One of the popular bloggers I’ve been following recently is Jon Morrow. You probably know him already or at least heard of him, but for those who don’t, he’s the associate editor of Copyblogger.com and the CEO of BoostBlogTraffic.com. These are two of the most popular blogs online when it comes to internet marketing and blogging.
Not only do these sites have a huge following, they are also at the top of the search results for a lot of highly competitive terms in the internet marketing niche. And Jon Morrow is one of the people primarily responsible for putting these sites at these top spots. So he must be really good at SEO right? Well, I’d say, in a way.
The whitehat SEO fairytale
If you ask people like Jon Morrow how they made it to the top, they’d tell you “by being awesome!”. That means being able to write content full of awesomeness, being able to connect and network with awesome people, and/or having an awesome story to tell. In short, quality content and influential connections.
When it comes to SEO, there are 2 main types of webmasters – the blackhats and the whitehats. People like Jon Morrow are the whitehats who are big proponents of quality and awesomeness. They build sites that quickly become very popular with Google and they don’t even really think much about technical optimizations on their sites for the search engines (or at least they don’t talk about it).
They just simply write great stories, guides, and other high-quality stuff that appeal to people, they’re not necessarily the best. And then their readers share their posts and blog about them and tweet them, etc. In effect, bookmarks and links pointing to their sites build naturally and quickly without them having to do anything else.
This the main idea of whitehat SEO and this is what whitehats recommend. I’d personally recommend this too because this plain works and its effects on your rankings are lasting. And this strategy works for everyone… in a perfect world.
In a perfect world we can call fairyland, all people are so great at telling stories, everyone is awesome at writing and everyone can be a rockstar on the internet if he wants to and everyone can easily establish great connections with influential people in their niche.
Blackhats rule their own world
Unfortunately, we are not in fairyland and in the real world, not everyone is gifted with awesomeness in them when it comes to writing or story-telling. Not everyone can write very appealing content that will quickly spread like wildfire on the internet. But it doesn’t mean others don’t have anything else awesome to offer, it doesn’t mean others have no chance at getting their sites on the top of Google.
So some people find other ways to build links pointing to their sites. Since the number and the quality of backlinks to a site are two of the basic metrics considered by search engines in ranking sites, some people just buy them directly. And who’s to say they can’t do it? Why wouldn’t they? It’s the shortcut to the top and at the top awaits massive traffic of potential customers, meaning money!
How buying links can make you lose your shirt and/or also lead to your site being penalized
However, buying links is strongly discouraged by Google and other search engines. They are huge fans of “all-natural”. And people consider buying links as one of the blackhat strategies. But at the same time, this has also been proven to be the best, the quickest and most effective way to improve a site’s rankings if done right.
If you are also a proponent of “all-natural” and you want to risk taking 100 years before your site ranks, this guide would not be for you. However, if you don’t mind getting out of fairyland, then read on.
If people haven’t recognized the awesomeness in your site yet, you have to do something. You’ll have to take matters into your own hands and build your online popularity yourself… at least at the start, because it’s not always that people will want to make you popular right from the beginning. And let’s face it, buying those links is the only fast way to build quality (non-spammy) links to your site if no one else is ready to link to your site yet.
You’re probably not new to this idea and because you and I are not the first ones to think about it, there are also lots and lots of people online who are selling links from their sites. Some of these sites have already been sandboxed by Google or blacklisted for doing some sort of bad stuff. They won’t tell you about it, of course and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll get your site in trouble with Google instead of getting it ranked higher. And worse, you’ll lose a lot of money buying those links for nothing.
How to make it work
In order to be cost-efficient and effective with your link buying, here is a list of things to keep in mind when doing your shopping:
- Don’t look at PR anymore
For a long time, Google’s Pagerank has been relied on heavily by webmasters and SEO’s as their main metric when considering whether a link from a site is worth the price or not. But since February this year, Google hasn’t updated the public Pagerank data.
For all we know, pages that still have high PR’s today, actually have PR 0 already in Google’s internal data. And on Oct 7, Matt Cutts of Google Webmaster Help officially said in this video that Google is letting it go away slowly. So if you still take the PR of a page into consideration, you couldn’t be more wrong.
- Check MOZ domain authority, page authority and linking root domains
As an alternative to Google’s PR, the next best things you can use instead are MOZ’s domain authority and page authority ratings. They don’t have the same way of coming up with a page’s score with Google’s PR but they are the closest you can get.
Also take into consideration the number of linking root domains to the page, not just the total number of links to it. Linking root domains are different individual sites that have pages linking to the page you’re checking.
You can go to opensiteexplorer.org to check for the domain authority and page authority of a page you’re looking to buy a link from. You will also see there the number of linking root domains. In my own experiments, for a fairly low-competition keyword, the following criteria delivered great results:
– a domain authority of at least 20
– a page authority of at least 20
– more than 10 linking root domains
For more competitive terms, you’re going to have to set higher standards.
- Check the outbound links on the page
The authority, importance or otherwise the “link juice” from a page linking to your site is diminished as more outbound links to other sites are added on that page. If there’s already a lot of links pointing to other sites on a page, it wouldn’t be a good choice to buy a link from.
A good limit of outbound links I observe is below 10. Anything above that, I move on to the next one. You can easily check how many outbound links there are on a page by using a browser plugin called SEO Quake and checking the page info with it. You’ll also see a lot of other useful info about the page using this plugin.
But if you don’t want to go through installing things on your browser and configuring settings, you can use this online tool as an alternative.
- Check if the site is not sandboxed by Google
Even if the page passed the first 3 criteria above with very high scores, it can still cause a lot of damage in your reputation with Google if it’s on a site that has already been penalized. To make sure that the site has not been removed from Google’s index, run the following query on Google search:
(replace examplesite.com with the domain you are checking.)
If you don’t see the domain in the search results, that means it has been de-indexed or blacklisted by Google already.
To see if the site hasn’t been even softly penalized, you can run just the domain name of the site through Google search.
If the results returned to you do not have the site on the top spot, it means that site is already in trouble with Google. Domain names are unique, so if you type in the exact domain name of a site on the search box, you can expect the site to be returned as the no. 1 result, unless it has been penalized. Here are some examples of sites that have been penalized (at the time of this writing):
If you visit these sites directly by entering the address directly into your browser’s address bar, you will be able to visit them. But if you enter these domains into Google’s search box, they will not appear in the results.
- Check if the page’s content is unique
After making sure that the site is not under penalty, you’ll have to make sure it’s not just waiting to be penalized. One of the possible basis for a site to be penalized is containing duplicate content from other sites. You can use CopyScape.com to check if the page’s content is unique.
- Choose pages that have content that is relevant to your site
Link juice is still passed on from pages linking to you even if they contain content that is not relevant to yours. But the weight of these backlinks is greatly multiplied if they are coming from pages with relevant content. If there are relevant keywords already on the page, ask the seller to use those keywords as the anchor texts for your links. This will save you time and make it easier for both you and the seller.
- Buy contextual links
Contextual links are links that are surrounded by other text content, especially in the main content body of the page. This type of backlink is given more weight by Google as observed by actual studies and experiences. Also, as much as possible, try to acquire links that are above the fold and are closer to the top of the page. The lower your link is on the page, the less weight it is given by Google.
- Buy links from the homepage
The homepage of a site are usually the most linked-to page on the site. So having your backlink placed on the homepage will let you take advantage of more link juice flowing through to your site.
What kind of results you can expect
To optimize my own niche affiliate sites for search, I have followed these steps and criteria in buying links. And below is my results for one site on a keyword that gets 135,000 searches per month in the US alone.:
Rank monitoring used: SERP Rank Tracker
As you can see above, the site was in and out of the search results from October 2 to Oct 11. But then I started buying links and on Oct 11, 2 of the links I bought were successfully placed. And here are the details of those 2 links:
- Link 1
Domain Authority: 24
Page Authority: 28
Linking Root Domains: 14
Outbound Links: 3
Price: $2.70 / mo
- Link 2
Domain Authority: 21
Page Authority: 32
Linking Root Domains: 11
Outbound Links: 6
Price: $1.35 / mo
Notice how funny the price I got these links for? That’s because these pages are PR 2 & PR 3 only and the owners are selling links based on the PR. They think their pages have low PR only so they sell backlinks cheaply. But look how just these 2 additional links pushed my rankings upward. On Oct 13, just 2 days later, my site was already no.71 – that’s 82 places higher!
And it kept climbing as I’ve added more links – 5 more days later and 5 more links added, the site is on position 42. Assuming you have done your on-site optimizations properly, you should be able to replicate the same results.
Where to buy links
You can do a quick search on Google for terms like “buy high PR backlinks”, “buy homepage backlinks”, or “buy backlinks” and you will get a lot of sites to choose from. Many of them will either be text link brokers or private network companies that maintain their own network of sites. Some will be marketplaces where advertisers and publishers can buy and sell links. You’ll have to do your own due diligence when choosing where to buy links from.
Check out the reviews before buying. And as a general rule, do not buy from sites that publicly display their list of sites from where you can have your links placed. Sites you can find in places like this are very prone to being penalized.
What I’m currently using at the time of this writing is Links Management. What I like best about them is the convenience in their platform. After creating an account with them, inside you can check out the pages that are available for placing your links on.
The backlink pages in their marketplace are properly categorized according to topics for easy sorting. You can filter the lists according to the different set of criteria you are considering – by topic, price, PR, country, number of outbound links and/or by keyword.
And when you decide to purchase a link, you’ll have the option to include up to 250 characters of contextual text content before and after your anchor text. After your order is placed, it is sent to the owner of the site for placement. You will only be charged if your link is successfully placed and you will be refunded if your link is not placed within 5 days.
What I don’t like about them on the other hand, is I still have to manually check the pages for the domain and page authority scores, sandbox/penalty status and the uniqueness of the content.
Don’t go full blackhat!
This SEO strategy can get you quick results, in just a matter of days with just a little amount of work and a little money. But I cannot guarantee long-term results for this, nobody can. Only real whitehat hard work will give you that, and that is another topic worthy of its own separate post. So if you are trying to build an authority site that is for the long run, this link building strategy may not be the best for you.
However, you can always employ a mix of both sides. That’s how there are webmasters who call themselves greyhats. This way, you get the best of both worlds.