Risk Management: Transitioning Away From Paid Links

It’s well known that we do not buy links when we do link building for our clients. However, there are many times when we take on a client that has been buying links for some time, and they want to transition away from buying links. So should they stop cold turkey?

We usually advise that they don’t stop cold turkey. Google has an interesting problem. They don’t really want to ban a site for buying links, unless the site is really egregious about it. This leaves them in the position of discounting the paid links they detect, and leaving the rest alone.

I can’t tell you what percentage of paid links that Google succeeds in detecting, whether it be algorithmically, human review (as perhaps spawned by an algorithmic flag), or due to a paid links report in Webmaster Tools. There is way too much evidence out there that it is not 100% of paid links.

Search on any hyper-cometitive term, and you will see sites that are winning through paid links, hit counters, sponsored WordPress templates, and more. That said, my opinion remains that this is a short term game, and one best avoided. You can’t win with these strategies forever, simply because your visibility will increase over time.

The bottom line is that if you are buying links today, and you want to transition away from that to improve the long term risk profile of your site, you need a transition plan. Don’t simply drop all your paid links at once. Phase them our over time as you replace them with organic links earned based on the merit of your content or tools.

Unlike addictive drugs, such as heroin, you do have options other than going cold turkey. Nonetheless, it takes a lot of discipline to make this type of transition. It’s still the best thing you can do for the long term health of your site. Just do it intelligently, and you can transition from the risky approach you may be taking now, to an approach that is more secure for the long term.

PS: None of this works unless you have great content or tools to earn those natural links, so you need to have that in place before you start this process as well.


  1. says

    I really wish honest link building was the way that brought results but any inspection of the serps will show otherwise. Like you guys we don’t buy links but when you look at the way some sites are owning the serps then link profile them it makes you want to weep. It’s a state of affairs that needs addressing but I very much doubt it’s going to be.


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