The latest news in the SEO world centers around Anglo Rank, a private link network that sells links to small business owners who hope it will improve their ranking on Google. Of course as good SEOs and Webmasters know, this is a huge no-no in the eyes of Google and should therefore be a huge no-no for any business serious about growing their brand and climbing up the SERPs. Anglo Rank was becoming more and more popular, but fortunately for unknowing customers (and unfortunately for Anglo Rank), Google has put a stop to it once and for all.

What makes this discussion so interesting is the fact that Matt Cutts made this one public and Anglo Rank fought back. However, the story becomes more about link services, how they operate, and the danger you might be in if you use a link service rather than the fire Anglo Rank seems to be under as we round out the year.

The Details of the Anglo Rank Link Network and It’s Demise

Google’s Argument (the winning argument)

Matt Cutts and the Google Webspam team have been targeting link networks for quite some time, but the real commotion and press started because Matt Cutts himself tweeted at Anglo Rank. To make the tweet even better, he mocked the company in a way because he took a saying right from Anglo Rank’s website:

cutts-1 Anglo Rank Link Network Taken Down By Google: What It Is and What This Means Anglo Rank claimed “no footprints,” meaning no one including Google would know, because they supposedly earned their links from multiple private networks. Obviously Google does know about this network and they are making efforts to stop them. It took a little while before Webmasters started to see these penalties in their Webmasters Tools, so Cutts might have been a little bit premature in his tweet, but after one week it’s certain that Google isn’t messing around.

Anglo Rank’s Argument (the losing, but very interesting, argument)

Anglo Rank isn’t going down without a fight, and the owner of the company (known as “Bluematter” in forums) first claimed that most of their sites were not penalized and it’s business as usual for the company. His first response was quite bold:

First Response: “Hi Guys. Seems like guys from searchengineland and Mr Cutts need to do a bit more research they don’t even know what they are talking about. Anglo Rank is not a ‘Network,’ It is a service which resells links from private networks which are there for years with 100‘s and 1000’s of sites.”

He went on to explain that the only way for Google to really tackle the issue was to completely devalue footer and sidebar links, and he didn’t see that coming anytime soon. Seems like someone didn’t tell Bluematter that Google always wins when it comes to webspam.

After quite a few people started seeing link penalties in their Google Webmaster Tools and then making this known on the forum, Anglo Rank had to backtrack on their comment as well as taking on new customers. They were left dealing with unhappy customers and asking others to contact them for help (you have to give them credit for being mature and good business people about it). Their second response did tried to keep their company looking good:

Second Response: We have never had a site get penalized based on our service. We take great care to find the appropriate links and also build needed anchor/link diversity with every package […]. However, this is not a guarantee and you must decide for yourself if this is right for you.”

No one quite seems to know how Google found specific sites that were using the network. It makes sense that maybe Google had staff purchasing links and using the service themselves or simply someone just looking up people who were commenting in the forums. In either case, Google seems to have really caught and penalized one of the biggest link network services.

What This Means for All Link Networks and Your Company

As discussed above, this certainly isn’t the first time Google has cracked down on these types of sites and it isn’t going to be the last. Ghost Rank 2.0, SAPE Links, BuildMyRank.com, and Text Link Ads, are among the many that have been caught in the past. Anglo Rank is just another example that shows the dangers of using these types of link networks.

If you’re working with a link network and aren’t sure whether or not it is reputable, look to other sources aside from what that company is telling you. Figure out whether or not they are posting on low-quality sites (are there a lot of links on that site? Is the content quality, relevant, and updated?) and who is working with them. In the majority of cases, you’re best working with a company that focuses on creating great content—not links.

Update: Google is cracking down on another “untouchable” link network called BackLinks.com. Matt Cutts tweeted about the service: “Our installation code/software used to publish the sold links is not detectable by search engine bots.” Au contraire!