Every business looking to promote their website on organic search faces a conundrum. It’s a huge one too. Should you buy backlinks? Your SEO team probably tells you that you should. But you’re not sure. You’ve read horror stories galore of Google’s algorithm updates decimating websites overnight due to their backlink profile.
Will something similar happen to your website too? Is link building a shady SEO tactic? Doesn’t Google ask you to acquire links rather than build them? Relax. We totally understand the confusion. That’s why we’ve created this blog post to clear the air about link building in current times.
If you have been wondering whether your SEO company can be trusted, then you’ll find all the answers here. Alternatively, if you chose the DIY route for SEO, you’ll get enough information to make an objective choice.
First things first, a backlink is a one-way hyperlink that points to your website. For instance, this right here points to Google.co.uk. It’s a backlink that points to Google. Google considers a backlink as a vote of recommendation for the destination URL. If there are 1000 domains that point to your website, it’s like 1000 votes of recommendation. Picture it like 1000 people showing a thumbs up to the Google bot, in favour of your website.
There’s a small problem though. How do you get 1000 websites to point to your domain? Siteefy estimates that 547200 websites launch every day on the Internet. Why would any domain give you a vote of recommendation? In other words, links are difficult to acquire. That’s why SEOs started to build them.
Do they work in 2021?
Absolutely. There are an estimated 200 ranking factors in 2021. Backlinks are one of the most important off-site factors. Without links, your website is as good as lost on the WWW. Why would a Google bot pick your website over a 1000 others that have more votes of recommendations?
When Google launched PageRank to gauge a website’s worth, SEOs found a loophole. They realised that it’s possible to rig these votes of recommendations by building tonnes of links at a time. Thus was born ‘Black Hat SEO’ or shady SEO tactics. At the forefront were link farms.
Link farms are websites that link to hundreds of other websites. They are created solely to link to other sites to inflate the destination website’s SEO rankings. After a while, search pages were cluttered with poor quality websites boosted by hundreds of links.
Google wised up and made some changes. Thus were born the algorithms and SEO changed forever. Google continued to use backlinks as a measure of a website’s worth. But it introduced a key change. The linking website’s quality would matter, more than the quantity of links pointing at a site. Here’s an example. Your website has 1000 links from 1000 different link directories. Your competitor has 25 links from the top websites in the industry. Google attributes more importance to your competitor’s website than yours.
The takeaway is this. Quality over quantity. This segues into the crux of the matter.
Ideally, you shouldn’t. But nothing’s ideal in the real world. Certainly not in the face of fierce competition in the digital marketplace. Every business website out there buys backlinks. Period. You can engage an A-lister SEO firm that charges 6-figures a month. They will also recommend you to buy backlinks. Alternatively, you can work with a smaller, skilled team of SEO professionals like us. The answer doesn’t change. But the methods and the cost might vary significantly.
A high quality backlink is worth its weight in gold. SEO companies around the world know this better than anyone else. So they are willing to pay the price for it. That’s why it’s becoming more and more difficult to acquire links naturally. Unless you have a stellar information piece that attracts a backlink from Wikipedia, or Forbes, you are facing an uphill battle.
Buying backlinks is a shortcut that will drastically cut short the time that it takes to rank. But if there’s one thing that we are wary of, it’s a penalty. Over the years there have been numerous attempts by Google to detect shady link building practices. The most recent update was in June 2021. Google called it the ‘Link Spam’ detection update.
Let’s say you do not want to buy links. You prefer to do it naturally and play by the rules. You are not worried about your competition getting better results in a shorter time span. What are your choices? Believe it or not, we work with clients who prefer to do this. Here are some of your options.
Do an outreach programme instead
You need to find authority websites who will be generous enough to give you a free backlink. An outreach programme can help. Your SEO team will make a list of prospect websites with great metrics. These are websites that Google trusts. Then they will send out an email to each one of those websites informing them about this great content piece you have written recently. Then you wait for one of them to respond. This is a shortened version of the process, mind you. You need to create content, find prospect websites, get emails and send out a killer handwritten email. It’s not easy.
If you don’t know which websites might link to you, check your competitor’s backlinks. That’s a great place to start. Moz has a great guide over here. You can filter the domains linking to your competitor’s site by metrics and use the same process. By the way, Hunter.io is a great tool to find professional email addresses.
HARO or ‘Help a reporter out’ is a free tool. It’s a platform that connects reporters looking for sources, with websites like yours. You need a link, they can provide you the platform. HARO is a tough nut to crack. But we have used to it acquire some terrific backlinks in the last one year for our clients. Links that would have taken a fair bit of time and money to build otherwise.
Write the best content piece that ever exists on a topic. Don’t get limited by word count. Just keep writing until you include every bit of relevant information on the topic that there is. Some experts call this Skyscraper content. If you can create this, your outreach programme might be fruitful and somewhat easier.
The problem with these methods is that small to medium sized businesses don’t have the bandwidth or the time for it. Outreach programmes can be painfully slow. Sometimes 100s of emails are unanswered. You have to wait for months to acquire a paltry link. So, should you buy backlinks in 2021?
At Rockstar Marketing, we have a link building checklist. Regardless of whether we are doing an outreach programme or using influencer marketing, or buying a backlink, we run it through this checklist. This ensures that we stay in Google’s good books. We don’t invoke the wrath of the ranking gods. Here’s a look at the checklist:
- Links from authority domains only. This depends on the industry. But any website that’s not amongst the top 500 websites in an industry does not even qualify.
- Links from relevant domains only. We filter authority websites based on relevancy. Only the most relevant websites make it to our A-list. Anything that’s close but not directly relevant goes to the B-List.
- Link within content only. The link has to originate from a relevant content piece. We are not hung up over anchor text. But no links from sidebars or footers.
- Minimum Outbound links. The article, shouldn’t have more than 10 outbound links. This is not set in stone. But it’s a thumb rule we follow. One that has worked for us.
- Mix of follow and do follow links. Not all links that we buy are ‘dofollow’. Wikipedia for instance has ‘nofollow’ links only. So it has to be a mix of both.
- Avoid PBNs. We don’t hate PBNs. We have used them in the past to great effect. But if you are wondering that, ‘should you buy backlinks in 2021’, then PBNs should be a last resort.
To wrap it up
Buying backlinks borders on Grey Hat SEO. But there are ways to stay within Google’s guidelines and still do this. You just need the right SEO team working with you. We have helped hundreds of businesses fix and improve their backlink profile. Speak to us if your current SEO team is unable to acquire the kind of backlinks you seek.