Paid links: bad practice is still in practice, so get our tips

It’s a known fact that buying paid links in link markets, though condemned by search engines, still retains its position as number one optimization tool in Runet and in other internets all over the world. Playing paid links games is still often considered a genuine SEO practice (What else do they get their money for?). We personally hate this practice and would not recommend it to our clients – if we have such request we just refuse to work. Still, some website owners think they can proceed on their own then and “help” their SEO specialists without their knowing about it. Ok, guys, for you specially, some grey hat advice on buying links. Enter at your own risk, but keep some rules in mind at least :)

Here are the basics. Before you buy links you are supposed to have:

  • decided upon the keywords you are targeting
  • chosen the pages you are going to link to
  • completed the on-page optimization of these pages: created a nice keyword-laden title tag, placed the keywords several times within the text, put them into the headings, etc.

Now, you’ll need to buy links from the websites that have the same keywords as yours. However, it is not advisable to buy only the links with one and the same anchor from a site. Optimization specialists are still crossing swords over the question whether or not links with the same anchor text are “glued” together, but, in any case, piles of identical links leading to one page will look most suspicious to any search engine. So, before you buy links you have to prepare a list of different anchors with the keywords and key phrases varied and a small number of anchors without any keywords.

After you have made all the preparations, you may start buying links. In what markets to trade your links? Runet’s most noted link market is Sape (you might need a Russian speaking broker). Aside from a large number of market places, its huge advantage is high usability and robust functionality, as it has everything a SEO specialist would ask for. At the same time, if you are not willing to go to expense, you can trade at Mainlink, SetLinks and LinkFeed, whose links will cost you much less.

You can purchase either automatically or manually. Automatically all you can do is tune the filters in the best way possible, but you won’t be able to control the quality of the webpages you buy from or the links. For that reason webmasters only resort to automatic purchase if they have to buy them in great bulk (when targeting real competitive search queries) or due to a lack of time. In other cases you had better handpick the market places.

When purchasing the links manually you filter the prospective places for your link first and then search the results for yourself. Here are some tips for your futher steps in buying paid links:

  1. The most important requirement a page you buy links from must meet is being in the index of the search engines. If you are looking to improve the rankings of your page in the Russian segment of www, check if the page is indexed by Yandex and (less importantly) by Google. Remember: links sold at any link market are not necessarily indexed by search engines. So you should find it out before you buy them, manually, using the buttons you will see in the search results your links exchange system would offer you. And never forget to check if the page (and your link to it) is still indexed by search engines when you renew the links you’ve bought, as even the initially indexed pages may for some reason disappear from the index.
  2. Other significant criteria are Yandex’ Thematic Index of Quotation (TIC) and Google PageRank (PR). The prices of links depend largely on their ranking parameters. Although these parameters do not allow to evaluate the quality of the link directly, they are still in a way indicative of the page’s reliability. A link from a site with high PR and TIC usually carries more weight than a link from a zero-linking site. However, you don’t have to pursue quality too much. You can buy a few links from popular sites with a high PR (especially if the links are on the mainpage), they will enhance your traffic but it is more profitable to buy many cheap links from the pages with a low or average TIC and PR rates.
  3. The number of outer links placed on a page you buy from is an important factor. The more outer links a page has, the less valuable each one is. You wouldn’t want to buy a link from the page already listing 8-10 links.
  4. Another important parameter is the page’s topicality. The pages you are buying links from must be related to the issue that your site is devoted to and only then, if there are few options, consider other pages. Ideally, the topics of your page and the page you are buying a link from, should be identical. For example, should you promote your page for the query «elephants», make sure the page you are going to place your link on is also about elephants. To find such pages, you may use the «keywords» form in Sape.
  5. Find out if the website you buy links from is listed in Yandex.Catalogue and DMOZ. It is not a 100% quality guarantee but a website listed in one or both directories has higher chances of being really good.
  6. The placement of your paid links on a webpage. If someone has already bought links on the page, you can open it and see where the links are placed. Unfortunately, in most cases the sold links are put far below in under the footer of the page with no text following them. It’s no good. If you have a choice, buy links that are placed in the middle part of the page, or at the top.
  7. The page’s URL is something to pay attention to. Better have an URL that looks like page.htm than page.php?a=t&b=768583&c=%D0%A6%B4
  8. The domain name of the webpage you buy. You’d better prefer second-level domains (with the exception of the Ukrainian domains like site.com.ua that are tantamount to SLDs), and of all SLDs prefer .ru or .su domains (if you are promoting your site in Runet).
  9. Forms present on the webpage. It’s better if there aren’t any (including those for submitting comments). Search engines don’t rank these pages high. It’s better,  if you find such a form, to try leaving a comment with free link to your page :)
  10. If the page you want to buy is a forum, a guestbook, an image board or a directory, where anyone can leave a message, it has little value for search engines. Better try to leave a link for free rather than buy one.
  11. Information richness on the page. If the number of ads, links is blown out of proportion whilst there are just a couple of lines of the text content, this is not good. Consider carefully whether or not you want to buy a link on such a page.
  12. «Undesirable» topic of the page or «undesirable» links on it. «Undesirable» may mean porn and other unclean and illegal things. It’s preferable not to have such pages link to yours, as the undesirables may tarnish your site’s reputation.
  13. If the page has spam text (automatically generated text that makes no sense) or automatically uniqualized texts (i.e. texts where Cyrillic letters are replaced with similar looking Latin ones). Sooner or later such pages will be banned by search engines and your links may have a negative effect.

This isn’t a complete list of criteria, there are other important things as well, e.g. the situation when the site you buy links from is being filtered out, the quality of its backlinks, etc, but checking these is very time consuming and doesn’t pay off. When buying paid links (especially if you’re promoting a new site) note that if you purchase a hundred (a thousand) links per saltum search engines, esp. Yandex, may apply filters against your website and decrease your rankings. So it is better to buy links gradually.

So even better is to avoid buying paid links at all if it is possible. There are plenty good white hat SEO practices to be used instead out there…

by Olly and Vi