What are Paid/Manipulative Links? How to Identify and Avoid Paid/Manipulative Links

What are Paid links and Manipulative Links
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Link building is a crucial aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) that can make or break a website’s search engine rankings. However, with the increasing pressure to rank higher in search engines, many websites resort to paid or manipulative links in an attempt to boost their visibility.

  • We studied almost one billion web pages and found that almost 90.63% of them get no traffic from Google. [Ahrefs]
  • Ahrefs looked at the link profile of over 2 million domains and found that 66.5% of the links to these sites since 2013 are dead.

These two reasons are driving people crazy into looking for ways to get more links to improve their banking as we all know that “backlinks” are the #1 ranking factors according to Google Andrey Lipattsev on YouTube [link], John Mullers, and some other studies.

So what do people turn to? paid or manipulative links. But these types of links can actually do more harm than good, as search engines like Google heavily penalize websites that engage in these practices.

In this blog post, we will dive into the ins and outs of identifying and avoiding paid or manipulative links. This is a crucial step to increase visibility on SERP and drive organic traffic to your website. Let’s dive in.

What are Paid/Manipulative Links?

Paid or manipulative links refer to links that are added to a website or page with the intention of artificially increasing the page’s visibility or search engine ranking. These links can be bought, traded, or otherwise acquired, and they may not be relevant or useful to visitors of the website.

Types of Paid/Manipulative Links

1. Black hat link building

One is known as “black hat” link building, which involves acquiring links through deceitful or unethical means, such as buying links or participating in link farms. These types of links are generally frowned upon by search engines, and websites that engage in black hat link building may be penalized or even banned from the search engine’s index.

2. Paid link building

Another type of manipulative link is the “paid link,” where website owners are paid to place links on other websites to drive traffic and improve their own ranking. This is also against the guideline of many search engines and it could lead to penalties.

Here is an example of a paid link scheme:

A website owner pays for links from other websites in an attempt to improve the ranking of their website in the search engine results pages (SERPs). They may do this by purchasing links from low-quality websites or by participating in link schemes where multiple websites all link to each other.

These links may be placed in the form of blog posts, articles, or even simple text links within the website’s content. The goal of this scheme is to artificially inflate the search engine ranking of the website that paid for the links by increasing the number of links pointing to it.

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This practice is frowned upon by search engines because it manipulates search engine rankings in an artificial way. It also does not provide any value to the users of the website.

Paid links are not considered natural links and are not passed PageRank or any weight from one website to another (despite how sophisticated the search algorithm is getting if done correctly you can see good results and even higher rankings).

The 8 Risks of Buying Links

Buying links may sound like an easy way to boost your website’s search engine rankings, but it can come with some serious risks.

1. Google penalty

First, buying links can lead to a Google penalty. Google actively looks for link-buying activity and penalizes websites that are found to be participating in link schemes. Not only will this decrease your website’s visibility in search engines, but it can also lead to a permanent ban from Google and other major search engines.

2. Links are expensive

Buying links can be expensive. Quality backlinks are not cheap and can quickly add up over time if you’re not careful with your budgeting. A single purchase could end up costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you’re not careful.

3. No guarantee

There’s no guarantee that the links will stay active once purchased. If the website selling the link goes offline or changes its linking policy, then your backlink could disappear overnight leaving you with nothing for your money.

4. No improved rankings

Buying links won’t necessarily result in higher rankings. Even if your purchased link is indexed by Google and spidered correctly, there’s no guarantee that it will actually improve your rankings and lead to more traffic. Google’s algorithm determines how sites are ranked and it’s based on many factors, including link quality, user engagement, and content relevance.

The BEST way to improve your rankings is by creating more high-quality content and earning backlinks naturally.

5. low-quality backlinks

Another risk of buying links is that you could end up with low-quality backlinks that won’t help your website’s ranking. Many link sellers offer low-quality, spammy backlinks that are designed to appear legitimate but have little value when it comes to SEO. These types of links can actually hurt your website’s performance and result in decreased rankings and visibility in the SERPs.

6. Decrease in organic traffic

Buying links can lead to a decrease in organic traffic. When websites buy links, they often find that their organic traffic decreases because the quality of their content becomes less appealing to visitors who are searching for valuable information.

7. Links removed

Purchased links may be broken or removed without warning. As a result, you could lose both the link and any associated benefits from having purchased it in the first place.

8. Getting caught by search engines

Another risk of buying links is getting caught by search engines. Google and other search engines are constantly looking for “black-hat” SEO techniques such as link purchasing. If they catch you engaging in this activity, they could penalize your website by lowering its rankings or even de-indexing it all together.

Tips for Avoiding Paid/Manipulative Links

Here are some tips for avoiding paid and manipulative links and maintaining a healthy link profile for your website:

  1. Only link to reputable sources: Only link to websites that are reputable and have a good reputation within your industry. Avoid linking to low-quality, spammy websites or sites that have been penalized by search engines.
  2. Don’t participate in link exchanges: Link exchanges, where two websites agree to link to each other, are often seen as a manipulative tactic. Instead, focus on building relationships with other websites and earning links through content collaborations, guest blogging, and other white-hat tactics.
  3. Be careful with link-building services: Be cautious when working with link-building services or agencies that promise to increase the number of links pointing to your website. Many of these services engage in manipulative tactics and can put your website at risk.
  4. Monitor your backlink profile: Regularly monitor your backlink profile to identify any suspicious or low-quality links that may have been added. You can use tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs to keep track of your backlinks.
  5. Disavow low-quality links: If you discover low-quality or spammy links pointing to your website, you can use the Google Search Console’s “Disavow Links” tool to tell Google to ignore these links.
  6. Create valuable content: The best way to naturally attract links to your website is to create valuable and unique content that is useful and relevant to your audience. If you consistently produce high-quality content, other websites will naturally want to link to it. Learn more
  7. Do not pay for links: The most important tip is never to buy links for your website, it’s a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can lead to a penalty. Instead, focus on building a strong, reputable website with high-quality content and a natural link profile.

Tips for Successfully Acquiring Natural Links

Acquiring natural links is an essential aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) and can help to improve the visibility and ranking of your website. Here are some tips for successfully acquiring natural links:

  1. Create high-quality, valuable content: The most important aspect of acquiring natural links is to create high-quality, valuable, and unique content that is relevant and useful to your target audience. If your content is informative, interesting, and well-written, other websites will be more likely to link to it.
  2. Optimize your content for search engines: Make sure your content is optimized for search engines by including relevant keywords and meta tags, as well as a clear and well-structured website layout.
  3. Build relationships: Building relationships with other websites and influencers in your industry is an important aspect of link building. Reach out to other website owners, participate in online communities and forums, and consider guest blogging or content collaborations.
  4. Use social media: Social media can be a great way to promote your content and attract links. Share your content on social media platforms, and engage with your followers to increase visibility and drive traffic to your website.
  5. Monitor your backlink profile: Keep an eye on your backlink profile using tools such as Google Search Console or Ahrefs. This will help you to identify which of your content is gaining the most links, and make adjustments to improve performance over time.
  6. Make your website easy to link to: Make it easy for other website owners to link to your content by providing clear and concise descriptions of your pages, and including social sharing buttons on your website. Learn more
  7. Leverage Broken Link Building: Finding broken links on other websites in your niche and offering them a replacement, will often lead to a link back to your website.
  8. Don’t underestimate the power of branding. A strong brand can be a great asset in link building, and increase the likelihood of people linking to your content.

Quality over quantity is the key when it comes to link building.

Since link building can take time, it’s important to be patient and focus on creating high-quality content that other websites will want to link to.

People Also Ask?

What are paid/manipulative links in simple terms?

Paid and manipulative links are links that are purchased or obtained through manipulative means in order to artificially inflate a website’s search engine ranking. These links are considered a violation of search engine guidelines and can result in penalties.

How do I identify paid/manipulative links?

Paid and manipulative links can be difficult to spot, but some signs include a large number of links coming from the same IP address, links from low-quality or irrelevant websites, and links with exact match anchor text. Monitoring your backlink profile and using tools like Google Search Console can also help identify paid and manipulative links.

What are the risks of paid/manipulative links?

The risks of paid and manipulative links include penalties from search engines, which can result in decreased search engine visibility and traffic. Paid and manipulative links can also harm your website’s reputation and negatively impact your brand.

How do I remove paid/manipulative links?

Removing paid and manipulative links can be difficult, and in some cases, may require contacting the website owner and requesting that the link be removed. In cases where the link cannot be removed, the Google Search Console’s “Disavow Links” tool can be used to signal to Google that the link should be ignored.

Are all paid links manipulative?

Not all paid links are manipulative, but any link that is purchased in order to artificially inflate a website’s search engine ranking is considered a violation of search engine guidelines. It’s best to avoid buying links altogether and focus on earning natural links through high-quality content and white-hat tactics.

Why is it important to avoid paid/manipulative links?

It’s important to avoid paid and manipulative links because they are a violation of search engine guidelines and can result in penalties that decrease search engine visibility and traffic. In addition, paid and manipulative links can harm a website’s reputation and negatively impact the brand.

What are some alternative ways to improve search engine ranking other than paid/manipulative links?

Alternative ways to improve search engine ranking include creating high-quality, valuable, and unique content that is relevant to your target audience, optimizing your website for search engines, and building relationships with other websites. Other ways include social media promotion, regular tracking of the backlink profiles, broken link building, and developing a strong brand.

Can paid/manipulative links be detected by search engines?

Yes, search engines have sophisticated algorithms that can detect paid and manipulative links and may penalize websites that engage in this practice.

Is there a difference between paid links and sponsored links?

Yes, there is a difference between paid links and sponsored links. Paid links are links that are purchased for the purpose of artificially inflating a website’s search engine ranking, whereas sponsored links are links that are placed on a website in exchange for payment, but do not manipulate search engine rankings. Sponsored links are generally considered to be acceptable as long as they are clearly marked as sponsored and follow the guidelines of the search engine.

Are there any penalties for buying links?

Yes, buying links is considered a violation of search engine guidelines and can result in penalties such as demotion in search engine rankings or removal from the search engine’s index. Learn more

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“Paid links” and “manipulative links” are two distinct concepts in the field of search engine optimization (SEO).

“Paid links” refer to links that have been purchased by a website owner in an attempt to boost their search engine rankings. These links are often generated through link-buying schemes, in which website owners pay other websites to link to their site. Paid links can be difficult for search engines to detect and penalize, but they can still harm a website’s ranking in the long run.

“Manipulative links” on the other hand, refer to links that have been acquired through black hat SEO tactics, such as link farms, link schemes, and private blog networks. These types of links are often created for the sole purpose of manipulating search engine rankings, and can be easily detected by search engines.

The terms “paid or manipulative links”, “paid and manipulative links”, “paid links or manipulative links” and “paid links and manipulative links” refers to the idea that these links can come from both paid and manipulative ways, as both can harm your website.

“Paid/Manipulative links” can be used as well, being an umbrella term for both concepts.


In conclusion, identifying and avoiding paid or manipulative links is an important aspect of maintaining a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Paid or manipulative links, also known as black hat links, can harm your website’s ranking and credibility in the eyes of search engines like Google.

The best way to identify these types of links is to regularly monitor your backlink profile using tools such as Ahrefs or Majestic.

One of the key signs of a paid or manipulative link is a sudden influx of links from low-quality or spammy websites.

Recap, To avoid these types of links:

  • Engage in ethical link-building practices such as creating high-quality content and reaching out to other websites in your niche to request natural links.
  • Use the Google Search Console to disavow any links that may be harmful to your website and monitor your backlink profile using tools such as Ahrefs or Majestic.
  • …, etc.

Overall, by staying vigilant and engaging in ethical link-building practices, you can ensure that your website is not harmed by paid or manipulative links. And so, maintaining a clean backlink profile is vital to achieving successful SEO outcomes.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Leave us a comment or a suggestion/question on this topic.

Thank you for reading.

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