our pages is for us to decide.

Changing how we think, work and operate our sites because the search engine algos aren't "good enough" to take that into effect is not our (the users) problem. It is theirs.

FUD from Matt and others to do with purchased legitimised linking is down right nasty IMHO. I agree there is definately a problem from a technical standpoint in the search engines' eyes, but that is a problem for the search engines to fix, in a manner that does not infringe in the way the web works.

^ All in IMHO of course :)

Why should I, as a hypothetical website owner, have to think about whether to place a jonny on my out links, for fear of catching a "search related venereal link based disease", that in reality shouldn't exist, and definately didn't exist before search engines' based their algorithmns on weight of links.

The disease can and will go in time, as search engines develop and advance in their business and technical practices but the bodge of saying that a webmaster can't sell clean space on their own site, without fear of catching Goognorrea is a terrible thing to imply.

Google aint god (although they may be godlike in their actions at times) and links were designed to be clean. For god(like?) sakes, the original PageRank algorithm that Google was built on, was based on the assumption of links being clean!

Let's go back to basics ASAP

To be fair to Jeremy,

he is pretty above-board about their usage:

  • I didn't hide the links. (Remember the WordPress fiasco?)
  • They're clearly labeled as sponsored links.
  • They're far less annoying than distracting graphical ads.
  • I've made it possible for anyone to comment on them. In public. Who else does that?
  • They don't show up in my RSS feed(s).
  • I rejected the on-line casino, drug sales, cheap hotels, and really offensive stuff--basically, anything the reminded me of blog comment spam I've bit hit with or that sends me to a sleazy feeling site. No need to encourage 'em.
  • The links aren't permanent. They go away after a month.

Maybe (pure speculation) his lack of "nofollow" underscores the point that advertisers are in the business of making money, not having to go to additional lengths to make it easier on engine algos. Google and Yahoo would be smart to listen. They need to understand what a teeny-tiny percentage of the blogging population even knows what the hell "nofollow" means and how anchor text and links affect serps.

Edit: Brad and Jason, sorry to piggyback on your ideas. I think we were typing at the same time.

Erik, no worries mate :)

Erik, no worries mate :)

Jeremey and/or Matt. Do you want to comment, we know you're lurking out there, reading this thread so what's your POV ? :D

>disagree >his lack of

>his lack of "nofollow" underscores the point that advertisers are in the business of making money, not having to go to additional

Again, I'll point out that I restricted the out-going links on highly ranked pages looooong before there was blog spam or even Google. I did this with a publisher's perspective NOT as a free-will advertiser. My intent has always been to sell traffic and that was all.

It's my site so i'll link to whoever I want...

and surely that's how it should be?

Jeremy runs a popular blog and I’m sure he spends a lot of his *own* time in the maintenance of it. If he can get some extra revenue from selling links (with or without nofollow) then fair play to the guy; I would too.

Jason is 100% correct in what he is saying, it's the fundamental right of any website owner to be able to do this without being penalized for it – if the SE algorithm is not clever enough to handle it that’s their problem IMHO.

Mr C, if you selling links

Mr C, if you selling links on your blog for the same amount as Jeremy Zawodny PM me anytime :) . I do not see the problem. You have a valuable peice of internet real estate then sell it for what you can get, even if there is the corresponding PR SERP boost implications. If these guys got cash to spend they deserve it just as Jeremy Zawodny does for having a popular blog.

Mr. Cutts links to Mr. Zawodny's blog on his site, so...

clearly he should lose his rankings according to Google's very own quality guidelines: 'In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.', as a site selling links is definitely not a good neighborhood. OK, I'm not fully serious, but still it makes you think...

Thou Shalt

Thou shalt not support spammy websites in any fashion

Thou shalt do what ever it takes to ethically make money through ones own website.

Thou shalt not have to worry about adding nofollow tags to links, it is the search engines jobs to adjust their algorithms. And for the most part, they are doing a good job at it. Any algorithm that relies on humans is inherently flawed.

Thou shalt not believe that one link from any one site is going to cause any major shifts in the "Google force". Gone are the days that Google needed to worry about a single site upsetting the balance of their link pop algorithm. Thus it should not be something that a link seller should worry about, If the advertiser is doing something wrong that is between them and Google. Please see first statement though. I do not support SE spam, it pisses me off when half of the leads we get these days are from people with scraper sites. There is nothing I hate more then doing a search and getting sucked into some adsense info site.

Not sure why I'm speaking in thou's today, but its kinda fun :)

Brilliant salvo

"SE Guy says links are advertising." Hehe.

IMHO, one of the cleverest moves in the SE wars I've seen in ages. Wonder if it was discussed with the powers at Y! first.

Thou Shalt....

only speak in Thou's in one blog post per day ;-)

As an advertiser on the *gasp* aforementioned site I look at it based on relevancy of the Ad and knowledge of how text links affect search rankings when considering whether no-follow is in order.

1) If you don't have a clue as to how links affect SE rankings, can you seriously be expected to go around no-following everything?
2) If you do know (obviously he does), then I would do it for the links that are obviously not closely related to the theme of the site. If I cared that is.

Some may see being selective as somewhat biased and judgemental based on the relevancy criteria. Another way is making a judgement call as the publisher... Do I really want (trust) to be held accountable for whatever this site is doing in regards to SEs? Unfortunately SEs may be putting this responsibility in the hands of publishers if they value their SE traffic.

Answer me this?

I have a new blog where I blah blah blah about marketing type stuff and make no money from it. Say I want to make an area to the side where I can sell "relevant" sponsored spots to make a few $'s a month to keep me blogging. Shouldn't I reward them for helping me with a link "without a condom" as Mr. Boser says? What the hell is wrong with that? What this tells me is that PR and relevant links are what powers the mothership, but I could be wrong...

As long as there is money in

As long as there is money in providing links for SEO, there will always be a market. 99% of webmasters are not going to say no if a very generous advertiser comes knocking on the door. I'm sure Google understands this, which is why they have link relevancy algorithms in place. Relying on webmasters when there is money involved would never work.

Google does however utilize its manual penalization powers when it is obvious that a "powerful" site is being unresponsible in its linking practices, or in the case where there is a large network that can/is being utilized for powering crappy sites.

I think Google has found a good balance on how to deal with the paid link issue. It's ok for some paid links to work for seo purposes but when it is overly abused steps need to be taken.

I dont think Google has any problems with a web design company advertising on a network of hosting sites with an anchor text that is relevant for what their site is about.

"I dont think Google has any

"I dont think Google has any problems with a web design company advertising on a network of hosting sites with an anchor text that is relevant for what their site is about".

That is incorrect.

Latest here

Latest here

Also unlucky 13 all around, Jeremy has 13 ads on the blog and he got rumbled today Dec 13, not that I am superstitious or anything :)

Thanks Max

... for keeping this on the hotseat ;-)

Seobuzzbox,Thanks for


Thanks for setting me straight :). I'm new to this whole linking thing, lol.

I'm sure Google does have "some" problem with it, but I doubt relevant linking to quality sites is high on their priorty list of things to fix, even if it is paid for.

Sorry Jeff, no hiding now.

Sorry Jeff, no hiding now. The way I see it now, the more links the better :)


That's if any *ahem* PR passes anymore.

Dang, I want to sell somethin' too

Ain't got no links though. Sheesh...

How about a pair of slightly used socks? Nah, probably not... Okay then, I've got it: Newspapers! I've got several brand new, never read ones. Paperboy brings new ones each morning.

Anybody wanna buy? For no extra cost you can print your company logo on every single page in a nice big font. It's true. They're in Danish, even, so I guess it qualifies as Danish Design as well...

Sometimes I get so f*ckin tired ...

Seems to be a lot of

Seems to be a lot of gloating on this thread about buying links - but it also sounds to me like kicking Google a little faster into using Clickstream. Google will have the last laugh on this, I promise you.

Matt Cutts...

Looks like Matt Cutts has commented again on buying links, again...

Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines.

in theory, it sounds nice, but...

Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines.

what happens to search engines that sell links on content they don't trust?

Greg Boser also made an update post

I think it is sad and pathetic that any search engine has to run around threatening site owners in order to get them to conform to their idea of what sites should or shouldn’t be trusted.

dunno, maybe they...

make truckloads of $$$.

what happens to search engines that sell links on content they don't trust?

The worst is: "Great stuff! I love it when spammers are busted and all their pals jump to their defence." (comment on Cutts' blog). Since when are you a spammer because you buy text links?


dear lord, they're talking about it now too?

Set your money on fire

Not exactly an under the radar link buy.

Not exactly an under the

Not exactly an under the radar link buy.

Nope, but to be honest I sorta regret that I didn't try to rent one.

I bet some of the advertisers get a few quality secondary links based on being involved in this story spreading through the web.

Not exactly an under the

Not exactly an under the radar link buy.

The fact that they werent under the radar is just another arguement for the legitamacy of it.

Its usually the spammers that hide their links.

Nuevo, you did nothing wrong, dont let anyone convince you of that. Google wants links to be a given to those who deserve them. Jeremy "voted" for your site by considering it quality enough to put in front of his audience, that says a lot to me. It would be a whole other story if he put your link along with a bunch of crap sites, at the very bottom of the page in 6 point font.

Danny & Tim Converse think good engines should detect ads

Tim Converse, of Yahoo! Search, recently chimed in on Jeremy's blog

A perfect search engine would be able to detect which links were true endorsements and which were purely sold, and adjust accordingly. But to the extent that imperfections exist, there's money to be made.

Danny also posted on the issue:

Google might prevent [Jeremy Zawodny's blog] from passing along link juice to others. Apparently, I'm told by others (not Google itself) that Google's done the same to Search Engine Watch because of our SEW Marketplace ads that we sell.

If so, Google's just stupid. If it can't figure out that we carry the same sponsored links in the same area and filter out that part, really -- they're dumb. They're even dumber if they have to wipe out the ability of an entire site to help influence its results in a good way. We link to many excellent things -- including things Google wants people to know about. Our links don't carry weight because Google's not smart enough? And Jeremy's site might not carry weight as well? Please.

Apparently, I'm told by

Apparently, I'm told by others (not Google itself) that Google's done the same to Search Engine Watch because of our SEW Marketplace ads that we sell.

Now that would be a real shame. Although I think most of us can appreciate Google's original concerns on the issue of paid links, paid links do not imply lack of quality.

If a company selling x services wants to help boost keyword rankings relating to x, then if that's what the links are based around, then the links are relevant to the target page.

Often, companies have to resort to some form of link advertising, not least because of issues Mike Grehan raised.

I really don't see why Google should determine that old .edu pages, which barely mention the same keywords, are going to be more relevant for a searcher on the topic - which seems to be a practice of late.

If Google is really concerned about the quality of links affecting its index, then IMO the best policy is to work with link brokers to ensure the links are relevant rather than mis-leading.

Unfortunately, though, I know they won't.

In the meantime, if Google want to continue devaluing sites for selling links, then it can only continue to devalue the Google user experience.



Nuevo, you did nothing wrong, dont let anyone convince you of that. Google wants links to be a given to those who deserve them. Jeremy "voted" for your site by considering it quality enough to put in front of his audience, that says a lot to me. It would be a whole other story if he put your link along with a bunch of crap sites, at the very bottom of the page in 6 point font.

I'm just jokin' around. I'm totally happy with the link buy. I just wish that our new design which is hours away from being released would have been up. Funny that I knew this link would stir a commotion but I had to snap it up when the opportunity came my way... so while I wanted to wait till we finished up, I didn't really have a choice!

Why is when I post on

Why is when I post on threadwatch sometimes and come back a couple of hours later there will be 10 other posts to the thread, in front of mine, that was not there before? So weird. I only posted the latest from Matt Cutts blog because no one else did and now I came back and the thread shows that maxd posted it 6 posts before me, what?

Matt says...

Matt says in his blog ...’s Jeremy’s site. Of course he can try any experiment he wants (YPN, AdSense, BlogAds, AdBrite, Chitika, Amazon affiliate program, selling links with nofollow, selling links without nofollow, offering flying lessons to the 10,000th visitor, selling pixels, auctioning lemurs, etc.) to make money. ... But if a web site does use a technique that can potentially cause issues, it’s understandable that search engines will pursue algorithmic and manual approaches to keep our quality high.

So, before JZ added the ads, his site was of quality, and now ... not?

It all falls apart for me right there. A banner ad is OK. But, turn that same ad, with the same placement, into a text link ad that often performs better in both click thru and ROI and it's naughty.

This is simply a case of some ads screwing up the algo, and some not. But G's stance is: Change the way the world works. Heck, I been running text link ads since the late 90's. IT'S ADVERTISING. IT WORKS. I guess presumably because the algo can't handle some parts of the world as well as other parts, however, we should not be allowed to operate normally.

But wait, we're not supposed to change how we operate, just because of the SE's, right? ;-)

Yeah, I know, some unscrupulous bastards buy TLA's just to rank better. Ummm, shouldn't that be the algo's problem to sort out?

Yeah, I know, some

Yeah, I know, some unscrupulous bastards buy TLA's just to rank better. Ummm, shouldn't that be the algo's problem to sort out?

The question I want answered is why it should matter if a link is bought or not. If a highly respectable website, or person such as Jeremy is willing to place a "sponsored link" in a very visible section of their site, then why shouldnt that be considered as a vote of confidence about the quality of the linked-to site?

In other words. If a site has built up trust in the search engines through age, tons of quality content, wise outbound linking practices, or whatever, then why not allow that site to provide links to their advertisers in order to help them rank better?

This is exactly how Yahoo's directory works, which is why Google likes those links. They are HUMAN EDITED. It shouldnt matter if a link is bought or not, it should matter that webmasters are not supporting crappy sites by linking to them, for whataver reason.

On the opposite side of the coin, if a site that is less trusted, lower quality, etc. etc. starts linking out to a bunch of low quality websites, then those links should carry less value, and they do for the most part.

Obviously there are some holes in Googles system where crappy spammasters can find pretty high powerful sites, or network of sites, to buy links on, but those holes are getting closed fairly quickly through trust based algo's

This is utterly fascinating...

I'm not kidding.

If I had written a post to ask "what do you think about sponsored links like those from BlogAds, Text Link Ads, etc?" it wouldn't have been nearly as informative and revealing.

I'll post an update in a day or two--I'm supposed to be at a conference most of tomorrow (err, today... crap. It's after midnight already!).

unscrupulous bastards

Jarrod, jus' so's ya know, i was kidding about the unscrupulous bastards part. ;-)

JZ, guess it prolly has to do with the fact that G seems to want to treat ALL text link ads (generic/lower case) the way they treat Text Link Ads (company/Upper Case), etc.

I understand why G has a problem with TLA and the like. We all know that most of those ads are just itty bitty tla's bot for PR and ranking purposes. OK fine. On the bases of sorting by intent, I guess that's cheating. ;-)

The problem is that there are also high profile text link ads bot way above the fold, as much for traffic as anything, and for the same reasons that people buy tla's on Google. THEY WORK.

If you go out and talk to consumers and do the research correctly (to remove biases), they'll tell you that they hate advertising. In the same breath, they'll also tell you that they trust companies that advertise far more than companies that don't. This will be no surprise to students of adverting, nor will it be a surprise to students of PPC, since one manifestation of the "I trust companies that advertise" dynamic is the well known fact that sites appearing in the organic SERP's adjacent to their own ads get higher click thru's. The text link ads next to the organic listing for a given site elevates the site's standing/status in consumers' eyes.

Which is why G should figure ads into their algo's. Ads are part of the real world and they do get factored into everything we think and do; and more importantly their presence can be taken as a signal of quality. :o Consumers know this, and G knows this.

Seems to me that there are at least four levels of options WRT how ads are treated in logos:

1) Exclude all ads from the algo (this would at least be logical and consistent, but almost certainly impossible, at least in the short to mid term, given advertorial formats, etc).

2) Exclude only text link ads from the algo (this is stupid because it ignores the presence of banner ads, which are just another form of advertising; if one goes they should all go).

3) Exclude only manipulative text link ads from the algo (if G really cares about quality and helping consumers, this might make sense; the problem is that they can't figure out how to do it, thus, nofollow is born).

4) Exclude no ads from the algo (you know, like the real world operates). ;-)


?When I look at this all I see is hypocrisy.

Mr. Zawodny's blog still ranks on the first page in google for many many keywords...

So is it professional courtesy that Mr. Zawodny's blog did not get penalized in google?

Or is all this talk about google detecting and penalizing paid links a bunch of bull???


Tons of valuable sites sell text links. Google is not going to nuke their rankings for that. They may nuke the ability to pass PR, the effectiveness of the text link ads, etc... but in most cases not the publisher's site... unless they are linking to crap perhaps.

Don't waste you time.

Matt has stated that the links are only devalued, calm down and get back to work! ;)

thug stuff

You make money our way or not at all.


If they were actually doing a good job of analyzing, downgrading paid links there would be no need for threats but I'm sure whitehat, sandboxed weenies will be making sure they comply. Hopefully they'll also be sending in "paid link reports"... whats the email for that?

Get back to work?What if

Get back to work?

What if Links ARE your work? ;=)

Brads got it right

You cant help but think Google's objection to TLA's is based on the fact that they want the advertising dollars through Adwords/ Adsense. In any other market it would be considered an abuse of market and they'd be investigated for racketeering.

Duncan, As much as I hate


As much as I hate being a conspiracy theorist, I really think there is truth hidden deep down somewhere within that theory.

Standard PPC ads can not compete with Links that get both Traffic and Link Popularity.

It would suprize me if Google actually had some sort of corporate initative though, but I wouldnt doubt there are a few execs that think about that.

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