Selling Links Can Harm Your Site

Danny Sullivan has put together a well written post on Search Engine Land titled Official: Selling Paid Links Can Hurt Your PageRank Or Rankings On Google.

The title says it all.

Back in March I suggested that Link Sellers are taking a risk with their site. I don't think we'll ever see the black mark I suggested - as Danny points out, this makes it easier to try and successfully buy links - but Google's gone further by actually starting to penalise sites.

What strikes me about Danny's post is how it came about it. We had seen some evidence that Google was acting out against link sellers but nothing that would earn the "Official" tag. Danny writes;
Last week, I noticed the Stanford Daily had dropped from when I wrote the above in April to PR7 today. That's a huge drop that has no apparent reason to happen. Some others were also reporting PageRank drops. So I pinged Google, and they confirmed that PageRank scores are being lowered for some sites that sell links.

That relationship with key people in Google is just one of the many reasons why its worth keeping tabs on Danny and Search Engine Land. I'm hugely busy. I fly around the world - but I always try and keep up with Search Engine Land.

So, now you have two actions you can take when your competitor (or client competitors) start to buy links.
  1. Report them to Google
  2. Contact the link seller and point them to

I know a lot of SEO folk still think Google is wrong to punish paid links. I know a lot of them still recommend paid links to their clients. Whether you agree Google is right to do this or not, Google is doing this. If you are taking money from people in order to promote their website please have a sit down and a think about your paid link stance.


Anonymous said…
But the reason SEOs are still recommending paid links is because they work! Google are right to be penalising sites that sell just any link to any site, whatever the context or relevance, as it is a fairly sure sign of a low quality site and can also be pretty distracting for the user. However, I won't be putting money on sites like E-Consultancy being penalised in spite of plenty of obviously paid links with no nofollow tags, including one to a certain SEO agency (though I'm aware you placed your own sort of nofollow on that one, very clever), as the links are on topic and promote services which may well be of some use to the end user. Surely you see the difference? Google certainly can.

Besides, there's NO evidence so far to suggest that sites are being penalised for carefully buying links (unless they're sitewides or from particularly spammy domains, in which case the penalty would apply whether the link was paid for or not), only for selling them. With this in mind, surely the only thing you're risking is the client's money (or your agency's profits) which, given the relative potential returns, I guess most SEOs find to be worth it.

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