Google Penalizing Paid Links Buyers & Sellers

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Dave Naylor, SEO extraordinaire, has been witnessing the after effects of the call to report and penalize paid links by Google. According to Naylor, over the past 14 days, Google has been penalizing sites which both purchase types of paid links and also sell them.

For a good while Google has been lowering the power of the Google juice that sites which publish paid links can pass on. Now it seems however, that the sites which are purchasing those links are coming under fire by Google:

Normally Google attacks the webmaster from one side at a time to stop collateral damage. For example, if you sell links your site might not pass link juice or page rank while those links are still on your site. Clean up and after a update or two you should be OK. Buying links, well that’s another ball game. You could loose the domain forever if you don’t move quick enough.

Naylor adds that sites which are publishing paid links in locations such as footers and sidebars are coming under the Google ‘attack’, especially if those links are not relevant to the content of the site. In such a situation, both sites can be dropped from Google rankings.

For example, a site about “home cooking” linking to a “holiday site”, but where the holiday site would have dropped this time both have dropped – one for selling the links and the other one for buying links.

This also brings about the question; what is a good paid link? A rule of thumb in the linking game has always been to target links on sites which are relevant to your target market, and links which would ideally convert into a positive action on your site, such as:

  • Links from authority sites which are very relevant to your audience
  • Links which you did not pay for
  • Links from Blogrolls
  • Links in high authority content
  • Links from sites which do not link to questionable sites

Google’s Matt Cutts also addressed this issue on a recent blog post update on Reporting Paid Links to Google when answering the question; Can you give me an example of the sort of things you’d be interested in hearing about?

Here are some paid text links on a site dedicated to Linux:

Paid Links

There are a few interesting things about these links. If you take off your webmaster hat and put on a user hat for a minute, you quickly start asking yourself questions like “Why is a Linux site linking to a bunch of poker, pills, and gambling sites?” Users often consider links like this spammy or low-quality. I’m sure some people will happily defend links like these, but in my experience people who search on Google don’t want links like these to affect Google’s search results.

According to Mr. Naylor, since sites selling irrelevant (low quality) paid links and link networks have been hit by Google, search marketers should track their backlinks and try to identify incoming links which may be hurting them, and clean them up. If irrelevant links such as the ones in the Matt Cutts example where purchased, it would be a good idea to end those campaigns too.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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