The Washington Post made news in the SEO crowd on Friday, as Barry Schwartz reported that they are selling links in their blogroll. This caused a bit of a stir as people tried to figure out if this would help them improve their page rank, and rankings, by purchasing these links. Here is where you can see the discussion thread at SearchEngineWatch.
You can see our post on the matter (under the name Stone Cold) in the SEW forums. The basics are this: Google does not want you to buy links for Page Rank purposes. So when they discover a situation where someone is selling links, and is not using “nofollow” tags on the links, they record the location of the links in a database of some sort.
Whammo! The link has no value. You can buy the link, but make sure you are buying it exclusively for the value of the traffic it brings you, because it has no other value.
So what is behind this thinking? All search engines, including Google, want links to represent legitimate endorsements of the value of your site. This is the basis on which ranking algorithms are built, with the intent of creating a search index with the highest possible relevance. A purchased link is not an endorsement, its a commercial transaction. Purchased links hurt search engine index relevance.
In our view, the pursuit of purchased links, whose value can be squashed at any time, results in short term gains at best. Better to focus your time and energy on great content and high value links that show that your site deserves those high rankings. Do this and there is very little risk of waking up in the morning and finding out that your site got banned last night …