Should You Pay For Backlinks?

Should You Pay For Backlinks?

Should You Pay For Backlinks?

Episode 026

It’s the first episode back for 2022 and we’re jumping straight into a controversial topic in SEO – should you pay for backlinks?
Michael and Arthur give their thoughts on the topic and ideas on when you should and shouldn’t pay for backlinks – do you agree?

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Local Digital  0:04
It’s time for the SEO show where a couple of nerds talk search engine optimization, so you can learn to compete in Google and grow your business online. Now, here’s your host, Michael and Arthur.

Arthur  0:23
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the SEO show. The first one for 2022. As always, I’m here with Michael. Hey, yawn. Yeah, I’m excited to be back. How are you going?

Michael  0:34
I’m pretty good. Yeah, you the new and improved 2022 version of Arthur,

Arthur  0:37
I wouldn’t say improved on you.

Michael  0:40
I’m just the 2022 version of slightly older and less improved.

Arthur  0:44
I wouldn’t say less, I’d say the same. Okay. Well, not much has changed since last month.

Michael  0:50
Yeah, six, six weeks. So sad. It’s been I think, since we did it. We we did say at the end of last year, and I ever said that we’d be back. You know, mid Gen. And here we are. Yeah. And early Feb. But anyway, you know what, in Australia? We’ve been back at work. Yes, but it really officially kicks off after Australia Day, which was two days ago. So now we can get stuck into things. It’s official. Let’s do it. And we’re going to get stuck in because we got to be big topic today. Your favourite topic?

Arthur  1:20
One of what

Michael  1:23
my favourite in general is SEO. Just love talking SEO. But then within SEO link building Link building is a big topic. And within the topic of link building a big topic is

Arthur  1:34
should you pay for backlinks? Yes. Cool.

Michael  1:38
That’s done.

Arthur  1:40
We’ll see you next week.

Michael  1:41
Hope you got some value out of that. But look, should you pay for backlinks? It is a loaded question in the SEO world. Because, well, let’s say first Google don’t want you paying for links. And they make that clear. And they put propaganda, so to speak out there in the world to say that you shouldn’t pay for links. Then you have like agencies, muddying the waters, some will say we don’t like build No, we don’t that’s the right way to do it. Or others will say we only get free links. We don’t pay for links. And then you have the reality of the way the world really is. Exactly. Which is you know, in some occasions, you should be paying for links other occasions. You shouldn’t be. Yeah, definitely. So we’ll jump into that today and chat about when you should be paying for them when you shouldn’t. What are your thoughts on that topic? So

Arthur  2:27
what do you want to start? Why you shouldn’t pay for links? Or

Michael  2:31
maybe I’ll let’s start with why people do pay for links. Okay, lens. And let’s have an honest chat about the landscape when it comes to link building. And that is, if you own a website now, like a good website. When I say good, it means it has links. It’s ranking Google, it gets traffic, you know, you have readers, it’s a real website,

Arthur  2:52
a real blog, the real Yeah, site that people actually visit. Yeah, yeah,

Michael  2:55
you would have been over the last five years or however long you’ve run it. Harassed by people trying to buy links from you. So you know, your website’s worth something you’ve chances are you’ve already sold stuff before you’ve sold links, you’ve been given money for a link. So you know if that’s valuable. So when you’re trying to link build, that’s the world that you’re going out into these website owners expect to be paid, because they’ve been paid many times before. So when people say, you know, any free Link building is the way to do it. You pretty much cutting off the vast majority of websites out there, because if you know you’ve been paid for your site before, and that it’s valuable to other people for SEO purposes, you’re not just going to give it to them for free, because they asked for it.

Arthur  3:39
I mean, why would you? Why would you go out of your way to do something for free? Yeah,

Michael  3:43
you wouldn’t. That’s not even just doing something, you know, the value that you’re giving to them? Absolutely. So that’s the world that we’re all working in. If we’re trying to do SEO. That’s the sort of baseline when you wouldn’t pay for links, in my opinion, is when you big if you’re a big brand.

Arthur  4:00
Yeah. If you can acquire links naturally. Hmm. So if you’re like you said a big brand like David Jones, or, you know, Cogan, any, any big website that gets links naturally from PR websites, news websites, just websites in general

Michael  4:16
Hmm. Or you are interesting enough that that PR angle works, right? Like, sure. You got to be like, because PR is hard, like people say just do some PR. Like you’ve got to have an angle or some sort of hook that’s going to make it interesting for these journalists to write about LinkedIn.

Arthur  4:32
Yeah, you need to know the right people as well. Mm hmm.

Michael  4:35
Like, let’s, let’s say you’re a accountant. You’re not getting payoff? No, not unless you

Arthur  4:42
do something incredible. That will change the world. One’s gonna care about it.

Michael  4:47
Exactly. So there might be one or two outliers that do that. Then there are 1000s of others that want to rank. So then they can’t rely on just accumulating free links, but like a big tech brand, like a startup or something that’s getting pressed because they’ve taken on heaps of funding or they’ve got a cool product. Yes, they can get links that way free of charge. Yep. The other way is, I guess, directories 2.0. citations, free

Arthur  5:13
free links. Yeah, that you always like to say don’t move the needle. Yeah, which they don’t know, they’re good as a like a foundation if you’re starting from scratch, but they’re not going to, you know, put you to the top of Google

Michael  5:26
know. So let’s say you’re not a big brand, you’re just a business, you’re a professional service business, and you want to rank in Google, you’re gonna need links. Google says not to pay for links. You’re talking to a few agencies, some are saying, we don’t pay for links, you just, you know, we go out and try and get them for you. And we’ll report on it. Others might be upfront and say, Yes, we pay for links. It’s a bit of a minefield, like what do you believe? What do you go with? What’s the right approach?

Arthur  5:58
Yeah, I personally, I think the agencies that say they don’t buy links will probably still buy links. They’re just trying to mask the fact that they’re buying links, because they’re worried that potential clients might know that Google, basically, and the guideline says you shouldn’t be buying links. So it might be a red flag for them. So they just flat out lie down to the client. Yeah.

Michael  6:19
The other thing they might do is run a private blog network, you know, like, they own the websites themselves, and then build links that way and link of them yeah, great for the agency, because their costs are low. Because we’ll get to the cost of link building, like buying links in a minute. And they control the whole thing. But that too, is against Google’s guidelines. My operating a network of seven more so yeah. So um, yeah, if you coming back to that example of a professional service business, wanting to rank on the first page, your competitors all have 400 backlinks, you have 200. You can do all your on site, you can do your technical, but you do need to blink build, the algorithm still works this way. I know things like, you know, matching intent of the search, and then the content and all that’s important, but links are also a vital, massive aspect of it. The business in that scenario does need to build links. And we find that for a business like that, to do it at scale, to close the gap between them and the competitors each month, the easiest way is going to be to go out and pay website owners who know their websites valuable directly for the link. Yep. That’s sort of unavoidable.

Arthur  7:28
No. I mean, yeah, we’ve done this for a long time. And yeah, I can, it’s hard to count how many times we’ve gotten a free link. It’s it’s very hard. You have to have the right client, you know, the right brand. Right Angle, a little bit of luck. A little bit of luck. A lot of time. So yeah, if you’re, if you’re just a small service business, there’s no way it’s scalable.

Michael  7:49
Yeah. So really, it’s inevitable that you pay. The better quality aside is the more expensive it will be generally speaking, yeah. Some website owners don’t truly know the value of their sites, others dramatically overestimate the value of their site. But we find typically a link will cost anywhere between, let’s say, 200, AUD to 1000 plus plus, yeah. So that’s one link from one domain. And you need to go out and get 10 2050 100 of them. Yeah. So that’s sort of where if you’re working, it is tough, because let’s take a step back. It does rely on your risk appetite as well risk versus reward, but profile is a business. But some people will be terrified of doing any form of paid link building because it’s against Google’s guidelines. And they’ll stick to on site and sort of not ranking. Basically, other people will be like, I don’t care what you do. I just want to rank, you know. So if everyone else is doing that, and that’s the way the world works, then I’m going to be doing it. So you do need to be as long as you’re going into it as a business owner with your eyes open that, yes, I’m going to invest X amount per month in paid links. I’m going to get why return in terms of number of links, and I’m okay with that. That sort of, you know, I know that ranking. I’m going to get all these leads and sales, so it’s worth doing on the off chance that something happens with the penalty.

Arthur  9:09
Yeah, I like that you said off chance. Because it’s been a very long time since I’ve personally seen a client’s website or anyone’s website be penalised. I feel like going all the days where your whole site will be wiped from the search results. Because I remember when I first started doing SEO, maybe 2012 2013 sites will get penalised and would be completely removed. Yeah. And it was a pain in the ass for lack of better words to try to get that penalty removed. Yeah, I remember, you know, situations back in the day where you’d have to keep manually requesting Google to review it could take weeks longer. And you might find that you know, it’s still not good enough and you still have to go and disavow more links so

Michael  9:50
it make you crawl across broken Yeah, like sort of beg and plead to

Arthur  9:53
get pretty much Yeah, and I look maybe it’s luck. Maybe it’s just because we’re great SEO is but it hasn’t happened. For one, yep. So, yeah,

Michael  10:03
a lot of the stuff in SEO like link building, we’re gonna say something

Arthur  10:07
that was just gonna say I find that the risk, the reward outweighs the risk by

Michael  10:12
far. Yes, risk risk. Yeah, that was a whiff. They pretty light generally whisks. Yes, that um, it it does like him were saying things like stuff that used to happen back in the day, like, if you over optimise your anchor text profile. Yeah, you could be like, algorithmically penalised, or sort of manually penalised. Now, in a lot of verticals we go into we’re just seem super aggressive. Like just heroes. Yeah. exact match anchor text, link building on site set, obviously, link building sites. Yeah. And no punishment or problems for years. Well, for now, yeah. For now. That is the caveat. Yeah, things always change. But you know, if you can get a couple of years of like, super strong rankings and traffic and sales in that row on the back of it. Problem is if you grant and then I think scale up and then yeah, it’s backwards.

Arthur  10:59
I think the problem is, it’s too hard for Google to algorithmically figure out whether links are real link was like something that’s been purchased at scale. So unless they’re manually going through and finding footprints or, you know, looking at websites to see if, you know, looking at the backlink profile to see if they actually are I want to try and say sorry, basically, manipulating the search results by buying links. Ever

Michael  11:26
because a human Yeah, that’s.

Arthur  11:28
I lost my video camera beaten. Me.

Michael  11:31
Yeah, we’re actually recording video footage. That’s what we should have spoken about that at the start. Yeah, New Year 20. For the first time, not just our voices, you’re here. It’s our faces. You’re currently looking around at the cameras in here. It’s a bit distracting, but it’s like, yeah, you’ll get you’ll get used to it. Yeah. So let’s assume that that’s the kind of data we need to assume because we’re seeing it out there in the world. Coming back to the topic, should you buy links? In my opinion, it’s unavoidable. Yeah. And in most cases, you probably should, because your competitors are anyone ranking in any sort of competitive space, generally would be if you’re working with an agency, or a link building service, normally there, they should be upfront. Well, like, let me rephrase that. A link building service, if you’re investing money with them each month, you’re normally going to be charged per link price. And you know what you’re getting back by way of links, but if you’re working with an agency, where they say they don’t build links, and you know, they’ve got their own tactics and approaches, and they do it all in house, but they don’t actually pay and blah, blah, blah. You don’t really know what’s going on there. I kind of liked the appeal of transparency, transparency, and clear link building budgets. So going into it, like if if you are comfortable with paying for links and using that as part of your SEO campaign? Yes. Which we would say you should be if you really want to get results. Yeah.

Arthur  12:55
I mean, would we work with someone that wouldn’t want to do link building? If we knew that we wouldn’t be able to get the results without doing it? I mean, that’s, I

Michael  13:02
know, well, that probably sounds like an ethical thing, right? Like, yeah, we could take your money each month just to write some blog

Arthur  13:06
posts for you, that’s not going to do anything. So yeah, we wouldn’t be working with them in the first place. Yep.

Michael  13:10
And we regularly do send out that like at our agency, we have a minimum investment that you’re going to need to spend each month for, it’s even worth working with us. And that gives enough budget to do everything we need to do. And if you can’t afford to invest that, then you probably shouldn’t work with any agency, because the ones that do take your money again, it’d be doing nothing, nothing or just blood purse or nothing, probably nothing. And on the link building, to me going out and building links, paid links, but on quality sites, because there’s so many metrics that you look at for quality. Like, as we’ve said, in previous episodes, there’s over 20 Different things that we’ll run every site through before we decide if we want to link from it. Yep, paid links on them is going to be much better than a really cheap and nasty agency building a the PBN links are just spun junk, crappy, cheap things. And that is the option like if you spending 500 bucks a month in Seo 1000 1500? You’re not going to get very far because as we said before, links on good sites, anywhere from 200 to 1000 bucks per link. Yeah. So yeah, for me, the paid links and quality sites is better than that bottom of the barrel, low end of the range

Arthur  14:21
there. I think it also comes back to the client. And you know whether or not they understand how link building works, because, you know, you might be pitching to a client, and the last how many links we build a month you tell them for? And then they’ll get back to you and say, Oh, this other agency said they’ll do 20 links per month. Yeah. So you know, they don’t understand the value of link building what a good link is not realising that the links that the other agencies building are probably free directory links or, you know, the links that are going to move the needle so to speak. So making sure that the client understands this at the start of the campaign when you’re pitching to them that you know, it’s definitely quality over quantity When it comes to link building,

Michael  15:02
and so what is the quality link? We’ve covered that in other episodes, but for mine, like the ones that you’re paying, it’s a website’s gonna be run by a person, or maybe it’s run by a company, or a publishing brand or something like that. They might have a couple of authors or something like that. But they’re real brand. They’ve been around years. They have social profiles, they have traffic to their site, they have rankings themselves in Google, they themselves have a lot of links. It’s just a real website. Yeah, that is a good link. And we do this all day, every day, we have a whole team that deal with publishing, you know, publishers, website owners, when you reach out to them, you’re dealing with the person, you’re talking to them. And it’s like a business deal. Exactly. Every little link acquired is a little mini business deal where you sort of talk to them, you pitch the content you want to put on there and negotiate back and forth. And you can’t do that for cheap. You just know, think about it and

Arthur  15:57
business owner. Exactly. And also, I’m glad you touched on that, because that’s another thing that you kind of factor into the cost of Link building is the time it takes link builders to actually find these sites, get in touch with the blog owners or webmasters, and then start that conversation and probably have, you know, a dozen back and forth emails, before any content is even placed on the site. That takes time, you know. So doing that at scale takes a lot of time. Yeah. And that’s something a lot of people probably don’t think about when you know, when you’re sending a report. Yeah. And they see for links, or Yeah, I can understand on face value, they’re probably scratching their head saying, Oh, this is what I paid two grand for. But they don’t understand everything that’s going on behind the scenes to get that link live.

Michael  16:39
Yeah. And conversely, they might not think, you know, they might just see dollars and say, Well, this one’s 500 bucks, I’m gonna go with this. And not even think about it. Well, okay, they’re out there, talking to website owners and trying to get stuff placed on a website that the owner knows is valuable. How can it be 500? Like, am I getting good links for this? If you can’t be? So I guess you need to sort of look at it through the lens, though that lens like both sides, ends of the spectrum.

Arthur  17:07
I guess that’s where the transparency comes into place where, like you said, you know, being upfront and letting, letting them know, we do pay for links. And this is what’s involved from, you know, finding the sites, and writing the content. And, you know, the publishing fees involved.

Michael  17:22
We’re not even like, I guess it’s better just need to know going into it. That, of course, that they could pay for links. Yeah, well, I could fit your risk profile like this, the stuff that should be fleshed out with you, when you first start talking to an agency. Yeah. And they’re proposing a strategy. If you want to go the free route. Sure. But it’s going to take longer, you might get less things. It’s more up and down, like sporadic links that you do get. You don’t have as much control over things like anchor text and the pages that it’s linking to. And you have these tactics like PR like, are you interesting, are you just specialising in, like commercial litigation? If so, what’s the PR angle? So there’s that? And then the paid side is Yep, you can go out and pay for them scanner, shortcut everything. But it’s gonna cost X amount per link to do it properly. And there is the, I guess, the elephant in the room that Google doesn’t want you to do that. Yeah. Okay. That’s what Google wants. Yeah. Because, really, there’s what Google wants and what they reward and they reward sites with lots of links. Yeah. Yeah. But as long as that’s made clear, and you’re on board, then you just need to think about it. Like, you could spend 500 bucks on links, you could spend five grand, what’s probably going to be the better outcome for you as a business? Like, are you going to get game changing rankings that propel your business to new new levels of growth of a $500 a month investment? Or five grand and a competitive space? Probably the answer is pretty clear that right?

Arthur  18:45
Yes. Five grand,

Michael  18:47
I’m done during the sales pitch. So anyway, I really think there’s too much more to really dwell on like the answer to the question, should you pay for links is most of the time? Yes, yeah.

Arthur  18:57
It’s unavoidable. Unfortunately, like, like you said, to kind of recap, unless you’re a huge brand, unless you already have a very strong backlink profile and acquired links naturally, then you’re going to need to, at some stage pay for backlinks. If you want to do SEO properly. Yeah. And, you know, getting free links is fine. But, you know, it’s probably something you wouldn’t engage an agency to do, especially for a small business just starting out, because it’s not going to, it’s going to take too much time. No one’s going to want to dedicate that much time to get free links, because it’s not scalable. You know, there’s, it’s not going to work. You’re not going to get links, you’re not going to get results and it’s not going to work out. So, yeah,

Michael  19:35
there’s time pressure. You’re paying them every month and Mike exactly to coming in in dribs and drabs. Yeah. Now you could always go out and hunt down website owners and negotiate back and forth with them and pay them direct and cut out an agency you want to do that. I don’t know most of us this is probably don’t like you’re talking to an SEO guy. So I’ve done no, yeah. Because you know

Arthur  19:53
what I’m saying as a as someone that you know, if you’re engaging in SEO agency, I’m obviously not going to get out of your way to I’ll handle the link building myself not yet standing what it is because you won’t know what a good link is. Exactly, you have to teach yourself SEO. And then at that point, you might as well just do the whole SEO on your site rather than just the link building. So

Michael  20:10
and you want to be spending your time working on big tickets. Exactly. Not negotiating links. Yeah. So that’s where agencies come in. Really, that’s where they have the value, they know where to go. They have relationships, they have the resources, tools, or the software subscriptions that go into it. Sure, you can go do it yourself and cut out whatever margin the agency makes it that’s fine, too. But it really just comes back to you. What are your goals? What market are you in? Is free gonna work for you? Unlikely in most cases, so probably go down the paid route. Sounds good. That’s done and dusted. Isn’t it? Funny? Well, okay, Donna, I’ll have my people talk to your people after this call.

Arthur  20:48
Well, this, we have the same people. So

Michael  20:51
we do. Alright, that’s enough from us for the first episode back for 22. Next week, we are going to give you a little free link building

Arthur  21:00
tip. Hang on, we just told people wish they should pay for links. I know

Michael  21:04
but, but what we thought would be cool is there is ways of doing things free. It’s gonna be sporadic. It’s up and down. We’ll talk about it next week. But we thought following on from this one where we’ve just banged on about paid. It’d be cool to give you a little free link building looking forward to it. It’s a new one we haven’t given before. So we’ll see you next week. In the meantime, happy SEO. See ya.

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Arthur Fabik


Michael Costin


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