Months of debate have preceded (and surely will follow) the recent article by Danny Sullivan, “Official: Selling Paid Links Can Hurt Your PageRank Or Rankings On Google” at Search Engine Land.
Since April, conversations of whether selling paid links will get your site penalized in Google have been brewing. Well, according to Danny’s article, selling links can cause your site to drop in Page Rank or in Google’s search results. From his article, Danny states,
[In the past,] if spotted, in most cases all Google would do is prevent links from a site or pages in a site from passing PageRank. Now that’s changing. If you sell links, Google might indeed penalize your site plus drop the PageRank score that shows for it.
To validate this suspicion, Google has confirmed that they have in fact started to penalize, or drop sites selling links from the search results, or their index all together.
I pinged Google, and they confirmed that PageRank scores are being lowered for some sites that sell links.
In addition, Google said that some sites that are selling links may indeed end up being dropped from its search engine or have penalties attached to prevent them from ranking well.
But what if your site doesn’t sell links, but buys them. What does this mean for you? In general, there are two ways you can look at this. First from a link popularity perspective, or from a traffic perspective.
Since Google isn’t viewing paid links as quality links, and is going as far as penalizing sites that sell them, you can expect that any purchased links will not pass any PR or link popularity to your site. So even if the page your site is linked from has a PR 8, you will likely not receive any PR benefit from this link.
Is the site you are purchasing a link from a well-known resource in your industry? Do many users use this site as a reference? Checking your log files to see how much referral traffic you gain from this site is a good start. But keep in mind that as Google continues to crack down on sites selling links, your great referral site may lose positions, thus lose traffic which could very well effect the amount of traffic to your site from this source.
As always, keep an eye on where you are getting links from. Monitoring all of your paid links and the sites you’re linked from is important. Also, for linking purposes, it’s important to continue garnering quality, on-topic natural links as they are extremely important in improving search engine positioning and will benefit your site in much more significant ways (algorithmically) than paid links.