If you own a website, you’ve heard of paid backlinks before. You can acquire backlinks organically by building up quality content and networking–or you can acquire them by cheating the system, so to speak.
That’s where paid backlinks come in. Backlinks are seen as “points” for your website. The more backlinks a page has, the higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs) it will land. That means more visitors to your site.
So should you take the risk and buy your way to the top? Well, buying backlinks runs the risk of harming your website’s SERP rankings in the long run. But there are plenty of reasons site owners choose this dicey SEO method anyways.
Choosing Paid Backlinks
Since it is so important to be high ranking in search results, paid backlinks have become a way to achieve a better place on SERPs. But Google’s Webmaster guidelines list paid backlinks as a violation of web standards.
Any link, or any post with a link planted in it, that is acquired through monetary payment or bartering is considered a paid link. That includes businesses offering free products to bloggers in exchange for content with backlinks to the business’s website.
But with all the hustle required to run a business and keep your site aligned with search engine algorithms, paid backlinks can seem to offer an easier way. There are several reasons why paid backlinks can appear as an attractive option.
Time. The struggle with building up backlinks organically is that it takes time. Building up offsite SEO takes time. It all takes so much time. Therefore, just paying for backlinks seems like a simpler, more convenient option.
Perhaps a major sale opportunity is quickly approaching, like Black Friday or Boxing Day, but your site is not getting enough traffic. You want to be near the top of the SERPs with great SEO rankings.
If time is not on your side, you may need to buy backlinks to get the speedy results you are hoping for.
You Hate Networking and Outreach. To build up those natural backlinks, you must spend effort and time doing outreach. Emails, pitches, shmoozing–perhaps you dread these things.
Plus you must spend energy connecting with businesses, many of whom will turn down your pitch. Having the option of just paying someone to post a backlink can feel less stressful.
Everybody’s Doing It. There are programs available now which allow you to check in on other sites’ backlink connections. So what if you know that your competitor has bought a few links here and there?
If they aren’t being penalized for paid backlinks and they have a great ranking on Google, what choice do you have but to buy similar backlinks and hope that you will rank high enough to compete?
Saying No to Paid Backlinks
There certainly seems to be an argument for buying backlinks, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of SEO. But what are the cons of paid backlinks?
Manual Penalties. With so much time to save upfront by purchasing backlinks, it can be tempting to just go for it. But don’t forget that you may end up paying with time and money later on if your paid backlinks are sussed out by Google.,
Buying backlinks is considered a black hat SEO tool, and it is not condoned by Google. Should enough of your backlinks be flagged as suspicious, a manual review of your website and linking methods may result in Google lowering your site’s search ranking. Yuck.
Google Is Watching. Google is like the Jolly Old Saint Nick of SEO, watching out for who has been good and who has been bad, then adding them to the “Naughty or Nice List” accordingly.
They’re experienced in looking for people trying to cheat the search engine system. And unfortunately, if your site gets put on the “Naughty List”, it’s going to take time to recover from that.
Paid Backlinks Are Not Diverse. Google prefers backlinks from a myriad of sources. You will likely get none of these things when you pay for backlinks.
For example, a couple of options for paid backlinks are link packages and sitewide links. Link packages provide an influx of backlinks from multiple sites, but these sites are likely to be spammy.
Sitewide links promise you a big chunk of backlinks from one site. There is also a risk that a paid backlink will be posted throughout a site across multiple pages, such as in the case of a footer link.
Yay! More exposure! No. Remember that Google favors backlinks with a variety of origins.
These methods look suspicious and they can be easily detected by Google.
So You Still Want to Buy Backlinks?
There are still ways to buy backlinks that have not been entirely weeded out by Google. Regardless, you won’t be able to cut out white hat SEO techniques altogether.
Hold onto some tried and true white hat techniques so that you have something to fall back on. Paying for backlinks always comes with risk, even if you buy quality backlinks. Here are a few of the options out there:
Private Blog Networks (PBNs). PBNs are a collection of authoritative websites that exist primarily to backlink to paying client’s sites. You can pay them to backlink to your site in the hopes of upping your SEO game.
How can something like this even exist under the watchful eye of Google, you ask? Well, PBNs have a few tricks up their sleeves.
They are engineered to mimic real websites. Although the website’s part of a PBN is usually owned by one person, tracing is tampered with so that the websites appear to have various owners. This makes the PBN appear like several legitimate websites instead of a paid backlink set up.
Pay for a Guest Post. A natural-looking link in a blog post is the only way to pull this one-off. You’ll also need to go through a third party such as a freelancer or a company that specializes in guest posts.
The third-party will take care of actions like pitching an article and writing the content with your backlink in it. Sneaky, I know! A good quality piece of writing with your link organically woven into the context of the content won’t look like a paid link.
A Link Purchasing Agent. These agents will take care of the outreach you don’t want to do.
They’re going to find websites that are excelling at the Google ranking game, but aren’t doing great in terms of business; ie., these websites are more likely to accept propositions to place backlinks on their site in exchange for an income.
This is less risky for you because your link is on a real website as opposed to a PBN site.
Buying Backlinks = Short-Term Plan
Ok, to be honest, you can’t rely on buying backlinks forever. You may find it helps you in the short term, though.
The issue is, black hat strategies such as buying backlinks will eventually be taken out by Google. You must have a backup plan or save the backlink buying for the rare occasion.
Should Google detect purchased backlinks, your website is going to be royally screwed by the algorithm if they slap you with a penalty.
Alternatives to Paid Backlinks
If you are willing to spend money to get your site to the top of the SERPs, why not invest it in less risky ways than paid backlinks?
Pay Someone Else. If you dislike the outreach work needed to secure natural backlinks, then, of course, paid backlinks will seem less painful to you. But why not pay someone else to do outreach for you?
You won’t be risking a penalty. And white hat SEO strategies such as building natural backlinks tend to be favored by the Google algorithm.
Spend Money on Content Instead. Give people a reason to share links to your site–post helpful, interesting and quality content. Visitors will also stay longer on your site because your posts are worth reading
Use white hat methods, such as creating and sharing infographics, to link back to your content.
So… Should I Buy Backlinks?
As you can see, paid backlinks can help you out in the short run. But because of the risks involved with buying backlinks, even a short-term gain may not be worth it.
Paid backlinks are a risk to your website’s SERP rankings and should be avoided if possible.