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Link Buying: The Unadulterated Truth

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There’s no denying that the number of inbound links is one of the most critical elements to optimizing a site to rank well in search. The methods employed in obtaining those links, however, is a platform for both ethical and practical debate. With all factors considered, is buying links a good idea?

Link Buying: The Unadulterated Truth
Let’s Talk About Buying Links

If you asked Matt Cutts, he would probably be inclined to disagree. Of course, as a Googler, he’s supposed to take that stance. I wouldn’t expect Matt to have any position other than one of opposition toward the practice of link buying.

Ethically, one could probably make the case that buying links could be a reprehensible tactic. Basically, you’re buying an endorsement from someone who may not have been willing to do so until cash was involved. Where’s the value in that kind of linkage?

Practically, however, it’s hard to argue against link buying totally. The fact of the matter is that links are vital to rankings, period. How can you discredit someone for buying links if they are willing to shell out the cash, especially when those links could be the difference between the supplemental index or a top ten ranking in the SERPs?

The truth, however, is that taking a definitive stance on link buying is easier said than done. There are so many factors to consider than one could spend months on end debating the point with someone of an opposing mindset.

Eric Ward has a great discourse on the truth about link buying, and I think this discussion would be fruitless without sharing some of these pearls. Here are some factors Eric encourages potential link buyers to consider:

First, if you want to buy links because you want to improve your search rank, don’t. It’s that simple. Do not buy links for search rank. I cannot say it any simpler than that. Why? Because if you do, the engines reserve the right to penalize you for it.

Google considers buying text links for ranking purposes to be a violation of its quality guidelines. Don’t believe it? Read this: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/text-links-and-pagerank/. Play that game with your eyes wide open, or don’t play it at all.

Second, think of paid links as advertising to the readers of the site where the link will reside. Nothing more, nothing less. Forget rankings. Is the site a logical place where the readers who encounter your link might be inclined to click on it? Your site sells plumbing tools? Then don’t buy a link here. Buy one here.

Third, while you will hear stories or anecdotes about how someone improved his or her rankings by buying links, is the risk of being banned by the search engines worth the potential for improved rankings?


These are the questions that you have to ask yourself when faced with the decision of whether or not link buying is the way to go in optimizing your site for the search engines. There’s a lot of practicality in what Eric is saying here. Try to forget about what kind of ethical issues are at stake, and look at the facts.

But just what are the facts? Eric highlights these two points that I believe are a wonderful summation of what it all comes down to with link buying:

A. You cannot know if your rankings really will improve until you buy the links, which means you assume all the risk of the known penalty with no knowledge of the outcome or reward.

B. You cannot know if any improvement will last and impact your bottom line to a high enough degree to offset the loss to your bottom line should your site vanish completely.


Notice that throughout the entirety of the piece, Eric never flat out says that link buying is wrong. The concept of right and wrong is actually irrelevant to the discussion, given the facts of the matter, which point toward the fact that buying links isn’t the soundest of decisions.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

Link Buying: The Unadulterated Truth
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  • Paul Til

    Ethics-shmethics. Money talks, whether Google likes it or not. If I have lots of cash I will buy paid links and I will buy “free links” (whatever Google’s definition of it) wherever I want. Yes, some portion of the money will be wasted, but that’s always the case in advertising.

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