Google: When Buying Links Use rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored

Buying backlinks is against the Google Webmaster Guidelines. As such, you should use rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored SEO Signals, such as PageRank from being passed.

Google’s John Mueller said on Saturday that if you buy a link to your site, “it should be with a rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored attribute” so that the link passes no SEO signals, such as PageRank.

Mueller was responding to the Twitter user “fahar ps,” who wanted to know how Google sees a link bought “from a website that has great traffic, great DA, and all other metrics?”

The implication of the question is clear; “fahar” is asking whether Google will count the link for PageRank purposes.

Mueller responded with advice in line with the Webmaster Guidelines; namely that a bought link should not pass any SEO signals by using the rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored link attributes.

Despite not passing PageRank, Mueller suggested that these types of links “can still be good for your site because it brings good visitors, who might convert on your site, or who might recommend it later.”

You can view the full conversation below:

Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines provide information about the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior.

One section of these guidelines is dedicated to link schemes. Any links that you acquire with the intent of manipulating search rankings or PageRank is part of a link scheme.

One relevant example of a link scheme covers the purchasing of links:

“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.”

Preventing PageRank from passing

In September this year, Google introduced the rel=sponsored attribute, which can be used to identify links on your site that are created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

When introducing the new rel=sponsored attribute, Danny Sullivan and Gary Illyes, said that “If you want to avoid a possible link scheme action, use rel= “sponsored” or rel= “nofollow” to flag these links.”

They continued, “We prefer the use of “sponsored,” but either is fine and will be treated the same, for this purpose.”

Jonathan Griffin. Editor @ The Webmaster

Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.

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