SEO Tactic to Avoid #3: Buying and Selling Links

Today’s tip warns against the dangers of buying and selling LINKS.

An obvious disregarding of the rules of the web, buying and selling links indiscriminately for search engine optimization purchases definitely deserves to be punished. Essentially, paying for links is paying to be popular, and no one likes a cheater. This kind of etiquette never worked in high school, and it certainly won’t work on the internet. Think about why people use Google in the first place: to find the most relevant answers to their questions. Say Google allowed its site contributors to pay more money to be listed at a higher position on the results page. Eventually, the search engine would lose all of its credibility because it put price before relevance. Search engines are vital resources, and it’s crucial that they be able to maintain their integrity. And this explains why Google’s patent on its Adwords PPC ad-serving system is so valuable because advertisers are listed according to the relevance of their ad, not just a big price.

Even the search engines, the self-proclaimed police of the internet, have to play by the rules – just look at what happened to Google Japan. In February of 2009, Google, king of the internet, had to penalize one of its own, Google Japan, when it began paying bloggers to write articles about the “hot new keywords” function at the top of its homepage. It consisted of a list promoting the most searched terms typed on the search engine. When selected, these keywords linked to their respective Google searches. Problems arose when Google Japan hired an online marketing company to create buzz about their new tool, which was already available as a widget to webmasters through none other than the pay-per-post function. Although Google rules the web in many countries, Japan is not one of them. Facing heavy competition from Yahoo’s search engine, Google Japan chose to disregard its own rules in order to increase its popularity. Without fail, the almighty Google came down hard on Google Japan. The campaign was stopped immediately, and the frantic apologies began. Clearly, Google Japan’s remorseful email was not enough, and the search engine had to be punished. Google imposed a tough PageRank penalty upon the Japanese version of itself, bringing its rank down from a 9 to a 5.

If Google is willing to penalize one of its own, its fair to say that no one is safe. Who knows what havoc Google will wreak on your website if it finds out about any shady business? The search engine could drop your page rank, throw out your links, or ban your site from the index for any given phrase. No matter what Google does, you can bet that your site will feel its harmful effects. The best advice: be honest. Don’t purchase shady links, and only link to sites that you’ve looked at to ensure their relevance and quality. If you’re really nervous that a link might be seen as manipulative for the Google ranking system, you can request a rel=”nofollow” attribute that keeps the link from passing any parameters. Avoid buying and selling bad links at all costs to allow your website to thrive with a clean conscience.