Should You Buy Backlinks?

mark@seomark.co.uk or Contact Form or LinkedIn
As buying backlinks is often the quickest way to acquire them, for lots of businesses it’s the most appealing option, especially so if the extra revenue generated by good rankings more than covers the cost of buying the links needed to achieve them. The problem? Google clearly states that buying backlinks to improve your rankings breaches their guidelines. They consider links as votes and that paying for a vote is unethical, in the same way that a politician paying for people to vote for them in an election would be.

Any website found to be engaging in the practice is liable to be penalised by Google. The consequences of a penalty can be severe. It’s common for penalised sites to lose rankings for all keywords for 6 months or more. In fact, many penalised sites never fully recover their rankings, which indicates that being caught buying links leaves a permanent black mark on a site’s record. So, according to Google, who, by having such a significant share of the search market, effectively make the rules, the answer is “no” you shouldn’t buy backlinks.

A dilemma is created though by the fact that buying backlinks can and does work. Lots of businesses do it, especially in competitive industries, and lots of them get good rankings as a consequence and have never been caught or penalised in years of doing so. The reason they get away with it is because there are billions of links spread across the web and it’s not easy for Google to differentiate between backlinks that have been paid for and natural backlinks (i.e. those which have been given editorially and without inducement).

The lowest risk paid backlinks are those created in a way that makes them look exactly like a normal link on a normal site. If the site selling the links sells only a few of them, only links to relevant sites, and only adds sold links within relevant articles (instead of in the sidebar or footer), then Google will probably never realise the links have been paid for. These types of links are expensive though. You can expect to pay around £25 per month for each one, and one link won’t make much difference – you’ll probably need 10 of them at least.

Due to the relatively high cost of buying high quality backlinks, lots of businesses become tempted by the many low quality ones on offer. Plenty of websites sell links for a few dollars a month, and there are also lots of people selling ‘backlink packages’, which typically involve something along the lines of 25 links for £50 a month. These low quality paid links can work, but it’s 50/50 at best as to whether they’ll have any significant effect on improving your rankings.

As well as potentially being a waste of money, low quality paid links are extremely high risk. People that sell backlinks cheaply have to cut corners to be able to make a profit from their scheme. Things they often do include linking to sites in traditionally spammy industries (xxx, gambling and pharmaceuticals), linking to lots of completely unrelated sites from the same page, and using copied or very poorly written content. Doing those things makes them easy for Google to find, and they will find them – it’s just a matter of time.

So, should your business buy backlinks? If you want a risk free approach to SEO then, no, you shouldn’t buy them. For most businesses, especially small or local ones, the temporary gains aren’t worth the risk, even if you perceive it to be a low one. Instead, invest the money in creating content and promoting your site in a way that attracts natural backlinks. It doesn’t cost more money taking this approach, and you can ultimately achieve the same results, it just requires more patience.

Under no circumstances should you consider paying for low quality links, but buying a handful of high quality ones can speed up results. You should only do so though if you’re prepared to accept, and your business can cope with, the risk of your website getting penalised and losing rankings for a long time, or even forever. If you do think that the risk of buying backlinks is worth it, and that the money that you can make in the short-term outweighs the cost of starting afresh if/when Google catches and penalises your site, you should follow these guidelines:

  • Buy links individually instead of in packages.
  • Deal directly with site owners instead of with 3rd party companies.
  • Don’t buy links from sites that openly state (on their site or elsewhere) that they sell them.
  • Buy links from sites that are relevant to your own site.
  • Buy in-content links instead of links in the sidebar or footer.
  • Buy links on individual pages instead of site-wide links.
  • Keep the percentage of paid links below 10% of the total number of links your site has.

Further Reading
What Makes A Backlink A High Quality Backlink?

How Many Keywords Should You Target?

Check Where Your Website Is Ranking In Google

Common Optimisation Mistakes

100 SEO Tips

mark@seomark.co.uk or Contact Form or LinkedIn