Google Explains Why Charity Sponsor Links are Sometimes Spam


Google’s John Mueller answered why charity sponsored links sometimes lead to penalties. Mueller asserted that yes, sponsored charity links do get penalized. But he also noted that some sponsored charity links are fine then describes why those links will not receive a penalty.

Situations When Charity Sponsor Links Receive Penalties

In a webmaster hangout, a publisher asked the question about sponsored links. The publisher was unable to change the link to a no-follow and was worried that the link would negatively affect the site’s rankings.

The Question

We sponsor a local hockey club and they put up an image link in their site thanking us. But it’s do-follow and we don’t know what to do to change it. Is this going to cause us any problems?

John Mueller’s Answer

In general, when the web spam team takes a look at these kinds of questions, they try to look at the bigger picture. And if with your website you’re sponsoring like lots of different clubs and sites where it looks like the primary intent is to get a link there, then that’s something the web spam team might take action on.

On the other hand if this is one of lots of links to your site and this is one from a local hockey club and it’s like you just know them and they can’t easily fix that or change that on their site or they don’t know how, then the web spam team is not going to worry about that.

So I’d try to take a look at the bigger picture there and think abot whether or not this is really something that you’re doing systematically; like going out and sponsoring other sites or products with the intent of getting a link or if this is something that’s essentially just a natural part of the web.

So my guess, based on the question here is that this is not something you need to worry about.

Why Charity Sponsorship Links are Sometimes Considered Spam

Charity links are an old form of paid link building. Donating in exchange for links is not new and Google’s spam team is well aware of it. If there’s any doubt then this webmaster hangout answer clears that once and for all.

There are many kinds of sponsorships that can lead to a spam penalty beyond the example in the question featured here.

Sponsorship of websites, giving to charity in exchange for links, and even giving student discounts in order to “earn” a link have all been penalized in the past.

Qualities that Indicate Sponsorship Spam:

  1. Quantity of sponsored sites
  2. Appearance that the primary intent is to get a link

Features that indicate a sponsored link is innocent:

  1. Just one sponsored link out of many other kinds of links
  2. It’s a natural part of the web (of which sponsorships happen on ocassion)

A Natural Part of the Web

The phrase, “natural part of the web” reminds me of what former web spam team manager Matt Cutts used to say about reciprocal links. Matt said that reciprocal links happen naturally so don’t worry if your site has a reciprocal link here and there. Don’t try to actively get rid of a link to another site just because that site links to you.

The idea behind that advice is that all kinds of links happen naturally, including a charity sponsorship. Where sponsorships and scholarships can go bad is when it’s a systematic effort to obtain links for ranking purposes.

That means that if you’re going to engage in these kinds of activities in quantity, then it’s probably in your interest to consider adding no-follow links. This is especially true with spammy link building tactics such as scholarship offers.

Watch the John Mueller discuss why charity sponsorship links are not always considered spam.

Images by Shutterstock, modified by Author

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