Buying & Selling Links

Dec 6, 2006 - 1:24 pm 0 by
Filed Under SES Chicago 2006

This session is moderated by Danny Sullivan, who runs Calafia Consulting and Search Engine Land.

Danny kicks off by welcoming everyone to the session which covers the process and ethics behind buying and selling links for SEO and/or traffic reasons. He asks the audience whether anyone in the audience has bought links, a nervous crowd hesitates before putting up their hands.

Patrick Gavin from Text Link Ads is up first, starting off with mentioning the Link Mix - Natural Links, Directories, Link Buying, Reciprocal Linking and Link Bait. The first thing to look at when thinking of buying links from a site, is it's theme. You want to purchase for links on a site which has the same or complimentary theme. You can use Google PageRank to gage the real link value and worth of a site, although a new popular blog could have no backlinks although is very important. Patrick recommends avoiding the really high PageRank sites, as it can stand out amongst your lower PR links. Relevancy and mid-PR sites are the best properties to buy linkage from. Alexa is another general guide to whether there is any traffic going to the site. If a site is not on Alexa or has a 2,000,000+ rank, its probably not worth buying links from. The location of where a link is placed on the site is also important for not only the engines but also for direct traffic. You can use the Google SERP heat maps to see where people look when they visit the site. A good link could be located on the top right of a page, and using a varied selection of link text on each site purchased from. You should also check that the link that you've purchased is actually hardcoded and not javascript, plus also does not use a "nofollow" Meta Tag, robots.txt or href attribute. It's important to also look at what direct traffic you gain from each link via your Web Analytics package, possibly dividing the link cost by the number of unique visitors clicking through. Think Natural - make sure that links look as natural as possible, use different link text, from sites on different IPs/networks. To help increase the rank and worth of your individual product pages, use the paid links to point over to these (where it's harder to gain natural links).

Eric Ward is up next and explains that he's not against buying links, although he buys text link ads for traffic and not SEO. Paid links don't have to be just traditional style websites, look at other alternatives such as blogs. offers an advertising platform purely based on blogs with niche and targeted audiences. E-zines (email/web magazines and newsletters) may not help your PageRank although could target the perfect demographic for you or your clients. Another format worth looking at is PDF documents published online, the search engines still count the links and index the pages - so why not get a link in these documents. Content networks such as Yahoo's Top Sites and Forbes Best of the Web list top websites which can't pay for placement, although a PR company could lobby for your website to be included. Eric then mentions that he now has his own newsletter with advice on links and PR, and thanks Danny for his contributions to the industry.

Thomas Bindl then takes the stand to discuss how to detect bad paid links and making sure that you get value for money from your links. He starts off by showing a Fake PR9 website and why its not always trustworthy. The example German domain is using cloaking to fool the engines into think that it's the same site as Disney. Going into some links which would not parse PageRank, Thomas first mentions JavaScript links which appear to genuine text links although actually use JS which search engines don't follow. Redirects are also use by many sites (mostly for tracking and conversion monitoring) and search engines rarely follow them. Even a real static link could be worthless, as it may contain a "nofollow" attribute. Before buying a link, visit their robots.txt file (found in the root folder) as it may be disallowing a section of the site where your link exists. Some sites use comment tags () around links so that automated link checkers see the links although the search engines or users don't see them. Take a look at the Google Cache of the page which you're looking to get a link from, to make sure that the meta tags or links don't change when viewed by the engines. You can also use the WayBackMachine on to check the history of the site and how long links tend to stay on the site. Check other paid links on the site and see if their PageRank has increased or benefited, see how long their links existed and whether there's a big rotation of sponsored links. What can happen to me if I buy links? - Your site can get kicked off the Search Engines; Your ranking is 30 positions worse (a relatively new Google penalty); You don't parse PageRank to sites which you link to.

These posts may have spelling and grammar issues. These are session notes, written quickly and posted immediately after the session has been completed. Please excuse any grammar or spelling issues with session posts.


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