2007 saw a lot of changes in the way Google does things. Some of the changes are directly related to the way Google ranks websites. Some are related to the way they are displaying the SERPs, and a few were made in regard to the information provided to webmasters who use webmaster tools.
Though I have been aware of these changes I never really thought about writing an article about them or even a series of articles until I came across this blog article today by Brett Borders in a article titled 7 SEO Techniques That Google Smashed in 2007. I have no idea who Bret is. As far as I can remember this is the first time I have heard of him. His article is not exhaustive, but it deals with a few major changes that are important to webmasters. In this article I will only deal with Reciprocal links (link exchanges) and paid links. Based on the 7 changes Brett mentioned, I will do a series over the next few days, including some changes that he did not mention.
If you want a preview of what is to come I suggest you read his article.
1: Reciprocal links. in this case Brett uses the Real Estate Industry as an example.
Though Reciprocal and paid links existed before Google, there is a reason they have become concerned about Reciprocal links (link exchanges), and paid links.
In the early days a lot of Google’s algorithm was based on links. A link was regarded as a vote. It became easy for webmasters to game Google and get top listings in the SERPS based solely on links. Coincidentally my last article on this blog was about about link exchanges. The same is true for paid links.
There is nothing wrong link exchanges or paid links when the link exchange is done with your visitor in mind, or the paid link is simply a means of advertising.
Unfortunately webmasters used links as a means to increase their ranking and that is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. As a result Google is reacting.
Read this statement from Google’s Guidelines under Quality guidelines – basic principles. In fact they list a few things that webmaster should and should not do under Quality guidelines.
I hope you notice in particular that Google not only advises that you avoid anything they might consider a link scheme, Google may also hold you responsible for who you link to. What does Google mean by a link scheme? I think they mean any link you acquire for the intended purpose if increasing your PR, or ranking.
Google has become very open with webmasters in trying to communicate what they expect if you want free traffic from them. Yahoo, MSN, and Ask are not so open, but I suspect they are looking for the same thing that Google is looking for.
Search Engines want to display relevant results to their searchers. They do not want those results manipulated.