Should You Buy Backlinks in 2022?

should you buy backlinks?

If you have ever done link outreach, you have been offered paid links.  Now, whether or not you should buy backlinks from those sites is a fiercely debated question.

Today, we are going to look at the pros and cons of link buying, so that you can decide for yourself.

Once you know where you stand, it will be easier to find link building services that are a good fit for you.

At Stellar, we have run campaigns and ranked sites for extremely competitive keywords like “Mesothelioma” without having to buy links.

We also run campaigns that are a mix of free and paid backlinks – depending upon the needs, budget, and expectations of our clients.

When hiring an agency, just make sure you can have an open and honest conversation with them about where you stand, so that they can build and price a campaign accordingly.

Not all agencies will be able to build “free” links, and some of them will lie to you about how they are getting links. So, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Alright, let’s get to it – Starting with a look at what Google thinks about buying backlinks.

What is Google’s Stance on Buying Backlinks?

Long story short: Google does not like when you buy backlinks or use any tactic with the intention of manipulating search results. SEO agencies literally get paid to manipulate the search results so that your company is prominently featured – even when a competitor might be more deserving of that traffic.

link scheme overview from Google - should you buy backlinks

Screenshot from Google’s Link Schemes Overview.

Now, here is the long version.

Search engine rankings for particular pages are usually based (at least in some part) on how many times those pages are linked to by other quality, authoritative websites.

Google (as well as other search engines) tend to treat embedded links as endorsements of the pages they’re linked to, and would prefer that those connections between websites are built organically.

The idea is that, over a long stretch of time, websites will earn their authority by being “endorsed” by other sites, and that the sites customers prefer will naturally rise above other websites.

The problem with that approach is that it takes a while to raise one’s ranking. Without help from an agency, the organic building of links depends solely upon the reputation your business has established with consumers and authoritative websites in your field. Even if you have a loyal customer base that raves about your services, you could struggle to rank for any valuable keywords without links.

Because of this fact, publishing sites have become aware of the value of quality links. This has led to an ever-growing number of websites selling links.

That leads us to the current link building landscape. You can still get links without paying, but you generally need to be willing to spend more per link placement or wait longer to acquire the same number of links. 

We explore some unpaid link outreach methods further in our link building guide, so be sure to check it out.

Paid vs. Unpaid Links: Which is Better For Your Business?

As mentioned above, at Stellar SEO, we’ve built links using both methods, and we find that both can be highly effective. If you do not want to buy backlinks, that doesn’t mean your SEO efforts won’t be successful. Let’s look at paid vs. free link building and what each requires.

Free link building is when you are able to build links without paying a publishing site, and can either be done yourself with the appropriate tools or by a qualified agency like us. Paying an agency to build “free” links can be the best way to make sure that you get quality backlinks on reputable websites.

Paid link building is, in short, paying a publishing site to include backlinks to your site through a variety of methods, some of which are more effective than others.

Both free and paid link building can be effective, with the right strategy. It’s important to note that when you pay an agency like ours, you aren’t paying for the links themselves: you’re paying for our expertise and our services.

With the correct placements, proper screening, and smart selection, buying links can give your business a substantial advantage. Your strategy, which can be hashed out with one of our consultants, can make use of either or both, depending on your preference.

In the service of that, let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of paid link building, so you can see if buying links is the right avenue for your business to take.

The Cons: Reasons Your Company Might Want to Avoid Buying Links

Buying backlinks isn’t always the best way to go. There are risks involved, especially if you don’t have a solid SEO strategy or qualified link builders working on your company’s behalf.

Here are two scenarios where buying links won’t be beneficial for your company.

1) Investing in Low-Quality Links on Spammy Sites

Not every link is created equal, and your SEO ranking won’t increase if you invest in low-quality links of any kind.

Some paid links, such as links on forums or directories, are outright ignored by Google and other search engines, meaning you’re not likely to get much benefit from those links.

Paying for links on sites that are less reputable or sites with a low domain rating will also not do anything for you. While the chances of such links turning around and hurting your ranking aren’t necessarily high, you’ll still be wasting your money at best. 

When you employ an agency like Stellar to develop a link placement strategy for you, we screen websites for issues that might make a paid link overly risky or of low value. With the right counsel, you can buy high-quality backlinks that improve your rankings, traffic, and inbound leads.

2) Existing Content Optimization Issues

When it comes to SEO, there are three main pillars: technical SEO, content, and links. If your site is not technically sound, the benefits of link building will be diminished. The same is true of content. Failing to optimize your website and create a solid foundation can lead to subpar results.

Thankfully, because of platforms like WordPress and Shopify, having a site that is crawlable and indexable is much easier than it was 10  years ago. While most sites will have some technical issues, we don’t encounter nearly as many issues as we did back in 2012.

Content on the other hand is causing more issues than it did previously. As Google has gotten smarter, the quality and value of content needed to rank have increased. In many cases, we are seeing companies with great websites, blazing-fast load times, and content that isn’t even remotely optimized.

Because of this, we have rolled out a content optimization service. This enables us to ensure your pages and blog posts are optimized to outperform your competitors.

When combined with link building, these highly optimized pieces of content perform extremely well.

The Pros: Why You Might Want to Buy Backlinks

Paid backlinks are cheaper and faster to acquire. If you are a small business and can’t afford an in-house content team to produce high-value content that naturally attracts links, buying them is an effective alternative. 

Keeps Your Cost-Per-Link Lower on Average

At the end of the day, most businesses are looking for the best ROI on their marketing efforts. Quality links, free or paid, can help you shorten the timeline and maximize the impact of your SEO budget.

After every update, there are innocent sites that fall victim to imperfections in Google’s algorithm. So, like anything related to SEO, there is some risk in buying links. Fortunately, with smart screening practices, the risk can be minimized significantly.

Google Doesn’t Tend to Notice When You Buy Backlinks

Choosing to buy quality backlinks rarely sets off Google, as there’s very little to indicate that said link was placed as a result of your company’s efforts.

The kind of efforts that Google tends to target are those which are intended to spam the web with hundreds of shoddy links and attempts to mass-produce links to manipulate the search results. Sape link building, pbn links (or public blog networks), and mass-scale guest posting, for example, were targeted for these reasons.

With a sound strategy and thoughtfully built backlinks, you can maximize gains while reducing your risk level. 

What about Manual Link Penalties?

An unnatural link penalty can be a scary surprise. Whenever you are pushing too hard or taking too many risks, your site could wind up with that dreaded notice in your Search Console account. 

There are a number of tactics that could land you in this position, including free and paid link building. Take Scholarship link building for example. This is believed by many to be a “white hat” method to build backlinks and is especially popular among law firms. 

However, in 2021, Google issued a manual link penalty to a site and cited a scholarship page among the examples of problematic links. That just goes to show that without the right knowledge and approach, you could already be at risk. Even though a penalty will hurt your ranking in search engines, it is not irreversible.

You Can Recover From a Google Penalty

If a manual action is taken against your site, Google will notify you through the search console, give you examples, and provide a means to request reconsideration once you have corrected the issue.

Should this occur, the most common way to fix it is to just ask the publishing site to remove the links in question. When the website is unwilling or you cannot reach them, you can use the disavow tool to ask Google to ignore them.

After requesting a review, someone on Google’s team will review your request, reinstate your page, and your rankings should begin to recover.

However, it should be noted that if your rankings were being propped up by the links that you disavowed, you are going to need to build new links to replace them before your rankings return.

The bottom line is that while an unnatural link penalty can be unsettling, they are not irreversible. We have had many clients come to us over the years after falling victim to a low-quality link outreach service, and we have helped them recover and grow beyond their previous highs.

Why Hire a Link Building Agency?

scale SEO through paid links

While the age-old maxim might be “never pay someone to do what you can do yourself,” the person who coined that phrase did not have expediency in mind; nor, for that matter, did they have in mind the vast digital landscape that companies now have to deal with, or the ocean of competitors vying for a place at the top of search engine rankings.

At Stellar SEO, we sit down with you to organize a goal-focused and comprehensive strategy to improve rankings as effectively as possible.

We Recognize Which Factors Matter to Search Engines

At Stellar SEO, we’ve come to realize that two factors matter more than almost any other when it comes to buying links: the quality of the website publishing the link, and the relevancy of that placement.

If a link is placed properly, Google has no reason to single anything out: for all the search engine giant knows, that link occurred naturally.

As such, we seek to help you buy backlinks on authoritative sites that are niche-relevant. Additionally, we use a 30-step screening process for any links we place – meaning you are getting the best possible placements from your investment with us.

Contact Us For a Consultation Today

At Stellar SEO, we strive every day to be the best at what we do. 

Our link building services have helped clients across multiple industries increase traffic and leads, resulting in millions of dollars in new revenue for our clients.

If you’re interested in taking a look at what our agency can offer you, check out our link building services or get in touch now to schedule a free review call.

Paid Link Building FAQs

Buying links can be confusing and a little intimidating. Below, we look at some common questions that come up from those considering paid links.

Is It Illegal to Buy Backlinks?

(I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice) While buying links is against Google’s guidelines, it is not illegal. Some FTC guidelines have created confusion around this topic, but there is no precedent or clearly defined rules that apply to link acquisition. The “Disclosure of Material Connections” guidelines are what have people questioning this, especially after they released the disclosure rules for social media influencers.  

Is it Worth It to Buy Backlinks?

Yes. If you have the right strategy and knowledge, these links can help you quickly gain rankings and boost traffic to your site. In turn, this can lead to more leads and revenue for your business. Just be sure to focus on quality if you decide to buy links.

How Much Does it Cost to Buy Backlinks?

The cost of buying a link can vary drastically. If you are looking for a link on Inc. you could pay about $2,000 for a single placement. A more typical range for a paid link is between $300-$600 per placement, including outreach and content creation. There are, of course, low-tier sites that would be considerably cheaper to buy a link from – although I wouldn’t recommend it. Above all else, make sure you buy quality backlinks.

Is Paying for High-Quality Backlinks Bad?

If you buy backlinks without a plan, and you do not screen potential link partners, it could end up very bad. However, as part of your overall strategy, this is effective, so long as you buy quality backlinks. Do not buy links on low-quality, irrelevant, or “guest post farm” websites. You should also avoid link buying on sites that mark them as sponsored posts, especially when those same posts contain do-follow links.

Are Sponsored Posts An Effective Way To Build Links?

Guest Posts labeled as sponsored posts are not the best way to build backlinks. As with some of the methods mentioned above, this leaves a footprint that could be picked up by Google on a broad scale. Now, if you decide to use sponsored posts to promote your brand, just make sure you ask them to include no f0llow links, and you won’t be putting yourself at risk.

Do All Link Building Services Buy Backlinks?

 No, not all agencies buy links. However, it is an extremely common practice with link outreach and PR services. If you do not want to buy backlinks, just let your agency know upfront and verify that they can work within those guidelines. So long as you are willing to write content (or have it written) and you are not trying to get cheap backlinks, you can have success either way.

How Can I Get Backlinks Without Paying? 

Creating linkable content is one of the best ways to get links without paying. If you find popular informational topics and create high-quality content, other websites are likely to link to them. Some of these links will happen naturally and others may be acquired through outreach. If you use this approach, you will generally get the most links when your content starts to rank in Google.

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