On Tuesday we had our monthly Affiliate Summit meetup and we started talking about backlinks. We usually talk about this topic all the time but this time around we talked about checking backlinks. Actually I was glad to see people are looking at backlinks since Google uses them in part to rank their websites in the search engine.
Someone brought up that he noticed that one of his keyword rankings had some funny things going on. The top website ranking for the keyword had under 10 backlinks but the second site had about 1008. I think he said the 3rd site had like 5 or so. We are not talking about a very competitive niche so it didn't take a lot of keywords to rank well.
His question was how does a site with 10 backlinks beat out a site with 1008 backlinks. The answer to me was obvious but to someone new I could see why it would be confusing. Without knowing the exact details I blurted out that it was because the second site bought 1000 backlinks from someone and they really only had 8 real backlinks.
I bet if we went to look at that websites backlinks you would see some websites that ended in .info, some .blogspots and some squidoo pages. Google isn't stupid and they know what sites are really doing. I was surprised that the site wasn't placed on page 10 of the search results. Maybe Google didn't find it yet? Who knows, without knowing what site it was I can only guess.
If Google looks at a site like one of the ones listed in the graphic on Wil Reynolds post on SEOMoz Google can then look at all the sites that have a backlink from them and figure out rather quickly that the backlinks are probably paid for and eventually worthless. In this case I bet Google just hasn't found it yet but they will. The person selling the 1000 backlinks is probably using the same sites to give backlinks from so there are many sites that have the same EXACT backlinks. When Google figures this out and starts to wonder why sites across many different niches all have backlinks from the same sites do you think they are going to count those links. I don't, it might work for a little while but it isn't a good long term strategy.
Now depending on what color SEO hat you think you are wearing at the time you do have choices. You can leave it alone (which I usually do), or you can report it to Google as spam. Since it isn't my job to clean up Google results. I will be making my site better for the end user and I suggest you do the same.