Official: Google Penalizing Paid Links

    November 30, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

 Google has officially said that buying and selling links that pass PageRank is a violation of the company’s Webmaster Guidelines, and can result in a drop in search rankings.

Google’s update reads as follows:

[S]ome 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 <a> tag
    ·    Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

The result is that many SEOs will no doubt be changing their strategies, and early indicators say their not happy about it. David Wallace, who seems to be one of the first on the scene to the update, is one of them:

David Wallace

"[T]he sites that we sell advertising on draw a lot of traffic in specific niches and as a result, our advertisers want to attract some of that traffic. If it helps their sites to rank better, that is an indirect effect and is actually the fault of Google’s own algorithm. Despite that fact, I am now violating their guidelines if I do not add a "nofollow" attribute tag to the links or use some kind of redirection so that the link is not a clean html link. I’m sorry but that is pure bull!@#$ and further evidence that Google has turned into a bully, trying to dictate how web site owners should run their sites."

SearchEngineGuide’s Jennifer Laycock is also disturbed by Google’s penalizing of passive, perhaps ignorant, acts:

Jennifer Laycock

"I continue to be frustrated at the idea that Google is now actively penalizing sites for NOT doing something. In the past, most of Google’s penalties have been leveled at sites who were actively trying to game the engines by using things like hidden text or cloaking. With their new stance on paid links, many site owners who buy and sell advertising without giving a thought to the impact it could have on their search rankings are now at risk."

Google set the SEO world on alert earlier this year when a large swath of online directories suddenly dropped off the face of Google’s rankings. They were right to take it as a signal about paid links.