Google explicitly forbids paid links and even has a site to report paid links. So no, buying links for your blog is clearly not OK with them. You’re entering dangerous territory if you’re thinking about buying links.
That said, some bloggers on Reddit are claiming that you need to buy links to compete. Why would they say that? Is there any value in the backlink industry? Let’s find out!
Backlink Services are Way Too Sketchy To Use
I built ShaunPoore.com from nothing.
I wrote every article, created most images, produced every YouTube video by myself. Heck, I coded the WordPress theme and set up the hosting on Google Cloud Platform myself.
It took me years of hard work to get my site to this level. Do you think I’d risk it by trying out a bunch of backlink buying services and reporting back to you if they worked? No, I wouldn’t. I won’t even mention the sites by name or link out to them for fear that Google would associate me with them.
It’s important to realize that all successful site owners who put in the work feel the same way. The people promoting link-buying strategies on Reddit aren’t successful bloggers who put in the work for several years. Instead, they’re one of two types of people.
- Noobs trying to get rich quick.
It makes sense that noobs trying to get rich quick would promote this strategy. It took me over 3 years (and nearly 200 posts) to reach 100k monthly pageviews. I totally understand not having the patience for that when starting a brand new get rich quick scheme.
But why on earth are serious SEO’s promoting such risky tactics? It’d be like hiring an accountant who swore that blatant tax fraud was what you needed to do to get ahead.
Why SEO’s Promote Link Building
If you read this blog, you know that I don’t believe an individual backlink is worth all that much.
The problem with link building is there’s an opportunity cost. It would take me similar amounts of time to build a legitimately impressive link through HARO as it would to write a new epic blog post. I believe that new content will be more valuable than a new backlink over the long term. Regardless of how good the backlink is.
When a professional search engine optimizer starts a new job, the boss brings him in and says, “I want to rank for competitive keywords X, Y, and Z in the next 6 months. Make it happen, or you’re fired.”
Unfortunately, ranking for competitive keywords takes a significant amount of time. According to AHrefs, only 22% of articles on the first page of Google were created within the past year. And the #1 ranked article is over 3 years old (on average). The SEO is being asked to do an impossible task (usually with bad content created by a cheap hired writer).
Do you see why SEO’s swear by link-building schemes? How else could they successfully do their job? Improving page speed, meta tags, content, etc. isn’t going to get you to rank for a hyper-competitive keyword within 6 months. Backlinks are the only thing that stands a chance.
And since SEO’s work on short-term contracts and don’t own the website, they’ll rarely see the repercussions of their actions. If a Google penalty happens 2 years from now, they’ll already be onto a new client after getting paid. And since Google is a black box, you can’t prove that your sketchy link-building efforts were the thing that tanked the site. A clueless site owner might even re-hire the SEO to fix the mess that the SEO created to begin with.
Are Backlink Services Effective?
Does buying links work? It’s surprisingly hard to definitively prove one way or the other for two reasons.
- Google’s a Black Box – Google doesn’t tell us why your ranking changed. We can’t prove causal relationships by analyzing the SERPs. Only correlations. Did your website improve in Google because of link-building, the new theme, speed improvements, or the new content you added? Google won’t tell you.
- There are No Testimonials For Backlink Services – Nobody is stupid enough to put out detailed charts and graphs about how they broke the rules (this is clearly against Google’s TOS). So if it does work, nobody will be willing to put the case study into the public sphere.
My take is that yes, do-follow links in the main content of a webpage that generates clicks back to your website has value. Google says backlinks still impact their rankings, and I’ve personally experienced how an internal link from my most popular pages can jumpstart a new article.
That said, here are some backlink strategies that are way more likely to get your site penalized than they are to actually help you. Avoid these at all costs.
- Web 2.0 no-follow links (Medium, Quora, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube comments, WordPress Comments, etc.)
- Paid Guest Post spots (These sites do this a lot and Google will catch onto them)
- Link Scams (where you place a backlink to your site in the footer of a WordPress theme or something to that effect.)
- Private Blog Networks (PBN’s)
Are Any Backlink Services Safe or Legit?
I wrote an entire post on every link-building scheme known to man. In that post, you’ll discover there are only a handful of ways to generate legitimate backlinks. And several of them are things you’d never hire a backlink service to do for you, like the following.
- Generate excellent content/tools and wait.
- Make YouTube videos (not for the backlink as they’re no-followed, it’s because embedded multimedia will help your posts rank).
- Acquiring Other Websites. (And 301 re-directing all of their content to your domain)
- Interlinking within your own site.
When you eliminate those options, you’re only left with a couple legitimate things left that they can possibly do.
- Outreach (AKA spamming other websites begging for a link)
- HARO (or something like it, which is its own form of outreach)
- Guest Posting
And that’s it. “Legitimate” link-building agencies are pretty much only doing these things.
However, even if you find agencies that specialize in these tasks I’d argue that they’re still not safe or legit. The reason is that they reach out to the same contacts over and over again. When these businesses get large to the point where they get on Google’s radar, everybody who used them is in trouble.
In short, don’t pay agencies for backlinks. If you wanted to hire somebody, hire an individual (not an agency) to do “legitimate outreach” on your behalf.
Keep in mind that link-building is a waste of your time. A fantastic piece of content posted to your website will generate more links over time (on average) than an individual link will. And it’ll take you about the same amount of time / money to build. So stop trying to game Google’s system and start trying to create better content.