Should You Buy Backlinks in 2021? [Analysis]

Stewart Dunlop

If you’ve tried link building, it’s likely that you’ve been offered the chance to buy links.

But when many websites will only link to you if you pay them, it can be tempting to take some of these sites up on the offer. 

But is it safe to buy backlinks? Let’s take a look at the arguments.

Should You Buy Backlinks?

In our opinion, you’re missing out on getting links from a huge range of high quality, relevant websites if you refuse to pay for any backlinks.

In certain industries, the only way to compete is by buying links.

You can absolutely guarantee that International, multi-million dollar businesses in the insurance, casino, and finance industries are all buying a huge amount of links.

With that said, it has to be done in a very intelligent way which attempts to add value to the internet.

Google’s Stance

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: Google doesn’t want you to buy backlinks. 

The search engine doesn’t like any method of artificially gaining links. 

Google explicitly warns that it considers buying or selling links that pass PageRank a link scheme. If you want to stick to Google’s guidelines 100% , you shouldn’t buy links. 

Despite this warning, buying and selling links is incredibly common. Many people in SEO do it and nowadays, Google has seemingly given up on punishing people buying links.

Instead, they simply devalue links that they think are part of a link scheme.

Free Links Are Very Hard to Come By

5 years ago, it was possible to get a tremendous amount of free links, just by launching the infamous SkyScraper technique.

We literally built 50+ links in a month for some of our clients back in 2016-2017, which today is extremely difficult unless you knock it out the park with a viral piece of content and an amazing brand.

The reason is very simple – Many website owners understand the value of links now.

If you ever perform link outreach, you’ll discover that many website owners will only post a link if you pay them.

The truth is, most content website owner’s realize that they can earn a significant revenue from selling links, and that makes it extremely difficult to get links without offering cash nowadays.

How Much Does it Cost to Buy Links?

We’ve already examined the cost of buying links in much greater detail in this article.

However, we’ve put together some rough data below for you.

Cost to buy backlinks

Why Charge for Backlinks?

As mentioned, the reason website owners charge for backlinks is that they know how valuable those links are. It also takes time and effort to place a link on a website. Website owners think it is only fair that they are compensated for the value they provide. 

If you’ve ever read an ‘income report’ from a popular blogger, you’ll notice that ‘sponsored posts’ make up a huge proportion of their revenue.

Examples of Bloggers Selling Backlinks

Here’s some examples of popular bloggers who report massive income streams from essentially selling links, which always falls under the category of ‘sponsored posts’.

Fitmommyinheals.com

This blogger revealed in September 2019 that she earned over 80% of revenue through sponsored posts.

Fitmommyinheals - Revenue from selling backlinks

Wanderluststorytellers.com

This family of travel bloggers revealed that they earned over $2000 (AUD) in March 2017, with their highest single earner being sponsored posts.

Wanderlust revenue from people who buy backlinks

Fitnancials.com

This personal finance and money blogger revealed that she earned $4612 in October 2017, with again the biggest driver of income being sponsored posts.

Fitnancials.com revenue chart showing data on people who buy backlinks and sponsored posts

So that makes the incentive very clear – Bloggers and content websites literally rely on the link building industry to make an income and in many cases, to fulfil their dream of working remotely as a digital nomad.

Additionally, buying and selling backlinks is especially common in some ultra-competitive niches. For example, industries like finance and gambling. 

It’s not hard to see why based on the financials above.

Every link a website places in its content passes on PageRank to the other site. This increases the chances that the site they link to will rank for competing keywords, making their own SEO efforts more difficult.

So that leaves us with several conflicting facts:

  • Google doesn’t want people to pay for backlinks.
  • Buying backlinks is common practice among SEOs.
  • Selling links is a primary source of income for many bloggers
  • You may struggle to gain links from niche-relevant websites without paying for them.
  • This will affect your ability to rank.

Ultimately, whether you choose to buy backlinks will depend on how you view the above points. You’ll have to consider how fast you want to grow, as well as how risk-averse you are.

The Risks of Buying Backlinks

There are two main reasons not to buy backlinks. 

The first is that you might waste your money. Buying links on directories or forums probably won’t hurt your site, but it will have little to no impact on your ranking. That’s because Google’s algorithm knows to ignore this type of link. 

The second is that you might receive a manual action. This is when a human reviewer decides that your site or pages on your site are not compliant with Google’s guidelines.

A manual action can cause a drop in your search rankings. You may even see your site completely removed from Google. 

However, manual actions are extremely rare nowadays for link spam. Google is simply getting better at just ignoring any spam or low quality links.

You Can Recover From Manual Actions

If you receive a manual action, Google will notify you in the Search Console. The warning will tell you why you received a manual action and provide information about the types of pages that are affected. 

Google will also provide you with steps you can take to fix the issues. 

With link-related warnings, you typically have to ask sites to remove the links. If you can’t do this, you can disavow the paid-for backlinks by uploading a list of them to the Search Console disavow tool.  

You then request a review and explain what you have done to solve the issue. Someone from the search engine will check the request and remove the action from your site. 

Taking these steps may result in your search engine rankings increasing again.

But if your previous rankings relied on PageRank brought by the links you disavowed you might not rank as highly as before, even after the manual action is removed.

Still Want to Buy Backlinks? Not All Methods Are Equal

There are many methods of buying links. Some of them are definite no-gos, but others aren’t quite so black and white. 

Here is a look at some common ways to buy backlinks and the risks and rewards of each one.

❌ Spammy Services on Freelance Marketplaces

The first way to buy backlinks that most new site owners come across is through services on freelance websites like Fiverr or PeoplePerHour. There may be good link building services on these sites, but there are also plenty of bad ones.   

Here’s an example below from one of the many low quality sellers on PeoplePerHour.

peopleperhour spammy backlinks

The bad link building services typically offer a large number of backlinks for a low price. They may even claim to create white hat links or provide big rankings increases. 

Be sure that you know what you are signing up for before taking on one of these services. If the deal seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. 

That’s because proper backlink building takes time, is expensive, and has no guarantees. 

A typical white hat campaign involves:

  • Creating a strategy.
  • Outreach to suitable websites.
  • Negotiating with site owners.
  • Creating high-quality content. 

Any service that offers a large number of links for a low cost is taking shortcuts. Avoid these offers if you want to buy quality backlinks.

Often the people running these services will have access to a PBN—a network of websites they own that they can easily place links on. This black hat strategy allows them to generate a specific number of links with little time or effort. 

The issue is that search engines hate PBNs. Buying links from this type of website can destroy your rankings.

Other ways these services generate links is through automatically generated content like blog comments or forum links. Or they may build low-quality links on directory sites.  

Whatever the exact method, these are link buying strategies you want to avoid. You can find out more about how to spot spammy link building scams in this article.

🟠 Niche Edits

Niche edits is a strategy for buying links where you reach out to website owners and ask them to link to a relevant page on your website. 

The website owner will typically ask for payment to do this. You may even offer payment upfront to get the ball rolling. 

It’s a good strategy to buy quality backlinks because:

  • You can choose the websites you reach out to.
  • You can generate backlinks to pages that don’t typically attract links.
  • You can generate backlinks quickly. 
  • You can choose your anchor text.

It’s also hard for Google’s algorithm to spot this type of backlink. It’s tough to differentiate a niche edit link from an organic one, as long as you and the website owner are careful. 

The downside is that you must be vigilant about the types of sites you pay for links. 

Think about it: if a website owner is willing to link to your site for cash, how many other websites do they have the same agreement with? 

While websites can typically accept paid links without search engines noticing, they risk looking like a link farm to Google’s algorithm if they do it too much. Being associated with one of these sites can negatively affect your search engine ranking. 

We recommend thoroughly analyzing any website you plan to pay for niche edit links on. This will ensure you only buy quality backlinks.

We have an article that shows exactly how to tell quality sites from low-quality ones here. But the gist of the article is:

  • Domain metrics alone don’t tell you if a site is high quality. Plenty of sites used in PBNs are built on domains that already had a high DA and DR. 
  • The website’s content and traffic is the biggest indicator of quality. Look for a site with a good design, original articles, a clear topic, and few posts marked as “Guest Author.” 
  • Transparency around who owns and operates the site is also important. Look for an About page with thorough information.
  • Look for sites that generate consistent, quality traffic from Google. A downward trend, sudden drops, spammy keywords, or low traffic all suggest a site isn’t worth getting a backlink from. 

🟠 Paid Guest Posts

Paid guest posts are when you pay money to place an article on a website. 

This strategy has many of the same benefits as a niche edits strategy. You can choose the website, the content you link to, and the anchor text. It’s a good way to buy high-quality backlinks.

Example – Paid Guest Post on a Pet Niche Blog

Here’s a pretty common example of the kind of response you might get from a blogger who’s looking to earn some revenue from your guest post request.

Guest post backlinks that you can buy from a pet niche

This site has fantastic metrics, gets lots of relevant traffic, and they’re strict about the content they publish even though they’re happy to receive revenue from it. In this particular instance, it’s going to be a great link if you want to build links to any pet related website.

The downside is pretty much the same too: if you place a guest post on the wrong site, you could get punished. 

There are two main differentiators between paid guest posts and niche edits. 

The main negative point is that you have to create the article. This will either add to your costs if you choose to outsource, or take up time if you choose to write the post yourself.

The main positive is that when looking for paid guest posts, you might also find sites that won’t charge you in many cases, especially if you have a history of creating great content. 

❌/🟠/✔️Paying an Agency

Paying an agency is slightly different to the other methods of link buying on this list. 

That’s because you are paying someone to build backlinks for you, not paying for the backlinks themselves. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring backlink builders. It’s no different from paying people to write content, design your website, or manage your SEO strategy. 

What can make a difference is how the agency chooses to build links. 

If the service spends your budget on PBN links, you’re at risk of getting a Google penalty. 

But if it generates quality links through organic means like outreach or PR, you have nothing to worry about. 

How can you tell a good agency from a bad one?

We recommend the following actions…

  • Discussing with the agency how they build backlinks: Find out the strategies they use before committing.
  • Looking at link building case studies: These will show previous sites they have worked with and the results they have generated. Look for specific details, as anyone can make up an anonymous case study.
  • Checking out their website: If the website has lots of good links and plenty of traffic, it suggests they know what they are doing.
  • Reading testimonials: A history of happy clients is a good sign.
  • Finding out whether they use paid links: You can then make an informed decision about whether this is something you are comfortable with.

Try to avoid services with the following red flags:

  • Suspiciously low prices: Link building is expensive; the agency’s prices should reflect this. Avoid cheap backlinks.
  • Guaranteed results: There are no guarantees in link building. If a service promises a certain number of links from specific sites, it suggests they are using a PBN.
  • Fast links: We find that backlink building takes anything from a couple of weeks to a month to start generating results.

✔️Sponsored Content

There is one way to buy links that is completely safe: paying to place sponsored posts on websites. 

This differs from guest posts in that the website owner will make it clear that the post is sponsored and give the link a rel=“sponsored” or rel=“nofollow” tag. 

This is a tag that tells Google’s algorithm that you paid for the post. It also stops the post from passing on PageRank. Unfortunately, this makes these links far less valuable than regular follow links. 

Types of Link Tags

Rel=“sponsored” – This tag specifies that a link has been paid for. It tells the Google bots not to crawl the link.

Rel=“nofollow” – This tells the Google crawlers not to crawl the link. You can also use it for sponsored posts instead of rel=“sponsored”

Sponsored posts aren’t entirely useless. You may generate traffic from the website, and you will increase your brand exposure. 

You can also be featured on large publications that don’t typically offer guest posts. This exposure may result in other websites sending follow links to your website.  

A Site’s Quality Is the Most Important Factor

Whether you should buy backlinks depends entirely on the quality of the site you want to get a link from. 

This applies to all types of link building, not just paying for links. 

Google and other search engines can’t know for sure whether a link is paid for or not. All they have are hints that suggest a site is receiving money for links.

If the search engine decides it doesn’t like a site that links to you, you’re at risk of a penalty whether or not you paid for a link. 

Similarly, if you pay for 20 links on sites that search engines like, you’re unlikely to have any problems. 

Before paying for any link you should carefully analyze the website in question. Look for high-quality original content, transparency about who owns or operates the site, how much traffic it receives, and whether it has an engaged audience. 

If the site you want a link from meets these criteria, you can consider paying for a link. If it doesn’t you should avoid it. 

Let Us Build High-Quality Backlinks for You

If you’re worried about any potential pitfalls or have some questions, then contact us today.