Google has penalized a UK newspaper group for engaging in a huge link selling plan that pushed the limits of Google’s tolerance for paid content.
Webmasters on both sides of the plan felt took a major PageRank hit as a result of the scheme.
While sites are routinely warned, and punished, for this type of action, this was a particularly egregious, and large, plan.
What was also fairly unusual is the fact that the pages in question dropped down to zero. As Barry Schwartz over at SearchEngineLand.com points out, this is a fairly recent development.
The contents and links in question came in the form of advertorial features like this one for Interflora Flowers.
Google Webspam head Matt Cutts addressed the issue in a blog post on Friday saying:
Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.
This is another example of Google’s dim view of links it deems as less-than-organic.