Paid links are hyperlinks that a website owner or marketer purchases from another website to improve their site’s search engine rankings, drive referral traffic, or boost the perceived authority of their site.

In the context of SEO, paid links are often used to manipulate search rankings by artificially increasing the number of inbound links pointing to a website.

Relation to SEO:

Search engines, particularly Google, consider links as “votes” for a website. The more high-quality, relevant links a site has, the more likely it is to rank well.

However, search engines disapprove of the practice of buying links solely for SEO purposes, as it goes against their guidelines and manipulates search rankings.

Good Paid Links vs. Bad Paid Links

Some paid links may harm your SEO while others won’t.

Here’s how to tell the difference.

Good paid links:

  • Relevant to the website’s content
  • Come from high-quality, authoritative websites
  • Are clearly labeled as sponsored

Once the sponsored attribute is applied to a backlink, it will confer no SEO value on the linked site.

Examples of these sorts of paid links are links in ‘advertorials’ or paid guest posts.

Bad paid links:

  • Come from low-quality, spammy, or irrelevant websites
  • Are hidden or disguised to manipulate search rankings
  • Often come from PBNs (private blog networks)
  • Violate Google Search policies because they’re part of a link scheme
  • Can result in penalties from Google, from which the website may never recover

In general, search engines prefer natural, organic links earned through quality content and genuine endorsements.

While some paid links may be acceptable if they adhere to search engine guidelines and provide value to users, engaging in manipulative link buying practices can result in severe penalties and damage to a website’s search rankings.