Written By: Adam Dince
Most of the buzz in search this past week has been dominated by news of iAcquire getting banned from Google’s search results for its paid linking practices. Given the importance of this issue, I thought it appropriate to explain why Google hates paid links so much.
At the 1998 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, Canadian, Ben Johnson captured the gold medal by defeating American, Carl Lewis in the 100 meter race. Not only did he win the race, but his time also set a new world-record.
Shortly after his stellar performance at the Olympics, Johnson was busted for using performance enhancement drug, stanozolol. Johnson’s “doping” violated the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) policies and ended with Johnson being stripped of his medal and given to the first runner up, Carl Lewis.
I share this story because it’s completely relevant to how Google feels about paid links. Think of Websites as Olympic runners and Google as the IOC. Google allows runners the opportunity to win its gold medal, a top organic search ranking. However, Google expects the runners to follow certain guidelines to keep the playing field even. If a Website tries to win the race by artificially boosting its performance via a paid link scheme and Google catches it, that site will be penalized along with the company/agency that brokered the deal.
Google wants to return the most relevant and useful results for its users. Google’s complex ranking algorithm looks at a variety of different signals that indicate the quality of a Website. One of the most influential signals is a Website’s link profile. Think of a third-party link pointing to your Website as a vote of confidence in your favor. The more powerful third-party links that point to your Website, the more equity (PageRank) your Website earns, thus increasing your organic search performance. Buying links from paid links vendors is an underhanded way of tricking Google in to thinking that your site is more popular than it is, thus artificially inflating your Website’s gravitas. And though you may be able to get away with it for awhile, eventually Google will catch you.
How serious is Google about identifying and wiping out paid links? On top of refining its algorithm to detect unnatural linking patterns, Google also encourages Webmasters to report paid links directly to Google.
It’s no secret that Google clearly dislikes the practice of buying paid links and has made every effort to make Webmasters aware of their guidelines. Search marketers that continue to engage in link buying are basically waving their middle finger at Google, saying “We care more about our rankings than we do your users.” If your SEO company / consultant is buying paid links for your Website, please take my advice and find someone else to handle your organic search marketing.