Buying Links and Search
SEO or search engine optimisation is increasingly becoming incorporated into online marketing strategies as an efficient and effective way of driving relevant traffic to a website. A part of ranking well in search engines is the number of back links and anchor text from other websites.
According to Jeremy Bolt a Director of Bruce Clay in Australia, buying links has increasingly become more common in certain sectors the Australian SEO industry and sometimes considered an easy way to get rankings fast. While buying links for traffic or advertising is in itself not an issue, buying links to improve your search engines rankings is.
According to Bolt, links are an important component of the Google search engine algorithm and one of the many signals used to rank websites by the search engines. The practice of buying links to improve rankings is also specifically mentioned in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines (GWG) as a practice to be avoided when it comes to SEO. Google specifically states “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”.
On Saturday the NY Times published an article on JC Penney a large American retailer who had been buying links and ranked as a result for numerous keywords, even better than some of the manufacturers of the goods they sold.
Being involved in what is considered a “deceptive practice”, from Google’s perspective anyway is obviously embarrassing and they have been forced to respond publicly. JC Penney promptly fired their SEO Company and rankings for JC Penney have been adjusted in Google accordingly, for the worse.
According to Google research released just before the holidays, 42% of consumers will research and then buy online, 51% research online then buy in store and 31% research online, visit the store and then buy online. According to recent research from Pew Internet, 95% of Americans making over $75,000 per year use the Internet, 88% conduct online product research and 81% purchase products and services online.
So was there value in these rankings? Absolutely. Is this practice going on in Australia? Yes.
Considerations and Implications
If SEO as a core part of your Internet Marketing Strategy then you might want to read the following:
- Understand your link building strategy in detail, if you have one
- Understand where links will be sourced from, by whom and how?
- Good links come from great content
- Ideally do not outsource link building overseas with little control
- If there is “media spend” on links, ask more questions
- Check your back link profile. There are free tools available such as Yahoo Site Explorer or use Google Webmaster Tools.
- Discuss the matter with your SEO agency
- Confirm your SEO agency subscribes to a code of ethics and works in line with GWG
- Build a response plan if you identify any risks in this area
- Start the process of cleaning up these links if you have them
Google also encourages the reporting of paid links to them manually. So beware, if you are buying links, and are in a competitive industry, it is likely your ranking competitors may have already reported you.
While bought links may provide some gain in rankings, in the long term be careful relying on them. SEO agencies may change but you will be left with the fall out.