Should you buy backlinks in 2020?
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 SEO 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, but you will also 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.
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.
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.
Most people dabbling with PBNs, 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 getting backlinks on fake ones.
Now I’m sure after reading all of this, you’re probably thinking…
“Then what should I do?”
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
- 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.
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 2020:
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.
I hoped this post helped you see that there are many different ways to invest in SEO (outside of backlinks). Check out the best link building services if you’re thinking about outsourcing that part of the SEO process.
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