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What Are Paid Links, and Why Are They Risky?

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

paid links

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a numbers game, specifically regarding backlinks. The numbers are crucial to your outcome in terms of higher rankings. However, several people try to get ahead of the game through black-hat paid links.

One of the most significant factors in SEO is the total number of backlinks pointing to your domain.

Backlinks of high quality are signs of authority and trust, which is why they're a relevant piece of SEO. However, paid links―links that Google hates― must be avoided no matter what.

This post answers the questions: what are paid links, and why do they put your sites at risk?

What Are Paid Links?

what are paid links

There are various links you can get for your site. These include paid, earned, and natural links.

Natural links refer to links your webpage acquires from different websites through relationship growth and sharing content with others.

On the other hand, earned links refer to links that you gain unsolicited. They usually come at zero cost.

Last but not least, paid links refer to links you pay others for.

They’re “dofollow” backlinks gained by giving somebody something of great value. It implies that you have to pay to get a link on a website that passes SEO worth to yours. Unfortunately, Google hates this shortcut.

The main issue that Google has about paid links is how they’re made and linked to a website.

Side note: there is no official "dofollow" attribute, and of course, all links are "dofollow" unless altered to be "nofollow."

However, some paid links don’t put you at risk. They’re called paid promotions or advertisements. These are link arrangements that need to be paid.

They’re advertisements from different websites with the “nofollow” property added to the link code. "Nofollow" implies that the backlink won't pass link juice to the other page and not influence its ranking.

Why Paid Links Put Your Site at Risk

why are paid links risky

Google's Webmaster Guidelines are explicit about paid links. They don't want them to influence the search rankings.

That doesn't mean paying for links is immanently awful. All you have to do is tell the truth and be open about it.

Be that as it may, imagine a scenario where you could sneak one (or several) paid links by Google. I mean, what if you could?

Clearly, Google cannot distinguish every paid link algorithmically, especially if you're cautious, right?

In this case, on the odds that you did not disclose anything and were careful (aka there were no fingerprints), paid links would give a similar benefit as organic links.

That's partially valid. But at the same time, it's an extremely risky game.

If you decide not to reveal a paid transaction or use the “nofollow” attribute, you might as well enjoy gaining a few ranking benefits from it.

Not until you get caught, of course.

If Google discovers that you use paid links to trick the algorithm, they'll remove your website from the index. This means your site won't show up in search results.

Remember, many have attempted to manipulate links and make money from selling them— and Google has been clapping back— since the engine's early stages.

How to Get High-Quality Links Without Paying for Them

Paid link building isn't just unsafe but also a wasteful strategy.

Yes, getting free links is not simple, by no means. But with the appropriate approach and concentration, you can earn links with significant impacts on boosting your site's ranking.

Here's how you can get links without paying for them:

1. Create helpful content and do it often.

paid link building

Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand because Google favors valuable content. Phenomenal content attracts users, gains backlinks, and improves your ranking.

Many digital marketers strive to create compelling and relevant content to enjoy these advantages. On top of writing valuable content, you should regularly post on your blog, an SEO principle you shouldn't miss.

2. Build relationships with other blog owners.

paid backlinks

The truth about backlinks is that Google does not discount all of them. Two-way and one-way links provided for free by reliable websites are consistently recognized and valued by the search engine.

For this reason, you should do manual outreach link building to establish connections with reputable sources in your industry who would be willing to link to your site.

You can also offer guest blog posts and do PR outreach (PR stands for public relations) to build relationships. Doing so hits two birds with one stone: your SEO efforts and PR strategies.

3. Return the favor.

paid backlinking

Although you must consider the advantages backlinks could offer your business, you should also consider how they might help another company.

As a result, you can highlight guest blog posts or feature industry sources on your website. Not only does this open the door for a fruitful alliance, but it may also result in backlinks that help increase traffic to their websites.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are harmful links?

Harmful links are links that can hurt your website's capacity to rank. Black-hat paid links are an example of harmful or toxic links.

Why is it important to avoid paid links?

Google may devalue your website or even worse, take action against you. Search engines hate paid links, and a sufficient number can harm your site's rating.

What kind of links harm your rankings?

Low-quality, black-hat paid links harm your rankings. They refer to links built or purchased to manipulate PageRank, causing a significant change in a site's ranking position in the search results.

How does Google detect paid links?

Google detects paid links simply just by looking at the link's anchor text and link patterns. Many sell backlinks for a living, so you must avoid them.


Paid links do your site more harm than good. So, for the love of all things SEO, please stick to white-hat strategies. Play it safe, and search engines like Google will reward you.

Do you need help getting safe and effective backlinks? We got you.

TriBu LinkBuilding is an experienced link building outsourcing agency that has been helping business owners get backlinks through white-hat strategies that Google won't penalize. Plus, you only have to pay after we get live links for you. Contact us to jumpstart your link building success now!

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