Buying Backlinks for SEO: Why We Don’t Recommend It

Buying backlinks for SEO is nothing new, but the penalties around them are expanding.

In fact, many sites experienced a profound drop in organic search rankings as a result of the March 2024 spam update from Google.

This update was not solely focused on spammy links, but it did put enough emphasis on site reputation abuse to affect the performance of many websites.

Here’s a look at organic traffic from the start of the update to completion (March 5-March 20), though you can also see increasing fallout afterward.

On the flip side, websites that weren’t in violation of the spam update seemed to do very well:

Here’s why we don’t recommend buying backlinks to help your SEO:

  • Less control. When you purchase backlinks from a seller, you don’t necessarily get to pick and choose which websites will link to your site. And if the site that’s linking to yours has a low domain authority, isn’t relevant to yours, or is considered “spammy,” then it can negatively impact your site performance in organic search.

  • Potential waste of money. Even if you pay for a link, sometimes algorithms will ignore them knowing it’s a low-quality link. So, all the money you invested in backlinks may not even help your SEO in the long run.

  • Harder to hide. Google and other search engines are on to paid links, and they are incredibly adept at sniffing them out. It’s getting increasingly more difficult to get away with buying links and maintaining a good reputation in organic search.

  • More risk. As demonstrated already, Google is penalizing websites with paid links, and it’s clearly affecting organic traffic. Its AI-powered SpamBrain has been quietly, but dramatically, reducing spam since 2018. Today, it’s fully engaged in taking down anything that threatens the high-quality user experience Google is focused on.

What you can do to build links without paying for them:

  • Create social media posts. Leverage your social media accounts to link people back to your site. These sites typically have high domain authority and can help you build awareness and traffic the natural way. How to Stand Out on Social Media

  • Participate in relevant forums and discussion boards. Seek out a few sites where conversations are happening around things that matter to your industry or audience. Quora is a great opportunity to answer questions and establish thought leadership, and at times you can link back to your site. The Benefits of Quora for Marketing

  • Request links on relevant sites. Instead of buying backlinks for SEO, do a little research on sites that would be good for sending links your way. Tools like SEMRush and MOZ can help you find good options, or you can leverage websites where you already have a relationship. You can also use the same tools to discover outdated backlinks, which you can make more relevant by asking the content author to update with a new page you provide. Business directories are also a great way to build valuable links to your site.

Still not sure if you should buy links?

For all the reasons above, we don’t recommend this practice. It may get you some short-term gains, but the risks far outweigh the benefits from our view.

If you’re still unsure what to do, reach out so we can see what makes sense for you.

More Resources:

Why Backlinks are More Important for SEO Than Ever Before

Reach out with any questions you might have regarding how RSO can help you with your digital marketing.

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