"we consider it outside our guidelines to get PageRank via buying links"
and explaining how it applies:
Therefore, imho, I don't see it as a vote. Bottomline, it's really a paid link.
Exactly, and furthermore affiliate relationships are "action" or commission based, as specifically spelled out in affiliate agreements, which are contracts which are agreed to both parties, and which stipulate exactly what's expected from each.
You want to pay by sale? You want to pay per lead? You want to pay for each click or referral? Fine, call it one of those, specify what's being paid for, and have both parties involved agree to those as the terms.
You want a boost for backlinks, Pagerank and anchor text? Call it what it actually is, specify in an agreement exactly what's being paid for, and mutually agree to that as the terms.
Is there a way to reap link popularity or PR benefits for the merchant?
It's called buying links. No free lunches.
The only caveat is that any search engine can, at any time they choose, intervene on their own behalf and either not count the links - or penalize or ban - at their sole discretion.
Common sense isn't good enough? Try ethics and honesty in business relationships. Is that better, is that good enough?
[edited by: Marcia at 7:37 am (utc) on Dec. 11, 2006]