Google Reminds Webmasters: Selling Links Can Lead To PageRank Penalty

Matt Cutts, Google’s lead of search spam, wrote a blog post named “Why did our PageRank go down?”

The post is a reminder to webmasters that selling links that pass PageRank can lead to a Google penalty.

Back in October 2007, Google officially came out saying selling paid links can hurt your PageRank and then shortly after, Google dished out the PageRank penalties to many web sites, including some major newspaper web sites.

Since then, Google added the terms to their webmaster guidelines and has done videos on the topic.

Matt shared the email he sent to the publisher about why their PageRank dropped. In short, he said “PageRank drops by 30-50%” typically are due to “selling links that pass PageRank.” Matt went on to explain they detected, not sure if it was automatically or manually, links labeled “sponsored that passed PageRank.” Matt added that Google “received a outside spam report about your site” with details on different paid links on other sections of the web site.

Once the site removes the paid links or makes sure they do not pass any PageRank, Matt said you should submit a “reconsideration request” to remove the manual penalty.

As I noted at the Search Engine Roundtable, John Mueller in a Google Hangout yesterday said the same thing. Here is the video, it should start 40 minutes 32 seconds in:

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Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Link Building: Paid Links | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • daveintheuk

    Remember kids, it is Google’s internet so link like they tell you.

  • Gary Bisha

    A lot of webmasters buy links on minifreelance – it is not exactly right way of using minifreelance. The better way is to to spread about your platform at social media ( using minifreelance).

  • Peter Kern

    Another Google series of nonsense… just put only adwords in top 10 and your pain with SEO will be over Google and you will earn trillions of $$ because it is never enough!

  • Data Driven SEO

    Once Google devalues the value of anchor text to a point where sites don’t have a huge advantage it will help solve the paid links problem. Penalizing sites that have paid links makes absolutely no sense because what’s going to stop me from getting $500 in paid links and pointing to my competitors site? If I’m mad my competition has a PR of 5 I’ll gladly pay to help reduce their pagerank.

  • Steve

    does a lowered pagerank mean anything about rankings, ie, Barry, didn’t google lower your pagerank for “selling links”? Yet didn’t it make ZERO difference in your rankings? Is it really a penalty (lowered rankings), or merely a “huh,I was a pagerank 7, now I’m a pagerank 4 – but my traffic and rankings are still the same”?? Is it really a penalty if google lowers the pagerank of a site but does nothing about how that site ranks?

  • Alan

    But Barry you just posted a link to your own site from I am assuming you get paid for your blog posts here, isn’t that a conflict of interest? Isn’t selling a link to Even if it is not it would look almost as suspicious as what happened to the newspaper in the story. A new area that Google really must have a look at is guest posts! Now that they have attacked all other forms of link building guest posting should be the next one to be investigated!

  • Alan

    I am assuming this is an ad for your site right?

  • Bobert

    I’m going into a self-induced coma until the penguin update happens, please wake me when it’s over.

  • Alan

    Wow removed my comments. Are you really that worried?

  • infovile

    Maybe if Google took their own advice, then the web would take them more seriously. Google has, since that 2007 announcement, allowed advertisers using Google’s adwords platform to openly sell Pagerank, with titles like “Buy a PR6 link for $19/yr”, and description of “Instant pay via paypal, your link will be up for 1 year on start page”. When is Google going to audit themselves?

  • Amol Pomane

    Safest way to do this just by relevancy and more trusted sites onwards

  • Praveen

    Hmm… so big G wants webmasters to use only Adsense to monetize their website? Agreed its Google’s way or no way, but it’s getting too much. If i am going to create quality content, then that is going to cost me something.. so how am i going to recoup those costs? Or this is a way to kill off all the small and medium webmasters?

  • Nick Stamoulis

    I can see the value of knowing your website’s “grade” in the eyes of Google, but there are so many factors at play and PageRank is only one of them. I stopped taking much interest in PageRank a long time ago because I just feel like there are other, more important things to be worrying about.

  • Gary Bisha

    Anyone pointing something obvious is called a moron.

  • Matt McGee

    No one removed any comments, Alan. Disqus flagged your comments (two of them, I think) as spam and they’ve now been freed.

    This happens regularly with Disqus and we’re working with them to try to figure out why and reduce the amount it happens in the future.

    Since you comment here on an almost daily basis, I’m surprised that you haven’t seen one of us explain this before to other commenters who jumped to the conclusion that we manually removed comments. Perhaps you could give us the benefit of the doubt in the future? I would hope that our history of fostering discussion on our articles is such that we’ve earned that by now.

    If we remove comments (and we do; as a popular website we attract a lot of spammers) it’s only because they don’t meet our Community Guidelines, which are detailed here:

  • Eric Ward

    Geeez. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything. Everyone knows the game. Rules change. Deal with it. If you have the content and know how to market via links instead of just link chasing, you’ll do well. Go in with your eyes open and accept the consequences of whatever tactic you choose to use. Quit blaming Google for your own failures. And those silly PPC ads Google runs for companies selling Pagerank? I agree on first glance it may seem hypocritical, but it may also be a way Google can lure sellers into the open, and then…

  • Alan

    Fostering discussion? last time I saw you comment Matt you had just closed comments on a debate. But ok I will give you the benefit of the doubt next time.

  • enidus

    So, does this mean Google Completely prohibits link exchange. Suppose me and my friend have website related to travel & tourism and we place our website link on each other with our mutual understanding (no money involved), so does this practice is against Google Rules.


    Its Google! the father of internet and no one is smart eenough than his father :D

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