homepage Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.166.111.111
register, free tools, login, search, pro membership, help, library, announcements, recent posts, open posts,
Become a Pro Member

Home / Forums Index / Google / Google SEO News and Discussion
Forum Library, Charter, Moderators: Robert Charlton & aakk9999 & brotherhood of lan & goodroi

Google SEO News and Discussion Forum

    
Is offering a discount to gain a link the same as buying?
flanok




msg:4566336
 1:21 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

In the UK, there is a practice that gains high page rank and high domain authority links by offering a discount on their services to students.

Most UK .gov official university website have a page which publishes discounts on products and services to students, including a very valuable link to the suppliers website.

So the question is--.

Is offering a discount on products and services in return for a link the same as buying one and therefore is against Google's terms and conditions?

This was brought to my attention when looking at the linking profiles of my competitors and found, every website in my niche on the first page for a certain search term, had links from university sites, even though the service (finance related) was unlikely ever to be used or even possible for a student to use that service.

Even if you could argue an occasional student could use the service, I would still question whether any website service should gain on their SERPS, because of offering discounts anywhere.
These links are all gathered together on a links page, rather than any added high quality content.

I suppose the obvious solution would be to copy what they are doing, but in my case I don't supply the service, I just write about it, so no discounts from me.

The webmasters or students who administer these pages, probably have little or no knowledge of the benefits given to these websites, or for that matter no interest. A well written email and an offer of a discount is all that is needed.

It would be good to know Google's opinion on this matter.
Buying links is wrong, but offering a discount in return for a link is acceptable, or do they agree with my opinion, that anything that relates to money changing hands in return for a link, is against rules and I suppose that includes good directories too (unless nofollow)?

 

tedster




msg:4566349
 1:55 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Remember the Overstock.com penalty back in 2011? A large part of the publicity around that seemed to be about links they asked students to place on their .edu sites to help publicize Overstock discounts. No direct payment for links there.

ColourOfSpring




msg:4566387
 3:00 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think Google wouldn't care how you pay for your links - in cash or in discounts or in favours or for offering a "quality article" - the link is still unnatural (not earned naturally).

flanok




msg:4566393
 3:19 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I wasn't aware of the overstock.com issue.
This issue is not students adding things to their blogs etc, but main pages within the university website that the site administrator would have to add.
But we are talking about pages on sites with a DA of 80, with the actual page range of the links page being PR5.

A a dozen of these, and nothing else needs to be done, you are ranking high.

tedster




msg:4566434
 6:07 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think ColourOfSpring has the right idea - Google wouldn't care how you "pay for" links. If they're not naturally given, then they could be suspect. However, many sites do acquire links through various types of favors and still thrive, because after all it's not easy to detect the many possible scenarios. Things also get pretty fuzzy, trying to find a definite line here.

topr8




msg:4566436
 6:15 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

>>the link is still unnatural (not earned naturally).

i disagree, if you offer a discount for some reason and sites link to you highlighting that, then that is entirely natural.

frankleeceo




msg:4566437
 6:33 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

It has to be some kind of statistical model. If you run promotions and somehow you gain significantly more links than other sites that run similar promotions. Your site gets red flagged...?

Kinda like IRS audit I shall say. Not many gets flagged at all for all the questionable things, but once you do and get put into a microscope...be aware

brotherhood of LAN




msg:4566438
 6:34 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Sounds all fair and square to me.

You're not even really 'asking' for the link, simply notifying the site that you offer a discount.

tedster




msg:4566439
 6:48 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

if you offer a discount for some reason and sites link to you highlighting that, then that is entirely natural

However, in the Overstock.com case, the company actively requested return links from university web pages. I can't say for certain, but that action may have crossed some thin line in Google's view.

<added>
I agree that it doesn't sound very egregious, and there was some buzz back then that other link building actions were also part of the total picture.

ZydoSEO




msg:4566444
 7:02 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is no different IMO than your company offering a scholarship to college students majoring in a field related to your business and having a government education-related site decide to link to your scholarship page on their student scholarship resources page.

You're getting the link from the government site. The government site is in no way benefiting from that scholarship (or in your case, from the discount).

Personally, I see nothing wrong with what you've described so long as the site where the link is placed (or any other site/business they own) is not receiving payment, favors, etc in return. If this were an issue, then every coupon site and mom's "saving" site on the web that posts links to deals they have found would be in hot water.

ColourOfSpring




msg:4566448
 7:13 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

i disagree, if you offer a discount for some reason and sites link to you highlighting that, then that is entirely natural.


I agree with you if they link purely out of their own volition stating something like "hey, great deal over at widget.com, check it out". However, the OP (flanok) did say:-

Is offering a discount on products and services in return for a link the same as buying one and therefore is against Google's terms and conditions?


(my emphasis). It sounds like a conditional or strongly suggested thing. This is unnatural - the discount is purely there to get a link in return.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4566450
 7:25 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is offering a discount on products and services in return for a link the same as buying one and therefore is against Google's terms and conditions?

Yes, and I don't see how there can be much argument about Google's position on the question.

Any links intended to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site.

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

[support.google.com...]

flanok




msg:4566578
 11:36 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Just to clarify

These are not links offering univeristy offers.

These are 3rd party businesses, that contact universities stating if a student were to buy from them, they would offer a discount.

I dont have an issue with these links being placed as a marketing tool (ie nofollow), I do have an issue that it affects serps and all top placements, for my chosen search term has at least one university link.

In fact I may have understood and accepted, book sellers or rail cards etc, that are traditionaly associated with students.

But I know, the links have been sourced by the 3rd party companies, only to gain high quality links and in most cases are not based anywhere near each of these universities.

The universities, are not visiting these 3rd party websites an making their own decision to link, because of any high quality relevant content. They are making their linking decision only by the discount being offered to the students.

JesterMagic




msg:4566683
 8:32 pm on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I watched a Matt Cutts video a while back (I couldn't find it now of course) which said that offering a discount on products and services in return for a link is the same as buying one.

Of course your competitors could of just offered the discount and not actually requested a link.

lucy24




msg:4566735
 11:48 pm on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Cut to the chase:

How does the search engine know that you picked up the phone, called the prestigious .edu site and said Psst! I give student discounts -- as opposed to just cropping up on a list generated by a work-study student assigned to call every business in town and ask if they give student discounts?

:: pondering the fact that probably every software vendor in the world offers academic pricing ::

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4566739
 12:13 am on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

How does the search engine know that you picked up the phone, called the prestigious .edu site and said Psst! I give student discounts -- as opposed to just cropping up on a list generated by a work-study student assigned to call every business in town and ask if they give student discounts?

They obviously can't "know know" you called and offered a discount, but they don't really need to know "exactly what the manipulation to get the addition was" for it to look manipulative.

When you crop up on a list generated by a work-study student who calls every business, there would likely be a larger "churn" or addition made to the page(s) with the links than a single link being added after a phone call.

One addition on a University site from a phone call offering them/students a discount would likely not be algorithmically detectable, but the link being added to a number of different University's sites without a "triggering event" (like a highly prominent news story) other additions (or churn of links) on their pages seems like it would be fairly easy to detect as "manipulation" of some kind.

Student gets a list and calls a bunch of businesses and yours happens to be one that gets added to the page. The page and linked sites likely change quite a bit on the day(s) the calls are made or when it's updated, meaning there's more than a single link different between the before and after version of the page. (This one would likely appear natural, imo. Website page was updated. It happens.)

Business calls 30 Universities and get's 25 links out of the deal and nothing else changes on the pages containing the link or there are some limited changes to some of the pages and it's the only change on 18 of them. (This would likely appear manipulative, imo. 25 additions of one site by Universities when the site's never been linked from one before and it's not "gaining links all over the place" from a news mention or some other "link triggering event"? Just doesn't seem like it would happen naturally, to me anyway.)

diberry




msg:4566783
 6:27 am on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Would Google consider it an unnatural link? Probably, if they detected it, and especially if it's not really relevant to your site. Which it sounds like this would not be, based on what you've said.

Would Google succeed in detecting it? That's a much harder question. The algo can't guess right every time, so you have to try to guess what factors it's looking at. Which is why I brought up relevancy. I'm surprised Google hasn't already devalued or penalized these links, since it sounds like there's a relevancy issue. But it sounds like their "trust" in an edu domain may be trumping their concern about relevancy. So you may be perfectly safe to do what your competitors are doing, but unfortunately there's only one way to find out.

netmeg




msg:4566799
 1:16 pm on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I suspect the links get an initial pass just because of the source, but once it sets off a pattern that is discernible by Google, they get whacked. Google certainly trusts .edu domains - but not as much as they used to because people figured that out.

Global Options:
 top home search open messages active posts  
 

Home / Forums Index / Google / Google SEO News and Discussion
rss feed

All trademarks and copyrights held by respective owners. Member comments are owned by the poster.
Home ¦ Free Tools ¦ Terms of Service ¦ Privacy Policy ¦ Report Problem ¦ About ¦ Library ¦ Newsletter
WebmasterWorld is a Developer Shed Community owned by Jim Boykin.
© Webmaster World 1996-2014 all rights reserved