What are Paid Links?
Paid links are links that are acquired through payment. One may purchase links from another website, or from a link selling service.
Paid links can also be acquired through link exchange programs, where two websites agree to exchange links with each other.
Are Paid Links Harmful?
Yes. Paying for links is strictly against Google’s guidelines and is considered link spam.
If the algorithm detects a link that has been obtained through a link scheme, it will de-value it.
This means that the link will not be counted towards your rankings, and pass on any PageRank.
In addition, websites that accept payments for link typically have an unnatural and irrelevant outgoing link profile, meaning that any backlinks from them are not desirable in the first place.
When done on a small scale, paid links won’t necessarily “hurt” your website, but will essentially be a waste of money.
However, when done on a large scale (hundreds of links daily), bulk purchase of links will cause your website to become subject to a manual review, and if the Google staff concludes that you were engaging in black-hat SEO, may lead to a full-on penalty, essentially removing your website from search results.
With that being said, not all paid links are bad, which leads us to the next section.
Paid Links vs Sponsored Links vs Link Building Agencies
Technically, not all links that you pay for are considered link schemes.
Let us elaborate.
The “bad ones” are only those that have been purchased through automated link building services, or paid for “on the low-low”, behind the scenes to make it look like that link is editorial when in reality it’s paid for.
On the other hand, there are two types of paid links that are perfectly fine to use: sponsored links and links that have been acquired for you by white-hat link building agencies.
A sponsored link is a link that is placed on a website or blog in exchange for money or some other form of compensation. Common ways to acquire sponsored links include paid ads, sponsorships, and product reviews.
As long as a sponsored link has the “rel=sponsored” link attribute, it is not in violation of Google’s guidelines.
The downside to using sponsored links is the fact that they typically don’t pass on PageRank, meaning they don’t actually contribute to your rankings.
However, they’re still great for spreading awareness about your brand and promoting your content/product.
Not all companies can afford to dedicate the time and resources to build links internally.
So, if you decide to opt-in for a link building agency to help outsource that process, that’s not in violation of Google’s policies either, as long as the strategies they use are white-hat.
If you’re looking for a link building agency but not sure how to pick one, feel free to take a look at our picks of the top 11 link-building services that you can trust in 2022.
Paid Link Example
Here is an example of a person asking for money after receiving a link building email pitch from us:
What to Do Instead of Paying for Links?
The best way of doing link building is by having an internal staff member (or an entire team) dedicated to just building backlinks, full-time.
This is because white-hat link building is one of the most time-consuming aspects of search engine optimization. Also, by having internal staff managing link building, you have complete control over the process and are able to ensure that only white-hat tactics are employed.
If you decide to do link building in-house, Respona can help you cut down up to 90% of the time it takes to run link building outreach campaigns, as link building is the primary purpose of the tool.
We recommend running a mix of three of the most effective link building campaign types:
If you don’t quite have the capacity to build links in-house, if you have the budget, it’s best to outsource the process to a link building agency.
So, to sum it up: paid links are considered to be “link spam” and “link schemes” by Google, and are not only a waste of time and resources but can actually lead your website to become subject to a Google penalty if done excessively.
The two types of paid links that are safe to build are sponsored links, as well as links acquired for you by a white-hat link building agency.
And, the best way to o build high-quality backlinks instead of paying for them is to have dedicated staff members to manage the process in-house, while taking advantage of link building software to cut down on time.