As every online marketer knows, links boost search rankings. In fact the number and quality of backlinks is the single most important off-site factor when it comes to SEO.
So with that in mind it is little wonder that some webmasters are tempted to buy links. On the face of it buying a pile of links looks like a quick way to build a site's backlink profile and start bossing search. But sadly SEO is a little more complicated than that.
By their very nature paid for links are much easier to achieve than earned links. For that reason they will never be as powerful when it comes to boosting SEO.
Google and the other search engines are constantly refining their algorithms with a view to identifying paid for links and discounting them. If they decide a site has a policy of buying links in a bid to manipulate the algorithm then they have the power to issue a penalty - this can see sites fall down the rankings like a stone and in some cases even be removed from SERPS altogether.
Link-building is hard and requires perseverance, creative thinking and skill. There is no quick or easy way to streamline the process, and it takes a lot of manual labour and effort to land an effective campaign get a link and ultimately boost SEO.
On initial digital PR outreach, many site owners will ask for money in exchange for a link insertion. It’s an ethical conundrum that most SEO professionals will face. Will buying backlinks to try and increase search ranking - could it be that easy, no strings attached?
In this blog post, I am going to explain the complexities behind buying links, and why earning links organically with digital PR holds is more valuable for brands.
What is paid link buying?
A paid link, or paid backlink, is when a website pays a third-party domain to link to its website with money.
This is done to improve a website's rankings on a search engine but is a link-building scheme which violates search engines' policies.
What does Google say about paid links?
Google has clear policies around buying links, stating that any link intended to manipulate ranking in Google Search results may be considered spam.
It distinctly says that buying links for ranking purposes is an example of spam.
Google thinks paid links are bad, especially when designed to influence ranking - which is the main objective of link building.
Links determine the relevancy of a webpage, and there will be penalties for violating its quality guidelines which could lead to significant ranking loss, meaning less traffic and sales conversions.
If detected, the paid links can end up ruining a website's SEO.
Google: The All-seeing Eye
Backlinks are valuable to establish a site's reputation and relevance, and Google wants to pick out the shady tactics used to cheat the system.
If they recognise that a site is regularly selling links then they can go in and ignore all links on the website.
Google is very sophisticated in identifying paid link schemes, and its algorithm can work out what the spam link scheme sites are and who is participating in unnatural link building.
In worst-case scenarios, if they find that a site is using paid links to manipulate the algorithm, it could be demoted or even completely removed.
Google is always on the hunt and works very hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate its search engine results.
Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
Despite the enormous risks that buying spammy links can bring, some businesses will still give in to the temptation and cash in.
Everyone knows that earning backlinks will support the SEO strategy, but it takes hard work to guarantee the link and some would rather not put in the work.
It’s not openly discussed in the SEO industry, but the practice of buying links is alive and kicking regardless of penalties.
Some brands are still willing to give into bad link-buying practices to get quick results and some overnight traffic.
Equally, some PR professionals will even pay sites to deliver on over-promised KPIs for clients.
Paid links may seem like a glimmer of hope when organic link-building is not working, but the risks are enormous for a website owner.
Buying links will never be a long-term or sustainable strategy because Google will eventually catch on to underhanded tactics and start reducing the website's visibility.
This could cost a business serious revenue and affect the value of other SEO efforts, costing a lot of time and money to fix.
What link-building tactics work?
Proper, and risk-free, link building requires a lot of work from trusted professionals.
There are many effective link-building strategies that brands can use to rank higher in the search engine.
Backlinks from authoritative and trusted websites, especially when relevant to the brand's niche, will signal to search engines that a website is credible.
However, the high-quality and relevant backlinks that carry weight are hard to come by and require expert knowledge to achieve.
Digital PR agencies have extensive knowledge of how to earn links to authoritative sites which drive rankings.
There are many tactics and strategies that Digital PR professionals will use to build strong links from websites with high domain ratings and improve the backlink profile, but it takes a lot of time and research.
Here are some of our top tips for successful link-building:
- Create valuable and engaging content
It is important to understand the target audience of the publication or website you are targeting and create content that is going to be informative and engaging to the readers. High-quality content will always be compelling to journalists and editors and will naturally draw in valuable links to contribute to a website's authority.
- Quality over quantity
Google will always reward sites that have high-quality and relevant links over sites with lots of irrelevant links coming from low authority or spammy sites. In the long run, putting effort into securing quality links from high-ranking and authoritative sites will boost search engine ranking significantly because Google will see it as a vote of confidence.
Journalists, bloggers and publications welcome PR outreach but they are inundated with content, so it is important to take steps to stand out. Establishing a strong rapport with journalists, being personable and looking out for time-sensitive and newsworthy content to pitch is a great place to start.
Take time to carefully curate targeted media lists. It is incredibly bad practice to send pitches to irrelevant publications and journalists, so it is important to research who is writing about what niche and will probably get you an unsubscribe. Taking the time to do that extra bit of research is more likely to win coverage and links for brands in the dream high-domain rating publications.
If you want to know more about how to earn natural high-quality backlinks to boost domain authority and trust for your site, please get in touch.