Here is a great post from SEO Blackhat titled Don’t Buy Links – Buy the Whole Site. It offers some good and practical advice about paid links. Here is a great summary quote from the post:
Generally, the sites you can still buy links from that can pass link juice (help you site rank in the SERPs) will be small to medium sites with a single owner or decision maker.
This confirms what I have been saying for a long time – that getting paid links from authoritative sites that will pass you PageRank (i.e. bigger sites with a big reputation) is not something you should expect that you are going to be able to do.
To underscore this the theme of the post is that you might spend a few thousand a year to buy a link for the year, but you might also be able to buy the whole site for $10K to $15K. This in, in fact, a very practical suggestion. I don’t think that Google will soon go after people who expand their business by initating a series of acquisitions. Seriously, I would suggest that people consider acquiring sites as a part of their strategy.
However, you will probably accept my suggestion that you are not acquiring an authoritative site for $15K.
Google’s recent aggressive steps against the paid links biz have been noticed. Unfortunately, there will probably be some innocent roadkill along the way, but any single algorithm change made by a search engine has this affect.
As I noted before, I was surprised that Google broadly included sites that do in fact clearly label their sites as “Sponsored” or “Advertisers”. It surprised me because there are lots of innocents out there who do not know what “nofollow” is.
To me, this is a signal regarding how bad the paid links problem was becoming for Google. Too many people who did not have appropriate content quality were getting rich. They must have seen no other way to combat it other than taking strong action.
So what’s next for Google on this front? It seems to me that the next step would be the ability to take action on individual sites in faster response to Paid Link Spam complaints through Webmaster Central. Google already guarantees that someone will look at each authenticated report made through Webmaster Central (this is a report you make through your WMT account, which means they know who sent it in).
The next step is a simple one. Provide the person reviewing the complaint with some verification tools and procedures that they can use to be absolutely sure that they can identify paid links that are passing PageRank. Then let them set a flag and move on.
Obviously, they would need to be absolutely sure that the links are being paid for, and not take any action unless it is clear and obvious. Ambiguous situations would be reported to others for further review.
Google may not take this step because it is not algorithmic in nature. But if they want to get people to stop looking for links that pass PageRank, this would be another simple thing they could do in that battle, and the incremental human resource drain would be minimal.
Always keep in mind the strategic objectives of the search engines, and align your site strategies with those objectives. It’s the most secure place to be. Their strategic objectives change far less frequently than their algorithms. It’s the only way to develop an authoritative web site of your own.