So there I was; alone in a darkened room with only my computer for company. The house was empty and I’d been looking forward to this moment for a while… looking at the seedy side of the internet… going from underground forum to ill-reputed website. I knew it was wrong but I wanted a quick fix and no-one was going to stop me. My mind was made up and ranking was on the agenda.
I didn’t even mind paying for it. I know it was free elsewhere on the internet but I wanted ‘quality’. I realised that I was a little clammy as a rush of excitement shot through me at the prospect of finding something that would suit my tastes… then I found it. A website that offered EXACTLY what I was after. I had to log in and give my credit card details before I could sign up and use the ‘service’, but once in, it was everything that had been described in the numerous emails I had received about it.
It was not hard find something that satisfied my tastes. Sure, I knew it may not have been within the guidelines of the internet, I knew it was dirty. I knew it was wrong, but no one need ever know. So I clicked to the point of no return and committed myself fully.
… I had signed myself up to an online link scheme.
Needless to say, this story ends badly: with feelings of post-event insecurity, getting caught a few months later for the dirty ranker I was and eventually getting ditched altogether from the one I valued most highly: Google.
That’s right, folks. DO NOT BUY INTO DIRTY LINK SCHEMES! – Unless you want a good ranking off. You will get caught. You will get a penalty and you could lose your online business as a result.
Chances are though, if you do get caught: you’ll deserve it.
Google Penalty Matt Cutts Star WarsAs an SEO I have some sympathy for webmasters who buy links for short term wins. The sad fact is that many ‘professionals’ in our own industry actually advise that link buying is still a valid practice. What may have been acceptable at one time is now firmly against the ‘law of the internet’ or more accurately, the Google Guidelines. We’ve had countless enquiries and clients who have been promised instant results based around a select number of keywords, which are often vital to their online business – and seen those instant hits end with a Google Penalty. In some cases at the hands of the numerous Penguin Algorithm Updates but the severe rule-benders have seen a manual penalty.
For a website to see a minimum 5 place penalty to a potential black-listing on valid key terms can literally see a successful business drop into oblivion can destroy a company overnight. No one is safe from this, no matter how big they are. Back in February 2013, Interflora bought a huge number of advertorials (something which they had done numerous times in the past and got away with) to boost their online rankings for Valentines day sales. Only this year they received a penalty for doing so. Not a few places either: they were wiped from the face of Google, appearing only in the paid-for Google Ads.
Anyone can buy these advertorials and whilst it is legitimate to buy such links, it will incur the wrath of Google if those articles links are not ‘no follow’ which pass no page rank from the article to the website in question. This had previously been a grey area with Matt Cutts of Google seen in numerous videos warning that it was considered bad practice to try and buy page authority in this way. In fact, Interflora were so heavily penalised for this act that a blog we’d written [here] was on the first page of Google when the search term ‘Interflora’ was used with no appearance from Interflora themselves… other than the sponsored listings. No-one is safe.
Don’t Pay to Rank.
Google is very clear about this. Each link to your site is theoretically a vote of confidence from another place on the internet to you. Paying for this is ‘gaming the system’ in Google’s eyes. Links should be earned, not paid for, whether it be through shares on social media, links from other reputable websites or the host of legitimate methods available. In short, Google wants to see that users have willingly shared your content or linked to it.
In Google’s own words directly from the Webmaster’s Content guidelines.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site.
- Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines:
- Text advertisements that pass PageRank
- Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
- Links with optimised anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example: There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.
- Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
- Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example: Visitors to this page: 1,472 car insurance.
- Widely distributed links in the footers of various site.
- Forum comments with optimised links in the post or signature, for example: Thanks, that’s great info! - Paul: paul’s pizza san diego pizza best pizza san diego
Note that PPC (pay-per-click) advertising links that don’t pass PageRank to the buyer of the ad do not violate our guidelines. You can prevent PageRank from passing in several ways, such as:
- Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the tag
- Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file
The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.
Which is a lengthy way of saying: Earn links. Never buy them, never exchange them, always ensure that links to your site are highly relevant and high quality, with any advertorial links being ‘no-follow’ so though a user may see the link, Google will not, thus not passing the Page Rank over.
So How Do I Rank & Get Away With It?
In short: earn it. Links are still a very important ranking factor, but it is more important now than ever that those links are valid and reputable. For instance, writing a guest blog on a website with a high domain authority that is relevant to your industry will in turn pass on that page rank to you. Perfectly legal in Google’s guidelines and very good for ranking signals. When your articles are shared via social media or quality forums, Google will see this as a good thing and in turn reward you. Making videos for You Tube and including relevant links, blogging regularly with links to products or services
you offer – All relevant. GOOD QUALITY CONTENT WITH GOOD QUALITY LINKS, it’s that simple.
Instant Hits Means Long Term Penalties.
Can you still get away with buying links? In short: Yes. But not for very long. Google Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that it is still a way forward and you can still pay to rank without actually putting in the leg work of Social media / Blogging / Content creation etc. This is sadly true to an extent, but only if you plan to have an online business for a few short weeks or months. GOOGLE WILL GET YOU eventually and when it does, you can kiss your dirty ranking habit goodbye… along with your online business.