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Google penalizing sites selling links?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday October 9, 2007 )

It’s official, well appears to be anyway. According to search engine expert Danny Sullivan, Google is penalizing some sites offering paid links; but it seems to me the penalizing will be based on intention.

The confirmation came from a pretty good source according to Danny – Google themselves.

Google stated that PageRank scores are being lowered in some cases and in addition, some sites selling links may be delisted altogether or have penalties applied to prevent them from ranking well.

This is quite a blow to those selling links and those buying for the purpose of ranking boosts – a double whammy. If your site is being propped up by the high ranks of other sites that you’ve purchased links on and they fall victim to the Google link seller axe, your rankings will also be affected – not penalized, just dropping through the flow on effect.

As I’ve mentioned in the past – don’t buy links with just search engines in mind if you’re on a tight budget, it’s far too risky. Google giveth and Google taketh away.

I have mixed feelings about this – it levels out the playing field somewhat, but also impacts heavily on the paid link industry. There will be a lot of really nervous folks around scrabbling for other sources of revenue and many link contracts will not be renewed; or at the very least, prices will be negotiated downwards.

I think perhaps Matt Cutts, Google Software Engineer extraordinaire, provided strong hints way back in November last year as to how sites selling links can maybe get around the issue. By using the “nofollow” tag/attribute was one tip – that would be a clear indicator to Google that the site is selling links for the purposes of click traffic rather than search ranking boost potential. He had this to say:

“Look, if you want to buy links for traffic; totally fine.. just don’t make it so that they affect search engines. So that’s why we say use nofollow.. or you can do it through a redirect that is robot.txt’d out”.

While the option to sell links without risk of penalty may still be there (and please bear in mind that’s my interpretation), the use of “nofollow” will drop the amount many marketers are prepared to pay for links as the attraction of ranking juice will be diminished over time as news of this gets around.

It really will become even more of a gamble if you purchase links purely for ranking purposes or sell links without nofollow or redirects in my opinion; so tread carefully and tell your friends.


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