Lee Odden

Buying and Selling Links Debate

Lee Odden     Link Building, Online Marketing, SEO

At Search Marketing Gurus blog, Li Evans has a great collection of opinions on paid links from both the search marketer and publisher’s perspective. She asked several people that work in the search marketing industry these questions:

  • What is your opinion of buying links for clients?
  • What is your opinion of sites that sell links but do not indicate they are paid?

Responses come from Greg Meyers, Andy Beal, Chris Sherman, Christine Churchill, Frank Watson, Anne Kennedy, Bill Slawski, Debra Mastaler and a little something from Cameron Olthius.

Responses to the “opinion of buying links for clients” question range from, “it’s ok as long as you do your research and there’s full disclosure” to, “no way not ever”. There’s also quite a bit of play with the semantics of what constitutes “paid”. If you pay an employee to negotiate links to a client site (with or without payment to the link source) that’s a paid link isn’t it? If you barter something for a link, that’s a form of compensation isn’t it? When you go down that road it gets both interesting and distracting from the real issue

I really like Anne Kennedy’s comment, “Chase customers, not algorithms.” Those four words speak volumes about her strategic and long term perspective of doing search marketing. Not chasing algorithms is not to say don’t understand what they are and how they work, it simply means focus on a sustainable end result.

If you’re in the game for the long haul, you have to plan on being amazingly successful. Being too dependent on variables you’ll never have control over (like algorithms or search engines’ policies) creates the kind of business-destroying risk, should the tide turn the other way, that no one wants to happen.

To me, buying text links from other sites is an advertising tactic. If a web site would benefit from high profile exposure on a relevant web site, why not buy that text link ad? It’s the search engine’s responsibility to be smart enough to discount that link as a ranking signal. Buying text links is indeed a way to buy an advantage, but if you can gain that advantage in more sustainable ways, why not?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. honestly..
    I think the way to buy a place for text link in the high rank sites,
    it’s good to improve your pr
    whatever the saller is indicate it’s paid or not
    becuase you don’t care about who will click on your link, as you care about improve your pr 🙂

  2. I do not think there is a debate as such. All sites need traffic! Perm links can only help attract visitors and increase awareness of the domain. higher exposure, short or long term is always helpful

  3. Avatar Gabriel Gayhart says

    “Chase customers, not algorithms.”
    Granted it sounds like a great SEO fortune cookie message, but one could contend that we chase customers by strategizing to algorithms.

    Hey it sounds good enough for link bait.