While it does not hold the same weight in terms of search engine ranking that it once did, many people working to improve their site’s Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, still consider PageRank to be a valuable factor in Google search engine success.
PageRank is a link analysis algorithm designed to ascertain the relative importance of each individual element within a hyperlinked set of documents (such as the world wide web). Historically PageRank was tremendously important in the ordering of search listings but its importance in relation to other factors such as the individual popularity of the site, the quality of the content and the reputation has somewhat diminished since it became the target of SEO schemers who attempted to cheat the system and exploit PageRank.
This somewhat nefarious activity was carried out through the use of paid links. Seeing the value, for SEO purposes of PageRank, a practice was developed whereby companies would sell high PageRank links to webmasters. As higher PageRank pages are seen to be more valuable this would seem to be a profitable marketing strategy but Google has been active in combating the paid link method, and penalising those who attempt it.
Google warns that webmasters who are found to be involved in the buying and selling of links, for the purpose of conferring PageRank and reputation, will be punished by having their links devalued and ignored in the calculation of other pages’ PageRank.
This means that paid links, rather than offering a great deal to your SEO strategy in fact offer very little. They may generate a few clicks and contribute in some small way to the amount of visitors your site receives but they will not improve your reputation.
In spite of Google’s warning regarding paid links and the subsequent actions that they take against them, many still attempt to exploit the method and there are ways in which to avoid detection or penalisation for a paid link. One way in which to do so is to embed the link within a body of text; in a unique location within content where a sponsored link might not be expected.