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I am noticing that my competitors have a boat load of paid backlinks, which don't seem to be discredited from google (PR is intact, rather then 0)

Problem is, those sites aren't any gambling or viagra sites, where google really cracks down. They are Software niche sites, open source sites, communities etc but they still sell links effectively.

They have a sidebar, where it says "Our sponsors" or something similar and "become a sponsor" below it.

I have seen other sites getting penalties because of something like this, but those sites, don't for some reason.

My question is, does google even take spam reports for paid links seriously?

Or do they only take action if its overly spammy?

Some of the purchasers of those paid links are reputable sites like oreilly.com or even symantec.

What can I do to have my report reviewed rather sooner then later and acted upon?

Or am I misjudging those links? Tbh I do not see how these followed type of links, you can only get by "donating" is anthing else then a paid link.

Here a few examples (notice the tell tale sidebar/footer):

http://www.givecamp.org.uk/

http://www.gl-net.org.uk/

http://www.dfwqaa.org/

http://www.padnug.org/

There are many more like it, but I think thats enough as example.

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Google has algorithms that detects paid links as well links that are not-relevant, Generally paid links from a lot of sites are rendered useless in any case because they don't come from relevant niches which won't help other than boosting Google Page Rank.

Sadly looking at your links they do look like paid sponsors and they look relevant so we can assume they are passing page rank and authority across. However it's impossible to know if Google has already punished the page, but the fact the Page Rank seems high I doubt it as I've seen sites that have been hit for paid links and normally they get a reduction in page rank.

The problem with reporting such issues is that most of the time you get a shoddy automated message with no assurances that anything will be done about it. I wrote a blog entry about their paid links algorithm and what a joke it is because its impossible to tell in a lot cases what a paid link looks like.

Some Successful Some Unsuccessful

Personally there's no right or wrong answer on this question other than what you feel is the best route of action. Many people have had success with reporting people yet its impossible to say if that is the case and not been the case of being caught by their algorithms and that just being a coincidence since the ranking, punishments, and algorithms are forever changing daily.

Many people believe it has no effect reporting them due to the fact they never get informed of the actions of the web spam team and the webmaster of the site in questions still has the same page rank and with the same links. This isn't to say its all about page rank but as mentioned early sites that we know have been hit have lost page ranks, if this is because they have had manual intervention and not automated algorithms than that's anyone's guess.

My Advice

My own advice that I follow is generally don't worry too much what dirty tricks your competitors are getting up too, the time involved in finding out, reporting them as well as worrying about it... you could be doing way more productive things to improve your own rankings by improving the user experience, the content and gaining new ways of gaining even more traffic. Google isn't the only good source of traffic, while I agree its a hefty amount don't restrict yourself exploring other methods as this can give you the edge in the long run.

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I have used Google's tool to report paid links that I've found. None of the ones that I reported were removed immediately, but many did get removed with the Penguin update.

There was a recent thread on WebmasterWorld about this: Is Reporting Webspam to Google as Ineffective as a Sugar Pill? Several people reported in that they don't think it is effective however, there were two reports that it is occasionally effective:

Tedster: Spam reports can seem to be ineffective if you're expecting a change in the situation over the short term. That's a rare occurrence - I've only seen it happen when it's something really out there, like adult material showing up on search terms that are often done by young kids.

Convergence: Have had GREAT success reporting, and the Google removing, webspam. Particularly .info affiliate sites...

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