“..where false information thrives,” so says Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, this week to a conference of magazine industry execs visiting the Google campus.

His pitch was about the importance of brands, and how branding shows trusted content.

However, the blogosphere has leapt on this comment to once again criticise Google’s handling of paid links, and this never-ending debate rages on – about large brands being only minorly penalised for buying paid links, whilst the smaller companies can be delisted for months for taking the same approach.

Link building is essential for any search engine optimisation and marketing campaign. However, there are differing opinions on how this should be achieved. For instance, many ethical SEO companies firmly believe in avoiding paid links like the plague. Meanwhile, the blackhat SEOs just get on and buy the links, taking the view that if a 2 year long campaign of buying links results in a slapped wrist and a couple of days lost traffic whilst the site is banned, then so be it. There is yet more discussion about link buying on SEOBook.

It is interesting to note, when conducting a keyword audit and analysis for a client this week on competitive keyword terms, just how many of the top sites for those keywords are blatantly buying links, and getting away with it.

So, is it a case of go with the herd – spam and be damned (maybe)? Or should SEO companies be seeking to change the way that Google assesses and penalises paid links?

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ClickThrough is a digital marketing agency, providing search engine optimisation, pay per click management, conversion optimisation, web development and content marketing services.