In last week's O'Reilly In Debate Over Link Selling, I looked in particular at Google guidelines and how they said not to buy links to boost rankings. Google spam fighter Matt Cutts now expands on that in his Text links And PageRank post. Selling links might not get a site banned, but it might prevent it from passing along reputation. Meanwhile, Google might crack down on those buying them -- which has one search marketer wondering if link purchaser Yahoo needs to lookout.
In the post, a key part covers how while link selling might not get a site ousted from Google, it might be prevented from passing on that reputation points (ie PageRank) to others via links:
Reputable sites that sell links won't have their search engine rankings or PageRank penalizeda search for [daily cal” would still return dailycal.org. However, link-selling sites can lose their ability to give reputation (e.g. PageRank and anchortext).
Matt also talks about the difficulty in automatically spotting paid links:
At this point, someone usually asks me: "But can't you just not count the bad links? On the dailycal.org, I see the words 'Sponsored Resources'. Can't search engines detect paid links?" Yes, Google has a variety of algorithmic methods of detecting such links, and they work pretty well. But these links make it harder for Google (and other search engines) to determine how much to trust each link.
Near the end of his post, he warns that Google might also look at new ways to crack down on those buying links, if they can detect it:
I wouldn't be surprised if search engines begin to take stronger action against link buying in the near future.
Proof of this. Dave doesn't provide any, but a link:autos.yahoo.com shows what he's probably referring to. So to the second page, look at the 12th result, which is this page (from the Google cache). Look on the left-hand side, and there's an e-commerce box with a link for "New Car Prices" that leads to autos.yahoo.com.
That box is the internet.commerce box I mentioned in my earlier story, which Search Engine Watch itself used to carry when it was part of Jupitermedia. As my other story explains, I was happy to see it go for just this type of reason -- bad publicity about carrying off-topic link. Of course, having a search engine itself as one of the purchasers of such off-topic links is pretty significant cover. As Dave says:
If link buying is so bad, ban Yahoo I dare you.
Back to Matt, he reiterates that link buying isn't bad if you're just looking for "click traffic, to build buzz, or to support another site." But in those cases, he recommends using the nofollow attribute as a way to tell a search engine you aren't trying to put something over on them.
Alternatively, Google may begin using its new Intent-O-Meter technology now in beta, to determine whether a page is intent on somehow deceiving them. The humorous details can be found over here at Gray Hat Search Engine News.