Paid Links kill SEO! Or do they?

RockmusicRaider - Anonymous - Black Hat SEO - Paid Links

Ah, what a trauma that linking strategy often is, once you start with a website and you try to hit good SEO grades. Yet, there is no way around it. It is indeed true that good internal and external linking can be a stepping stone for you to hit that #1 spot on major search engines. So, you have no other choice but to attack this issue.

But have a care.

There are a few Black Hat SEO activities that might very well land you in seething hot water. Only if you are found out, of course. But chances are that you will be discovered by the ever more sophisticated algorithms out there.

If you are running a blog or a successful website, you may already have stumbled across those shady folks that try to make you pay for backlinks. In other words, links that point back to your site.

Organically grown backlinks are essentially a good thing. Coming from authoritative sites, they serve as a ranking signal to search engines and will have a positive effect for you.


However, a clear no-go area is the purchase of those links. Search engines consider this practice to be Black Hat SEO and will take punitive actions if it is detected.

And they have a point.

Let me try to explain this with a hypothetical scenario.

Imagine you are running a local paint shop that sells all accouterments a painter or decorator will need to get their walls and ceilings back in shape. Now, you find that your website does not show up aggressively enough on internet searches. And you would like to change that to increase sales to levels you deserve.

So, you go ahead and buy links pointing to your site. It all works out well and you end up with a few thousand new links. All of them – supposedly – highlighting the wares that your local streetcorner shop sells.

Great news, right? Rankings soar, visibility is restored and you are in a painter’s nirvana, ready for all those customers.

Well, not so fast.

Because 48 hours later you will find that search engines just killed your ranking altogether and you are back scratching the bottom of the barrel. You have just been demoted.

But how could that happen?

  • Well, most of the links that point to your shop are from a small number of foreign countries on another continent. So, how come that your shop, located in an obscure town somewhere out in the boonies attracts that kind of focused attention from abroad? But none of your local suppliers, customers, and benefactors really gave you any link juice.
  • The interests and focus points of those sites linking to you mainly are in other realms, like waste management and marine animals.
  • A good portion of those links come from spammy sites that mostly were already disavowed by other users of the internet.

In other words, you end up with a ton of links that have no connection to your business, from sites that did not link to you by themselves, and that will never, ever tout your wares.

Your forest of links will be all skewed and will do nothing to further your business. And on top of that, you will – without a doubt – attract the wrath of the search engines.

So, don’t do that.

Aye. Now we are in scammy territory. Wouldn’t it be alluring to construct a brisk business out of selling all these outbound links to other sites to best that algorithm? 50 bucks here, 100 bucks there – just for highlighting links in one of your texts. And as we know that this is a bit shady, we’ll try to keep it under the radar.

But no, that’s neither brisk nor good, and it’s certainly not smart. Search engines severely frown upon this kind of practice. And you – the perpetrator – will be squished swiftly, if found out.

Let’s be clear, though. Taking money for a service rendered is not illegal. It’s what people do every day for any industry out there. You will – however – go against the webmaster guidelines of search engines if you let people pay you. And have a care, it makes no difference to them if you take money, goodies, or other services in return.

And that could very well lead to a penalty of your own site that you probably spent a few drops of blood and tears to build.

Let me illustrate this with a real example.

Here is one of those emails that the RMR crew receives from time to time, and it is a real text. Copied and pasted as is:

How are you doing? I am reaching to offer a simple 3 step process of guest post on your website.
1. I will send you some interesting topic ideas for a guest post
2. You will choose one topic out of those topic ideas
3. I will then send you a high- quality article on the topic chosen by you.
I would just expect you to give me a do-follow backlink within the main article. So, shall we start with step 1?

Okay, first of all, these guys – whoever they are – never read this. And – of course – they never figured out that we have a fully indexed page that dishes out hard judgment to trespassers.

So, here is why this is all a bad idea:

  1. Reacting to proposals from shady sources is never smart. This is just common sense. In other words, if it smells bad, don’t go there.
  2. Accepting a prepared post in return for a link is tantamount to getting paid in the eyes of search engines.
  3. So consequently, placing an outbound link with a ‘follow’ attribute on such a post is thus considered a ‘paid link’ and part of a link scheme. Google – for instance – does not take kindly to that.
  4. Dropping a ‘follow’ link to an unknown site that probably has nothing to do with your activity may well saddle you with a penalty.
  5. I’m really unsure what made these people think that – somehow – we were in dire need of more posts? Any post, actually? There is no value proposition anywhere on that little note.
  6. You can accept guest posts on your blog, of course. But you always do it on your own terms. Just accepting posts for free with no strings attached is not only a bad deal, it could also wreck your SEO depending on what’s on it.
  7. The contents of such a post will at best be vaguely similar to your usual fare. But it will – for sure – confuse your audience. And that’s never a good thing. Because confusion means fewer clicks, and that is bad for SEO.
  8. Last, but not least, they’re trying to place unpaid promoted content on your site without proper indications. And this is – yet again – bad for SEO.

In short, you don’t want that cuckoo’s egg in your nest. You might not like the chick it hatches and the song it will sing.

A website may indeed place paid links on a site if they are properly labeled. Business sometimes demands it and it is a legitimate practice. However, that means to add a ‘nofollow’ and/or a ‘sponsored’ attribute to the link. So that search engines understand that no link juice passes to the receiver (nofollow) and this is a paid link (sponsored).

Now, to shell out greenbacks for backlinks or getting paid to place links for others as part of a link scheme is never a good idea. Your best strategy is to grow your link base with White Hat activities and forget you ever even saw those dealers in the shadows.

The scam artists out there will do your bidding, no doubt about it. But in turn, search engines will take your reputation away and kill your rankings, too. The same principle applies to social media networks, by the way.

So, in essence, you just paid or received money to orchestrate your own demise. And this – probably – isn’t what you had in mind, right?


2 thoughts on “Paid Links kill SEO! Or do they?

  1. alucardhsorg

    Hi there, great article. I’ve just received a similar proposition of having a guest article with a link in it. So I wanted to clarify – if you do in fact mark a paid link as both nofollow and sponsored, you’re in the clear as far as SEO is concerned?

    1. RockmusicRaider Post author

      Hi – thanks for this. Yes, you should be good with SEO as simple linking attributes go. No link juice will pass to the requestor which will – in turn – not make them happy, as they most probably asked for a ‘follow’ attribute. I would however not recommend embarking on any link scheme, paid or not. The algorithms have become very sophisticated at detecting them and they dish out penalties swiftly.


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