Link Buyer Beware
If You Know What to Look for, Buying Links Can
Become an Effective Part of Your Overall SEO Strategy
Attend any SEO industry conference and you will hear two things: 1) Link building, while extremely tedious work, is essential to moving your website up the SERPs, and 2) Link buying is not a viable alternative to traditional link building.
There is no sense disputing the first point. Building quality links to your site requires many long hours that will pay off in the long run — despite the fact that it doesn’t always feel that way. Technically, the second point is also indisputable, as anyone who buys links to avoid the hard work of painstakingly building a portfolio will wind up on Google’s radar, and possibly on its blacklist.
However, there are certainly some suggestions we can provide that will eliminate a small measure of the tedium from traditional link building, which can be found in the sidebar to this article. But this particular discussion will focus on link buying, and how moderation, discretion and a few important tips can help you effectively incorporate this controversial tactic into your overall link-building strategy.
As it always has, the conversation starts with directory links. Although some of today’s SEO’s might consider them somewhat antiquated, directories are still among the safest and best resources for establishing a site’s reputation with the search engines.
“The only three links we would ever buy for our clients or recommend that they buy are the Yahoo! directory, the Best of the Web directory and the Business.com directory,” says Greg Shuey, Director of Off Page Optimization for SEO.com. “I just listened to Google’s Matt Cutts explaining the reason why these sites aren’t penalized, which is because of their ‘strict editorial processes.’ Each one of these links will really help build a site’s credibility for about $300 a year.”
Not surprisingly, Google’s endorsement for buying links ends there, and the same goes for Shuey and anyone else wanting to maintain their good standing in SEO circles. But it is by no means the end of the conversation, as link buying and selling has grown into an industry all its own. The key to making it a legitimate component of your link-building strategy is doing it sparingly — and knowing when a link is worth the cost and the risk involved.
“If someone is going to purchase links,” Shuey warns, “they have to do it in conjunction with other link-building tactics. If it’s the only thing they do, they’re going to be toast.”
The criteria, then, for any link that justifies spending your money and risking your online reputation should be considerably harder to meet than links obtained traditionally. There are five categories to examine, and a paid link should rate favorably in all of them even to be considered. The first category is the relevance of the content on the website providing the link to the content on your own site, followed by the SERP ranking of the site providing the link. Where relevance is less of an issue for the links you get through friends, associates and general networking, it is of vital importance for a paid link, as are very high rankings in search results.
The third area to explore is the amount of monthly unique visitors that go to the site providing the link, as high search rankings do not always guarantee that a site is heavily trafficked. Fourth is the placement of the link, and a good rule of thumb is to avoid the more suspiciously viewed sidebar and footer links in favor of links on the homepage or another page where the content is most relevant to your own.
The final factor to look at, of course, is the price of the link, and only you can determine its relative value for your own budget. Another general rule, however, is to avoid discounts on dozens or more links at once — which is simply inviting trouble from Google. You should be purchasing one link at a time and no more often than one per week, anyway.
A number of networks have emerged to help find links for sale, but if a pattern of buying is detected by the search engines your website can be penalized or even banned from results pages. Some are better than others at helping find natural-looking, undetectable paid links, but one network with a good track record of meeting the basic criteria is TextLinkAds. Other companies worth exploring include LinkAdage, LinkMetro, LinkWorth and LinkMarket.net.
Another company with an impressive multifaceted link-building approach is TextLinkBrokers. “Buying links is a must if you’re going to be profitable online,” says CEO Troy Ireland, “but we focus on planning and coordinating the best overall strategies for our clients. We offer such a variety of different ways to get links that the goal is to find out what Google wants and to deliver it realistically and ethically. Link popularity is 85 percent of the battle in SEO, and we give our clients higher rankings faster and for longer periods of time.”
By Linc Wonham, Associate Editor