Google's Cutts: Buying Links Doesn't Hurt???

Apr 3, 2013 • 8:37 am | comments (25) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google's Matt CuttsA recent video from Google's head of search spam , Matt Cutts named If a site linking to mine gets caught selling links, what happens to my site? That video basically explains what happens if a site that sells links and Google knows it, what happens to a site that has links from the link selling site?

In short, not much.

Matt Cutts made three points in this video:

(1) The link seller's web site should notice a toolbar PageRank downgrade 30 - 50%.

(2) The link seller's web site loses the ability to send PageRank going forward.

(3) The links pointing to your web site from the link seller's web site are no longer counted and no longer benefit your web site.

But what about link buying penalties? Well, clearly Matt didn't discuss it in his 90 second video. It obviously, despite my title, doesn't mean that Google won't ditch out a penalty to someone who clearly buys links. But "typically" this is how Google handles it, they simply stop those paid links from benefiting you, which can often feel like a penalty.

Here is the video:

Yes, I know, the links on this site do not pass benefit.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Praveen Sharma

04/03/2013 12:48 pm

Is there any way to make sure that you don't pass link value benefit to sponsored links (apart from nofollow tag in robots tag or within the hyperlink)?

Erik Baeumlisberger

04/03/2013 12:58 pm

The analogy I've always made is this. If link buying could hurt a site, it would be easier (in some cases) to buy a bunch of links on spammy sites and point them at a competitor then it would be to outrank that competitor (using best practices). If a site has a base of good quality (old, high PR) inbound links, my best guess is that no amount of (new, spammy) low-quality links will sink it. Those links will just be devalued, as described above.


04/03/2013 01:46 pm

Big Worries for President Barack Obama, Tom Cruise and George Clooney in Epic Fashion of the Year


04/03/2013 02:37 pm

Yes, you can hide the links using javascript. For example: Load your banners or sponsored links with a external javascript function and put the external java code into a folder you disallow google to read via robots.txt.

04/03/2013 02:47 pm

trying to increase link popularity by buying links is something most of the big brands have done for years. Once they are caught spend a fortune in PPC and in two weeks they have their rankings back. It seems to be all about the money to me.

Fede Einhorn

04/03/2013 02:48 pm

I'm sure Matt is thankful you got his best face for the pic. Lol

Daniel Carlyon

04/03/2013 03:07 pm

Short Cutts says: You will lose the benefit of that link

'Oluwajoba Odesanya

04/03/2013 06:11 pm

SEO will always have a way out


04/03/2013 07:47 pm

My personal experience on the topic (given here: shows that the deterioration of SERP results is ONLY due to the fact that some of the links' authority has been removed by Google due to a manual penalty. I haven't seen any other negative effect from being linked from penalized websites (with PR reduced to 0) besides the fact that they don't pass any juice to me. And by not passing the juice they used to pass I lost some positions in SERP. That's all! I experienced no other negatives besides this, so I think this time Matt was honest (as never). I advice everyone to double check their backlinks and remove those which index pages have lost their PR.

Alex Fierro

04/03/2013 08:30 pm

It's really the graphic aids that make this video!! :-) Thanks Matt!

Alex Garrido

04/03/2013 10:01 pm

Thanks God Google is getting smarter and smarter every time. Yet, I do still see instances where people can "buy" a link without Google actually noting. It is good that G is not penalizing but rather "devaluing" high PR links that pass on power, but what happens for those who do not "openly advertise" they are selling a link?

Andy Langton

04/03/2013 11:01 pm

In the context of the question (i.e. innocently linked to from a site that is "caught" selling links) of course the response is going to be that you aren't at risk. It's not like this is going to make up much of a percentage of a 'clean' site's profile. That some are taking this comment as evidence that sites can't be hurt by links can only stem from a lack of knowledge about Google's link handling. A site's rankings after penalties for links can be worse than if those links didn't exist. Is this even up for debate? As for SER - you pass internal pagerank at the very least: It's not so bad ;)

Soni Sharma

04/04/2013 04:52 am

Google doesn't want to clear things on paid links much. What about if someone want to advertise site through paid links on high traffic pages? Is it not kind of online marketing and why it should be considered as negative?

Khalid Irfan

04/04/2013 06:14 am

What about selling links in the sponsored links section? are they useless for the links buyers?


04/04/2013 09:22 am

Either make use of your brand name as anchor text here or if you want to make use of keywords, then use nofollow tag.


04/04/2013 11:17 am

Some of them are "nofollow" - they are useless for passing on pagerank. As for the ones without "nofollow" - it depends whether Google have detected SER for link selling - if they have, then they are also useless for passing on pagerank. But not everyone buys links for pagerank, they might be there simply to attract traffic by click throughs.


04/04/2013 11:35 am

I think SEORT received PR downgrade some time in the past, but they didn't care.


04/04/2013 01:01 pm

Yes CONTENT is truly KING on the Internet. We need to use it properly so that our first-time visitors will become regular visitors. Its wise way of getting traffic to our website.


04/04/2013 02:19 pm

Is there a way to evaluate sites that have been "untrusted" by G? For example, take a look at the site's PR history?

Rahul Mishra

04/04/2013 02:37 pm

I'm not agree with you. If you will see sponsored links of seroundtable, 3 of 6 have nofollow tag but remaining 3 don't. Is there any brand name issue or keywords...???


04/05/2013 04:28 am

But these links do not pass link benefit to these links. Read what Barry quoted here - "Yes, I know, the links on this site do not pass benefit." Google doesn't pass link value to the sponsored links. It even penalize sites selling links, including this site (SER). Do not use sponsored links for ranking benefits, just use these for your branding purpose, so go with brand name or put nofollow when going with keyword.

Arun Jaiswal

04/05/2013 04:57 am

If google is SO smart to Catch or Found Link selling website.. Than what the use of Disavow TOOL.. I think google itself Confuse.. the Body language of MC is very Confusing, he himself do not know How to clarify ... 30% 40 % .. 50% . any Child to Guess and Comeent such type of answer.


04/08/2013 05:58 am

It was 4 days ago. Finally, Barry added rel=nofollow to all his sponsored links. Barry when did you get PR-6? Now, it looks like you kneel down in front of Google to get back your PR. Seems like Squidoo inspired you.


04/08/2013 07:25 am

What is the penalty for seroundtable? PR penalty!!! I too wish to have a PR-0 without affecting my Organic Ranking. If I do the same, selling links and Google caught me, it not only decrease my site PR but also my Organic Ranking. So Barry can say he is a stubborn if only Google Penalize his site's PR only. But when Google will also penalized his Organic ranking, he cannot remain a stubborn. I know he has a very good reputation both in SM and people come directly to his site. But what ever the % of share he has from Organic Search, if dropped, this will have serious impact on his site traffic as well as his earnings. Barry can give many excuses like he had earlier do so for selling links but it doesn't matter if only the penalty is on site Page Rank, which is now revoked.

Ryan Anderson

06/08/2013 03:42 am

Those are my thoughts exactly. They are pretty much saying, go ahead and buy spammy links... and then if you get penalized you can use the Disavow tool to try to fix it.

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