In the past I have sometimes thought twice about writing reviews of products on blogs in case Google thought they were paid reviews. A couple of posts from Matt Cutts have got me thinking about where to draw the line.
Take a look at this post and this post, both are promoting products and link to them with some nice anchor text. If the writer wasn’t Matt and the seller wasn’t Amazon then I would be convinced it was a paid review. Pretty cynical I know but if I had written these on Blogstorm I would probably have felt the need to either nofollow the links or write a disclaimer that they were not paid reviews!
My point is that this review was exactly the same as a paid review, even though it wasn’t paid. So to turn things around it seems that I could write a paid review in the same manner and just not disclose that it was paid.
This would be against the Google Guidelines but how would anybody know? Is the review any less trustworthy if money has changed hands?
My view is that trust should flow through links whether they are paid or not – the trust should be based on the trust of the domain giving the link. If The Times starts selling links you can bet they are good ones and should pass trust to the target site. Note that I say “trust”, not anchor text.
If Google started ignoring anchor text from paid links but still let trusted sites pass their trust to other sites that might be a good solution to the paid links problem.