Paid Vs Earned Backlinks: What You Need To Know

8th Jan 2019

In the constant battle to conquer SEO and earn as high a ranking in SERP as possible, backlinking – the art of earning incoming, qualified links from external sites to your site – remains one of the pillars to focus on.

Backlinks give your site increased credibility and therefore greater favour in the eyes of Google. Thus, earning backlinks from sites that have a high authoratitive value is ideal.

However, earning backlinks can be hard work – you need to have an excellent on-site content strategy, as well as a solid outward-facing marketing plan that seeds your content out into relevant spaces where consumers and complementary sites pick it up, use it and reference back to your site.

Earned vs Paid

Because earning backlinks is tough, the practice of buying backlinks – i.e. paying a third party domain to list followed backlinks to your domain – has become ‘a thing’.

But beware, the search engines are wise to this practice and will heavily penalise sites that practice bought-backlinking…

The dead giveaway is relevance – bought backlinks from a non-relevant third party domain break the natural value chain that comes from earned backlinks.

They are generally unnatural, irrelevant and ultimately deceptive – this is enough to irritate not only the consumer, but the search engine looking to rank qualified sites as consistently and fairly as possible.

The message is loud and clear

Steer clear of paid backlinks in favour of earning backlinks through quality content and a solid digital marketing strategy.

Focus on the following:

  • Quality over quantity – Google’s algorithms assess the value of content, not the number of backlinks. Factors such as Expertise, Authoratitiveness and Trustworthiness are of paramount importance, so focus on these for your on-site content and outward-facing media.
  • Be creative in your content strategy – infographics, memes, news and case studies can form part of great outward-facing content that earns you qualified backlinks.
  • Know where your site stands – use a Website Authority Checker such as as’s tools to assess your site’s link profile and get ideas on how to build an organic backlink profile over time
  • Get simple wins – make sure your business is listed on relevant business directories. These are almost always relevant, qualified business sites that give you a valuable backlink
  • And finally, remember to earn backlinks from a variety of sites – the greater the spread of quality sites that backlink to yours, the better for you.

For more information on the pitfalls of paid backlinks, and how to earn quality backlinks, visit Search Engine Watch.

For help with your content marketing and SEO strategy, contact Realnet today on 01223 550 809.

Realnet is an established Cambridge digital agency, we have been helping all sorts of organisations with their online presence since 1998. From website design and ecommerce to digital marketing and PPC campaigns.

Contact us to make your website work harder for you.