Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog

Google Punished My Site For Selling Links – NOT!

The Cool Aid is running thick, and the Google FUD Campaign is doing a great job at letting SEO’s and bloggers spread the paranoia.

In a post by Graphic Designer David Airey originally titled "Google Search Ranking Penalty" (title has since been changed to "Google Search Rank Drop: Advice Needed") David shows how his site has lost rankings for his name as well as some other phrases he once ranked high on. It’s obvious that something has gone wrong…..David consulted some other SEO’s and then guesses that the reason could be that he has sold a few link ads on his site, and that Google is spanking his rankings because he sold a few ad spots.

The story get’s Sphinn’d, hits front page, and the paranoia ensues….."Oh my God, Google’s Removing rankings from sites that sell link ads that pass juice" ….. Yea, and the sky is falling. sheesh!

and I’m sure Matt sat back like a cat with cheshire grin on watching this, and then after this was old sphinn news, the real truth comes out.

Around comment number 65, Danny Rotsaert comes in with:

…Surely, the 302 redirect from towards (which was probably an attempt to address geo targetting issues) is also not doing you any good, David.
Has that one always been in place ?
Avoid 302 redirect for this ! You’re site should 301 redirect towards the .com

and David comes back with:

Thanks very much, Danny.

As you can tell, I’m not very clued in on SEO, and it was my host provider who implemented the redirect on my address.

and then later again David says:

Thanks everyone.

I’ve corrected the 302 (temporary) redirect I had, from my to my .com address, changing it to a 301 (permanent).

I’d no idea that was the case, so thanks for pointing it out.

….but by now, Thousands of Bloggers have drunk the Cool Aid and are spreading Google’s FUD. I don’t blame David for crying wolf here….it was a prime linkbait cry and a great way to get people to find out really what happened. But I wonder how many ran with the idea of "sell a link and get banned in google".

In my experience the only thing I’ve ever seen from google, as far as effect of selling links, is that Google may block your site from passing Pagerank. Doesn’t hurt your site one bit, you’ll rank the way you always would….Google just don’t count your link love you give to other sites. (Pagerank Block beyond your site). The ironic thing is that if you’re wanting to sells links, go ahead. The person buying them will probably never know if that links passes link juice to your site in the eyes of google, and it isn’t going to hurt you.

In the Sphinn comments of that story I was conversing with Danny Sullivan who came back also with:

…I’m within you in that I’ve yet to see anything convincing me that Google is banning sites for paid links….

If Google were wacking rankings from sites that sell links, then all the weather PR9’s, and the Traffic Counters, hundreds of major newspapers, and major tech sites and tons of other huge above the radar sites that sell text links right in such obvious places would be seeing their rankings dropping like rocks….in fact if Google took it a step further and "penalized" all the sites that currently have a Pagerank block on them, you’d see a million sites and webmasters cry out in agony accross the web. It ain’t going to happen. I think there’d be some pretty big companies going after Google if it did happen (some of these companies that sell links on thier site also can afford to bring a lawsuit againt google, and then Google would have to go into legal aspects of a free market in advertising and fair competitive practices….I get a feeling that’s not going to happen in my lifetime.

It is in Google best interest to just try to identify a paid link and to not count it (PR Block). It’s really not that hard to put in a few filters to find the networks or even advertising areas of a website, and to block PR from passing from those pages. The hard part is identifying the paid ads that fall under the radar. One ad on a few pages of your website, in the content area, all different, probably isn’t going to get picked up in the radar. Joining a network or being mapped just increase your chance of having your pagerank blocked from passing to other sites….but again, it doesn’t effect your rankings.

That’s why I’m all about getting our own links from virgin sites that aren’t selling links in above the radar places nor from networks….I’d like my chances of a link to bring traffic and juice to be high.

Tell me you’re not drinking this Cool Aid, are you?

Feel free to Sphinn this.

It’s also worth noting the buyers side: Can Google Find and Spank you Paid Links?


26 Responses

  1. I agree with avoiding the big networks in favor of quiet little ones, for good links. And I would suggest John Chow was a targeted, manual penalty to promote the FUD, because he is so vocal and visible. Similar to the effect of David’s situation. Except that John really did get a “slap”. (Not that it has done him any great harm.. if anything it has raised his profile..)

  2. Thanks for picking up on this, Jim.

    There’s certainly a heck of a lot of differing opinion, and when I sift through it all, I’ve learnt a decent amount of SEO good practice (though still just a drop in the ocean on what I could learn).

    There’s also the duplicate content issue that crept up, following my $4,000 prize giveaway. I found that many of the entrants were simply copying and pasting my sponsor list into their own blog posts, which doesn’t seem a great idea at all for my own site.

  3. Excellent article Jim. Too many times the world runs crazy with the first plausible, though often improbable, idea they encounter.

    Being a mod at has taught me one thing over and over again – rarely, if ever, does someone post a question with all the relevant information needed for YOU to make an accurate analysis of the situation for them.

    Thus, I tend to approach every “The Sky Is Falling” sign with a level of skepticism. Sure, I’ll duck when I witness some others truely get flattened – but why duck before that?

    Sadly, Google’s mantra of “Do No Evil” seems to have some gray areas that allow them to comfortably spread some “disinformation” – or at least tacitly approve it’s spread via silence and ambiguity in some cases.

    Whatever – the bottom line STILL remains as it always has been:

    Build good, useful, unique content, and the users and engines will love you. How you monetize it is beyond anyone’s control except your own – be sensible and it’s all good.


  4. I am pretty new to the SEO arena in comparison to guys like Jim, Aaron Wall, Duane, and others, but one thing I have learned quite quickly is to sprinkle a little salt on “Chicken Little” posts before consuming them. 🙂
    @Duane: The last paragraph in your reply is like the Golden Rule of SEO and marketing from what I have learned so far. Seems to be the one “real insider secret” that a lot of folks ignore.
    Thanks for the insightful post Jim.

  5. You may be right about selling links but from the perspective of sites wanting to buy links things have changed and its fairly obvious. Just don’t have a “sponsored” links section..

  6. I’ve never seen any hard evidence that Google is banning sites for selling links. Most people have no clue what’s going on with their site. They only hear bits and pieces of SEO information and draw very small conclusions. Before crying wolf, you should consult an SEO profession who has been around the block and seen every type of filter under the sun and can pinpont the reasoning.

    After listening to people in forums like Digitalpoint for years, you see that most people jump to conclusions way too fast and do absolutely no research to back up their claims.

  7. Great post Jim, and bang on! How tasty Cool Aid is before we realize its no good for us. I’d also argue to avoid site-wide links since this has a unique tell tale signature as well.

  8. Yes it is not the link seller that gets punished it is the link buyer that gets punished by purchasing worthless links they think will help them. Stay away from sites that oversell links or openly advertise they sell links.

    Although, at this time it seems all links help as Google seems to removed their garbage link filter for some reason.


  9. If Google would only get rid of pagerank, then webmasters would not waste their time in chasing links from websites with high PR instead focus on better content and usability. Nor would anyone pay for something that cannot be quantified.

  10. Hey Jim,
    Will you join my hand to form new SE?
    Google cannt overcome this all. Can he stop webmasters from joning hands and Play with SERP. Link Buying He can’t. Hey who is laughing thr.

  11. From Jim’s linked in article:[quote]It’s my guess that someone then reported me to Google, using the ‘report paid links’ page in their webmaster tools.

    Of course I can’t be sure of this, but I think it’s a resonable assumption.[/quote]
    Didn’t it get posted somewhere that Google said they only use these reports for overall analysis but ignore them individually? I could stand to be corrected on that.

    Google’s getting it’s asshole reamed out right now by paid links. As far as I’m concerned, getting rankings right now is easier than it’s ever been. Buy up a whack of paid links from readily available systems, and you rank. End of story. And I’ve not seen anyone getting whacked by this. If they are, it’s a hand job. Algorithmically they don’t have a clue. Footer/sidebar links maybe – but it’s not hard to buy content posts and none of the Fud drinkers are providing any answer to the question as to how to pick up a non-networked paid content link (answer: because there isn’t any way).

    And for the life of me, I don’t see how they’re going to pick up some of these systems. I don’t see this changing any time soon. Get in, sit down, shut up and hang on, because the rankings are easy to get for the forseeable future. Google’s focus makes me nervous, but there’s no way they’re fixing this ‘problem’ (aka opportunity) right now without a whole lot of handjobs.

    I’ve gotten clients easy rankings on secondary terms with a half dozen paid links. And I’ve just watched someone who’s been trying to outrank me for years on a very competitive term (40-50 million results) just stroll past me (and my hardbuilt non paid links) using nothing other than a ton of paid links bought via a system. It freaking works, and it works well. The recent influx of companies providing this has just given everyone easy access to get rankings.

    Let me tell you what the real problem is. Paid links work. A ton of people use them, a bunch more bitch about them. Six months pass. A few more people figure out that in fact paid links aren’t getting hammered because Google can’t detect them when done properly. Meanwhile the first batch of folks are making a killing on their first batch of websites that now rank everywhere for everything. They start work on another 1000 websites and start buying links in bulk. More folks wake up and see the money train leaving the station. All the big money terms are being run by sites buying paid links and the secondary terms are getting bought up.

    Two years later, Google’s serps are complete crap. Google is owned by SEO’ers. Everyone’s in on the party. THEN the public figures this out…it makes the press. Google looks like an idiot and there’s NO FIX IN SIGHT!. End result, Google is the next Yahoo!.

    That’s what’s coming. Google’s got very bright visionaries and they know this is coming. So how do you fix a problem you can’t fix? Make the other guys look like the bad guys. Spread fear. Isn’t that what they’re doing? They’re certainly not fixing it via algorithm, lol.

  12. I can image Matt Cutts coming to you and say “Option a) I drop your rankings for some mistake you made; option b)I drop your rankings for some month, you say OMG-it-was-because-i-sold-links, and I will make your site rank again” What would you choose? ;D

  13. quote:
    …….In my experience the only thing I’ve ever seen from google, as far as effect of selling links, is that Google may block your site from passing Pagerank. Doesn’t hurt your site one bit, you’ll rank the way you always would….Google just don’t count your link love you give to other sites. (Pagerank Block beyond your site). The ironic thing is that if you’re wanting to sells links, go ahead. The person buying them will probably never know if that links passes link juice…….

    what I’m reading is that sites that sell links may not be able to pass link juice but the buyer won’t know it?

    there’s an seo out there selling paid links through a text link network. 1,000 for every 25 links. So, theoretically, some of those links may not be able to pass link juice, but the people ponying up the cash for them wouldn’t know that, right?

    Makes me wonder if Cutts is the FUD so many seem to think he is. I know I wouldn’t be happy to be paying for a link that’s not passing any juice. Would you?

  14. Very reasonable article, Jim. Google is on the same boat as web publishers selling links. They are in the same business so they won’t penalize everybody around but they will warn to use the best practice (nofollow etc.) and may put a PR Block on your site. They will also pick a few “big heads” and penalize their sites (David, John) to show the SEO community to be careful.

    You have a few paid links, some affiliates, moneymakers? All right. But if you go massive with your actions then don’t be surprised. I am not surprised with David’s site ban. “Please link to me with … anchor text”. It is similar like putting in an H1 “I buy links – penalize me, Google”.

    Let’s be gentle in our SEO practices and don’t make Google knock to your door!

  15. Hi Paul M.,

    Not sure what you mean by “big head”, but I know I’ve done wrong. Hopefully it’s not too late to reverse my mistakes, and I’ve sent an email to all 250 entrants of my prize draw, asking them to remove their links to my site.

    I sent the email yesterday, and so far around 50 people have responded saying the links are gone. I’m hoping the others follow suit, to diffuse my stupid Google bomb.

  16. I read these stories and all the original posts. What gives this tool the right to cry wolf when he was trying to game the system? It happens to thousands of people everyday who genuinely has just messed up but this guy knew all to well what he was doing.

    And tool if your reading, thats not a compliment

  17. i hav a website which page rank was good before 2 months…suddenly it had a drastic changes in page rank ..i was confused why google penalised me……my friend said this is due to duplicate content….Is ther any way to protect contents of my site….

  18. Google never like anything related to link trading, but he can not stop someone to do it. One thing is for sure, Google penalize link farms.

    To jack,
    You can put copyright notice on your website and can report to hosting for copyright violation.

  19. I’m not sure what to believe now. I’ve deleted all my payment processes in the light of Google’s pr drop and some links have gone as well. Did Google punish via pr drop or not, and is it safe to sell advertising?. I have noticed a major drop in sales, like 0 since the drop. My index page dropped anyway, i guess because of lack of content or other. But i lost pr on internal pages for reasons unknown…

  20. Who ever else participates in link trade will be penalised by google, so many sites have been lost page rank its affected most of big product sites..

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