When Google rose to the top of the search engine food chain, they created several commodities. One of them was backlinks. Google’s algorithm places a premium on the number of incoming links to a site. The more incoming links a site has, the higher the site will rank. The higher it ranks, the more traffic it will get. The more traffic it gets, the more money it will make.

And so the link commodity was born. There are link building services, link brokers, link traders, social bookmarking services, directory submissions, and assorted other operations built around this new cottage industry. One of them, Text-Link-Ads, even has a little calculator to show how much you can earn by selling links on your site.

Of course, Google doesn’t treat all links as equal. Links from authority domains or on-topic domains weigh more than links from Joe Blow’s PR1 blog. But that doesn’t stop the link scammers. They’ve even developed nice little charts showing how to gain high page rank from masses of low ranking incoming links. And even if page rank doesn’t directly translate to high search engine result positions (SERP’s), that doesn’t stop people from buying and selling scammy links.

Back in college, I knew a couple of guys who would subscribe to magazines under the name Mr. William M. Later. Then they’d get 2-3 months of free subscriptions to Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, etc. until the magazines wised up and realized that no one named William M. Later (aka, Bill Me Later) was going to pay up.

I was reminded of this when Andy Brice, creator of the legitimate 5-Cow ranked table planning software Perfect Table Plan, wrote a piece about the fake awards granted by some download sites. He created a fake piece of software called awardmestars (that’s AwardMeStars for the Pascal-case impaired). This software could have been written by William M. Later because it does nothing. It’s a text file with the extension changed to .exe and the product description even says that “this product does nothing.” And yet, many of the cheesier software download sites still awarded him 5 Stars.

Now that Andy’s article is making the rounds, I’m positive that more than a few link scammers will pick up on this. All they need is a text editor and a copy of Robosoft, and soon they will have hundreds of back links from low rent software directories. And I hope they do. If these software directories start getting bombarded with fake submissions, maybe they’ll actually clean up their act and stop accepting all kinds of crappy software and awarding these rankings worth less than a Commemorative Lincoln Medallion.

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