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buying links for seo
Link Building

Thinking About Buying Links? Read This First…

  • May 2, 2016

About the author

Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.

Buying links is a clear violation of Google’s TOS.

But, we still (occasionally) pay for links, for a number of reasons:

1. It works. When done properly, there’s no risk of penalty because its impossible to distinguish what’s a paid placement and what’s not.

2. PR companies have been buying coverage for decades. You think that [fully funded] startup got coverage on FastCo because their “app” is so amazing? No, the wheels were greased.

3. It breaks Google’s rules, not laws. Have you seen the filth on Instagram? Companies are paying “influencers” to advertise products and are not disclosing it. This is breaking the law (and ethics), there’s a HUGE difference.

Unethical Sponsored Native Content

A perfect example of shameless, law breaking, product hawking bullshit that’s corroding Instagram.

We’re merely trying to get link placements from quality blogs that drive traffic back to a relevant page on our site.

Yes, we’re manipulating the algorithm, but technically all forms of link building (and SEO) are doing that.

If you’re still with me, I’m going to show you how to buy links for SEO the ‘right’ way. Specifically:

  • What NOT to do (and what TO do) when purchasing backlinks
  • The process we use to purchase links at scale
  • Three easy tactics to find the right opportunities for link placements
  • How to craft the perfect pitch for each opportunity

I’m responding to all comments – leave them at the bottom!


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What NOT to do & what TO DO when buying links

Let me clarify what we don’t do:

  • Use link networks (private blog networks, PBNs, anyone publicly selling links)
  • Fiverr or any other low cost market place
  • Vendors that email you with placements on authority sites

We take an outreach driven approach to buying backlinks:

  • Focus on working with real sites and blogs, not networks or vendors
  • Target websites that accept advertisements and ask for “native” placement as opposed to banner ads
  • Find bloggers who don’t make any money and offer to “sponsor a link” on their website
  • Offer to pay contributors at large publications for content

By finding our own opportunities, we’re assuring the links we purchase are on quality sites that not only build link equity, but drive traffic and awareness.

With that being said, let’s get into the gritty details about how you can execute this for yourself.


The process we follow to execute this at scale

Having a process allows us to stay on task and perform this at scale for multiple clients.

Sponsored Content Process

It’s important to note sponsored posts should be used sparingly – you don’t want to base your entire link building campaign around them.

In addition, make sure you thoroughly audit the website to understand anchor text ratios, link velocity and competitive landscape. Failure to do so can end up in your website getting slapped.

I’m not going to talk about campaign setup or tracking (we use Buzzstream). Let’s just jump into finding the opportunities and securing links.


Method 1: Find sites accepting ads, advertorials or sponsored content

The easiest way to find clean links to purchase is find websites that actively accept advertisers.

Record Post Opportunities

You can find them by using targeted search engine operators + keyword modifiers.

Search Operators for Sponsored Content

When selecting keyword modifiers, we want to start with ones relevant to the brand. Once exhausted, move into similar topics.

Allow me to demonstrate using an example from a Miami based immigration attorney client.


a. Keyword modifier set 1: directly related to the business

Legal, law, attorneys, legal blog, law blog, law blogger, etc.

Legal Blog Advertise

Take these keywords, combine them with relevant search operators and exhaust all possibilities. Record all opportunities in your database.


b. Keyword modifier set 2: geo relevant

Miami, South Florida, Downtown Miami, Brickell, South Beach, Miami blogs, Miami bloggers, etc.

Advertise Local Blogs

Take these keywords, combine them with relevant search operators and exhaust all possibilities. Record all opportunities in your database.


c. Keyword modifier set 3: topically related or relevant

Travel, travel blogs, travel blog, travel blogger, etc (immigration is loosely related to travel).

Finding Sponsored Native Opportunities

Take these keywords, combine them with relevant search operators and exhaust all possibilities. Record all opportunities in your database.


Method 2: Build a list of niche relevant bloggers

Offering a blogger money has the highest success rate of any outreach tactic we’ve leveraged.

99% of bloggers aren’t getting paid to write, they do it because they love it. When a business contacts them offering to advertise, it’s validation to their efforts – they love it.

It’s important to only targeting bloggers, not businesses. Offering a business money for a link is never a good idea, it’ll only damage your reputation.

There’s a ton of ways to find bloggers in bulk. Here’s a few:


i. Ahrefs Content Explorer

Ahrefs has quietly rolled out some amazing updates this past year, their Content Explorer tool is one of them.

I instruct my team to look for topics, not keywords, then filter based on quality and social engagement.

Ahrefs content explorer

Click through on relevant results and scrape contact info with Buzzstream’s browser plugin.


ii. Search Google for ‘lists of bloggers’

Simply adding a keyword plus operators like “list of blogs” or “top bloggers” will result in hundreds of opportunities.

Find a list of bloggers

iii. Scrape Twitter or Follerwonk

I wrote an in depth post about this a few weeks back so I won’t rehash it here. Check it out for a step by step guide.



Method 3: Find ‘contributors’ to niche relevant publications

Honestly, I can’t believe major media sites like Forbes, HuffPost, Entrepreneur, etc haven’t gotten penalized yet.

Not only is their content terrible, but I get 3 – 5 emails everyday from different vendors hawking links on them.

That led me to discover how easy it was to find contributors and offer money for placement. Seriously, it’s crazy.

Here’s what to do:

  • Go to a major publication in your niche
  • Find a relevant section on the site (money, business, sports, etc)
  • Look for “contributors”, NOT editors or staff writers
  • Their emails are almost always in their columns
  • Record them in your database



Just a forewarning, a lot of these contributors are not looking for money and will get pissed when you offer.

But hey, that’s part of the risk you run engaging in this type of outreach. This is a straight up numbers game and not everyone will be cool with it.



Pitching prospects and securing coverage

Now that you’ve got a massive list of opportunities, let’s talk about the right way to contact them.

NOTE: Please, PLEASE do NOT use our exact pitches! Take them and adapt them to your own brand. Using them word for word will only hurt the community!

i. Websites that accept advertisements (method 1)

Since these websites are actively looking for advertisers, it’s an easy pitch.
Buying Links Native Content


The key is to tell them you’re only looking for sponsored posts, NOT banner or email blasts.


Advertiser response


When negotiating, check to make sure the following:

  • The links are followed (NOT rel=”nofollow”)
  • The post is NOT tagged with “sponsored”

Simply tell them if they don’t abide by those 2 rules, you will take your money elsewhere.


ii. Pitching niche relevant bloggers (method 2)

This pitch is a little more complicated. You could send them the same pitch as advertisers, but I like to take a different approach here.

Sponsored Post Outreach

I tell them I’m interested in inserting a link into an older post on their website. I do this for a number of reasons:

  • It’s cheaper (you don’t have to write any content)
  • It’s less intrusive for the blogger
  • You can select a page with existing authority (i.e. links and shares)

I use Ahrefs Site Explorer to find pages with traffic, social shares and inbound links:

Ahrefs Site Explorer

This ensures your link placement will receive traffic and extra equity.

Be aware though, this approach will cause some confusion and you’ll have to explain yourself further:

Paying for Links

But, inevitably, they will accept:

Email Outreach Sequence

iii. Pitching relevant publication contributors (method 3)

I’m not going to give you this pitch because it’s too valuable. It’s the reason we’re able to land our clients on major publications like HuffPost, Forbes and Thought Catalog for less than $150.

If you’re really interested in the pitch, you can grab it here.


Over to you

I’m curious to see the reaction from you guys on this post. Generally, I stick to writing about white hat link building tactics and this one is clearly gray (borderline black).

I’m always up for a good debate, so please, leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Comments ( 113 )

  • Simon Says
    7 years ago

    Thanks for another great article Ryan. When you pay a blogger say $100-$150 for a link on an old article, is that a yearly fee? Or one-time?

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    i only do 1 time fees, never ongoing payments, it’s just not worth it.

  • Adam Szabo Says
    7 years ago

    Great read! Thanks Ryan

  • tom reader Says
    7 years ago

    Hi Ryan


    is Genevieveava an old girlfriend who dumped you?

    no, seriously great post and very, very useful.

    my partner and I spoke with you earlier in the year about you maybe working with us but we were budget constrained at the time. i note you said recently you were now stacked out but we now have budget coming on-stream and wondered if we could maybe re-visit that conversation?

    best regards
    Tom & Jiyeon

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    you’re welcome!

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    Hey Tom,

    HA! She’s not my GF, she’s just the first one that came up on my stream when looking for sponsored content on Instagram.

    I’ll send you an email in regards to working together.

  • Dan Mikals Says
    7 years ago

    Took me awhile to get past @shredz…

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    ha, i know my readers well…

  • Charles Floate Says
    7 years ago

    Finally, Thank You Ryan!!!

    I haven’t seen this talked about properly before, and you hit the nail on the head, and then out the damn park.

    Link placement like this in comparison to what most social media campaigns (and if you look through the main SMM blogs, you’ll find tactics a lot worst/more illegal than what you showcased) then you don’t even have the same level of moral corruption – It’s just Google does such a good f’ing job of scaring the living daylights out of people, that they get paranoid at even the mention of certain buzzwords… Even though the people who’re really making the most money out of these places aren’t doing just content marketing, or just black hat.. They’re combining the 2.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    you’re welcome charles, i thought you might like this one.

  • Admir Says
    7 years ago

    Hi Ryan

    You are a true SEO rockstar, both in looks and skills ;).

    So, when buying these links you put more focus and value on traffic and social shares of the sites rather than metrics ( RD, DA and all the known abbreviations :)).

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    i do. we live in a social media dominated world. i’d rather get a link from a DA 1 site with 50k Facebook fans than a DA 50 site with 101 Facebook fans.

  • Cody Says
    7 years ago

    Is there a specific formula you utilize when determining how $ to offer for a link/ content?

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    I don’t have it down to a process, no. I’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s just second nature. I’ll check DA, TF, CF and SEM Rush to get traffic estimates.

  • John Sam Says
    7 years ago

    Hi Ryan,
    THANK YOU for the amazing tips.
    I have one question, please:
    I sell insurance service and I’m trying to build links to my site. I’m also trying to rank for keyword “Private insurance advisor”. My questions is:
    When someone agrees to give me a link to my site, is it better to put the keyword “private insurance advisor” and link this keyword to my site as keyword anchor OR I should just place the link http://www.mysite.com? Which one is better from SEO point of view keyword anchor or full URL?
    Thank you soooo much

  • Andy Cockayne Says
    7 years ago

    Talk about timing!

    I just received an email from a board director congratulating me on the SEO process I have implemented but then goes on to say that he feels it is too slow and we need to get some ‘high quality’ links to push our site(s) onto page 1 for our key terms…

    He is happy for me to spend more money on achieving this and has asked for a response and some ideas…

    I may just simply send him this article! 🙂



  • Ashu Says
    7 years ago

    Hi Ryan,
    Great article.
    One question: Isn’t $100-150 way too much money to offer for a single backlink from a local blogger? Is it really worth it?

  • Pete McAllister Says
    7 years ago

    Hi Ryan,

    Great post, you always have direct and actionable content which is the way this industry should be. Too much fluff and nonsense floating around!

    If you have a guide to scrapebox I’d maybe link to that for automating the prospecting section of your process?


  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    hey john,

    it depends on the context of the link. in other words, do what’s natural.

    what you’re referring to is called “anchor text” and i’ve got a great blog post that should explain the whole thing to you here: https://webris.org/anchor-text/

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    please feel free to send this to him 🙂

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    no, its not always worth it. it depends on your overall budget, link needs and the quality of the link you’re purchasing. i don’t have any exact metrics to give you, but understanding which links to buy just comes with time and experience. start by looking at basics metrics like DA, TC, CF and traffic estimates and you should be ok.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    i dont have anything on scrapebox, but Jacob King does. here’s a link to his site:


    tell him i sent you!

  • Carl Reed Says
    7 years ago

    Great post you beautiful bastard, quick question though…

    Are you taking a backlink budget from the client beforehand and spending it how you see fit, or are you charging for the outreach and letting the client decide which links they’d like to buy?

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    I build a link budget into the monthly retainer (generally about $1,500/month depending on the client). My team lines up the opportunities and they send them to me for final approval. At the end of the day it’s my decision on what and how much to pull the trigger on.

  • Carl Reed Says
    7 years ago

    Cheers mate

  • Philip Murphy Says
    7 years ago

    Jacob King’s guide to Scrapebox is legit

  • Annabel Collin Says
    7 years ago

    I love this article. Trying to advance my blog with back links but this stuff is Greek to me. You broke it down, I’ll have to figure it out.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    thanks annabel!

  • Alex Says
    7 years ago

    Great article.

    Could you share a little bit more about how much it normally costs for a link on a inner page for a blogger?
    I know you mentioned $100 to $150, but that seems steep. Do you find it’s often less than this?

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    it really depends on the blogger, niche and their overall reach. the best way to find out is send a few emails and find out what they come back with!

  • imad Says
    7 years ago

    Great article.
    really i love this article thank you so much

  • Brozi Sozwi Says
    7 years ago

    You state that you won’t buy links from “Fiverr or any other low cost market place”.

    Do you include contextual links or guest posts on authority websites?

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    Thanks Imad 🙂

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    We don;t buy from vendors anymore because the cost has gone up and quality has gone down. Finding your own bloggers is by far the best way.

  • Mavrick Says
    7 years ago

    Good point. I hadn’t thhgout about it quite that way. 🙂

  • El Says
    6 years ago

    I’ll be honest, I’ve paid $400 – 500 on a link such as Huffpost, so when I saw the 100-150 my eyes lit up. I know a decent amount of how SEO works, but somethings I am totally clueless… Ryan, just started looking at your content today, been stuck on it… You come across as a cool and very honest person…. breath of fresh air…

    If the link for a HUFF Post doesn’t really drive traffic, but gets decent social share and such, is it really worth it… How much does it effect the improvement of your site’s overall placement in the serps? Just the overall health of the website?

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    6 years ago

    Thank you!

    A link from HuffPost will ALWAYS be a good thing, the question is really how much is worth it to pay for coverage there. I don’t look at links from HuffPost and related sites as “ranking” links, i.e. I don’t expect to get on those sites and then start to see a big KW ranking. I view them as massive signs of trust, authority and brand, which raises the OVERALL ranking power and authority of your site / brand.

  • Abhishek Rahut Says
    6 years ago

    Best way I found to find good signal websites/blogs is searching on DMOZ and filtering more with age of the domain, HTTPS etc. DMOZ editors actually check the websites fully manually. Many of those blogs will have fix rate around $150 to $200 as one time fees. It prudent to not directly contact them but approach via some good professional or agency.

    Those blogs with hardly 1000 hits gives better signal effect in long term than too much popular sites. It is probably because those websites has good content but they never used SEO for themselves. Google probably counts them as natural, innocent.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    6 years ago

    that works too

  • Lee Says
    6 years ago

    Can you let me have a copy of that spreadsheet you feature above

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    6 years ago

    we’re building a “tools” section, coming soon, everything will be in there!

  • Altug Kop Says
    5 years ago

    I love this post. Some SEO’s ‘holier than thou’ act when it comes to paying for links is wearing thin. All it displays is a complete lack of knowledge and critical thinking around the topic. I’d love to see some of these guys completely organic campaigns that they didn’t spend a penny on *rolls eyes* lol The skill really lies in finding the high-quality, relevant links that will move the needle and still provide an organic user experience. The link you acquired within the Puerto Rico blog was a perfect example of that.
    Also, if the content on your own site is providing extreme value to Google’s users, do you really think Google will cut its nose off to spite its face and penalize you because it ‘thinks’ you may have paid for a link? As we say here in the UK…’Will they f***!’
    P.S. We became friends as soon as you called out ‘Shredz’ LOL literally the worst of the worst.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    5 years ago

    Very well said, I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to write that comment Altug.

  • John Says
    4 years ago

    Great post Ryan.

    One question though – do you think there’s any issue with adding links to existing posts? You mention that this is a cheaper and less intrusive request to the blogger and that benefits can be had from obtaining a link with existing authority but I wonder whether or not Google will see this is as unnatural (i.e. a link being added to an old post), especially if the website being linked to is perhaps not even as old as the article where the link is coming from.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    4 years ago

    I don’t – I do it all the time. Even on my own blog, I update my content once a year, that includes adding in new external links. It’s completely natural and safe.

  • rankersparadise Says
    3 years ago

    decent information

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    2 months ago

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