Should You Buy Backlinks in 2023? We Spent $1 Million to Find Out

Is it a good or bad idea to buy backlinks in 2023?

That’s what this guide is all about.

Let’s dive right in.

Is Buying Backlinks a Good Idea?

Buying backlinks is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. That means you’ll get a Google penalty if you get caught. And such a Google penalty will kill your search engine rankings.

Link Schemes

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s tackle the first question:

Why People Buy Backlinks

My company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on link building services, and here’s why:

1. It Saves Time

What some people don’t realize is that both white hat and black hat link building tactics both require huge time investments.

Let’s say you want to focus on white hat link building.

If you want to acquire backlinks through outreach, you need to:

  • Create a high-quality SEO content asset that’s worth promoting
  • Prospect for relevant link opportunities
  • Qualify those opportunities
  • Build a relationship with each opportunity
  • Request follow links on the qualified websites
  • Test different outreach strategies to improve your response rate
  • If your request is approved, you then need to create content
  • If you don’t want to create the content yourself, you need to go through the process of hiring a writer
  • Rinse and repeat

But wait, there’s more:

If you want to have a life outside of link building, you have to create systems, and procedures, and hire staff to perform these tasks.

Not only that:

You have to train each person so they can perform the task the right way.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget that none of this will go according to plan! That means you either have to hire a project manager or be the manager yourself.

The moral of this short story is that when people are buying links, they aren’t actually buying a backlink.

They are buying an established process, and that will save time.

Now you’re probably thinking:

“That’s just white hat SEO! Grey/black hat SEO is easier!”

Let’s take the preferred link building method for grey/black hat SEO:

Private Blog Networks (PBNs).

Here is the process of building a network:

  • Find expired domains that meet minimum vetting criteria
  • Qualify each domain based on a deeper analysis
  • Purchase the domain (or participate in domain auctions to secure it)
  • Buy hosting for the domain
  • Set the domain up on a CMS (like WordPress)
  • If you’re using WordPress, install and setup plugins
  • Create foundational pages and find a theme to make the site look real
  • Create a fake persona (if you’re getting serious)
  • Test the quality of the expired domain
  • If the domain passes your test, you then have to write content to place your link
  • Or, go through the process of ordering content
  • If the site isn’t indexed, go through a process to get it indexed
  • Create additional filler content
  • Buy social signals or fake traffic to increase the “realness” of the site

You can do this all yourself, but your life would be dedicated to PBNs.

What I explained above is for one domain.

After you get more than one, other operational issues come into play, such as managing the network, dealing with hacked sites, dealing with unreliable hosts, and even dealing with your sites getting deindexed.

On the other hand, you could just use a service to go through this entire process for you.

Once again, you are buying a process.

You get it:

Buying follow links (buying a process) saves time.

But that’s not the only reason why people buy backlinks.

2. Faster Results

I’m going to assume you’re trying to build backlinks yourself. If that’s the case, paid links to help you get results faster. That’s because you don’t have to dedicate months to building out systems.

Instead, you would be able to focus on other SEO priorities such as content creation, technical optimization, UX, page-level optimization, and even CRO.

How to Buy Backlinks

Most people don’t realize it, but there is a strategy behind buying links like guest posts or niche edits.

Here’s how to buy backlinks the right way:

1. Identify how many backlinks you need

It’s important to identify how many links you need to rank BEFORE targeting a keyword.

Otherwise, you could end up trying to rank for impossible keywords. Or keywords that would require a massive budget to rank for.

So the best way to identify how backlinks you’ll need to rank is to use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.

keyword explorer

Just enter the keyword and look under the KD section. Ahrefs will give you a rough estimate.

number of linking root domains

It’s not perfect, but it’s a good estimate of how big your link building budget may need to be.

2. Perform a link gap analysis

Simply knowing that you need X amount of linking root domains isn’t enough. You also need to know the authority of websites you need links from.

The way to accomplish this is through a link gap analysis.

Examine the top 5 competitor’s link profiles and enter the number of links at each level of DR (Domain Rating).

Link Gap

This will help you identify the strength of backlinks you’ll need from guest posts, niche edits, etc.

The last step is to analyze your website against the competitors on a domain level. Most people skip this part, and it’s critical. For example, you should get the right amount of linking root domains based on Ahrefs’ KD.

But if your site isn’t as authoritative as your competitors, you still may not rank.

To compare your domain’s link profile against your competitors, just go to the Ahrefs domain comparison tool.

Domain Comparison

If there’s a gap, then you know that you need more backlinks to your website as a whole in addition to backlinks to the target page.

3. Map out your anchor text

Don’t neglect anchor text optimization. If you get it wrong, you won’t rank, or you could get penalized.

In general, it’s best to place it safely and avoid repeating the same anchor text. The best way to do this is through what I call anchor text cycling.

In short, use your best anchor text on your best link opportunities. Then cycle through variations and see how the page performs. If it gets stuck in a spot for an extended period of time (~1-2 months), then hit it with another exact match anchor text.

I try to keep my exact match anchor text below 1% on any given page just to play it safe. You can also examine the top 10 competitors to see how aggressive you can be.

4. Establish your drip dates

This part is CRITICAL! Most people buy links in batches, and this is a huge mistake.

It’s better to buy backlinks frequently than in bulk because it’s more natural.

That’s why I assigned a date for when the placement should be purchased.

Keep it random.

The beauty of scheduled paid links is that you can iterate based on the performance.

For example, you may discover that you didn’t need X amount of linking root domains, and you can avoid overspending/overdoing it.

5. Buy quality backlinks

Just follow your link gap analysis, buy quality backlinks, stick to the plan, and watch the performance.

6. Don’t forget about your existing backlinks

If you acquire the recommended linking root domains and you’re still not ranking, then it’s best to fortify existing placements.

You don’t want to acquire more backlinks than what’s normal for a particular keyword. The workaround is to acquire tier-two links.

Where Can You Buy Backlinks?

There are countless websites you can buy backlinks from. But the truth is that most are not created equal. That’s why we analyzed all the top link building services to find out which ones are best.

Average Referring Domains (DoFollow)

We spent over $1 million on backlinks and discovered that Page One Power, Fat Joe, and The Hoth are the best places to buy backlinks.

Now you might be wondering:

Should You Buy Backlinks on Fiverr?

The short answer is NO. Just remember that you get what you pay for. High-quality backlinks are expensive because they’re hard to get.

The opposite is true as well.

Low-quality links are inexpensive because they’re easy to get.

Now let’s go back to the original question:

Should You Buy Backlinks?

Well, I’ll let you decide, but here are a few options:

Option #1: Roll the Dice

If you’re willing to accept the risk of losing your traffic overnight, then just roll the dice. It’s ultimately a matter of risk analysis.

Is saving time and getting results faster worth the risk of getting nailed?

That’s for you to figure out.

Remember that certain link types have elevated risk. For example, buying PBN links is riskier than buying a link placement on a real blog.

Option #2: Use a Proxy Site

One way to decrease risk is to create a site outside of your real business. For example, let’s say GotchSEO.com is my company website. I would create a separate site hypothetically named “SEOdudes.com” and I would focus on ranking it.

That way, if “SEOdudes.com” gets hit, at least my company site would still be intact.

This, of course, isn’t a full-proof strategy because A) it’s a waste of resources and B) your company site could still get nailed if you link the two together.

Option #3: Invest Capital Into Other Areas

I know firsthand how SEO can be all-consuming. When you’re first getting into it, it’s hard to think about anything else.

This isn’t a problem in the beginning because immersion is an effective way to learn, but you have to adapt over time.

It’s easy to get trapped in the SEO bubble and forget that there are high-impact activities outside of SEO that can explode your business.

The truth is that some businesses are not equipped for SEO out of the gate. SEO is FUEL on the fire. It shouldn’t be your first move.

Creating a great product/service is what matters most. It doesn’t matter how good you are at SEO if no one wants to buy your product or service.

The one exception is for affiliate marketers. Affiliate marketers can make a substantial income without needing a product.

With that said, here are some areas to invest time and capital into instead of buying backlinks:

  • Product Improvement/Development
  • Building systems to improve scalability
  • Customer Experience (CX)
  • Content Creation
  • User Experience (UX) / Technical Optimization
  • On-Page SEO
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
  • Sales Funnels
  • Growth Hacking
  • Branding, Design, and Corporate Identity
  • Paid Traffic (Facebook, YouTube, Google AdWords)
  • Influencer Marketing

As you can see, there’s a lot you can do to grow your business outside of SEO. And this is just scratching the surface.

Now let me explain some basic math, so you can figure out how to allocate capital.

ROI Math

One of the biggest elements of effective marketing is figuring out what gets a business the best Return on Investment (ROI). SEO can produce incredible returns, but you need to understand where to invest your capital. You also need to make decisions based on what stage you’re at in your SEO campaign lifecycle.

It’s always going to be better to invest in content if you’re in the early stages of an SEO campaign. There is no good reason to invest in link acquisition if you don’t have a well-optimized site or a base of content assets.

Here’s the ugly truth about buying backlinks in 2023:

Buying high-quality backlinks are EXPENSIVE.

For example, you can buy a NoFollow link placement on Inc. for $1,500-$2,000.

Do you know what you could do with $1,500?

Here are a few things you could do with $1,500:

  • Get at least (x4) 1,500-word articles written by a premium writer (~$350 per article)
  • Reach over 200,000 people with Facebook by boosting your content
  • 50 hours of web design and development ($30/hour)
  • 75 hours of video editing ($20/hour)

The big takeaway is that there are many ways to get an ROI in your business outside of buying backlinks. SEO is a long-term game.

That means you would be foolish to avoid investing in these other areas while you sit back and wait for your organic search traffic to grow.


I hope this post helped you see that there are many different ways to invest in SEO (outside of backlinks). If it was helpful, please share it.

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Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is an SEO professional with over 10 years of experience. He's the founder of the #1 SEO business training program in the world, Gotch SEO Academy. And the author of The SEO Entrepreneur. Nathan's SEO expertise is featured on Semrush, Ahrefs, and Search Engine Journal.