Buying Backlinks? It Might Cost You Google’s PageRank (and Yes, It’s Still a Thing)

Before we begin, I think it’s important to first state right off the bat that Google is not fond of buying backlinks (you’ll learn more on that later on in this article).

However, paid backlink acquisition has become a staple in the SEO industry over the last few years.

With popularity rising, both white hat and black hat tactics for backlink acquisition have surfaced. So, how does one buy backlinks? Is it even worth it to purchase backlinks? What are the risks? Will it actually boost your online presence and PageRank? Know the facts to make smart decisions that propel your website traffic.

In short, it is against Google’s guidelines to buy do-follow backlinks. However, there are ways to purchase backlinks correctly. Learn more about what PageRank is, how it works in 2022, and how buying backlinks can potentially harm your PageRank.


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Paid link building is an SEO strategy where websites purchase backlinks and hyperlinked text that links back to your website. SEO specialists, digital marketers, and webmasters can purchase paid backlinks directly from another domain or through an agency that will build links for you.

4 Ways to Buy Backlinks

You can buy backlinks in a few different ways, each of which has its own pros and cons.

1. Purchase links directly from a website in your niche (if the company sells links)

If you’ve attempted to acquire backlinks before, you’ve likely received an email (or a few) stating that while a website isn’t willing to provide or swap a link with you, they will let you purchase links from them. This service often includes placing specified anchor text in relevant content to your industry. This approach’s pitfall is that Google emphasizes the domain linking to you rather than the landing page itself.

In other words, if you purchase 10 backlinks from 1 domain, you are really only reaping the benefits from that domain alone, not the number of links that come from it.

2. Hire a backlink building agency to build links for you

Another option is to hire an agency or individual to build backlinks for you. This specific method is white hat SEO as long as the agency gains links from trusted, valuable domains. The issue of often purchasing cheap backlinks comes from spammy, low-authority domains that provide little value to your linking strategy. This is also known as link farming. Avoid this at all costs, as it could hurt your rankings.

Do your research before hiring a backlink-building agency. Links should be relevant to your service, product, or industry and have healthy anchor text that aids in keyword acquisition.

3. Purchase a domain and backlink your website

A lesser-known way of obtaining backlinks is by purchasing an established domain that is related to your industry. By linking your website to your new domain, you can be in control of link building. A great example of this is Neil Patel, who purchased [the already existing] UberSuggest and then directed the traffic to his website, This quickly raised his organic traffic and turned an average of a few thousand visitors monthly into millions.

4. Paid guest posting

This last option for purchasing backlinks involves the most work. Some websites that have high authority do not offer backlinks, but they do allow guest articles that provide a do-follow backlink. In this case, you would pay to write an article yourself, and then it would be published on that domain that provides you with the link.

Caution: Ensure that the links you are purchasing are “do-follow,” and will pass link juice to your site if your goal is to increase your website authority and PageRank.

Paid backlinks can work, yes.

Whether they work for your niche and website depends on the links’ quality, acquisition strategy, and personal preference.

Nathan Gotch, SEO specialist and backlink-builder-extraordinaire decided to test out the different types of paid links. Nathan created an excellent YouTube video for more information on buying backlinks for SEO and case studies. In fact, they actually spent $1,000,000 to find out if paid backlinks really work.

What is a Link Scheme?

A link scheme is any attempt to manipulate your PageRank through acquiring backlinks to your website. The following actions are considered to be “link schemes” and are against Google’s Webmaster guidelines. These can result in manual action penalties or a decrease in rankings.

Note: The following examples are only considered blackhat SEO if “link juice” is passed between pages (aka “dofollow”). Pages that correctly use rel=nofollow, rel=ugc, and rel=sponsored are not at risk of being penalized.

  • Exchanging money for backlinks
  • Exchanging products or services for backlinks
  • Offering someone a free product or service in exchange for writing about it and providing a link.
  • Excessive guest post campaigns
  • Keyword-rich anchor text link spam
  • Exchanging links simply to exchange links (i.e., referring page is irrelevant to users)
  • Using automated programs to gain links
  • Using low-quality directories or bookmarking sites to gain links fast
  • Increase the number of links by putting anchor text in the footer or header
  • Forum or blog comments with an optimized signature
  • Text advertisements that pass PageRank
  • Requiring a link as part of a service or contract

What is Link Farming?

A link farm is a group of websites that serve no other purpose than increasing SEO rankings. This works by providing a domain with a large number of links from websites that often belong to the same owner. Link farming is considered “black hat SEO” and is against Google’s webmaster guidelines. The websites that give out the backlinks are spammy and often offer little value to the user. Link farms do not normally improve rankings and will not maintain SERP authority over time.

Oftentimes link farms are run by companies looking to sell their paid link-building services to website owners hoping to improve rankings. Links are auto-generated and managed by software. In addition to anchor text, link farms are also an underworld for lost quest posts and press releases.

In short? Link farming = bad news. 

Google’s PageRank

Google’s PageRank was the first mathematical search engine algorithm, patented in 1996 and expired in 2019. The goal of PageRank was to assign a weighted value to backlinks, signaling the importance of website pages. Backlinks are hyperlinked anchor text that guides users to a different page or domain. The algorithm was used to determine the ranking on the SERP.

In layman’s terms, PageRank took into account the following factors to determine the authority of a website:

  • Number of backlinks
  • Quality of incoming links
  • Quality of links from incoming source

Until 2016, Google offered a web development tool in the Google Toolbar for PageRank. It provided users with a value (1-10) to determine the value of a specific page. The higher your page rank, the better your chance of ranking at the top of the search engine results page. In essence, a domain with a decent amount of high-quality, relevant links will rank higher than a domain with excessive spammy, low-quality links.

More High-Quality Links = Higher PageRank

Google began to catch on to the fact that PageRank could easily be spoofed by manipulating SEO factors and purchasing links in bulk. In an effort to reduce people from breaking Google’s Webmaster rules on paid links and link schemes, they created two no follow HTML attributes in addition to “rel=nofollow”:

  • “rel=ugc”➡ user-generated content
    • This prevents comment spam and gaining PageRank by bulk-commenting website links on other websites.
  • “rel=sponsored” ➡ sponsored content
    • This prevents misleading referrals. Those who pay for backlinks should use a “sponsored” no follow attribute to signal that it is a paid link.

Did you know? That there’s actually no difference between rel=nofollow, rel=ugc, and rel=sponsored? They all signal the same thing to Google: don’t pass the link juice.


Buying Backlinks? It Might Cost You Google's PageRank

Are Backlinks Still a Ranking Factor in 2022? Here’s What Google Has To Say

The last we heard from Google on this matter was… well… around 5 years ago with a tweet from Google’s own Gary Illyes:

So I decided it was time for an update and tweeted to Google’s SEO Advocate, John Mueller, ASAP. This is his response:

Hmmm… So what does this mean?

I can’t say exactly what Mueller meant, but it seems like PageRank is still a ranking factor for now. However, it’s likely evolved significantly from what it was in 2019. Focusing on a backlink-acquisition SEO strategy only will ultimately be harmful- but yes, PageRank, and your backlinks, will still affect where you fall on the cascade of Google results.

White Hat SEO Guide to Buying Backlinks

  • Read reviews

    • Is this a reputable place to purchase links?
  • Do your research to ensure it is a trusted source.

    • Don’t buy backlinks from sites with grammar errors, formatting errors, glitches, or security issues.
  • Review backlinks periodically

    • Disavow spammy or toxic backlinks as needed
  • Avoid “cheap” links or buying large amounts of links at once

    • If you purchase a large number of links at once, you risk Google raising a red flag!
  • Link to industry-relevant topics 

    • Backlinks signal to search engines to pass link juice, but they also serve another purpose: to provide resources to readers. The more relevant the link is to the reader, the more likely they will click on the hyperlink to read more.
  • Remember: Quality over Quantity

    • Always choose a handful of high-quality, authoritative backlinks over thousands of low-quality, irrelevant links.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Google does not want us to purchase backlinks. However, with the low chance of them finding out, is it worth the risk of getting one of Google’s manual action penalties? Black hat SEO backlink building techniques may increase your website authority and traffic quickly, but these effects are not long-lasting.

RiZen Metrics’ stance? SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time acquiring the best backlinks you can, and remember you don’t need to purchase $1,000,000 of them to improve your SEO. Gaining links for free may take a little longer and involve hefty outreach, but in the end, it is the best way to grow a base of dedicated readers, network with others, and gain consistent website traffic.

Focus on the users, and build backlinks with your target persona in mind. PageRank is very much still a ranking factor for getting your website to #1 on the SERP.

What type of resources would they be looking for? How do you tailor your content to them? How do I get the right people to my site?

Straight from Google themselves:

“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

RiZen Metrics is a search engine optimization agency in Scranton, PA, focusing on content marketing, copywriting, local SEO, Google Business Profile, and more. Interested in growing your visibility online? Let’s talk strategy.