In response to the JCPenney link buying practices – Google finally cracked down on this benign neglect of its own policies. In its wake lots of websites lost their shirts!
It is not that Google didn’t know! As a friend once said, Google’s vast servers know almost everything that there is to know about you online! So there is no place really to hide.
Black hat techniques for SEO present a picture of benevolent dictatorship. Links are sold in a black market that exists under Google’s very nose. Just as credit card fraud is the cost of doing business for credit card companies, and as long as it is within permissible limits – it co-exists with the majority of honest users. Similarly, black hat techniques like paid links have been around for a long time.
The fact that the JCPenney scandal got them to act is galling. One would have hoped that Google was tracking the amount of such link fraud that was happening and curtailing it to within manageable limits. Slowly boiling the frog i.e. fixing the problem incrementally would have resulted in a longer lasting solution with much less outrage.
Whenever there is a gunfight, more than likely an innocent bystander gets hurt. One may ask why were you even a bystander. Some of the people may not necessarily be innocent, historic mistakes can come back to haunt – as I suspect is the case with a number of sites that got downgraded in the wake.