One of the better ways to gain rankings in Google is to ensure that you have plenty of inbound links from trusted and relevant websites. In order to try and avoid websites from capitalizing on this, Google began hinting that it would devalue links that had been purchased instead of earned. Matt Cutts wrote a definitive (at least for the usually elusive Google) post in September 2005 at his blog. Ever since, people have been speculating how Google could actually devalue such links, unless they were clearly marked as being paid. In most cases, the "nay-Sayers" have won out, since it would be very difficult for Google to actually identify all paid links, especially anchor text links from relevant content.
In a post last Friday at Google Blogscoped, by Philipp Lenssen, it is pointed out that
You can buy a PageRank 9 backlink on a W3C page for a mere $1,000/ yearWill this kind of exposure cost a site with the respect and authority that W3C.org has (PR 10, if you follow these things) some "weight" in it's transfer of link power? According to the comments following the post, it certainly will.
Matt Cutts himself points out that
The trouble with supporting a site just to get PageRank-carrying links is that you don't always get what you might want.And returns later claiming that he wasn't trying to sound cryptic (must be a habit), pointing to a comment by another poster that more clearly states
link-selling sites can lose their ability to give reputation (e.g. PageRank and anchortext).
This is a very interesting topic, as it shows one way that Google now through Matt semi-officially claims it can effect the weight of links from individual pages on otherwise highly trusted sites. Although I have yet to find any forums discussing this issue, a lot can be gleaned from the Comments Forum attached to the Lessen post. Please feel free to post forum discussion links in the comments below.
(note: Barry covered this on Friday at the Search Engine Watch Blog)