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SEO expert warns against selling links

Johnston Press penalised by Google for Interflora advertorials

SEO expert Mark Proctor has warned about Google’s ongoing clampdown against link selling.

In his article Google Penalises Scotsman.com, Proctor noted how one of the most important aspects regarding a Google ranking is the quality of incoming links, which drives the PageRank score. But any attempt to ‘game’ the system, when discovered, can have repercussions.

Proctor said that in February, Interflora created a number of advertorials on The Scotsman and other Johnston Press sites, expecting a boost in ranking. However, the advertorials lacked ‘nofollow’ code on the links to Interflora’s website, which Proctor called a blatant violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines, “on a large scale [and] across a range of news sites that Google trusted and awarded relatively high [PageRank] scores”.

Google’s response was the effective removal of Interflora (bar paid-for links) and the severe reduction in Johnston Press’s PageRank scores, resulting in the company’s websites vanishing from generic searches, as outlined by Anthony Shapley on the David Naylor blog.

Proctor concluded that recovering from such a penalty would be tough, not least because any reduction in PageRank makes a site a “tough sell to any advertiser”.

Further cementing Google’s position on the matter, Google engineer Matt Cutts penned a reminder on the Google Webmaster Central Blog. “Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or ‘advertorial’ pages on your site that pass PageRank,” he warned, adding that ignoring this advice could result in “loss of trust, lower PageRank in the Google Toolbar, lower rankings, or in an extreme case, removal from Google's search results”.

Image: David Naylor.

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