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Links have been a factor in ranking well in the SERPs for a long time now, but recently they have become much more important, especially when seeking high rankings on Google. Because of this, incoming links have turned into a hot commodity, especially from high PageRank sites.

For a while now websites have been offering paid run-of-site links, the higher the PR, the higher the cost. But now some webmasters may have found a way to essentially steal or borrow PageRank, giving the illusion that their site is much more powerful in order to drive up advertising costs. If you are thinking of purchasing site wide links, this is something of importance to watch out for.

How do they steal PageRank?

The scammer starts off by registering a new domain and placing a 301 permanent redirect to a site with a high PageRank. After Google does its next link and PageRank update, the inbound links and PageRank are applied to the scammer’s site. Once Google has applied the ‘stolen’ PageRank and link counts to the fraudulent site, the Webmaster quickly removes the redirect and posts his or her site in its place leaving the impression of link popularity and PR.

Individuals looking to purchase site wide links see the high PR and make the purchase. Once Google does its next update the scammers site PR and Link counts drop back to 0, exposing to the advertiser that they have wasted their money. By this time the Webmaster is likely nowhere to be found.

How can you tell if the site is a fraud?

There are a few ways to check to see if a sites PageRank is stolen.

- Check the internal pages. If the index page has a PageRank of 8, and the internals have no PageRank, there is a good chance that something is up.

- Do a back link check on the suspect site, and closely look at a few of the pages that show up. If you can’t find any links pointing it, this brings up another flag.

- Perform a WHOIS and check the registration date for the domain. It is highly unlikely that a new site would have a high PageRank. If the site is less than a year old and has a PageRank of 8, this may raise some flags.

- Be weary of webmasters contacting you with sales pitches, in most cases sites offering link spots for sale will not solicit.

If you are careful and take the time to make a few simple checks you can ensure that you won’t be scammed by these fraudulent sites. I would suspect that Google will realize that this is happening and take action against it relatively quickly, but until then it is always best to be careful. If you have a bad feeling about a website’s credibility, then it is probably best to pass it by and move on.

As scams come and go, there are always new ones just around the corner, so it’s best to take the time and make a few checks before jumping into anything.