Should You Buy Backlinks in 2018?



Are you thinking about buying backlinks in 2018?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Almost every person who has done SEO has considered buying links.

Let me start with the reasons why people (like myself) buy or have bought backlinks.

Why People Buy Backlinks

My company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on backlinks and these are the reasons why:

1. It Saves Time

What some people don’t realize is that both white hat or black hat link building tactics are huge time killers. Let’s say you want to focus on white hat link acquisition.

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

  • Create a quality content asset that’s worth promoting
  • Prospect for relevant link opportunities
  • Qualify those opportunities
  • Build a relationship with each opportunity
  • Request link placement 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 just acquiring backlinks, you to create systems, procedures, and hire staff to perform these tasks. Not only that, you will need to train each person, so that they can perform this 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.

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

They are buying a process.

Now you’re probably thinking:

“That’s just white hat SEO! Grey/black hat SEO isn’t that hard.”

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 a minimum vetting criteria
  • Qualify each domain based on 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 for placing 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

Now, once again, you could 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 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 do white or grey/black hat link acquisition yourself. If that’s the case, buying backlinks would clearly increase the speed for seeing results. That’s because you aren’t spending hours on these mind-numbing tasks.

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

So, after what you just read, you probably think I’m all for buying links.

Let’s take it back a notch because there are some caveats that you need to consider.

It’s Dangerous

Buying backlinks is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It doesn’t matter whether it’s blogger outreach or whether you are using private blog networks.

Buying backlinks is buying backlinks.

That means the big danger is if Google catches you, you will get a manual action against your site. In short, that means your organic search traffic will get murdered overnight.

Trust me:

This is not a good feeling and I’ve felt on several different occasions.

With that said, there is one undeniable truth when it comes to buying links:

Buying placements on real websites is less risky than investing time and capital into fake websites.

Don’t get me wrong:

All forms of link buying carry risk. But from a risk perspective, it’s very challenging for Google to know with absolute certainty whether a link is natural or not.

The same is not true for private blog networks.

Sure, a guy like Matt slips under the radar because he has developed strong systems. But for most people dabbling in PBNs, you will probably get nailed because you will leave footprints.

Google has no sympathy when it comes to your expired domains, but they would be reluctant to slap Forbes or some authority website with a manual action.

But this is really all common sense:

Getting backlinks on real websites is safer than get backlinks on fake ones.

Now I’m sure after reading all of this, you’re probably thinking…

“Then what should I do?”

Good question.

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 overtime.

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 outside of buying backlinks:

  • Product Improvement/Development
  • Customer Experience (CX)
  • Content Creation
  • User Experience (UX) / Technical Optimization
  • On-Page Optimization
  • 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 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 2018:

Buying 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.

If you decide to buy backlinks, then make sure that A) you have a strong foundation and B) only invest in quality placements like those from our blogger outreach service.

Comments

  1. Nathan – great content as usual. An honest, clear breakdown of the benefits and caveats of link building in 2017.
    One particular thing I liked is the section: Option #3 – Invest Capital Into Other Areas – It’s so important to highlight other options available to clients because when a client that hires you to do SEO but expect leads to come in a Paid Search timeframe – it turns into a big problem. Even after setting up expectations and being 100% clear of what we’re going to do – it still happens. Sometimes their words are different then their desires. The ROI puts this into perspective for them.
    Thank you for the resource will definitely send this to potential clients for homework.

  2. Great post! To your point on option #3- it can be incredibly tempting to just buy buy buy when it comes to backlinks. I think we fall into that when we focus so heavy in SEO. It’s an all-encompassing type of work and we often spend 99% of our waking hours thinking about it and implementing it. Unfortunately this doesn’t always lead to the best results for our time and money. Personally, I believe the market is headed toward BRANDING. Creating awesome content and media and making sure everyone knows who created it. Once your brand becomes solid, SEO doesn’t appear so daunting and the need to buy links so often goes down a lot.

  3. I think there is a combination of the two buying and building. Not to mention you can sell links on your own PBNs which requires you to put content on your site, keeping it fresh and up to date. Sell a link on a PBN with TF 20+ for $50 buy a good rewritten post for $10 and repeat. Use the profit and buy auction domains but not expired. Now you have a money making site and a free place for links to your client or affiliate sites.

  4. Great article, Nathan. For any legitimate business their website is an asset, much like a piece of real estate. Buying links for a short term gain is as risky as adding on to their office without following local building codes. The potential downsides definitely outweigh the reward.

  5. We agree with you 100% Nathan…..you’ve identified the risk / reward propositions and have placed them on the table….pick you weapon to compete. Its a very competitive market out there and many have chosen to dabble into a little of all the SEO strategies. One thing is clear….SEO is a full time job that requires constant oversight and management.

  6. The temptation is always to get short cut even on SEO.But as you state this is “Game” or “Fuel on Fire”, I mean for SEO as a process.I’m little disappointed that you did not even try to reveal some deep “tricks”:) regarding the concept of buying HPA links which I always expect from your articles.
    Overall good General article for subject “Paid Links in SEO World”.:)

  7. this is really a helpful post to me .seo is a long term investment , it keeps giving me headache each time i think about how to start with it am just tired. but i think i will start running ads on facebook now.

  8. Hello and thank you very much for entire content and recommendations. I have tried a lot of strategies and advice but for me, for my white hat perspective, I think that for long term it is safe to work with quality and real websites. Most important is to provide genuine content all the time, kind regards Nathan!

  9. Hi Nathan,
    I definitely agree with opinion #3, especially in regards to ecommerce websites. I was stuck in a bubble with an ecommerce store I own, where all my time and money solely went into SEO ranking new keywords to increase sales. I soon realised by investing my time and money in improving the conversion rates of current traffic, I improved my sales considerably.

  10. haha.. this is really great – ” Do you know what you could do with $1,500? ” ?? I also tell this to my friends.. ??
    I have seen many people who are paying to the third party for the guest post. But even they don’t know that those sites have a page ” Write for us”….

  11. Great breakdown of the pros/cons of buying backlinks! Definitely agree that quality content is important and then investing more time/money into promoting that content.

  12. Nathan, I would agree most with your input on not it is how much to invest but more of what stage you are in your SEO cycle. Most newbies would probably go the cheaper route at first to get establish, then as they understand the risks involved and have more clients, they’d probably opt for the safer links afterwards. Good Read. Thanks.

  13. If an agency wants to scale they have to figure out how to rank their clients in the safest, fastest way. Utilizing services like yours is a great way to scale quickly, since it is easy to choose how many links you want, give your URLs, your anchors and click submit. Another benefit to using an outreach service is you can show your clients where you are getting links from, because they will be coming from real sites, rather than crappy PBNs that aren’t even readable. Thanks for the post.

  14. Awesome article Nathan. I 100% agree here. It’s all about the ROI. Rankings are useless without content and I personally (not a writer) would rather invest my money on content and then work my ass off doing what SEOs do: Build Links 🙂

    Thanks!

  15. Good article,i am totally impressed about your presentation,
    about your Option #3: Invest Capital Into Other Areas
    i want to add one line here instead of buying back links go for guest posting invest onthat in genuine meaner it will give good relation,initially its very difficult to get the result but long time we can see the result.

  16. Great discussion to end all confusions of seo but i always prefer to build genuine links rather than paid links. No doubt results would be late but are real.

  17. This is a very good post, I received great benefits for my site, now my site is on Google’s first page.
    Its role in seo is immense. Thanks to the writer who is so beautiful.

  18. Landed here after much search. Nice article as $1500 can be spent many ways to get the similar ROI. Unfortunately, its equally important to have initial back links. In my view, google should consider other aspects of innovation from the site rather just looking at the back links and age.

  19. Hi Nathan,
    I would also endorse your point of view that buying backlinks will be dangerous and it is not in accordance with Google Policy. I would suggest Quality Back links instead of Quantitative Back Links.

  20. Awesome post Nathan,
    You are 100% correct that investing your time and capital into building a quality brand with engaging content is the way to go in the long run. Buying links and guest posting will always be a part of rankings so it just has to be done prudently like you say with services like your blogger outreach.

  21. Nathan, you have well said that invest time and capital into buying backlinks we should focus on Content Creation, On-Page Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), Paid Traffic (Facebook, YouTube, Google AdWords) etc.
    These days if we build a single spam backlink it really affects our website and losing traffic overnight.

  22. Hey Nathan,
    Thank you for the article. I see how building backlinks can be a major consumption of time.

    I really want to leverage but build links safely.

    What do you think about manual link building gigs on Fiverr?
    Or would you recommend any other service for paid links in 2017?

    Thanks,
    Michael

  23. This is really wonderful comprehensive article touching all the points important for good SEO campaign for any website. I will try to implement few of strategies and will surely share the results I get.

  24. Hmmm … Some site have bad content (Not same with tittle) but they have good PR and backlink, And google System put it on Page one.

    Sometime it feel unfair when website go index only because have high backlink but bad in content

  25. Nice piece of information, Nathan
    I have a doubt, how Google can track whether the backlink is real or not? Do they penalize! Because I did it for one of my blogs.
    Thank you

    1. Thanks for the comment! Google has more data on its users than probably any company in history, so I can assure you they can tell the difference (most of the time)

  26. Hi Nathan,
    Thanks for your informative article.
    I’ve read that adding backlinks gradually, about 1-2 in 3-7 days, will help to avoid punishment by Google. How do you think is it so?
    I’m going to buy some links for my store, so i need to know all consequences.
    Thanks

  27. Buying a backlink is the worst idea. I just tried with some of my low priority sites to test the ranking factors, nothing surprise is there. All buyed backlinks are gone after 6 months. I contact the webmaster, there is no reply. So, Instead of buying backlinks We can focus on a guest post on real aged domains would be a better idea. By the way, thanks for your post!

  28. In this day and age, buying backlinks is a very risky game. I would advise caution and stay away from PBN’s they nearly all leave traceable footprints.

  29. Well written. Buying backlinks is an unecessary risk. A friend of mine got his Money site purnished by google last year. It was a manual action penalty. He dabbled into PBNs and just a month or so after he got nailed and the his business collapsed.

    Gradually building up your links through proper and natural methods is the best way to go.

  30. Basically, I’m looking forward to getting my site authority up and for that, I feel that linking it with other high authority sites such as Yahoo Finance would do wonders if I could get a paid article published. What are your thoughts? I already have a team of 10 SEO guys working on free backlinks but I think paid is a must if you’re working in a competitive industry. Your thoughts?

  31. Within the past year, I witnessed a site get hacked. With that, came a huge increase in spammy links. Real spammy. Russian links, Japanese links, viagra links, you name it. It came out of no where. Initially, I was freaking out. My first thought was to start the disavow process right away. But I didnt. I wanted to see if it would affect the sites ranking. So I waited. Its been well over a year and our rankings never once saw the slightest dip. In fact, some of the white hat seo we have performed on the site has increased our rankings quite a bit. Eventually, some (most of) those referring domains and backlinks started to disappear. Not sure how, maybe Google doing it, idk. But some of them still remain. My question is then how can a site obtain all these crappy, spammy links and not see any negative affects, but a site tries to buy backlinks and Google somehow catches them and penalizes their site? There is a lot of fear in “buying backlinks” and for good reason. But I really think its harder to get a site penalized than what people think. Nathan, you mentioned that you’ve been through a penalization? Im curious to know what you did wrong? Thanks fore the great content you put out. I enjoy reading it.

    1. Hey Ryan,

      Thanks for the comment! The manual actions I’ve been through were because of private blog networks. So, that was the result of leaving footprints.

  32. Hello, thanks for the post it’s great for beginners like me, just wanted to ask you, I sell wordpress themes on themeforest and i’m making a site to promote my themes, what do you think is better buying backlinks or creating free themes with a backlink in footer so users install theme and i get a backlink ?

    1. Thanks for the comment Omar!

      You can use both 🙂 – just be careful with your anchor text on footer links

  33. I’m loving this content.
    It makes sense when you mention about links being costly. What a lot of SEOs fail to understand is that when buying links, they could have spent that on a content writer. With an article that covers 1000-2000 words, you’ve really completed half the battle.
    If you use particular outreach techniques, you could be getting a lot more bang for your buck when it comes to obtaining backlinks. The best thing is that they’re completely natural.
    Another great article here, Nathan! 🙂

  34. Is it fair to say they are just Adwords by another name, but ones that Google doesn’t monetize (yet). Our frenzy to create great and unique content is resulting in the repackaging of existing content with A/B testing to see what drives traffic. The internet is cluttered with neon signs and superlatives pointing and mediocrity.

    I can’t wait for Google to discount paid backlinks. I am sure they already know how to sniff them out – now we just need to wait to see what they do about it.

    1. Hey John,

      Thanks for the comment! Yeah, they’ve gotten better at identified them, but it’s very challenging

  35. I wrote a guest blog for what is apparently a legitimate health niche web site with extensive content. They accepted it but want me to pay 40 bucks if I want a link back to my site included. Is this a legit practice? Would I get in trouble if I do that?

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