Question: About a year ago I bought a bunch of links to help build my link popularity and get my site more exposure. Many of these links expired a few months back and yet my Google rankings did not drop. Why?
Answer: I accidentally blocked a search engine from indexing some of my pages with many in-links and the entire site quickly suffered, so odds are the links that you lost were not your most authoritative inbound links, or your site has built other signs of trust and quality.
Search engines look for many signals of quality. As your site ages, it is trusted more. Just aging another year means that helps your site out in terms of trust related to site age. I have some old PageRank 2 sites that outrank far more authoritative sites (like About.com).
They can also look at other things like searcher feedback, domain name, traffic trends, inbound and outbound links, etc. but as your site aged and got more exposure some of these other signals of quality might help make your rankings more stable, even if you lose some of the links that helped get your site noticed. I ranked in the top 10 for search engine history with a site that had no inbound links.
If the links you bought were obvious bought links they may not have counted toward building your link reputation when you bought them. Another option is that they once counted but were slowly phased out in their ability to boost your search engine rankings.
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