Google has recently issued many notices to webmaster stating that rankings have been effected by penalties due to “unnatural link activity“. Is this a simple case of trying to cut down on unwanted spam or could there be other factors at play?

What is PPC?

Many people think of Google as a search company when, in fact, their main source of income is actually selling advertising space on it’s search engine and many other services. This is often referred to as Pay Per Click advertising, or simply PPC.

PPC adverts appear above, below and to the right of many search queries as pictured in red below:
Google pay per click

The idea behind pay per click advertising is simple: you pay Google every time a user clicks on your listing. The obvious bonus is an instantly prominent placement for your website for the chosen keywords, as long as you pay enough. The bad thing about moving to PPC marketing can be mounting costs for a large campaign meaning organic SEO could be used in combination with, or instead, of a pay per click approach.

What is a Google penalty?

Organic SEO covers many aspects of web development with the aim of getting a high position for chosen keywords. The majority of work boils down to building links on authoritative and relevant websites pointing back to your webpages. Building many links to a website seems simple but has many dangers which can caused problems if not done so carefully!

A good example would be to build 1000 links to ElevateLocal with the link’s text being “SEO agency”. This may seem like a good idea as Google associates the text with the site being linked to and would increase our relevancy for the term with the resultant effect of a higher position. Being so aggressive usually means the links are unnatural and don’t conform with the natural behaviour of a website becoming popular.

Google’s algorithm has many flags in place to detect such behaviour which should keep a level playing field by decreasing the position of affected sites by several pages.

If you are caught using spammy techniques to try and game the system, you may just receive a lovely friendly notice from Google Webmaster Tools such as this:
Panda Penalty

Can you beat a penalty?

Being penalized by Google doesn’t mean you have to change your domain name, flee the country and burn your passport but it does usually mean a few months of low traffic and almost non-existent exposure on Search Engine Results Pages, or SEPRs.

Maintaining natural behaviour is the best advice as suggested by Matt Cutts in a video called When are penalties lifted?

Penalties sound like a great idea and, largely, they are. They help dissuade spammy behaviour and keep clutter out of highly used search terms but some people have a slightly different outlook on Google’s reasons behind such actions, called “Negative SEO” by many working in the profession…

Who wins?

The easiest way to recover from, or circumvent, a Google penalty is to switch an organic SEO campaign to a PPC focused one, which is where the controversy arises. Google, of course, makes money from all PPC adverts sold across it’s network of services and, according to VentureBeat, 96 percent of Google’s revenue is advertising.

Google’s 2012 Financial Tables show increasing advertising profits for Q2 of 2012. The deeho blog states: “Another effect of the Panda algorithm is that PPC clicks are up 40% for the same period

And so the question keeps arising among SEO technicians: Is Google gaming the system by decreasing websites rankings who are active Adwords account holders to boost it’s PPC profits?

I have to remain impartial an unbiased, but yes. We all know Google is evil.
How dare they try to make money from it’s main business!