Why Google Doesn’t Want You To Mess With Paid Links

For years, Google has been very vocal about why you should never buy backlinks for your sites. There have been a good amount of horror stories about people who buy backlinks and then find their site completely removed from the index for up to 6 months or more. Obviously, this could literally put your company out of business if it happens to you.

And yet, anywhere you go, you’ll see all kinds of ads for sites like Text Links Ads, Links XL, and others, who broker links. They all have huge pools of publishers who they are able to sell links on their own sites through the link broker networks. This seems like a sitting duck situation, where Google could possibly sniff out the entire network and systematically crush an entire portion of the internet. But this doesn’t really seem to be happening, and that’s because these networks are doing a good job of hiding the fact they’re selling links. They leave little if any footprint, so unless Google actually came into their network to sniff out who is participating, things are pretty safe.

But it still begs the question, why does Google not want me to buy links? The answer is connected to the core of Google’s ranking technology, and is a pretty basic one once you see it.

Stuffing the Ballot Box

The super simplified way of describing how Google uses backlinks to determine how a site should rank is that each backlink is a “vote” for the target site. These votes aren’t all equal; a link on a no-name site is not even close to being worth as much as a link on a big authority site. But regardless, a link is an endorsement according to Google.

By purchasing backlinks, you’re all of a sudden “stuffing the ballot box” and artificially increasing your backlink numbers. Without a way of discerning which backlinks were naturally procured as opposed to purchased, Google has trouble knowing how legitimate a site is or if the owner of the site just has deep pockets.

Because of how large and powerful Google is, they are able to set their own internal rules that everyone starts to follow because if they don’t and get caught for something Google doesn’t like, the penalty could potentially devastate their traffic and cash-flow. So Google is in this unique “internet police” position where they can somewhat control people’s behavior online simply by discouraging certain practices.

The Funny Part Is That Paid Links Work. Really Well.

The thing is, if there is no footprint to identify your paid links with, Google has no damn clue that you paid for them. Because of this, if you have the cash, you can snatch some very powerful links that would be challenging to naturally get at least early on in a site’s life and can dramatically increase your site’s ranking.

Despite Google’s authority, they simply can’t be all knowing. Whether you have a handful of independent, powerful sites that you interlink to help each one out, or you buy links, it’s a way to fast track your site to high rankings in competitive niches.

Rand at SEOMOZ wrote a great post about his experiments with paid links, and the results pretty clearly show what I’m saying here. If you have the budget for the links, it’s definitely something to (carefully) use.

  • While I agree with the general tone of this post, the SEOMOZ article you pointed to, is from 2007 and has been replaced by one saying the contrary (If I understood it right) in 2009.

    Just as a heads up…

    • Their most recent articles about paid links seem to align with my tone here as well. Their main point is that paid links work but they are risky, and the reason they are risky is because Google wants you to receive links naturally rather than purchasing them.

      If you search for paid links on seomoz.org there’s a lot of great articles to check out about them. Almost all of them show that they work very well, but they are still really risky because if you get caught, it could mean instant sandboxing.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • If paid links can cause a penalty, what’s to stop me buying 1000 and pointing them to my competitors site? Surely they’re just discounted rather than penalty causing…

    Jon

    • Generally, if they sniff out any sort of serious link building attempts, they will then go and investigate the sites. If there are fishy things going on, then there’s the possibility the site can be penalized. If the site is clean and just has paid links pointed at it, they’ll probably just nullify the value of the link and leave things alone.

      By nullifying the impact of the links though, that can reverse the positive effects of them from before you were caught, which can have a negative impact on rankings. So they aren’t really penalizing you, they’re just removing links which will negatively smack your rankings.

  • Gotcha. So you’re saying if the on-page is fine then the site will pass the manual investigation and the links will be nulled?

    Seems to me the only thing you’ve got to lose with buying links is the cash…

    P.s can you put a ‘subscribe to follow ups’ check box on this form? It’d be very handy

    • Hey Jon, I think I just setup the subscriptions for comments. Try it out and let me know if it works for you. I’ve never used this plugin before so I make no guarantees 🙂

      • That’s the one! I suppose This is a test comment then.

        Actually no, I’ll make it areal one. How do you rate Text Link Ads as k link broker. Have you reviewed them (or others) on this blog that I’ve missed?

        Ta, Jon

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