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There’s An Underground Economy Selling Links From The New York Times, BBC, CNN, And Other Big News Sites


The above article discusses the existence of a market for buying and selling domains of dead websites that are linked to by popular news sites. The reason why people would want to buy these domains is that being linked to by a site with a lot of traffic gives a website higher priority in Google search results. By buying such a domain and having it redirect to one’s own website, one can maliciously increase traffic to their own site. For example, an investigation found more than 10 articles with links that redirected traffic to sketchy, unintended websites on BBC news, such as online gambling and private browsers. SEO agencies, many of which are based in India and Pakistan, use a marketplace called Fiverr to sell this service for hundreds of dollars, and in some cases more than $500. Additionally, redirect links are not addressed by Google’s webmaster guidelines even though they generally try to prevent manipulation of rankings.


The ideas presented in this article are very strongly linked to PageRank, the ranking algorithm that has been used by Google which we learned about in class. PageRank works by assigning rankings to websites represented as nodes in a graph then redistributing rankings based on how many pages each site links to. Having understood how PageRank works, it makes sense that this malicious tactic of buying and selling dead domains linked by high traffic sites is so popular. Let’s say that some site X is linked to by an article of the New York Times, and the owner of site some Y wants to increase search engine rankings of site Y. Because the New York Times is ranked highly, X would in turn be ranked highly for being linked to by the New York Times. Thus, by buying site X and having site X link to site Y, site Y would be ranked highly too. It is interesting to hear that Google does not address redirect links in their guidelines but maybe they should in the future to stop such abuse from happening


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October 2019