10 Ethical Ways to Buy Links

by Jason Acidre on April 18, 2011 · 54 comments · Search


Google hates paid links and that’s unchangeable, given that they are keeping the search game fair to return quality-driven results to Google users worldwide. Buying links is a direct violation to Google’s webmaster guidelines – particularly manipulative links that intend to pass Pagerank and improve search rankings through unnatural anchor texts usage.Paid Links

However, there are still other risk-free link buying techniques that are patterned to indirectly acquire links through the same form of incentives – cash.

Measuring the link value of a paid link:

  • Placement or visibility of the purchased link (if it is contextual or editorial or perceptible by a large audience).
  • If the link will be able to generate traffic/leads.
  • If the acquired link will be capable of passing Pagerank, domain authority and domain trust.
  • If acquiring the link will be scalable for the campaign in attracting more linkers.
  • If the link will be topically relevant to its destination page.

It’s crucial to know the real worth of the incentive-driven links that you’ll be trying to obtain, as it is a form of business investment, and of course, we all want to gain from what we have spent and not the other way around, which in our case is getting penalized.

I actually want to keep this post short, so we’ll just go straight ahead on to the list of “ethical” ways you can do to indirectly buy quality links:

Sponsored reviews/interviews

I’ve been receiving a lot of advertisement requests on my blog recently, and most of them are asking if I’ll be interested to make a review of their products/sites. These proposals were very interesting, needless to say, given that they have offered incentives (payments, freebies/free access, commissions, etc…) to make outreach materialize.

Using this approach to your own link building campaign can positively generate high quality contextual links as well as possible leads, since this method is focused on producing external content that are strictly about the products/services that your website is offering.

One strategic key to increase the success rate of these requests is to first build relationships with your targeted bloggers by engaging them through series of interactions (following their blog, leaving remarkable comments, emails, social networking, etc…) before sending the actual request for review.

Sending requests to bloggers to do an interview of you or your client can also build quality in-content links and can also help develop your site’s brand. It is proven to be a powerful avenue in promoting your products or services, since the content’s focal point is your business and its industry, where you usually have control over the links that will be used in the content. Laying the right incentives in play – such as free samples or direct payments – can deeply enhance the chances of having your proposition approved.

In choosing bloggers for your campaign:

  • The blog should have good amount of traffic (measurable through Alexa traffic rank or Compete.com).
  • Offers quality content relevant to your industry.
  • Have a strong brand and loyal followers or subscribers.
  • Good Pagerank (3 or above) and domain authority (measurable through Mozbar).

Buy content from influential bloggers

Invite influential bloggers in your industry to publish content on your site, under their names, to tremendously improve the site’s linkability. The approach for this method works pretty much the same as the abovementioned method, though the only difference is that the paid content will be posted on your site. Requesting for this kind of deal may cost you $100 or more for each article, but its returns are presumably advantageous.  How can it benefit your site?

  • Quality content added to your site, from industry experts, which is very much capable of attracting natural referential links.
  • Puts emphasis to your site/brand’s importance, as popular bloggers are contributing to it.
  • Generates viral effect/traffic and also capable of absorbing the guest bloggers’ followers, given that they’ll be sharing their contributed content through their own networks, and this can in turn increase the chances of acquiring more natural links directing to that content.
  • The high quality guest content will most likely stay on the web for a long time, as long as your site is live actually, which means it can continuously bring organic traffic to your site as it naturally gains its own search rankings.
  • Allows you to build relationships with influential bloggers in your field, which can eventually lead to building more relationships with other big players in your niche.

Now, thinking about it, what could be the possible effects of having Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, Todd Malicoat and Aaron Wall send over a guest post here on my blog, all in a week’s work, interesting, though I’m sure that it’s going to be real expensive.

Organize or Sponsor contests

Contests are in no doubt to be one of the most effective methods in getting the attention of people in your industry, particularly if there are high returns waiting for those who will participate. It’s easy to bait contextual links through each stage of this method, since organizers and sponsors are usually cited from the promotion outreach/process of the contest, to the actual contest itself as well as the phase in which the winners of the contests are announced.

Participants are mostly required to link out to sponsors (usually part of the contest’s criteria), through blogging, social sharing and their contest entry.

Tips to organizing your own blogging contest:

  • Set out criteria on how winners will be chosen (could be the amount of traffic accumulated by the entry if the guest blog is posted in your site, links acquired, user comments, social shares, quality of information, etc…)
  • The theme of the contest should be highly entertaining and interesting to make the most out of the traffic that you’ll be getting.
  • Specify the mechanics of the contest (possibly how you will benefit from the contest – by allowing participants to promote the contest as well as their entry).
  • Offer valuable prizes as it’s one of the reasons why bloggers will participate, besides the link, brand exposure and traffic.
  • Find other entities in your industry who’ll be interested to sponsor your contest and explain to them how they will benefit from it.

In finding blog contests to sponsor:

  • Contact both popular and upcoming quality blogs in your sphere and try to ask them if they’ll be interested to host or organize a contest that you’ll be sponsoring.
  • It’s best to choose blogs that have their unique identity in the industry, socially active, receives a good amount of traffic, have high Pagerank (not necessarily), and have high domain authority.

A blogging contest is always a win/win/win situation, as it helps the sponsors acquire natural and high quality links, hosting blog receives high quality content to be published on their site and generate organic traffic, and participants are able to absorb link juice, traffic and improve brand awareness through the exposure that they’ll be getting from the hosting blog.

Fund Research and Case Studies

Offering to fund research and case studies to universities or other competent companies in your industry that is related to your market or business can help you acquire extremely valuable links, seeing as the results of the research that you have outsourced are mostly published on their sites and will naturally cite you as the origin of the study.

Companies and universities have high tendencies of accepting this approach, since the output of this method is very educational and they’ll be very much involved by publishing the content on their websites, and yes, a link to your site from .edu or authority websites in your field.

One good example of this is a post from SEOmoz’s Whiteboard Friday, which I religiously follow, last June, where PRO Media Corp had funded the research about the effects of buying links. Well played for garnering an in-content citation from SEOmoz.

JV partnerships and affiliate programs

This might not provide your site powerful links to help boost your site’s search rankings or pass through trust, authority and Pagerank, as most of the links generated from this method are nofollow or 301 redirected to track traffic referrals.

However, offering commissions to those who will promote your products can enormously improve your site’s incoming traffic and more probably your sales, since they are sending relevant traffic to your site that are already aware of what you are offering through information-based campaigns (insightful reviews and promotions).

Paid Social Ads

With the roaring effects that social media are now capable of doing to increase a content/site’s linkability as well as visibility through search – since search algorithms are now using social signals as a ranking factor – obviously indicates that this method of modern marketing shouldn’t be ignored.

Dealing with social signals can practically lift linking opportunities if done appropriately, in which you have to address the signals to the right targets from the right channels. Though it’s imperative to present a highly linkable material to make the most out of the viral traffic that you will be getting from these channels (not your homepage, if it’s not that interesting).Below are some of the ways where you can easily target linkers in your industry:

  • Use Sponsored Tweets or BuySellAds to promote your linkable content via authority and influential Twitter users in your niche. The authority of the user plays a big role in garnering higher search ranking positions, and their influence will help get your content in front of a larger audience as their followers retweet and spread the link over their networks. You can use Klout to measure a user’s authority/influence over the web, which can help you decide in choosing your candidates.
  • Advertising your link bait content through Facebook Ads, wherein you have full control of which class of people should the ad will be displaying.
  • Using StumbleUpon’s Ads to get your linkable content in front of their 8 million users (probably hundreds of thousands that are really into your niche).

Donate to charities

A method that has been mentioned many times before if you are looking to buy links. It’s always good for businesses to help non-profit organizations/foundations to further expand the reach and awareness of their cause.

Donating or helping charitable institutions that you or your business believes in can help you in so many ways – besides the link you are aiming to acquire from them – such as good karma and a and a good angle for a press release, which can be fetched up by news sites if found to be real newsworthy.

In choosing the charities:

  • It’s important that you choose organizations that are thematic to your business or within your geographic location.
  • See if the charities that you’ll find have history of linking out to their past sponsors’ websites.
  • Network with the organization’s representative personally to be able to build more opportunities for both parties (future events, news story, etc…).
  • There are a lot of charity web directories that you can use to find organizations that best suit your business’ principles like Charity Navigator, Network for Good, Just Give and Charity-charities.

Note: Donations may come in any form – cash, your products, your services or things that they really need.

Sponsor events

Supporting events, both offline and online, can benefit your site’s branding and link development efforts, since most event organizers include special mentions of their sponsors in the marketing stage of the event as well as in the actual event, and also include links from their websites, most of the time (you can always ask for it, if you see that it’s possible).

You can choose to sponsor local conferences, seminars, webinars, blog awards and fundraising events that are topically relevant to your industry.

Invest on external projects

Expand the reach of your business’ online presence as well as internal stream of profits through external business investments. Logically, these investments would result to links, at first, but seeing its long term returns can get your business more profitable along the process. Here are some ideas on how you can acquire links through online investments.

  • Investing on Freelancers. Offer business proposals to talented freelance web designers, developers or writers, where you can fund the operation of the business (building free or paid themes, plugins or widgets, applications, software, products or services related to your industry). This model of link marketing will make you land an about page co-founder link to your site. You can as well generate links from the output of these projects.
  • Invest on creating your own conference. Conferences naturally attract links, and organizing a small one locally will not take too much time from you, especially if you can find people to take over its operations.
  • Establish your own blog awards. I personally think that this online business model is a lucrative and a very linkable one, seeing as individuals and businesses are paying just to win or be nominated on any online award giving bodies. You can choose to collaborate with other companies or bloggers to make this approach go viral.
  • Cultivate bloggers. Encourage and fund your staff in setting up their own blogs to generate more contextual links.
  • Purchase websites. Buy websites that are topically relevant to yours and you can choose to use these sites to contextually link to your site’s important pages or to 301 redirect the entire site to your domain to acquire all its incoming links. It’s important to first see the link profile of any prospected site before acquiring it. You also have the option of hiring external bloggers to continuously operate and own the blog.

Buy products or services to offer testimonials

Perhaps the simplest form of indirect link buying, in which all you have to do is to purchase products or avail for services that your business can benefit from. After purchasing, try to request or ask the provider if you can send a testimonial over and be published on their site, they will usually place a link to your site.

Other options:

Paid web directory listings – There are still some that’s capable of sending quality traffic and capable of passing authority to your site such as:

Paid press release submission – Advantageous if you have a good story submitted, as these submissions can be aggregated by news websites. However, Google is already looking to devaluing links coming from paid press releases.

Paid Press Release DeadStraight from Matt Cutts on SMX West 2011 – via Linkspiel

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Image Credit: Urban Barbarian

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristi Hines@Blog Marketing April 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Some of these may not be looked upon as paid links *wink wink* but that’s what they boil down to in the end. The ones that really are in the grey area are advertisements and sponsorships. The in content links are probably best for buyers as they could be natural mentions from the blogger, whereas the sidebars and footers are more obvious ads.

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Kaiserthesage April 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm

That’s why connecting with bloggers is so important nowadays, as it is the most simplest way to getting those prized links. I personally prefer in-content links as well, since the link value and the clicks are there. Thanks for dropping by Kristi :)

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Chris @ top tumblr themes April 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Wow, Jason this was quite an in-depth list. I will make note of some of these tactics.

sidenote: It’s kinda funny to me that the biggest seller of paid links is also so against paid links…. :)

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Kaiserthesage April 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Yeah, because they want the money stream focused on them :D plus they own the search game, it’s practically hard to compete with that.

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Chris @ tumblr themes April 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm

No doubt! Those greedy pigs want $$$$ for themselves. =) but seriously, Google if you’re reading this I <3 U & think you're the best search engine online.

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Web Design Hull April 19, 2011 at 8:09 am

This is something that has been on mind recently and is a great overview. What kind of prices would you expect to pay for links from bloggers? Thanks!

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Kaiserthesage April 19, 2011 at 3:50 pm

That really depends on the influence/authority of the blogger. For some average bloggers, having a solid product as a freebie is enough to get them have a review of your product.

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Nabil@buy nokia 5530 May 2, 2011 at 10:38 am

Guess that makes me greedy then. All I do whenever I want bloggers to write about my products is to offer them the product at a cheaper price. They usually accept that and write a really good review and place some good links to my website.

One can’t afford giving out free review copies when starting out, don’t you think? :)

/Nabil.

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Kaiserthesage May 2, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I agree, as I’m getting a lot of good incentive offers for reviewing their products recently, it’s quite enticing, especially if they are giving the product for free or if they are giving a good special commission :)

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JamestheJust April 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Well done post, Jason – and probably the biggest reason I don’t “do” SEO for clients anymore. Google can flip a switch on a whim, making this list worthless if they wanted – but all told your list of ethical paid links is sound stuff.

The irony of the JC Penny fiasco earlier this year is that Google essentially demonstrated that buying links in-content en masse still works for 2011. Unethical? Sure it is. They want you to buy AdWords, silly.

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Kaiserthesage April 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Long time JamestheJust!

Well I won’t be surprised if in the future paid ads will have its own search results, or perhaps Google SERPs will display split results (organic vs. all the way ppc with hundreds of pages). They just love to torture SEOs.

I’ve read a post last week about Google buying links hahaha, that was quite entertaining, but I didn’t bother to join the discussion, here’s the post:

http://seo2.0.onreact.com/google-buys-links-with-hidden-anchor-text

- Jason

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Adam April 20, 2011 at 10:48 am

Jason;

Thanks for the detailed overlook on the ethical ways to buy links.

I love the idea of buying contents from influential blogger despite the fact that one would be spending quite a fortune doing it. It is always good to have the known industry expert write for your site; definitely a great way to gather traction.

And about the JC penny fiasco; I read that the Google’s algorithm itself could not detect the deceptive techniques, which does display the shortcomings of Google’s algorithm (O:

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Kaiserthesage April 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I also agree, given that having influential bloggers contribute in your blog can benefit you for a long time. With JC penney’s case, the links were too obvious, I think Google were just hinted by jcp’s competitors that it’s violating their guidelines.

Thanks for dropping by Adam.

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Zarko April 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hi, Jason,

we all use these every day in our world, I stopped seeing these type of acquired links as paid links a long time ago, sponsoring an event, donating or organizing a contest have long been stricken out of the paid book :)

Google is also gray on most of these but they tolerate it, they tolerate way more in fact, but that is another story…

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Kaiserthesage May 2, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Nice, another story that I might write about next time :)

I’ve been recently looking for local events here that I can sponsor, just to have my first ever gray link for this blog haha :)

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John Locum April 21, 2011 at 11:09 am

I think you mix up your link building with other types of links like unpaid directories, bookmarks, forums, articles…it will make it look more natural to search engines

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Max September 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I do agree with you. There are numerous ways to create a link other than paying because it does not look so natural, isn’t? Article submission is one of the best ways to gain traffic.

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Martin April 26, 2011 at 3:51 am

it is a very large area which you point your tips. for any business not necessarily anything is possible.

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Felicia @ No Deposit Poker April 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm

This is quite a long list you got here. I personally like the sponsored review because people pay to get their product reviewed. Although the review is not quite in-depth, it helps to introduce the product to the masses.
Thanks!

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Oncelot Directory May 9, 2011 at 8:02 am

Excellent concise list on how the profs do their job! Thanks for sharing..

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Jenny from BingoBabe May 14, 2011 at 7:48 am

I think ethical and buying links is an oxymoron on Googles eyes.

However, you have made some good points, most of these methods fall into the grey hat area and will probably not get you any penalty for using these techniques. However, i wouldn’t want to push some of them too far. For example, sponsoring an event, maybe a great way to get a few links and slip under the radar, but if you do it too much, something might raise a red flag or your competition might report you.

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Alaister May 16, 2011 at 1:19 am

Awesome post on creative and ethical ways to “buy links”. These strategies work really well especially if you are pumping out a lot of linkable content and link bait. I actually wrote an article about building links through clever content creation recently. You can check out how this will help with your link building

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James @Digital Agency Cimex May 19, 2011 at 8:23 am

Pretty good points – in a lot of these you’re not actually buying links, just taking a punt that you may get some link love back. One may argue that many of these processes should be entered into as a wider ‘online visibility’ remit, rather than the be all and end all pursuit of link generation.

James

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White Label SEO July 12, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Good point. While I don’t put link buying as part of my strategy, I most definitely don’t vilify this practice. A responsible link buyer should be meticulous in picking websites and think creatively of ways to post their links.

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Nick@ seo consultant July 15, 2011 at 1:18 am

It’s hard when you see competitors buying paid links with good page rank. It makes it harder to compete. I guess Google will catch them out sooner or later. Have you noticed site wide penalties for being caught or just the links disqualified?

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Eric@Cazare Predeal July 22, 2011 at 4:21 am

If you think well, to buy a link is not at all ethical. The Google claims that the paid links must not exists. However, we know very well that thing is impossible to be stopped. Even in this situation, if you buy a link, is better to try to obtain that link in a correct manner. And the article shows exactly how to do that.

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Kostas@Extra Income August 11, 2011 at 10:44 am

For me the best way to get backlinks is by guest posting on quality blogs, even thought I haven’t though it the other way (Invite influential blogger to publish their content on my blog). This can certainly give a boost to a site and probably help your site go viral with all the benefits

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dan@web design September 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I’m totally confused when it comes to paid links. I’ve found a page that will put my on their ‘sponsors’ page if I sponsor them. It’s not in the same field and realistically won’t bring much traffic by way of legitimate customers. But it’s a very high PR, and some of my competitors are on there (they have obviously paid to sponsor the page). It’s a NFP. I can’t really work out whether it makes sense to do it or because it’s against Google’s guidelines it’s a risky strategy. Seems to me that everyone does it, some people are more careful than others.

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Thomas Jackson September 29, 2011 at 10:22 am

Google had pretty much warned everybody not to go for paid links. However, there are still a number who continue to buy links. Google has actually taken action on this and affected thousands of sites. They lost their rankings in within a week. There are ethical ways to do so, as the points mentioned in this article. Unethical practice may get you high ranking at first but that will not definitely backfire in the long run.

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Jerry@Pagudpud Resorts October 30, 2011 at 6:32 am

I wonder if websites using TextLinkAds will get penalized by Google. At least if you read what Google is saying, buying and selling there is unethical.

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Alex November 2, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I never bought links because I know that google deprecates certain practices and I prefer to write my mini-articles in the web, with dofollow backlinks. However I found this article interesting, especially original

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Tristan November 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm

It seems to me that google are punishing sites for paying for ads other than adwords.

Paying for someone to blog about your service or review a product could have lots of benefit along with the link. I suppose it’s a case of finding someone influential to your potential customers.

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Money and SEO February 29, 2012 at 1:05 am

Nice article Jason, been looking for tips about this very topic.

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Puesey March 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm

That’s great alternatives Jason. There are so many options to buy ETHICAL links so don’t risk your site or even yourself to those paid links that are not acceptable to Mr. Google.

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Bill B March 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I particularly like the “Charity” idea. That is the direction I am heading first. Thanks Jason!
Always like reading your posts!

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Daniel from Web Design April 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I think also doing free work for charities or not for profits is a good idea. You are essentially buying the link with work rather than money. Not only are you helping a cause, not for profits often have a lot of link authority.

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Alex Simring April 26, 2012 at 6:42 am

Got to be careful with any type of link exchange, ethical or otherwise. With the recent Panda roll-out, SEO “overoptimisation” is now being penalised. Who know when google will drop anchor text altogether? Anyway, nice suggestions about how to get link diversity from sources I never considered before, so nice thinking outside the box. It will take more work, but it the end it’s probably worth it.

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Brian Dennis May 9, 2012 at 2:39 am

Hey Jason, Very good tips so far. Yes, Paid Social Ads are powerful recently since it may possibly gain traffic.

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Andy Floss June 11, 2012 at 5:26 am

You must see to it that your money isn’t wasted at all. All provoked finances must be with identical proof and statements garnering some performance listings specially when your assigning somebody to work with you.

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Charlotte October 26, 2012 at 5:48 am

Well never ever thought of charities before how unique! also you would hedge a bet that most charities websites have a decent PR as well.

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Erick@Diablo 3 Monk Guide January 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Greetings! I’ve been reading your website for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic job!

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Nestor@how to overcome shyness January 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Hello! I just would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent information you have got
here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your blog for more soon.

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Jordan J. Caron October 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I always wondered how Google can tell if a pink is paid. None the less it’s a risky proposition but these are some great ways to pay for links a better way.

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