As often happens with updates at Google – today we see another adjustment in Page Ranks of many of the sites hit in the last couple of days. For example both of my blogs have recovered and returned to PR6.
Not all have though – you can see a list of some who have and haven’t at Andy’s blog (by the way Andy has done a great job at following this story).
I’ve had confirmation now from two sources at Google that this latest round of updates was ALL about the selling of text links. You can see Jeremy Twittered the same thing here. Some of those who have had their updates reversed today were falsely penalized for selling links (like ProBlogger which used to do it but stopped months back).
This latest furore has all been about the selling of links and is a warning shot to bloggers and webmasters who engage in the practice. Of course not everyone who sells links has been hit (there’s no way Google will get everyone) but it’s a sign of what Google are continuing to crack down on.
So what Should Bloggers Do?
So what does this mean for bloggers who sell links? I guess it means there is risk associated with it and that the risk is losing page rank (at the least) from selling links. Whether this also leads to a loss of traffic we’re yet to see.
If you have been hit by the penalties and want to recover your ranking in Google’s eyes the way forward is simple. Remove the links and ask for a reconsideration from Google using the tool in Google’s Webmaster Tools. To do this you need to have your site registered in Webmaster tools and log in – you’ll then see a ‘Request Reconsideration’ link on the right hand side of the screen that allows you to report your changes and ask for reconsideration.
Of course many bloggers are not doing this because they haven’t seen any decrease in traffic yet and don’t much care about a PR decrease.
It’s a decision that bloggers need to make for themselves and something that I have mixed feelings on. On the one hand I see why Google wants to stop the practice as it makes their task of ranking sites purely based upon whether the site is seen as an authority more challenging.
On the other hand I see bloggers who struggle to make money using AdSense and other ad networks and who have come to rely upon the text link ads. Many bloggers have seen text links become their #1 income stream. I also see this as being somewhat of a slippery slope for Google to go down as it’s going to change the landscape and force text link sellers further underground (see below). There will also be plenty of inconsistencies in their carrying out of the penalization of text link sales and lots of people pointing them out.
My Main Advice
My main advice to publishers whether they decide to sell or not sell text links hasn’t really changed – Forget about Page Rank and Build a Better Blog. Build a quality site that builds community, attracts readers from as many sources as possible (relying upon Google traffic as a sole source of traffic isn’t a smart move) and build a blog that enhances people’s lives. This way you don’t need to rely upon Google (or any other single site) to send you traffic and keep you profitable.
Will We see More and More BlackMarket Text Link Selling?
The selling of text links has always had a black market kind of feel to it – however I think that what Google has done this last week means that we’ll see more and more of the text link selling go further underground. We’ll see it happen less using systems like TextLinkAds and more happening in less transparent ways.
We’ll also probably see more and more selling of links inside of posts or on single pages and less and less on sidebars/footers etc.
It may even mean that we see text link selling become a more valuable thing to do as the supply of publishers willing to sell links dwindles. I know that even in the last month I’ve been approached on three occasions by individuals wanting to buy links on individual posts on my blogs – and the monetary value of these links was significantly larger than anything I’d heard of being achieved before for single links.
I don’t know where this will all end – but I doubt it’s the end of text links and I can only see both those who are in the business of selling them AND Google becoming more aggressive in this little war.