Paid Links – Good or Bad?

As we all know, search engines like Google make use of the existence of links from external sources that point to your website to assist them in determining the reputation of your website.

Because it’s considered a good thing to have such links, external links are much in demand, and as a result, every now and then, we get people asking us whether or not it’s possible to purchase links in order to increase the number of links pointing back at their website.

What Google Says

Google has acknowledged that using link analysis proved a very useful way of analysing the value of a site in terms of its relevance to a particular topic. Not only do the quantity of the links contribute toward their determination, but the quality of the links as well.

However, they specifically advise that buying or selling links that pass on PageRank to another site is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines on Paid Links, as it constitutes an attempt to deliberately manipulate the search engine ranking of a site.

As a result, buying or selling links that pass PageRank is viewed extremely negatively by Google, and can, if discovered, have a negative impact on the ranking of a site that does so.

Using Paid Links Safely

Not all paid links violate Google’s guidelines. According to their Webmaster Tools help page on paid links, buying and selling links is a normal part of the internet economy, especially when it comes to buying advertising.

However, in order for a paid link to be considered permissible, (and therefore not have a negative effect on your ranking), certain conventions need to be followed.

First, of course, the link must not be for the purposes of manipulating search engine results. Second, the link should either include the “nofollow” attribute within the hyperlink tags, (which tells search engines not to follow the link or pass PageRank through it), or it should be directed to a page which is blocked from search engines, by means of the “robots.txt” file, which informs search engines which pages they should not index.

The Google Algorithm

According to Google, they go to great lengths to discount links that attempt to manipulate the rankings of their search engine, either through excessive link exchanges, or by means of buying and selling links that pass PageRank.

So in the final estimation, our verdict is usually that buying paid links won’t help you much. Sometimes, they may even have the opposite affect to that which you intend. There are many other link development methods that ethical and professional search engine optimisers can offer or suggest. But most link buying strategies are not necessarily the best way forward.