Backlinks remain one of the most important ranking factors for SEO in 2024.
As a result, many businesses are willing to invest in backlink building to try to improve their search engine rankings and drive more organic traffic.
This demand has led some websites to sell backlinks as a commercial service.
But is selling backlinks a legitimate business strategy, or does it violate search engine guidelines?
In this post, we’ll break down the controversy around selling backlinks for SEO.
What Are Backlinks and Why Do They Matter for SEO?
To understand the debate around selling backlinks, you first need to know what backlinks are and why they are so crucial for SEO.
A backlink is a link from one website to another. When Site A links to Site B, this is considered a backlink that passes authority and equity to Site B.
Backlinks serve as votes of confidence. If many reputable websites link back to your site, search engines see that as an endorsement and a signal that your content is worthwhile.
As a result, more backlinks from authoritative sites tend to improve your search rankings.
This is why link building remains a core part of any SEO strategy.
Earning backlinks to a site is essential for driving organic search traffic.
The Problem With Selling Links Solely for Profit
Given the importance of backlinks, some website owners try to make money by selling backlinks to other sites.
This involves placing links back to the client’s site from their own or a network of sites they control.
On the surface, this seems like an easy business model.
There is certainly demand from website owners who want to improve their SEO through backlink purchases.
However, this practice directly violates the guidelines of Google and other major search engines.
The issue is selling links solely for financial gain or to manipulate PageRank.
Google Explicitly Prohibits Selling Links for Rankings
In their Webmaster Guidelines, Google clearly states:
“Do not sell, buy, or trade links that were built solely for search engine optimization purposes.”
They elaborate that buying or selling links that pass PageRank can be considered a violation of their guidelines.
This includes exchanging money for links or posting affiliate links solely for compensation.
Google recommends websites should earn links naturally through high-quality content, legitimate outreach, and overall user experience.
Links with editorial integrity that are given voluntarily are ideal.
Any links placed only for compensation risk penalties if discovered.
The Dangers of Selling Links for SEO
There are several risks involved with selling backlinks primarily to manipulate search rankings:
- Search engine penalties – If caught selling links, consequences can range from lowered rankings to complete removal from search results. This can devastate a business’s organic traffic.
- Damage to site’s reputation – Low-quality purchased links can make a website seem less legitimate and trustworthy to users.
- Wasted money – There is no guarantee purchased backlinks will improve rankings, especially if they are unnatural or irrelevant.
- Violation of terms of service – Selling links often violates search engine terms of service, risking penalties.
For these reasons, reputable SEO professionals avoid selling backlinks solely for profit or exchanging links purely for SEO value.
There are smarter, safer ways to earn backlinks.
Can You Build a Business Around Backlink Sales?
Given the risks involved, is it possible to build a sustainable backlink selling business that won’t get penalized?
The short answer is it’s very difficult and still quite risky.
Any backlink sales focused purely on financial gain and SEO value still ultimately violate search engine guidelines.
A slightly safer approach is to sell broader marketing services, like content promotion or influencer marketing campaigns, where link building is just one part.
But only providing links in exchange for money will likely eventually run into problems.
Even on freelancing sites like Fiverr, backlink sellers often get banned for violating terms around artificial link building.
The best practice is to focus on ethical, “White Hat” link building techniques instead.
White Hat SEO Link Building Techniques
Here are some examples of legitimate “White Hat” link building strategies to earn high-quality backlinks safely:
- Create truly valuable, engaging content – Focus on topics your audience cares about and link-worthy content they want to share. Valuable content earns links naturally.
- Do outreach and networking – Build relationships with influencers and brands to earn backlinks from relevant, authoritative sites. Prioritize niche websites.
- Focus on user experience – A fast, mobile-friendly website keeps users engaged. This leads to more natural links.
- Build partnerships and sponsorships – Strategic partnerships with aligning brands can provide valuable backlinks and referral traffic.
- Contribute guest posts – Writing contributed articles for industry publications helps build legit backlinks.
- Foster influencer relationships – Work with relevant bloggers and social media influencers to earn high-value backlinks.
- Prioritize press and PR – Earn press mentions and backlinks from news stories related to your company.
The focus should be on building a natural link profile through strong content and relationships, not artificial links solely for compensation.
FAQ About Making Money From Backlinks
Is it illegal to sell backlinks?
It is generally not illegal, but it does violate search engine guidelines. Google and other engines discourage the practice and penalize sites caught selling links solely for financial gain.
Can I sell backlinks on freelancing platforms?
Technically you can offer backlink services on sites like Fiverr and SEOClerks. However, links purely for compensation go against search guidelines. Many sellers get banned for artificial link building, so there are high risks.
What are some smart link building strategies?
Focus on earning links naturally through high-quality content marketing, brand partnerships, influencer outreach, PR, and other tactics that provide value for users, not just SEO.
Can I get penalized for buying backlinks?
Yes, buying links solely to manipulate PageRank violates guidelines. You may not get caught right away, but there is always a risk of penalties down the line for buying artificial backlinks.
Selling backlinks can seem like an easy way to make money in SEO. But links solely for financial gain come with major risks, including search engine penalties.
Instead of buying or selling links, focus your efforts on legitimate White Hat link building strategies that add true value for your audience. This is the only sustainable approach to earn quality backlinks over time.