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Time and again SEOs have published articles and manuals on link building, emphasizing the importance of genuine inbound links that are established due to a webmaster’s confidence in the quality of one’s own website. Simply put, these articles on link building are eschewing link buying and advising novice SEOs not to bother with this strategy.
Search engines such as Google use links as a ranking signal, using them as basis for determining the popularity of a website. Naturally, the most popular websites are the ones that get on top of the SERPs. It is assumed that if a website earns many links, other websites find its content relevant to their own and useful for their readers.
In a way, link buying is cheating. It tricks search engines into interpreting the massive amount of inbound links as a signal of popularity. This is why once Google got wind of link buying it immediately handed out penalties to websites that have been linked from unrelated web pages and link mines. Point in case: the J.C. Penney website, which used to top the Google SERPs for every retail product in its inventory, was promptly removed from the SERPs when Google’s webspam department found out about its link buying scheme.
So is link buying truly ineffective at this point in time? Perhaps not since even though Google has already refined its PageRank algorithm to screen websites with hints of link buying activities, it still cannot catch every single one of them (hence the creation of the paid link reporting tool). Indeed it appears that many long-time SEOs are still quietly doing this practice.
50% of SEOs Say Yes to Link Buying
On September 2011 the popular website SEOptimise.com conducted a survey among search engine optimizers. Among 202 respondents, 106 or more than 50% said that they are indeed buying links for website ranking purposes.
Thirty-four respondents said that it is a primary strategy for their SEO campaign, while 26 only use it as a minor contributor in their link building efforts. This is a wise move for the latter group. While bought links can bring up a website’s page rank, they can also attract Google webspam’s attention. If you want long-term success you’ll still need ethical and by-the-book SEO strategies. With bought links constituting only a small portion of their total backlinks, it is less likely they’ll get caught.
The remaining 46 say that they are willing to buy links if it will work considering the niche and competition faced by a website.
26% Say No, 20% Might Consider
Fifty-five respondents say that they do not, at all, do link buying. These people are truly admirable for adhering to Google’s webmaster guidelines. SEoptimise.com has reservations about the truthfulness of this statement though, since their answers are subjective to what they consider as paid and non-paid links.
Forty-three of the respondents said they are not currently buying links, but will reconsider the matter if the situation calls for it.
Based on the results of this survey, link buying remains to be popular despite the rules and regulations created denouncing it. SEO is all about strategy, after all; it is up to the discretion of the SEO to use ethical methods of link building or dabble with link buying once in a while.