15 years ago, Google was barely keeping up with the explosive growth of the internet, and simply tallied every link back to your website as if it were a vote. The more votes, the higher your “PageRank” (named after Larry Page), and the higher you’d appear in the search results. The text of the link itself (the “anchor text”) determined what search queries you would rank for. If Webmarketing123 had the most links with the words SEO Company as anchor text, then we’d appear above our competitors for users searching on that phrase.
With Google’s most recent algorithm update, nicknamed “Penguin”, literally millions of links have been stripped of their power to confer PageRank. A dizzying array of link schemes, link farms, link exchanges, link wheels and paid link networks have been flagged, bagged and tagged. Still, hope springs eternal. According to Google, over a million “spam” pages are created every hour for the express purpose of goosing Google rankings.
So isn’t it just a cat-and-mouse game? Google updates the algorithm, and the link sellers adapt and continue?
This time it’s different. According to Google spokesperson Matt Cutts, “People think they can buy links without a footprint, but…. paid links becomes a higher risk endeavor. We’ve said it for years, but we’re starting to enforce it more”
Google has been training its programs to not only catalogue the web, but also read it. Backlinks are evaluated in the context of the paragraph they appear in, the context of the entire webpage and website, and in relation to all of the outbound links on that website. Are there more than 10 outbound links on the page? Do any of the links go to pages that no longer exist, or pages that Google has already flagged as spam? Google also evaluates the entire link profile of YOUR website. Do more than 40% of links back to your website have high-value keywords as anchor text? Do you have a normal amount of #nofollow links (not conferring PageRank) back to your site? I could go on, but you get the idea.
The bar has been raised so high that hundreds of thousands of webmasters are now receiving “unnatural linking” notices and seeing their websites sagging in the search results as the paid links that were supporting their position are spotted and stripped of their Google juice.
Still don’t believe it? Marketing Firm iAcquire was de-indexed by Google last month for buying links for clients.
So when you see those ads guaranteeing to boost your pagerank for a few hundred bucks, know that it’s too good to be true. Any gain you see is bound to be temporary.