It all about feeding the Beast!
If there’s one topic that is as alive today as it was in year past, it’s paid links. Are paid links bad? What are the ethics? Are they worth it? On and on. But I rarely hear talk some of the more important aspects when looking at them from a resource perspective.
First things first, there is rarely anything that doesn’t qualify as a paid link (technically). If you’re simply buying them outright or creating content/resources to get them or just a mommy blogger that networks; there is an associated cost. Sure, we’re being a bit anal in the assessment, but it’s true in most cases. You are paying for links. Thankfully, Google doesn’t see it that way.
Now, we can deal with the questions in short order;
Are they bad? - no. Heck, even Google doesn’t mind them as long as they are flagged (via nofollow) so they can be discounted. But hey, search engineers know there are far more problematic things out there (artificially) affecting the rankings, the proverbial monkey-wrench.
Are there ethics? - I personally believe so. If you are purchasing links on behalf of a client without first fully explaining all the potential ramifications, then you are not doing your job in good faith as a part of the SEO community.
Are they worth it? – this one also depends. Many SEOs I speak with are resigned to the fact that in the more competitive spaces, it is mandatory. I know other link builders that almost entirely deal with paid links these days. But value really comes from actually looking at the situation and the road you are travelling. All that glitters may not be gold.
Let us consider;
- Have to keep paying or the ‘equity’ dries up
- Have to keep feeding in temporally affected query spaces
- You need to keep feeding if competition is high
- You run the risk of having them nuked
- Ethics; have you truly explained the risk to the client?
- What happens if the link seller gets nuked?
- Ranking rentals….
- Usually in a bad segment
- Will Google (continue to) erode the value of links?
- Traffic? Will it send actual traffic?
- Budget eater (if sellers consistently raise prices)
Let me say this right out as well; I have been involved (called in after the fact) in places that have had ‘issues‘ from link buying. More than a few times (peeps called me; the Fixer). It is truly a double edged sword and one has to keep this in mind.
We can also consider elements in play such as page segmentation. If the Google is in fact using such an approach, we can also consier that even the location (usually low side panel of footer) further lowers the value of a paid link (more; page segmentation and link building).
Furthermore, there are less reputable ‘link builders‘ (term used loosely) that charge for a mass of paid links. Once they are off the project, for whatever reason, they take their marbles (links) and go home. Also problematic.
But what options are out there?
The next stop along the logic express of course is to look at some other approaches to generating links. Some that come to mind are;
- Resource development
- Breaking news
- Networking (on and offline)
- Outreach (sourcing)
- Trolling (lol.. U know, emailing peeps)
- Foundational (directories, article drops etc..)
- Social Media (syndication, temporal, discovery)
You get the idea. There’s a TON more (like these link bait ideas) but that’s not the point here. So let’s move along smartly.
What are the considerations with these?
- Less Risk
- Future Proofing
- Building Authority
- More natural profile
- Greater temporal opportunities (social)
- Making important connections/relations
- Less Susceptible to Google Changes
Thus I submit to you that a strong content program is often the best way to go. In combination with outreach, social (syndication and networking) it is a formidable tool. With more long term potential value.
One of my fav saying on it is;
‘Why rent what you can own‘ by Lee Odden
It has become easier than ever to get (quality) content out in front of the masses. Yes, there is always an associated cost, so it is a paid link of sorts, but the benefits and lack of risk make it the obvious choice. We also have to ask the question; is Google getting past the link? This also makes the risk v reward ratio more questionable.
Content programs are far more than a mere link building tool.
Thin Content in the Gun Sights?
Interestingly, with the whole MayDay changes and the assault on thin pages and content farms, we can infer that quality content will only be able to gain more ground moving forward. Google is unlikely to throw in the towel on that one any time soon.
Yea, I know.. the whole ‘content is King‘ spiel. I won’t be going there. One does tire of that line after this many years… but let’s not let that revulsion of a catch phrase unduly taint the attitude towards the concepts. There are plenty of SEOs that swear by paid links, many that promote content programs and even more that believe both are viable. I just believe that the paid route requires more consideration than many folks give it when starting down that path.
Let the debate begin! LOL… because I just KNOW I’ll be slammed on this one by friend and foe alike.