I'm just returning from a well-earned, extra-long holiday weekend away from the computer, so I managed to miss Google's sneaky little update to their webmaster guidelines late last week. Thankfully, Search Rank's David Wallace was on the ball as usual and got a great post up noting the change. While the new guidelines did include mention of the nofollow tag if you went hunting for it, the new ones do a pretty good job of explaining exactly what Google expects from site owners who buy or sell links.
While Google has long stated site owners should not BUY text links, the new edits make it clear they also disapprove of selling text links.
Here are the new guidelines as laid out by Google.
Some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results.
Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:
* Adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the tag
Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank.
I'm pleased to see Google has finally taken the time to make their stance crystal clear on their web site. However, I continue to be frustrated at the idea that Google is now actively penalizing sites for NOT doing something. In the past, most of Google's penalties have been leveled at sites who were actively trying to game the engines by using things like hidden text or cloaking. With their new stance on paid links, many site owners who buy and sell advertising without giving a thought to the impact it could have on their search rankings are now at risk.
David notes that with Google's new stance, he's officially on the hunt for a new hat.
So for all of you white hat SEOs who buy and sell paid links with the goal of trying to improve a sites visibility in the organic search results, you are now officially a black hat! I'm included in that mix as I buy links for clients and sell them on sites we run as well (not this one).
I expect many other site owners will be joining him.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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