How paid links can kill your SEO – but not your ORM?
Website marketers have been buying links since the dark ages. And there are legitimate uses for paid links. After all, Google has one of the largest network of paid (pay-per-click) links on the internet. But there is another seedier side of paid links.
You are entering
the world of the Black Hat.
It doesn’t take long until you stumble upon paid link schemes for SEO. The purpose of these links is to manipulate search engine rankings (SERPs) for your targeted terms – ranking your web pages above competitor web pages in the search engines. This tactic has been going on almost as long as paid links themselves.
Against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
It’s no secret Google frowns upon paid links for SEO. Since Google relies so heavily upon links for their algorithm, (paid) links can boost your rankings – at least temporarily. Paid links can be a very effective SEO tactic.
If you decide paid links for SEO is a good idea, you might want to reconsider the tactic. A bad link-buy can hurt your rankings. If a paid link is not tagged with the appropriate ‘nofollow’ attribute, Google could penalize your site. Google’s Guidelines are clear:
“Some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results (emphasis mine).”
But you may say, ‘Paid links work so well – I’ll make it a minor part of my link buying efforts.’ Think again. Eric Enge posted a great reason for why buying links for SEO is a bad idea. Your competitors are encouraged to report your bad behavior:
“This should be your biggest worry if you buy or sell links. Your competitor has every incentive to report you, and you have every incentive to report them. The form is completely anonymous, so there is no risk of exposure for outing a site.”
Possible for Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Although buying links for SEO is not a good idea, you might consider it for another tactic: online reputation management (ORM).
If your brand, key employee, or other brand-related terms are showing less-than-favorable coverage in the SERPs, you might consider some paid links. The goal of ORM paid links is to displace the negative reviews, stories, etc. from the SERPs and replace them with neutral or favorable content.
Admittedly, this is still a Black Hat tactic – but if you’re targeting the paid links for other sites, then the impact to your site would be less than a straight-up link buy. In addition, brand-related terms are usually less competitive. This makes it easier to work the results.
Link Broker Options
I recently conducted some paid link research for a client. Here are a few link brokers that deal with both SEO and ORM issues. Bear in mind, there are some potentially negative impacts to your SEO efforts for paid links (see above). However, the risk is somewhat mitigated if you are purchasing links for non-owned sites. Buy links at your own risk.
Text Link Ads
(Formerly one of the more popular brokers, now banned from Google)