In March 2012, Google's Matt Cutts announced the company's plan to rollout an SEO over-optimization penalty, Business2Community reports.
The proposed penalty scared marketers, as many believed it was impossible to overuse online tactics meant to improve search rankings. What's more, unlike past updates where violators would take ranking hits, those who over-optimized would be completely removed from Google's page index, meaning the website would be invisible.
The algorithm update would punish pages with excessive keyword density, strictly keyword-rich internal links and inorganic or paid inbound links, among other things. But when is a paid link black hat and not considered essential for lead generation?
Google publicly condemns the buying or selling of links to improve page ranks, but it also acknowledges that, in some cases, the practice is a normal part of the economy of the web. However, there is a right and wrong way to buy links.
A business often purchases space or sponsorship on websites related to respected industry associations it is involved in. This boosts the brand's authority and credibility and is used to develop the company's image rather than boost its page rankings. This practice is not black hat, but an effective marketing strategy. A good rule to follow is to avoid purchasing links unless they are meant to promote the company as a whole, not just its online ranking.