Is Google Going to Expand its Punishments of Paid Links?

Search Engine Roundtable put up a post yesterday asking Are SEOs Still Buying Links?. Based on this post, I thought I would update my thoughts on whether or not SEOs will continue to purchase paid links. First though, let’s start with some poll data from Barry at Search Engine Roundtable. The post starts by presenting the output of a poll on the topic of Buying Links at the Digital Point Forums. Here is the data from the Digital Point Poll:

  • No – I never bought links and never will (27) – 39.71%
  • No – The Google Penalization Scare Me! (6) – 8.82%
  • Yeah – It’s Still Working Well For Me (30) – 44.12%
  • Yeah – But I have reduced my spending just in case. (5) – 7.35%

Barry also offers up a simpler poll in his post. The question asked was “Are You Still Buying Links?”, and the results from that are as follows:

  • Yes (52) – 64%
  • No (26) – 32%
  • Other (3) – 4%

As you can see, a large percentage of respondents in Barry’s poll indicate that they still buy links (64%). This is much larger than the data indicated by the Digital Point Forums where 48% indicated that they don’t buy links. In rough terms we can interpret the data to tell us that 50% to 65% of SEOs buy links.

The Digital Point Forums data on the Google Penalization scaring SEOs suggests that only about 9% of respondents were affected. This does not surprise me at all. As I noted in my post 3 Surprises in the Google PageRank Update, a large sea change in link buying behavior will only occur once material punishments are put into play.

Lowering toolbar PageRank, but doing nothing about rankings in the process will do nothing.

However, SEOs need to cast a wary eye in this direction. Certainly one step that Google can take easily is to discount the ability of sites that sell links to pass PageRank. This by itself will have a dramatic affect on the overall paid links ecosystem. This latest initiative will certainly encourage more active link reporting, particularly in terms of getting webmasters to report their competitors.

In addition, Google has already shown their willingness to fire warning shots. They have already adopted the practice of banning sites for 30 days for certain infractions as a warning shot. Then, if the site owner does not respond, they will take the next step. If you use purchased links as an SEO tactic in your business, this is something you need to worry about.


  1. says

    Hi Optimiser,

    The way I see it, the initial penalties levied by Google are not that serious. Many reports suggest that all that happened is that many web sites lost “tool bar visible Page Rank” but they did not lose any real traffic.

    Losing traffic is when the penalties will get serious. I suspect that this may well follow in the future.

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