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Any changes from Google about selling links?

 12:20 am on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Can anyone please tell me whether there is anything new in regards to TLA, does Google still or even more consider websites selling linsk thru TLA as SPAM and punish them by lowering PR and such?

[edited by: tedster at 10:20 pm (utc) on Mar. 14, 2008]



 2:06 am on Feb 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have a few sites, but this is my big one. I already run ads from 3 networks including adsense. The private ads were only a portion of my income from the site. I guess I'm completely ignorant of what PR is. What do you mean by "real PR"? If you can't see it or measure it, how do you know it's there? I'm not trying to be argumentative here, only to really clarify what's going on. Thanks for your responses.


 2:14 am on Feb 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Oops you missed my edited to add

Google placing your TBPR at 0 is no different that those companies who
scam newbies by "cloaking" their site's TBPR at 9 or 10.

The uninformed or naive believe the TBPR and either pay top price for PR9s that are actually PR2s or vice versa, they don't pay for a PR5-6 because they "think" its a PR0.

"Real PR" is too long a discussion to engage in again.
You can read my posts about rel='nofollow' and link buyers from Sept-Oct last year or the many, many fine debates on this forum about it.


 10:38 pm on Feb 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

A quick update. It appears that your theory about toolbar PR not affecting serps may be flawed. I am seeing a real dropoff in search positions for my top keywords. I still believe that Google is serious about penalizing sites for selling links and that it can have a real effect on your rankings. I am not theorizing. It's happening to my site now.


 12:27 am on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Anyone else facing the same?


 1:55 am on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

It appears that your theory about toolbar PR not affecting serps may be flawed. I am seeing a real dropoff in search positions for my top keywords

Back to logic, instead of fear.

Explain to me why you think Goog is "penalizing" you for selling links that you have already said you've placed rel='nofollow' tags?!

What exactly is their purpose in "penalizing" you for following their "rules"?

What exactly is the penalty?

Are you aware that there is a serious re-ranking going on for ALL sites right now aka formerly known as an "algo update"?

Listen, current and future readers:
I could honestly care less if you want to believe Google FUD and remove all your bought/sold links.
It actually makes my job (and your knowledgeable competitors') easier.

As I've said 3 times already in this thread - if you believe Goog can, will, or does penalize sites for selling/buying links then
simply remove your links and stop buying/selling links!

Quite honestly, I'm tired of discussing whether they do or not.
I have my data.
Other people can interpret their data however they wish.


 5:14 am on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)


I'm sorry that you're "tired of discussing" this. Frankly, all your sighing and stomping your feet is not helping the discussion. Your summary of what I've been doing is wrong. Please read my previous posts. The facts are these:

- Google has published in their TOS that they will penalize sites that sell links and pass PR through them. They even ask that people report violations to them

- I sold links for the last couple of years that passed PR. Obviously I had to advertise this on my site to get clients, so anyone passing through my site could see what I was doing

- A short while ago, every page in my site lost all its PR

- This week, I've seen my keyword positions decline significantly

I'm not saying there is a definite cause/effect relationship between my selling links and my PR drop/serp drop, but it's a pretty big coincidence given that others in my situation have had the same thing happen to them recently. And I'm not trying to tell anyone here what to do. I'm only passing along what happened to me. As whitenight said, interpret my data however you wish.


 6:35 am on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

1. You sold links.
2. You lost TBPR (which means nothing)
3. You THEN placed rel='nofollow' on your paid links.
4. THEN Goog this week has dropped your rankings.

Let's go on the assumptions you are making.

1. In order for Google to "penalize" your site via toolbar PR, it would have to SEE that your links are paid for. Whether it's by human review or algo-based makes no difference.

2. If, in fact, Google was "warning" you of the paid links via a TBPR reduction, then they would have also noticed that you placed the rel='nofollow' on those links as they have instructed

So riddle me this? Why are they "penalizing" you NOW?!

I'll give you the answer... They are NOT!

You are equating the massive upheaval in rankings for billions of sites over the past 7 days with your situation!

Let me repeat:
There are millions of sites this week that LOST rankings because the algo changed/tweaked.
A vast majority of them do NOT sell nor buy links.

NOTE: There are also millions of sites that gained rankings this week. Quite a many of them buy and sell links.

[edited by: tedster at 8:02 pm (utc) on Mar. 16, 2008]


 4:36 pm on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Your logic is flawed. You said:

2. If, in fact, Google was "warning" you of the paid links via a TBPR reduction, then they would have also noticed that you placed the rel='nofollow' on those links as they have instructed

This is ridiculous. You really believe that whoever lowered my PR is spending every day checking my site to see if I'm complying? Wouldn't that be nice if we could depend on same day service from Google...


 3:20 am on Feb 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

I had almost the same experience as you, on a six year old site, PR6 for three years, down to PR5, then PR4, then last October reduced to PR0 in the Google Toolbar for selling paid links.

I had some private link deals, and some thru linkexperts and linkworth; about 12 links in total, on my two main sites. Like you, I figure this is a serious warning from Google and I'm not willing to risk further repercussions.

I removed all paid text links, and asked for reinclusion, but no response so far.

I lost about $800 per month by removing the text link deals, but I make between five and ten grand per month from AdSense; more than enough to make me pay attention when Google expresses its displeasure in this manner.

However, I have not suffered any negative changes in SERPS; last few days, I've gone up, most noticeably on a one word term with 150 million results; I'm now number eight, up from eleven. On other pages, I've kept my number one spot, and even have two entries now on page one for several competitive pages that I checked.

I thought you might be interested in a similar experience to your own. Also I'd like to know if anyone has asked for reinclusion, been *forgiven* for their transgressions, and had their toolbar rank returned?

Deserving or not, toolbar rank is still regarded in some circles as a measure of success. While that is so, being reduced to PR0 amounts to a penalty in reputation, if nothing else.


 4:16 am on Feb 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi Kimkia. Thanks for your story. It's very, very similar to mine. As for the serps changes, mine go up and down. Seem to be down more than up these days. Hopefully it's temporary and things will improve down the road. Good luck with your site.


 6:41 pm on Feb 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

This thread brings up a couple of questions for me.

I had one particular site that had been a PR8 from 2005 until last October, when it suddenly dropped to a PR4. I had been selling ads on that site - some text based, some image based. I wasn't particularly in the business of "selling links", the site was popular and received a lot of traffic, but there were some people who came forward looking to buy a "text ad" that had nothing to do with the site's topic. I knew why they were buying an ad and I sold it to them anyway - my mistake, I know. Then all of a sudden I was getting emails at least every couple of days from people who wanted to buy text ads like this. If their site looked halfway decent and didn't appear to be a scam I would sell them one.

Then October rolled around and suddenly my PR dropped to a four. Naturally all of that extra link business went away with my high PR. The thing is though that some of my older advertisers - ones who were right on-topic with the site's content and actually bought ads for CLICKS not for LINKS said that the link from my site was "hurting them" in the search engines and discontinued their ads. Within a month of the last PR update, my site's revenue had fallen to just under 10% of what it was before I let the link buyers ruin it.

However my traffic from Google never missed a beat. The site is still in the top 3 for all of its search terms, and gets just as much traffic as it always did.

So was I the victim of a manual kick-down for selling links, or was one of those other sites in a "bad neighborhood" and by linking to them it caused me to drop, but it should come back up once Google updates PR and sees that link is no longer there? I've never been one of those guys who plays the search engine game, and I've never designed a site to be overly search-engine friendly ... I just design my crap in a way that seems logical to me and if they're relevant to what people looking for they get traffic. Nor am I in the business of selling PR or any other link-based sales.

But this last update really hurt and it seems to me that Google, who makes nearly 100% of their revenue from ads, wants to use their muscle to dominate all advertising on the Internet. After all, most of my ads were legitimate ADVERTISEMENTS, intended for people to click on them and visit the advertiser's site and buy something, not for search engines to see and pass PageRank. The fact that Google, in one swoop, was able to essentially kill my entire site's revenue is somewhat discomforting.

Even more discomforting is the fact that the only way I've been able to get some of that revenue back was to open up an AdSense account. In short, what they've done is transferred some of my site's revenue to themselves.


 6:58 pm on Mar 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Just wanted malooga, in particular, to know that my site just regained visible PR - but only to PR3 on home page, PR2 on significant internal pages, and PR1 to PR0 on basic content pages.


 7:16 pm on Mar 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi Kimkia. Same thing here, but so far just my home page and only PR2. But at least it indicates that someone does read the reinclusion requests. I agree with you that Adsense is very valuable and worth listening to them when they speak.


 8:48 pm on Mar 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I see some of my pages regaining PR too.


 1:28 am on Mar 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I try to understand who are the stakeholders in these "paid link penalty" discussions. Of course there are some link sellers who fear their revenue. But then there is a bunch of people defending googles guidelines as they've been writen by Moses. Google is scrapping content from our sites and now they want to make as comply? What is the big problem about link selling? It is like everything: those with good landing pages will make more money from it and will be able to buy more links and will rank higher. But that is a good thing as it is the best site. Take the example of "widget estate": the local widget estate site will buy text links for local estate keywords and will benefit; the nationwide widget estate site will buy nationwide widget estate keywords and rank well for them. The better the site the more money for ads. But I think google rather want to see these selling site using adsense. Then if buying TBPR would be "allowed", then those site buying expensive banner ads for branding would also start buying TBPR which would seem more important than spending money for adsense.

Just to come back to the topic: Google is actively hunting PR sellers, but not for the so holy SERPs but for getting a share of the adspace. And as they happen to send a lot of traffic it is sort of ok to demand for their share. Sometimes I catch them watching me; they are out there and they are smart.


 2:41 am on Mar 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Just to come back to the topic: Google is actively hunting PR sellers, but not for the so holy SERPs but for getting a share of the adspace.

Bingo! By killing my PR, they killed my ad revenue because no one wants to buy an advertisement - text or other - from a site that's going to HURT YOU if they link to you. AdSense was the only way I could recover some of that lost revenue. They basically transferred my website's ad revenue to themselves.


 4:22 am on Mar 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Whatever the case, this thread is about any changes in the area of link selling - have you noticed any?


 5:27 pm on Mar 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes, as i said earlier, some parts of my website recovered their PR.


 8:01 pm on Mar 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Are you seeing any ranking changes coordinated with that shift in toolbar PR? Also, was the main issue with your site that you sold links or that you bought links?


 10:11 pm on Mar 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes to both questions.


 2:19 am on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hey wmuser,

I went through your posts to this thread as carefully as I could and you don't appear to say that you changed any practice you were following on your website in question.

I see you mention 'rel="nofollow"', did you actually apply it or did you just research it?

Did you change any practice or policy you had toward the site? That is, if you made any updates between 'the sting' and the 'recovery', did they follow your 'usual style'?

tedster asked "was the main issue with your site that you sold links or that you bought links?", not to be too picky but, "yes" isn't a very clear answer to this question, would you mind making that clearer?

Please tell us if you changed much, wmuser, or if you 'stuck by your guns'?

The policies I stick to make it unlikely for me to face this myself but I really do think that what I understand whitenight's advice to be covers this problem with (forgive my translation:) "stick by your guns with things you have established, make a 'clean' site and build it up following all the known 'rules' on it if you are that worried."

Sorry it's more questions really,


 3:30 am on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Here's my experience on a well-established content site online since 2002. It was PR6 for well over two years, then suffered a gradual decline over about 18 months, first down to PR5, then PR4, then in October last year, to PR0.

The first PR reduction was, I think, unrelated to this issue. I'm not so sure about going from PR5 to PR4 - that may have reflected some of the first moves taken by Google in response to paid links. The topic was being discussed here, at least, but had not yet become a political hot potato.

The move from PR4 to PR0 was definitely a penalty incurred because of paid text links on my sites. I had paid links on two sites, a PR4 and PR3, and both went down to toolbar rank of PR0, while two more of my sites, which did not have paid text links, retained their previous rank.

Throughout this entire time, there was no impact for me on search results; in fact, my main site solidified and is riding high for extremely competitive terms. Google traffic has never beens so good and my Adsense income has also increased.

I chose to remove the paid text links, because I make a good living with AdSense and don't want to tick them off. I submitted a reinclusion request before Christmas, explaining there were no more paid text links on my site, and wouldn't be in the future. I got no reply, but have just been returned to a hesitant PR3.

Oddly enough, while my site sat at PR0, I had no offers from the text link brokers that I previously worked with - but the day my site returned to PR3, I had an offer emailed to me. I won't be accepting it.

I have had private requests for banner ads in the last few months, so there's potential there to regain lost text link revenue through banner placements.

I'm just glad to be registering on the Google radar again and hope to regain more PR rank in the months ahead.


 5:10 am on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

My story is almost identical to Kimkia's.


 12:17 pm on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Oi oi oi... hold up one moment...

Throughout this entire time, there was no impact for me on search results

...this was the single most important sentence in your story.
Rankings unaffected? Whee... seems our perception of a Google 'penalty' is quite different.


This brings us back to the point... if people'd have been educated about the fact that while your visible PageRank is lowered the page passes just as much of the vital parameters ( which is the whole point of all text link advertising ) they'd not have been scared away from buying links from you. Have you tested this? Surely not, but tests so far have shown that the pages DO pass on the ORIGINAL signals.

Re-read whitenight's posts... and ask yourself whether it was FUD or not.


It was.
Toolbar PageRank reduction is a FUD campaign, aimed at both you and the 'buyers'. It does nothing more than distrupt their simple minded measuring of link power of a site.

>> If a site ranks top 10 for competitive phrases and has a cache date no older than 1-2 weeks old, it's good to get links from. <<

If the previous sentence would be simple enough for all buyers to understand, spreading FUD wouldn't work.

But actually it's already a bit over-complicated. For this sentence uses words instead of green pixels. And it's up to you to try and convince the community that your site still has valuable parameters to pass... which campaign you won't bother with, and thus the cycle is complete.

So, actually their FUD campaign works quite well on some regions/markets where people have forgotten why on earth they're buying the links.

It's ranking POWER.
With latent effect on: TRAFFIC ( originating from HIGH RANKING ).
With latent effect on: ROI ( originating from TRAFFIC ).

I don't see the $ToolbarPageRank scores 0 through 10 in this equation.

Visible/public/toolbar PageRank has had nothing to do with this... for a long long time now. Even actual ( hidden ) PageRank has lost some of its significance. And this phenomenon only has been around for three years, it's just that Google forgot to put the new parameters up for PublicHype(tm) simplified into little blue and red pixels ( talkin' about Trust and Relevancy ).

Honestly, what's so hard in pushing this line through? Lemme add some magic words as a bonus...

>> If a site ranks top 10 for competitive phrases and has a cache date no older than 1-2 weeks old, it's good to get links from. It can pass on the power to rank high. <<

And this can be checked from the Toolbar all the same.


gah. enough.
it's just... my pride as an SEO. all the link buyers can stay in the dark for all I care.

But please don't call this a penalty. A penalty is when your site loses its rankings / gets unindexed. Once your sites get hit, it'll be a penalty, but right now ...
This is a multi-level FUD campaign.

congrats to Google though. never seen a better example.
This should make it to the page on the subject at Wikipedia *smirk*


 2:05 pm on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)


I agree with much of what you have said, including the fact that the problem is one of perception. Yep, I could try to tell people that a lack of visible toolbar rank doesn't affect my site's ability to pass on traffic and ranking, but the depth of this debate proves how difficult and time-consuming that task would be.

Text link brokers don't help, because they provide toolbar ranking information to text link buyers and use it as a yardstick of link value; with higher PR, you get higher rates; with zero toolbar PR, you aren't going to get many customers.

Quite apart from the buying and selling of text links, there's also the overall perception to overcome...many site visitors still mistakenly believe that toolbar PR indicates how trustworthy and popular a site is; if they visit one site with a PR6, then visit another in the same niche with lower PR, the one with the lower PR is going to be less well regarded.

While that perception persists, a reduction in PR does amount to a penalty of sorts because it devalues a site's reputation. My site's reputation matters to me, therefore I don't like sitting at PR0 while less important sites are showing up at PR5 or PR6. It just doesn't look good.


 3:06 pm on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Absolutely, Kimkia. Miamacs, you may be 100% correct in your analysis, but it is perception that rules advertising. It's not about truth, it's about fantasy. That's what advertising is. You and whitenight seem to be missing this subtlety. It would be noble to go up against Goliath and fling the truth at him until the masses join the battle, but I'm afraid I'll just have to leave that task for those who have the time and courage.


 3:22 pm on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

lol No subtleties missed. Please go back and read my earlier posts.

Now that you have your Fake TBPR back, figure out HOW Goog knew you were selling links in the first place and don't make the same mistake IF you want to sell text links.

I and others have already pointed out how to keep the pretty green pixels AND sell text links.

Yes, it involves a little more work and effort, but who said making easy money was supposed to go to those who want the easy way out?!

If you can remove yourself from the "WOE is me! Google has killed my no-effort-required ad revenue" mindset, you'll find yourself actually making MORE money in the long run in the market.

But again, if want to argue excuses and fear-based motivations, then I'll shut my mouth again and simply read along. ;)


 12:16 am on Mar 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

I work hard to design content for my site, photograph it, edit the photos, write accompanying text, code the page and do everything necessary for site maintenance.

Before this, I was a freelance magazine writer. To read my articles, you had to buy a magazine, but most of the magazine's revenue came from advertising.

Now people read my work for free and I make an excellent living from AdSense and two banner networks as well.

I had about 12 paid text links, spread between two sites, all relevant. Half were nofollow. Because of these Google tanked my toolbar rank to PR0. I removed the links and lost $800 per month; not enough to upset me unduly and I've since recovered some of that in additional AdSense and banner income.

I would be very concerned, however, if my site suffered worse consequences from Google because of paid text links. So, yes, there's a fear factor. The return of some visible PR indicates a return to Google's good graces and is therefore reassuring.

I do wish that I had heeded the warning signs earlier and thus avoided this reduction in reputation and the accompanying worry about it.


 4:05 pm on Mar 16, 2008 (gmt 0)


"I see you mention 'rel="nofollow"', did you actually apply it or did you just research it?"
No, i didnt.

Did you change any practice or policy you had toward the site? That is, if you made any updates between 'the sting' and the 'recovery', did they follow your 'usual style'?
Here are a few more details.
I have been selling links thru two brokers.
I have removed one of them a couple of weeks before the last Google PR update.
When the PR update took place i have found that my websiet idnex.php page has lost its PR from 4 to 3 and many parts of my website from 4 to 0.
Couple of months later(a week ago) i have found that my website main page has a PR 3 and most of those subpages which were set to PR 0 now have PR 3.
Since the last PR update and untill now i didnt changed anything, just added couple of more pages of content, but it coyldnt affect my websiet PR since i have thozuands of pages on my website.

"tedster asked "was the main issue with your site that you sold links or that you bought links?", not to be too picky but, "yes" isn't a very clear answer to this question, would you mind making that clearer?"
I am sure that an issue was the list selling although i have never seld links for PR porpose Google seems to take any link sold thru TLA as a PR link.
My website had a PR 6 for 4 years and everything started changing about a year ago.
I have lost my PR to 5 then to 4 and then to 3.


 4:43 pm on Mar 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

"Now that you have your Fake TBPR back, figure out HOW Goog knew you were selling links in the first place and don't make the same mistake IF you want to sell text links."

They knew I was selling links because I advertised that fact openly on the site. I don't have a crystal ball, but it seems to me that someone reported my site to Google. Isn't this pretty obvious?

[edited by: tedster at 6:45 pm (utc) on Mar. 16, 2008]


 5:01 pm on Mar 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's easy enough for Google to check suspects of selling links. Send them an email directly as john@somewhatrelevantsite.com and ask to buy some advertising and see what answer comes along.

Some blurry parts to that obviously, you need a whole army of emailers - easy enough, 200 people in India doesnt' cost a fortune.

What if they don't quote prices on the first reply? You just send a request for "How much for an ad on page X?"

What else?

That said, I agree with Whitenight. Make cash now and worry about it later. If it doesn't affect your serps then what's the problem? You might lose your advertiser whoa re looking for TBPR but then who needs them, you focus on your high end customers and sell them more links.

Or you don't sell links at all, use AdSense and keep on working for "THE MAN". Because that's exactly what it is, again...

[edited by: Pico_Train at 5:03 pm (utc) on Mar. 16, 2008]

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