Remove them from your list of SEO no no’s and create a marketplace to sell them.
By doing so, you eliminate some of your core issues like:
- Not being able to monetize them (the paid SEO link marketplace could literally be an addition to the existing Adword platform)
- Not being able to control rogue link sellers and link selling networks (by becoming the source for legitimate paid SEO links, you would likely price virtually every other seller out of the market)
- Not being able to effectively dampen the algorithmic value of paid SEO links and anchor text effectively (since you would have a massive new graph of data on who is buying links, what keywords are being targeted, and how the sites are ranking, you could probably perfect your approach to weighting links and anchor text)
- Not being able to regulate paid links to ensure that they are relevant (by monitoring the buying and selling of links, you can enforce rules that require sellers to only place links that are in some way relevant to the site in question as well as being in the same language, etc.)
- Not being able to avoid nasty PR hits that come about like the JCPenney or Forbes fiasco.
Now some people will read this and immediately proclaim that making paid links ok would allow large corporations to essentially buy their way into top rankings. Well I’ve got news for you; they already are. And I’m not talking about buying paid links (although its obvious that some continue to do that).
I’m talking about things like:
- Paying for content
- Paying for SEO-friendly domains
- Paying for massive public relations (which generate a lot of authoritative links)
- Paying for massive media broadcast channels (which indirectly lead to oodles of inbound links and mentions)
- Etc, and so forth
Besides, as I mentioned, Google could learn to properly dampen paid links to keep the playing field relatively even (e.g. identifying truly natural, unsolicited links and giving them more weight/authority).
Lastly, rather than hurting the small-time marketer, they would actually be providing those folks with a new way to monetize their sites, and that’s never a bad thing.
I’m about 99.9% sure that this will never happen (and I’m happy to field perspectives that might poke a hole in my little pie in the sky idea) but I figured I would share, because sometimes, it’s the “wrong” ideas that end up making the most sense.