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Something I learnt recently is that what Google makes sound like blackhat and the blackhat practices it actually enforces against are two very different things. I realized that when I noticed that a niche site ranking highest for a particular query was involved in link exchange as well as operating a network of sites that despite being unrelated, pointed toward that one site. Looking into it further, Google has made link exchange sound bad (just like this post makes guest blogging sound bad), but stopped short of ever claiming to penalize it or ruling it out.

The issue is that competing marketers can use "negative" signals as a weapon to hurt competitors. Google is handcuffed somewhat (less so as time goes on) when penalizing for bad SEO.

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