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Paid links - where's the risk again?

     
1:14 pm on Apr 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I woke up this morning thinking about how I'm going to promote a couple of my secondary sites. And I got to thinking about all the effort I put into hand building white hat, quality links. Sure it works.

But so do paid links. And I'm seriously starting to question how big the risk is. More to the point, I'm starting to think that the risk is minimal.

- paid links have been around for years.
- they're easy to get
- they work. people rank just on bought links, and on very competitive terms.
- except in a very few cases, Google isn't doing anything obvious to stop them. (which would be the risk).
- Google hasn't been doing anything obvious to stop them in years.
- The serps are filthy with people ranking over the long term using paid links.
- the serps are still fine. Nobody's complaining Google's serps are full of spam or junk. In fact, there's probably less complaints than there were before paid links became commonplace.

In short, the risk is having your site penalized or booted out. But that's not happening -and hasn't happened in the long term. I was concerned about risk over the first year or two, but year after year after year people continue to rank without problem using paid links.

So remind me again, what's the risk? Why am I not doing paid links as a primary strategy?
6:47 am on May 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What's with all the paid link posts all of a sudden?

Just say no, take a look at the search rankings of every service who's openly sold them in the past, do you really think search hasn't taken a good close look at the link blueprint surrounding those sites and extended the bans accordingly?

Do it the hard way, you'll sleep better.
7:13 pm on May 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What's with all the paid link posts all of a sudden?


I think something major may go down soon...like in the next few months
7:26 pm on May 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Just say no, take a look at the search rankings of every service who's openly sold them in the past, do you really think search hasn't taken a good close look at the link blueprint surrounding those sites and extended the bans accordingly?

Have you had a look? It's been years since Google's done anything on this front. The serps in any commercial sector are overwhelmingly dominated by sites using various forms of paid links. There's no bannings or even penalties for this and hasn't been in like, forever.
7:39 pm on May 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

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There's no bannings or even penalties for this and hasn't been in like, forever.


WeBuildPages was hammered for this by Google only a year and a half ago. It was mentioned on SERoundtable [seroundtable.com] and discussed elsewhere, inluding on Jim's blog where he publicly confessed his "sin" [webuildpages.com] and promised never to do it again. We can't forget history.

I'm not saying don't engage in buying links. I'm not promoting it, either. Just saying let's not forget what's happened in the past.
6:28 am on May 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

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"There's no bannings or even penalties for this and hasn't been in like, forever. "

This simply is not true Wheel. I have seen websites hit in the last year by this, and they were websites at or near the top of their respective genres.

I cannot imagine that being position 51 for every search including their business name helped revenue much that year.

It is a risk versus reward topic. Losing some money but competing, to me, is better than folding up shop.
11:31 am on May 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This simply is not true Wheel. I have seen websites hit in the last year by this, and they were websites at or near the top of their respective genres.

WE can always find an exception. What is true is that there's no algorithmic slap for this stuff. If there's any penalties, they're both hand applied and rare.

Proof: check most of the commercial serps. Many/most rankings have been done via paid methods for years - it's how most rankings are happening these days.
5:15 pm on May 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What is true is that there's no algorithmic slap for this stuff.


That's a fair statement. However I think there are indirect slaps that are somewhat related and unrelated to the commerce of links that has the effect of deprecating the effectiveness of some of those links. The most obvious example is the diminished value of links from crap directories. Another example of an indirect (or somewhat direct) algo slap is the dampening that outbound links receive from the page position. Those are just a few, I can name more, but I'm certain you know them too.
3:17 am on May 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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"WE can always find an exception"

Well, do you want to be the exception? Personally the tidy little business I own that has survived since the dawn of Google and is still going strong is there because I never risked those things.

"If there's any penalties, they're both hand applied and rare."

Not as rare as you think. Look around in WebmasterWorld and other forums on the number of threads of people who dropped -60, -80, "overnight"

Those are not always updates, my friend.

I am not saying people don't do it, and even get away with it for years. I am saying that by telling fellow WebmasterWorld'ers that it is rare is not entirely accurate.
5:21 pm on May 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I rarely advise a client to buy paid links. I explain that it is against G's guidelines and that their site could be penalized. But I don't believe Google can detect paid links. If they could, why would they have recently requested spam reports?

But there *is* the threat. Even without the request from Cutts, competitors will out you if they can, won't they?
1:37 am on May 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

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"But I don't believe Google can detect paid links. If they could, why would they have recently requested spam reports? "

I guess it's not black and white. Maybe they can detect some kinds of paid links, but not others.

At the end of the day Google is a business, and they'll try to invest their resources to get the highest ROI :-). Maybe leveraging spam reports has a lower cost than figuring it out on their own (but still helps them accomplish the desired result).
1:13 pm on May 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Well two of the competitors I reported 3-4 weeks ago have dropped to the bottom of page 1 after holding spot 1 and 2 for about a month. Could be a sign of things to come or could just be regualr algo updates.
3:59 pm on May 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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mjtaylor
I rarely advise a client to buy paid links. I explain that it is against G's guidelines and that their site could be penalized.

Then how are you helping your clients rank well in Google when rankings = links.
4:04 pm on May 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Regular algo updates. Everyone without a hand penalty is still ranking fine using paid links. Still working fine.

Google's like the boy who cried wolf. At some point it's going to become clear that the big bad algo just ain't going to clamp down on this.

And at some point it's going to become clear that those of us who don't do mainstream link buys are missing the boat.
4:22 pm on May 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Regular algo updates


I'm still not sure about that, but even if it is a regular update they must be detcting the bought links somehow. They may not be getting a penalty, but the link juice must not be working anymore.

How do I know? I can tell when they launch a new link buying campaign and I can tell when the campaign starts to fail them based on an analysis of their backlinks and fluctuations in their rankings.
4:41 pm on May 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Then how are you helping your clients rank well in Google when rankings = links.


There are other ways to obtain links, or had you missed the link bait boat? I am not fond of any sort of "self service" links, but I do write and place articles for clients. I encourage them to find a forum where they genuinely want to participate. I sometimes suggest they have an off-site blog. I believe directories still have some value.

But content development is what I most highly advise. Develop unique, link-attractive content.
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