Matt Cutts: Paid Links Can Be Dangerous To Your PageRank

Watch video: Matt Cutts explaining the possible causes of a Pagerank drop.

The latest update from Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, is a clear warning to link sellers: paid links can be dangerous to your website’s pagerank.

Recently, a newspaper contacted him asking for an explanation on their site’s precipitous drop from page rank 7 to 3, a mind-boggling slide by any measure and would cause any webmaster to hit all the panic buttons.

Here’s how Matt answered their question:

“The usual reason why a site’s PageRank drops by 30-50% like this is because the site violates our quality guidelines by selling links that pass PageRank.

In Google’s world, we take paid links that pass PageRank as seriously as Amazon would take paid reviews without disclosure or as your newspaper would treat a reporter who was paid to link to a website in an article without disclosing the payment.”

If you’re a new webmaster reading this and you’re just about ready to take down those affiliate links you’ve plastered all over your site, hold off on that for a little bit.

In their documentation on paid links, Google distinguishes between legitimate web commerce links and manipulative links:

“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.” 

Clearly, what’s being targeted here are paid links that serve to pass page rank to the target page or links that are intended to manipulate search results.

Bottom line is if Google can do this to a pagerank 7 site, they can do it to your’s.

Here are some steps you can take to be on the safe side:

  • Clearly identify and designate links purchased for advertising purposes.
  • Add a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the tag in those links, or
  • Point the links to an interim redirection page that’s off limits to the search engines using your robots.txt file.

Have you experienced similar drastic decrease in your site’s pagerank recently? How did you deal with it?

Read Matt Cutts’ article now
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