The following is a Guest Post from Everett Sizemore.
The ethics of paid links aside (we all know how Michael Gray feels about that already) the best paid links don’t usually come from a network or broker, and aren’t generally thought of as ‘paid links’ in the first place – though they are. In fact, they don’t even come from someone who knows what a nofollow tag is, or why selling links is against Google’s guidelines. And regardless of the fact that they are paid, Google doesn’t seem to mind them so long as they are on-topic and coming from a reputable website. As the title suggests, this “link buy” comes in the form of sponsoring an event or website. The trick is to find sponsorship opportunities that are in your corner of the web (read: on-topic).
As always with link building, be on the look out for redirects, nofollow tags, etcetera… But you’d be surprised at how few PR7 and PR8 web pages out there list links to sponsors using normal hrefs.
I’m sure by now you get the point. Try switching “sponsor” with “advertise” and see if the site has advertising that doesn’t use redirects, tracking links or nofollow tags. You might be thinking that it is easy for Google to see if the word “sponsor” or “advertise” is in the URL, Title or even somewhere on the page – and you would be correct. However, I have not found this to have a negative effect on the quality of that link so long as it is on-topic and the link involves two reputable sites. I’ve studied competitor’s incoming links enough to know that some of them are competitive in the SERPS for certain keywords largely because of a few well-placed sponsorship logo-links with good Alt text pointing to the right page.