Google has lowered the PageRank score of dozens of news sites and blogs in the UK for selling links on a large scale.

Several years ago (2007) Google stated that selling links would result in penalties for the sites involved. Shortly after the statement  US news sites including sites like the Washington Post, Forbes, Sun Times and dozens of others were penalised with a drop in page rank.

In this latest episode the sellers and the buyers of the links have been penalised. The buyer being Interflora who who have run extensive advertorials across a number of news sites Example here.

Whilst Google adopted a “no comment” approach to this  Matt Cutts Head of Search Spam at Google has made the following post:

Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations. The consequences for a linkselling site start with losing trust in Google’s search results, as well as reduction of the site’s visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google’s search results.

If you are identified doing this the most likely action is that Google will send you a notification via Webmaster Tools. The obvious action is then to remove the offending paid links from your site and submit reconsideration request.

What is interesting here is not that they were caught and penalised but that both parties  chose to take such a strategy in the first place, knowing that it would bring them into conflict with Google. Was it greed for a hefty fee from the publishers side or a calculated risk on behalf of the advertisers reckoning on a big traffic boost whilst the party lasted?

Either way it looks like a lazy and unimaginative approach where the could of considered so many different positive and search engine friendly content marketing strategies.