What’s your time worth to you? That’s a question you may find yourself asking more often if you’re getting tired of reaching out to niche sites for free backlinks.
Developing natural links takes the tricky combination of time, willing partners, and top quality content. If you aren’t great at it, growth is going to be a slow and painful process.
It’s no surprise that top SEOs choose to buy backlinks. Buying backlinks is a controversial practice even within the community, but even the critics don’t deny that it works. Have you ever wondered if those SEOs only make it work using black hat Kung Fu or insider connections?
In this guide, I’m going to try to give you some answers. I’ll cover why people buy backlinks, how Google feels about them, and whether they can deliver a worthwhile ROI for the cost. Before that, let’s define our terms.
Table Of Contents
- Why Do People Buy Backlinks?
- What Is Google’s Stance on Link Buying?
- What Is the Cost of Buying Backlinks Outright?
- How Do I Calculate ROI?
- Should You Buy Links or Not?
People buy backlinks because they’ve determined that the cost of building the links themselves is higher than the price of paying someone else to do it for them.
These kinds of links can also offer SEOs more custom control over the anchor text and whether they get no-follow links. The benefits of buying backlinks vs. traditional link building can get a lot more potent than that. Here are some to consider:
The benefits of buying backlinks over link building are that you can save a lot of time, save money on staffing, and open doors to better opportunities.
Save a Lot of Time
Outreach is a massive time sink. You need to research a broad set of sites, create custom outreach emails (if you want a reply), and then manage those conversations.
It can take weeks for websites to reply to your outreach and additional weeks for them to follow up on each part of the conversation.
Paid link building can still require time, but the people who manage paid sites are highly-motivated to reply and process orders quickly. This is how they pay their bills, after all.
Save a Lot on Staffing
Performing outreach to free link opportunities can require many employees to handle outreach, organization, and constant monitoring. You may also need subscriptions to link building tools to get the process moving with any speed.
If you are doing guest post link building, you’ll need to produce high-value content, and that may require writers, graphic artists, and subject matter experts.
In contrast, many sites that sell links prefer to create the content themselves and include it in the total cost.
Paying for Backlinks Opens Doors
Your list of target links probably includes the same sites that dozens of other SEOs have reached out to in your niche. The more competitive the niche, the more overwhelmed the inboxes of the best sites will be.
You need to do something to stand out, and making a cash offer may be the only way to do it. Offering to purchase links from these sites makes your request more likely to be considered. In many cases, it also moves you to the front of the line.
It can be challenging to figure out how to get backlinks in these niches if you don’t offer cash for links.
Considering these benefits, you may find it hard to imagine why some SEOs are worried about paid links. That fear mostly comes from Google’s stance on the issue.
What Is Google’s Stance on Link Buying?
Google’s stance on link buying is that you shouldn’t do it. In general, it considers any backlink buy scheme to be black hat. There are a lot of practices that Google is evasive about, but this is not one of them.
It’s not a new position, either. The practice was first covered in a 2005 post by Matt Cutts.
Administrator of the United States Digital Service
Google...uses hyperlinks to help determine reputation. Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, [and] selling links muddies the quality of link-based reputation and makes it harder for many search engines (not just Google) to return relevant results.”
The practice of link buying hasn’t disappeared since Matt wrote that post. If anything, it’s become far more common. Let’s look at why that’s happened, starting with the question: is buying links dangerous?
Link buying is not dangerous in all cases if you do your due diligence. The practice remains popular among top SEOs because these links are often hard to detect, more likely to blowback on the provider than the purchaser, and indirectly exploited.
Purchased Links Can Be Challenging to Detect
People who sell quality backlinks are running a business, and they take the continued operation of that business seriously. They enforce their own set of best practices, including:
- By only selling to sites that are in the same niche
- Spacing out the addition of purchased outbound links and mixing them with natural outbound links
- Producing the content themselves so that the website maintains a consistent voice
In other words, they behave exactly like a domain with natural links would. They don’t advertise that they sell any links anywhere search engines could find it. That business stays in their private inbox, where it belongs.
Of course, the rule “you get what you pay for” applies to links as much as it does to anything else.
The Provider Bears Most of the Risk
SEOs continue to buy SEO backlinks because the practice doesn’t present as many risks to the buyer.
The provider has a lot to lose if they get caught. Their domain may lose it’s standing in search engine results, along with the ability to pass on any juice.
That will make their links worthless to anyone who does the slightest amount of research before buying. While the provider loses the value of an entire site, the buyer only loses the value of a single link in their profile when this happens.
The only way to put yourself at risk as a buyer to build a profile filled with sites that are likely to get caught. This practice can result in manual actions against your site.
You Don’t Have to Buy SEO Links for Your Domain
If you’re concerned about Google holding purchased links against your site, you can buy tier-2 links instead.
It works like this: Spend the time and money it takes to build some high-quality, natural backlinks. When they’re in place, buy backlinks, and point the paid links to those pages instead of yours.
The paid links you buy will increase the juice that’s sent from the source, but will never be part of your link profile.
Can You Protect Yourself While Buying Links?
There are some practices that you should apply if you’re considering link buying. The most important thing to remember is to do your due diligence.
These conditions don’t make buying links “safe” in the sense that there’s no danger. However, it should be easy to see why some even some SEOs who aren’t black hat consider it a worthwhile tradeoff. If you’re considering that tradeoff, you’ll need to understand the costs in dollars.
The cost of buying backlinks may range from $50 to $100s of dollars for quality links.
Several factors determine how much you’re going to pay in the end. The most important factor is the type of links you want to buy, but you also need to consider where they come from, and who will be selling them to you:
If you’re doing it yourself, you may pay as little as $50 for a link insertion; however, many websites charge $100-$150 just to place the link. A link insertion is what happens when you get your link added to a set of existing content.
You can choose the specific page and the anchor you want for it with most agreements.
Insertions are cheaper because neither you nor the site owner needs to develop any new content. You may have some choice over whether you get do-follow or no-follow links.
Depending on the quality of the site, you may spend more.
Guest posts are the next tier up from insertions. Guest posting is when you publish content on another site under your name. You include a link back to your site or page in the author profile, or somewhere in the content.
Good guest posting opportunities typically start at around $100-$150 just for the link. If you’re providing the content, you may get away with only paying that.
The additional costs are often worth it due to the advantages.
For example, most links (across the internet) are created on new pages instead of existing ones. Guest posts are placed on new pages, so they appear more natural for most purposes.
Many sites will insist on creating the content or exercising strict editorial control, including over whether your article includes do-follow or no-follow links. That may come with additional costs.
Purchasing From Middlemen
If you have the cash to spend, you can buy backlink building services. The costs here start at $100, and that can often include the creation of content.
Rather than try to customize emails to dozens of different link posting partners, you only communicate with your account manager.
In addition to saving you time, the account manager can provide you with concierge-level services. Those services may include preparing lists of the best partners ahead of time, so all you have to do is review them.
Middlemen cultivate relationships with hundreds of curated sites.
The work they do to curate sites is part of the benefit that they offer to you. It also saves you time having to find and filter through hundreds of websites to find the gold—the gold is already found for you.
The costs can be high, but you need to compare them to the potential for returns.
How Do I Calculate ROI?
As with any business decision, you need to consider what’s at stake before choosing your link building strategies. Paid and traditional links both have their upsides and downsides. It may come down to your situation. Let’s break this down with some math.
Let’s say you estimate your time at $30/per hour. It may take you as long as an hour to find and filter the sites (that’s how long it usually takes me for a serious search). Budget another half hour so you can write a half-decent email template and several follow-up templates to go with it.
If you’re fishing for guest posts, then each site will expect some topic pitches customized to their niche, but we won’t even calculate that for now.
If you’re smart (and you know how), you’ll automate these emails. As much time as that saves you, it will still take 15-30 minutes to put the rules in place. Let’s tack on another 15 minutes to edit the follow-up templates to the specific replies you get.
At this point, you’re 2 hours in or more—and you aren’t even guaranteed a single link, yet.
If you do land a guest post, you can add another 2 hours to account for the content that you’ll now need to produce. The edit and change requests may easily take another hour, given that they’ll include both content changes and possibly multiple back-and-forth emails.
So far, a single manually-built link (and these aren’t guaranteed to be do-follow links) has cost you $150, and 5 hours that you can’t spend on your other business concerns.
But it’s still not over…
Even if you produce the content, there’s still often a charge to place the link: $100 on the low end for guest posts. So for entirely manual outreach, you’re looking at costs from $250-$300.
You can build a team around this. It will reduce the cost of building links (at scale, at least). This can be a viable long term strategy, but it’s only an option if you have the resources.
Compare that to buying links from a vendor…
You’ll need 15 minutes to choose the page and anchor text, and at least $100 to purchase the placement. No writing is necessary.
So, What Situations Might Make a Backlinks Buy Worthwhile?
- You want to scale up your outreach, and you need faster, more reliable conversions from your manual outreach efforts
- You’re a one-man operation, and you don’t have the means to sustain a large team.
- A significant number of the sites you’ve reached out to are asking for payment
- You need a specific set of links, and some of them respond only to buyers
Purchasing from a middleman can reinforce some of these advantages. Choose that method of link building if:
- You just don’t have the patience to do manual outreach.
- You need to move fast (they already have a list of reputable, pre-curated sites. The best sites are ready-to-go for your choosing)
What Situations Might Make Traditional Link Building Worthwhile?
- You have the resources and time to build a link building team. (Even then, offering to pay money in your outreach can help with conversion rate)
- You’re in a highly-audited niche, and you don’t want the attention of search engines or to appear black hat
- All the most critical sites in your niche are disinterested in selling links
Should You Buy Links or Not?
Is it worth it to buy backlinks? In the end, it comes down to this: You’re either trading money, content, or time. Buying links comes with some well-understood risks, but there are situations where the benefits are likely to outweigh those risks.
Authority Builders link building services can help. Here, you can buy quality backlinks with high authority scores. It can help you improve your search engine rankings and draw more traffic to your site.