#9 - Buying links: How to tell if a link is paid?
..and should you buy them? 👀
Someone asked me how to tell if a website accepts paid guest posts, as they bought completely “white hat” links from a service and thinks that the service may just be paying for links.
Here's the first three things I do to know whether a site (probably) sells links:
Enter the domain into site: operator in Google with "casino", "slots" or another similar term.
Gambling is lucrative & many sites will accept paid links at a higher rate ($). If a site has pages about casinos, roulette or something of this nature, it likely sells links.
Check to see if there’s drastically different topics on site.
When you find a site that talks about money, parenting, travel, pets and pretty much anything, there's a real good chance it's selling links to whoever wants them - no matter the niche (though more analysis is needed).
Take a closer look at the posts & and judge whether the outbound link seems natural.
Often, you'll find a post that has 5+ outbound links. If the site links to Wikipedia, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider & CryptoInsider23234(.)com, the odd one out is probably paid.
This is usually the best way to tell if a link is paid, and over time after analyzing a lot of different links, you’ll be able to determine which ones are paid and which ones aren’t (for the most part!). But doing all of these steps together is a good idea.
How does this all look together?
Well, let's do it with the same site.
First, enter the site into Google with the site: operator and a term like Insurance (it doesn't always have to be gambling; you can use other terms like insurance, pharmacy, tutor or other competitive niches where paying for links is standard).
Second, let's look at the most recent posts on the site.
Wimbledon, Property Sales, Gambling, Crypto and Trading all on a site called Programming Insider? A bit fishy 🐟 🤔.
Third, look at the posts themselves and where they're linking to.
Most of the time, you'll be able to tell whether there's something odd about the post or the link itself. Browsing through the other recent posts on the site can give you an indication of whether the site sells links.
If you have Ahrefs, you can quickly check the sites that it links to by entering the domain and going to Outgoing Links > Linked domains! (or Semrush equivalent 😎).
These kinds of blatantly obvious cheap sites mentioned above that accept paid posts CAN help increase rankings short term, but personally I'm not convinced on them long term.
Many link building services use them though. So if you do decide to use one, hopefully this helps you determine whether they're paying for links whilst saying that they’re “white hat” or not 😀.
So, should you build & buy links? 🤔
Should you be building links to your niche site? In my opinion yes, but if people don’t want to AND they can make it work without them, then that’s their prerogative 😀.
However, even if you’re not building links, analysing link profiles can be pretty useful, as you’ll be able to work out whether your competitors are actively building links.
If you have the best article in the SERPs that answers Google’s query sufficiently but you’re not ranking first, there’s a good chance that links is the reason - both external backlinks from other sites, but also your own internal links between pages too.
You can definitely have success without building links at all, but the whole method of making it work without links is based around targeting low competition keywords - which is essentially navigating around the high authority sites that have a lot of links.
Plus, most of the time when people say they “don’t build links”, you check their backlink profile they are doing something that I personally consider to be link-building;
Podcasting is known as one of the best ways to build links
Creating statistics pages is also an amazing way to “passively” build links
HARO is definitely link building lol
Even creating amazing content that people will link to can be considered link building, though I’m not going to argue over definitions 🤪.
My advice is always to test things out, find a method that works for you consistently and keep doing it (for me that’s using old domains and websites with links already, as I cba building them!).
Should you pay for links?
Personally, I will still pay for some links on occasion - but not on sites like the ones above 😂.
I would say my average link cost is $2-300 and that’s directly with the site, not via a service (though I’ll always ask for an edit into an old post first to cut costs!).
99% of the time for beginners I recommend starting with something like HARO, as you're just building branded links to the homepage and not paying anything for them.
This is because many beginners either;
want to use a ton of exact match anchor text with cheap guest posts, which is a recipe for disaster IMO 📉
outsource to a link-building service, pay $2000 and get a load of shit links in return
All of these things can be true;
Building high quality links isn’t easy, you either pay with effort or $
If you do outreach then a decent % of sites will ask for cash payment
There are plenty of awful link building services out there that will happily take your money and deliver garbage
Backlinks are a big part of Google’s algorithms
You can have success without building links
IME websites with more backlinks tend to weather storms (updates) better
Paying for links is blatantly going against Google’s wishes
Paying for links is still pretty common amongst affiliates, because it works and many people don’t care what Google thinks
As with pretty much anything (like Display vs Affiliate vs E-Commerce), every approach has its pros and cons.
Test things out and make your own mind up.
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