So, here we are, a little over a year removed from the JC Penny link buying debacle, and another major SEO player has gotten caught with their hand in the cookie jar. I won’t go into detail about the latest case of blatant link buying, as you can find the details somewhere else, but I feel like the issue is worth revisiting.
The Equivalent of Buying Links
The Link Buying Problem
In case you’re unfamiliar with the tactic, some SEO companies out there purchase links on their client’s behalf to help boost rankings. This black hat tactic has been around since the dawn of Google, since they were the first search engine to put such an emphasis on a website’s link profile. It used to work as simple as more links = higher rank. Since then, the algorithm has changed dramatically, now focusing more on content, social, sharing, quality, page load speed, etc, but links are still a factor.
Google has always stated that buying links is against their rules. Here is the actual language from their site:
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.
However, as long as links are a factor in the ranking algorithm, companies and SEO firms are going to do anything possible to gain more of them.
How to Avoid Being the Next News Story
If you want to stay on Google’s good side, content marketing is the way to go. Creating great, unique, relevant, & sharable content will allow your site to gain traffic and rankings. The best part about this, the links will come naturally if you’re good at creating content. Your site will begin ranking for hundreds and thousands of terms if you’re good at creating content. Your site can break free of the “Keyword Jail Cell”, as I like to call it, and truly become a marketing tool. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about changes in Google’s algorithm – content will always be king.
If you can’t take care of content marketing with in-house staff and you truly want results from your Internet marketing, then you can hire out some help. One last word of advice, however, is to make sure whomever you choose to help you knows that you’re strictly against paying for links. Sure it may work in the short term, but Google, and other watchdogs, are getting awfully good at noticing suspicious activity. SEO firms these days should talk to you about your business goals, content creation, social strategy and overall marketing plans…not technical SEO. If you can’t understand what they are going to do for you, don’t break out your checkbook.
Remember, Google's always trying level the playing field. No company should have an ace up their sleeve. If a tactic sounds fishy, it probably is.