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  • 74% of SEOs Buy (or Would Consider Buying) Links!

    The results are in! We now have 202 votes for yesterday’s ‘do you buy links for SEO‘ poll – and it’s fair to say the results are very interesting.

    The reason I asked this question in the first place was because I wanted to forget about the usual best practice advice we always hear and get an honest and realistic representation of what it actually takes to achieve top rankings in Google.

    So let’s get straight to the answers:
    Link buying results

    So what can we read into this?

    • 26% answered with “No – we keep clear of any link buying activity”. I decided against the post title of “26% of SEOs are liars!”. I actually think this number sounds very accurate, although it does depend on where you draw the line on what you classes as a paid link.
    • 22% answered with “Yes – depending on the niche and competitiveness”. This was my answer too; in my opinion, as long as you are 100% transparent with the client and are looking at long-term organic success, as opposed to risky quick-win strategies, in some niches it can be very difficult to compete for top rankings without buying links. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if buying links is clearly working for your competitors, then realistically it’s going to be more difficult to catch/outrank them with touching paid links. You just have to be more careful as there is obviously a risk element involved.
    • 20% voted for “No – but would consider depending on the scenario”. I think that’s very similar to the above answer – you may not have felt it necessary to buy links yet, but it would be a different story in competitor niches where this is a more important strategy for competitors.
    • 16% say that “Yes – link buying is a major part of our SEO campaign”. To put this into context, this was 33 votes – which I think is very high. Obviously it’s a risky tactic to rely too heavily on paid links for any search campaign – but I also received many private comments such as “yes, it’s essential – we couldn’t rank without them!” and “we tried reducing our £xx,000 paid link budget but rankings dropped dramatically – so we had to start buying them again”. This makes things very difficult for the client or agency – because you want to have a long-term, ethical organic SEO approach. But you also want to do what works right now – and if that’s paid links, you have to decide if you want to maximise online revenue right now, or whether you are prepared to lose out to competitors in the hope that long-term you will come out on top as Google improves its paid link detection algorithm. In my experience, nobody ever likes to lose out to competitors!
    • 13% voted for “Yes – as a small percentage of our link building campaigns”. Personally I thought this may have been higher. There are paid links which clearly still work – Google wouldn’t even have the paid link reporting tool if their algorithm caught them all – but it’s going to be less of a sign to Google if it only accounts for a small proportion of your backlinks. That’s why big brands often get away with buying links, but it’s always going to be far more noticeable for smaller sites.
    • And 3% voted other – ignore some of the comments, such as the SEOptimise one, that wasn’t us. But the results are interesting nonetheless, mainly because it’s that question again:  where do you draw the line on paid links? Does online PR for SEO count as paid links? Are you buying links as soon as you hire an agency for SEO?

    Which countries buy the most links?
    I found this very interesting to compare how the answers differed across different countries:
    Link buying in different countries

    It’s interesting to look at the differences in ethics and laws/guidelines which may influence SEO strategies here. Although, with the largest samples sizes you can read much more into the UK and US results – unless you believe that in Greece they don’t buy links!

    Comparing the US and UK is interesting though – the major difference being that 34% of SEOs in the US don’t buy links, compared with the lower 25% in the UK. The other options being very similar across the two.

    Would be great to hear your comments on the results? Do you think this is accurate? When do you feel link buying is acceptable (if at all)? And where do you draw the line between a paid and a non-paid link?

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    33 Responses to “74% of SEOs Buy (or Would Consider Buying) Links!”

    1. What might have been even more interesting is just how many of those 74% would actually admit to buying links to their clients or peers. I wouldn’t mind betting that the results would have been resoundingly low!

    2. Sam Stratton says:

      Very interesting stats here, this is exactly the sort of poll data that we can all learn from and get a better understanding of what is going on in the SEO world.

      It would be interesting to see how many of the 74% have actually suffered with ranking penalties as a result of buying links.

    3. James Carson says:

      I’ve considered it, but i’m not gonna!

      That data set is really too small to make any conclusions on the country in my view. You’ve got 2 votes for loads of countries!

    4. James says:

      Lets face it – most of the ‘holier than thou’ SEOs will effectively buy links indirectly through other means of link acquisition.

      Simple link building rule — **don’t get greedy** and stick to a long term acquisition plan using a diverse selection of tactics.

    5. Doc Sheldon says:

      I don’t think we can put much store in the results, given the very small data set you’re dealing with. But overall, I would guess that the numbers for the US and UK probably aren’t too far off, percentage-wise.

      I’ve never been faced with the necessity, but in the right (or wrong) niche, I can see how it might be needed, and as long as my client understands the risks, I have no problem with it.

    6. Mon says:

      This is such a poor analysis. The data is not solid or substantial enough to put a valid argument across. You are trying to put lipstic on a pig!

      Also what you are doing here is again putting the SEO industy in a bad light. If you guys are buying links you are purely lazy and lack imagination.

    7. Thanks for the comments guys – I agree that this is a small sample size. But at the same time, I think over 200 responses is enough information to make a start when drawing some conclusions. Perhaps these aren’t completely solid results, but they are very close to what I expected to see and I think it’s an accurate estimate of what is currently happening within the SEO industry.

      Mon – I don’t see this as putting the industry in a bad light – just more of a transparent and open one. You can read about SEO best practices all-day long on hundreds of blogs, personally I’m not sure if I’d learn a lot from that – but in my opinion it’s far more interesting to find out what is actually happening out there.

      The purpose of this post wasn’t to cast opinion on whether you should or shouldn’t be buying links – it’s to highlight which tactics are being used and if people feel that they are effective as a ranking factor.

    8. [...] ‘buy’ links on behalf of their clients (a claim which appears to be backed up this research from SEOptimise). In fact there are all sorts of practices going on in reputable agencies that Google would rather [...]

    9. Sandra says:

      I really don’t understand why it is so hard to admit. People are buying links, don’t be naive. Everybody is tempted to do it, because it is an easy way to get a better search rank. Even big and well-ranked companies have been accused of such practices.

    10. SEO Seattle says:

      Although a scientific study based on a random sample drawn from a large number of SEO’s would be great, your findings are still useful. You have asked over 200 people working in the SEO industry whether they buy links, and the results are what we expect. This does help to make SEO more transparent.

      Inbound links are still the number one ranking factor by far. I’m not an advocate of buying cheap links when the chances of getting penalized down the road are high. But at the same time, my clients have to compete with sites whose rankings are clearly based on a lot of garbage links that Google still has not figured out how to ignore.

    11. Jen Speaks says:

      In every country there are good and bad seo companies.
      I have worked with companies who just rely on text link brokers to acquire links for their clients.

    12. Thomas says:

      A lot of SEO’s, or clients of SEO’s, have their backs against the walls in certain niches. When your desperate for results, sometimes you resort to desperate tactics but you certainly shouldn’t rely heavily on buying links. And if you do buy links, try to be as transparent with your client so they know the risk.

    13. [...] blog here from the guys over at SEOptimise – would you or would you not use paid links for your linkbuilding? Mind you the blog author does not seem to acknowledge (and neither does his audience) that if you [...]

    14. Chande says:

      I would ask do people make a difference between paid link and paid PR? If done right, paid PR brings you links, right? So what is a paid link anyway? Is it anchor-stuffed, sitewide crap or is it carefullly shaped PR communicated directly to portals :)

    15. iDCx says:

      indeed we buy links – without buying the ad space we need – we wouldn’t be able to produce the countless results we have – i dont see an issue – ppl are happy to pay for ppc space, but there seems to be this issue with buying links – get over yourselfs and start getting results the way the rest of them do.

    16. Copirait says:

      People are buying links, don’t be naive. Everybody is tempted to do it, because it is an easy way to get a better search rank. Even big and well-ranked companies have been accused of such practices.

    17. Nick Hurst says:

      I would say that buying links is an unfortunate necessity in ranking for tricky terms. Be nice if it wasn’t but when you’re trying to rank for terms shared by major competitors there really isn’t any option that I can see.

    18. David Burdon says:

      Kevin,

      A nice piece of work. I suspect the UK number is on the low side. There a few of us left not buying links from the major link machines.

    19. Kent says:

      My opinion on buying link is – if you want to buy links, make sure you know what you buy. Buying links doesn’t mean bad, it is actually a good strategy for your seo campaign (faster), IF you know what you buy.

      I buy links as well. But I checked the links that I buy with Wordtracker or Majestic SEO, so that I know if the links I buy is worth of my money or not. :)

    20. [...] is a time and place for everything, including bought links.  We all know people buy links.  A recent survey of 200 SEOs (conducted by SEOptimise) showed 50% of respondents buy links, and 20% would consider buying links [...]

    21. Pete says:

      Holier than thou white hatters crack me up.

      If Google never said anything against link buying…would it still be “unethical” and “lazy” to do it? Of course not. It’s only referred to as “unethical” because Google told you it was. They told you that because they want you to feel guilty and do their policing for them.

    22. Passoker says:

      But I have been taught not to do this? Why would anyone buy a link if it can get you kicked out of Google forever?

    23. Thanks for sharing these results. Great idea and interesting insight
      It would be great to complete this survey each year to see any change in strategy/opinion over time.

      Anyone found a similar survey complete previously, ideally before the Panda et al updates.

    24. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    25. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    26. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    27. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whetherRead the rest of this post at the original site: [...]

    28. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    29. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    30. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    31. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    32. [...] perceived industry consensus about the use of paid links (referencing an SEOptimise survey from September 2011, polling SEOs on whether they do or would buy [...]

    33. Inbound links are still the number one ranking factor by far. I’m not an advocate of buying cheap links when the chances of getting penalized down the road are high. But at the same time, my clients have to compete with sites whose rankings are clearly based on a lot of garbage links that Google still has not figured out how to ignore.

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