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  1. #1
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    WordPress Themes, Paid Links and Google Penalties
    How would you like to get penalized by Google (or any engine) for having paid links on your blog, when you didn't sell any links and didn't get paid any money for them being there? Sound like a good deal to you, something you'd enjoy?

    Google penalizing paid links

    There are a lot of great themes out there, but unfortunately caution has to be use in selecting and using them. There are still many around out there with "unrelated" links at the bottom that are NOT for giving design credit to the developer (which is only fair if they require it), that have absolutely no legitimate reason for being there. They're only there to promote either a site belonging to the one "giving away" the "free" theme (that they're exploiting and endangering you to promote), or a site they sold links to.

    WordPress takes a stand against sponsored themes

    Even after all the fuss about Google penalizing sites for paid links and the official WordPress site forbidding "sponsored themes" because they themselves got hit hard, it's still going on and people still fall for it.

    Is a web host offering "free themes" and when you look there are links to businesses on the bottom? RUN!!

    What about paid links is "free", except that YOU didn't get paid anything? Besides, unless it's being disclosed openly and up front, you may be walking into a situation where sites might be cloaked by a host from the root server level. Think it hasn't ever happened? Think again.

    How about the possibility of hidden links being imbedded in a theme? That's also been happening, and the best advice I've seen out there is to carefully select your theme from those at the official WordPress site, or directly from the site of a reputable, trustworthy developer of themes.

    More on sponsored links

  2. #2
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    Detecting hidden links:

    One of the ways to detect when there are hidden links, like links in dark color hidden on a dark background, is to hit Control and A on Windows to select all the text.

    I just saw one with 4 hidden paid links at the bottom.

  3. #3
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Another area this is becoming prevalent in is widgets/gadgets for blogs--those things that say how you came out on a "personality test" are an example.

    Viewing source is another way to detect hidden links or bad scripts. A person doesn't have to be able to make a theme themselves, in order to check if all the links that are in the source code are also visible when they look at the screen in the normal way.

    I don't like it when I see people trying to trick others into being part of things they had no intention of touching. If someone wants to accept the risk of SE wrath themselves, fine, and I'll defend their right to do it. But when they try to misdirect the penalty risk onto others, that's a different story.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    Another area this is becoming prevalent in is widgets/gadgets for blogs--those things that say how you came out on a "personality test" are an example.
    Good point, never thought of that.

    I don't like it when I see people trying to trick others into being part of things they had no intention of touching. If someone wants to accept the risk of SE wrath themselves, fine, and I'll defend their right to do it. But when they try to misdirect the penalty risk onto others, that's a different story.
    Exactly - that's either a person knowing what they're doing and taking responsibility for their own actions or being victimized by unscrupulous people making merchandise of them and taking advantage of their trust. Covering up with paid (aka sponsored) links with an offer of "free" themes is putting other people at risk, and without open disclosure is making them into innocent victims of deception.

    If links are paid for and themes are "sponsored", it should be plainly and visibly stated that they are; otherwise, the party offering them isn't being honest, and isn't trustworthy in any way.

  5. #5
    Full Member felit0's Avatar
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    Marcia,

    You have the wrong idea regarding sponsored wordpress themes. Don't believe everything Matt Mullenweg tells you blindly without finding out the facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcia
    There are still many around out there with "unrelated" links at the bottom that are NOT for giving design credit to the developer (which is only fair if they require it), that have absolutely no legitimate reason for being there.
    In response to this statement: The artists who create the free wordpress themes wanted a way to monetize their work. Why work hours on developing a wordpress theme and not get a dime out of it? So they began selling sponsorship links at the bottom of their themes, and then distributing the themes for free. This created a marketplace for artists to get paid for their designs without having to charge the end user for it.

    I find very hypocritical that WebLogToolsColletion -dot- com which you linked above is a blog containing paid text links on the footer, not to mention numerous banners, etc... If Google penalizes paid links so bad, why is WebLogToolsCollection doing it themselves?

    If you want to use a free wordpress theme for your blog, you must be willing to accept the sponsorship links at its footer. Just like you would accept any free promotional items in the real world with a company's logo on it (calculators, pens, baseball caps, t-shirts, you get the idea).

    I agree that "hidden' links are unethical, but "sponsored by" visible links are perfectly acceptable and fair.

    By the way the Mullenweg post you linked is a year old. That is ancient in internet terms. The sponsored wordpress theme scene has turned into a whole economy of its own since then.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by felit0
    You have the wrong idea regarding sponsored wordpress themes.
    Don't believe everything Matt Mullenweg tells you blindly without finding out the facts.
    No, that is absolutely the right idea about Wordpress themes. You don't like what Mullenweg said and you want the facts?
    How about what Matt Cutts has to say about paid links then?

    The artists who create the free wordpress themes wanted a way to monetize their work.
    There are plenty of places to sell their themes legitimately, fair and square and without deception
    and putting people at risk without them realizing it.

    Why work hours on developing a wordpress theme and not get a dime out of it?
    Agreed, instead of wasting their time pursuing their little hobby they should spend their time out looking for a j*b and
    w*rk for a living. Or maybe try their hand affiliate marketing in their spare time off from w*rking their j*b.

    If Google penalizes paid links so bad, why is WebLogToolsCollection doing it themselves?
    How do you know they're passing PageRank?

    If you want to use a free wordpress theme for your blog, you must be willing to accept the sponsorship links at its footer.
    Absolutely NOT! That is pure, unadulterated horsehockey.

    Only if I'm either naive or a fool, when there are 1,619 perfectly good themes available for free at the Wordpress site,
    with no strings but to link back to the designer legitimately according to the license. In fact, they have a place to report a problem
    right on their site:

    If you’ve found a problem with a theme here on themes.wordpress.net, please let us know below.

    Type of problem:

    Spam links or sponsored theme
    That's a lot of themes,why should anyone risk links that violate guidelines and risk penalties (or not being able to pass PR),
    so that a third party can get paid for selling the links on their sites?

    I agree that "hidden' links are unethical, but "sponsored by" visible links are perfectly acceptable and fair.
    Not to Google, they're not at all acceptable and never will be, and they certainly aren't fair to the end users.
    And if Yahoo catches link spam there's no forgiveness or coming back - it's all over.

    By the way the Mullenweg post you linked is a year old. That is ancient in internet terms.
    The sponsored wordpress theme scene has turned into a whole economy of its own since then.
    If you want something more recent about paid links, here's what Dave Naylor has to say about
    paid links in March, 2008. as reported at the SEW blog:

    http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/080327-075716
    .
    Mind you, I don't like blogging. I like the interactivity of a forum community and don't want to be bothered with comments. But I know who to listen to and who to write off.
    Last edited by webworker; April 1st, 2008 at 05:51 AM.

  7. #7
    Full Member felit0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    No, that is absolutely the right idea about Wordpress themes. You don't like what Mullenweg said and you want the facts?
    How about what Matt Cutts has to say about paid links then?
    Of course Matt Cutts is against paid links, he works for the mighty G**gle where they believe paid links are bad UNLESS THEY'RE GETTING A PIECE OF THE PIE via Adsense. G doesn't like the fact that their algorithm can be manipulated with links. And all that talk about them penalizing you is non-sense, I can list hundreds of sites displaying paid links which are holding up darn good pagerank and SERP ranking. As long as you don't litter the page with dozens of them, you will not lose PR juice or SERP.

    Keep believing the mighty G and their scare tactics, more for the rest who know how to work it.

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador writerguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by felit0
    As long as you don't litter the page with dozens of them, you will not lose PR juice or SERP.

    Keep believing the mighty G and their scare tactics, more for the rest who know how to work it.
    Not exactly true. I have two blogs on which I do PayPerPost. A few months after I started, they literally overnight went to 0 PR -- along with thousands of others doing PayPerPost.
    Generate more fake news.

  9. #9
    Full Member felit0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    Agreed, instead of wasting their time pursuing their little hobby they should spend their time out looking for a j*b and w*rk for a living.
    It's not a "little hobby" for them, most of the designers are legitimate web designers who have found another source of incom designing themes. Who are you to determine what is real w*rk or a j*b? This statement goes against the principles of affiliate marketing. Most affiliate marketers are looking to leave their everyday j*bs to make a living online. What you call "deceiving" I call "creative". They are not harming anyone, there is no penalty for having 2-3 outbound links in the footer of your blog.

  10. #10
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    Gotta give ya credit felit0. If I were in your place I wouldn't have had the cojones to post in this thread.

  11. #11
    Full Member felit0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcia
    Gotta give ya credit felit0. If I were in your place I wouldn't have had the cojones to post in this thread.
    Thank you, I hope you didnt take my comments in a negative way. I just thought I'd weigh in on a topic I'm familiar with. There's always different points of view regarding these subjects, and through discussions like these we all become more knowledgeable internet entrepeneurs

  12. #12
    Best New ABW Member 2007 sfcom's Avatar
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    So, this is kind of like the "free" business cards with the printing company name on the back. If you want them to be free then you have to help the company who made them in some way.

    I have a site that uses one of these sponsored templates. Actually, it is a site that I use PPC in order to drive traffic to so it doesn't really matter that much to me if it rises in the organics or not. Now just to be cautious, if this were a site I was trying to organically grow, I would not use a free template...or at least not a free one with the sponsored links you mentioned.

    I don't believe that there is anything wrong with a designer trying to get something in return for their work. The problem lies with the hidden links and lack of full disclosure about those. Seems like a few bad apples are trying to ruin the barrel.

    -sfcom


  13. #13
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    Reminds me of the "FURL" mod that was put out by an individual as a mod for your IPB forum. The mod was very useful in that it rewrote ugly forum URL's into something more pleasing where the subject was used in place. Many people installed this free mod not knowing that there were some hidden affiliate links in the code. Again, it was a matter of not disclosing this information that fueled the issue.

  14. #14
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    I hope you didnt take my comments in a negative way.
    No, the comments are not taken in a negative way, but in no way are there no negative connotations with regard to the motivation for making them.

    I just thought I'd weigh in on a topic I'm familiar with.
    Understood felit0, and also quite understandable that you'd be anxious to defend the very model and practices that this thread was intended to warn people to stay away from - and then some.

    This thread was intended to be helpful, as a warning to those who come along who might not be aware of the extremely important issues involved, and to serve as a warning in generalities.

    Unfortunately, however, your defense of the practices pointed out in this very thread, with your sig site being a perfect illustration of the model and practices being discussed, is quite frankly making it very difficult to keep it to generalities, since you're placing yourself - and the site you're trying to defend and promote here - right smack in the middle of it.

    I don't think it's fair to anyone to turn this into a discussion of your site, since the thread wasn't intended to be about any specific site, or about you and your site - even though it so perfectly shows what to watch out for and avoid.

    1) You didn't pay for advertising to promote your site, and therefore it wouldn't be fair, no matter how much you're trying to get air time and eyeballs, to give it to you.

    2) If you want the truth and feel you have a valid justification for offering themes with 4 sponsored links each on bottom (and no credit or backlinks to the artists), without disclosure, then I'd suggest that you start a thread in the "Review my site" forum and I can promise that you'll get a complete and honest evaluation, whether you like it or not.

    [Note: With all due respect, I wouldn't dream of mentioning that it could look like certain people are trolling for business, but to be perfectly honest, I have to admit that it did cross my mind.]

  15. #15
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    "Of course Matt Cutts is against paid links, he works for the mighty G**gle where they believe paid links are bad UNLESS THEY'RE GETTING A PIECE OF THE PIE via Adsense."

    Not following that one. Adsense is not the type of paid links Google was talking about/against.

  16. #16
    Full Member felit0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcia
    2) If you want the truth and feel you have a valid justification for offering themes with 4 sponsored links each on bottom (and no credit or backlinks to the artists), without disclosure, then I'd suggest that you start a thread in the "Review my site" forum and I can promise that you'll get a complete and honest evaluation, whether you like it or not.

    [Note: With all due respect, I wouldn't dream of mentioning that it could look like certain people are trolling for business, but to be perfectly honest, I have to admit that it did cross my mind.]
    1. I'm not trying to drum up business with my sig on this thread, there is no business to be made from my themes site here on abw. It is solely there for backlinks.

    2. I don't need a site review or justification for anything regarding my site(s). My response to this thread was to explain how the business of sponsoring WP themes works. How it benefits designers and sponsors alike, and how the myths of G penalties are overblown.

    You definitely got the wrong impression if you think I'm trolling. I've been a member of this forum since 2002, if I was planning on trolling I wouldn't have waited 6 years and would have amassed much more than my measley 232 posts in those 6 years...

  17. #17
    Full Member felit0's Avatar
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    Trust: What I meant was that according to G**gle it's ok to have outgoing links on your blog if they are involved (G**gle adsense are outgoing links after all), but if you try to sell the links on your own without G**gle's involvement it's not ok?

  18. #18
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    Those links are completely different. One passes PR and juice and people were paying for those type of links to help them in the SERPS, the other (Adsense) doesn't. Adsense aren't paid links in the context of what they were having a problem with and not like the Wordpress links talked about in this thread.

    "(G**gle adsense are outgoing links after all), "

    Outgoing links but not outgoing links that pass PR, help in the SERPS. I've actually seen people think that.

  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador Daniel M. Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by felit0
    The artists who create the free wordpress themes wanted a way to monetize their work.
    Then they're not FREE are they? The theme designers may not be charging money up front, but they're taking money away from the site owner regardless - so it's not free.
    Why work hours on developing a wordpress theme and not get a dime out of it?
    Nobody said they had to. Is there someone holding a gun to these peoples' heads? For that matter, why not be honest and just charge up front? Oh, I know - it's because there's more money to be made in the long run by requiring an affiliate link and taking advantage of the site owner that way.
    So they began selling sponsorship links at the bottom of their themes, and then distributing the themes for free.
    Again: they're not free. You should really stop abusing the English language.

    People can choose to use these so-called "free" templates or not - but at least be honest about what's really happening. People who want to advertise a free product or service should not be requiring - or hiding - links that generate revenue for them. It's dishonest.

    And incidentally - just because it's in a license doesn't make it legal. You could put a clause in your theme license that says you get my firstborn child, but I think we all know how that particular challenge would work out in court.
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  20. #20
    Full Member felit0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HecticDMC
    Oh, I know - it's because there's more money to be made in the long run by requiring an affiliate link and taking advantage of the site owner that way.
    They are not affiliate links, they are plain html links back to the sponsor's site with no affiliate ID's or commisions to be made.

    Quote Originally Posted by HecticDMC
    Again: they're not free. You should really stop abusing the English language.
    If you get a free t-shirt at a ball game with Budweiser's logo on it, is it no longer free because it has an advertisement on it? I do not appreciate the comment about me abusing the English language, if you want to join the discussion feel free to voice your opinion regarding the topic, but don't take any personal shots at me just because you disagree with my point of view.

  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador Daniel M. Clark's Avatar
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    That's not nearly the same thing. A single credit link in the footer - Theme by XYZ - is one thing (and is analogous to your Bud example), but this thread has been talking about themes that have hidden links and affiliate links that are required by the license to remain in the theme. Nobody has a problem - I hope - with a simple credit link.

    But that's not what you're talking about anyway. You specifically made a point of going into how these "free" themes are being monetized. You're not talking about a single, non-affiliate, non-monetized credit link, are you?

    As for the language comment, if we can nail down exactly what you mean by "free" then maybe the comment can be proven either valid or invalid. Until then... it was mainly a funny/snarky way of making my point, but the way you honed in on it rather than respond to the points I was trying to make... <shrug> Whatever. You do what you do, and if it works for you, that's fine.
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  22. #22
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    First of all, the original creator of a work is the bonafide copyright holder, unless they specifically (and in writing) transfer the copyright to another party, in which case they give up all their claims to it. Whether a work is paid for or free, the creator is entitled to a link back giving credit to them as the original creator of the item if that's a condition of use as part of the agreement or license. That's how intellectual property rights work, according to the law.

    GNU public license and Open Source licensing are different and cover different aspects, with rights of modification and certain other stipulations, but in no way is something free if any type of payment is required.

    Paid "sponsor" links are straight text links that transfer PageRank, link pop and anchor text credit (unless the site gets banned, penalized or filtered) and constitute an obligation on the part of the the end user to make continued payment in the form of those paid text links. Links have value and are a form of currency - call it SEO currency in the form of link juice.

    And anything that has to be paid for in any way is not free! To call something paid for free (even in terms of a continued obligation - which links are) is abuse of the language by means of mis-using and wrongly applying a very simple word, FREE is free. Nothing hard about that, and any type of payment makes it NOT FREE.

    A dog is not a cat, and a canine is not a feline. Calling a dog a cat does not make it into a feline - it's still a canine, still a dog.

    Simple.

    Dictionary definition of FREE

  23. #23
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Oops, totally wrong thread...



    X

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boomers
    Oops, totally wrong thread...
    Ah, it's just as well that it got posted anyway, because it's an issue that needs to be brought to the forefront, regardless of the content or original reference or the original post.

    Perfect example:
    there are sites offering "FREE" Wordpress templates, which not only are not free, because there are strings attached (which makes them not FREE), some of which have serious risks involved for using them.

    Are you willing to give a link to a site that you aren't getting one thin dime fo give them, or wouldn't recommend by personal experience or legitimate consumer review?

    Sorry, but you are nothing and I am nothing; but we all might be nothing more than linkwhores, and yes: I can personally take credit for use of the expression, because that's exactly what's going on in the SEO world.

  25. #25
    Antisocial Media Expert ProWebAddict's Avatar
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    rel=nofollow

    Of course if the links are hidden then this doesn't really apply.

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