Our clients often pass us emails from people offering to sell them links. But is link buying an effective and ethical SEO strategy?
Yes and No.
Links drive the web. Google will grant your site trust/authority based on not only the quantity of links pointing to you, but also on the quality. (See PageRank)
Quality of a link to your website depends not only on what links are pointing to the site that is linking to you but also on the relevancy of that site to yours.
If I run a blog on cooking techniques, one link from Martha Stewart is worth several thousand times more than if I have 300 links from sites in some irrelevant industry like classic muscle cars. Unless I am trying to rank for keywords in the muscle car industry but if I am trying to rank for terms in the cooking niche then links from sites already within that niche have far greater power.
So the bought links may help if they are in the right niches but keep in mind that Google has stated publicly that they do not approve of this practice.
There was recently a very high-profile case of JCPenny getting penalized by Google (also Overstock.com and Forbes) for buying links featured in the NYT.
There are not many effective and safe shortcuts in SEO, while a link vendor may have 1000s of websites that could link to you, they are most likely not high-quality and are also most likely in irrelevant industries. If your site suddenly has several hundred links pointing to them from off-topic sites, then that looks very suspicious to Google. Their algorithm is way too smart to game in a safe way. At best this is gray-hat SEO but I would argue it is black-hat. LimeCuda keeps squeaky clean and white-hat :) If you are looking for the sneaky, under-handed, shortcut SEO then I have a few dozen emails I get daily from those companies I can send you.
Here is what it all boils down to…
Hey, right there with ya! The metaphor I always use with people is that you’re not actually building your brand, you’re leasing it. It’s like getting crutches, instead of learning to walk.
Awesome article Blake. There are definitely tons of black hat marketers out there selling cheap links…which results in poor results and pretty dangerous outcomes if Google catches on. Best way is play it safe and gets more links the natural way.
Taylor Pratt says
Personally, I don’t buy links but that doesn’t mean I disapprove of the marketing tactic. There are far too many loopholes into what could and could not be considered a paid link. When Raven sponsors an SEO conference and we get a link from that conference’s website, is that not a paid link? This is one of just many examples I can come up with that show that sometimes it’s okay to have paid links.
In terms of their effectiveness, with as crappy as Google’s SERP results are as of late, it’s hard to argue that buying links isn’t effective. If done right, meaning they are purchased from relevant, trusted websites in a way that doesn’t deceive the user – I don’t see what the problem is.
Hi, I was going to buy links so decided to do some research first and can across this article. I don’t think I will be going down that avenue now. Thanks for the sound advice.