Just kidding. I mean — the answer is still yes. But there’s a lot more to talk about.
Should you buy backlinks? Here’s what you need to know before you plan next quarter’s link building efforts.
The first thing you need to know? Everyone buys backlinks.
Well, everyone minus a couple of exceptions:
Everybody in between (and their brother) is buying backlinks.
It’s just the nature of SEO. And it pretty much always has been.
Keep this in mind:
When I say “buying” backlinks, I mean spending money to get them.
There are tons of ways to build backlinks. Some of them involve a direct transaction:
You pay money, you get a backlink.
But others are less direct. They still cost money, but the transaction might look more like this:
You pay a link builder. The link builder employs one of several time- and effort-intensive strategies to generate backlinks for you. You get backlinks.
You’re still buying backlinks — it’s just a more complicated transaction.
Everyone (minus the exceptions noted above) is doing this in some form.
Learn more about our Link Building Service.
Why is this sub-industry within the larger realm of SEO so common? Here are a few of the primary reasons why business and website owners like buying backlinks:
There’s more to SEO than backlinks (although you could argue backlinks are the most important component in hyper-competitive industries).
You have content creation, on-page SEO, technical SEO, local SEO and more. Like off-page SEO (backlinks, mostly), all of these other components of SEO take time to show results.
You publish awesome, keyword-optimized content. And six months later, you’re waiting for the needle to move.
You resolve crawl errors throughout your site. Months later, not much has changed.
This is a common complaint of pretty much everyone who does SEO. It takes time. A LOT of time.
But here’s the thing:
You can speed it all up. All it takes is some well-placed (and high-quality) backlinks.
And that is precisely why so many businesses invest in buying backlinks.
Who has the time to wait six months to a year to see results on expensive SEO investments? Almost no one.
But when you roll backlink buying into those initial SEO investments, you give Google reason to rank you higher, faster.
It’s a classic ranking factor. Since the advent of search engines, they’ve understood the internet — and which pages are worthy of strong rankings — by following links between websites.
More links (given they’re decent quality or better), means faster results, as a general rule.
If you’re just breaking into a competitive space dominated by large or well-established brands, you need an edge if you hope to compete.
That rings true in a lot of areas of business. But it’s particularly true in SEO.
Think about it:
You’re competing for rankings with these big, established brands.
If those brands have better name recognition, they already have the edge in the search engine results pages (SERPs). That means people are more likely to click on their webpages in Google because they recognize them.
By extension, those brands get more traffic. And more traffic can generate more natural backlinks for them.
(On top of that, I guarantee those bigger, more established brands are buying backlinks on a regular basis.)
How do you stand out? By buying backlinks yourself.
This works for a few reasons:
If they’re already buying and building backlinks, you need to do the same. Otherwise, you risk falling further behind.
I’m just going to say it:
Sometimes, building backlinks takes FOREVER.
And that goes double when you’re trying to actually build backlinks without buying them.
Most business owners — even the marketers they sometimes employ — do not have the time it takes to regularly build linkable content assets or conduct broken link outreach or do any number of non-transactional link building methods.
We’re all busy. Business owners live that way. And that means backlink building — with its lack of guaranteed return on your time investment — is one of the first tasks to fall off when you’re trying to clear your schedule.
But you have to do it. It’s essential to SEO success. And that’s why so many business owners end up buying backlinks.
Not buying backlinks (and trying to build them yourself) is like owning a big supermarket and trying to clean it yourself every day.
In theory, you COULD do the cleaning. But in reality, you’d never find the time to coordinate buying, stocking, payroll, advertising and a number of other required business activities.
Same goes for backlink building. You’ve got a lot going on, and realistically, you won’t find the necessary time to build backlinks without buying them.
Why all this discussion in the first place? Because buying backlinks can be risky (if you do it wrong).
It boils down to Google’s reaction to your purchased backlinks. If everything goes according to plan, no problem.
But if you’re not careful enough, you could set off alarm bells for Big G.
And that could cause Google not to count the links you spent your precious marketing budget on or, worse, stick you with a penalty.
For years, Google has said that paid links are against its guidelines. They’re intended to “manipulate” the search rankings and are therefore considered spam.
They would love it if we all stopped doing this. But that’s not reality.
And they talk some big game about being able to tell when links are paid for, but they typically can’t tell.
But they can tell sometimes. And when they do figure out that a website has been buying backlinks, they may decide not to count those links in favor of the website.
In other words:
All that money spent on links amount to nothing in the rankings. No authority is passed from them to your website, and your rankings remain the same.
No one wants to waste their marketing budget, which is why many people wonder whether they should buy backlinks in the first place.
Google isn’t all robots. They also employ a lot of humans. And those humans spend time looking at websites and deciding whether they’re violating Google’s webmaster guidelines.
When they find a violation, they can issue a penalty. This is called a manual action.
What does that mean for you?
It can mean that some or all of the pages on your website won’t rank in Google. At all.
That’s pretty scary. It’s why many website owners fail to build a backlink strategy and, ultimately, flounder in the rankings while their competitors dominate them.
But manual actions are also pretty rare. And they’re reversible.
You just “correct” the problematic links the Google search quality evaluators spotted and ask Google to reconsider.
It’s a lot of work, and you really don’t want to be in that position in the first place. But you CAN come back from it.
Even better: You’re extremely unlikely to get a manual action from buying backlinks if you’re doing it safely (which we get into later on).
Worried you have a manual action right now? You can check.
Log into your Google Search Console. Scroll down on the left-hand sidebar and click “Security & Manual Actions.” Then click “Manual Actions.”
There, you’ll get a clear message as to whether you’re currently the subject of a manual action.
If you want to truly succeed in the SEO space, you’re going to have to obtain backlinks. And to get backlinks at scale, you’re more than likely going to have to buy some.
So, how do you do that without running into any of the risks I outlined above? Simple — follow these guidelines:
There’s no issue with paying someone else to build links for you. It’s common practice, and the right link builder can scale your business through SEO without you lifting a finger.
But there’s a potential dark side:
You’re trusting them to build links in a safe, above-board manner. If they’re not trustworthy, they might not do that. And you’ll have few ways to know what they’ve done before you get hit with a Google penalty.
Yikes. But does that mean you just duck out of the SEO game and let your competitors walk all over you in the SERPs? Of course not.
You find a reputable link builder.
What are you looking for?
If you’re getting a ton of backlinks from low-quality websites, Google might start to notice that. You’re going for high quality for a lot of reasons, and to find that quality, you’re going to have to vet your sources of links.
How do you do that, exactly? First, assess their website metrics. You can do that with pretty much any mainstream SEO tool.
Here’s a look at the process in Semrush:
To be specific, you’re looking for:
Your SEO tool of choice will deliver a DA or DR (or similar) metric right away when you plug the potential link source’s domain in. Most will give you a look at organic traffic, too.
And some will give you an idea of the main niche the website has topical authority in. You might have to check that manually, though.
Some websites can trick SEO tools to show authority in a particular niche they actually rarely publish content about. So, go ahead and visit the site. See what they actually publish content about.
While you’re there, do some more vetting:
While you’re vetting potential link sources, you’re likely to realize something:
The better the site appears to be for backlinks, the more expensive it’s going to be to buy links from that site.
It’s a fact of life in link building (and a ton of other businesses). Website owners know what they have, and they adjust their prices accordingly. They’re rarely leaving money on the table.
So, be prepared to spend a lot on high-quality links.
If your marketing budget is tight, this probably isn’t what you want to hear. Keep in mind, though, that quality is, arguably, more important than quantity when it comes to backlinks.
So, if you can only afford a few high-quality links, you’re likely going to be better off buying that handful of links than if you:
The other piece of good news? Backlinks pretty reliably increase rankings. That increases traffic. And that increases leads and/or purchases for your business.
More money in your pocket — a direct result of the backlinks you’re purchasing. And that gives you the opportunity to invest more in backlinks over time, creating the ultimate SEO snowball effect.
As you’re buying links, it’s important to exercise as much control over anchor text as possible.
(In case you’re not sure, anchor text is the clickable text accompanying any link.)
Why do you need to control your anchor text?
Google is reading the anchor text that goes with every link and using it to understand:
Some people take this and run with it in the wrong direction. They only buy links when they can control the anchor text.
And then they go WAY too hard on keyword-rich anchor text — to the point that it looks spammy to Google. And that can land them in hot water in terms of a manual action or algorithmic penalty in the rankings.
I’m not telling you to do that. I’m telling you to be smart about the anchors you choose.
What does that mean, exactly?
For one thing, it DOES mean to use the keywords you want to rank for in your anchor text. But only do it sometimes — not all the time.
And mix it up. Use partial matches and variations of the keywords.
Don’t forget your brand name as an anchor. That’s the most natural anchor text there is in most cases.
Sometimes, you’ll need to use generic anchor text, too. Think “click here” and “learn more.”
It’s all about looking believable to Google. Does the anchor text tied to the backlinks pointing to your site look like it could have occurred naturally?
If not, you might have a problem. And you need to mix up your anchor text types more to correct it.
In a similar vein, you need to mix up your link targets, too.
What do I mean by that? I mean you need to point the backlinks you buy at different pages.
I get it — the temptation to build tons of backlinks ONLY to your money pages is strong.
But if you don’t ALSO have links pointing to your blog posts, homepage, etc., that’s going to look unnatural to Google.
And Google may not count the links as a result. Or worse.
Does that mean you have to sacrifice some link juice to the Google gods? Definitely not.
It just means you have to be smart about your INTERNAL linking strategy.
Here’s what I mean by that:
You’ll need to build links to informational blog posts, linkable assets and similar pages to provide cover for the links you’re building to your service or product pages.
On those “cover pages,” include a smart internal link to your service or product page.
That way, you get some varied link targets to convince Google that your backlink profile looks natural. But you also direct the inbound link juice pointing to your non-money pages straight back to your money pages.
And yes, internal links DO pass link juice. This works really well, and it’s pretty much the only safe way to build up your backlink profile over time without raising eyebrows at Google HQ.
Backlinks are the ultimate cat and mouse game. Google doesn’t want people buying them, but people keep on buying them.
Google keeps on chasing them.
In this fun metaphor, Google is the cat and purchased backlinks are the mouse.
What happens when the cat catches the mouse? Sometimes nothing. Other times, the links in question get downgraded.
If Google updates its algorithm to detect a particular type of backlink and make sure it doesn’t count in your favor, what happens to you if you’ve only purchased that one type of backlink?
You lose a lot of SEO power really fast. You don’t want that. So, how do you avoid it?
Same way you reduce your risk exposure in your investment portfolio: diversification.
In other words:
Buy different kinds of backlinks to create a moat around your backlink profile. If part of your profile gets devalued in an algorithm update, you’re still benefiting from a good amount of link juice coming from other types of backlinks.
To diversify your purchased link portfolio, obtain a healthy mix of the following:
You can get more granular than that, but starting out with those three link types sets you on the right path. And a professional link builder can help you grow your portfolio from there.
Further reading: How Long Does Link Building Take to Show Results?