The Truth About Buying Text Links

I am going to discuss something that is usually seen as a big no no when it comes to SEO and have to point out at this point that what I discuss in this article is my own perspective and opinion, it is not the opinion of Branded3 or any of their associates.

Paid links is one of those really annoying subjects and my thoughts today are based on last week’s SEOmoz whiteboard Friday where Rand discusses how they purchased links, got higher rankings and then quickly took them down before Google came along and wiped them out!! Rand also reefer’s to another website that was band for buying a handful of links to rank better.

Now I hope by making this statement Google doesn’t come along and wipe my blog out but I think it’s important that people understand and know the truth;

Do High Ranking Websites Buy Links? Yes!

Do they only buy a couple to beef up their campaign? Depends…

Do paid links work? Yes!

Should I buy links? Depends….

Ok you’re no clearer than you were before right, let me have another go….

Over the last 6 years I have worked with all kinds of companies, brands and blogs all competing in different verticals, some massively competitive others not so.

Out of all those clients I have to say I have only ever come across a few that don’t actively engage in link buying, were not just talking about 1 or 2 links here were talking hundreds, if not thousands.

You get out your best link analysis tool and check out some of the link profiles of some of the biggest brands, see anything suspicious?? I am sure you will.

Ranking on top of Google is big business, people don’t want to take chances with their income therefore due to competition are forced into paying for links! It’s really that simple – competitive markets require companies to buy links to dominate and anyone that says anything else is plain lying.

Should I Buy Some Links

Well let’s start with the obvious questions ‘will I get banned by Google?’ and the truth is “I do not know”! The reason I don’t is because I have never seen a site get thrown out of the index for ‘buying’ links. I have seen sites penalised for spamming, linking to dodgy neighbourhoods, hiding content etc… But never seen anyone penalised for buying links.

I have seen websites that sell links suffer from a loss of PageRank (not lost rankings just the ability to pass PageRank) but have never seen a link buyer punished.

So the answer to will I get punished? Probably not, however, as always there are a few exceptions.

– If you go max out your text link ads account, you may raise question marks

– If you get some guy from digital point to buy you a thousand links for $50 this also might not be a good idea

– If you spam everyone in the UK with ‘I want to buy a link’ – not such a good idea

– If you buy thousands of links from irrelevant resources there is a good chance you’ll get slapped

– and if you hang around on digital point looking for sellers your putting your website at risk

All of the above are really stupid ways to go about link building/buying whatever….

How Do I Buy Links?

I am not going to go into specifics here as I don’t want to paint a target on my head. All I will say is if a link looks like it is bought then it will be penalised whether money passed hands or not, a natural looking link is never going to cause any issues.

The main issue with link buying comes with the acquisition technique, if your careless you may be punished.

I think Google generally deals with paid links by docking PR or preventing sites that sell links from passing as much.

Your competitors will be buying links and you’re not going to compete with them using viral content and article marketing, will they ever get found out? Who knows, but the truth is it doesn’t stop multi million pound organisations from doing it.


is the CEO of Branded3 a Search Marketing Agency in the UK. Tim has over a decade of experience in Search and regularly speaks at key events and conferences.

16 thoughts on “The Truth About Buying Text Links

  1. I have done a little investigation and found that even many website creation sites that openly tell you buying links will get you banned still buy links!

  2. Hi Aaron,

    Yes your right, you look in any industry and everyone is doing it. Of course people say not to do it as they don’t want to get on the wrong side of the big G.

  3. Hi Bill.

    I completely understand and see how websites get penalised for selling links, but that is quite different to buying links. A webmaster has complete control over his pages where as I could go buy a load of links for my competitors in the hope they’ll get penalised. I still haven’t seen a website penalised for buying links, that doesn’t mean I’m recommending it, just haven’t seen any penalties dished out over it.

  4. Hi Tim.

    Great post. Its a common misconception that Google will automatically ban those who buy links but as you have said some of the main players buy links. Amazon for example send thousands of books to book bloggers monthly for reviews on the book (with a handy little link attached). This may be done subliminally but its still buying links. Theres countless examples of people buying links. Google isint going to penalise them all as like you say these are Good websites and websites which the searcher would want.

    I think buying links on relevant website within unique content on a number of keyword variations looks natural and will prevent you from getting penalised.

  5. Hi Ryan,

    I have to be very careful what I say about link buying, don’t want to get on the wrong side of anyone, but the point is (like you say) everyone else is doing it, some stupidly others very smartly. I think it’s something you have to give a lot of thought to and make sure it’s the exception rather than the rule.

    The only issue I have with the links in ‘unique content’ is making sure the link is there the first time it is published, otherwise I believe a link in old content regardless of PageRank is not worth very much.

  6. Hi guys

    Interested article and I agree with a lot of it, I dont know of anyone who has been penalised for buying text links, and some of hte other sites seem to get away with it.

    Its interesting that you can buy a text link on yahoo directory and people dont talk about being penlised for getting links on there, as if theres a difference lol !

    So its a tricky argument that NO ONE really can answer fully unless you worked for google


  7. Buying links has pretty much spoilt natural link building for many websites. It’s a shame that a great deal of poor quality content is now dominating search engines just because they have the budget to do so – pure and simple manipulation and I’m sure it won’t be long before algorithms get more advanced at identifying it.

  8. The thing is, spotting bought links can generally be incredibly easy. I have often noticed badly designed ‘made for Adsense’ style websites with site-wide links in the sidebar. Surely it’s obvious to search engines when these links are purchased, right? After all, why would a website about football link to another website about debt management or one of the other competitive online areas… hmm!

  9. Hi Josh,

    I think Google are definitely getting better at spotting obvious paid links, however you can buy links that not even a user could tell are natural or not. Unfortunately like any form of marketing the budget and a little bit of brains will always win.

  10. Hi Sarah,

    I think these type of links are definitely easier to spot, however smart link builders/buyers will not be as obvious as this, the other issue is all Google do when they find even the most suspect links is stop them from passing weight so there is no real risk in being caught.

  11. Great post Tim. Buying links is not an option you could always go for. You have to think many times before doing that. You must also not be frequent in this activity. It is actually all about making it look a natural backlink to Google. If you’re successful in that, you’ve got it all right.

  12. I totally agree that this is an annoying subject haha because everyone says NO DONT DO IT, but when you look at backlink profiles loads of sites are doing it, especially in the competitive niches (as you say). I would also bring to light that it’s not worth buying blaitant links which stand out like a sore thumb and are likely to annoy competitors to the point of submitting a paid link report to Google. Try to bury your paid links and vary them alone with anchors.

  13. A very interesting post!

    Many companies buy links. I’ve read that it is acceptable as it drives brand awareness and traffic to your site. In this case you should include the nofollow attribute. This means that you can buy links in order to get some traffic to your site, but this will not influence your search engine rankings.

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