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There are thousands of online companies that sell various linking building services, such as:

  • Private Blog Networks (PBN)
  • User Generated Links (forum signatures, blog comments etc)
  • Pyramid Link Building (Links in a complex pyramid that targets the money site last)
  • Web 2.0 Platforms (wordpress.org, tumblr etc)
  • And many more services a like...

My question(s) are simple:

  1. Does Google Punish sites for any of the above mentioned link campaigns.
  2. Is there any link campaign service that actually works?
  3. In 2014 a user on Pro Webmasters asked... does negative SEO exists?. It's now 2016 has anything changed since?, and do any of the above link schemes apply. If Google does punish sites for these methods, what is in place to stop people and companies from purchasing these services on their behalf with the intention to purposely cause damage to their link profile stored at Google.
  • There are blackhat techniques to remove competition from Google using similar methods. – Analog Apr 1 '16 at 16:02
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    Sorry but there's no much of a question here other than a discussion based thread & on the opinionated side of how Google operates. Purposely causing damage to someone else's business via a dirty link campaign, sadly does exist and but bare in mind it would be illegally, as there are laws that protect businesses against defamatory & other types of things. However, Matt Cutts on numerous occasions says their algorithm is clever and will ignore purposely anti-seo, if that is true or not, is a whole another discussion. You will find plenty of discussion base blogs about this online. – Simon Hayter Apr 1 '16 at 18:04
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    @SimonHayter I was in the middle of factually explaining Googles right to impose standards of behavior in exchange for services which is what Google provides. As well, I was bulleting the Webmaster Guidelines that strongly indicate that paid links, unnatural links, and link on low quality link based sites is against these guidelines. I was quoting a Q&A on the guidelines specifically and linking to both. Lastly, I was going to detail, if I can, the link penalty as stated by Google itself. I was expecting to avoid the whole opinion part of the question by stating facts only. – closetnoc Apr 1 '16 at 18:12
  • The main question was, do Google punish or ignore when you use link pyramids or any form of link building. I understand it may be against the rules, but if everyone is doing it then what option is there – Dan Hastings Apr 1 '16 at 18:15
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    Hi @DanHastings, I've quickly edited your question and made it more appropriate. You may edit it further and improve. The question has also been reopened. – Simon Hayter Apr 1 '16 at 18:31
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What is Fair?

To begin with, Google can certainly penalize any sites performance within it's own search engine for what it feels is unacceptable behavior in particular with respect to their ability to earn money as a business. This is their right. It is their property. You do not have to participate in their services and by doing so, they have the right to require that you accept terms of conditions as a price for services for which being listed in their search engine certainly is. This is all legitimate, above board, fair, and common practice for all websites and especially for search engines.

Fair is fair. Google expects you to behave in reasonable manner and not to try and manipulate search results. This is fair for all who use the services, and especially fair to Google who is providing a service as part of their business model in which their bottom line can be effected. Google strives, whether you agree or not does not matter, to provide the best possible user experience for their customers both the search customer and website owner. In this, there is dependency upon the participants to conduct themselves in a manner that befits the society that is the World Wide Web with it's established rules of fair play.

What does Google say about links in their quality guidelines?

As a part of their conditions, Google publishes their quality guidelines which they expect you to adhere to for participation. In that quality guideline, found here, https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en and here as a Q&A https://support.google.com/webmasters/topic/6001971?hl=en&ref_topic=6001981, Google states the following (from the second link which is more verbose):

The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link ... Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links ... Low-quality directory or bookmark site links

There is much more in the guidelines that you should be aware of.

About Penalties

There are two general forms of penalties; manual and algorithmic.

Manual penalties begin with algorithmic computations that trip a trigger for a manual review. A manual penalty is a review by a human after the system has determined that you may deserve a manual penalty. People often see this as the harshest of the penalties because it also requires a manual review to remove the penalty.

However, what is more insidious is the penalty made purely through algorithmic means. You will almost never know it exists and what you can do about it. Manual penalty aside, any other penalty, while it does not take a manual review to remove, is a far slower recovery being fully dependent upon Google discovering and processing any changes that have been made which is not a fast process.

Google is not stupid.

Most links networks can be easily detected through standard AI (artificial intelligence) pattern recognition schemas. In addition, Google has dedicated nearly a decade to evaluating link schemes and creating manual pattern recognition teaching rules that their AI process can use. As more patterns are recognized, computer learning comes more into play. Google is very good at recognizing link patterns.

As well, Google has been using semantics to evaluate content, links, and other elements and is able to determine natural language from computer generated language even if the computer language was originally created by a human. How this is done is based upon science that has existed for many decades. Even in semantics, links will follow patterns and give themselves away easily.

Buying links does not mean that a human is making links.

Link services go for the low hanging fruit that is automated. In your question Is it worthwhile to pay for boosting SEO for a new wesite?, I answered and here is an important quote:

How this part of the so-called SEO industry works is trading in bulk work. This is done by reducing labor costs with automation. These sites will bulk submit your site to search engines, directories, and other link friendly based sites. As well, many operate a link authority scheme where a super authority site and several other authority sites intentionally built to manipulate rank and not designed for people. These site will create a link to your site for a price. Anything done by a person is often done by a fairly disreputable person living overseas in India or in Asia. Any link made by a person is barely acceptable if at all and not made with your interest in mind.

I will add this.

A well know online article was written by a Google spammer. Confessions of a Google Spammer by Jeff Deutsch found here https://inbound.org/blog/confessions-of-a-google-spammer. In this and other works, it is discussed how the building of link schemes and super authority sites and how paid links work. One of the key aspects of the scheme is that any link can be easily removed and are generally leased on a monthly basis or held ransom. This is a major part of the link buying industry. As soon as you stop paying for services or more services, the company can quickly remove the links you are dependent upon taking you back to where you were before. Nowhere. And with less money.

Here are some link networks articles. I could have easily dug up many more. My point is that Google is seeking and destroying link networks which you may be a part of if you purchase links.

Google Has Penalized A Link Network In Japan http://searchengineland.com/google-has-penalized-a-link-network-in-japan-241867

Google May Have Penalized Another Underground Link Network http://searchengineland.com/google-may-have-penalized-another-underground-link-network-233457

Confirmed: Google Capital-Backed Thumbtack Hit With Manual Action For Unnatural Links http://searchengineland.com/confirmed-google-venture-backed-thumbtack-hit-with-manual-action-for-unnatural-links-222664

Google Takes Action On More Link Networks In Poland http://searchengineland.com/google-takes-action-link-networks-poland-209579

Google Hits Poland Again With Link Network Penalties http://searchengineland.com/google-hits-poland-link-network-penalties-195740

Google Targets Two European Link Networks http://searchengineland.com/google-targets-two-european-link-networks-yesterday-morning-200935

Google Takes Down 7 Japanese Link Networks https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/news/2338834/google-takes-down-7-japanese-link-networks

And let us not forget J.C. Penny.

New York Times Exposes J.C. Penney Link Scheme That Causes Plummeting Rankings in Google http://searchengineland.com/new-york-times-exposes-j-c-penney-link-scheme-that-causes-plummeting-rankings-in-google-64529

Where J.C. Penny paid a well known SEO company, SearchDex, to build links and promote their site. Google penalized J.C. Penny by delisting the site for a fairly long time even after the problem was corrected.

Link buying means the wrong links.

Of the links you will likely be purchasing, the following are penalized by Google. This list is partially taken from: https://blog.monitorbacklinks.com/seo/types-backlinks-violating-googles-guideliness/ The explanations are mine.

Blog Networks These are networks of blogs controlled by a single entity or series of entities for the purpose of building authority. It is a more modern equivalent of a link network.

Widget Backlinks This is precisely what killed J.C. Penny.

Paid Links No explanation required.

Article Promotion Sites

Guest Posting Generally low quality guest posting.

Automatically Generated No explanation required.

Directory Sites. A favorite place for automated paid links to appear.

Bookmark Sites A favorite place for automated paid links to appear.

Backlinks from websites with duplicate and spinned/spun content

General Low Quality Links Automated links are often low quality for a variety of reasons to include low semantic value, use of spam keywords, topical irrelevance; and placed in headers, footers, sidebars, or below content.

Niche Search Engines While this is not on the list from the linked page, paid links are often from sites being submitted to niche search engines. A favorite place for automated paid links to appear.

Forum Sites Also not found in the linked list. Links particularly within post signatures, however, links can appear between posts.

Comment Sections Also not found in the linked list. Google has made a lot of effort to analyze comments within a comment section for spam.

What does Google say about inbound (back) links?

Google's John Mueller is quoted in this article entitled Google: Try To Avoid Link Building Because It Can Do More Harm Than Good found here http://searchengineland.com/google-try-avoid-link-building-can-harm-good-214861. When asked, “is link building in any way good?”, John responded with the following:

In general, I’d try to avoid that.

So that you are really sure that your content kind of stands on its own and make it possible for other people of course to link to your content. Make it easy, maybe, put a little widget on your page, if you like this, this is how you can link to it. Make sure that the URLs on your web site are easy to copy and paste. All of those things make it a little bit easier.

We do use links as part of our algorithm but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site that actually helps.

The upshot is this.

Link building is necessary. Paying to build links is a waste of money primarily because the quality of what you will receive will be discounted heavily.

Google and spammers have been at this a very long time. Do not tread in these waters.

In particular, you should be in control of how your site is represented and found. You do not want to pay someone to exercise that level of control over your sites future. Paid link schemes are just that - schemes. It is like saying this unlicensed doctor seems okay - should I use him? There is no legitimate link purchasing outlet. None that Google, Bing, and others will appreciate. None. Full stop.

  • @Analog Thanks! Cheers!! I wanted to put this thing to bed once and for all. One of the things that irritates the dog 5h17 out of me is all the bad SEO stuff out there messing good folks up. I am tilting at windmills mate! – closetnoc Apr 2 '16 at 0:42

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