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Google nails Express sites over paid links email

May 23, 2010 One Comment

Google says it has "taken action" and no longer trusts links from a major UK newspaper group - apparently referring to the Daily Express website.

Express website

Express website

In April, an Express Group email was made public offering links in online "SEO editorials" from £1,000 - with the aim of improving search engine rankings.

Such paid links are against Google's "terms of service" - and the Express (and OK) site initially suffered a page rank penalty in Google's toolbar (ie not much of a punishment at all).

"We saw that"

But Google has now gone further, according to an interview with Google's search quality team at Digital Inspiration. Question 9 asks about newspapers selling links on their sites to companies wanting to rank better in search engines. In reply, Google's Matt Cutts says:

If you’re talking about the recent incident in the UK, we saw that. Google’s quality guidelines are clear on this point: paid links shouldn’t pass PageRank.

Whether the paid links are in an “advertorial” or somewhere else on the page, that would violate our quality guidelines and Google would take action on those violations, both so that the link buyers wouldn’t benefit and so that the link sellers wouldn’t be trusted in the future by Google.

The only incident I know of recently in the UK is the Express case - so Matt Cutts appears to be saying the Express site (and presumably OK site) are no longer trusted by Google's algorithm.

Whatever your views on outing SEO tactics, this would be a fairly severe reaction to not using nofollow on paid links if carried forward. Thanks to Jon Hudghton (his blog's here) for spotting the info.

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