The results are in! We now have 202 votes for yesterday’s ‘do you buy links for SEO‘ poll – and it’s fair to say the results are very interesting.
The reason I asked this question in the first place was because I wanted to forget about the usual best practice advice we always hear and get an honest and realistic representation of what it actually takes to achieve top rankings in Google.
So what can we read into this?
- 26% answered with “No – we keep clear of any link buying activity”. I decided against the post title of “26% of SEOs are liars!”. I actually think this number sounds very accurate, although it does depend on where you draw the line on what you classes as a paid link.
- 22% answered with “Yes – depending on the niche and competitiveness”. This was my answer too; in my opinion, as long as you are 100% transparent with the client and are looking at long-term organic success, as opposed to risky quick-win strategies, in some niches it can be very difficult to compete for top rankings without buying links. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if buying links is clearly working for your competitors, then realistically it’s going to be more difficult to catch/outrank them with touching paid links. You just have to be more careful as there is obviously a risk element involved.
- 20% voted for “No – but would consider depending on the scenario”. I think that’s very similar to the above answer – you may not have felt it necessary to buy links yet, but it would be a different story in competitor niches where this is a more important strategy for competitors.
- 16% say that “Yes – link buying is a major part of our SEO campaign”. To put this into context, this was 33 votes – which I think is very high. Obviously it’s a risky tactic to rely too heavily on paid links for any search campaign – but I also received many private comments such as “yes, it’s essential – we couldn’t rank without them!” and “we tried reducing our £xx,000 paid link budget but rankings dropped dramatically – so we had to start buying them again”. This makes things very difficult for the client or agency – because you want to have a long-term, ethical organic SEO approach. But you also want to do what works right now – and if that’s paid links, you have to decide if you want to maximise online revenue right now, or whether you are prepared to lose out to competitors in the hope that long-term you will come out on top as Google improves its paid link detection algorithm. In my experience, nobody ever likes to lose out to competitors!
- 13% voted for “Yes – as a small percentage of our link building campaigns”. Personally I thought this may have been higher. There are paid links which clearly still work – Google wouldn’t even have the paid link reporting tool if their algorithm caught them all – but it’s going to be less of a sign to Google if it only accounts for a small proportion of your backlinks. That’s why big brands often get away with buying links, but it’s always going to be far more noticeable for smaller sites.
- And 3% voted other – ignore some of the comments, such as the SEOptimise one, that wasn’t us. But the results are interesting nonetheless, mainly because it’s that question again: where do you draw the line on paid links? Does online PR for SEO count as paid links? Are you buying links as soon as you hire an agency for SEO?
It’s interesting to look at the differences in ethics and laws/guidelines which may influence SEO strategies here. Although, with the largest samples sizes you can read much more into the UK and US results – unless you believe that in Greece they don’t buy links!
Comparing the US and UK is interesting though – the major difference being that 34% of SEOs in the US don’t buy links, compared with the lower 25% in the UK. The other options being very similar across the two.
Would be great to hear your comments on the results? Do you think this is accurate? When do you feel link buying is acceptable (if at all)? And where do you draw the line between a paid and a non-paid link?