Buying Links and Boosting SERPs

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A user on WebmasterWorld points out that lots of folks are buying homepage links, and believes Google is still crediting them. It's an interesting thread for a couple of reasons. One of them is this question: are the homepage links really a problem? Martinibuster writes:

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I think it needs to be clarified if these links are outside of the US or US based links. The US has FTC regulations that require paid links to be labeled as advertising. If the links are labeled as advertisements, then they're not going to work for ranking purposes...If the links are in the UK then another algorithm is at work. THere have been some interesting link analysis algorithms out lately that aren't well understood by most people...The next iteration of Penguin is on the way and I believe these algorithms have a role.

SEOs talk about a lot of things with no proven impact - part of the nature of the biz is the gossipy grapevine. It's always interesting to see practical experiences being compared, as opposed to pure rumor and speculation.