Google Slams Paid Links? Good or Bad?

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Another under-the-radar-of-the-real-world blog firestorm erupted yesterday over high profile page rank drops. Google dropped visible PR of many blogs and mainstream news sites presumably as a penalty for selling links.

Google Slams Paid Links? Good or Bad?
Google Slams Paid Links? Good or Bad?

No one except Google really knows for sure why PR dropped for these sites but it certainly looks like an extension of September’s paid directory massacre. This time Google targeted some well-known sites in the search marketing world and mainstream news too.

Sites include niche blogs like Search Engine Journal, Search Engine RoundtableProBlogger and nationally prominent sites such as WashingtonPost.com and Forbes.com. (More here)

>>> Should Google penalize sites that sell links? Comment here.

The reactions around the web fall into four categories. Again… these are not my opinions, just a synopsis of what I have read from hundreds of comments in blogs, articles and forums.

1. Google Is Justified
This should come as no surprise, after all Google warned us. Paid links hit at the core of why we all love Google … its quality search results. Google is perfectly justified in taking steps to protect the integrity of its SERPS.

Lowering page rank of those who sell links levels the playing field for all of us who don’t sell them. It is Google’s search engine and they can do what they want in order to keep it great and even improve it. Your Thoughts…

2. Google is Out of Control
Google sells links and should not penalize others for selling them too. Why should Google be able to tell me how to link and whom to link to? What is wrong with linking and why should I have to put a no-follow tag on a link when I genuinely like a site? How does their algorithm know that I received payment for a link?

Google is simply out to crush competition. Don’t they remember their roots? It was the webmasters who were the first adopters of Google’s search engine. It was us who made you rich Google!  One blogger called it a Google "bitch slap!" Is Google retaliating against me for criticizing them in my blog?

Is Google the next Microsoft? All of us lowly web peasants should ask forgiveness from our beloved Internet King! Google, you are a competitive monopoly who should realize that your actions impact the livelihoods of thousands of Internet entrepreneurs. Agree?

3. Why Me? Please Give My PR Back!

I don’t sell links anymore. I have removed all the links that look like they are paid. Now please reinstate my page rank! I want to thank all of my sponsors and I hope that they will keep this PR drop in perspective and continue advertising with me. I really don’t sell links, I am simply thanking my friends and partners for their support.

I am sorry I did not take your prior statements more seriously. Google, I thought that you were talking about link farms, not quality content sites like mine that sell a link here and there. I literally spend 60 hours a week writing unique content and I have now removed the links that look suspicious.

I was just kidding when I suggested my page rank loss was because I stopped using Adsense. I have written you asking for my page rank back and I am waiting for your response. Will pleading help?

4. Denial and Deflection
This is only part of an overall page rank adjustment. When the dust settles my page rank will be back to normal. No one should pay attention to PR anyways, it has nothing to do with the value of your content.

Google is doing this for show, it is not at all reflective of their internal page rank used in the search algorithm. My pageviews have gone up, not down since my page rank was lowered. I didn’t lose any sleep over it and you shouldn’t either! Do you agree?
— — —

Is Google justified with lowering the page rank of sites that sell links because it messes with their search results? Or, is Google out of control and simply protecting its turf as some have suggested? Should Google quickly reinstate the PR of sites that stop selling links? Does page rank really matter anymore? Will a lower page rank eventually cause a drop in traffic?

Please give us and our readers your thoughts and comments….

Google Slams Paid Links? Good or Bad?
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  • Elizabeth Bordelon

    Absolutely not – Google sells paid per click advertising that is expensive.
    I know firsthand since I am a pay per click customer. I really don’t trust the pay per click system at all. Be it for them to penalize pay per click ads when they sell them.

  • http://bloggertizer.com Bloggertizer

    How is a small business owner and webmaster supposed to compete? Why are sites like Amazon, Ebay, ePinions, Overstock and all the rest ranked so highly. I ALREADY KNOW ABOU THEM. If I wanted to go to Amazon to buy something, I wouldn’t bother searching first!

    So now you can pay for a link. WTF is that? I can buy an ad in any newspaper I want. I can buy a TV commercial. I can pay for a radio spot. But I can’t go to a site I like that is related to my business and pay them to promote me with a link without Google penalizing us both?

    So now webmaster won’t be able to earn income from selling link advertising. And now web master own’t be able to advertise with paid links without hurting themselves in the search engine results. I guess we can all line up at the glory hole and let Google keep f***ing us.

    Fair Trade, wherefore art thou?

    And how does Google propose to tell the difference between a paid and organic link?

    So here’s the environment that’s going to evolve from Google’s stupidity: webmaster are going to just going stop linking to other sites out of a fear that Google might think it’s a paid link.

    The price you can demand for a link in inextricably linked to your PageRank and status in Google. This latest move damages a sotes value and inhibits a webmaster’s ability to generate income.

    And think of this you stupid GoogleF***s: Why would I pay for a link that leads to a site that isn’t related to what I’m advertising? I wouldn’t!

    If anything, paid links are GREATER indicator of content and value than organic links, precisely because they are targeted to the audience the advertiser is trying to reach. If I’m paying for a link on Joe’s Widget Blog it’s becasue I’ve got something to do with widgets! The fact that I’m willing to spend money for a link shold clue you in that my site deserves MORE relevance to widgets and should rank higher, not lower.

    Get a f***ing clue Google!

  • http://www.magazin-it.com Razvan

    I don’t pay to put my link on other pages and I think that what Google is doing is very good! There are a lot of others options to make money on internet! For example to sell products on internet like me.

  • Greg McAbee


    I know you guys have been following the Google page where you can report other folks who are keyword spamming, etc. I had reported several sites for keyword spamming and they all dropped off today as well with the link adjustment. I reported these almost two months ago. Just an FYI

  • http://www.tricityswapmeet.com corey roman

    With more than half the internet selling paid links in some form or fashion Google has simply tied a noose around their own neck and stood on the gallows. The competition has become more and more relevant everyday with engines like Ask and Lycos paying top dollar for television ads and adding user friendly features that are truly appealing. A move like this could turn out to be corporate suicide. The same thing is happening in the oil industry. Greedy Opec raising prices and tightening regulations to line their pockets is like playing Russian ruelette over and over til’ you lose. This could be a major first step in the wrong direction for the mogul search engine. But… you can’t learn from mistakes until you make them. Opec’s moves on oil have forced us to look for new energy and begin changes that will be better in the long run for the environment. Maybe Google with force us to do the same in the search field.

  • http://NC-Hendersonville.com Sue Nett

    100% on Google’s side. Content and relvancy should be what determines Page Rank — NOT how big you are or how much you can afford to pay for links!

  • http://www.theezycatalog.com/ Tracy

    Google shouldn’t be allowed to penalized sites that sell links. Buying links is a legitimate way to advertise a site. Text link ads on other sites bring in traffic just like PPC. The only difference between the two is Google doesn’t make money off paid text links, only PPC. Google is out of control and shouldn’t be able to stop individuals from one advertising their site and two penalizing sites for selling text link ads. It wouldn’t surprise me if the sites that aren’t penalized give Google kick backs.

  • http://pilotjourney.com Gary Bradshaw

    YES! I am so glad Google did this. The goal of the web is information not who has the most money to buy links and manipulate the system.

    I think what Google seems to focus on with all that they do in this area is integrity of sites in the index. They do not want visitors finding top 10 sites that are fraud.

  • http://www.bestmanagementarticles.com Ismael

    I agree that Search Engines (all of them, not only Google) should find a way of discounting paid links in the page rank computations. We must remember that links are considered as “votes of confidence” to a certain site and paying links is akin to “vote buying”.

    My site, http://www.BestManagementArticles.com is page 1 for most of my main keywords – business articles, free business articles, best business articles, management tips, free management tips, best management tips, free management articles, etc.– and I never paid a single link.

    Ismael Tabije

  • http://www.egyptfishing.com Egypt Fisherman

    My website was always on top of search results for fishing in my country. This was the case with ALL search engines; namely Google, MSN, and Yahoo.

    About 3 months ago my website’s PR was severely demoted on Google, and sometimes totally wiped out of the search results! Other less relevant sites were pushed up. I wrote to Google several times, but no reply, no improvement. Other major search engines still rank me top. I never bought any search engine inclusions to any of them and I don’t have external links, selling or non-selling, except for one single page that lists major fishing tackle manufacturers and other fishing websites.

    Honestly, hits to my website were badly affected. Now I receive less than half the traffic I used to have before :-( Not to mention the Google Adsense income that was down almost to zero.

    I really hope Google will do something about this. Or we all turn our back to them.

  • http://www.BudArpads.com Helen Hunt

    I think to sell and buy links is cheating and once again those who can afford to just chuck money at a project win over those who spend hours of their time applying to be included in directories, where quality is accepted on content and not cash.

  • http://www.SEOTrainingLive.com/ Paul E

    Google is getting best my its self- They put reliance on links then the market has changed to reflect this- in asking other webmasters to turn sites in- shows they cant stop it…or detect it all

  • http://www.officesupplystop.com Laura

    For the small business that is trying to break in to a competitive field, paid links seem to make the playing field very uneven.

    • Tamra


      I’m pretty much new out here trying to make a business for myself. Everytime I think I’m doing something right, something changes. I was on the understanding that you had to have popular links, regardless. Google is very complicated for me, their views and wording to me is for a triple advanced computer tech to understand everything their saying. I’ve been out here for about 6 months and still don’t understand Google. I can’t imagine that I’m the only out here that don’t understand them.


  • http://www.websitedesignelixirs.com Robert T

    While part of this change did target paid links and those brokering them, I also believe this was just a “toolbar” display of adjustments that have been in place for some time. Most that I know have seen no change in SERPS or traffic, just a shortening of the green bar.

  • http://www.globalsolutionsit.com.au Adam Stem

    Google are really against paid links at the moment and its very hard to know what to do. The future in this area is very unknown but I find it hard to know how they can 100% stamp this out. If fact they have actually created this market by putting so much value on a one way link from a quality PR site.

    Future unknown
    Adam Stem
    website design australia

  • http://internationalpropertyinvestment.com Mark Knowles

    I am all over it. I like the idea, because along with many other people, I was becoming tired of the front page of Google searches being populated by ad farm sites with a lot of money. ~ it’s a shame for those who made their living selling links and I am sure a few genuine sites with a few links will lose out, but in the long run, I think it’s a good idea.

  • http://donpato.com Don Hopper


  • http://www.donpato.com Don Hopper

    After posting to another blog about Googles paid link issues google reduced my PR from 4 to

  • http://www.indianartandcollectables.com Shirley Dancing Fox

    I am trying very hard to understand what is going on here with the Google Page Rank. I promoted my site for 4 years, submitting to 300 search engines monthly (manually). I put together a links page and begged and pleaded with sites with relevant content to exchange links with me and I thought it was paying off because we eventually got to a PR4 Halleluah!! Within days of reading the article on your site, we were reduced to a PR3 along with about 3/4 of the sites I had linked to. Pr4’s became PR3’s and PR3’s became PR2’s.

    I wouldn’t know how to sell a link if my life depended on it….. How can all the work that I have done over the past years be reduced in the blink of an eye???

    Do I start pleading with sites to exchange links?? That is a very time consuming job and doesn’t leave me much time to devote to my trade of making jewelry and selling what I am so busy promoting. What is the answer???

    Shirley Dancing Fox

  • http://janmania.blogspot.com richard

    i’m just a simple blogger relying on advertisers, and now google cuts me off?!?

    i can’t even find my own blog in google anymore.,

    i suggest advertisers not to rely on google stats., the fact that google manipulates searches is somewhat unfair.

    this is just evil. pure evil

  • Dave

    You can hardly blame Google for wanting to wipe out any competition,

    But I fail to see how buying a link from a website is any different than putting links on your website from Google’s Adwords.

    I want to advertise and I am willing to pay for it:
    If it’s with Google OK!
    If it’s with someone else it

  • http://www.aptagogo.com simon

    Ok, here

  • http://www.spun-glass-figurines.info/index.php Julie18plus – Fun with Spun Glass Figurines

    No. Relevance should be the key. Google sells paid links to make most of the money anyway.

  • http://www.10acne.com acne

    I like this paragraph "Don’t they remember their roots? It was the webmasters who were the first adopters of Google’s search engine. It was us who made you rich Google!"

    Yes, should google forget who make him no.1?

  • http://www.acneskinguide.com/ Acne

    "It was us who made you rich Google!"

    No it wasn’t, it was the user. That analogy is like saying that gas attendants are what make gas prices rise.

    Google has the right to do whatever they want, and in this day and age of spam, the move makes alot of sense if done correctly. The real issue, is proper assessment of on topic and relevant non-paid links versus paid links.

  • http://www.seovisions.com/ SEO Company

    Real Estate agents optimize their game baed on the MLS

    Network Marketers optimize their game based on downline and affiliation

    I am not so sure what the difference is in search engines in terms of paid links? They are a way to leverage results in a system that is suceptible to skewed results, which is the reason why there is a hierarchy of ranking.

    If Google wants to eliminate paid links, they would eliminate the metric for weighing links in their own system.

  • http://www.businessservicesuk.com Pete

    I understand why they did it and I guess if the brakes were not put on only the people with big pockets would prosper

  • http://www.giftexposure.co.uk Dave

    A few paid links is ok, but I would never base my link building strategy solely around paid links

  • ACNE

    it definitely stinks when google penalyzes your website for purchasing links after spending so much money. I believe it should be allowed, however only on relevant websites.

  • http://www.tickethelp.com Speeding Ticket

    3. Why Me? Please Give My PR Back!

    "I am sorry I did not take your prior statements more seriously. Google, I thought that you were talking about link farms, not quality content sites like mine that sell a link here and there."

    I have heard this argument – which inevitably leads to #4 – the denial stage.  My opinion is that we did not make Google rich, Google made Google rich by providing (initially) a quality SE that produced very relevant SERP’s.  Let’s face it – SEO’s are deliberately manipulating algorithms to get rankings (including paid links) and therefore Google has every right, in the name of "keeping our search results fair and relevant" to penalize these links.  Of course this also benefits Google’s Adsense, no question, but it is hardly immoral or unfair.

    Let’s say Google owned a stretch of highway and everyone was allowed to submit a billboard for their business and where Google’s algorithms would decide which ones were most relevant.  Many people come to your business and feel it is relevant and informative so they talk about it. They refer people to your business because they think you are a great resource. Your billboard, therefore, gets picked to be one of the ten billboards.  Then, all of a sudden, a new billboard comes up and bumps yours off – but this billboard was bought and paid for.  The only people referring others to this business are those who are getting paid to do so.

    You are infuriated because you built your business on reputation and do not have the money to compete with the new ‘vote-funded’ business.  You were led to believe that this stretch of highway advertising was built for honest, free advertising.

    Does Google, who owns the stretch of land, have the right to remove the new billboard?  Of course they do.  Further, does google have the right to put up one or two of their own signs on this stretch of land, strictly for the purpose of generating income?  Of course they do. 

    Google is not a non profit organization.  They are making hundreds of millions of dollars and intend to keep it that way.  They acquired market share by creating a SE that worked.  Some people who frown upon Google’s ‘sudden changes’ seem to believe that all of us webmasters and marketers made a deal with Google in the beginning – "We’ll switch to your engine and get everyone else to switch so that you can have enormous market share, at which point you will have to pay us back by allowing us to manipulate your system."

    We have a great community here, arguably with a lot of ‘weight’.  I think we should use it when the time is right, and when we have really been ‘wronged’.

    Just my $0.02 – great article.


  • http://seo.pittwebsite.com Pittsburgh SEO

    I know I’m taking the other side of the horse by saying this but I think paid Google slamming paid links is a good thing. I’ve outlined a few reasons below:

    1. By cutting down on the paid links this effectively makes the original intent of counting links as relevant for SEO much more meaningful. Their original intent was to be a guide as to the authority and popularity of a website. But buying links you’ve faked actual authority and popularity. Basically you’re cheating the system. And with search engines, especially Google in the end you never win if you cheat the system.
    2. If an effective stance on paid links is taken and the majority are removed from the ranking this will make a much more effective search engine for the users. Notice I said users, search engines are not all about pleasing the SEOs. They are about making their experience for actual users a positive one. I think that this is a step into the right direction.
    3. Paid links is actually a black hat technique! Oh, I know this is probably not going to sit right with some people. And I’m sorry about I’m just looking at the facts. By buying links you’re altering and falsifying a website’s real popularity and authority.
    4. As a company Google has the right to do what ever they so choose. Image if I starting making a big fuse about how I don’t like something you’re company does and telling people it should be changed. You have the right to change it or leave it. It’s your right as you own the company and if people don’t like ti they can get their services somewhere else. The same goes for Google, if people don’t like it or disagree they can always not use the engine or reconsider how they use it.

    I know a lot of SEOs and website owner have invested a lot of time and money into the paid links. But times are changing and I think  this is a sign that it’s time to get out of paid links. This is probably Google’s first step in eliminating the effect of paid links altogether. I ‘m saying that as I recently reread one of Mat Cutts’s blogs on this subject and that was the direction he seem to be point at. Anyways, I think it’s a bold one but a positive one.

  • http://www.boredatuni.com Bored At College

    I have sold a couple of text links on my site as it helps keep the site running, paying for hosting and domain renewals, so from my point of view the paid links are a great advantage.  However, saying this, I can understand why Google would punish sites like mine for selling links as it would in theory give unworthy promotion to the linked site, therefore corrupting Google’s relevancy-based results.

  • http://www.paraibainternational.com Tazanite

    The point, to me, is really about the fact that Google’s algorithm is quite weak. For years, it has relied on mostly inbound links to drive rankings. That, in itself, is a really flawed concept in the year 2008.

    The analogy is like the RCMP arresting drunker drivers, but selling alcohol.  Google has the power to stop the issue, but does not for various reasons.

  • http://www.ftareceiverforum.com/ FTA Forums

    I think, as far as the comments go, that both sides have valid points.  I still believe that Google does have more rights than people argue because they are not a public service, they are a corporation.  It’s also obvious that the dollar is what is driving these changes and they may be going a bit overboard, especially when asking people to ‘tattle’ on other paid directory sites.

    It will be interesting to see how they solve the problem once and for all.  Indeed they will, and it may have an unprecedented effect on inbound linkage as a whole, and may force SEO’s to rely strictly on on-page content. 

    Only time will tell.

  • http://www.lasik-news.com/ lasik

     The page rank calculation is flaw and can be manipulate easily by buying hundred of link. Google shouldn’t have published the site rank at the first place.

  • http://www.a1certifications.com testking

    This will remain a myth i think! Google penalized those paid links or not. Still we have to think. But in my opinion Google bots must have some idea which links are looked like sold or which are not. Again i must say its like a myth, :(

  • http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/31726 Acnezine

    Well in the ideal world internet needs to be a free information source but in the real world the pills, p***s enhancements and tons of commercial stuff has polluted the it to concerning levels. I remember when I googled for "Muscle Men" intending to see bodybuilding related information, what I got as first site in google results is no brainer, see urself (wait !! only attempt  if you are above 21).

    Google is desperate to bring order and google’s kiss of death to paid links is a step in the very right direction.


  • http://russianwomenbook.com Russian Bride Guide

    I too was stiffed by Adwords, whatever max budget you specify is always reached, I never saw all the benefit for all this alleged increased traffic and clicks I was paying for. I cancelled it.

    This paid links wheeze is the same; Google trying to control the content of external sites basically. It is reputed Adsense clients get banned for displaying paid links on the same website. Er… but by having adsense aren’t we displaying er.. paid links?

    Webmasters must claw whatever income they can from sites in the current recession.


  • http://www.thesearchengineconnection.com SEO BLog

    Let google go after them.  Should weed out the spammers

  • http://greatwraps4me.com car wraps

    If you read Google TOS, it states that you can’t link build in anyway. The only thing acceptable is, submition to directories. Even these comments are not really "natural link building". We are all at mercy of big G.

  • http://www.lowongankerjabanks.com/ Lowongan Kerja Bank

    yeah.. something happen after that.. 

  • http://www.lowongankerja2009.com/ Lowongan Kerja 2009

    i haven’t read for New Google Tos..

  • http://sugicloud.com/ Internet Markeitng Indonesia

    yupp.. we must do something for blog.. 

  • http://tropicdumptrailers.com Dump Trailers

    I agree with the post that said you have to read Google TOS…if you read it, it will state that it is against most "link building"

  • http://fishingandboats.blogspot.com/ Frank

    wow, bloggertizer summed it up pretty good lol’


    I have always stayed away from paid links, only because I could never afford them


  • http://www.xbp-brakes.com Zero Gravity Brakes

    This comes as no surprise, Google will never let pay links dominate SERP!!

  • http://www.acne-removal-scar.net/ Raffaella

    I think that what Google is doing is very good!We should always prefer to relevant sites that links to our website.

  • http://games.maas1.com ?????

    100% on Google’s side. Content and relvancy should be what determines Page Rank — NOT how big you are or how much you can afford to pay for links!

  • http://www.trailstroller.com Cheap Maclaren Stroller

    To the poster below me..How would you rank content?? Sorry but that is a lame idea. Links will always be important, Google will make adjustment neede..regarding payed links.

  • http://www.m4s73r.com/ Internet Marketing Indonesia

    thanks for your article. Very help me. I will more like visit to webpronews site. :) Fantastic

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