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Linkstar, pagerank peddlers?

I was contacted by a company called Linkstar (link-star.co.uk). They wanted to place text ads on my site, for a reasonable sum of money. Fair enough, but I researched them and found some discouraging information.

Apparently, Linkstar does not place a "nofollow" attribute on their links — and I, as a publisher, would be signing an agreement not to modify their HTML code in any way.

The "nofollow" attribute is used by search engines, such as Google, to distinguish between paid and non-paid links. The search engines judge the relevance of a page in various contexts by studying the links that point to it. For this reason, it is possible to improve the ranking of a web page by introducing links to it into other (good) pages. Such manipulation is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and is lucrative because everybody wants their own pages to be considered relevant, and thus end up high on the results pages of the large search engines. To counter such manipulation, search engines also rank every page along a one-dimensional good–bad scale. A page is considered bad if, among other things, it contains paid links that haven't been marked as such. Of course, search engine companies have a hard time automating the enforcement of this rule, so it's possible to get away with it, but at the risk of suddenly dropping out of the results pages of search engines all over the world.

When confronted with this, Linkstar informed me that indeed, their links would not include the "nofollow" attribute. They gave me a semi-plausible explanation, involving technical limits of their ad tracking system.

I politely declined their offer, and would recommend others to do the same. I don't know whether Linkstar is a legitimate advertising agency, as claimed, or the back end of a search engine optimization company. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt as for their intentions, but will not risk my own pagerank.

Posted Wednesday 5-May-2010 20:09

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Anonymous
Wed 26-May-2010 14:49
The owner of a website I look after was recently contacted by them. There were several odd things about the approach offering $200/year for a simple text link and some accompanying text on a particular page. Firstly why would a supposedly UK based company be quoting rates to another UK entity in US dollars (ok I guess they deal with people all over the world so it may make sense to have). More significantly, why would anyone offer that much without even knowing how many visitors the page recieves, obviously they are only really interested in the search engines picking up the link.

Despite my reservations the site owner did pursue it further and recieved the details of the proposed ad and supposed client. The link was to a US based company, which makes no sense for a targeted ad on a UK website, especially one which is specifically targeted at a fairly small local area. In addition the proposed extra paragraph of text to go with the text link had at best a tenuous relevance, and came with a disclaimer that it had been translated from chinese (which showed) and might want ammending slightly. Initial investigation of the site gave no great cause for concern, except it's obvious lack of relevance to users of our site, confirming that it was only really intersted in boosting search engine rankings. Closer inspection however showed that Adblock plus had blocked two items for atdmt, clearly it is this malware that they are actually trying to spread.
I have no idea if the supposed client is aware that their site is being promoted and used in this way.They may be fully aware and complicit, or more likely they have been hacked or may unwittingly just think they have signed up for a site promotion scheme.
Needless to say I have informed my client that I will not even consider allowing this ad to be placed on his website.
Anonymous
Mon 26-Jul-2010 17:26
Interesting. I've been using Adbrite (because Google Adsense does not work on https pages), but I never thought about nofollow attributes. I just checked, and they don't place rel="nofollow" attributes on their links either.

However, I'm not sure that's relevant in this case, since Adbrite ads are included dynamically on the client side, so a search engine bot never sees them. Is that not also the case with Linkstar, or do they want you to insert ads server-side?
lft
Linus Åkesson
Thu 29-Jul-2010 09:09
... Adbrite ads are included dynamically on the client side, so a search engine bot never sees them. Is that not also the case with Linkstar, or do they want you to insert ads server-side?

They want you to insert ads server-side.
Anonymous
Sat 21-Jan-2012 03:27
There are several companies that indeed try to buy PageRank. They want "text links" that don't use 'nofollow'. The payment is indeed around 100-200 USD/year, or a one time payment (!) of a similar amount. Simply don't do it since Google seems to frown (justly) on sites that sell PageRank.

John Bokma (visited your blog because of the "Computing with the command line" article via HaD. Will read later, looks interesting)