Paid links are links from other websites to your website that you pay for. They can range from you sponsoring an event and having the event website link to you, all the way through to using a paid link service where you pay a monthly rental fee to have some blogs or other websites link to you with whatever text you specify.
This article is specifically about paid links that you rent per month or year through services specifically designed to sell you links for specifically for SEO value only. Links from sponsorships or other relationships are generally not as harmful.
It’s well known that links are very important for how high you rank in search engines. The whole structure of Google is based upon using links as a vote for how important your website is. More links equal more votes. Fewer links mean you are less important and likely to rank lower for search terms, all else being equal.
Google does not like paid links. Why? Well, just like we don’t want our politicians buying votes, Google does not want you buying votes online (links). If you can buy your way to the top of the rankings, search results are no longer about how relevant the page is to the search, they are about who has the most money. And Google needs to maintain that high degree of relevance in search results to keep their users happy.
Why Paid Links are the Steroids of SEO:
Paid links help in the short term, but not in the long term. Just like steroids, you can get a short term boost from paid links. But in the long term, if your whole strategy is based on paid links, you do not have a sustainable strategy. You need to keep buying more and more paid links. After a while, it will be hard to buy any more, and the effectiveness of your program will decrease rapidly.
Paid links are against the rules. Google does not like paid links, and if you get caught you will get in trouble. Just like a lot of famous athletes are having their Olympic medals taken away and having to testify in front of Congress, if Google discovers you have purchased links, you can suffer the wrath of the online government (Google).
Paid links make you lazy. Building your company presence on the Internet is hard work. Link building is especially hard work. It is difficult to create great content that people want to link to, but it is necessary to build the right habits over time to always be creating good and compelling content. If you are just buying links you are not building the right habits. You get lazy and don’t build any content. This will really hurt you in the long term.
Your competitors can tell. Just like steroids where one athlete can turn in another athlete who is breaking the rules and using steroids, it is possible to try to notify Google that your competitor is cheating and using lots of paid links.
About the author
Mike is the CEO of Lola.com, an entrepreneurial /startup executive with expertise in marketing, sales, business development, and growth strategy for SaaS, B2B enterprise and SMB companies. Mike is also an Investor and advisor to 30+ startups.