Selling Links & PageRank Penalties
Earlier this week Matt Cutts Google’s lead search of spam and John Mueller a webmaster trends analyst at Google both, interestingly on the same day, brought up two all too familiar SEO concepts selling links & PageRank penalties – an in depth reminder to the potential dangers that webmasters face when selling links...
Matt’s announcement came through a post on his personal blog page that was simply titled “Why did our PageRank go down” which shares a response given to a webmaster’s query. The post is based around a newspaper that contacted him over the issue of their PageRank falling from 7 to 3 and in short they just wanted to know the reasons why!
There are two pieces of content that really stand out from the post and highlight quite simply the reasons for the PageRank penalisation - Matt states that “the usual reason why a site’s PageRank drops by 30-50% like this is because the site violates our quality guidelines by selling links that pass PageRank” and later goes on to mention that “we saw links labelled as sponsored that passed PageRank”. Alongside these there is a reference to an “outside spam report” received about their site detailing information about paid links present on their site.
Reviewing these statements in the clear light of day, whilst comparing them against the guidelines given within Webmaster Tools Link Schemes advice section there utterly becomes no real argument for the webmaster to raise - any “trust” that has been established and built up over the years has simply declined in an instant and begs the question “Was it really worth it?”
On the same day during a Google Hangout John Mueller, whilst talking about the issues surrounding link schemes and PageRank, stated that “when a site is recognised as being an aggressive link seller” that “there are situations where we will reduce PageRank”. This clearly underlines the factors given in Matt’s earlier post but raises a bigger question of whether this may turn out to be next big project in the eyes of Google? Attempting to eradicate these schemes/links that have not been designated as “legal advertising” i.e. by not adding the rel=“nofollow” attribute or redirecting the links to page with a robots.txt file... or have these posts merely just been a small coincidence?
Both posts however end with the usual suspect... the dreaded words “reconsideration request” that must be compiled once the webmaster believes they have removed the suspected reasons for the PageRank penalty. Was it really worth it? You are probably thinking of the little known phrase of Déjà vu as you read the last line from an earlier point in the blog but if there is one thing I wished to highlight in this blog is that trust is becoming ever more important in SEO and the risk of jeopardising this undoubtedly outweighs the opportunity to raise a little extra cash along the way!