Link Buying Pros and Cons – SEO FAQ

Author: Gab Goldenberg

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What are the pros and cons of buying links? What risks and rewards should I consider in a cost-benefit analysis of a strategy of paying for backlinks?

Pros:

1) You typically control the anchor text and page that a link goes to.

2) Buying a link can engender less resistance than asking for a [free] link.

3) It can be faster than asking for a link.

4) Paying for a link can be easier than asking for a link.

5) You can control additional relevance factors, such as the surrounding text and the page title.

6) It can be a quick way to boost AdWords Quality Score. Michael Gray’s split-test proved this by testing the age and trust of links; landing pages with more links got better QS.

7) There’s less dealing with rejection, which is something many link builders (including yours truly) struggle with.

8) The corollary is that there’s more certainty in the results of a link buying campaign – pay $X, get #Y links.

9) You don’t need to invest in quality content.

Cons:

1) You don’t need to invest in quality content.

2) You’re spending money for something that might otherwise only cost you time.

3) Your link building is limited by your budget.

4) Your competitors are more likely to take your paid links out to the crowd.

5) Competitors can more easily kill the value of the links you’re buying.

6) There are a number of ways you can mess it up, and increase your chances of getting caught. You might:

  • ‘Over-optimize’ anchor text and risk getting filtered or penalized, since you won’t fit the normal patterns in Google’s link data. Use N Grams to stay safe.
  • Focus on the wrong metrics, like Pagerank. PageRank barely correlates with higher rankings.
  • Only use one technique and again end up looking unnatural.
  • Buy text links directly for the money site. Instead, buy links for intermediary sites that funnel the value onwards and absorb the risk.
  • Not disguise your highest risk purchased links.
  • Go through a network whose inventory is known to search engines.
  • Overlook footprints that are associated with buying text links. Note: This is a risk with organic link building, too.

7) Google may penalize your site or those you’re buying from by reducing traffic or Toolbar PageRank.

8) It may devalue the clean links you’ve already built for a site, if the whole site gets penalized because of a few paid links.

9) It makes selling a site that much harder, according to my friend Jon Kelly of Sure Hits, who spoke on the subject at SMX Advanced 2009.

10) There are ethical issues with disclosure when buying links.

11) Paid links are easy to replicate. You’re not building a sustainable competitive advantage when you pay for links.

Conclusion: Choosing to buy text links can reduce the hassle of building link popularity and help you catch up to competitors. It won’t replace quality content, a viable business model, or a unique value proposition.

If you want to do it right, you need to follow that big principle of link buying: study link patterns, and do your best to minimize the risk involved.

If that’s not for you, then you can contact me to help you with your link buying, or approach one of the following pros that I recommend (and none of whom paid for the recommendation ;) ).

Michael Gray’s Wolf-Howl SEO Consulting, a well known proponent of link buying
Brian Chappell, who has spent hundreds of thousands buying links
Wiep Knol, an all around link building pro whose articles I read
Debra Mastaler, another link building expert I read
Todd “Stuntdubl” Malicoat, who doesn’t advertise the service but is probably open to hear you out.

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Comments

  1. Being relatively new to SEO, link building is one aspect of the business with which I am least familiar. It is always good to come across such a poignant list of pros and cons for buying links. There are some nice insights into link building here, and I never considered the ethics of disclosure when buying links. Great post! Andrew@iGoMogul

    Comment by iGoMogul - September 8, 2009 @ 6:21pm
  2. Hey Andrew, Thanks for the kind words. It's always nice to hear that you shared something new with a fellow SEO. Also, I've noticed and appreciated your commenting here - thankyou! I've added your site to my rss reader so we can keep building the relationship :).

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - September 9, 2009 @ 1:02am
  3. Thanks! I certainly appreciate the add!

    Comment by iGoMogul - September 9, 2009 @ 5:05pm
  4. I think that just staying away from purchasing links is probably the safest method. Your article pointed out lots of pros and cons and the cons are far worse I think. Thanks, Rob

    Comment by Atlanta RealEstate - September 13, 2009 @ 5:18pm
  5. Hi Gab! I don't think that relevant links pointing to your PPC landing page affect your QS for one major and logical reason: To track and analyse properly your PPC traffic, you need to isolate it! If you put a link you can bring some SEO/Referral traffic on your PPC campaigns and in many cases it's not really the goal (simple PPC campaigns or GWO for testing) :P Moreover, in some cases you don't want to integrate your PPC landing pages on your website (in a SEO and PPC tracking perspectives).

    Comment by Sarah - September 18, 2009 @ 12:01pm
  6. Link building is important but if you're against paying for links you may want to consider paying others to post links for you. Of course you need to work with someone that you trust but I've found that these links tend to stick a little longer.

    Comment by Global Domains International - September 18, 2009 @ 7:08pm
  7. Hey Rob, I noticed your comments here a lot lately - thanks for participating in my community :). We always like seeing Atlanta realtors around here ;).

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - September 20, 2009 @ 10:34pm
  8. Hi Sarah :), 1) I'm not sure the test had links pointing directly to the landing page, as opposed to other parts of the website. 2) Your argument isn't logical. Regardless of whether links dirty the data on a test, they do still contribute to QS. The effect they have in terms of sending direct or seo traffic is irrelevant to the question of QS, which isn't based on how clean your data is.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - September 20, 2009 @ 10:38pm

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