9 min read

Buying Backlinks: Do Paid Links Work in 2024?

Dmytro Sokhach, CEO of Admix Global
Buying Backlinks - How to Do it Right

Admit it, if you were sure it would bring you to the first page of search results, you’d buy a bunch of links without a second thought.

But there are no guarantees.

Furthermore, you know it can actually be bad for your link profile. Instead of winning high rankings, you have great chances of being penalized by Google for violating their spam policies.

If it’s so dangerous, why even think of buying backlinks?

Perhaps it's not inherently bad. To give you a more definite answer, we’ve researched link buying in and out, talked to the leading SEO experts, and looked into our own experience in link-building.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • Whether buying links is a risky initiative.
  • Why SEO experts continue to buy links despite the questionable reputation of this approach.
  • How much a link costs, and why it costs so much.
  • Where to buy links if you absolutely want to.
  • Whether paid links are effective at all.
  • How to buy links safely.

Is Buying Links Risky?

Yes, buying links is risky.

To begin with, Google clearly states that buying links is against their policies.

Google clearly states that buying links is risky

What happens if Google spots you’re engaged in a link scheme? There are several potential consequences:

  • Rankings drop. Google may penalize websites that engage in buying links, which results in a sudden drop in search engine rankings. 
  • Or you simply see no result. Lately, instead of penalizing a website, Google will just ignore paid links, not putting any weight on them in your link profile.

Buying backlinks is risky and I’d personally recommend not buying backlinks.

Buying links goes against Google’s guidelines and even if you don’t get penalized, Google may ignore such links, which means a wasted budget.

Buying links is not a long-term strategy though.

Much to say here, to be honest. But, in general, I believe that the best way to build backlinks is via other ways such as creating linkable assets, doing digital PR, claiming unlinked mentions, relationship link building, etc.

If I were to buy backlinks, I’d probably buy “sponsored” links (rel=sponsored) for parasite SEO reasons.

Buying links is not a long-term strategy though.

Antonis Dimitriou, SEO Lead at Minuttia
Antonis Dimitriou

SEO Lead at Minuttia

Do site owners get penalized whenever they pay for a backlink? Definitely not.

Buying backlinks comes in different forms. You may pay to acquire a highly relevant link from a reputable source directly or indirectly (for instance, through guest posting), and though it's technically link buying, there's no way for Google to detect it.

Most often, Google will suspect shady practices only when seeing an anomalously rapid influx of links pointing out to one (usually very young) website. Let’s look into this and other troubling signals to watch out for when paying for links.

Red flags for paid link building

If you decide to pay for links — which is often inevitable — avoid the following red flags at all costs:

  • Large numbers of links over a short period. Acquiring thousands of links overnight is a surefire way to attract unfavorable attention from Google.
  • Fiverr link builders. Not that we’re against working with freelancers — you just need to be very careful when choosing who you buy links from. On Fiverr, too many contractors present evidently black hat practices as white hat SEO.
  • Web 2.0 links. You’ll also be offered backlinks from platforms such as Quora, Reddit, and other forums. Mind that this type of link doesn’t carry any weight.
  • Low-quality or irrelevant websites. First off, links from these sites won’t add much value (if any) to your link profile. But what’s more, they’ll attract unwanted scrutiny from Google. 
  • Cheap links. Quality placements are never cheap. You’ll see tons of offers promising unrealistic results at unbelievably low prices, but these will most likely only cause you trouble and (really small) financial losses.
The pricing package of a Fiverr link builder, a.k.a. the biggest red flag to watch out for.

The pricing package of a Fiverr link builder, a.k.a. the biggest red flag 🚩 to watch out for.

Why SEO Experts Still Buy Links

Buying links is widely viewed as a shady practice. But as long as links matter for rankings, SEOs will continue to pay for acquiring them. Here’s why.

It brings fast results

If you go the free way of acquiring links, it’ll take months before the first tangible results start to show up. And by results, we mean increased rankings.

Like a human being, in order to survive, you need food, right? In order to rank, in 99% of cases you need links.

Andreas Karle, Lead SEO at Honeybadger Digital
Andreas Karle

Lead SEO at Honeybadger Digital

When researching a correlation between a page’s rankings and its positions in search, Backlinko found that the top-ranking pages had more backlinks than sites taking lower positions.

top-ranking pages had more backlinks than sites taking lower positions

The research underscores the significance of backlinks as a crucial ranking factor. It also suggests that to outperform competitors, you need to not only match the number of links they have but preferably surpass them. Say, if you want to take the first position for the “how to set up Instagram ads” query, you’d better try to earn more links than the #1 ranking page from Sprout Social has.

The problem is that acquiring more than 151 links from unique domains may take many months if you choose not to pay for them.

acquiring more than 151 links from unique domains

When you buy links, you can quickly accumulate as many backlinks as you need within a short period. This is the main reason why SEO experts are still involved in link buying, but it’s not the only one.

It gives you full control over your placements

SEOs buy backlinks as doing link building the “white-hat” way requires a considerable amount of time and effort. 

Buying backlinks also lets you control link juice (PageRank) better, by targeting the pages you want.

So, combine these two and now you know why people buy links.

Antonis Dimitriou, SEO Lead at Minuttia
Antonis Dimitriou

SEO Lead at Minuttia

When you earn links organically, you have no control over anchor texts or even contexts where your links are placed. But when you buy links, you gain the advantage of selecting placements, dictating the specific anchor text, and making sure the surrounding context is relevant.

With such a level of control over your placements, you can diversify your link profile with fewer links and boost your rankings faster.

It secures exclusive placements

In every niche, there are websites SEO experts can only dream of acquiring links from. But let’s be honest — these dreams can easily come true if you’re ready to pay $$$$ for sponsored content.

While it might seem like a hefty investment, it stands out as an effective and often the only way to secure links from coveted sites.

It’s a quick boost for young sites

Although there’s no evidence that linking out to websites with low domain authority (DA) is bad for the site’s reputation, young websites are having a hard time earning links through partnerships.

I has recently run a live experiment uncovering the dubious nature of DR and DA. While these metrics can be easily manipulated, it has also become apparent that webmasters rely on them too often.

People put too much trust in metrics

And of course, the first solution that comes to mind when one gets rejected again and again is buying links. With a bunch of high authority links, SEOs quickly boost their sites’ own DA, making them look more credible in the eyes of their potential partners.

This move not only strengthens the site's perceived credibility but also makes it easier to secure high-quality, relevant placements moving forward.

    Subscribe to the newsletter

    How Much Does a Link Cost?

    The cost of a paid link depends on how and where you get it. Here’s a breakdown of prices based on the type and source of a link.

    Tiered backlinks

    Tiered backlinks are a strategy in link building where multiple layers (or tiers) of backlinks are created to support and strengthen each other, mimicking a natural and diversified link profile.

    In this approach, the first tier is usually high-authority backlinks acquired through guest posts or sponsored content. As you move down the pyramid, the criteria for link quality become more relaxed.

    Tiered Link Bui

    The cost of tiered backlinks can vary based on the complexity of the link-building structure. Prices for tiered backlinks often range from $50 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the number of tiers and the quality of the sources.

    gig with tiered link building

    🚩 This is one of the riskiest link acquisition methods, and we at Editorial.Link don’t recommend it.

    Editorial links

    Editorial links are one of the safest approaches to building paid links. The approach involves strategically placing links within existing, relevant content on established websites.

    It’s like earning editorial links (organic inbound links from large publications) but through outreach. To gain niche links, you need to proactively reach out to site owners and journalists, asking them to make changes to their articles, reviews, or news features.

    best content without editorial links is like a sports car

    Being contextually integrated into high-quality content and looking natural, they are also often among the priciest link acquisition methods.

    But why?

    The thing is, people are hardly ever eager to add links to their content, and for good reason. Alongside excellent communication skills, you also need to have a significant budget to succeed at niche edits link building.

    Prices for niche edits can range from $200 to well over $1000 per link. The more credible and authentic the source of the link, the higher the cost.

    🚨 The Editorial.Link team will get highly relevant editorial links for your website. We only practice proven relationship-based link-building techniques to gain backlinks from sites like podium.com, monday.com, envato.com, cloudways.com, wordstream.com, and others.

    Sponsored content links

    When you collaborate with a website to publish a sponsored article that either explicitly or implicitly promotes your brand, you naturally receive a link to your site, or even a bunch of links, with it.

    Depending on the authority of the sponsored site and the specs of your sponsored content, prices may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per article.

    price of sponsored content on SEJ

    Why Do Links Cost So Much?

    High-quality links are always pricey.

    More than a decade ago, you could create unique content, like a stat roundup, and expect it to generate links organically. Today, the competition is too high. Unless you have an established brand like HubSpot, publishing quality content won’t result in hundreds or even thousands of referring domains.

    To gain traction here and now, you most likely need to pay. And the more credible the placement the more costly it is.

    When we think about the quality of a backlink, we need to understand what and who is behind it. 

    For instance, imagine a team of top-tier marketing experts who have crafted an article. They share their unique experiences and insights, placing their work on the reputable blog of a company valued at over 1 billion dollars. In contrast, elsewhere there is an AI-generated article published on a website that was created just yesterday. 

    What’s common between these two examples? They both can be perceived as forms of link-building. However, consider the amount of resources required to make each of these events happen. This is why quality backlinks can cost a lot. And remember, one high-quality backlink can have a greater impact than 100 average ones. Quality matters and it often comes at a higher cost, but it is worth it.

    Arthur Stepaniuk, Head of SEO & Link Building at Live Proxies
    Arthur Stepaniuk

    Head of SEO & Link Building at Rankinghunt

    Can You Earn Paid Links Safely?

    Unless you engage with link farms, PBNs, and other questionable practices, buying quality links is generally safe.

    “Safe” is a strong word, but not buying links is usually not an option.

    Doing your own due diligence on websites AND your own outreach is by far the safest way to buy a link.

    As safe as it can be, at least.

    Paid guest posts are the safest, in my opinion, but paid link insertions are the most effective when done right.

    Someone should also consider the sum of their links – you have to maintain your link profile as natural as possible

    Dimitris Gkiokas, Founder & CEO at Atropos Digital
    Dimitris Gkiokas

    Founder & CEO at Atropos Digital

    You can follow this checklist to validate potential placements:

    1. Check site legitimacy. The website you're getting a link from must be legit—a real business or a reputable media source, not some sketchy link farm.
    2. Check the website's IP address and its neighbors. If it shares an IP with questionable sites, it might be harmful to your link profile.
    3. Take a close look at the number of links on the website. Too many links, especially low-quality ones, is a red flag.
    4. Use a tool like LinkDetective to check if the website sells links on a large scale. 
    5. Look at the anchor texts used in existing links on the site. Diverse and contextually relevant anchor texts make for a more natural link profile.
    6. Keep an eye on the website's traffic trends over time. A credible site should demonstrate consistent or growing traffic.

    There are so-called foundation links that are very powerful and important nowadays, such as citations, press releases, and social profiles. Google values these a lot.

    There’s digital PR, where you pitch stories to journalists, and it’s definitely the best way to acquire links, although not the easiest.

    Andreas Karle, Lead SEO at Honeybadger Digital
    Andreas Karle

    Lead SEO at Honeybadger Digital

    Build Links Risk-Free With a Reliable Partner

    When you are involved in link buying, nobody can guarantee you positive results. The good news is that there’s a way to enjoy the benefits of paid backlinks without the risks. Partner up with Editorial.Link, and our experts will gain high-quality contextual links for your website from our wide network of vetted sources.

      Subscribe to the newsletter

      Get a sample of high-quality backlinks for your project

      It is absolutely free of charge!