Google Updates Webmaster Guidelines: Selling Links is Evil

Nov 23, 2007 • 8:53 am | comments (9) by twitter | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

John Honeck discovered new wording in Google's Webmaster Guidelines that reflects how Google views paid links. He reported his findings to Philipp Lenssen, who noticed the following change (italicized):

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.

It looks like Google is now strictly enforcing rules that will penalize webmasters who sell links.

Do you think anything will change?

Forum discussion continues at Search Engine Watch Forums.

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11/23/2007 03:30 pm

Paid Links Are Still Dominating Google Search Results - SEO Case Study I recently read the article in Forbes (online October 7th, 2007) titled, “Google Purges Payolla” . As a SEO consultant, I was curious as to the continued effectiveness of paid links. I found a perfect case study with a company called “Bankruptcy Home” (www.bankruptcyhome.c*m). registered backlinks for Bankruptcy Home shows over 900 backlinks in Google and over 120,000 backlinks Yahoo. These are very respectable numbers and can easily justify the top organic keyword rankings related to bankruptcy for Bankruptcy Home. However, further investigation finds that a large portion of these backlinks have been created by utilizing classic “paid link” or “sponsored link” techniques. For example, Google and Yahoo currently credit Bankruptcy Home with back links from the following sources: The Charleston Gazette, Times Record News (Wichita Falls News). The paid links are always found near the bottom of the page for these online newspapers with a 30 to 40 character text hyperlink. A simple keyword phrase unrelated to the other content on the page is repeatedly placed on the online newspapers website. The power of this strategy comes from various factors: (1) Paid links “bleed” ranking factor from these power web pages to the targeted url. (2) Each day’s publication becomes a new set of paid links creating a tidal wave of backlink volume and off page ranking factor. Examples of the ranking results to Bankruptcy Home (www.bankruptcyhome.c*m) from using paid links can be seen in its high ranking for extremely competitive keywords: (1)Bankruptcy - Ranked 5 out of 83,500,000 competition in Google (2)Bankruptcy - Ranked 8 out of 82,000,000 competition in Yahoo (3)Bankruptcy Attorney - Ranked 1 out of 19,100,000 Competition in Google (4)Bankruptcy Attorney - Ranked 6 out of 18,600,000 Competition in Yahoo An example of the paid backlinks indexed in Google and Yahoo can be seen in the following hyperlinks: (1)Google - (2)Yahoo - This seems to prove that paid links continue to be highly successful in ranking for competitive keywords. It is also obvious that the major search engines are constantly “tweaking” their rules to ensure the best quality, relevant and natural results. The gray area between optimization and manipulation continues hang over these rules. Of course, when there are large dollars available in a market, these problems will only be intensified as web site owners looks at the risk / reward scale. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next 12 months as the search engines attempt to update their rankings by automatically filtering out the use of paid links.

Kalena Jordan

11/24/2007 04:26 am

The wording isn't new. That Google paid links page and warning has been in place since July. The only difference is they added the phrase "links that pass PageRank". See


11/24/2007 05:10 pm

Lawrence - thank you for the SEO case study. I personally appreciate the mainstream media attention this topic is getting. There are a handful of people (and agencies) who have made a LOT of money selling links. It is a passive yet lucrative revenue stream that may begin to dwindle. I wonder if it will hit the big guys or the little guys first? The mainstream coverage helps to further define the services an ethical SEO agency should and should not be providing.

Frank Woolf

11/26/2007 01:14 pm

My main site page rank dropped from 4 to 2 and I am told this may be due to Googles new enforcement of their "no paid links" policy. I don't have a single paid link anywhere on the site, unless you include Adsense ads. I use Openads to manage all the banner ads but these are all either swaps or freebies with a couple of affiliate links at the current time.


11/26/2007 05:07 pm

There is one thing I'd like to know: How do the SE differentiate between a paid text link and a legit ad? Each links to another website. Is the difference the image tag that usually accompanies an ad? Or are any ads in general "bad".

Michael Martinez

11/26/2007 09:47 pm

Google is in no position to be dictating to people whether they must designate paid links in any way. That was not the practice before Google existed and it doesn't have to be the practice now. It's high time Google stopped trying to make its foolish nonsense about PageRank work. They've wasted enough time and effort trying to make Larry Page and Sergey Brin look like they knew what they were talking about all along. Since you cannot determine the value, quality, or relevance of a page through links, Google needs to stop allowing links to pass value. Period.

Fred M

11/28/2007 04:32 am

So if we sell ads on our site, Google will lower our rankings? MMmmmm, does that not strike anyone as strange?


11/28/2007 05:42 am

I dont agree with Lawrence, With the help of paid linking its easy to get top position in search engine but the position not longer exist Search Engine panalysed that sites which got position with paid linking


11/28/2007 10:59 am

Kalena, I'd check it again. They indeed did add, "or selling" to the wording. It used to just reference buying.

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