Couple of days ago, Google lowered the PageRank scores for several UK news sites. The known reason for such a dip in PageRank of these websites is that they indulged in mass selling of links.
As the news about Interflora.com's dropped PageRank spread across the web, the SEOs realized that lot many other news sites have also been penalized for selling links at a massive scale. It seems that Interflora have a history of purchasing bad links, and it has been penalized for the same by Google. In the form of penalty, the PageRank of Interflora has dropped and they no longer appear in the search results of related keywords.
In 2011, J C Penny was penalized for not conforming to webmasters guidelines while optimizing their site for search.
Anthony Shapley at Bronco did some amazing bit of research on newspaper sites and blogs selling links. Anthony's research shows that Interflora had fresh links on more than 150 news websites in UK. All these links were in the form of ads in articles. Here are few examples of UK news websites that are currently facing penalty.
The massive drop in PR of the news website is quite unnatural. This clearly shows that Google will not go easy on the websites that violates their guidelines.
Matt Cutts, the head of search spam in Google, tweeted and posted a blogpost on the Google Webmaster Central blog reminding all webmasters that selling of links that pass PageRank can make you liable for penalty. Although Matt Cutts does not mention InterFlora directly, but his mention about advertorial pages makes it very clear that he is indirectly referring to Interflora.
“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. The consequences for a link selling site start with losing trust in Google’s search results, as well as reduction of the site’s visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google’s search results.”
Link Reasearch tool did an indepth analysis of the Interflora links, and informed everyone that it had over 70% toxic and suspicious links. The pages where Interflora had links has been swiftly removed or links deleted.
This is a big warming for all webmasters. Websites have been penalized in the past for not following the webmasters guidelines. And by taking the harsh steps in the case of InterFlora, Google is making it very clear that it wants the webmasters to play clean SEO and link exchange.