Since the Penguin and Panda updates of 2012, Google has been unashamedly targeting organizations that buy or trade links in an effort to elevate their search engine rankings. This black hat SEO technique has led to severe penalties including warnings, manual penalties, diminished ranking or even complete dismissal from SERPS (for gross violations). In the latest policing effort by Google, they have targeted two Polish link networks that have provided unnatural links. Piotr Cichosz, the owner of e-weblink confirmed that at least one of his four network domains was penalized by Google+. There is speculation that prolink.pl is the other possible culprit. Google has not concretely confirmed or denied these allegations .
Prolinks.pl is a link exchange that facilitates the buying and selling of links. The Polish company unashamedly details on its company website how it uses a network of 2,200 publishers and 500 companies to elevate search engine rankings.
E-weblink offers clients various link packages ranging from 500 up to 5,000 links. This company currently has a market valuation of $157,221 according to W3Snoop and attracts almost 99,000 visitors daily.
It is unclear how Google will penalize the companies involved in unnatural link exchanges. In most cases, Google will distribute notifications to clients of these companies. In many of the cases where Google has announced that a link network violates its quality guidelines, that network has been dissolved.
This action follows an evaluation of German link networks which may face similar sanctions. Matt Cutts, the head of the Google Webspam team, announced in a tweet that additional action against German organizations may occur in the near future. He also linked an article describing unnatural links and the reconsideration process. This follows similar action taken against the French link network Buzzea. The targeting of link networks in Europe is indicative of Google broadening its scope into international markets.
These harsh actions by Google should not come as a surprise to anyone in the SEO community. With the Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates to the Google algorithm, Google has unequivocally stated that it will reward sites that produce original, valuable content and penalize those that use techniques in an attempt to manipulate the search engine. Prior to these updates, many unnatural links—which Google defines as links which are intended to manipulate page ranking—could be purchased to a variety of sites and raise search engine page rankings.
Many link networks used a variety of techniques to generate links. This included some of the lower quality article and blog networks which relied on poor quality content to anchor links. In more overt cases, unsavory networks can directly take money in exchange for creating a link with a partner publisher.
In addition to penalizing for the use of inorganic links, Google has reduced the importance of linking in general in its ranking algorithm. Instead of emphasizing organic and quality links to other authoritative sites, Google has encouraged webmasters to focus their efforts on producing outstanding content that increases the informational value or enjoyment of the visitor experience.