Google has painted a clear picture in the past few days, and, although it’s done absolutely nothing to change things for me, it’s theoretically parted the clouds, in a way I previously had never conceptualized. Google’s official stance is as follows:
Examples of link schemes can include:
- Links intended to manipulate PageRank
- Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
- Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
However, one other Bing search later, and you can track down the following:
SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site. Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners.
SEOs, by nature, are hired to manipulate PageRank. If webmasters simply operated on “content” and “UX” alone, they would never need to hire an SEO. But SEOs, based on their job description, find those special ways to evoke PageRank boosts for their sites so ranking can be increased. So why does Google say hiring an SEO can be beneficial to your site? Doesn’t that run counter to the policy on the other opposing page?
Yes, yada yada yada. This is true. And it’s a whipping, never ending theoretical debate. That’s not the point, though. The point I’m getting at is that Google, by penalizing Forbes & J.C. Penney, and ignoring others in clear situations where they’ve also bought links and manipulated PageRank, is that their above statements aren’t real reflections of their internal policy at all.
The internal policy, whether they know it or not, is not that PageRank manipulation is bad - it’s that mutually shared awareness of PageRank manipulation is bad. When webmasters know they are selling links for SEO “juice”, things get out of hand. Neighborhoods stop being neighborhoods, and start being spam-riddled denizens of anything and everything – and furthermore, the fact that a link was bought becomes painfully obvious, and thus, easy to penalize by the Google webspam team.
Links get posted in the wrong areas. When only one side – the SEO – knows this, and can convince the unaware webmaster that no PageRank manipulation is taking place, the link will never get penalized, even if a brick of cash is exchanged publicly between users. This is because these kinds of links will never be obtrusive, since one webmaster is not aware of the frailties of your website inclusion. And furthermore, Google simply won’t care – because it often helps the web, or the world, in other ways – and furthermore, it doesn’t make them look stupid. This is why sponsorships of huge sites, for huge sums – as Gray mentions – will always pass a hell of a lot of value. And this is why JCPenney will get penalized for getting links to dresses on Real Estate blogs or sites like Mortgage Refinance Rates.
Even if things start well where there are no other paid links on the site, once the webmaster becomes aware of the PageRank manipulation taking place, he or she will begin selling other links, especially as your competitors flock to abuse their linkjuice. Here, even in situations where the site is relevant, abuse can proliferate, and it will become increasingly obvious that even though that news blog is about insurance, if every blogroll link says “rates, plans, or policies” in the links a thousand times – a mutual awareness of PageRank manipulation was taking place, thus raising red flags and burning down your once-attractive ship.
Things can deteriorate, yes, and it’s likely that your first link will bring more people that are likely to make the webmaster aware of manipulation. But it’s likely that it’ll take months, or years, to happen.
And if you adhere to this policy as a rule, I guarantee that you can spend Demand Media’s valuation on paid links and never get caught. Because, almost certainly, you’ll be enhancing the web and/or the world – even if your own manipulative PageRank increase comes running along with it.