on November 21, 2011
Many methods of online promotion are currently available for businesses or individuals wanting to increase the traffic to and reach of their websites. Four of the most popular methods are Paid Links (backlinks to a site that posted in return for compensation from the site owners), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click Ads on search engines, such as Google or Bing (referred to as PPC, paid search, or SEM for Search Engine Marketing), and Social Media, which has exploded on to the scene so rapidly that many advertisers are playing catch up as they deal with the challengers presented by this new marketing tool.
The purpose of this post is discuss paid links versus SEO and provide information regarding the pros and cons of both approaches so we will set PPC and social media aside for the time being.
Paid links often seem link a great way to quickly acquire a great number with backlinks. You simply pay a fee and the rest is taken care of. Sometimes this fee is paid directly to the owner of a website who may offer various packages with different amounts and positions of links or banners, sometimes it is paid to a third party that claims to specialize in backlink building (“10,000 links for only $75. High PR Sites!”), or sometimes it is paid to a blogger to do a sponsored post.
Of the above scenarios, buying bulk backlinks from a third party is certainly the least preferable option. Often site owners have no way of verifying the page rank of the sites that post backlinks or for that matter even whether the backlinks are posted. Having a bunch of spammy-looking sites linking back to your site is no good and will be more likely to hurt your rankings than improve them in the long run.
Th other two options — packages bought directly from websites related to one’s own site or sponsored blog posts — can offer some benefits. You know who is posting backlinks to your site and can verify that they are there. However, using paid backlinks to boost a site’s search ranking difficult because of Google’s policies on backlinks and spam: any paid links are supposed to be marked with the rel=”nofollow” tag, which instructs some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index (more on rel=”nofollow” from Wikipedia).
Links can be bought for valid reasons, i.e. banners or sponsored blog post to rise brand visibility and awareness, and as long as they have the re=”nofollow” tag they will not run afoul of Google. And so the site owner trying to promote their site is faced with the question of whether to play by the rules and forgo any positive ranking influence from backlinks or try buy backlinks without the re=”nofollow” tag, which will benefit their site’s ranking, but may risk the wrath of Google (In February, J.C. Penney all but disappeared from Google search results after it was discovered that they had been engaged in buying links against Google’s policies).
Compared to paid links, search engine optimization requires much more focus, organization, and time. However, while the upfront effort required is indubitably greater, the payoff is that — when done correctly — SEO techniques do not run the risk of getting a site demoted in Google rankings due to policy violations. Areas that search optimization focuses on, such as the creation of original content about a company, product, or person, the proper use of keywords, and backlink building campaigns that rely on reaching out to similar sites and stimulating interest rather than just paying a fee, are proven methods for increasing a sites visibility in organic search. In fact, SEO has become such a standard within the greater industry of online marketing that it is essentially required for any site that wants to succeed on a large scale. You may have a beautifully designed, state-of-the-art website; however, not many people are going to see it if they can’t find it through organic search.
In short, paid links are often quicker and easier than a well-implemented SEO campaign, but they run the risk of getting a site demoted if any of the links violate Google’s policies. This does not mean all paid links are automatically black-hat; accepted uses for paid links include banners and sponsored blog posts for raising brand awareness, provided that the rel=”nofollow” tag is used. Search engine optimization is more labor intensive and has a lot more angles of which to keep track. When done correctly though SEO doesn’t run the risk of getting your site demoted and delivers proven increases in search engine ranking position (SERP). If you’d like to read more about Google’s policies regarding paid backlinks and spam, this post by Matt Cutts (although older) is a good starting point.
At Collaboration 133, we use a combination of tried and true SEO techniques and new, innovative approaches to ensure that our clients achieve their maximum return on their investment in search engine optimization. All our techniques comply with Google’s policies, which allows our clients to rest easy knowing that their online reputation is in good hands.
If you have questions or would like to inquire about Search Engine Optimization for your site, please contact us.