Today, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable blogged about the news that Link Vault, one of the better link-networks in my opinion, was seemingly banned by Google.  For whatever reason their domain dropped out of the index.  It happens, but it was probably just a glitch in this case.  Apparently, people have also been noticing that pages with this link network (among others) on them are going supplemental.

Personally, I think Link Vault is mostly safe when used in small doses, but the other networks like Digital Point Co-op, which blatantly advertise their existence with a small image tag in the ad copy are extremely dangerous.  And while Shaun Hogan of Digital Point is a really smart guy, and it hasn't gotten anyone into major trouble yet, it may.  Furthermore, if I, with a little formal computer science education and half a brain can write a regular expression (with very little overhead) that detects Digital Point and counter links, does anyone really think Google can't detect it?  It's barely even a heuristic for Digital Pont — simply look for the image next to a link.  For counters, look for perhaps a small image, followed by a completely random link, and similar patterns on other sites for the image's domain.  That's slightly more complex.  But even without certaintly, Google can proceed to at least devalue those links.  Wow, hard stuff!

Seriously, though, if I think of these things, are you really so surprised when you hear your pages dropped into the supplemental index, or the links don't seem to count much anymore?

In the pharmaceutical legal industry, lawyers love it when drugs manifest side effects that leave a "signature," i.e. something completely out of place and telling.  Pretend you hate Google as much as you hate lawyers.  Be (rationally) paranoid.  Even use these things in small doses; but don't complain when you get into trouble.

And I still think Link Vault is the safest of them all.  It has almost no signature.  Perhaps none.  I still don't use it.

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