Since the dawn of time, people have tried to cut corners by cheating to get an unfair advantage in nearly all aspects of life, business, pleasure and sport.
We find SEO cheats almost every day; it naturally comes along with the job. These days it’s less about hidden text, etc, and more and more in the form of paid links.
As you’re aware, links from one website to another website form the foundations of Google’s algorithm and has set Google apart from every other ‘meta’ based search engine.
Frankly, it’s difficult to perceive what the internet would be like had Larry Page not made the connection between academic papers and links between websites.
Obviously, a paid link is a link given in exchange for money, rather than a genuine vote of ‘link confidence or approval’ of another person’s content.
It’s no secret Google hates paid links. Matt Cutts (head of Google’s web spam) has been very concerned about this for several years now simply because it can compromise the quality of Google’s search results. In some cases he noted that paid links to brain cancer information sites could actually be highly damaging in terms of the quality of the information on those sites and outright dangerous in some cases!
So what does a paid link normally look like?
One of the things we do when optimising a client’s website is to look at the back-links of competitors who out-rank our client. We look for opportunities to obtain links from their link partners to start a ‘link negation’ process while at the same building as many high quality links as we can find.
We recently found what we think is a paid link when we were examining a page with a list of helpful business links on topics such as marketing, economics analysis and legal sites. Under the title of “Other Sites” was a link to an online pharmacy selling Viagra. This made me very suspicious.
This could be a case of someone hacking into this page and inserting a link. In any case, I have submitted this page to Google’s ‘Report paid links’ facility in Webmaster Tools for Google to investigate. If you suspect someone is buying or selling links you can do the same.
The point is, it’s important to obtain links as ethically as possible, from your suppliers, directories. etc. When an SEO company sees links like the ones above to competitors, we’re obliged to act in the interests of our clients (and hopefully make the web a better place at the same time!).
So if you see competitors buying links through link buying websites or similar, report them (if they’re not declared “sponsor links” or don’t include a rel=”nofollow” tag) and hope Google’s continued refinements to its algorithm discounts them.
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Chris Thomas heads Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.
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