We all know that link buying is against the guidelines but to get high rankings in industries such as insurance or loans you simply have to buy a few choice links.
The situation has got a lot better in the last 12 months as Google discounts more and more obviously paid links so you don’t need to buy quite as many to compete with the big link buyers players.
Imagine you have a client who wants to rank highly for “loans”. In the past you would get as many links as possible with the anchor text “loans” and watch the rankings rise, nowadays this is actually a risky tactic to use. Can you think of any legitimate reason why somebody would link to xxxxxxxfinancecompany.com with the anchor text “loans”? In my view any blog post with some general ramblings about a company and then a keyword rich link in the middle is clearly either a paid post or one that Google is going to be suspicious about.
Footer links have a similar stigma, any footer link with keyword rich anchor text probably isn’t going to count for very much unless the site is above a certain trust threshold and has very few outgoing footer links.
Does Google look at this?
Google probably has the ability to bring up a report on all suspected paid links to a site, they can also bring up a report listing every link to a site with a specific anchor text. If somebody at Google decides to run a report for a finance company and finds 10,000 links all with the same anchor text then it is pretty clear that a lot of these links will be paid.
The consequences will vary, in most cases Google will just manually go through your links and mark some sites as link sellers and remove their ability to pass PR but in extreme cases you could end up with a penalty.