Google cracks down on link selling

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Google crackdown on link selling begins

After speaking of forthcoming changes to Google earlier this week, Google's head of webspam has confirmed that action has begun against paid links.

Matt Cutts tweeted confirmation that a crackdown was taking place against the ranking influence of paid links, commenting:

"In fact, we took action on several thousand linksellers in a paid-link-that-passes-PageRank network earlier today."

This action should come as no surprise following Cutts' statement that "if somebody pays for an advertorial, it should not float page rank", but the speed of the action shows that the search giant is clearly keen to make the forthcoming updates as soon as possible. Removing the influence of paid advertorials was one of the key changes to SEO that Cutts had mentioned earlier in the week, hinting at a completely new system for link analysis in the near future.

The first warning about these changes was given as early as February, when Interflora saw their rankings plummet as the result of a Google penalty relating to paid links.

Penguin update sooner than expected?

It has not been revealed whether the action was a manual penalty or an algorithmic change. If it was the latter, the fact that this action against the selling of links was taken just hours after Cutts commented on Google's future plans suggests that 'Penguin 2.0' may be rolled out sooner than expected. This latest update is said to be significantly more wide-ranging than previous versions of Penguin, and is expected to have a far greater impact on what is known as black hat SEO.

While Cutts has said nothing more on the timing of this latest Penguin release than the fact it will take place in the near future, this significant change to ranking factors may now be arriving sooner than many people thought.

Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword remarked: "Following Cutts' comments earlier in the week, it was clear that the company would be taking a hard line against paid advertorials in the future. However, the fact that this action has been taken so quickly suggests that this may well be the first update of many, as Google continues to reward quality content and combat black hat SEO".