A couple of major UK brands in the insurance sector have recently been penalised by Google for boosting their rankings by buying paid reviews and paid links.

Last week, car insurance aggregator Gocompare.com was dropped from the number one slot for the term ‘car insurance’, and sent to the relative obscurity of page six of Google.

Its big mistake was to attempt to boost its search engine rankings by buying paid links and reviews, increasing the number of links into the site. This enabled the relatively new car insurance aggregator to reach the top of the natural search rankings.

The company achieved this in just over a year, which may well have raised alarm bells at Google, as such a rapid rise in the rankings is unusual, especially for such a competitive search term.

A similar penalty was imposed on Moneysupermarket.com last year, while the most recent victim of Google’s penalty has been Kwik Fit.

Kwik Fit is better known for tyres and brake pads than car insurance, but it has recently moved into the market, and was hovering between pages one and two of Google for the term ‘car insurance’ before being punished by Google for buying paid links.

Now Kwik Fit has moved down to page 5 on Google for the term, so it seems this strategy has not paid off for the company.

Google’s penalties can have a serious effect on web traffic – a recent Hitwise article showed that traffic to Gocompare.com from this search term had fallen by 87% in the weeks after the penalty.

It is likely that there are more brands using these SEO tactics, something which Google is keen to weed out, so we can expect more such penalties in the coming months.