While I did not expect much in the way of news here in the U.S. due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it appears that Google took the opportunity to update their web master guidelines regarding paid links. The changes essentially reveal that buying or selling links that pass PageRank can penalize a site not only in its Google Toolbar PageRank status, but also in Google search results. What does this mean for those that consider themselves “white hat SEOs?” Better go shopping for a new hat – a nice black one.

This is what Google currently has to say regarding those who buy and sell paid links:

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.

We have already seen in recent months that selling links can have a negative impact on one’s Google PageRank score as thousands of sites saw their PageRank lowered significantly. Now they are saying it can impact your ability to rank well, not just for sellers, but buyers as well.

So for all of you white hat SEOs who buy and sell paid links with the goal of trying to improve a sites visibility in the organic search results, you are now officially a black hat! I’m included in that mix as I buy links for clients and sell them on sites we run as well (not this one).

A quick word on my stance as a seller of links – we do not offer links for sale with the goal of manipulating Google’s SERPs but rather for the sake of exposure and direct traffic. The 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 affect 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.

So, I’m off to get a new hat. I don’t know if it will be a cowboy hat or baseball hat, but do know what color it will be. 😉

David Wallace

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses.

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