Buying backlinks has probably come up on your radar before.
Maybe you heard about it and immediately hid it away in a secret drawer, never to be brought up again…
Or maybe you’ve been wondering if it’s actually feasible.
Almost anyone who does SEO has thought about buying links at one time or another.
Still, buying backlinks is against Google’s guidelines. It’s most definitely a black hat practice.
But, as you’ll soon learn, it’s also a little less evil than you might’ve previously thought.
Below you’ll find out what link buying has morphed into today, why people still do it and the inherent risks involved, so you can decide if it’s worth your time.
WTF Is Link Buying?
Link buying has been around since the early days of Google. Once webmasters learned that you could manipulate rankings by the quantity and quality of links, links became a commodity.
It began with early web directories and soon evolved into just about any site that had some decent authority. Soon sites that had solid PageRank were selling footer links, sidebar links and even links with specific anchor text.
This didn’t last long, however, as Google was able to find most of these links and devalue them, so they were essentially worth nothing.
But link buying still continues to exist to this day. However, what a paid link is has evolved.
According to Google, a paid link is exchanging money for any link, or post that contains links. Even sending someone a free product in exchange for a link violates these guidelines.
This means that even sponsored posts, paid guest posts and paid product reviews are in violation.
But, that doesn’t stop people from using them.
As you’ll soon learn, there are safer forms of paid links. Not every kind of paid link is evil—in some cases, it’s just a matter of good ol’ math.
Why Do People Buy Backlinks?
If buying backlinks is against Google’s guidelines, why do people do it?
One reason is that it still works. It seems that a lot of people in SEO will continue to do things against Google’s guidelines until they get caught.
The other reasons are exposed below:
It’s Easier and Faster Than Content Marketing and Outreach
If you’ve spent any time doing outreach for your blogs posts, then you know how long this process can take. Especially if you’re doing all of the outreach yourself.
Imagine if you could essentially outsource all of your offsite SEO. How much time would that free up to improve the quality of your content? Work on your website? And take care of every single other website-related task on your plate?
Now you can see why it’s so appealing.
Just throw some money down and the link is yours. No outreach. No hours spent creating content.
Results Can Come Quicker
Time and time again we’re told—SEO is a long-term game.
Mostly, because it is. Especially if you’re taking the white hat approach. Which (cough cough), you should be.
Writing incredible content takes time. Doing keyword research takes time. Uncovering link opportunities takes time. Now multiply this across hundreds of keywords you’re trying to rank for, along with dozens of pieces of quality content you’re trying to get backlinks for.
It’s no wonder we don’t get much sleep anymore.
By paying for links you spend less time, and you’ll get nearly instant results.
For Some Industries It’s Common Practice
Sometimes you might feel that there’s no way around buying links. Maybe you’ve done some spying on your competitor’s backlink portfolio and you’ve found that they’ve purchased a ton of links.
They’re ranking high, so these links obviously aren’t too frowned upon. So, your options are to either create content and take the white hat approach to build links. Or, buy the same links that your competitors have.
Overall, it depends on what type of links they are.
For example, it could be a paid directory listing. Or a sponsored post. Both of which lean towards the higher quality of the paid link spectrum.
If this scenario sounds like you, and you’re 99% sold on buying links, then make sure you supplement your link buying with a tangible white hat strategy. It’s not the best course of action, but this will help to keep your website as safe as possible.
The Dangers of Buying Backlinks
Buying links, no matter what form, will carry some inherent risk.
Implementing good link building practices will take a lot of time and energy. Hence why people are always looking for shortcuts.
But, since Google knows that, they’ve cracked down on sites that buy links and have become particularly good at identifying sources of paid links.
Here are three reasons you may want to stay away from buying backlinks:
1. Google Knows What to Look For
Google isn’t stupid. With every algorithm update, they get closer towards weeding out websites that are trying to game the system.
After all, the search results of the early 2010s are very different from the search results of today, and practices to rank your site have shifted widely.
Since link buying has been around since the dawn of the web, it’s something that continually comes up on Google’s radar. It’s one of the number one ways to game the system, so you can bet they have elements in place to spot paid links.
2. You Increase Your Chances of a Manual Penalty
When you buy links you’re going directly against Google guidelines. Here’s what they say about buying links:
Algorithm updates can already hit your site. But, a manual penalty is much harder to recover from.
After all, this is a living breathing human who deemed your site not worthy to rank.
3. You Can Seriously Damage Your Link Profile
Some kinds of paid links can be very damaging.
For example, let’s say you have a small but decent link profile. You’re fed up with how long it takes to increase traffic to your site, so you’re gonna go black hat—you’re going to buy some links.
You find a website that sells footer links for a decent price. Their domain metrics are pretty high, so you pull the trigger.
But…this can be a huge red flag. Especially buying a sitewide footer link. A lot of these sites that sell footer links are long-running and have hundreds of pages of content.
That means that when your site gets listed all of a sudden, there’ll be hundreds of links pointing towards your site. This is something that’s hard to cover up, and it’ll turn your link profile into a big pile of garbage.
The 3 Most Popular Forms of Buying Links Today
Still, people do buy links. The practices for buying links have evolved. Some can even fit into the relatively undefined gray hat SEO box.
Now, it’s important to understand that however you go about doing it, you’re still going against Google’s guidelines of no paid links ever. But, some people see this as merely bending the rules instead of breaking them.
1. Guest Post Placements
Google already threw down the war hammer against guest posting. I guess marketers do ruin everything. 😉
But, even though it’s lost some of its effectiveness, a well-placed guest post will still pass some link juice.
Buying guest post links is typically done as follows:
You hire a freelancer or company to guest post on your behalf. They handle the pitching, the content creation and placing a link within the content back to your site.
Generally, these links can be pretty hard to spot. If the guest post in question is high quality and linking back to a legitimate resource, you can’t really distinguish between a paid link and a natural link.
Hence why it remains widely used.
2. PBN Networks
Ah, PBNs. Some SEOs swear by their effectiveness, while others won’t even talk about PBNs unless they’re wearing a hazmat suit.
To keep things simple, a PBN is a network of sites, usually owned by one person, that attempt to mimic a real website. Certain things are also done to hide this footprint from Google, so all the sites can’t be linked back to a single person.
Then, the owners of these sites will allow people to purchase links from their PBN.
3. Link Purchasers (on Behalf of Clients)
A link purchaser typically works for an SEO agency and does link outreach on behalf of clients.
Usually, this involves finding blogs that aren’t making any money but have decent standing in Google, and paying them to publish one of your posts that has a link back to your site.
These emails are incredibly common, here’s what they look like:
Overall, buying links from a legit website is much safer than, say, purchasing a link on a PBN or other fake websites.
That’s probably why this method is so widespread.
Should I Buy Backlinks? The Final Word
The short answer is no, probably not.
But, for those still on the edge, this section is for you.
If you’re starting from complete scratch, then you should take buying links off your radar altogether. Before you even consider buying links, you’ll want to have a rock-solid link profile.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at the two main reasons why link buying doesn’t make sense today:
1. Buying Links Isn’t a Long-Term Strategy
To succeed with SEO, you’re not going to be able to rely on buying links forever.
If you were going to spend money on buying links, here are a few alternatives to spending all that cash:
Invest in Quality Content
Your content will make or break you online. If you’re not going to write your content yourself, then your best bet is to hire a high-quality writer to create some epic content for you.
Not only can this be used as a link asset, but it’ll also elevate the quality of your business and give those visitors a reason to stay on your site.
The money you spend on content will pay dividends over the long term. Then, use white hat link building methods to build backlinks to that post.
Consider Hiring Out
If outreach is the bane of your existence, then consider hiring another person to perform this task. Overall, outreach isn’t very difficult, it’s just time-consuming.
Hiring out a contractor is a great way to solve the issue of cost.
For example, if you were going to spend $1000 on acquiring a link, you could instead have a link-worthy post written and outsource the outreach for that post.
Instead of getting a single risky backlink, you have an incredible piece of content, along with the potential for gaining hundreds of links to that post.
2. Low-Quality Links Can Harm Your Site
The quality and relevance of your links matter just as much as the quantity.
So, if you don’t have the funds to do blogger outreach on high-quality sites, then you might opt to purchase an inexpensive link package.
Resist this urge with every aspect of your being.
Having a large amount of low-quality links pointing to your site won’t do you any favors in the ranking department.
If you are going to buy links (and I’m definitely not recommending that you do), then make sure you avoid the following kinds of links at all costs:
1. Sitewide links. These kinds of links will show up in the footer or sidebar of the site. These links are totally spammy, and Google has probably already flagged them.
2. Sites that don’t look normal. You should make it a point to visit any site you’re considering buying links from. If a site looks low quality, AKA it has thin content, is filled with ads and other spammy links, then stay far away.
3. Link packages. If you spend some time browsing through Fiverr, then you’ll undoubtedly come across people selling link packages. If you’re tempted by this, then do yourself a favor and run for the hills. Buying these links is almost always guaranteeing you a penalty.
Overall, you have to decide if it’s worth the money and risk. Buying backlinks is an SEO shortcut, and like most shortcuts, there’s an inherent risk.
If you do decide to go this route, make sure you’re using Monitor Backlinks to keep a close eye on the quality of the backlinks you buy and track their impact on your link profile.
You can use this tool to monitor all your new links, get rid of the bad ones before they hurt your SEO, and avoid and recover from damaging Google penalties.
Take Monitor Backlinks for a spin with a free 30-day trial and get started today, commitment-free!
Final Thoughts on Buying Backlinks
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what link buying is, and why it’s not a recommended strategy for SEO success.
There are plenty of things you can do to improve your business outside of buying backlinks.
Your best course of action is to simply wait for the long-term SEO results to kick in. Focus on building your brand and website into the most authoritative site possible.
That way, when you do start to rank, you’ll be able to make the increase in traffic pay off.