The difference between paid and bought links: Penalties and Rewards


Link building has become a bit more challenging in recent years, and the decision to pay for or to buy links has become an even bigger challenge for many small businesses and website designers. Search engines do not like people to buy links, however in some cases they will permit the purchase of links. And in this article I will highlight and explain those exceptions.

They will often penalize the efforts of buying links by disavowing them, while links that follow the search engine-preferred organic and paid for approaches are rewarded. The problem is, search engines cannot always tell if a link is bought or paid. Today, link building has become an integral part of improving page rankings. The distinction between paid for and bought links is often confusing and unclear, and organic link building is extremely time consuming and hard work. For these reason, many businesses are choosing to buy links to speed up the process despite the risk. While buying links may be effective strategies in some cases, in others, the search engines are aware of these manipulation attempts and it could hinder your efforts in the end.

Before I start talking about the strategies, I would like to say that I am strongly against of buying links. However, if you decide to do so, below ideas are the best and safest way to pay for links.

Legitimate Directories

If you pay for a link, this is not considered buying a link. Confusing right? If you pay an annual fee to be part of a directory that also offers links, this is considered paying for a service rather than buying a link. Be sure to verify it is a reputable directory that search engines favor rather than penalize. If a directories, such as or, are deemed by Google and other search engines to provide SEO value despite that you have paid for the directory service, Google will index sites from the directories. Such directories are known to perform due diligence and are relatively selective on the sites they allow to become directory members. For this reason, Google will index sites in these directories as they are verifying that the sites are at least somewhat upstanding and reputable. The same can be said for directories of local businesses that have membership fees to be able to join and become listed. These directories will verify that you are a local business in the community, which search engines like and will reward. Yahoo has a small business directory to join to get links for a monthly membership fee that will provide SEO value. However, the directories Yahoo is partnered with are not all legitimate. So you have to be a little bit careful here ­čÖé

Penalized Links and Scams

If you pay to add an article on a blog that gives you anchor texts and links and they allow any website to be a member without any verification or a screening process, this will not provide you with value in the end. Also, it is widely accepted and known throughout the industry that many companies that offer link building services are actually a complete scam. Many times, these link building scammers will claim to have provided you with hundreds of links only to be revealed upon further examination that they maybe completed one or two. If you are going to pay for such services, be certain they are a reputable organization with proven results. Also, one of the easiest ways for search engines to spot links that are paid for is when the link and the text have nothing to do with one another. For example, if you have a link for a plumbing company in a travel blog, this will be discovered relatively easily by search engines and these links will be ignored.

Penalized Links

The article is about travel but the link has nothing to do with travel. The anchor text is ÔÇťDiscounted Nail Services in Your AreaÔÇŁ

Marketing Services and Links

Another way to avoid search engine penalties for link buying is to use authoritative marketing companies or PR firms. While big search engines do not accept links that have been determined as being paid for, you can pay for a service that provides marketing assistance that may be helpful not only for link building, but more importantly with brand and reputation building. This is considered acceptable as you are paying for the service of marketing or branding rather than the actual links. Another way to think about it is because you are not directly paying a blogger to include your link on their site, it is an approved methodology. Do not forget to make sure they are linking your pages to relevant high-quality blogs in your industry or sites directly related to your target demographics. Also, your main focus here should be to promote your brand and new products, donÔÇÖt do this just for link building! It can be a complicated and somewhat confusing process, and a professional service could be of assistance.

The Future of Buying Links

Search engines are constantly improving the process of determining whether or not links are legitimate value-added links or bought links that offer little to no value. As such, it will become more difficult to get away with buying links to improve rankings. Future link building strategies will have to become more clever to elude the penalties provided by search engines and to stay ahead of their progress. With that being said, I do not recommend buying links despite the fact competitors might be doing so. At the end of the day, you have to develop the right link building strategy for you and your business and determine whether or not you are comfortable paying for or buying links.

Author Bio:

Emin is an SEO consultant and a designer at Amberd Design Studio, a Los Angeles-based design and marketing firm. On his free time, he enjoys painting, illustrating and writing blog posts about internet marketing and design.


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