We have talked about the importance of links in SEO and how it can make or break your online marketing strategy. There a many ways links can be acquired for your website; I have discussed a few in my earlier post. Read them if you already haven’t done so already. Most of the link building strategies involve long term planning and takes time to build a significant amount of links to have an impact on your search engine results. These strategies which involves link exchanges, directory submission, article writing, forum posting for signature links, guest blog posting etc. are the accepted methods of building long lasting and permanent backlinks to your website. Paid links are when you pay someone to put up a link on their site. These types of links are somewhat controversial.
Why Buy Paid Links?
If your website is targeting a competitive niche market and you don’t want to wait for years to go ahead of the competition, what are the options available to you? You can go ask you competition for link back to your website. And do you think they will do that? Forget about one way back links, your competition would not even exchange links for a link on your site, because they are already established and your website is zero in terms of authority. They don’t gain anything with the link exchange, rather risk create more competition for them. So what do you do in such a situation? You offer them compensation in the form of money to give you a link back. The more links you have from authority sites the better you fare in searches.
What Google Says
Google has clear indications that it does not favour paid links, and websites and webmasters would do better to stay clear of such strategies. Google is very clear that it uses the reputation of the sites linking to you to determine your search engine rankings. Therefore, to keep the search results relevant it wants only those sites that people naturally link to.
Google indicates that buying links in the form of advertisement is accepted, though such links should have a rel=”no follow” attached to it so that PageRank is not passed to the advertised link. Or first redirect the link to an intermediate page that is blocked by robots.txt file. All this is so that PageRank is not passed on to the advertising site.
Despite the risks involved, many websites buy paid links on authority sites with high Google Page Rank. This is more often done than you realize. The immediate benefits are enormous. In a situation, when others will not link to you, either because your website is new and does not have any authority or for any other reason, then paying for links can give you an immediate boost in search engine rankings. This can take you on par with your competition in a short span of time, if not immediately. Many of the websites that buy links are already established and are doing well. They buy links to stay clear ahead of the competition.
Buying links can be a costly affair. Links could cost you anywhere between a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. These links are not permanent, so as soon as you stop paying, your links are removed. This is in contrast to the naturally occurring links that stays on a site for ever; well, at least as long as the site is up and running. Paid links run the risk of being penalized by Google. Your site could be removed from Google search partially or completely.
What Are The Risks Involved?
If you are found out to be buying links, you run the risk of removal from Google search index partially or completely. There are millions of sites out there who are solely dependent on Google for traffic and their revenue. Even momentary removal from Google index could mean losses in millions of dollars. Getting back in Google search could mean tidying up of the site in terms of removal of all paid links on other sites which involves contacting every site individually, which is time consuming. Once done you will have to notify Google of this. Google in turn will investigate and in time will reinstate your site.
Should You Be Buying Links?
Now, the question arises, should you be buying links to promote your website? The answer would depend on many factors like how much risk you are willing to take with your site. The Google guidelines are clear that it should not be done. But contrary to this advice, many sites, including reputed sites, indulge in link buying. The benefits are huge so many are willing to take the risk. Also as discussed above, buying links can be a costly affair. You have to decide whether you have the budget first. Just buying one link for a month is not going to take you anywhere. You will have to buy for many months and on several authority sites for your rankings to make a difference.
Many would strongly suggest against it and many in favour of it. However, keeping ethics apart, you will have to weigh the pros and cons and see what you stand to gain and what you may lose, to arrive at an answer whether link buying is right for you or not.