There’s been some controversy in SEO land this week. Matt Cutts, Google’s mouthpiece for linking policies, stated publicly that websites heavily involved with paid links are considered high risk. Many of the SEO pros in the blogosphere took offense to this and feel that Google is profiling search engine optimized websites unfairly.

The issue of contention revolves around paid links – buying or selling links for money. Google often discredits these links because it does not see them as valuable or quality based. Anyone that has the money can buy links to their site, in the hopes that it will boost their rankings in Google searches. Google doesn’t want this, however, because this type of linking is not based on quality and occasionally pushes the envelope of black hat.

The paid linking penalty would probably be somewhat less offensive to SEO professionals if Google itself didn’t use paid linking strategies. Google does indeed use money and giveaways, such as free Android phones to bloggers, in an attempt to gather links and positive publicity.

They both have a point. Most of the paid link sites out there are shady in some way – their sites do not boast the highest content quality available. On the other side of the coin, Google is being hypocritical by punishing quality websites for using free product giveaways and surveys to get links when they do the same thing.

Google could probably do well to revisit how exactly it determines paid links. If a site is doing a free product giveaway and collecting reviews in the form of links or comments, that isn’t black hat SEO, that’s just traditional marketing. Relaxing the barriers slightly could help.

My solution to the problem is to stay classy. Unlike some of my more excitable blogging counterparts, I do not believe that Google is saying that any and all SEO efforts will be penalized. SEO in itself is not a dishonest activity. SEO is a way of improving your website to be more relevant and consumer friendly. As long as SEO companies stay focused on the client and stay away from questionable activities such as buying links from link farms, I don’t see why there should be a problem. Links collected to or from your website should be from credible sources, regardless of what Google is saying or doing.