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Google Clarifies Paid Link Stance

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Google has updated its Webmaster Guidelines to include definitions of commonly used terms for shady practices and clearer language about the penalties associated with black and gray hat SEO tactics.

Google’s Matt Cutts caused quite a stir with the announcement of a sort of SEO-crime hotline, where webmasters could report others for their paid links. That was a pre-vacation nightmare for Matt.

He mentioned some of this at the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle earlier this week, and the Webmaster Guidelines are a nice, clear echo:

,,,some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying links in order to improve a site’s ranking 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.

There are several of these explanations and tips which remind the webmasters that, paraphrasing Cutts: It’s your site. It’s our index. And you need to play by the rules to be in it.

The new "specific" guidelines address hidden text and hidden links, cloaking or "sneaky" redirects, automated queries, keyword stuffing, duplicate content, malware, doorway pages, and no original content.

In a nutshell, be a good Webmaster and everything should work out fine between you and Google.

Hat tip to Jennifer Laycock at Search Engine Guide, who goes into more detail.   

Google Clarifies Paid Link Stance
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  • JLH

    They’ve changed their stance from penalizing the link seller to the link buyer, this only confuses the issue even more.

    I’ve blogged about this reversal in policy and some implications here:

    http://www.jlh-design.com/2007/06/other-sites-can-hurt-your-ranking/