6 Reasons Why You Should & Should NOT Buy Links to Increase Your Search Engine Rankings

March 4, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

paid-links.jpgBuy your way to the top? At an Affiliate Summit session last week, Wil Reynolds advised his audience to buy links in order to improve search engine rankings. If everyone else in the niche is doing it, he says you can’t afford not to do it yourself. “Trying to rank well for the future is important, but you cannot forget what it takes to rank well today.”

Alright, Wil has a point. For competitive keywords like “mortgages” or “ringtones” it’s almost impossible to rank without leasing thousands of links and manipulating search results in that manner. Everyone else is doing it so you should be too, right? Well it’s a lot more complicated than that and we’ll take a deeper look into why you should and should not buy links as an SEO strategy. Be sure to read both arguments before starting your link building campaign.

Why you should buy links

1. Play catch up – You’re way too behind
If you’re starting a brand new site, you have a heck of a lot of catching up to do. If you really want to stay competitive and get in on the game, you may need to buy some links and get a jump start.

2. Compete in super competitive markets
As I mentioned earlier, some niches are just so competitive that it is impossible to rank without some sort of manipulation. For example, search for the keyword “credit cards” in Google. Don’t you find it funny that none of the major banks hold a top 10 ranking? This is mainly because the other sites on top are either engaging in blackhat methods to game the system or leasing huge amounts of links on various sites to gain authority. Simply put, if you don’t buy a link, you can’t compete in these markets. Google has no real way of controlling this as banning one site will only lead to another taking its place.

3. It’s faster
Ranking a site naturally could take a couple years. Buying links only speeds up the process.

4. It’s easier and less work
Let’s face it. Buying links is definitely easier than creating quality articles and services that attract natural links.

5. Everyone else is doing it
Drink up the Kool Aid, kids. Link buying seems like the cool thing to do…

6. If you do it right, no one will notice
As long as you don’t go through link brokers and aren’t blatantly obvious with your link purchases, search engines will have a hard time detecting which links are paid for and which are not. If getting penalized is your main concern, you can always inquire about paid links to webmasters directly and in private.

Why you should NOT buy links

1. Google forbids it and can smack you down with a penalty
If search engine traffic is important to you, you don’t want to risk being penalized and having your life line taken away from you. Obey the rules and play nice.

2. The reporting tool allows competitors to report you
The reporting tool in Google makes it extremely easy for competitors to bring your site to the attention of Google engineers and potentially get your site penalized or banned. Search engines might not be able to detect your paid links, but I’m sure your rivals are keeping a close eye on your every move.

3. Google can detect paid links with their algorithm
Although it’s fairly easy to hide your paid links from search engines, you can still trip some sort of filter and get your site penalized in the process. Since Google looks at your link profile and how quickly you attain certain links, paying for links may mean you are wading through dangerous waters – especially for inexperienced webmasters.

4. It’s unstable
Search engine algorithms change constantly. The paid link that cost you $1,000 yesterday may erode in value and do nothing for you tomorrow. Don’t just strive to build link equity. Build relevancy and real value on your sites.

5. In most niches, you can rank with other methods
Buying links isn’t always the best or most cost effective strategy for a lot of sites. Rankings can be achieved through a variety of other means such as by creating effective link bait, engaging in social media, and creating valuable articles and content that gain attention.

6. Not a great long term strategy
If your business relies on search engine traffic to survive, you definitely have the cards stacked against you. Don’t spend all your money buying links and trying to manipulate the search results. Instead, use the money to make investments that will add value to your sites for the long term.

As you can see, there are arguments to both sides of the paid links debate. Google has come out and attempted to scare webmasters into thinking their lives will be ruined if they buy or sell a single link. In actuality, paid links run rampant on the Internet and will continue to exist as long as Google and the other search engines place value on them in the algorithms. So the choice is really yours. Will you buy links or will you not?

As for me, I don’t buy links… Of course not. O:-) Matt Cutts could be around the corner.

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23 Responses to “6 Reasons Why You Should & Should NOT Buy Links to Increase Your Search Engine Rankings”

wisdom on March 4th, 2008

Google’s algorithm is pretty powerful. I didn’t buy any links, but I engaged in reciprocal link exchanges with some sites. Somehow goolge caught this within a few hours. It took me a month and half to appear back in search results and now I am working my way back to where I was months ago. So be careful.

Gyutae Park on March 4th, 2008

That’s good wisdom (haha, pun intended..). Reciprocal links died a couple years ago. I would advise you not to swap links or send link exchange requests unless the sites are related and provide value to visitors.

 
 
Jason on March 4th, 2008

Good article Gyutae. I’m not so sure “credit cards” was a good example though. I mean if they wanted to, I’m sure they could manually place the top banks in the top rankings. However, when most people look for “credit cards” they are usually looking for comparisons and/or applying for a number of different credit cards from different banks, to see their best options. In that case, creditcards.com is a better site than say bankofamerica.com/creditcards

However, I do see your point, and you’re right. There is a lot of competition that can require solid link building.

Gyutae Park on March 4th, 2008

Sure the search engines could switch around rankings manually, but this is definitely something that they do not want to do. First of all, it’s impossible to scale. There are an infinite number of keywords and doing this for all of the competitive keywords is not feasible. Also, penalizing sites at the top or banning them may mean another using the same tactics simply takes their spots. Definitely not a war worth getting into…

Thanks for your thoughts, Jason.

 
 
Tom Beaton on March 4th, 2008

I can see Google continuing there massive efforts to eradicate this practice. I say if your a pro and know what your doing then you know best anyway, but if not then do not bother. The chances of getting caught and it being money and time wasted are too high. Concentrate your efforts on the long terms.

Gyutae Park on March 5th, 2008

Hey Tom. Good points. The search engines are still in their infancy and many people find it worthwhile and profitable to game the system. The pros make it look easy but it’s definitely not something a newbie should start off with. I’m all for the long term as well.

 
 
Ruchir Chawdhry on March 4th, 2008

I never really get one thing though: if buying links can result in a penalization from Google, won’t it be easy to ban competitors? Just buy 50,000 links for them at once…Any clarification?

Gyutae Park on March 4th, 2008

There’s actually a lot of talk about this – it’s called Google bowling or negative SEO. Search engines say they have implemented measures to minimize this, but even Matt Cutts of Google says it exists.

 
 
SEO dude on March 5th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

If you are smart about it Google will never find out. For example that link on reporting tool. It could have been mine.

 
Irish on March 7th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

The most reason why I prefer not to buy link is the unstability…We cannot fully count on it.

 
SEO dude on March 9th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

What about competition removal. What if someone decides to go around deindexing his competition by buying links for them?

 
Wil Reynolds on March 11th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

SEO dude, you hit an important issue here, which someone could do and we’re testing right now. I’ll share my findings if anything springs up.

See, penalizing is different than devaluing. I tend to believe that Google is more likely to say “go ahead buy links for 1000/month” they just don’t add value because we flagged site x as a link seller.

In theory if I could just buy links to my competitor and drop em, we’d see that happening left and right…then what? Legit sites get dropped?

There is a flaw in that logic, in my honest opinion.

Trying to stay one step ahead of Google is a bad idea.

Gyuate – can you please let readers know that the theme of the presentation was “futureproofing your SEO”, so the focus of about 2 hours was on how to NOT rely on low value recips, directory, and bought links to maintain rankings, but instead to use other means that are legit to keep your rankings for the long haul and that we spent about 15 minutes discussing that some of that works today, but to futureproof your SEO don’t rely on those to be more than a jumpstart for rankings that should be ultimately be maintained by having great content and making relationships.

Wow…that was a long sentence! 🙂

 
motorsportBABESau on March 11th, 2008

Cheers for the great info. I have not yet considered buying links but may if I start a new site.

 
Michael Heindel on March 13th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Paid Links are all about ROI. At least for me.

Yes it is nice to get a little link boost from the SEs, but if I get clicks from the site my link shows up on that is what matters most.

Using a 5 cent per click basis if I pay $20 for a link and get 400 clicks I am happy. If one or more of those clicks converts into a sale, even better.

Michael

 
Aurelius Tjin on March 18th, 2008

This is very interesting! I have enjoyed reading this very insightful post. Very engaging and informative. Thanks for sharing.

 
Gerri on March 19th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Thanks for the post. I have thought about the pros and cons of paid links and this post makes things a lot clearer for me.

 
California Web Design on March 24th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying links, I love buying links just got to make sure they are not links that are looked down upon by the search engine.

 
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