Are Paid Links A Good Idea Or A Rotten Plan?

paid link

One question that continues to keep agencies and managers occupied with no clear answer is related to links – to buy or not to buy? This article will dwell in detail about this and give you a clear sense of direction about the steps that can be taken  to get the desired results with a balanced decision. Before that, let’s check out the context that is the basis for the confusion.

How Does Google Consider Paid Links?


Paid links and participation in any link scheme, buying and selling of links is considered by Google as activity to manipulate PageRank and search results.  Websites that participate in buying or selling of links that pass PageRank, may end up being penalized by lowering search ranking, and in some rare instances, removal from search results. Now that’s serious and may be the basis for the apprehensions.

Google’s guidelines state that any links that are intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results, either bought or sold, are considered as a violation.  Google recommends focus on high-quality valuable content that will create a natural desire among others to link. Participation in link schemes, are also not a really sustainable method to build online presence.

paying for links

But What About Google Adwords? How Come Buying Google Adwords Is Not Prohibited?


A question that many in business love to ask is this – how come Google sells AdWords when others cannot buy paid links? Here are answers that will help clear the confusion. Google AdWords is a program that allows businesses to purchase advertising space in Google search results and on other websites through Google’s advertising network. AdWords ads are clearly labeled as ads and do not have any impact on the ranking, and organic search results.

So, the answer is that Google AdWords do not have any impact on organic search results, but are specifically classified as ads. Therefore, AdWords ads are not subject to the guidelines regarding buying of links to manipulate search rankings.  By separating paid advertising from organic search results, Google ensures that search results are unbiased, while offering businesses a platform to promote products and services.

So, there’s the answer, and its now time to look at how a business should work out a proper link strategy.

What Kind Of Links Are Regarded As Paid Links?


Links acquired either by paying money or some other form of compensation in exchange are considered as paid links. The key identifying characteristic is that these links are intended to manipulate search engine rankings by artificially inflating the number of links that lead visitors to websites/pages.  Here are a few examples and conditions that may be considered paid links:

  • Paid advertising campaigns, such as those purchased through online advertising networks.
  • Links purchased directly from other website owners, through link brokers or a marketplace.
  • Links sourced through reciprocal link exchanges, where website owners link to each other’s sites.
  • Embedded links in sponsored content or product reviews, where authors/owners are compensated for featuring products/services.
  • Guest posts
  • Niche edits

These are general conditions, but its actual application differs and certain forms of compensation for links are may not be considered to be in violation of Google’s guidelines. For instance, free products or services in exchange for a review, are not considered as a paid link, when the review is genuine and not influenced.

paid links

Given The Above, Is It A Good Idea To Buy Links, After All?


The straightforward answer is Yes, but with clear expectations and criteria that need to be fulfilled. Here are compelling reasons that make out a case for buying links.

  • Competitors are buying links – When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  • It is easier to find the right websites that offer paid links than sites that are ready to feature a link for free
  • Posts with paid links are turned around faster

When competitors have budgets for Ads and other online marketing campaigns, businesses that do not, will be left behind in the race for digital presence. The time taken to find a website or sites that are willing to feature posts with links can take far too much of time and energy, and this may give competitors the fast mover advantage.

What Are The Pitfalls Of Paid Links?


Everything is not rosy in the world of paid links. It is necessary to have a right plan in place before opting for paid links.

  • Websites that offer paid links may be penalized and this could impact a website that has placed or bought links. This could end up seriously affecting the search rankings – a website may find its rankings drop drastically.
  • The amount spent on links may end up going waste, if the links are labelled as paid by Google, with ensuing penalties.
  • There is the possibility of having to face penalties imposed by Google.

buy links

How To Navigate This Minefield?


Choose links that do not attract penalties; this is best achieved through outsourcing. Reputed agencies that are in the business of buying links are good bet and will have a decent list of sites and options. This could be guest posting sites, links on existing content, and community posts. Other options include interviews, and featured articles, apart from contextual links in real sites. These links are carefully planned and can help evade penalties, due to the quality of the content and the relevance. This would offer websites the desired results without the possibility of exposure to stiff penalties. Agencies carry out extensive research and work with websites to come up with plans, and these are almost always within the legality of Google algorithms.

However, all SEO agencies are not equal, and it is important to choose an agency that has real results and not just claimed results. A fly by night operator is most likely to end up causing serious damage to a website and business plans if the link building strategy and plans are not professional or managed correctly.

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