10 Ethical Ways to Buy Links

By on Apr 18, 2011 in Search | 43 comments

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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:

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:

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?

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:

In finding blog contests to sponsor:

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:

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:

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.

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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  1. 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.

    • Kaiserthesage

      April 19, 2011

      Post a Reply

      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 :)

  2. 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…. :)

    • Kaiserthesage

      April 19, 2011

      Post a Reply

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

  3. Web Design Hull

    April 19, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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!

    • Kaiserthesage

      April 19, 2011

      Post a Reply

      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.

      • 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? :)


        • Kaiserthesage

          May 2, 2011

          Post a Reply

          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 :)

  4. JamestheJust

    April 19, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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.

    • Kaiserthesage

      April 19, 2011

      Post a Reply

      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:


      – Jason

  5. Adam

    April 20, 2011

    Post a Reply


    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:

    • Kaiserthesage

      April 21, 2011

      Post a Reply

      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.

  6. Zarko

    April 20, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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…

    • Kaiserthesage

      May 2, 2011

      Post a Reply

      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 :)

  7. John Locum

    April 21, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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

    • Max

      September 27, 2011

      Post a Reply

      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.

  8. Martin

    April 26, 2011

    Post a Reply

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Alaister

    May 16, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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

  12. 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.


  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. dan@web design

    September 11, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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.

  18. Thomas Jackson

    September 29, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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.

  19. Alex

    November 2, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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

  20. Tristan

    November 4, 2011

    Post a Reply

    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.

  21. Puesey

    March 5, 2012

    Post a Reply

    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.

  22. Bill B

    March 11, 2012

    Post a Reply

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

  23. 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.

  24. Alex Simring

    April 26, 2012

    Post a Reply

    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.

  25. Andy Floss

    June 11, 2012

    Post a Reply

    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.

  26. Charlotte

    October 26, 2012

    Post a Reply

    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.

  27. 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!

  28. Jordan J. Caron

    October 23, 2013

    Post a Reply

    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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