What’s The Cost of Buying Links in 2016? I Reached Out To 250 Blogs To Find Out.

David McSweeney
David is the owner of Top5SEO and a white hat SEO evangelist. SEO case studies make him a lot happier than they should, and he has a tendency to overuse ellipses...

Article stats

  • Referring domains 48
  • Organic traffic 300
Data from Content Explorer tool.

    What’s the value of a backlink?

    And by value, I don’t mean in terms of ‘link juice’ or quality. I’m talking about cold, hard cash.

    To attempt to find the answer, I recently reached out to 250 websites across 5 popular niches and asked 2 questions:

    1. Do you sell links?
    2. If so, how much do you sell them for?

    In a moment, I’ll share my findings.

    But first let’s take a quick look at the link buying and selling industry.

    The Lowdown on Link Buying

    For as long as Google has used link popularity to rank websites, backlinks have been a commodity.

    And like all commodities, there are those looking to buy and those looking to sell.

    Early Link Buying: Authority Directories

    The earliest, and most ‘white hat’ form of link buying involved submitting your site to authority directories. These directories generally charged a ‘review’ fee.

    The now defunct Yahoo directory is probably the highest profile example.

    yahoo-directory

    They charged a fee of around £300 for inclusion (although they did reject some sites) and a link from Yahoo would definitely boost your rankings.

    Make no mistake, that link was not bought for traffic.

    I submitted many sites into the Yahoo directory back in the early 2000s and the referral traffic was minimal. A link from Yahoo was always bought for the purposes of increasing Google rankings.

    The Link Buying Boom

    By the mid 2000s a whole industry had grown around selling links.

    Sites such as Text Link Ads sold links on a ‘rental’ basis.

    image via Google Plus

    image via Google Plus

    You paid a monthly fee for a link (generally on the home page) with the cost dependent on the site’s metrics.

    And in those days, the metric that mattered was PageRank. Specifically, Toolbar PageRank.

    pagerank

    From memory, pricing started at around $30 per month for a link from a PR1/2 site. High PR sites commanded fees of $100+.

    Remember, that’s a monthly fee. So $100 per month would end up costing you $1,200 per year.

    These links would generally be sidebar links.

    But it was also a piece of cake to buy links from within content.

    Another popular link buying service was Review Me.

    reviewme

    From their site you could buy ‘reviews’ of your product or service from bloggers, with an in-content anchor text link of your choice.

    Again, pricing was dependent on the site’s metrics.

    As you can see from the screen shot above, the sites selling the links were publicly displayed. Which of course meant it was very easy for Google to take action.

    Google Forces Link Sellers Underground

    As Google funneled more resource into their webspam team, they started to penalise sites who had been publicly selling links through broker sites, or on forums.

    This penalty was generally a reduction in PageRank, but in extreme cases it could be a de-indexing.

    They also encouraged users to report paid links directly to Google.

    mattcutts

    Did this stop link buying?

    Nope.

    It just forced those buying and selling links to exercise discretion — making it harder for Google to catch sites who were breaking the rules.

    And to clarify, buying links for the purposes of increasing your rankings is definitely breaking Google’s rules.

    Indeed, buying links is the first example they give of a ‘link scheme’ in their quality guidelines article.

    The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

    Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

    So what’s the current state of play with link buying?

    Editor’s note
    If you are caught buying links to improve rankings your site could be penalised by Google. We do not recommend buying links, but if you do, then understand the risks.

    Link Buying/Selling In 2016

    Here are some of the ways you can buy links for SEO purposes in 2016.

    Paid Guest Posts

    A quick Google search for “buy guest posts” surfaces a ton of sites offering to get you links from guest posts for a fee.

    buyguestposts

    Of course, some of these will be offering a genuine link building service and charging accordingly. Nothing wrong with that.

    But there are lots that are clearly just acting as middle men and paying sites for inclusion.

    We get requests like that at Ahrefs all the time.

    Here’s an email I got earlier this week.

    email

    And here’s Tim trolling some poor guy back in December last year.

    trolling

    If that seems a little mean, you should know that this guy was contacting all our previous contributors to try and sneakily buy a backlink on the blog.

    I don’t think we heard back from him after that!

    But the thing is…

    If he’d actually just written a top quality guest post, we would probably have accepted it and he would have picked up a link for free.

    SAPE Links

    Sape is a Russian link network, which allows you to buy backlinks on high authority domains for a monthly fee.

    You can buy the links directly through the network, or use a middle man.

    sape

    As you can see, the links are very cheap, but this is a mega blackhat service.

    Many of the sites on the network are hacked and the links added without the knowledge of the site owner.

    Our advice:

    Don’t go anywhere near it.

    Buying Links From Bloggers

    This brings us to where I believe the bulk of link buying and selling takes place in 2016.

    That’s private link purchases from bloggers.

    I have a few different blog sites and I get these kind of requests all the time.

    link-buy1

    (I don’t sell links btw!)

    And the thing is, for Google, these link buys are pretty undetectable.

    How can they tell if a link from within a piece of editorial content has been paid for?

    The answer is, they can’t.

    Flipping this round, have you ever sent an outreach email and received a response like this?

    link-sell

    I’m seeing it more and more.

    Many bloggers are well aware of the value of a backlink and are now openly asking for payment.

    Which kind of sucks.

    But, that’s business I guess.

    So just how much private link buying and selling goes on? And what’s the average cost of a link?

    Let’s find out.

    What Percentage Of Blogs Are Selling Links In 2016?

    I picked 5 competitive niches and reached out to 50 sites in each.

    Here are the niches:

    • Travel
    • Fashion
    • Fitness
    • Finance
    • Weddings

    And here is the email I sent:

    linkbuy-email2

    As you can see, there was no messing about. I got straight to the point.

    I wanted to buy a link on their site and I wanted to know how much it would be.

    Here are the results.

    Sidenote.
    I won’t be ‘outing’ any of the sites who were selling links. That’s not what this study was about. 

    Total Number of Blogs Selling Links

    Firstly, let’s take a look at the overall totals:

    • Sell links: 46
    • Don’t sell links: 22
    • No response: 182

    blogs-selling-links

    As you can see in the chart above, 18.4% of the sites I reached out to agreed to sell me a link.

    That’s quite a high hit rate.

    But as you will see in a moment, the data is skewed somewhat by one of the niches.

    Sidenote.
    6 of the sites stipulated that the link would be included in a post marked as “sponsored”. There were no sites who insisted the link be nofollow. 

    Total Number of Blogs Selling Links by Niche

    Now let’s break it down by niche.

    • Travel: 24/50
    • Fashion: 7/50
    • Fitness: 4/50
    • Finance: 5/50
    • Weddings: 6/50

    As you can see, travel was by far the biggest niche selling links.

    linksales-by-niche

    A whopping 48% of the sites I contacted agreed to sell me a link.

    This makes sense considering the value of the travel industry. It would also suggest that a big percentage of commercial travel sites are buying links (supply and demand).

    Now let’s take a look at the actual cost of buying the links.

    What Is The Cost Of Buying A Link in 2016?

    There was a big variation in the price of buying the links.

    The cheapest quote was £80, which currently works out at $101. That link was from a fashion blog with a Domain Rating of 46.

    dr1

    The most expensive quote was $590 per year. That came from a DR55 travel blog.

    dr2

    Across all 46 sites, the average cost of buying a link was $352.93.

    Which means if I wanted to buy a link on every site, it would cost me a total of $16,234.78!

    Here’s a breakdown of what that would get me in terms of metrics.

    selling-links-by-domain-rating

    That’s a pretty powerful selection of links right there.

    Which I’m guessing would definitely move the needle.

    Sidenote.
    I did not reach out to an even split of sites by domain rating, so this should not be taken as an indication that sites with DR 50–59 are more likely to sell links. I used lists of “top blogs” in the niches to select sites. 

    The Takeaway

    It would appear that the link buying and selling industry in 2016 is alive and well.

    Of course this was a relatively small sample of just 250 sites, but the takeaway is clear:

    If you want to buy backlinks for your site, then you can.

    I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether $352.92 is:

    • a) worth the money
    • b) worth the risk of getting caught

    You can let me know in the comments!

    David McSweeney
    David is the owner of Top5SEO and a white hat SEO evangelist. SEO case studies make him a lot happier than they should, and he has a tendency to overuse ellipses...

    Article stats

    • Referring domains 48
    • Organic traffic 300
    Data from Content Explorer tool.

    Shows how many different websites are linking to this piece of content. As a general rule, the more websites link to you, the higher you rank in Google.

    Shows estimated monthly search traffic to this article according to Ahrefs data. The actual search traffic (as reported in Google Analytics) is usually 3-5 times bigger.

    Get notified of new articles

    46,636 marketers are already subscribed to Ahrefs blog. Leave your email to get our weekly newsletter.

    • mitchfortin

      Thanks for your post!

      Do you have an idea how Google considers industrial directory website (eg: ThomasNet, Globalspec, Direct Industry, etc.) where companies have to pay for having a company/products page with links ? That’s obvious companies have to pay, but it is fair and not hidden.
      Michel

      • Hi Mitch. Sites like that should be absolutely fine.

        • mitchfortin

          Thank you David. 

          Another situation: We are used to promote our high quality blog posts having inbound links (high tech industry) to industrial web sites who share to their audiences news about their industry. Most of the time, these web sites have high domain authority. These web sites appreciate to share our blog post contents directly on their website (often they remove certain portion) without removing our own inbound links. 

          Possible to be penalized by Google thought this process? Some sort of duplicate content (no canonical url)?

          MIchel

          • if they are linking back to your site I wouldn’t worry about it. Nothing wrong with content syndication.

    • Hello. Nice article. Can you tell the list of blogs? I would lime to contact them and take a link from them.
      My opinion: I believe is good strategy but need to take care and not get carried away from the cost! Always check the metrics of the site and then buy a link from them.

      • Hi Sergios, unfortunately I can’t reveal the list of blogs. That wouldn’t be cool.

      • Benjamin Shepardson

        Just look up lists of sites accepting guest posts and contact them, half of them will want money to accept your posts

    • Afzal Khan

      Thanks for sharing the insights & price of a link. 

      It’s easy to acquire links by paying for it rather than going the hard earned way. SEO is an effort and on going process with long term gains.

    • Russ Tanner

      Great article. Thanks. Does Google still put as much value on backlinks as it used to? Clearly they are important. But how important? With limited time and resources, would you recommend putting more time into getting backlinks or creating new content for my website?

      • Hey Russ, backlinks are still undoubtedly the number 1 ranking factor (check out our on page SEO study for more http://ahrefs.com/blog/on-page-seo). But that being said, you need solid content to back it up. Great content attracts great links. So I would actually say you need to spend equal time on both.

        • Russ Tanner

          Thanks. I recently signed up for an Ahrefs trial and I’ve been blown away by how good your blog content is and the tools you offer. Nice job 😉

          I’m relatively new to SEO. I’ve worked in marketing for quite a while. But I’ve focused mostly on creatives, ad campaigns, AdWords, etc. I haven’t been on the SEO side of things.

          One of my clients is a small law firm (3 attorneys). They primarily do work in three neighboring cities. The challenge I have with them is that they do not specialize in a particular field of law. They handle divorces, business disputes, personal injury, etc.

          I’m at a loss on how to start tackling their SEO. Right now they have a single website that talks about everything. And I’ve build several landing pages (under the same domain) for different legal areas that they cover (a page for divorce, a page for personal injury, etc.). Would you recommend building separate websites — on separate domains that are specific to each legal area? Or does that cannibalize the main website’s traffic? I’m just not sure how to wrap my head around any particular strategy.

          Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

          • Contact me. I’ll give you some advice

            • Russ Tanner

              Thanks. How should I contact you? 

          • Law is a tough niche Russ. I know lots of lawyers do the different domains thing, but I would recommend focusing on one site. Otherwise you’ve got to promote and build links to each site separately and creating more work for yourself. If you have one site and focus on creating cool content/building links/promoting it, then you should be able to rank for a range of keywords as your domain authority increases.

            • Russ Tanner

              Thanks a lot. How do you tackle local searches? For example, the law firm is in San Clemente. But he has clients in two neighboring cities. He’s ranking pretty good for San Clemente — mostly because “San Clemente” is all over the website. That’s where his physical location is. How do you start showing up for multiple cities in the search results? I think that’s why a lot of lawyers go with multiple domains because they want to target separate cities. But I agree with you, it seems like that creates a lot more work.

    • Another piece of gold, great article David! Thank you for sharing.

    • How would one get caught for this though? Would the person have to forward it to Google?

      The only way I can seem to get in touch with Google is if I up my AdWords budget by 10X or inquire about buying the Google Pixel.

      • I did point that out — it’s pretty difficult (perhaps impossible) for Google to detect. I guess there may be certain patterns they could pick up on. Of course someone from their spam team could simply email site like I did… but *hopefully* they wouldn’t do that…

        • Yeah, just trying to think if someone got pissed off at it, but as you said — no one responded typically. People got better things to do I guess.

          Really cool article by the way, love case studies like this, marketing world needs more of this and less fluff

    • Great article.

      I think you still have to be very careful with paid link acquisition. If there are any pages on the site that state they accept paid links, it could leave you in hot water. Also if you’re over optimising anchors, and there’s high patterns of this throughout the site, it can hit the algorithm with a red flag.

      Here’s the low-risk approach to paid link acqusition:
      — The links provide value to readers
      — The links are topically relevant to both linking sites
      — It’s a natural contextual link
      — The anchor text is not over-optimised
      — Google wants you to build a BRAND — don’t underestimate the power of branded anchors

      Disclaimer: I don’t buy links and would never recommend it, but for some industries it’s exceptionally difficult, such as gambling and gaming.

      That said, however, with the latest real-time penguin release, sites are not in as much danger, as the release is thought to ignore these type of links and not provide any ranking benefits, as opposed to hitting you with a penalty.

      • great insight Joshua, thanks!

      • You’ve summed that up well.

      • Jason Lancaster

        The other key: Don’t buy a link from anyone that is eager to sell one. Publishers that sell links to perfect strangers are eventually going to sell a link to someone Google knows about. When that happens, the investment is toast.

        Of course, the best practice isn’t to buy links at all (just as you say). Creating content is cheaper anyways. 🙂

    • One of the things I don’t like about these kind of shortcuts is that they give you permission to phone it in with the quality of your feature content. Because if you’ve got a way to get good links to your pages just by buying them, then you’re not really under any kind of pressure to write something that could win them in their own right.

      Just paying $700 might be a relatively cheap way to get 2 good links, if that’s all you need. But in the real world your competitors don’t stand still. So when you inevitably need to play catch up, you’re in no better position to win more links than you were when you started.

      If you develop and promote a resource that can win links purely on the basis of how awesome it is, well that’s probably gonna cost more than $350 to research, write and publish. But you’ve built a thing that you can promote over and over again.

      • agree with that 100%

      • Rienzi Mosqueda

        But that is not the case on the ground. Proof of that? People buy links.

        1st condition — link buying is against the rules.
        2nd condition — link is 100% related, organic and worthy.

        So what did you caught me doing wrong? None.

        We’re not breaking rules. Just bending it — I think that’s being democratic. I think that’s organic.

        • Incorrect. This is absolutely the case on the ground.

          I’ve done both: I used to work as a copywriter at an agency that used PBNs and paid links to rank. Now I write content that wins links without black hat techniques.

          The difference in content quality required to win the links is night and day.

    • How price buy backlink?

    • I believe it much simpler and professional to build relationships with said blog owners. Write quality articles that provide value to their site visitors. Share the blog directly and evidence your worth.

      Many people say, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”… but in my humble opinion, buying links is cheating the game and our personal ‘worth’ is only achieved through being good at what we do, not facing it or paying for a Privledge that you don’t deserve.

    • Christopher Jan

      I just recommended a company that is approaching local businesses for donations to offer a link in exchange for a donation. Would this practice be considered blackhat? Disclaimer: they are not a client of mine, and I do not currently deal with link building in my business.

      • Hey Christopher. I guess you could call it blackhat, but it’s probably pretty effective.

    • Ali Amjad

      I have a question. If you reach-out to influencers and ask them to talk about your brand/product in return of money, is it bribing? Or would it be unethical?

      • Google frown upon it… but that’s a marketing decision for your company.

    • Great article David — well done, and thanks.

    • Syarul Yahya

      For $300+, it is considered as expensive service. There are some edu and gov website that willing to publish your articles with do-follow links for much lower cost than that.

      • Krzysiek O

        Can you write me a links for this service?

    • Özgür Nevres

      And the thing is, for Google, these link buys are pretty undetectable.” Yes, they are. But I suspect that Google is trying to find also these links in the recent days. I think their algorithm to detect these kind of link selling blogs/sites like: “If a site with high DA has a lot of links pointing to sites with low/very low DA, or new/very new sites, raise a flag”. And then they might be checking the site manually to see if something is wrong there. I heard a few manual actions recently taken by google against some link selling sites. This is my explanation how can they do that.

      • I don’t doubt they are trying to work out ways to pick them up automatically. That’s probably the kind of thing they are experimenting with, but I’m still not sure that would work. Also if they started doing that it would really discourage sites from linking out and make it very difficult for new brands to get off the ground.

    • Kuba

      David, another great article. I’ve been impressed with Ahrefs blog over the last few months.

      Personally, I believe it’s better to invest this money into finding and hiring a great copywriter. I’ve been offered to buy links from the top sites on the web — $800‑2000. But you can get there with a great pitch and stellar content for a fraction of this money. Sure it takes time, and effort (building a connection)…and a bit of luck.

      If you can create original and valuable content, getting it published is not difficult. Of all the outreach campaigns we have done, guest posts have always been most successful. (>50%)

      The only advantage of buying posts?

      When you write a free guest post, sometimes you may have little control over your anchor text. Sure, you might suggest one, but it’s up to the editor if he was going to keep it. Buying a post puts you in control.

      • Hi Kuba, glad you’re enjoying our content 🙂

        Yeah, I definitely agree with you on that. Better to invest in great writers and content that can either be hosted on your site (and pick up links) or pitched to other sites.

        Good point on the anchor text too.

      • xtopher66

        Many years ago before Penguin and Panda I bagged a free link from a high PR7 resource. Microsoft linked directly to that page PR7 page from one of its internal PR6 pages. Yeah gold dust! Plus my anchor text was keyword heavy, not branded. Kept my tech site earning for years just that one link. So, if you get the opportunity from now what may be a high DR domain to buy the link its worth buying imho. If you had the opportunity to negotiate a couple of grand for a NY Times link and the power that brings, be foolish not to ignore the opportunity. Just have to pick your opportunity.

    • Where do we link? new algorithm bad. I’m afraid that when link

      • A good rule of thumb I use is that any link that drives actual referral traffic should be Google safe.

    • xtopher66

      I have no issue acquiring links for a fee. If the website owner suggests a fee and its kept private who cares. Simply use your common sense to assess the risk on a link to link basis. There‘s no reason at all why content should not be high quality content in any link acquisition be it paid or outreach. Both are still editorial decisions. It‘s worth pursuing because I have seen huge leaps and bounds on ranking with just a dozen or so quality DR content.
      SAPE used to do the trick but as stated Google got wise.
      Unfortunately, these corporate companies use every trick in the book to stifle competitors and gain advantage even with their huge marketing budgets for marketing . I have email I can supply proving corporate‘s were link buying — because I placed them on networks in cooperation with other developers. UK corperate‘s such as Asda for life insurance, pet insurance.
      There‘s a number of search markets where the top listed sites are built on directory links alone and quite low value DR links but the sites and links have really good domain age, so editorial directory links aren’t all bad. Again I can provide examples.
      Maybe if you’re an industry leader or a brilliant writer you can attract links by content alone. You do see this in research/science a lot and also SEO professionals that will give credit to other outstanding work but generally this is a big myth for 99% of content created.

      • yeah, I don’t doubt for a second that the big boys are buying links at scale. I’ve been approached by huge multi-national banks looking to buy links before as well as loads of high street brands. Thanks for the insight!

        • xtopher66

          I think you‘ll find for safety reasons the black hats are using SAPE type links to a pyramid structure in a few levels down to protect the money sites. Its an intricate web. Besides, hosting and domains are cheap, using Philippine content writers at $20 a 1000 words and building natural looking websites. Or building assets through domains like youtube which are another firewall to the money site. 🙂
          Thanks for another great post David.

    • Why Google will penalize for buying high Quality link, no one will ever waste money on low Quality site, every one is going to put money only on high quality sites to get something back.

    • i don’t think buying high PR backlinks for a low quality sites (duplicate content, low quality images) will give good serp result.

    • Sometime I wonder if Google might read my emails and check if the content includes any buying or selling of links 😀 As for your point about higher authority sites selling links David, I’d say it is more common and some might even do so openly and never be touched by Google…apparently. While researching for blogs to outreach, I once found a lot of them offered sponsored posts at a sky high prices.

      PS : I am loving the content Ahrefs has been producing recently.

      • I’m not sure about the reading emails thing. As far as I am aware that would be illegal, but who knows. Certainly there are many SEOs who recommend not using any Google products (gmail, chrome etc) if you are doing any kind of link buying. Glad to hear you’re enjoying our content!

    • Jason Lancaster

      While I very much enjoyed the article, I disagree with the premise that Google can’t detect paid links. I’d argue the opposite — paid links are relatively easy to detect. Here’s why:

      1. People — or agencies — that buy links do so habitually. If buying 2 links boosts traffic, what will buying 10 links do? Over time, sites that buy links end up with distinctive profiles that look “unique”, shall we say. Agencies end up buying a lot of links from the same sites and pointing them to different client sites. Etc. Patterns emerge.

      2. Publishers that sell links also do so habitually. They also tend to sell links to anyone and everyone, which means they work with people who aren’t careful about who they buy links from, how they tackle paid linking, etc.

      Sooner or later, a publisher selling links will do business with someone Google knows to be a link buyer. At that point, it’s merely a matter of time before Google determines a high percentage of links on a particular site are paid. When that happens, the links are devalued and penalties are assessed.

      3. Everyone in online marketing knows that buying links is dangerous. As a result, any site that’s penalized will disavow their paid links. Guess who’s looking at the list of disavowed links and hunting for publishers that sell?

      I’m not saying that these measures are 100% accurate — paid links can certainly escape detection. But it requires publishers who are very discrete and selective, and link buyers who invest in natural link building and promotion alongside link buying. This is a problem to be sure, but a small one.

      But the type of link buying and selling that’s described here? Google (and Bing) are all over it.

      • Totally agree that it’s a very slippery slope. What may work now isn’t guaranteed in the future. Also what’s the recourse if you pay someone $350 to place your link and they take it down the next month?

      • Great points Jason. I guess Google will get better and better at spotting the patterns associated with sites who buy and sell links. Certainly I think that the most important thing is that the content being linked to backs up the links. A sudden influx of links to a great piece of content doesn’t look as suspicious as a load of links pointing to a category page on an Ecommerce site.

    • Babak Sanayei

      How is buying a link on an authority site which is relevant to your business not just a legitimate form of advertisement? People pay google billions of dollars to place ads on relevant sites how is this any different and why should you get hit with a penalty for it?

      Obviously i’m not talking about spammy blackhat stuff but there are many cases i feel that buying a link is completely legitimate.

      • > how is this any different and why should you get hit with a penalty for it?

        I don’t disagree. But I don’t make the rules unfortunately 🙁

      • The difference here is that when you buy advertisement on a website, you are landed with a no-follow link which grants no link juice. These people selling links within blog content are giving you follow links, which is against Google’s guidelines.

    • Assaf Dudai

      Cool stuff. You were pretty mellow about “Many of the sites on the network are hacked and the links added without the knowledge of the site owner.”, said it like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Is it? My agency just uncovered a mega link-planting hacking scheme (using Ahrefs!) involving an online slots affiliate site and tons of .edu sites. We were pretty shocked by it. It seems that you are less. Is that so?

      • Not really shocked as it’s been going on for years. But goes without saying I’m strongly, strongly against it.

    • I’ve been using LinkFool with great success. No problems at all with their backlinks. However, the list you provided is great. I haven’t heard of a few of them, so I’ll check them out. Thanks!

    • This is perfect because I’ve seen exactly this in the travel industry. I’ve run marketing for a travel site for the past two years and let me tell you, I’ve never run into such a unified wall of rejection as I have trying to pitch an infographic to travel blogs.

      The thing is, lots of travel bloggers want to travel the world and write about their life and make $100k a year off of it. I don’t blame them, it sounds like a dream. But the reality is that <1% actually can.

      Pair that with tons of travel companies with huge profit margins (sometimes) trying to improve rankings, and you’ve got the recipe for the chart you created above.

      Glad that the dejection (I’m ok) I felt is corroborated by this evidence! Awesome post.

      • I was actually surprised that there weren’t more link sellers in the fashion niche, although I guess a lot of sites there will be more focused on affiliate revenue.

      • A couple of years ago I was promoting content around furniture and homewares — that space was similarly mercantile.

    • Hey David,
      Another great post; I’m actually losing count on how many of your posts I’ve bookmarked now. Just to add my two cents which may be a little against the majority opinion;
      I agree in the sense that buying links is wrong and in googles ideal world top content would rank number 1. The problem is the market is so competitive that the big players are too well established and the small players cant break in without serious cash to back their marketing (people creating amazing content with images, infographics and designs etc; your general mom and pop shop can’t really afford this nor can new sites). This is usually why people resort to tactics such as buying links or as some circles call them “sponsored content”. Even the major sites are doing this now which is in effect buying links but rebranded as sponsored content etc or features via their advertising teams.
      Anyways — keep up the great posts! Learning a lot!
      -Saj

      • Hey Saj, yeah, I don’t disagree with you at all. Like I said in the post, more and more when I conduct outreach I’m getting asked for payment in return for sharing content/placing links.

    • Great post, David.

      It’s a shame when blog owners are more interested in the monetary value than the quality of the content you have on offer. They’re very likely to accept any quality of post, so long as you pay them.

    • The thing is, bloggers know the score these days. 

      The majority of them either tell me they love my content and will link to it with a nofollow link or I can pay a fee to get the link included. Or they simply decline. 

      I find it quite rare now to get a link for free. Even with broken backlink building it’s tough to get links for free these days.

    • Hey David,

      these research backed articles hit the spot every time.

      So my 2c, re the fashion industry, (I think), they get plenty of sponsorships. your paid link offer is probably misreable compared to the lifestyle a good fashion blogger can live — hence why it wasn’t on par with the travel industry, where most of the bloggers are looking for any means to make some cash on the side.

      What paid backlinks have done is make it extremely difficult to do legitimate outreach. I’m finding it’s becoming really really difficult to get results out of outreach. Because really and truly, your emailed 200 blogs, and got a non-reply rate of 72%.

      Out of those, how many would be willing to link out to your content (no matter how awesome) for free? 10% of the 200? Unlikely, I’d say less.

      The cost vs reward of outreach is becoming really really expensive, unless you do at massive scale, where you then run into other obvious risks.

      With that said, David, I’d really love to hear something (new) about outreach for link-building… 

      David

      • Jeanne

        I get emails asking me what my rate is to sell links pretty often. I do not respond to them at all. But when someone sends me actual content, I respond. So I wouldn’t take the non-reply rate as a signal of response rates overall. I get so irritated with these link selling requests, I don’t want to waste my time shooting them down.

    • As I have read your #TotallyAwesome article and all of the comments, the real issue is not buying backlinks.,Rather buying dofollow backlinks. One of the comments mentioned that buying advertising from Google is a nofollow backlink. So, obviously that is OK with Google just as long as it is not a dofollow backlink that you are buying.

      Being a business analyst and having a degree in business ethics I can say that Google’s position is hypocritical. If you are going to have a rule, it must be equally applied across all scenarios using the same standard in order to apply your rule indiscriminately. Since buying backlinks from a blogger through email is undetectable, then the rule is uncontrollable.

      I do not have an idea to resolve the issue, but I just think that Google’s approach to trying to fix the issue has failed. Especially when the practice has not stopped and there are so many ways around it.

      Great article @davidmcsweeney:disqus

      • Roman Dobronovsky

        They didn’t solve the problem entirely but believe me, there are way less people buying links in 2017.

        Russian marketplaces mentioned here are dying after Penguin. The industry changed and there are no quick, cheap and dirty ways to get a decent link anymore.

    • What’s The Cost of Buying Links in 2016??
      What’s the *challenge* in 2016? Great content may not be enough in competitive niches to move the needle. So what can good SEO’s do? We’ve built a network of blog ‘ambassadors’, created relevant partnerships and tried traditional (non paying) outreach. And we publish a crap ton of great, valuable content.
      It works, but we know our competitors are buying links (as well as everything we’re doing at a higher scale), and it’s almost certain that they won’t be ‘caught’; good SEOs are way too smart for that. So it comes down to morals, ethics and doing what’s right to failure, or bending a little and being incredibly selective to success.
      How many of us in 2016 have to make that compromise?
      2c

    • More about Russian link building web sites. SAPE is not the only one where you can rent the link on a monthly basis.
      Services like “miralinks” and “rotapost” allow you to buy a permanent link on large variety of sites. The prices start from about 2.5$. Bargain!
      Buying/selling link busines in post Soviet Union countries is just blossoming.

    • Don’t forget the ever so popular link for link tactics. Got few email asking for a link back to one site and they’ll add my link on another. Didn’t bother to say it’s on same IP.

    • Supreme Landscaping

      This is a great article, thanks very much for offering so much information.

      Best regards

      Peter

    • Hawks

      The problem from Google’s perspective with buying links is you are trying to manipulate their rankings and therefore working against what they are trying to achieve, simple as that. If they allowed buying links (and links was the only ranking factor) that would mean that the best/most relevant conteent wouldn’t rank highest, the site which could pay the most money to buy links would. Which completely goes against everything Google is trying to achieve — the only reason people choose Google as their search engine is because of the high relevance of their results.

    • Sharing has thanks .. I’m belajars seo singer Very helpful Once

    • I hear a lot of companies talking about writing content every week for SEO but where to put this content ? If you keep putting on the same blog site it doesn’t add any value.

    • sravani S

      Fantastic Artical Thanks For Sharing Very Use Ful

    • Great post,

      Thanks David.

      I sometimes get annoyed with people who claim “buying” links is a cardinal sin and will get your site sent to the bottomless pits of page 10 in Google. 

      If done within a contextual article and with natural anchor text, a paid guest post or link insertion appears identical to a typical guest post with source for reference. 

      It’s a pity they have become quite so expensive of late but willing buyer willing seller 🙂

    • Sandeep Mallya

      Really wanted someone to cover this topic in detail. Now I know! It’s just not worth the effort to buy backlinks. Moreover, Google seems to be getting better and better at detecting paid links.

    • Junior Portland

      Please what’s the difference between buying links and affiliate marketing? As much as I understand a link builder and an affiliate marketer has one thing in common — getting paid. How come google approves of affiliate marketing and not link building? Please I need answers or clarification.

    • BM1111111

      so.…asking for a friend.

      How much would i…umm…HE… get for a DR 37 site?

    • Юрко

      Where I can buy good backlinks?

    • The truth is: the total advertisement space is divided into millions of websites and this means it is impossible for all website earn enough money to live. Nothing is easy in life and earning money also is not easy. So you spend day and nights to produce high quality content and play the game with the rules but some people who think that they are smarter than you, may find an easy way to exploit the rules. It is not easy to track these people and find them or punish them. But your efforts will be meaningless while your competitors using a gun but you only have a pen to fight. 

      One good example, it takes a hundred million dollars to produce a big budget movie and tons of sweat and tears but you can easily find copies of these movies in Russian websites or any other places before these movies hit the theaters.