It’s always been one of those things that has made me uncomfortable in the past. Google says very clearly that it doesn’t like bought links (that’s paying for a link from somebody’s site instead of earning it) and so we advise people against it – yet I see loads of sites doing very well through such tactics in practice. The threat was always that eventually Google might catch you out and those links will all be disregarded (or if you’ve been caught – possibly unknowingly – being part of a link farm or link ring then you will be dropped from the index). But Google’s threats never seemed to amount to much – sure I’ve heard stories at second hand of the occasional site being de-listed, but only very very rarely. Cynicism had set in over Google’s mantra of ‘do no evil’ when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation.
At PubCon (big US internet conference) recently, Google has signalled more strongly than ever that it intends to do more to eliminate the effects of paid links: If you buy links from link directories you will probably find that Google WILL automatically ignore them, so you are just wasting your money, and if you form part of a link ring (you link to me, I link to Fred, Fred links to John etc. eventually back to me), an effective and difficult to spot tactic used in the past by some unscrupulous SEO companies, then you WILL be removed from the Google index.
Thanks Google, I now feel much better in saying what I’ve always said:
Don’t buy links to try to manipulate the Google Search Results*
* Terms & conditions apply, it might be worth in some cases paying to be listed in directories that have genuine significant traffic where people find sites and link through to them (few and far between).