It’s official: selling paid links can damage your page rank. It’s also official that Google is making it a priority to seek out sites selling links to penalise them. Selling links that pass page rank violates Google’s quality guidelines. Matt Cutts says Google’s view of paid links would be akin to Amazon’s view of paid reviews appearing on its site.
Penalties for link sellers can take different forms but include dramatic drops in page rank and ranking. For smaller, non authority sites, the penalties can be so bad that some webmasters are left wondering whether they should abandon a domain and start again.
All was revealed in one of the latest entries in Matt Cutts’ blog. Cutts gave details of a query he’d received from a newspaper which had seen its page rank move from 7 to 3. The newspaper didn’t have any inkling about the reason for the sudden drop. But Cutts was able to confirm that Google had found links labeled ‘sponsored’ that had passed page rank onto third party sites. In Google’s eyes this is a major violation. Cutts said not only was Page Rank reduced, but also Google’s trust in the site. Of course when a link seller has their page rank reduced it makes it less likely they will be able to sell links in the future because their value is depleted.
But get this. This is where this particular example becomes really interesting. Google was also in possession of an external ‘SPAM report’ which included among other things an email from a link seller offering to sell links on particular pages based on Page Rank. Cutts also mentioned that some pages mentioned in the email still had an unusual pattern of links including sections detailing ‘Partner Links”.
Cutts was helpful. He suggested the company investigated how links that pass page rank ended up on the site, whether someone at the newspaper was responsible and whether they received money and whether payments were disclosed. After completing its investigation the newspaper would be able to submit a reconsideration request using the console in Google’s Webmaster Tools.
Links are a big deal for Google and paid links in Google’s eyes are effectively ‘cheating’. Whether its unnatural link patterns (Penguin) or selling links, you can be in no doubt Google is watching. Google has also said that some sites selling links may end up being dropped from its search engine or have penalties attached to prevent them from ranking well.
The other side of this is of course that link buyers risk pouring money down the drain when the site they link to gets its page rank reduced. And worse may happen if you link to a banned site. You’ll be in a ‘bad neighbourhood’.
Google’s approach to link selling will upset many people. But my question is this. If you are serious about building an online business why risk everything?
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