It was great while it lasted. Since, Google wanted websites to have a great link profile, for any webmaster, links from blogs came in handy. Webmasters paid few dollars to the blog owner for link with a specific keyword rich anchor text and everyone was happy. The webmaster’s site got link juice, the blog owner made some income and Google got what it asked from websites.
It continued for many years before it all went downhill. The system started getting exploited. I am not even sure if it can be called that. I will touch upon this subject later. Millions of blogs sprouted which had just one goal – To pass link juice to other websites. These blog were fed on spun articles and junk content. These blogs were often a part of huge blog networks and were meant only for Google. Google may say that it cares for good content but the problem was that it didn’t simply follow that or was not capable of. Its search algorithm just cared for content on these blogs and rewarded them with good Google PageRank. This PR was then used to judge the value of a link from that webpage.
Soon, this method was followed by every SEO company – big or small. SEO companies started acquiring links for their clients in hundreds and thousands depending on the paying capacity and the competition. The situation deteriorated when websites started dominating the Google search results on the basis of just paid blog links. This kind of SEO became the de facto standard for almost entire SEO industry. Clients wanted quick results and paid links ensured that. Google did nothing except deindexing few sites which it thought violated its webmaster guidelines.
Last year, Google received bad publicity by the sheer amount of spammy sites in their search results. Google acted by rapping J.C. Penney on knuckles and introducing a series of Panda updates to weed out content farms and spammy sites. But it did little to curb the influence of paid links.
How Google Responded
In 2012, situation started changing or at least looks so. Google started deindexing sites which sell paid links with a great fervor. Axe fell on major blog public networks such as BMR. If this was not enough, it started sending messages on Google webmaster accounts regarding unnatural links.
Dear site owner or webmaster of ….
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.
If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
And thus, panic ensued. Google has been saying that websites are not been manually penalized. As per Google’s instructions webmasters have started removing all paid links.
Is this the End of paid Links?
So the question is – Is this the end of paid links? Will the webmasters stop acquiring paid links?
I think not. What will end for sure is indiscriminate and obvious buying of links with specific keywords as anchor texts. Maybe, webmasters will have to use a variety of anchor text which look more natural and in context.
SEO companies will not stop buying links altogether. For now, many will stop on their tracks and evaluate the situation. But as soon as the hysteria and mass panic will die down, link buying in a different avatar will start. After all, the essence of internet is sharing of links. If there are no links then internet will die. Rel attribute is still not used by all and won’t be ever be. Link buyers will get smarter. To differentiate a normal link from a paid link is almost impossible if patterns are avoided. Other ways are when either the buyer or selling openly proclaims that they are indulging in it or if Google actually conducts a sting operation to out the blog networks.
Websites with only paid links in their link profile will obviously suffer and there will be a temporary cleanup of Google SERPs. I say temporary because all SEO efforts essentially needs lot of manpower and money to run. While earlier also, big companies spent big bucks on link buying they will divert their efforts on other SEO tactics. All we all know that just because a website belongs to a billion dollar corporation it doesn’t naturally follow that it’s most relevant or even useful for a searcher.
Essentially what has happened is that Google is responding to the allegations that people can manipulate their SERPs so easily.
Will Google Succeed?
Will they succeed? The answer is No. Because, by bringing in Google + and social signals in to SERPs, Google has introduced new elements which can just as easily be exploited and much harder to detect.
To summarize, paid links are not going anywhere too soon. Mindless link buying will stop and in its place will start smarter ways to include paid links.