Most webmasters should know by now that link buying is a “black hat” search engine optimisation tactic.

High profile sites

are being given penalties for buying their way to the top and Google is publicly making life very tough for link buyers and sellers alike.

So why am I writing a link buyer’s guide?

The answer is that link buying still works very well as long as you buy the right links. I don’t mean buying keyword rich links or sitewide links on a high PageRank site, I mean buying links that don’t seem like they have been paid for.

One of the easiest ways to spot paid links is to look in the footer or sidebar of a site (any external links in these areas are highly likely to be paid links). Google will likely give exceptions to sites that are clearly in some kind of network or owned by the same company, but unless the links are clearly marked as such there is a risk that they will be devalued.

Another easy way to spot paid links is to look for anchor text. GoCompare had some links pointing to their site from the middle of articles with the anchor text “car insurance”. These are clearly not natural links, since nobody links to another site from the middle of an article in this manner.

Finally the biggest error people make is to buy links on a site that looks like they are selling links. Sooner or later the site is going to stop passing PageRank and the links you have bought will, at best, stop helping you.

The fix for these issues is quite straightforward, you need to buy links that appear natural to readers and search engines alike. Below are some of my favourite tips:

  • Buy links in a friend’s blogroll (this only works if you have a blog)
  • If you release a news story or some linkbait pay a blog or news site to cover the story. This will look totally natural if executed correctly.
  • Use the right anchor text. Linking to your home page with the anchor text “car insurance” is a big giveaway. Instead start a blog on your site called something like “Patrick’s Car Insurance Blog” and people will link to it with the blogs name in the anchor text. For example “I read an interesting story over at Patrick’s Car Insurance Blog……..”

By following some simple rules and making sure all your paid links appear 100% natural (and are from sites that appear 100% natural) you can insulate your site against algorithmic fluctuations and protect yourself from penalties.