Why buying backlinks is bad for SEO

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In this special file of “Ask Entrepreneur”, a fan of Facebook cake apps asks: What about buying high PR backlinks, will it hurt SEO? How will Google know that I am paying?

It’s an easy question to answer: don’t buy links. In other words, don’t buy links if you care about ranking well in Google in the long run. They can seriously mess you up.

In very simple terms, links are like votes for Google. More links can help a site “win” Google’s election for a particular search. The problem is that people mistakenly assume that they can buy the election by buying votes. But the system is much more complicated than that.

Google allows some links to carry more weight than others, if they come from trusted sources. It also takes into account words likely to be near links, to understand what a linked page might be about. Many people log into Amazon with the word “books” in the link, so Google effectively considers a vote for Amazon to rank well for the word “books.” Since few of the links to Amazon use the word “cars”, you don’t see it ranking for it.

Google also reduces some links from sites it does not trust. They might not have weight at all. Worse still, in some cases, he may decide that a link should be used to penalize a site, if he thinks the site knowingly purchased a link to try to “rig the election”.

Google can tell that links are bought in different ways. For one, you know those off-the-cuff emails that promise to sell you links that Google can’t detect? They are also sent to Google people. Google also has an entire team dedicated to doing nothing but investigating web spam, which includes people buying links.

If these resources aren’t enough, Google actually encourages people to report link selling schemes, especially to help those who get caught redeeming themselves in Google’s good graces.

Buying links is supposed to be a shortcut to winning Google’s election. But, at the end of the day, you don’t even know if the links you buy will work, and chances are they will harm you in the long run.

If you are looking for good links, the best way is the longest way. Search for the topics you want to be found for. Review the top sites that appear. Find sites that don’t compete with you and visit them. Do you have content on your site that would be useful to the audience on the other site? If so, email this site suggesting where it might be useful to link to you and point to an exact page that would be most relevant.

People are also finding success with tactics like creating infographics for other sites or guest blogging. But the crucial factor here is to be selective. Don’t offer blog posts to sites that only specialize in guest posts. Submit blog posts to sites that are well read and have a significant audience you want to reach.

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