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Paid Linking Takes a Hit

Those of you who keep yourselves up-to-date on the world of search marketing have more than likely already heard about recent changes at Google to penalize a few sites who have engaged in link buying/selling. Google, for the last several months, has undertaken a campaign to spread a message that many search engine marketers didn’t want to hear; buying/selling links for the purpose of passing PageRank is not a good idea. Still, even though over the last few months an uncharacteristic amount of chatter on paid linking was present among prominent bloggers, and at least one Google employee continued to assert that people should not be engaging in this behavior (and actually going so far as to tell us how to report sites that are buying/selling links), no one really knew what exactly Google was going to do about sites openly buying and/or selling paid links. Over the past few days, some of those site owners were the first to find out.

Google’s argument during the last few months has never been one that suggested buying text links was unacceptable on all levels. In fact, Google is completely content having Web site owners purchase or sell links on sites for the purpose increasing traffic. They’ve also suggested using the nofollow tag as a method alerting Google that while you are linking to the content, it shouldn’t receive the “influence” that a normal unpaid link would receive.

The idea of trying to manipulate your search rankings is far from new. There have been lots of tricks utilized by webmasters since the inception of search to influence their ranking favorably. Using a network of linking, whether paid or unpaid, is just one trick in a search marketer’s bag of tricks to influence a site’s organic rankings. Because a search engine’s core job is to provide search results relevant to what an end user is searching for, Google is not content to allow sites to effectively sell PageRank and potentially skew the results of natural search. In essence, Google is simply trying to make their search engine results more relevant.

Even with all the uproar caused lately by Google’s updates negatively affecting these sites who actively and openly engage in paid linking, the selling of links is far from over. Google isn’t trying to eliminate the process, only the result of some webmasters utilizing this as a method of influencing their rankings. Paid linking isn’t dead, but it can’t be approached the same way as it used to be.

Whether buying or selling a link, follow a few extra steps to ensure you’re approaching the situation appropriately:

1. Relevant Links: If you have a site on rock climbing littered with ads for casinos or car insurance, that’s going to be an easily identifiable red flag. Work on securing a link from a site relevant to your own.
2. Personal Contact: There are lots of link broker services out there. Skip them and conduct your business to purchase a link directly from a Web site owner of a Web site relevant to your own.
3. Position of Link: Look for opportunities to have your link placed within the content of the site you’re purchasing the link from. Don’t purchase a link located in a footer or a “Sponsored Links” section unless you have a good reason for doing so.
4. Do Your Homework: Purchasing a link will require more legwork than it used to, but if done properly, it will benefit your site in the long run.

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