This is a follow up post to the my previous post about Google removing “their” definition of PageRank from their technical information page. My last post sort of ended on the subject of whether it is even possible to build PageRank for the everyday website without violating Google’s “new” technical guidelines. The following are two seemingly now accepted statements based on Google current guidelines, but after an in depth look it isn’t as clear as at first glance…
1. Improperly acquiring links will get your site penalized or blacklisted – This statement is not a theory; it’s actually a fact. But the unknown or “theory” part of the statement is the word “improperly”. Here again is one of the bigger issues for webmasters to deal with. How do we get links without violating Google’s terms of service? There isn’t an easy answer, but there are ways to do it. First, let’s think about how Google determines sites violating their terms.
Here, there are some known ways and some theories. It is known that their algorithm looks at the rates at which sites acquire links and there are filters in place that can be triggered if a sites rate doesn’t fall within that filter. Nobody knows the exact number; it’s actually more of a pattern anyway. But, it essentially works like this in its simplest form. If site A acquires 1000 links in month 1 and acquires 0 links in months 2,3, and 4, you will certainly get noticed. So is it bad to get 1000 links in the first month for a new site? At first thought, you would probably say yes, but the answer is no, because it happens all the time. For example, someone posts a video that goes viral, that could potentially cause thousands or millions of sites to link to that video in a matter of days, and by Google’s own philosophy that video should be seen by others and would therefore rank very well.
So, the important thing to note is, it’s about the rate, and that rate should be consistent. With the example of the viral video, it would appear natural if it got thousands of links in the first month, and then probably still thousands in the second month, but then maybe hundreds in Months 3,4, and 5. And eventually it would probably get only a couple new ones each month and maybe even stop getting new links within a year. There is plenty of evidence that this would not cause a filter to be triggered. What will cause a trigger is the example I gave before when a site gets thousands of links very quickly and then stops completely or slows down its rate too fast from whatever Google has determined is “natural”. And since Google is analysing data from millions of sites every day, you can bet they have a good idea what is natural and what isn’t.
Bottom-line, do things the right way and you will be fine. Push too hard and you may get caught. And people push hard all the time and often don’t get caught, which is part of what makes this business challenging. We have to compete against people that break the rules. Since we don’t want to break the rules we have to work harder in order to compete with them.
2. Buying links is a violation of Google Terms – This is a regularly argued point among webmasters, but it is theoretical, so I will offer my own opinion based on my experience. Google’s guidelines prohibit the buying or selling of links for the purpose of “improving or manipulating rankings”.
Clearly, this restriction does not say one cannot buy or sell links, which Google could have implemented. The reason Google would not take that stance is because there are logical and practical reasons to buy and sell links. Simply, it is a form of advertising. Whether it is a text link or a graphic banner, it would be silly for Google to have a policy against this because it would prohibit websites from advertising on other sites. So, it is not a violation of Google’s policy to buy or sell links, but there are guidelines regarding the proper way to do it. In fact, a competitor can report a site for a breach of the terms, and a site can be penalized if Google agrees with the report. It is my best understanding that automation of enforcement is only possible by reviewing a site’s incoming links to other sites and checking relevancy. This makes sense in theory because a site about “Cars” would have no reason to advertise on an “office supply sales” website. However, even though Google probably has some sort of filter in place like this, it certainly is not an arbitrary one since sites advertise on unrelated sites all the time. People advertise on Yahoo, Facebook, and even Google itself with sites that are in no way related to those sites. So, whatever process Google has in place, it must again be a ratio rather than a fixed number, meaning a certain amount of unrelated links would be normal, but if say 75% of your links are on sites that have nothing to do with your site, that would probably trigger a flag.
More to come on how to build PageRank using only white hat techniques and following currently accepted best practice methods.