Does Google Really Know If Your Links Are Paid?

Sep 17, 2010 • 8:11 am | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

People often argue if Google can really automate the process of detecting if a site has paid links or not. Now, some are easy to detect, and most link builders now go after encouraging people to link to their site because the site deserves it. But when is it too much and should you worry about Google catching on to gray area tactics?

I wanted to share a thread I spotted in the Google Webmaster Help forum where Googler JohnMu answered a question on why one site saw his rankings drop "over night" after years of success ranking very well.

John said:

Looking at your site and how it's connected on the web, it might be that the links to your site are not counting the way they might have in the past. In general, it is important to us that links are not just exchanged, bought/sold or otherwise used in an attempt to manipulate rankings, as we have detailed in our help center article at

If you find that your site has issues with regards to our Webmaster Guidelines that can be resolved, I would recommend doing that and then submitting a reconsideration request, detailing the changes that you have made.

Now, I often see this being said by John and fellow Googlers.

I do often find it amazing how webmasters and SEOs would go into a Google Webmaster help discussion, link to their site and complain their rankings drop. It is like asking Google to look at your site, when they know they have paid links.

But it is done all the time.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Google May Not Be Evil But There Are Evil Googlers


Charles carithers

09/18/2010 01:13 pm

I'm just beginning to SEO my Atlanta florists companies. Thanks for the warnings on paid links. However, I am submitting to many directories and they require an annual fee. Is this a paid link? Keep writing and I'll keep reading.


09/19/2010 07:21 am

Even is purchasing links. They have hundreds of anchor text links for "cyber Monday". The links were purchased from a network. Obviously paid. They did not even bother to set up a cyber Monday page. The links go to a page that states black Friday and has no deals now. Why would hundreds of blogs suddenly decide to link to the black Friday page? Why are they all using the same anchor text links and calling it cyber Monday. They also purchased the word "sale" These links are obviously all paid but the network is able to affect the serapes for dozens of keywords due to the sheer size of the network. Links are sold for 20 bucks each and minimum is 50 per month. Even if google devalues some of the blogs and links , you still have hundreds more. The company selling the links swear that none of their clients ever got penalizes by google. In sum, paid links are often unnatural and can be detected by google. Google is not that aggressive but does occasionally make an example of a couple of sites. If you already are getting organic traffic itsbnot worth it. If you have a small site without much organic traffic, you may want to risk it.


09/20/2010 10:15 am

I think the simple answer is no, not if they're done 'right'. If a person can't detect them manually then no algorithm in the world can either. It's something I would never recommend engaging in, but if there's a link in the main body of the document, on a non-spammy site, and the anchor text isn't too perfect then I couldn't tell you if it was bought, so how can a computer program?

SEO Professionals

08/17/2011 03:57 pm

People like to say "Google can't detect paid links". Well, I for one know that they have no problems with detecting 90% of the paid links out there. Seriously, 90% of the paid links out there can be detected instantly by Google and they do not require a user to report this link.

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