September 8, 2008:
The other day a client e-mailed and asked:
“We will be purchasing banner ads and sending the traffic directly to our site. Do the links on these publishing websites provide any SEO value?”
Here is how I answered (actually, I added a few of things here):
As usual, the answer is “complex”.
If the URL you are using in the banner is static, without tracking codes, then the link itself COULD have value.
(if you do need to have a tracking URL in the banner to measure conversions on your site, then there is another conversation that needs to be had – including 301 redirects and web analytics).
The link needs to be pointing to a page on the site that is publicly available, indexed in engines & is well-linked to the rest of the site.
That same page also needs to be linked to from within your own site.
The page that the banner is on should have the same characteristics as numbers 1 & 2 above, but within that site’s own structure (i.e. the page should be publicly available, indexed in SE’s, linked to from within its own site, etc.)
The link should not have a “no follow” attribute.
It also helps if the page the banner is on has some SEO value of its own, such as has links pointing to it from other sites, is visited often, has low bounce rates, is crawled frequently, etc. (bottom line – your banner should be on a good page, on a good website).
However, assuming that Google continues to put some weight on link text (which they may be moving away from because of abuse), then the graphical banner link has less value than a good text link.
Note – Google has a policy of having webmasters make it clear on a site that the paid links are indeed paid links. Which can lessen the value of banner advertising for SEO purposes.
A valuable banner ad to acquire (with some SEO benefit) might be on a trade association, non-profit, educational institution, government site, etc., and not be a paid banner, but rather part of the site’s mention of members, partners, affiliations, etc.
Summary of Characteristics of a Good Banner Link (for SEO):
1. Static link – no tracking codes
2. Link points to a page on the site that is:
a. Publicly available,
b. Indexed in engines
c. Well-linked to the rest of the site.
3. The destination page needs to be linked to from within your own site.
4. The page that the banner is on should also be publicly available, indexed in SE’s, & linked to from within its own site.
5. Page the banner is on has some SEO value of its own.
7. The link has a “no follow” attribute.
Best (if it has to be a banner, and not a text link)
8. Not on a page designated with a “paid links” notification
a. “Naturally occurring” banner on a site somehow affiliated with yours (trade association, non-profit, educational institution, government site, etc.,)
b. Within a section of the site that is publicizing the company’s/organizations members, partners, affiliations, etc.
c. I am not advocating finding sites that do not report their paid links!!