It happens to the best of us: the temptation to buy links. I get emails all the time and am lucky to be one of the few marketers immune to the impulse some of these offers can create. Below is a screenshot from one email I received recently from that made me fall out of my chair:

Screenshot of Email Received Offering Links

Wow, just imagine, 500 instant links, 10,000 forum posts, and 1,000 Facebook Likes! Okay, now imagine what Google will think of you next month, when your website only gets 7 new links from some fans who like your blog posts. See an unusual pattern of behavior here? So will Google, Bing and other search engines. Worse, get caught trying to influence search results and you could face banishment or lose your job if you’re the resident SEO guy.

Buying Links Exposed in the NY Times

I’m not going to talk much about the Overstock Wall Street Journal post, because I believe what they did was grey hat not black hat SEO. I believe they were attempting to earn links a little too aggressively, as opposed to J.C. Penny’s exploit in the NY Times who I can only assume did what you see in the comic included with this post; buying links from a broker en mass to game search results.

The consequences were far worse than pages just being buried in Google search results, as now the company carries with it a reputation for participating in questionable marketing tactics and will forever be watched with a sharp eye. There’s no ounce of grey hat SEO J.C. Penny can do now without thousands of marketers immediately criticizing and scrutinizing each effort to improve organic traffic.

The Right Way to Buy Links

I know, oxymoron, right? No matter what you do to get links to your website, there is cost involved. Whether you invest $2,000 into writing and deploying the most likeable, shareable, linkable, embeddable, tweetable page on the planet for link bait (uh hem), spend time and resources interviewing experts, or spending money on developers to create freebies that come locked in with links (such as free WordPress themes); anyway you look at it, you’re buying links.

Having the best product in the world will absolutely help, but the catch 22 with this idea is that you must first be known before you can be viral. In other words, you need traffic to get traffic. In other words, it takes money to make money. In other words, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Alternatives to Buying Links from a Broker

I’ve listed some alternatives to buying links in what many are calling the Best SEO Audit & Strategy Lists. It doesn’t get much traffic yet, though it ranks well already. If you find it useful, help me get the word out. If you don’t, let’s just put a pin in my request and we’ll revisit after the next Google update.