The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Should I Buy Backlinks for SEO?

February 9, 2024

Laura Berry

Link-building is arguably one of the most difficult areas of SEO. Where SEO is considered the dark magic of marketing, we’re the twilight zone.

Google’s PageRank of the 90’s pitted websites against each other for rankings based on the number of inbound site links. This saw people building backlinks anywhere and everywhere.

Many Google updates later and we’ve moved from quantity to quality. Social media, forums and open blogs no longer shift the dial. This isn’t a bad thing, far from it. But it has made building backlinks inevitably harder. By its very nature, the highest of value are those on websites that have good metrics and don’t tend to link out.

This being the case, it’s not hard to see why there are those still out there buying backlinks. In fact, it feels increasingly common to see SEOs actively promoting it.

Should You Buy Backlinks for SEO?

The short answer? No. I could talk about Google’s guidelines, manual penalties against your website and how high risk this all is (and I will). But first, I want to start with what makes a link valuable.

When you begin to look at what makes a good link, it becomes clear why a website willing to accept payment for such a service isn’t valuable to your SEO campaign.

What Makes a Good Backlink?

There are many factors that go into considering an opportunity for backlinking. At Fibre, we have an all-round score that we use to analyse visible and behind-the-scenes factors.

Some quantitative measures that go into this include:

  • DA – Domain authority is a basic measure of a website’s value, but it can be artificially inflated
  • TF – Trust Flow is a basic measure of a website’s trustworthiness. Alongside DA, it can indicate ranking manipulation
  • Traffic – The number of sessions a website receives


There are also negative qualitative properties to consider:

  • Evidence of links coming from a single IP, known as ‘PBNs’
  • Outbound links with heavily commercial anchors, known as ‘exact match’
  • Websites with a high volume of outbound links
  • Whether it’s a domain one can simply set up e.g., Blogspot
  • Low/no relevancy to the target website
  • No SSL certification

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything we consider. But I hope for those of you considering buying backlinks, it gives you pause for thought.

The Impact of a Poor Backlink Profile

If we take a website I reviewed recently as an example, you can see this in action.

An example of a website's SEO metrics, including DA, TF, and traffic

 

 

 

 

 

Their metrics look great right? But let’s dig deeper.

  • Evidence of PBN linking with 280,000+ backlinks from less than 2,000 referrers (sure enough, an even deeper dive reveals the same IP used in many instances)
  • Nonsensical anchors used to direct inbound links
  • Their traffic halved following the April 2023 update

 

Our proprietary score represents this devaluation, awarding it a 25.

What Happens if You Buy Backlinks for SEO?

Google’s guidelines make it very clear that buying backlinks is a no-no, considering it ‘link spam’.

Google's guidelines on buying backlinks

It’s quite telling that in the same list of poor practices, they include link exchanges (“I’ll link to you, if you’ll link to me”), directory/bookmark site links, and forum comments. It makes it very clear how much Google values paid for backlinks!

‘Auto-disavowing’

At best, Google will disregard any links that look like spam. This may mean that your rankings won’t be impacted… but it also means you’re throwing money down the drain by buying backlinks for SEO.

Manual Penalties

If Google notice that you violate their policies, they can issue a manual action. A penalty from Google is no joke. It could mean your entire website disappears from search results overnight (rare, but possible!)

As with a recent case on Twitter/X, it can and does happen when links aren’t bought – they just look it. Those that build links that Google deem spam aren’t safe from the hammer.

A tweet about a Google manual action penaltyA tweet about guest posting

How to Build High-Quality Backlinks

Quality over quantity is a winning link-building strategy. Focus on relevant, natural links to build a backlink profile that drives your SEO.

And if you’re unable to do it yourself, hire us 😉

Increase your traffic, gain new customers, and dominate the search results with a fully managed SEO service.

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