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Should You Buy Backlinks in 2022? It Depends



Should You Buy Backlinks in 2022? It Depends

Link building is hard, time consuming, and often soul-destroying.

This is why many people turn to buying backlinks. 

But if you’ve been offered links in exchange for money, should you do it? Is it worth the price? Or will it be a waste of money?

Let’s take a look at the facts.

Why buying backlinks is risky

Google considers bought links that pass PageRank to be a link scheme that violates its Webmaster Guidelines. If you’re unfamiliar with PageRank, it’s complicated—but most bought links will pass PageRank.

If Google sees what it believes to be paid links to your site, one of two things will happen:

  1. Google will discount the links – They won’t help or hinder your search engine rankings. Google’s algorithms will discount them, and it’ll be as though they don’t exist.
  2. Google will penalize you – Google has an army of human reviewers who can impose manual actions on websites. If you get one of these, some or all of your site will not be shown in Google’s search results.


You’ll know if you have a manual action, as it’ll show up in the Manual Actions report in Google Search Console.

Neither of these are ideal situations. Either your paid backlinks will have no impact on your rankings or a negative impact on them.

Why people still buy backlinks

Even if you have great content and personalize your outreach emails, many site owners will still ask for money to place a link. This makes building links on merit extremely difficult, so it’s perfectly understandable that many SEOs would rather just buy them. 

Google also won’t give you a link-based penalty or demotion unless it thinks you have paid links.

Given that paid links often look no different to earned links, many SEOs believe they can get away with buying links—and plenty do

For example, here’s a page about the best online casinos that’s thriving in organic search: 

Estimated organic search traffic to a casino website with many (suspected) paid links

If we take a look at its backlink profile in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, it seems extremely likely to me that many of these links were bought:

Example of two suspiciously paid-looking backlinks
Neither of those anchors look natural or legit. 

If you head over to Fiverr, you’ll find packages with thousands of backlinks for just a few dollars. 

Links are cheap on Fiverr, but they won't move the needle

But the reality is that these links are unlikely to improve rankings.

For that reason, this isn’t how most SEOs buy backlinks. 

Most buy them in one of two ways:

  1. Niche edits – You ask a site owner to add a link to an existing page on their site for a fee. 
  2. Paid guest posts You write an article that contains links to your site, then pay a site owner to publish it on their website. 

A few years ago, I ran a small study to investigate the costs of these types of links. 

How much do niche edits cost?

$361.44, on average. 

I arrived at this number after reaching out to 450 sites across nine competitive niches and asking to buy a link on their sites outright (these were effectively niche edits).

Here’s the email I sent:

The email I sent asking to buy link inserts from websites


Admittedly, this isn’t the best outreach email ever. I didn’t pitch any particular resource or linking page. I also pitched the link in either existing or new content. These things might have negatively impacted the response rate.

Interestingly, only 12.6% of the sites I reached out to were willing to sell me a link.

Percentage of blogs selling link inserts

Sites in some niches also seemed more willing to sell links than others. 

Percentage of blogs selling link inserts by niche

And as you may expect, the average cost of a link correlated quite positively with the site’s Domain Rating (DR):

Average link insert cost by Domain Rating (DR)

How much do paid guest posts cost?

Much less than niche edits. $77.80, on average. 

I arrived at this number after pitching a guest post to 180 sites across the same nine niches. Interestingly, I didn’t offer to pay for placement; many site owners just sent their fees anyway.

Here’s the email I sent: 

The email I sent asking to buy guest posts from websites


I only pitched to blogs that had “write for us” pages. In other words, those looking for guest posts.

As with niche edits, most site owners didn’t respond. Of the 25.5% who did, roughly half of them asked for a fee to place a guest post.

Percentage of blogs selling guest posts

Sites in some niches were also more willing to sell guest posts than others:

Percentage of blogs selling guest posts by niche

And I also noticed that the websites selling them almost all had low DR scores:

DR distribution of blogs selling guest posts

Just keep in mind that although average costs for guest post placements were lower than niche edits, you have to produce content for them. This adds to your expenses.

Why do links cost so much?

Ranking high for competitive terms is a lucrative business. 

For example, let’s take that page listing the best online casinos I showed you earlier. It currently gets an estimated 54K monthly search visits, according to Ahrefs. And many of the links on the page are affiliate links.

Affiliate disclosure on a casino website

Given that casino affiliate programs pay out generous commissions, I’d estimate that this page easily generates monthly commissions in the high five figures. So it’s easy to see why site owners are willing to pay big bucks for links that help them rank higher. 

Over the years, site owners have caught on to the value of links for SEOs and started demanding more and more.

Unfortunately, many link buyers and sellers know next to nothing about what makes a good backlink. This has led to an industry where even low-quality site owners are able to demand high prices for mediocre links because some SEOs are willing to pay.

This is why you really need to do your due diligence if you plan to buy backlinks.

How to build links safely

Buying backlinks is out of the question if you want to build links in a “safe” and white-hat way. 

This leaves you two options:

  1. Create content that attracts links naturally
  2. Do outreach to earn links

Given that content can’t earn links unless people know about it, your best bet is to do both: create content that deserves to earn links, then do outreach to let potential linkers know it exists. 

However, you should still do your due diligence even with outreach-based link building.

Let’s go through a few questions worth asking before reaching out to a website.

1. Does the site look legit?

Based on your first impressions of the site, does it look trustworthy? Would you stick around to read the content if you landed on it?

If the answer is no, it probably isn’t worth pursuing a link from. 

In case you’re struggling to answer, here are a few telltale signs of a less-than-legit site:

  • Poor design
  • No links in the content
  • No images in the content
  • Vague or non-existent author bios

Here’s an example:

Example of a low-quality website that's probably a PBN

Although this site could be legit, it doesn’t fill me with confidence for a few reasons:

  • The logo looks like a Fiverr job.
  • The only two images on the page are stock photos with no attribution.
  • There are no links in the content.
  • The author bio is simply “Bridget.” But Bridget who? 

My guess: This website is part of a private blog network or set up for the sole purpose of selling backlinks. 

2. Does it get consistent search traffic?

If a website gets organic traffic, Google must see it as at least a somewhat valuable resource. 

To check this, plug the domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go to the Overview report. 

Estimated organic search traffic to a health website

However, relying solely on a website’s current organic traffic isn’t the best idea. 

If traffic has recently fallen off a cliff or seems to fluctuate dramatically, it may have been hit by a Google update. For that reason, it’s worth scrolling to the “Performance” graph on the Overview report in Site Explorer to see the site’s organic traffic over time. 

Here’s the graph for the site above:

A health website's traffic drop

Despite still getting an estimated 4.8K monthly search visits, you can see that it used to get much more in 2018. In fact, traffic dropped by ~95% pretty much overnight. 

If we hit the toggle to overlay Google updates on the graph, we see that the traffic drop coincided with the Core Update in August 2018. 

Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing that the traffic drop coincided with a Google Core Update

This is the update that Barry Schwartz dubbed the “medic update” because it seemed to have the most impact on health and medical sites.

To conclude, don’t bother pursuing links from sites like these—paid or otherwise.

3. Has the site been selling links?

Never pursue links from sites that are obvious link sellers because a Google penalty is probably just around the corner. At which point, the links you got from the sites will become worthless or worse.

You can usually tell if a site has been selling links by checking recent posts for oddly placed links with lucrative keywords in their anchors.

Here’s an example: 

Example of unnatural links

Both of those links are quite unnatural, have exact-match anchors, and lead to commercial pages on the same website.

An often faster way to do this is to check the Outgoing Link Anchors report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer for followed external links with odd anchors. 

Examples of unnatural outbound link anchors via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

4. Has the site been buying links?

If there’s obvious evidence of a link prospect buying links, it’s yet another reason to avoid pursuing links from that site. After all, it could get penalized for buying links at any point. 

To check, use the Anchors report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to look for followed links with unnatural anchors to its homepage.

Here’s an example of a site with many suspicious links:

Examples of unnatural inbound link anchors via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

If you’re unsure whether an anchor is suspicious or not, hit the caret in the “Links to target” column to see its context:

Example of a suspicious link

In this case, I’d say the link looks suspiciously like a paid one because of the exact-match anchor text

5. Are you proposing a useful link?

Making sure this is the case comes down to two things:

  1. Creating unique and valuable content
  2. Pitching contextually useful opportunities

For example, this very article contains unique data on the cost of buying backlinks. That’s valuable information for most SEOs. But this doesn’t mean we should pitch to every SEO article on the web. We need to look for contextual opportunities where our link will add value. 

Here’s an example:

Example of a potential link building opportunity

This article already advises its readers not to buy backlinks because they’re often irrelevant, of low quality, and come from scammers. But it doesn’t say anything about the high costs of buying links.

In my opinion, this will be a useful addition to the page (with our post linked as the source).

Final thoughts

Buying links is risky. Very risky. 

Unless you fully understand and accept the risks of link buying, this SEO tactic shouldn’t even be a consideration. It’s certainly not something I’d recommend to legitimate business owners whose livelihoods rely on their Google rankings.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter

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LinkedIn Rolls Out 4 Updates For Business Pages



LinkedIn Rolls Out 4 Updates For Business Pages

LinkedIn is rolling out an array of new features for business pages.

These updates can help you showcase your business’s brand identity, values, and offerings while utilizing advanced publishing and community-building tools.

Learn how these innovative features can enhance your LinkedIn marketing efforts.

1. Update To Scheduled Posts

One of the new features lets you plan your business page posts up to three months ahead for steady interaction with followers.

Screenshot from: LinkedIn, March 2023.

Available now on desktop, this feature will come to mobile soon.

2. Audio Events

LinkedIn is introducing live, audio-only discussions, eliminating reliance on external broadcasting applications.

LinkedIn Rolls Out 4 Updates For Business PagesScreenshot from: LinkedIn, March 2023.

This versatile, casual approach fosters audience connections and can position your organization as an industry authority.

Listeners can engage in the discussion through emojis and request to speak if they wish to contribute verbally.

3. Automatic Job Posting

For businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees, LinkedIn now offers an automatic job posting feature.

LinkedIn Rolls Out 4 Updates For Business PagesScreenshot from: LinkedIn, March 2023.

Once activated, the platform will automatically share one open role daily as a pre-scheduled post. The posts can be edited after they’re shared.

The feature excludes what LinkedIn categorizes as “basic jobs.”

4. Following Pages As A Page

LinkedIn Pages can now follow other Pages, making it easier to join chats related to your field with a feed dedicated to content from the businesses you’re following.

This feature aims to help businesses work together, share ideas, and create strong online communities of professionals.

In Summary

LinkedIn’s latest features for business pages offer new options to share content, connect with people, attract new talent, and keep up with industry chatter.

By leveraging these tools, you can improve your B2B marketing efforts and strengthen your online presence.

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Top 3 Ways To Build Authority By Going Beyond Just Link Building



Top 3 Ways To Build Authority By Going Beyond Just Link Building

You want your online business to thrive. One of the best ways to do this is to establish website authority – and the key to successful authority building is to increase trust with your audience.

With the rise of AI tools, you must publish high-quality content that stands out from your competition, who may be using tools like ChatGPT.

On March 15, I moderated a webinar with Sabrina Hipps, VP of Partner Development, and Jeremy Rivera, Director of Content Analysis at CopyPress.

Hipps and Rivera demonstrated how content promotion, link building, and authentic subject matter expertise could help you rank higher on SERPs and elevate your online authority.

Here’s a summary of the webinar. To access the entire presentation, complete the form.

1. Create Unique Content With First-Hand Experience – Avoid AI, The “Fancy Parrot”

In the world of content creation, where good content creators are showing their expertise, there are certain key things AI can’t do.

  • AI can’t have first-person experience. They can’t think for themselves the same way humans can.
  • If the AI follows a generative model, and it can’t yet distinguish the truth. If you fact-check some of the information, you’ll find it doesn’t exist.

The counter to AI content is unique content that shows this truth, expertise, and first-hand experience.

[Learn how this helps build your authority] Instantly access the webinar →

2. Highlight Quality Authorship

High-quality content encompasses everything from accuracy and mistake-free writing to clearly displaying expertise.

Ensure Your Content Is Error-Free

In many cases, low-quality content, or posts with false information and repetitive issues, can lead to being devalued on SERPs or accidentally containing duplicate content.

Image created by CopyPress, March 2023

Add More “E” To EAT – Experience

The Issue: To combat low-quality SERPs, Google seeks first-hand experience.

The Solution: Invite a subject matter expert to review the content, check for factual inaccuracies, and add that extra layer of expertise to the content.

Bridge The Write ≠ Expertise Gap

The Issue: It’s important to recognize that the ability to write is not synonymous with expertise; just because someone can write doesn’t mean they are accurate or a subject matter expert.

The Solution: Try pairing a subject matter expert with a strong writer who can interview and interject quotes helps build better content.

Ask Questions

The Issue: Sometimes, you may not have the in-house subject matter experts you need for a piece of content.

The Solution: Conduct outreach to gather expertise to boost your content quality. First, consider what your audience wants to know. Then, generate three to ten questions to ask a professional.

[Learn a tactic that works] Instantly access the webinar →

Tap Social Media

The Issue: Where do you find the professionals you need to interview for your next piece of high-expertise content?

The Solution: With so many experts creating on social media, it’s a great platform to leverage. Here are essential outreach steps you can do:

  • Observe.
  • Participate.
  • Engage.
  • Network.

Doing this can also be considered link-building in another sense. Because link building is marketing, and marketing is about building relationships.

Find Allies Who Are Also Targeting Your Audience

Combining outreach efforts with the Nexus approach helps you create relationships and connections beyond just the link.

[Learn what the Nexus approach is] Instantly access the webinar →

3. Use Other Authority Builders, In Addition To Links

One way to increase brand queries is through influencers, knowledge panel (which becomes part of a brand’s search results), and mentions.

To increase mentions:

  • Use HARO & Terkel.
  • Publish unique industry data.
  • Do something distinctive that stands out.
  • Connect with publishers with significant traffic, not for links but for visibility & mentions.
  • Leverage influencers and industry experts.

[BONUS: Get a step-by-step branded keyword strategy] Instantly access the webinar →

At the end of the day, when you publish unique, relevant, and authoritative content, it gets referenced and cited by others.

[Slides] Discover The Top 3 Ways To Build Authority By Going Beyond Just Link Building

Here’s the presentation:

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

Google Shopping: 5 Ways AI Can Increase Ecommerce Sales and Profit

Join Malin Blomberg, CEO of Bidbrain and Google Shopping expert, as she shares the best hacks for digital marketers and ecommerce business owners to maximize conversion value.

Image Credits:

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Microsoft Introduces Category-Based Targeting For Search Ads



Microsoft Introduces Category-Based Targeting For Search Ads

Microsoft has unveiled a new approach to search advertising that aims to help businesses more effectively reach their target audiences in the retail media space.

This innovative category-based targeting solution aims to address the limitations of traditional keyword targeting while leveraging the power of keywords to optimize campaign performance.

Moving Beyond Keyword Targeting

Although keyword targeting has been a cornerstone of search advertising for years, it has limitations.

By focusing solely on keyword targeting, advertisers may miss out on valuable opportunities to promote their products, which can negatively impact a campaign’s performance and limit revenue potential.

Retailers and advertisers are beginning to realize that shoppers browse digital aisles on retailer websites rather than solely searching for specific products using keywords.

As a result, strategies limited to keyword targeting don’t adequately address their needs.

Unlocking The Power Of Category-Based Targeting

Microsoft’s new solution targets shoppers based on their browsing categories, utilizing keywords to boost campaign bids.

This approach allows advertisers to capitalize on both audience behaviors, resulting in a stronger performance.

By boosting bids with keywords, advertisers can increase their chances of converting purchase intent into sales.

Retailers can optimize the site experience for shoppers through product taxonomy, making it easier for customers to find what they want.

Microsoft PromoteIQ’s AI-driven algorithms can then deliver more relevant ads by layering keywords as a booster in addition to categories.

This new approach simplifies campaign management for advertisers, as they only need to test and retain a few high-performing keywords.

For retailers, this efficiency translates into increased demand.

Proven Results: Higher CTR & RPM

Tests have shown that this unique solution delivers impressive results.

Campaigns that utilize category-based targeting and boost bids by keywords have a 320% higher click-through rate (CTR) than campaigns without keyword bid boosting.

Retailers also benefit from this approach, achieving 8x higher revenue per thousand impressions (RPM).

The Future Of Search Advertising?

Microsoft PromoteIQ’s new category-based targeting solution is a significant shift in search advertising.

By addressing the limitations of traditional keyword targeting and maximizing the value of both audience behaviors, this innovative approach can potentially improve performance for advertisers and retailers alike.

As the advertising landscape continues to evolve, embracing solutions like this is crucial for staying ahead and delivering an exceptional shopping experience for customers.

Featured Image: sockagphoto/Shutterstock

Source: Microsoft

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