diberry - 4:54 am on May 27, 2012 (gmt 0)
I appreciate your quoted argument above but I do think Google is handling it properly at this point. I STILL wish they'd remove links as a ranking factor altogether because I can't tell you how tired I am of dealing with them, nor do I want to go "gather" them just to rank, but hey. This is the next best option, a pro-active Google willing to act when they must.
Well, I believe I've seen sites unfairly penalized for natural links, and sites not penalized when they're blatantly selling links to transfer pagerank. For that reason, I can't quite agree with your first sentence - I think Google should back off from meting out punishments in situations where there's no way to prove "guilt". With this SEO company, there was "proof", which is why I'm okay with that.
That said, I strongly agree with the rest of what you said here. It's always bothered me that links are so critical to the algo, partly because not every link actually is a "vote" for a site. Sometimes you link to a site because it's such a bad example of something, because it offers a worldview you find offensive, etc. I very much wish they'd dump links out of the algo, so they could go back to functioning the way they were intended to.