Just last month Google issued a fresh warning delivered by Matt Cutts via the Google Webmaster Central Blog that Google would take decisive action against sites selling links to pass Page Rank. Be in no doubt, if don’t take heed you’ll be on the receiving end of a website penalty.
It doesn’t really matter if you believe Google is being over-sensitive. For the sake of your online business you have to realise Google controls about two-thirds of the search game. Its success lies in the fact it returns the most accurate results, according to searcher intention. That’s exactly what searchers want. And if they don’t find what they are looking for in a snappy fashion they will go elsewhere.
Look at it this way. Selling links puts Google’s business in jeopardy because sites that don’t merit natural links end up skewing the search results. Seen in this light you can imagine Google’s taking this very seriously. Link selling or buying is a one-way ticket to a Google penalty. And don’t think you need to be a commercial link seller to fall foul of Google.
As the Page Rank of our own website improves you’re likely to get requests for advertorial or guest posts. Matt Cutt’s says any paid links must have the rel=”no follow” tag added or else Google will lose trust in your site. And the paid link building penalties don’t end there. You could also see a drop in visible page rank and the position of your pages in the serps change for the worse. As a very last resort you could even see your site removed from the index altogether. Ouch.
How do you know you’ve been slapped with a penalty for links? Webmasters falling foul of Google can expect a notification message in Google’s Webmaster Tools. If you get one don’t ignore it because it’s already a sign that Google has lost trust in your site. According to Matt Cutts it will ask you to look for possibly “artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank.”
If you run a small site it shouldn’t be too onerous to track down offending links. Google will get you in the end. And you have to question if you are running a business site why bother to sell links in the first place? It is after all a distraction from your business.
Whether you experience this as a Page Rank penalty, serps penalty or something else, doesn’t matter, you can’t get back into Google’s good books. Investigate, then change what you need to and ask Google to reconsider your site. Matt Cutts says if you had a manual penalty applied i.e. by a real person, then someone will review your request.
Whatever you do, don’t assume your site is too small to get found out. Google is now recruiting webmasters and searchers in the fight against link manipulation: Google is now encouraging individuals to act as whistleblowers by reporting paid links.
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