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As for "passing on PR" i'm a bit uncertain if this has any influence on ranking. It occurs to me that ranking is one thing and PR another - for sponsored links it's more about anchor text. Imho.
However, if you do pay for PR and/or traffic, try to make sure that the site has a good reputation and is not doing anything that could get it banned.
Also, there are many, many ways of picking up links for free. See the link development forum for just a few ideas.
Google used to be more 'fair'; as soapystar notes there was a time when truly the little guy had more or less the same shot at getting listed as the big well funded guy. But Google has made so many changes recently that have been negative for the little guy that I can't even count them all.
The message that G was no longer a friend of the little guy was in the winds long before Florida (and relatively obvious ever since Dom/Es). After Flordia even the many loyalists who kept asserting that G was just looking for quality results have had to rethink.
This is just a business decision taken by big G, which for quite some time now has been far more concerned about big M and big Y than about little ol' ma or pa.
<'eh 'em, back on topic>
As far as we know, text link ads have been valuable for a very long time now. What still amuses me a bit is this crazy phenom that even for a single link, the "link-er" often seems to benefit as much or more than the "link-ee." Meaning that there's a double incentive for sellers recently... ;-)
It occurs to me that ranking is one thing and PR another
Clause, that has intrigued me, can you expand somewhat?
Purchased links has become a very dangerous business. I can't think of a faster way to drop completely out of the serps.
Dangerous business for whom? The seller? So Google is going to decree that Web sites that sell text advertising or sponsorships are not worthy of appearing in the SERPS? Not likely.
The buyer? This would mean that you would lose control over your own destiny - any site could take out any other by linking to them.
I think "dangerous business" may be a little dramatic. As discussed elsewhere, what is more likely is for Google to look for ways to tone down the effectiveness of purchased links in influencing search engine placement.
I think "dangerous business" may be a little dramatic
Far from dramatic if you are put out of business because Google drops you down to page x! Buying and selling PR is not worth the risk. Exchange links by all means if they will help your visitors, but don't buy or sell PR.
To advise otherwise it quite irresponsible IMO.
I'm just trying to understand how blacklisting could possibly be a rational, sustainable response to the buying and selling of text links - a practice that has been around for years, and a method of advertising that is proven to be more effective than banners.
By all accounts they should be generating huge amounts of traffic from their PR and on-site optimization. But because they just happen to make their stats public via domain.com/stats....lol.....I happen to know it ain't so.
It appears Google "somehow" knows that the allocated PR is not real.
I've studied the competitor's backlinks for hours, but I can't see how Google could possibly tell these are paid for links....but it seems to be able to do so.
My conclusion is that sponsored links are pointless for the purpose of ranking high in SERP's. Sure they give PR, but that doesn't seem to count in these instances.
Can anyone throw any light on how Google could possibly be detecting sponsored links other than manually?
I also agree that it's almost certainly a manual flagging.
For a SE, it’s far far far far better that anyone trying to artificially improve their rankings do so by buying links on existing content sites than creating useless directories, review sites, blogs, guestbooks, forums…..etc.
This is business for all concerned, and in the real world, guess what? The people with the money get greater advertising visibility. Nothing’s changed, other than Google coming into line with the accepted business model, which has managed to stand the test of time.
Still a real shame that people who’ve built useful content rich sites are getting pushed down by poor sites with rich link building budgets.
ciml, I'm a bit surprised you're agreeing with this, unless you refer only to very outrageous cases like SK. Hard to believe that sites selling ad links or sponsored links are all the sudden being penalized, generally speaking - there are thousands and thousands of them.
We know G doesn't like manual penalties either, but these would almost certainly have to be manual to be employed. Hard to see how G could distinguish these any other way.
Besides, anyone want to try and explain what constitutes buying a text ad versus buying a link?