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Either way, I cannot find any reliable information on this (only speculation). Is there any authoritative answer out there?
It depends... on your site.
How many links it already has.
How many links do the "authority" sites in your sector have.
Are you an authority site?
Are your new links from relevant authority sites?
What ratio of links are from authority sites vs. non "trusted" sites.
You will get "conflicting" answers because... it simply depends.
I've seen sites buy front page links from "trusted" sources and break thru the sandbox almost immediately.
My guess, is too little or too much and the site gets the ever-dreaded "wait in the penalty box for 9-12 months until our algo says you're not spam"
Oftentimes, G has to hand edit those sites (err. remove the penalty) because of their mass popularity or current topical revelance.
Let's look at wiki. Millions of links but didn't rank for a quite a while. Now it ranks for nearly everything. Seems even wiki couldn't pass the algo "spam" test for a good bit.
I've also seen sites rank with a few hundred "trusted" links in industries where the norm is 30k+ links or more for frontpage placement.
As mentioned above, your best bet (if you haven't done the research to the why's and how's of ranking for your keywords) is to build consistently and slowly... 10-20 links per day.
Of course that might be "too much" depending on the types of links, the keywords targeted and a myriad of other factors.
Basically, does Google actually penalize you or will Google just not count those links?
If it does get "sandboxed" and you contact google about it, will they confirm that it is penalized?
I had a site that I thought was sandboxed for a very long time and whenever I contacted Google they said it was NOT penalized.
Again, I'm not asking for opinions but any evidence as provided by Google.
It seems absolutely ridiculous for Google to penalize you for being added to directories too quickly. I find it ridiculous for Google to penalize you for linkbuiling in general, but that has little to do with what actually happens.
In essence, if you are a legitimate site there should be NO reason why you shouldn't be able to bring in as much traffic as soon as possible. Site legitimacy should not be dictated by its duration on the internet (that criteria is absolutely ridiculous).
But regardless of any of that, I want to stress again that I'm looking for some definite answers about Google: Do they penalize for linkbuilding?
Since I somewhat respect Google I think this is probably what they do (or should):
They give long term links more weight than short term links. So although they won't penalize you for getting lots of links quickly, they won't make them extremely relevent inbound links unless they have been up for a while. The strength in a long term link is far more legitimate than the strength in a long term website, since the link is a form of recommendation.
I'm looking for some definite answers about Google: Do they penalize for linkbuilding?
Well, they definitely don't weight all links the same. Even given similar PR and so on, some links don't do much of anything for you on Google, but that's not a penalty.
Now if you have a big bunch of links that suddenly don't count positively for you any more for some reason (Google reevalutes the domains involved, for example, or someone adds a rel="nofollow"), that might cause a ranking drop and it could "feel"like a penalty. Doesn't mean it is.
And sometimes link influence may be dampened for a while in different situations. Still, that's not a penalty either. I vote no, there's no Google penalty for link building.
Well it's not definative BUT any Black Hat knows that the key is creating Back Links on masse until Google catches you and tanks your site. You have 100's if not 1000's sites so who cares?
Rinse and repeat.
That's the 'basics' the BH SE Spamming. It is alll about getting links, rankings and PPC cash until 'you get caught'.
So if there is NO penalty, red flag - manual inspection... then how are they getting tagged? Certainly not by good citizens reporting the mass of sites?
Just a thought....