Backlinks are one of the most influential Google ranking factors.
But building links isn’t easy.
So is it a good idea to just buy them?
Well, it depends.
There are clear benefits but also considerable risks.
If you get it wrong, you can cause major SEO issues.
In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about buying backlinks properly.
- What buying backlinks really means
- The pros and cons
- How to buy links the right way
- What to avoid
The short answer is yes, but you need to be careful.
Outright buying links is not a good idea. Paying someone on Fiverr $5 for 500 backlinks won’t do anything to improve your SEO.
It could even damage your ranking.
But ‘buying backlinks’ isn’t just paying directly for links.
There are many legitimate link building and digital PR tactics to acquire links.
Google’s John Mueller has previously praised digital PR and said it’s “just as critical as technical SEO.”
I love some of the things I see from digital pr, it’s a shame it often gets bucketed with the spammy kind of link building. It’s just as critical as tech SEO, probably more so in many cases.
— John is updating his unnamed profile name #ok (@JohnMu) January 23, 2021
You’re technically paying for links if you pay an agency or freelancer for these services.
So there’s no problem with genuine outreach.
Websites get into trouble when they use black hat tactics and low-quality link building providers.
When done correctly, paid backlinks offer a bunch of SEO benefits.
Here’s how buying links can give you a competitive edge:
Improved Search Engine Rankings
Acquiring high-quality backlinks can help your website rank higher in search engine results.
In a recent survey by uSerp, 67.5% of SEOs said that backlinks have a big impact on search engine rankings:
When high-quality, relevant websites link to yours, search engines see your site as more valuable and trustworthy.
This can boost your ranking and help your website show up when people search for relevant keywords.
Increased Organic Traffic
The more high-authority links pointing to your website, the more likely you are to rank high in search results. That increased visibility translates into more organic traffic.
A study by Ahrefs found a direct correlation between referring domains and organic search traffic:
More visitors from search engines can lead to more sign-ups, leads, and sales.
Higher Domain Authority and Domain Rating
Buying backlinks can increase your Domain Authority (DA) and Domain Rating (DR).
These are SEO metrics used to rate a website’s trustworthiness and ability to rank in search results.
Here’s the thing: These scores are not a Google ranking factor.
And it’s unlikely your boss or SEO client will care much about an increase in DA.
Your CEO doesn’t care about Domain Authority.
— Chris Long (@gofishchris) June 29, 2023
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
A high DR indicates that your website is authoritative and trustworthy. It has a better chance of ranking high for competitive keywords.
A Backlinko study found a strong correlation between Domain Rating and search ranking:
When you get backlinks from high-authority websites, these scores can go up.
A higher score means search engines see your website as more reliable and reward you with a higher ranking in search results.
Quality Content for Your Site
When SEOs talk about link building, they don’t just mean guest posting on third-party websites.
It’s also about creating awesome content and asking others to link to it.
Link building agencies and digital PR firms will create this content for you.
This helps in two ways:
- Your website has more great content that visitors might find helpful.
- The articles attract links, which can boost search engine rankings.
Once your content gains more visibility, it can attract natural backlinks over time. Your paid outreach sets the foundation for organic growth.
Of course, we all know there are benefits to acquiring more links, or people wouldn’t buy them in the first place.
But what about the downsides? Why is buying links the boogeyman of the SEO world?
Link Schemes And Low-Quality Links
There’s a risk of getting involved with link schemes or attracting low-quality links.
Link schemes are attempts to manipulate a site’s ranking by artificially increasing the number of links pointing to the site.
That could involve using private blog networks (PBNs), comment spam, excessive link exchanges, and other black hat tactics.
These links are more likely to earn you a Google penalty than a ranking increase.
Link schemes violate Google’s guidelines and can result in a website being penalized or even removed from the search index.
Low-quality links are backlinks from spammy, untrustworthy websites. Generally, the sole reason these websites exist is for link building purposes.
So, what does a low-quality link look like?
You can use SEO tools like Semrush and Ahrefs to judge the quality of a domain.
Pay close attention to organic traffic and backlinks.
If the website has a ton of backlinks from low-authority referring domains and zero organic traffic, it indicates a low-quality domain.
So, what does a high-quality link look like?
Kai Cromwell has a great breakdown here:
What makes a good backlink?
No, it’s not a high DA/DR.
– Is the site relevant to your brand?
– Does it get traffic?
– Does it have quality backlinks?
– Is traffic growing?
If you check all these boxes, lock up that link.
— Kai | eCommerce SEO (@KaiCromwell) March 24, 2023
The key ingredients of a good backlink are:
- High-quality backlinks
Domain Authority metrics can be a good indication. But they are easier to manipulate than traffic and high-quality referring domains. We’d always recommend you cross-reference a few different metrics at the same time to get an overall picture of the domain’s health.
Money for Links Violations
Google is pretty clear on this.
You shouldn’t buy links to try and increase your ranking in search results.
In Google Search Essentials (formerly Webmaster Guidelines), there’s a section dedicated to link spam. It states that exchanging money for links is a breach of search guidelines:
Breaking these rules can lead to problems.
Google could lower your ranking in search results, making it hard for people to find your website. In some cases, they might remove your site from search results entirely.
If you pay for links and get penalized, you’ve spent money without receiving any benefit.
And fixing the problems to get back into search results can cost more time and money.
Link Farms and Poor Quality Link Building Services
Off-page SEO has historically attracted a lot of black hat practitioners.
One of the tactics black hat SEOs use is link farms.
A link farm is a group of websites often owned by the same person or company that link to each other. The goal is to manipulate search rankings and artificially inflate the authority of the websites.
You’ll often find link farms selling links to other websites.
Search engines a very good at spotting these unnatural links. If they see that your website is part of one, they might lower your ranking.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if your SEO agency is building you backlinks from sketchy-looking websites (link farms), DROP THEM IMMEDIATELY.
— Nick Zviadadze 🇺🇦 (@Nick_zv_) July 4, 2023
Another drawback of working with low-quality link building companies is the impact on your link profile.
These companies focus on churning out a bunch of links as quickly as possible.
When Google sees that your site has received a sudden influx of links, it looks like an attempt to manipulate search rankings.
Like link schemes, this can lead to penalties. Your website might rank lower in search results or be removed completely.
Outright buying links isn’t a good strategy.
But, there are plenty of legitimate marketing activities to boost brand awareness, build your reputation, and attract links.
Here’s how to buy links the right way:
Blogger outreach is all about forging relationships.
It involves reaching out to bloggers and publications in your industry, pitching article ideas, and writing content for their platforms.
In return, you’ll usually get to include a link to your site within the content.
And you’ll almost always be allowed to include a link in your author bio.
This is an excellent way to build links to your site. It’s also a great opportunity to position yourself as an authority in your niche.
The key to successful blogger outreach is relevance.
Target high-quality blogs that align with your brand and audience. And make sure the content you provide offers value.
The overall concept of blogger outreach isn’t just about guest posting. You can also reach out to relevant sites and get them to link to your content.
You’ll need some awesome content they want to share with their audience. Creating original research or unique data-driven content works really well for this.
Remember, you’re not paying directly for the link. Think first of all about the value you’ll be providing to the external site with your post.
Niche edits, also known as “link insertions,” are a tactic that involves adding a link to an existing article on a third-party site.
First, you identify existing content pieces that are relevant to the link you want to place. Then, you contact the website owner, asking them to edit the article and include your link.
The outreach usually involves pitching the value of your content. The proposed link should provide additional value and enhance the existing article.
One of the benefits of this type of link building is that it makes your backlink profile more natural.
It wouldn’t be natural for all your links to come from new URLs.
It wouldn’t be natural for all your links to come from existing URLs.
Having a mix of guest posts and niche edits is the most sustainable link building strategy. pic.twitter.com/edT8GshgtQ
— Joe Davies (@fatjoedavies) May 1, 2023
The existing content is also indexed and might be receiving traffic. This means your link can get immediate visibility.
But just like with blogger outreach, relevance is key.
The article you’re adding your link insert to should be highly relevant to your site.
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a platform that connects journalists with sources.
When you sign up as a HARO source, you’ll get regular emails with requests from journalists seeking expert opinions for their articles.
You respond to the request, and if the journalist uses your insights, they add a link to your website in the article.
HARO can be an excellent way to earn high-quality backlinks from reputable news sites and publications. A backlink from these sites can significantly boost your site’s credibility.
But you need to be fast and deliver relevant, insightful responses.
That’s where “buying links” comes in.
You can pay a HARO link provider to handle the process. They monitor HARO for relevant requests, write the response, and submit it for you.
Press Release Distribution
Press releases are a tried and tested way to attract backlinks.
You create a press release about some significant company news and distribute it through multiple platforms.
If the press release is genuinely newsworthy, it can get published on relevant websites with backlinks to your site.
You can “pay for links” using a professional press release distribution service.
This offers two significant benefits.
First, your press release will be well-written. A polished press release is more likely to be picked up by reputable media outlets.
Second, many press release providers have established relationships with media outlets. That means you can reach more publications and increase the chances of your news being distributed.
Ways To Buy Links That You Should Avoid
There are some paid link building strategies that you should avoid altogether, including:
Services on Freelance Marketplaces
Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr have tons of freelancers selling links. These range from niche edits and paid guest posts to comment links.
You need to be very careful when using these services.
There are some great, white hat link building freelancers out there.
But there are many more spammy services.
Link building is hard. It takes time, effort, and expertise to earn high-quality links.
Offers like “3,000 links for £5” are clear red flags.
You can be sure the paid links you’ll get will be extremely low quality.
These links are often automated and placed on spammy websites. They can actively harm your website’s credibility and ranking.
PBNs (Private Blog Networks)
PBNs are networks of websites specifically set up to link back to a single main website – the site the PBN owner wants to rank.
The network sites are often old domains with existing authority. That’s how they can pass on link juice.
Because the primary purpose is to pass link juice to the money site, the content on the network sites is often low-quality.
If you’re working with a link building provider that uses PBNs, drop them.
Google has gotten a lot better at spotting and penalizing PBN sites.
We already ignore links from sites like that, where there are unlikely to be natural links. No need to disavow 🙂
— John is updating his unnamed profile name #ok (@JohnMu) December 2, 2019
You’re unlikely to see any SEO benefit.
Even if you do get a boost in ranking, it will only be temporary. Your keyword rankings will drop once Google discovers the PBN.
The Verdict on Link Buying
Should you head to Fiverr and pay someone a few dollars for a bunch of spammy paid backlinks?
The focus should always be on quality, not quantity.