Paying for links (but not buying them)

One of the SEO issues most talked about since I have been involved the industry is the paid link. People freak out at the very idea of buying a link, anybody who does such a thing will be cast into Google hell, never to be returned right? Well, maybe, and I’m certainly not advocating the buying of links by any means, the guidelines are extremely clear on the topic. But are there ways to pay money and get links, without explicitly buying links? Yes, there are…

Here’s what Google says about the practise of buying links:

“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.”

Enough to put anybody off right? Right!

So what if you have a ton of cash burning a whole in your pocket want to put it towards you SEO but don’t want to run the risk of being nuked by the Big G? I’m glad you asked, here are some ideas….

** Disclaimer – Google’s policy on these matters can (and does) change. Although the below strategies have worked well for us without any negative issues in the past please use with caution, if it feels like you’re doing something wrong then you probably are! **

Giveaway some stuff

One of my favourite link building tactics, giveaways work exceptionally well for eCommerce sites because they often have access to potential prizes but anybody can buy an iPod (not original) or something more related to the site looking for a link.  There are 2 ways to play this one, you can either host the giveaway on your own site, and outreach for links that way, or you can offer up the prize to other sites willing to host the competition and ask them to link back to you.

Product reviews

Another great link building suggestion for eCommerce sites is to offer your products up for review by bloggers in your field. This tactic works extremely well for getting deep links into your individual product pages from related authority sites. You generally have to take a hit on shipping and the product itself but if you find the right blog to conduct a review the link and potential traffic more than make up for this. If you’re smart you can also couple the review with the giveaway idea mentioned above for more impact.

Sponsor an event

No matter what industry you are in there are always relevant events going on throughout the year (if not, put on your own!) and these can present an excellent sponsorship opportunity.  Not only can this get you links from the event website you can use the event itself as an opportunity to build relationships (for more links) and to improve the image of your brand (for even more links!).

Pay for content

Paying an industry professional to produce a killer piece of content for you is another way to build links. Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not talking about fiverr here, I’m talking about really valuable articles, video’s, images, infographics, whatever content lends itself well to your industry. If you have something of real value, people will want to link to it.

Hire an SEO

Maybe an obvious one (maybe not!) but a huge part of an SEO’s job is to build relevant high quality links on behalf of their clients. SEO’s should already know of many link building opportunities available for you and if not they have the skills and tools to quickly find them for you. They are also able to give you tried and tested strategies to maximise you link building efforts whilst staying on the right side of Google’s guidelines.

Buy someone a drink

Strictly speaking I don’t literally mean buy someone a drink (although that does work!) what I’m talking about here is building relationships. Ed Fry recently wrote a great piece on building relationships for link building and I would agree totally that relationships are absolutely crucial to getting some key links for your site. Next time you’re at an industry conference and see that blogger who makes or brakes a reputation, introduce yourself, buy them a drink, the links will come.

Send a gift

Occasionally I come across stories where the simple act of sending a gift to somebody you don’t know (or barely know) has worked wonders for building a relationship and getting links. It sounds a little creepy to buy and send a gift to someone you don’t know, maybe a lot creepy in fact, but if you’re doing it for primarily the right reasons (ie not just to get a link) then people won’t just see it as a marketing ploy. The great diet coke delivery has got to be one of the most famous examples of this in the SEO world but I’ve seen it work with hats (below), pet accessories and even a 3D model of a companies logo (that was Ed again!)

Paid Directories

People pull their face whenever directories are mentioned (I even did it when writing the heading) but paying for inclusion in some relevant high quality paid directories still does work in many areas.  Unfortunately there are tons and tons of generic paid directories which will do little for your SEO efforts also,  stick to those which are highly aligned to your business and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Buy a blog

Have you found the perfect link target but just can’t seem to get any interest from the blogger, even after trying all of the above, and more?? Well just buy the whole site! Rand recently did a great post on buying blogs as a link building strategy which puts forward the argument that buying a blog is a much better, and often cheaper alternative than buying links. Rand also points out that by doing this you’re getting more than just links, you’re getting content and access to a loyal readership.

I’m expecting to get a little bit of stick from those people who think even the slightest hint of money being involved is against Google’s policy, that’s cool. I’d also like to here more of your ideas on this topic, how can people fund their link building efforts WITHOUT buying links?

Post by Gaz Copeland

Image: jannoon028 /


  1. I completely agree that the best way to build links is to interact with people. Buying someone a drink at a conference or industry event is a great way to get personal and build links.

  2. I personally don’t think Google has ever said don’t buy links, but it does say don’t buy links to boost pagerank…

    If you own a motorbike apparel store and you can buy a link (an image advert link, say) from a motorbike forum, would Google disapprove? Nope. Why? Well, thats the kind of transaction that has gone on for centuries, ever since Joseph was paid 2 silver pieces to put an advert for wood varnish on the side of his shack.