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Why you should never use paid links

Why you should never use paid links

There has been a lot of debate over the ethics of using paid links to prop up your search engine optimisation campaign over the years. Some SEO companies refuse to use them (like us here at StuckOn) whereas some SEO companies swear by them (although they wouldn’t openly admit to using them for some reason).

The problem with using paid links for SEO purposes is that Google deems it akin to robbing old aged pensioners for their ration books (sorry, showing my age there – but the point is valid). Google makes its stance on paid links very, very clear. Any site caught paying for links could suffer the consequences and spend an eternity in the wilderness, or Cwmbran – whichever comes first.

Naysayers however argue that Google won’t ban websites for using paid links. They (and by they, we generally mean the SEO companies that pay for links themselves – they know who they are) believe that anyone who pays for links is doing so risk free as Google would only penalise the websites caught selling them, rather than the sites paying for them. This is more than just a theory, it’s propped up by good common sense too. If Google were to penalise a website for ‘buying’ paid links, then you could, in theory, pay to direct links at your competitors and have their sites penalised by the all powerful G.

That doesn’t sound fair does it? Therefore Google can’t possibly punish sites for buying links.

Ah, but thou shalt not test the almighty G, for its knowledge knows no bounds. It knows everything, even when the owners of the websites themselves may not be aware of what shenanigans their SEO company is up to – Google does.

If, by this point, you’re crying ‘nonsense’ – Google has no idea about your paid links antics and it will never catch you… take heed of what happened to Ryan Abood and his website GourmetGiftBaskets.com. Ryan didn’t buy links, but he did hire the services of two SEO companies (why two, we’re not sure) and one of the aforementioned companies did engage in the practice of buying links.

Ryan Abood

Now, it’s not for us to say ‘we told you so’, but we did. Google found out, and struck down with great vengeance and furious anger, dropping GourmetGiftBaskets.com from the index, on the eve of the holiday season. This happened in 2008, and that holiday season Ryan’s website lost a staggering $2 million in revenue. The holiday season was when GourmetGiftBaskets.com did most of its trading, and most of its sales came from Google. The results were catastrophic, and they didn’t stop there. It was one and a half years later before the website was added back by Google, with a loss of $4 million in sales.

Ryan was able to make up some of the lost sales by using Google Adwords and paying for sponsored clicks – but naturally this was expensive and ate into his bottom line like one of his customers might eat into a gift basket.

In case you’re thinking this may have been coincidence, or there could have been other factors to the exclusion of the website from Google – Matt Cutts, the Google head of spam and all round expert on reasons for being banned, posted on his Twitter about the incident. Matt also added:

“our guidelines are clear on this topic”

There you have it other SEO companies who use paid links. Google is quite clear on the subject. Pay for links, and taste its wrath.

Do you know what your SEO company is up to on your behalf?

  • […] are also many traps for the unwary; doing things like posting duplicate content, buying links (which Google really, really doesn’t like) and getting the proportion of keywords wrong can diminish your rankings in the SERPs, and in […]

  • Let’s make it clear. Google cannot make the difference between what is paid and unpaid. If this guy has been caught, it is because the agency is stupid. It doesn’t make sense to increase the number of the links of a website multifold overnight. Any beginner in link building will know that he should divide the link creation task into small chunks. 2 or three links everyday is natural, whereas 60 links a day is suspicious.

  • Yacine

    Google most certainly can tell the difference because they have such a thing as a manual review. If a website has hundreds of links on a page, all pointing to irrelevant websites, then the chances are those links have been paid for. If there’s a connection between the websites being linked to, and the ‘SEO company’ mentioned on those websites, then it’s also very easy to determine who has actually paid for the links.

    Matt Cutts knew the SEO company responsible for the paid links to GourmetGiftBaskets.com, it’s his job to know and it’s not very hard to find out when you know what to look for.

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