Linkfluence: How to Buy Links With Maximum Juice and Minimum Risk

November 12, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences


I’m dizzy. Oh noes.  Stupid Vegas flu of death.

This should be a good panel. We have nice list of characters all set to talk about links and how to get them, buy them, and love them in a way that won’t get you smack in the face by Google. With a brick.   Up on stage we have a motley crew featuring Todd Malicoat, Roger Montti, Aaron Wall, and Rand Fishkin.  Let’s get this thing started. I swear to God the room is spinning.

Up first is Rand Fishkin.

Rand says he asked to be kicked off this panel because he doesn’t endorse buying links and he doesn’t do it anymore [Hear that, Google. SEOmoz doesn’t buy links. SO KEEP MOVING.]. He offered to go last…but everyone else bullied the moderator into making him go first. Poor Rand. Always the innocent bunny in a pack of wolves.

Unfortunately, the projector is broken so we have no screen. Something about a plug that doesn’t work.  So…we’re doing question and answer first while they send someone to try and fix it. I’ll throw the questions at the bottom.  Back to Mr. Fishkin.

He tries to be very clear about his shift in position about paid links. He doesn’t think not buying links is right for everyone, it’s just what’s right for his clients and for SEOmoz.   Rand says he falls into the “Operator of Interest’ category. Meaning, he’s profiled for being an SEO.

The problem with paid links:

  • Algorithmic detection is getting better than ever before.
  • Penalties are hard to diagnose.
  • Manual link penalties are also a threat
  • Google’s’ Webspam team invests (A LOT of) time and resources in shutting down effective paid links. [Agreed. And almost an unhealthy amount.]
  • Competitors have significant incentive to report link spam. (Don’t be a rat.)

How he advises clients to spend money to get links

  • High Quality UI
  • Web page Load Speed [We’re suggesting fast servers as a link technique? Someone get Rand a cookie and some warm milk.]
  • Invest in user generated content + contributions
  • Hire community managers
  • Organizing and sponsoring events
  • License Content/Technology for nominal fees
  • Issuing press releases
  • Creating badges and widgets
  • Collecting and sharing research data
  • Build viral content
  • Employ conversion rate optimization on link targeted content
  • Remove the marketing wrapper
  • Advertise link targeted content
    • StumbleUpon
    • TechMeme
    • Facebook Ads
    • Twitter advertising
    • Sponsored blog ads
    • Individual blog and media sites

Buying links creates an unnatural link profile because you get them in spurts. You want your pattern to look organic.   Paid links work on a rental model. You pay to acquire and keep them. Natural links you don’t have to pay for.  Rand says not to reject paid links not because Google says so but because it’s not the best ROI activity.

Next up is Roger Montti.

You have to understand the risk involved with paid links and what Google is doing to try and find them.


Be discrete. Never prematurely reveal who is buying links.  You never know when a White hat nutter may be watching. Not revealing also increases your negotiating power. Reduces exposure of your site for buying links.

What not to do:

  • Never directly state you want to buy links  [Roger says “asking people, ‘how much for you links’ is like asking ‘how much are your women?!’ omg I DIED]
  • Only inquire with sites that are trying to monetize
  • Never purchase links from sites that try to monetize too hard
  • Never purchase links from sites that are obviously selling links: If they have links in the footer or links on the site not related to the niche – just stay away.  They’re going to be caught and you don’t want to be swept up in that or invite scrutiny to your site.
  • Never buy links from sites that have an explicit advertising page
  • Never buy links from sites linking out to irrelevant sites

Three Part Negotiation Process

  • First Contact: Never reveal the name of your site. Just inquire about advertising/sponsorship rates. Email should be short and direct. Never mention anchor text, link buying, etc.
  • Second Contact: Offer a price.  Should you low ball? Yes, sort of.  Don’t reveal the name just yet. Negotiate whether they offer text links. Never respond to overly inquisitive emails.
  • Third Contact: Close the deal.

You have to be careful. You don’t want to be outed by a Google fan boy. You have to take measures to make sure your links aren’t going to bring down your site. Understand the risks and then go about the activity in a way that minimizes those risks.

What kinds of links should you buy?

  • Run of Site links
  • Contributed Articles: They look natural, are cheap, and can enjoy inbound links from other blogs. Never buy from a site that explicitly sells article links.
  • Banner Ads: They look natural. It’s advertising, not a link buy. Usually counts as a vote. Easier to negotiate than other forms of links. No anchor text mojo. Lots of on-page SEO mojo.

Where should you buy?

  • Find unique opportunities: Who uses your product? Where are your users online? Don’t buy links where competitors already purchased.
  • Diversify your backlink profile: Blogs. Web-only magazine sites. Industry associations related to those who use your product. Charitable sponsorships.

Next up is Aaron Wall.

What Media is Pure?

  • Rampant mortgage fraud
  • Governments lie to start bogus wars
  • Student load kickbacks

All of these people made lots of money.  Some got in trouble.

There was a study done on Consumer Web Watch where most searchers showed that they don’t know that sponsored links are paid for. They thought they were colored because they were the most important.

Link Anchor Text

  • Variation = less likely to get filtered.  Use keyword modifiers, alternate word forms, plural vs singular.
  • Make spammy anchor text look legit: Create spammy titles for SEO then later change them. Domain names influence anchor text.
  • Deep links: Work wonders.

Blend in.  Link location matters. The more you can be in content, the better you’re going to do. Links at the bottom of the page are often discounted.

Buy Trusted Links:

  • Best of the Web
  • Yahoo! Directory
  • Industry associations and events
  • Barter
  • Syndication
  • Awards
  • Contest
  • Buy competing Web sites

Create a cover. As long as you have some good links, the bad ones probably won’t be so obvious.  You should also encourage organic links by:

  1. Cumulative advantage
  2. Regular editorial voice
  3. Community participation
  4. Show social proof
  5. Beautiful site design
  6. Signs of credibility
  7. Drive traffic to your best content

Next up is Todd Malicoat.

Link buying feels kind of dirty now. At some point this didn’t become okay. It’s become a semantic issue.   It’s like most women would rather be charmed than picked up.

6 Important Traits to Attracting Links & Love

  1. Value
  2. Quality
  3. Perseverance
  4. Success
  5. Promise
  6. Endurance

Asking for a Link

Asking for a link is like asking to do business.  Don’t call it link buying, call it business development.  Everything has catchy nicknames.  Cloaking is IP detecting.  Don’t make it what it isn’t. Don’t get caught up in the semantic debate.

It’s not an easy proposition to get people to link to your Web site. If you listen to SEOs, there are three links on the Web that actually pass rank.  heh.

How to train link developers

How do you evaluate a link?  Total unique linking domains (he likes the SEOmoz Toolbar and Link Harvester), total # of links, special links, anchor text placement control, site %, co-citations, age of site.

Explain the contradiction of PageRank mattering. ToolBar PR doesn’t mean a lot. If you see a PR 0 it probably won’t be worth as much time as a PR 7, however, we don’t know if the PR 7 is passing juice. Hence, the contradiction.

Show them how to find good starting points and WHY this is important.  Show them how to use creative queries to find high quality links. He likes to start the Google Directory.

Explain how to find contact information. It seems really simple just to look at WHOIS.  You want to send personalized requests. Search the page for the name, an email, the common keywords on the page, etc.  Maybe you can find a phone number. Learn to search the name of a webmaster in order to find an email.

Explain the 12 different link types: Authority, directory, reciprocation, run of sites, one way links from friends, edus, radio, etc.  Know which ones are important and which will be the most valuable to your site.

Use tools for discovery.

Other tips: Use female names when trying to get links. They work better. Use Twitter, IM, Email, Facebook, etc to get in touch with people. Try different communication methods.  Don’t always go in for the kill. Mention the Web sites you’re associated with. Start a dialogue.

When you go in for the link, make sure you’re getting the most out of it. If someone is really receptive, get good citations. Make sure there are no lies in the relationship and your links aren’t getting nofollow’d.

Whats the difference between buying a link and placing a press release on one of the main press release services?

Todd: semantics

Roger: That’s the controversy. At what point is it a paid link and at what point is it advertising?

When buying links people tend to overuse anchor text. Is there a threshold that people should watch for?

Roger: Diversity looks natural – diversity in the kinds of links and the kinds of sites you’re getting the links from. He likes to do it in increments and see how things bounce around in the SERPs.

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