Google Says Selling Links Can Harm Site Ranking in Search Results

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Earlier in the month Google began its unofficial crackdown on pages which openly sell links in an effort to capitalize on their Google PageRank. Google’s crackdown; lowering the PageRank of those pages.

Danny Sullivan eluded to this in October and we published the unofficial confirmation of this via Matt Cutts a couple of days after the widespread shrinking Google PageRank across such sites. But yesterday Google made it official (thanks Philipp), adding to its Google Webmaster Help Center that selling links that pass PageRank can penalize a site not only in its Google Toolbar PageRank status, but also in Google search results.

Some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:

  • Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the tag
  • Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank.

So, there you have it. Officially and according to Google, selling links that pass PageRank can not only harm your site’s toolbar PageRank, but also damage your site’s rankings in the Google index.

If you feel that Google is targeting your site and you do not deserve such a penalty, the request reconsideration from Google.

You can also look into diversifying your site’s monetization or, for advertisers, building links without having to buy them.

Of course, Google could always be bluffing, and I do not recommend that people stop buying links. I do think however that in addition to buying links, you should also look into a well rounded approach to link building. Here are some tips:

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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