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Is It OK To Buy Links? Is It Safe To Do It?

by Serge Thibodeau President and CEO of Rank for Sales

Serge Thibodeau, President of Rank for Sales, and Author of "Is It OK To Buy Links?"The subject of buying one-way links is a controversial subject at best. A lot has been said about it in the past, especially now after Google’s Florida and Austin updates. Depending to whom you talk to, you are likely to get opinions that range from “don’t do it” to “it’s now OK to do it”. So what’s the average site owner or small business to do.

Look at it from a business perspective point of view. If some search engines look at it from an advertiser’s point of view, then maybe that’s how you should look at it too. In the last two months, we have had (and continue to have) an increasingly higher number of clients and people that contact us to buy one-way links from other sites.

So the question is: Should you do it? Is it ‘safe’ to do it in this conjecture?

Back to the basics of linking

Before I answer that question, let’s go back to basics. Why do we need links in the first place? Can’t we just have a site with no outside links that will still rank high? Here’s how Google ranks Web pages: Google ranks websites on their value of merit. One of Google’s algorithms that does just that is the Page Rank™ algorithm, named after one of Google co-founders, Larry Page. In its most basic form, Page Rank™ calculates the number and quality of incoming links to any given website.

As far as Google is concerned, a link from site A to site B is viewed as a ‘vote’, which means that if 300 sites link to site B, that site must be more important than if it only had 5 or 10 inbound links.

As a result, the more links you would have pointing to a given website, usually the better that site would be perceived in terms of quality of content. Since the past 3 or 4 years, a great number of webmasters and site owners have participated in what is called reciprocal link exchanges, which, as the name implies, does just that: “I will put a link from my site to your site, if you do the same”.

In essence, there is nothing wrong with that. However, since Google’s two major last updates, in November and January (Florida and Austin), reciprocal links don’t seem to have the same impact as they once had, at least not from a ranking point of view.

Since then, it would appear that one-way links (from A to B and not B to A also) are receiving better rankings. Which reopens the debate on “are buying links ethical?”

Look at this analogy: if a website or portal carries a number of advertisers with links on its homepage, all pointing directly to those sites, isn’t this link buying? It sure looks like it to me.

Viewed in this manner, then I think its safe to say that buying links is now an acceptable practice in the Internet age.

So how do we go about doing it?

You should approach the subject of buying links the same way you would approach any other business proposal or transaction: with careful planning and attention to the small details. You should sit down and carefully plan the way you will do this. You probably have some sites in mind you would like to contact in an effort to see if they will ‘lease’ you some links.

I prefer the term leasing instead of buying since, in these uncertain economic times, nothing lasts forever. A few years ago, what would have happened if you purchased a ‘lifetime link’ from a site like Enron? It’s pretty clear today that this would have been a bad idea.

In the last few weeks, I have been approached by a number of companies with websites that said they might be interested in leasing some links. Some of them have a PR (Page Rank™) value of between 4 to 6, with a few of PR 7. I personally believe that this trend will most likely increase.

How much should you be expected to pay?

This is obviously a tricky question. All I can say is a PR with a value of 4 is worth less than a site with a value of PR 5, and even less then a site with a value of 6. That said, the asking ‘monthly leasing’ quotes I received from some of these companies range between a low of about $ 15 a month to a high of about $ 70 (too high I think) for a PR 4. In the PR 5 category, costs ranged between $ 40 at the low end to about $ 110 at the highest. In the PR 6 and 7 categories, they were ‘all over the map’, with ranges between $ 150 to $ 250 for a PR 6, all the way up to $ 450 for a PR 7.

Note that these figures are in US currency and that prices are based monthly and can vary widely. I’ve even heard (but I don’t believe it) that some sites with PR of 4 are almost giving them away. Again, it is buyer beware. You should obviously do your due diligence on any of this before you decide to go with one company or another.

Is it better to stay in the same field?

I have been saying this for a long time and I will repeat it: Links are not all equal. A link from a site dealing in real estate pointing to another site in real estate will be given higher ranking privileges, not just by Google but also by some of the other search engines. If your business is involved in home renovations and improvements, try leasing links from sites that will help your users, such as home decorators, lumber yards and building contractors.

Of course, some may not agree with me on this, but staying in the same field you are in will go a long way in substantially improving your rankings.


Leasing monthly links should be viewed as any other businessfunction. You do it to increase traffic at your site and to help your users, not just to increase your rankings with the search engines. Having targeted traffic is not all. You also need a site that converts well.

Converting well means that visitors become buyers and eventually repeat customers that come back to your website time and time again. If leasing links from high-ranking sites in your industry does it for you, you have accomplished one of your goals: to increase the size of your business, at the same time making it become more successful, independently of how search engines will rank your site.

Since we know that the number and the quality of inbound links to a site helps it in its rankings, leasing links thus accomplishes two main functions for businesses that engage in it.

© Serge Thibodeau 2004.

Rank for $ales is a professional search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) company, in business since 1997. Rank for $ales works with Fortune 500 companies, as well as small and medium size businesses, in improving their rankings in the major search engines, thus significantly increasing their visibility on the Web.

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