Paid Links vs Quality Links: Understanding Risks and Differences

By:  Dileep Thekkethil

Updated On: March 14, 2023

You may have heard that paid links can harm your website, and Google warns against buying and selling them. But website owners often wonder what links count as paid and how to build quality links within Google’s guidelines.

This article explores the reality of paid links and offers legitimate ways to build quality links without crossing the line.

Before that, here is what Father of SEO, Bruce Clay said to us about the future of link building during the SEO On-Air Podcast episode.

Google’s Definition of Paid Links

Are you tired of hearing about paid links and their sneaky tactics to boost website authority?

Well, Google’s official guidelines define paid links, aka sponsored links, as those cleverly disguised as natural backlinks acquired through money or other incentives.

The goal?

To manipulate the PageRank algorithm and land a higher ranking, all while deceiving search engines and users.

Google’s Definition of Quality Links

Picture this: your website offers valuable information that naturally catches the eye of other niche-relevant website owners.

They admire your content and link back to it as a source of information for their own audience. This creates natural backlinks, which Google views as a vote of trust for your site.

It’s a beautiful thing when quality content speaks for itself and earns recognition from others in your field. This is exactly what Google defines as a natural backlink.

Why Does Google Consider Paid Links as Spammy Practice?

At its core, Google has always prioritized delivering high-quality search results to its users. Any action that goes against this philosophy, such as manipulating search rankings through spammy link building practices, is considered a violation of this ethos.

Let’s face it; link schemes are the equivalent of inflating your own popularity. When two websites engage in a link scheme, they artificially boost their authority to gain an undeserved advantage on Google’s search rankings.

This can result in a website with less valuable content outranking a site that offers genuine value to users. In other words, link schemes undermine the very foundation of Google’s philosophy by promoting undeserving websites over those that truly deserve to be seen.

The impact of link schemes goes beyond manipulating search rankings. Ultimately, users are the ones who suffer the most as they are served low-quality results that do not meet their needs.

This creates a negative user experience, which is something that Google deeply cares about.

By prioritizing the user’s experience and satisfaction, Google aims to maintain its reputation as a trusted search engine that delivers accurate and relevant results.

When ranking factors such as links are manipulated, this undermines the very purpose of the algorithm. In fact, Google views such manipulations as an attack against the algorithm itself.

This is because the algorithm’s ability to find the best content on the web is compromised, resulting in lower-quality search results for users.

As a result, Google takes a strong stance against any attempts to game the system and manipulations of ranking factors like links.

As the threat of paid links and other manipulative link building strategies continue to plague the web, Google has taken steps to combat these spammy tactics. The search engine giant has made numerous tweaks to its ranking algorithm to detect and penalize websites that engage in such tactics.

Manual Blogger Outreach Vs Paid Link

What if I told you that link building doesn’t have to be a dirty word?

Take, for example, an agency like Stan Ventures, which manually reaches out to website owners and offers a valuable asset, such as a helpful resource or informative content, in exchange for a link.

This approach could be considered as a form of link building, but it’s not the shady and spammy practice that often comes to mind. Instead, it’s a win-win situation where both parties benefit from quality content that is genuinely helpful to users.

When done right, link building can be a legitimate and effective way to improve website authority and establish strong relationships with other websites in your niche.

In this process, the website owners are not being paid or compensated in any way for its inclusion.

The money you spend with us is not for the link placement but for the effort that we put in to find relevant niche-websites and for building high-quality content.

However, it’s important to note that we make sure that the link is included naturally in the content and that the website owners are not being forced or coerced to include the link.

We always ensure to be transparent about the nature of the link and disclose any kind of exchange, whether it is a valuable asset, a product or a service, to avoid any confusion or penalties.

How Do We Ensure Links are Not Considered Paid?

Here are some ways in which Stan Ventures ensures that the links we acquire for our clients are not considered paid or manipulative:

We Build Relationships: We are focused on building relationships with website owners and bloggers in the same niche as our clients. In fact, we have connected with over 50,000 such bloggers in the last decade, and we keep the relationship alive by periodically offering them high-quality content. We help our clients earn links through natural interactions, such as guest blogging or participating in online communities.

We Create Valuable Content: We create valuable and informative content on behalf of our clients that other website owners and visitors would want to link to, such as infographics, research studies, and how-to guides.

We Leverage Your Brand Mentions: We also monitor the brand mentions of our clients and consider these as low hanging fruits. We reach out to the website owner to request a link in addition to the brand mentioned.

We Identify Broken Links: We even find broken links on potential websites and reach out to the website owner to request that they replace the broken link with a link to our client’s helpful resources.

Are Backlinks Built by Agencies Worth Buying?

Your decision to invest in backlinks must be made after careful consideration of the strategies that the agency is going to use for building them.

If the agency is still harping on outdated and manipulative strategies such as PBNs and Link farms, it’s going to do more harm than good.

Also, if they are finding websites that care less about the quality of the content and more about the money that comes to their bank as a result of paid link exchange, then you are again putting your website on top of a timebomb that’s ready to explode anytime when Google launches a new algorithm update.

However, if you are choosing an agency like Stan Ventures that does ethical and white-hat link building that is purely based on building relationships, creating valuable content, using brand mentions, broken link building, and being transparent about the nature of the links, then the backlinks they provide may be worth buying.

These types of backlinks are considered natural and can help to boost your website’s visibility and search engine rankings.

It’s important to do your research and choose a reputable agency like Stan Ventures that uses ethical and white-hat methods to acquire backlinks.

You should also ensure that the agency’s methods align with your own SEO strategy and goals and that they are transparent about the nature of the links they will provide.

Why Do You Charge If Website Owners Aren’t Paid for Link Placement?

Stan Ventures charge you only for the link building effort we put in. In reality, link building is considered as one of the most nerve-wracking SEO activities, and it’s a time-consuming and labor-intensive process that takes weeks of interaction and follow ups.

Building high-quality backlinks takes significant effort and resources, including research, outreach, content creation, and relationship building. We invest in tools, software, and in-house staff to conduct this work and have to pour in money to cover these costs. That said, our services are priced attractively, and they are the most affordable ones in the market.

Like all other SEO activities, link building is not a once-done-and-forget activity. As the competition mounts, the rankings can fluctuate. To keep it steady, it requires systematic link building.

We even offer retainer packages that ensure there is a steady flow of quality backlinks to your website.

We have a team of experts with years of link building experience with them. This means you don’t have to squander away time or resources to do manual outreach. We can also provide reports, access to tool dashboards and thorough analysis to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the link building campaign.

Are all Backlinks Created Equal or Do Some Carry More Weight Than Others?

The beauty of the internet is its diversity. Similarly, websites are diverse and the quality traits of each site differs based on multiple factors. Due to this, not all backlinks are created equal.

To put it simply, when you get backlinks from a website that has high-quality metrics, more authority will pass. Usually, paid links fail to get good quality metrics as they are constantly involved in spammy link building practices.

However, backlinks from high-authority and reputable websites carry more weight than those from low-authority or spammy websites. That said, there isn’t an official tool from Google that says which site has high authority and which one doesn’t. In fact, Google had a PageRank toolbar extension till 2013, but they scrapped it.

Now, we are heavily reliant on third-party tools such as Moz, Ahrefs and SEMRush to predict the authority of a website. Moz measures the authority based on Domain Authority and Page Authority metrics, whereas Ahrefs use Domain Rating and URL Rating. Meanwhile, SEMRush uses Authority Score and Page Authority Score to classify the quality of websites.

Backlinks from websites with higher quality metrics will generally carry more weight and be considered more valuable. This also means that getting links from higher authority sites is even more difficult, which is the reason why high-authority backlinks become costly.

Irrespective of the authority factors, the relevance of the linking website and the relevance of the linking page also play a significant role in determining the weight of a backlink. If you are getting links from a site that’s not related to your niche, no matter how good the authority score is, Google will not pass much trust.

Furthermore, the context of the link also plays a role in determining the weight of a backlink. A link that is included as a natural and relevant part of the content will carry more weight than a link that is artificially inserted into the content, such as in a blog comment or forum post.

If you are considering investing in backlinks, it is essential to carefully consider the strategies that the agency is going to use for building them.

Choosing Stan Ventures as your link building partner makes sure you get all the benefits of quality backlinks without worrying about the penalties. Contact us today to now more.


Dileep Thekkethil

With over 12 years of expertise, Dileep has carved a name for himself as a trailblazer in the SEO industry. As an acclaimed author and relentless learner, he has transformed countless websites with tailored digital marketing strategies, thanks to his profound insights and innovative approach. Dileep's passion for staying ahead of the curve is evident in his contributions to Stan Ventures and the 100+ publications that feature his groundbreaking articles on SEO and digital marketing. His dedication to knowledge-sharing has earned him widespread recognition as a go-to expert in the field. For cutting-edge SEO solutions or to delve into the mind of a true digital marketing virtuoso, connect with Dileep through the links provided below. @Mail | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook or View all posts by Dileep


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