It is not a new thing for Google to be penalizing those taking part in link exchange schemes, but this is a great opportunity for me to attempt to sway you away from the dark side.

If you think for one second that your scheme is too small, too bullet proof or too subtle to avoid detection…. You are WRONG! Not only does Google do a pretty fair job of detecting this, but people will “tell on you”. Swapped or exchanged links are far easier for Google to detect, as they have to common points of interest. Even the “you link to me, I link to him and he links to them” scenario is really quite easy discover. However, most dangerous of all is the guy you  pissed off, are ranking better than or maybe he is just a white lighter will turn you in. He doesn’t even need to make a proper report or give his name or info if he doesn’t wish to… Completely guilt free! Because you are breaking the rules.

Check out this report that got Google’s attention… and apparent action.

But hang on, it takes just minutes to find many high ranking sites that clearly have massively larger link schemes that have never been penalised, therefore encouraging others to continue doing the same.

So here is one just one example of a site whose purpose is just to build links to manipulate PageRank.

It is really simple, easy to understand and well know that Google can/will penalize you for anything that seeks to manipulate PageRank. No crying if you have a website penalized and you didn’t know. That’s like having a driver’s license and you don’t know what a stop sign is.

Real problem is many have and will continue to be penalized without realizing they have been slapped by Google. Removal from the index is not the only way Google can or will penalize you for these PageRank manipulating offenses. They can for example take the link text that you built the violating links with and remove your ability to rank for that phrase. Ouch, and most of you will not even know if that were to happen.

Scared yet?

We’re already aware and have taken action on some of the sites mentioned, so now’s a good time to point out that even if we have taken action on a site to address bad linking, it doesn’t always mean that you’ll see the results of it in such an obvious way like a site being completely obliterated from the index and not showing up for site: queries. That being said, we can take pretty strong steps to preserve the quality of our results, and link schemes are one of the toughest violations for a webmaster to recover from.

If you have been naughty (little holiday humor) then you should be scared. To be fair, here is what you should do if you’ve been bad this year.

Step 1: Fix the problem. Get rid of bad links on your own site, and get rid of bad links pointing to your site.
Step 2: File for reconsideration. Note that this happens after step 1. 😉 If there are some things you have tried to but can’t fix (such as links to yo