I had a strange conversation a few weeks ago with a friend. He had attended an online marketing conference and one of the speakers, who was the head of a huge online travel business, took to the stage and began to address the collective audience on the strategy the business had used in the previous year.

We’ve all been there; yawning as the same old cliches roll off the tongue, but then something amazing happened. This guy, a CEO for a major business making a keynote address began talking about their link buying strategy, budgets and ROI.

Buying links is utterly condemned by Google and their guidelines are very clear in stating that they see buying links as an attempt to manipulate search results and will punish anybody caught doing so. Yet here was a guy openly discussing their link buying strategy at a conference where Google had an official presence.

As search marketers we all know the status quo that exists in terms of Google’s relationships with links, they are at the core of Pagerank and the cornerstone of how Google rank web pages. Yet at the same time they are a perennial thorn in Google’s side as they are the easiest way to manipulate Google’s rankings.

How is this a threat to Google? simply because there is a point at which customers become more and more switched on to the idea that organic seo ultimately has a better ROI than PPC. PPC is easier, immediate, has transparent costs and carries less risk but when you have a major company who’s openly talking about the CPC of organic clicks and they are in single pence per click then that starts to really whet the appetite of the guys in the room. And as long as Google lets the status quo continue then these kind of speeches will become more and more frequent.

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