The Perils of Buying Backlinks – Why Google Frowns Upon This SEO Shortcut

In the intricate world of digital marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO), shortcuts are enticing. One such shortcut that has been used, abused, and consistently frowned upon by Google is the practice of buying backlinks. In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve deep into the reasons why Google vehemently opposes buying backlinks, a tactic aimed at deceiving search engines to secure positions that your website might not naturally attain.

Certainly, it’s perplexing to encounter a respected institution like the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute delving into the questionable practice of advocating for buying backlinks. One can’t help but question the guidance provided by their SEO instructor (How to buy backlinks in 2023 – high quality). You can’t buy high quality backlinks because quality backlinks are earned! While it’s essential to clarify that the concern isn’t directed at the institution itself, it raises eyebrows about the individuals absorbing such content.

Engaging in unethical link-building strategies could potentially lead to severe repercussions from Google. This unexpected approach contradicts the reputation of a noble institution. Let’s explore the potential consequences that may unfold when one decides to purchase backlinks or links from a toxic sources.

Unnatural Link Schemes and Google’s Algorithm

Search engines like Google employ complex algorithms designed to deliver the most relevant and trustworthy results to users. Buying backlinks disrupts the natural flow of the web, creating unnatural link schemes that trigger alarm bells for these algorithms. Google’s algorithms have evolved to identify such manipulative tactics, and the consequences can be severe.

  • According to Moz, unnatural link building is one of the top factors that lead to manual actions and penalties by Google. In fact, 90% of reconsideration requests are due to unnatural links.
  • Google’s algorithms, including Penguin, have specifically targeted link schemes and artificial link building practices. These updates have significantly impacted websites engaging in such practices, leading to drops in rankings and visibility.
  • Google’s John Mueller has emphasised in numerous webmaster hangouts that the use of unnatural links can lead to manual actions and severe penalties.
  • Furthermore, Google’s Search Essentials (Formerly Google Webmaster) explicitly warn against “participating in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank.” These underlines Google’s strict stance against such practices.

The Penalty Hammer – Devaluation and De-indexing

Google’s stance on paid links is clear: they devalue the links and can even lead to your website being de-indexed. This means your site won’t appear in search results at all – a death sentence for online visibility.

  • In a Google Webmaster Central Blog post, the search engine giant explicitly warns against buying links and emphasises that they can take action against websites involved in such practices.
  • The consequences of being de-indexed can be financially crippling. A study by Backlinko found that de-indexed websites lose 97% of their organic traffic.
  • De-indexing also affects brand reputation and trust. When users search for your site and find it missing, it raises questions about the legitimacy of your business.

Quality Over Quantity: The Essence of Backlinks

Google places immense importance on the quality of backlinks. Links from authoritative, relevant, and organic sources carry weight in SEO. Purchased backlinks, on the other hand, often come from low-quality, spammy sources, diminishing the trustworthiness of your website.

  • Ahrefs, an SEO toolset, confirms that high-quality backlinks from trusted sources significantly impact search rankings. Buying links cannot replicate the value of genuine, high-quality backlinks.
  • Google’s Quality Guidelines explicitly state that any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Google’s ranking algorithms, including the PageRank algorithm, have evolved to assess the quality and relevance of backlinks, making it more challenging for websites with low-quality, paid links to rank well.

Trust and Credibility

Trust is paramount in the online world. When your website’s backlink profile includes paid links, it raises questions about your credibility and trustworthiness. Users, as well as search engines, are sceptical of websites with dubious link-building practices.

  • The Nielsen Norman Group, a renowned usability research firm, highlights that trust is a critical factor in user experience. Users are more likely to engage with and convert on websites they trust.
  • A study by BrightLocal found that 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. Trust is a fundamental aspect of online reputation.
  • Google’s mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Supporting trustworthy and credible websites aligns with this mission.

The Costly Endeavour of Buying Backlinks

Contrary to the belief that buying backlinks is a cost-effective SEO strategy, it can actually be financially draining. The cost of acquiring these links can escalate quickly, and the risk of penalties means that the investment may yield no returns.

  • HubSpot, a leading inbound marketing and sales software platform, advises businesses to invest in organic link-building strategies instead of wasting resources on purchased links.
  • The financial toll of Google penalties is substantial. In addition to lost revenue, there are expenses associated with SEO recovery efforts, which can be both time-consuming and costly.
  • A long-term analysis by SEMrush found that websites with natural backlink profiles tend to perform better and have lower SEO costs in the long run compared to those relying on purchased links.
  • Moreover, the cost of rebuilding trust and recovering from penalties far outweighs any perceived short-term benefits of buying backlinks.

The Long-Term Game: Sustainability in SEO

SEO success is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Building a sustainable online presence involves ethical practices and a long-term vision. Buying backlinks is a shortcut that ultimately hinders your website’s ability to stand the test of time.

  • The Search Engine Journal, a respected source in the SEO industry, emphasises the need for sustainable SEO strategies that focus on user experience, content quality, and ethical link building.
  • Google’s evergreen advice for webmasters is to create valuable and useful content that serves the needs of their audience. This aligns with the idea that long-term success in SEO is built on providing genuine value to users.
  • Sustainable SEO practices not only ensure long-term visibility but also help businesses weather algorithm updates and industry changes with resilience.

The Evolving Landscape of SEO and User Experience

In recent years, Google has increasingly focused on user experience as a ranking factor. Core Web Vitals, mobile-friendliness, and page speed are now integral to how Google ranks websites. Buying backlinks does nothing to improve these essential aspects of SEO.

  • Google’s Page Experience Update, introduced in 2021, reinforces the importance of providing a positive user experience. Websites with poor user experiences are unlikely to rank well, regardless of their backlink profiles.
  • Quality content, user-friendly design, and fast-loading pages are critical for both user satisfaction and SEO success. These factors are difficult to achieve with a shortcut like buying backlinks.


In 2023 and beyond, Google’s commitment to providing users with the best possible search results remains unwavering. Buying backlinks may offer fleeting gains, but the risks and consequences far outweigh any short-term benefits. Google’s algorithms are increasingly adept at identifying unnatural link-building practices, and the penalties are severe, which calls for understanding between black hat and white-hat SEO approaches.

To succeed in the world of SEO, prioritise ethical practices, high-quality content, and organic link-building strategies. Protect your website’s trustworthiness and reputation, and remember that SEO is a long-term game. In the end, it’s not about tricking search engines but about building a sustainable online presence that stands on a foundation of trust and credibility.