Part. 1: Is link buying still a thing?

It’s no secret that link-building takes a lot of time and energy, and if we’re honest, it’s a pretty hard process to crack. Especially when it comes to tricky niches.

But is it really worth the money or is it just a waste? And are people even still buying backlinks anymore? 

Firstly, why are backlinks so important?

While it might seem like a slog having to put extra hours in to achieve this little slice of SEO, trust us when we tell you that it’s worth it. Like, really.

Because backlinks are important for so many reasons. Number one, they improve organic ranking, and the more quality ones you have, the more Google will credit your site as credible and trustworthy.

Secondly, they boost referral traffic, which is when users end up on your site through other domains, without ever having searched for you on Google.

They also raise brand awareness, increase the authoritativeness of your site, help you establish relationships with other websites, and attract more natural backlinks. But we’ve got a whole blog that explains all of this in more detail.

Is buying backlinks a good idea?

In short, not really, as it’s actually against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Which means if you’re caught purchasing backlinks, the search engine will induce penalties, and ultimately compromise your rankings.

In Google’s own words, examples of link spam have been listed below:

“Buying or selling links for ranking purposes. This includes:

  • Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links
  • Exchanging goods or services for links
  • Sending someone a product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”

If Google identifies you as a violator, either of these things could happen:

  • Your links will be discounted:

This means they effectively won’t exist to Google’s algorithms, therefore neither helping nor hindering your SEO rankings.

  • Your site will be penalised: Google still has plenty of human reviewers who trawl through the search engine looking for spammy SEO tactics. If your site gets pulled, it could cause some or all of your site to be hidden in the search results. 

Plus, a survey by Authority Hacker that assessed 755 professional link builders on how they build links and what works best and worst for them, found that those who bought backlinks only yielded an extra two per month. 

How many sites actually buy backlinks?

Considering it’s a “black hat” SEO technique, its still pretty common practice.

The same Authority Hacker survey that was updated just last month reported that a massive 74.3% of link builders admitted to paying for them.

And this podcast featuring Marie Haynes and Charles Floate – two big names in the SEO world – also documented the rise in purchasing links. 

When speaking about the link-buying economy, Floate described how the numbers have jumped massively in recent years. “From my data – maybe six or seven years ago, we would get 20 to 30% of sites asking us for a payment for that link,” he said.

“I would say this year it’s got to the point where it’s almost 80% of sites that are asking us for a payment for a link.”

He also surmised two potential possibilities that could have caused the increase. The first was that “SEO’s have spammed and outreached that much that we’ve taught every blogger on the planet that they need to ask for money.” His second idea suggested that “Google’s positioning of going after links has not worked well enough.”

In terms of this route, Floate added that “there’s a thriving economy as a result of the paid rank nature of abilities to rank pages themselves, especially in certain niches where the pay-off for ranking so high can be infinitely more valuable than any sort of a link campaign would ever cost.”

What could be the reason for this increase?

These days, buying links is just as easy (ish) as going to the pub to buy your fave pint. This is because there are so many link vendor sites out there that have become more accessible, therefore allowing people to buy packages of links. 

There are also other platforms that actively provide paid links, like Fiverr, the global marketplace that provides a stage for freelancers, businesses, or people looking to hire or offer their services. Just a quick search will provide you with packages full of backlinks, many of which you can buy for just a few quid.  

How much does buying links costs?

Authority Hacker’s survey reported that the average cost of a paid link is $83.

However, in terms of cheap online spaces like Fiverr, often, the reality is that many of these links on offer won’t do much to improve rankings. Which is why the majority of SEOs use one of these two techniques:

  • Niche edits: This is when you offer a site owner a fee to add a link to an existing page on their site.
  • Paid guest posts: This is when you write an article or blog post that features a link to your site, and then pay a different site owner (usually with a higher ranking or one deemed super authoritative) to publish it on their site.

According to Ahrefs, who conducted a money study a few years back, the average price people were willing to pay for a niche edit was $361.44. They reached out to 450 sites across nine competitive niches and asked outright if they could buy a link on their sites.

Paid guest posts were much cheaper, and were $77.80, on average. Ahrefs pitched a guest blog across the same nine niches to 180 sites without offering to pay for placement. However, many of the responses from site owners included their fees.

What’s the alternative to buying links?

So you know you need links in order to rank on Google, but how do you build them in an organic, white hat way that won’t cause search engines to punish you? We’ve dropped three tried and tested strategies below that have been proven to get results. But know success won’t happen overnight – each method requires hard graft…

Creating valuable content = gaining editorial links

Editorial links are arguably some of the most beneficial links.. If the linkable assets you publish (i.e top-notch content) are genuinely valuable and of exceptional quality, you’ve got a much higher chance of getting editorial links.

This means a professional, streamlined website full of consistent great content is non-negotiable. It will show other sites (and Google) that you’re a credible source, which will increase the probability of more sites including your links in their content.

Quality and value are what Google values in a link, so doing so will put you in their good books and help you to rank higher.

Relationship-based link building 

Network! Network! Network! If you straight up ask a website that has no affinity with you for your link, why would they want to help you? 

Instead, it’s important to build relationships with site owners – inside and outside of your industry – to give you a better chance of securing regular links. While this doesn’t happen overnight (it takes time), there are a variety of ways you can reach out to develop potential new relationships. 

From email to social media, it’s important that you make a solid impression first.  And provide beneficial reasons that make it worth it for them.

For example, feature their products, site or services on your website first, and actively be open about supporting their goals or ambitions. This makes it easier for you to ask for something in return (hello links), and in the majority of cases, they’ll be happy to oblige.

Replace broken links with backlinks to your content 

If you’ve got a spare few hours in an evening while you’re watching TV, search for broken links on other sites. While the process is pretty tedious – we’re not gonna lie – it’s well-known that broken links can affect a site’s SEO in a negative way. This is why it’s so important to regularly check and fix them.

When you’ve found a broken link on a target site, approach them to let them know about it. Then you can offer them a working link from your site that has similar content. 

This will give you a straight-up organic link, plus a reason for them to potentially help you again in the future.

Using Digital PR

Building a successful digital PR strategy requires a lot of BTS work, including things like keyword research and competitor backlink audits. Essentially, all these processes rely on gathering solid data to ensure the campaign is relevant. 

There are a variety of sites you can use to influence your campaign ideas, too. From Google Trends, which shows you what people have been searching to Exploding Topics, which provides insight on growing topics before they blow up, when you’ve got data-led research, it allows you to cover things that you know your audience will genuinely love.

The devil works hard but Google works harder

If you’re serious about the longevity and success of your website, there’s no way around hard work. Which means buying links is out of the question if you want Google to reward your efforts every time.

While people obviously still buy links, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and address what you value more – a quick fix or a long-term one. And we know the process to achieving both. 

Sophie Crosby

Head of Content (UK & ES) at Minty.

CIM qualified. Brand and content nerd. Cat lover and full time ice cream enthusiast.
Logo Arrow right Arrow down Website
Facebook Instagram Twitter Tumblr YouTube Pinterest Pinterest Soundcloud Behance Google Plus LinkedIn Search Email Tik Tok