In the end, I suppose Google is not going to penalize the Source or Target websites for those links, but they will nullify the value of the individual links in the Google algorithms. Cutts suggested and implemented the “rel=nofollow” a while back as a tool webmasters could use for the purpose of identifying links for which the webmaster did not want to pass PageRank. The only thing that Google’s algorithm will actually do to links identified as rented or paid links is that it will treat those links as “rel=nofollow’s”. If Google succeeds in their quest, the webmaster buying the links will be throwing away his or her money, if they are buying placement on a webpage solely for the purpose of influencing PageRank.
This is absolutely right. If you’re paying for links you won’t necessarily be penalized. You’ll basically be throwing good money after bad. But be careful how you define “paid links.” It’s not as bad as it sounds:
- Paying someone to write an article for you and distributing it throughout the Internet is not a paid link
- Hiring a ghostwriter to write your blog for you is not a paid link
- Paying to be listed in an online directory is not a paid link IF it is a legitimate business directory with legitimate business categories and not just a link farm
- If you pay for a link and the webmaster of the site you are being linked to from puts a rel=”nofollow” tag in the link command it is not “paid link”
- If you pay for a link from a website with a lower PR than your website then it is not a paid link
So what is a paid link?
If it is painfully obvious that you are paying for a link that awards you benefits because the website linking to you has a desirable PageRank, then you could be in trouble. But the worst thing that will happen to you is that Google won’t count the link. Whatever you paid for the link will just be money down the drain. That’s all.