I’ve never liked the idea of renting links. Text Link Ads, one of the pioneers in link selling, continues to use misleading terminology in their marketing through their use of the term “Buy Links.” The problem is that you’re not buying links, you’re renting them. Not only that, you’re renting them at the detriment to your website.
The original reason for renting links was to artificially boost your Google PageRank and to improve your search engine results (SERPs). It seemed simple enough when it first began. Publishers could specify an area of their website where advertisers could display small text ads and everyone would win (especially Text Link Ads with their obscene cut of the transaction). However, similar to pay-per-click (PPC), all of the fun is over once the funds run out.
Then one day, Matt Cutts rolled into town to halt all of the fun — albeit temporary fun. As most SEO specialists know, Matt has preached ad nauseum about the evils of paid links. Although in the grand scheme of things, the move by Google to penalize websites for renting and hosting paid links is bit sketchy, the line has been drawn very clearly by Google’s Search Engine Spam Team — they do not approve.
There is no doubt that Google can now easily detect paid link blocks on websites — especially the dynamically generated ones from link brokers. They also provide a simple way for people — particularly competitors — to report paid links. From my point of view, there’s not much advantage to renting links from brokers. You get temporary links and run the risk of being penalized by Google.
As a seasoned SEO specialist, my healthy paranoia believes that Google takes it all a step further. My paranoia is that Google also tracks and determines rented links based on the “time they existed” and through “pattern recognition.” For example, if a paid link campaign ends, so do the links. If Google can — and I’m sure they can — track websites that frequently have a block of links that change every few months, and they can associate the anchor text, URLs and HTML block areas with those websites, then they will have just caught both the sellers and the buyers.
Ultimately, the only paid links that are safe(r) are permanent links that appear naturally inside the copy of original content. Also, the only safe way to purchase links is to either work with private, niche link brokers or to contact website owners directly. I’ll be discussing this more in a future blog entry.