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We are thinking about offering a discount for our service (real estate listing site) if a client (real estate agent, rental agent) writes a blog post about our service, or an endorsement for our service in the "About us" or "Services" page of their website.

Would this help our SEO efforts, or would we be penalised for doing it?

We would encourage clients to link to different pages of our site.

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From the Google Webmaster Guidelines: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

While you are offering a discount versus free services, I would rather suspect that Google would consider your proposal to be in violation of the spirit of the webmaster guidelines.

While you may not get caught, I would not suggest proceeding with your plans.

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