Are Paid Links Really That Risky?

Apr 13, 2010 • 8:46 am | comments (11) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

There is a nice thread at WebmasterWorld discussing the real-world risk of buying links to improve your web site's rank in Google and other search engines. Senior member, wheel, stated his thoughts on the topic:

  • paid links have been around for years.
  • they're easy to get
  • they work. people rank just on bought links, and on very competitive terms.
  • except in a very few cases, Google isn't doing anything obvious to stop them. (which would be the risk).
  • Google hasn't been doing anything obvious to stop them in years.
  • The serps are filthy with people ranking over the long term using paid links.
  • the serps are still fine. Nobody's complaining Google's serps are full of spam or junk. In fact, there's probably less complaints than there were before paid links became commonplace.

The main risk is that if Google does detect it, then you can either be kicked out of the index or suffer a major ranking deduction for a long time. I know sites that were hit by link buying penalties and they are not nice. But at the same time, how risk is it?

CainIV, another senior member at WebmasterWorld said:

However, there is risk - and when the sweep does come along, there are websites that get hit. Over a year ago two websites in one of the genres I watch got hit with paid links penalties and sat at position -51 for about one year.

Many businesses cannot afford this large of a hit.

So how risky is this practice on a 1 to 5 scale, take my poll below.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Garry Smith

04/13/2010 01:13 pm

This is a very open question and doesn't make any distinction between the guy spending 2-3k a month on PPP networks to say somebody going out and looking for paid ontopic relevant links. So I guess it all depends on your stratergy towards paid links. I guess the example to why Google doesn't do much has to be if you spend money to rank for terms, you really ain't going to be doing so unless you have a way to monetise that traffic, offering a relevant service to Googles users.


04/13/2010 01:45 pm

I think Google treats the paid ones like the services which a site offers for money.The site is doing business and this is not problem for Google. Yes there would be concern for the ones accepting links from any and all tom dick & harry but when they pay they are customers of that site.This too is business. The site content is a thing to consider though and Google works fine on this and works consistently to keep irrelevance out.


04/13/2010 01:53 pm

I hope Google do continue their war on paid links; it enables the smaller business compete with the big boys. Why should you just be able to buy your way to the top? Just like in any other industry hard work should be the way to go.

Garry Smith

04/13/2010 02:08 pm

@Jonno I think you have it the wrong way around without using paid links startups and new companies have no way to compete in organic search listings against established retailers/businesses

Tony Nguyen

04/13/2010 03:32 pm

Paid links has the same weight as other links, so over time people tend to not want to pay for them. Lately you just don't see paid links coming up in the SERPs. You see quality links coming up in the serps.

Mark Hodson

04/13/2010 05:36 pm

This doesn't seem like a satisfactory way of quantifying risk. You appear to be asking "what are the chances of getting caught?" whereas for many people the more pertinent question is, "How damaging would it be to my site if I were caught?" The chances of getting caught may be very slight, but the potential penalty so great that the risk is not worth taking on.

I Think

04/13/2010 06:02 pm

There are a few parts of the paid link situation: 1. Google treats big brand much differently and they can get away with obvious paid links. 2. Paid links should be allowed and if google went after everyone they thought was using them the SERPs would not necessarily be better. And they would probably end up with an anti-trust law suit at some point because they have an ulterior motive for having folks spend money on adwords instead of buying the link space themselves. 3. Google already pollutes the results with paid links but they get paid so it is ok? 4. Logically speaking if I have a pet sites and a guy with a dog training site offers me $100 for a link and I review his site and agree it is a valuable destination for my visitors, why should I not help offset the cost of running my site or even make a profit on this transaction. I am in the same industry as him and I reviewed his site and liked it enough to be affiliated with it so why should this link not count as a vote?

Jacob maslow

04/14/2010 11:17 am

Google will never take any action against a site based on something that their competitor or disgruntled customer does. I can't buy a bunch of scammy links hoping to get the republican party penalized. Nor can I do this to a competitor. Google does assess quality of links and sites lose rankings if google decides the links aren't quality. Google is extremely careful that you cant suffer from sabotage.

No Name

04/15/2010 06:09 pm

Although there is a higher chance that paid links will be viewed by people in search engines, studies show that web surfers are much more likely to click on organic SEO results, as opposed to paid advertisements. As an experienced Internet marketing firm for small businesses, we like to utilize both, as there are some advantages to PPC over organic SEO. But never rule out the importance of organic search results--they take more time, but they can be considerably worth it!


04/21/2010 07:48 am

Can you tell me how Google can distinct paid link from natural one? I know that Google do not open its secrets, but may be there are some tips...


04/28/2010 01:41 am

Buying links seems dishonest to me but depending on how much you are spending on them I see why some would take the risk. I just beg for my links on Twitter and I think Google likes that ;)

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