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Paid Links – No Longer Worth the Cost?



By Carrie Hill

The WeBuildPages Blog posted a story last week wherein Jim Boykin stated that the WBP team would no longer be buying links that violate the Google Guidelines.

Boykin points out in his post:

Oh, we’re still building links…that’s still the cornerstone of our business right now….we’re just not paying for any of them…

One question though—where do we draw the line? Does a $50 a year directory that throws nice traffic your way—and also happens to openly link to you still fall in the “paid link” category? Is it a directory with benefits?

Publicly denouncing buying links could be an industry-changing position as the crux of the matter is—buying links still works. How long it will continue to work is something we need to ask the search engines. If their criteria say “don’t do this” they should work harder at removing sites from the index that are violating the guidelines many are working so hard to follow.

Any quality Search Engine Marketing firm should be considering each decision they make with regards to marketing a site against a certain set of criteria:

  1. Is this liable to get this client removed from Google, either today or next year?
  2. Would we still do this if the search engines didn’t exist?
  3. Are we comfortable telling anyone—including Google engineers we did this?

I commend Jim and his crew on being one of the first to emerge from the paid links closet. Maybe we need to pose a question to the rest of the industry? If we as search engine marketers stop buying links—will the search engines follow suit and truly devalue them?

Carrie Hill is the SEO Team leader for Blizzard Internet Marketing where she specializes in optimizing travel, tourism and accommodations websites.

  • http://www.michellesblog.net Michelle Greer

    This is something that absolutely should be addressed. Everyone knows SEOs still do it, but no one seems to know to what extent it can lead you to getting nuked.

    Michelle Greer’s last blog post..What Kind of Online Superhero Are You?

  • http:..www.marybowling.com Mary Bowling

    Carrie, I think the whole paid link controversy is pretty confusing for most people and is very much open to interpretation. Thanks for your easy to understand criteria.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1djbNnmRstQ Josip

    I have been online for over a year now and I have seen many discussions on the “paid links” topic and I still feel like we’re not any closer to a solution.

    Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Companies can buy links to their heart’s content, but if nobody’s clicking the links, why waste the expense? I don’t click sponsored links, so there’s one click down.

    Ari Herzog’s last blog post..Why Understanding Your Web Traffic is Important

  • http://financialbreakthrough101.com/ Kenney @ How To Make Money Blog

    I understand that this is causing a stink for the search engines, but many people buy links for the advertising benefits also. So, how do you determine that a person bought a link for the link juice or for the advertising benefit. Maybe they’d like to test text link ads vs. a banner. Either because it is more cost effective or just to test for whatever reason.

    People would then be penalized for selling or buying test link ads for promotional or advertising benefits. I don’t think they can totally shut this down for a while.

  • http://www.blizzardinternet.com Carrie Hill

    @Michelle Greer – Google has a history of saying “dont do that – no really dont do that – i mean it dont do that” then bringing the hammer down – I think this might be that scenario to the Nth power – but who knows til something actually happens.

    @Ari Herzog – You’re absolutely right – not clicking on sponsored ads is one way – but unfortunately many novice web users dont understand the difference between paid and organic listings and click on whatever looks like it might be the thing they want – regardless of the listings paid or free status

    @Kenny – i have the same questions – from the post:
    “…where do we draw the line? Does a $50 a year directory that throws nice traffic your way—and also happens to openly link to you still fall in the “paid link” category? Is it a directory with benefits?”

    Carrie Hill’s last blog post..Marketing as a “Drive To” Destination

  • http://maverickmav.com.au/services-PPC.htm1 Sophia

    Once Matt Cutts told ““The best links are not paid, or exchanged after out-of-the-blue emails–the best links are earned and given by choice.” Paid links are no way helping for page ranks and why should we still pay for building links? there are lot of legitimate ways to gain more links by getting reputation.

  • http://maverickmav.com.au/services-PPC.htm Sophia

    Once Matt Cutts told ““The best links are not paid, or exchanged after out-of-the-blue emails–the best links are earned and given by choice.” Paid links are no way helping for page ranks and why should we still pay for building links? there are lot of legitimate ways to gain more links by getting reputation.

  • http://www.VerticalMeasures.com Arnie | Link Building Tips

    It would be great to get some detailed definitions from Google, but it will never happen. I feel sorry for the 100′ of thousands of website owners (SMBs)who do not even understand search optimization or know that there is even such a thing as Google Guidelines or Webmaster Central. They can be penalized and innocent at the same time.

  • http://www.yellowseo.com Y-SEO

    The way I look at is there are paid links and paid directories. I know that some great leads come from paid directories that bring traffic that actual convert. But I think when I think of paid links I think of left or right nav or footer text links sitewide or on homepage of some unrelated high pr site for no reason other then backlinks. Now the tricky part a highly relevant on topic website only way to get visibility on it is pay a link which actually brings traffic and conversions again… Will that every be penalized I would think not?

  • http://www.linkpopularitymatters.com tripti

    I think link buying is a perfectly genuine practice. I don’t see the difference between a banner ad and a text link ad, as long as you’re not intentionally trying to game the search engines and you expect to get traffic and brand visibility from those ads appearing on the websites you are advertising on, irrespective of the SEO effect.

    tripti’s last blog post..Link Building In An Economic Downturn