What are Paid Links? And Should You be Buying Links?

  ●   March 5, 2024 | PR
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March 5, 2024 | PR

It’s been a discussion had by those working within Digital PR, Outreach and SEO for a number of years now – is buying links an ethical approach to link building? 

Although it’s a practice that not many advertise, it’s common knowledge that there are still businesses out there that offer links for purchase, and even will guarantee links in certain publications, for a high cost. 

In today’s digital era, where competition for online visibility is fierce, businesses are continually seeking ways to improve their website’s search engine rankings, and some believe that buying links will improve their rankings more efficiently than gaining links organically. 

However, there’s a catch – not all links are created equal, and the method of acquiring them can significantly affect their value.

What we’re going to cover in this article: 

A paid for link is essentially a backlink that’s purchased directly, or through an agency who specialises in link purchasing, rather than earned organically through the means of pitching and liaising with journalists. 

Businesses often pay website owners, bloggers, or influencers to place a link to their site within their content. This could be in the form of a standard link insertion, link exchange, guest posts, or even directory inclusions. 

The primary goal of purchasing links is to improve their website’s search engine ranking, as the number and quality of backlinks a website has is an important factor in search engine algorithms. However, there are better ways to go about this… 

The practice of buying links originated from Google’s PageRank algorithm, which considers backlinks as votes of confidence, hence improving the website’s search engine rankings. 

Seeing this opportunity, businesses started paying for links to manipulate their rankings. However, Google quickly caught on, leading to an update in their algorithm to devalue these paid links, and in some cases, penalise the websites involved, which hinders the SEO efforts that they have made. 

Despite this, the buying of links continues in various forms, often disguised as sponsored posts, influencer marketing, or link inclusions. 

While buying links might seem like a quick route to improving your online visibility, it comes with substantial risks. 

Google’s guidelines clearly state that buying or selling links intended to manipulate PageRank is a violation, which can result in a penalty. These penalties can range from the reduction of your website’s rankings to complete removal from the Google index.

The ramifications of such penalties can drastically affect your website’s traffic, visibility, and in turn, your business. Furthermore, paid links seldom offer the same value as organically earned backlinks. They may come from websites that do not align with your niche or have low authority, which can dilute the value of the link and affect your brand’s reputation.

As we’ve highlighted above, Google is strongly against the purchasing of links, as it believes that purchasing links is a way of falsely manipulating the search engine results pages (SERPs). 

If Google sees paid links pointing to your site, they will either discount the links, or penalise your site. 

Google has a whole host of human reviewers who can impose manual actions, such as penalties, on websites. If you get one of these imposed on your site from the result of purchasing links, some or all of your site will not be shown in Google’s search results.

You’ll know if you have a manual action, as it’ll show up in the Manual Actions report in Google Search Console.

Google believes that this tactic is link spam, and they’ve highlighted three different types of paid for link acquisition that falls under link spam

  1. Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links
  2. Exchanging goods or services for links
  3. Sending someone a product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

What best practices should you follow instead?

In order to follow best practice, you need to be executing Digital PR activities that enable you to earn backlinks organically.

One of the most effective methods is creating high-quality, valuable content that others naturally want to link to. Whether it’s informative blog posts, compelling infographics, or insightful industry reports that you host on your website, providing content that addresses your audience’s needs and interests can attract organic backlinks.

Engaging in guest blogging on reputable websites within your industry is another way to earn valuable backlinks. By providing unique, valuable insights on a topic, you can both gain a backlink and position your brand as an authority in the field.

Lastly, building relationships with journalists and influencers is a great way to gain organic backlink opportunities. Whether it’s through sending them press releases, partaking in interviews, providing expert comments, or allowing them access to unique data, these relationships can result in high-quality, relevant backlinks.

In conclusion, while paid links might offer a tempting shortcut to improving your website’s ranking, the potential risks far outweigh the benefits. 

How can Semetrical help? 

Adopting Digital PR strategies to earn backlinks organically not only aligns with Google’s guidelines but also contributes to building a more credible, authoritative online presence for your brand. 

Ultimately, the focus should be on creating value for your audience, which will naturally lead to higher visibility and success in the digital landscape.

If you’re looking to earn backlinks for your website the organic way, speak to our Digital PR experts here at Semetrical. Get in touch for more information. 

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