Out of all the link building tactics already discussed, over my decade in SEO the most powerful and often misunderstood link building tactic has to be buying links.
Sponsored content is a type of paid advertising that takes the form of a website accepting payment or other compensation to include articles, blog posts or reviews on their website. The objective when done well is to not only create valuable content, but also have it published with a sponsored link to your website.
In this section I will explain exactly why buying links is so effective for ranking on the major search engines and why previously it was only available to the clients of digital marketing and SEO agencies.
- In order to rank your brand or business you are forced to pay them by using Google Adwords to outbid your competitors to be top of the search results (Google Ad revenue was a staggering $30.7 billion in the first quarter of 2019).
- Secondly we do Google´s work for it and identify authority sites by linking to them with dofollow links.
- Have an equal or higher DA than your website (lower is also useful but gives less of a ranking boost).
- Have a combination of sponsored and unsponsored articles – a website that only has sponsored articles with outbound links is likely to be spammy.
- Have a subject matter and therefore audience that could be interested in the products or services you provide. That is to say, don´t buy a sponsored article on a mortuary website if you are a party costumes business. Google is interested in, and rewards, relevance so look for websites within your niche where possible.
- Dofollow blog comments
- Article submission & syndication services
- Low-Quality directory links
- Forum signatures & forum profile pages
Paid vs unpaid links
When link building, the aim is to get links from other authority websites that have high DA, high TF and a suitable TF/CF ratio.
Links from these websites will improve your ranking but to see quicker and more effective results you will need to get links from websites with better metrics than your own.
Unfortunately, this is where you encounter a paradoxical situation where obtaining backlinks is more difficult.
From personal experience I can assure you that even creating quality unique content may not get you links from these sites, especially if you have just started your link building efforts. To add to the difficulty, many quality sites simply won´t allow you to include a dofollow link unless you pay for it.
Encatena tip: Sponsored articles are an excellent way to help you get noticed, especially at the very beginning of your link building. Often a sponsored link offers the most value for money in terms of link building, especially when you take into account the time and expense necessary to generate very high quality, link worthy content.
As a form of paid advertising, sponsored content provides a unique way to promote your products or services.
Your aim is to be associated with an authoritative website that can build your image as an expert, increase brand awareness and drive quality traffic to your website.
If done properly, buying links can have a big positive influence on your authority and visibility.
Google guidelines state that they prefer webmasters don’t ask for links because it could be an attempt to manipulate rankings.
Sticking to these guidelines has two main advantages for Google:
Following the guideline of not asking for links is only useful if you are an established, well-known website that is already at the top of the Google rankings or you are a website that is prepared to create totally unique content for years waiting to be noticed via word of mouth.
What about spending money on Google Ads?
Alas, even if you are in a position to spend a fortune on Google Ads, web users usually prefer clicking on the natural google search results over the Google Ads results, without mentioning the fact that many searchers will not even see the Google Ads results because they have ad blockers enabled on their browsers. As such, you must concentrate on improving your natural Google ranking as much as possible and use Google Ads as a supplementary marketing effort.
Most of the top Google ranked authority websites offer a select group of advertisers and marketing agencies the option of purchasing tailored sponsored articles, exactly the same way they always did when they were in magazine or newspaper format and every other page was an photo advert or advertorial. These are the same sites that continue to rank at the top of Google every year.
Encatena tip: In the past, sponsored articles were mainly only available to SEO and Digital marketing agencies and their clients because they had the time and incentive to nurture relationships with many individual editors of quality websites. An individual website owner looking to promote his own brand or business doesn’t have the tools or time to search for suitable websites, find contact details and then contact them all trying to establish a link building relationship. With Encatena, sponsored link building is now available to the individual website owner as well as the agencies.
Google friendly sponsored articles
The key to buying links is to follow exactly the same rules as any other type of link building: making sure that any sponsored articles that you purchase are to authoritative (High DA) websites preferably (but not exclusively) within your niche and editorially linked to content that is relevant to the audience of the linking website. Also make sure you specify natural and non-abusive anchor text and from time to time requesting nofollow links (to plan a successful link building strategy, we recommend you read our article The best linkbuilding strategies in 2021 which explains how to increase visitor traffic and position your website in Google and Bing in record time in 2021.
So to summarise, a website you select for a sponsored article should ideally:
But what happens if you want to place content with a sponsored link on an authority website that has nothing to do with your site? Well, if you have a diverse link profile with at least 50% of links being related to your niche, then this is not a problem. It will be a very powerful link in improving your site’s ranking.
Launching a sponsored article campaign with Encatena
The main obstacle to taking advantage of the immense ranking power of sponsored link building is finding suitable webmaster whose digital media have been checked for quality, who are interested in offering sponsored links and have set a price for their services.
Encatena tip: We designed Encatena specifically to address these problems and to be a platform connecting online businesses that want to increase their visibility (advertisers) with websites that want to earn income by publishing articles on their blog or digital media (editors), in as discreet and efficient a way as possible, with any costs associated shown up front.
In the next section I will briefly explain how Encatena works to bring advertisers and editors together and facilitate sponsored content transactions.
Selecting a suitable digital media for a sponsored article
There is an International language Encatena for the main international languages (English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese) as well as a Spanish language Encatena catering exclusively to Spanish language digital media. You can register as an advertiser, which is someone who wants to buy sponsored articles, or as an editor who is typically a webmaster of a digital media interested in writing sponsored articles.
Encatena tip: Take advantage of our new advertiser promotion whereby Encatena offers newly registered advertisers a bonus 15% extra on top of their wallet top-ups in their first 5 days.
The key to successful sponsored articles is to select good quality websites that if possible are related to your niche and will give a boost to your visibility and ranking while appearing as natural as possible in your link building profile.
Registration on Encatena is free and only takes a minute. We carefully check all the editors and advertisers that appear on our platform before approving them. That way we maintain quality and ensure we do not include any websites that openly sell links, are spammy or have poor quality content.
Once your registration is approved, you are taken straight to our shop page in which you will find a list of the hundreds of digital media available on Encatena for sponsored content.
In order to allow you to efficiently find the right website for you, you can filter the selection by country, language, categories, price, which websites allow dofollow links, which require that articles disclose sponsorship and if there are any prohibited topics.
Encatena also gives you access to SEO metrics such as Moz DA, Moz PA, Majestic CF, Majestic TF, number of linking domains and Facebook shares. If the editor has allowed us access to his Google Analytics statistics, you will also see updated monthly users, visits and sessions, page views per session, average session duration and bounce rate.
You will notice that in the screenshot above, the prices for a sponsored article are clearly listed. This is the final price you will pay and you won´t have to waste any time negotiating – the price you see is the price you pay.
Encatena tip: When selecting a digital media for your first sponsored content, having hundreds of digital media to choose from can be intimidating. To make this process easier I recommend you first narrow down your search by filtering by the country, language and categories you are most interested in.
Then narrow down the selection further by setting the maximum price you are willing to pay, if dofollow links are important or whether sponsorship is indicated or not etc. This will significantly reduce the number of potential digital media to choose from.
Once the selection has been filtered down, my recommendation is to order by Domain Authority in order to see the most powerful sites first. You are looking to select domains that have a good balance of Domain Authority, Trust flow to Citation flow, topical relevance and if possible a decent amount of recurring visits. Remember that you can also select another digital media that does not exactly meet these criteria if you feel the subject matter and audience are a particularly good match for your own brand or business.
You should now have a small shortlist of digital media to choose from. Encatena provides you with a link to each digital media to allow advertisers to check out the website itself before they buy.
Visit each of the digital media on your shortlist and make sure to skim read a couple of articles. Make sure it is a thematic match for your own brand or business website.
Encatena tip: Encatena thoroughly checks the quality and backlink profile of every digital media we accept onto the platform to make sure it meets our stringent quality guidelines. Despite this you should always check a digital media personally before buying links on it to make sure it is a thematic match for you own website.
Creating a unique sponsored article
Once you´ve found a website you´d like to link to, you simply click on it and you are taken to a detailed page with additional SEO metrics and information. Also if the editor has Google analytics connected, you will be able to see visitor numbers and other detailed data updated on a daily basis.
The order panel allows you to specify your requirements for the sponsored article including a suggested title for the article and a description of what you want the article to be about. You can also specify the delivery time of the article and whether to include one link or two, if they should be dofollow or nofollow links, the keywords associated with those links, terms that should be avoided and if there is any source of information that you prefer that the editor use to write the article.
Encatena tip: Use this opportunity to think about what type of article would best highlight your business or brand and take advantage to give the editor some suggestions and additional sources of information. The more guidance you can give the editor the happier you will both be with the finished result.
Once you have filled in these requirements, the order is sent to your cart which you can pay for via credit card or Paypal. You can even add another sponsored article to your cart on a different digital media before proceeding to payment.
This payment will be deposited with Encatena and will be paid to the editor only once you have had a chance to review and approve the published sponsored article.
Tracking the progress of your sponsored article
Once an order is made, you will be able to communicate with the editor throughout the order process via the Encatena messaging system and we will notify you when your post has been published for you to review and approve it.
Encatena tip: If you are not satisfied, you can request modifications and even cancellation of the order. Your payment is not released until you are 100% satisfied with the article.
Remember that all articles are written by the editors themselves to maintain editorial integrity and need to be 500 words minimum to ensure they meet a minimum quality content threshold.
Ok, now we that we have covered the link building tactics that you should use, let us have a look at the low quality link building you should avoid.
How to avoid low quality link building
In general when link building we want to avoid as much as possible low quality links. That means links from websites that are in disreputable sectors, zombie sites (sites that don´t update their content), spam sites and sites with very low DA, TF or a poor TF/CF ratio.
How to identify low quality links
Unfortunately, the internet remains a wild west and there are many sites that are willing to provide links that you don´t want to use because they will provide no ranking benefit at all.
When identifying low quality links, it is useful to remember that Google’s primary goal is to provide a good user experience which for users using its search engine means receiving good quality and relevant search results when they input a query. If Google starts not to show good quality, relevant results, users won´t hesitate to switch to some other search engine.
What does good and relevant content mean for Google?
Good and relevant content is represented by Google´s E-A-T (expert, authoritative, and trustworthy) or in other words it is useful, desirable, accessible content that users find valuable.
Don´t just rely on Moz Domain Authority to select a link building target
While DA or DR gives a good indication of the authority and link building power of a site, it is not the only metric that needs to be scrutinised before deciding whether to contact them. For example it is common to see websites with medium to high DA accompanied by low TF and very high CF. In this case the poor TF/CF ratio indicates that this site has built up a lot of that DA rank through poor quality links such as directories, forums, comment spam and free link exchanges.
If you analyse its backlink profile you will see a lot of exact match anchor terms as well as spam anchor terms and poor quality links. In effect it has built up a high DA at the cost of a very poor backlink profile and it is probably not worth trying to get a link from them.
Avoid websites that have too much low quality content
After gaining some experience analysing websites you start to get a feel for what is low quality content. The most obvious sign is broken images and links in the article indicating it hasn’t been maintained in a long time.
Articles that are always short (less than 300 words) and contain the same keyword phrase in a number of sentences as well as repeat use of the same anchor text are also suspicious as they reflect bad link building practices from the past decade, being essentially articles that provide very little value to the reader.
For example, say a typical article on the website you are analysing is 300 words long and has a keyword phrase such as, “diet tricks for new mothers.” used in the title, first paragraph, and in a header. This would be an example of low quality content and any website that has multiple posts that follow this trend is a website you want to avoid.
Another warning sign is that each article is on a completely different topic (usually promoting or mentioning a different brand per article) and none of these topics are related to the core theme of the website.
Keyword phrases need to be used very sparingly. For example, a 300 word article should have no more than two uses of the keyword phrase and preferably those uses should include alternative wording for the phrase (e.g. “diet tips for mother” or “diet strategies for moms”).
Avoid websites that have too many outbound backlinks
If a website has an unnaturally high number of outbound links for the amount of content that it has, then you need to be careful. You can reasonably expect a 500 word article to have at most two outbound backlinks to relevant authority sites and the anchor text used should be natural such as “scientific article on fat loss and peptides” and not commercial keyword phrases such as “lose weight fast”.
You should systematically analyse the backlink profile using Ahrefs or, if you don´t have access to this tool, check the outbound links in the most recent blog posts.
Now look at the links themselves. If the outbound links have nothing to do with the subject of the website and the content they are appearing on or they are links for “spammy” subjects such as viagra, cryptocurrency, pornography etc. then you really need to consider whether being associated with the website via a link is something that you want to do.
Check your backlink profile for outdated and spammy links by carrying out a link detox
You are doing the same analysis as you would normally do for low quality links on your link building targets as previously discussed, but this time on your own website.
You especially want to review any links you previously built to:
Make a list of them in Excel, remove duplicates and then create a simple disavow file which you will submit to Google via your Webmaster tools panel. A disavow file is a list of domains that you are telling Google that you don’t want your website to be associated with.
Google created this tool because unethical competitor webmasters can on purpose point low quality links towards your website in order to pollute your backlink profile and try to reduce your Google ranking. By providing a disavow tool, Google can be told to ignore those poor quality links, even if in fact you created them yourself out of sheer ignorance.
As a general rule of thumb, avoid any link that is obviously self-created, on a site with only self-created links, typically forums, directories and link exchanges.
While they might work to rank on Google in the short term, they lower the quality of your backlink profile and in the future may not help you rank at all.
Be careful how you ask for links
If you send out an email asking for a link using any of the link building tactics previously discussed, point that webmaster in the direction of your page, and emphasise that linking to it might have some benefit to their audience. Always communicate courteously and respectfully.
If you want webmasters to link to you in a particular way, make sure the title of the page you want links to has the keywords you want to rank for featured, and a most webmasters will use those words to link to you. You can even change the title of pages for this exact reason.
Don´t abuse email requests for links
Always make sure that emails to the targets of your link building are individualised. Several template emails are included throughout this article and it is well worth the extra effort to personalise them for each and every webmaster. Everyone enjoys receiving the personal touch.
Remember, there is much more value in getting a few high quality links than lots of poor quality ones. The days of low quality links giving ranking value are well and truly over in 2021.
You pick the tactics that work for you – but start by building something on your website somebody will find useful.
- Create a diverse and healthy link profile. This includes dofollow, nofollow, internal links, links on mainstream news sites, links from topically similar related industry sites, links from unrelated but non-abusive sites, links on blog posts and more.
- Target links from authority websites in your niche. Find that group of sites that authorities in your industry link to and are linked from and think about how you can get a link with them.
- Don’t worry too much about the “theme” of websites linking to you but stay clear of irrelevant sites just for irrelevant links. In fact – going off topic occasionally with your content can lead to great natural links from unrelated sites.
- Review the link building tactics your competitors employ to earn links and think about how you can emulate the better quality strategies you discover. Don’t build links just to build links, or just to copy somebody else´s strategy – remember they might be ranking despite having low quality links.
- Join social networks, not for the links themselves, but to get your content noticed by the people most likely to share your type of content and to build your personal network of contacts.
- Get links from relevant sites, but understand that any editorial link is a good link, as long as the page it is on has some relevance to the page it is linking to.
- Remember if you want to get links, you need to create linkable content that users engage with. Use the tactics described in this article and you will naturally accrue DA if you invest in remarkable or compelling content on your site.
- Using keyword phrases a certain number of times isn’t a rule. Google actually doesn’t want you to spend too much time trying to find keywords. They want you to write articles that have to do with your niche, and then they will do the work of deciphering where it should be ranked on Google search results.
- Vary anchor text so it is descriptive and relevant, but not repetitive. Anchor text helps tell Google what the topic of your page is about. If dozens of links point to a page with a variation of a word or phrase, the page has a higher likelihood of ranking well for those types of phrases. However, too many links with the same anchor text could indicate to the search engines that you’re trying to manipulate your site’s ranking in search results.
- Remember links do not have to be relevant to your industry to build your domain reputation. If the link is on a high Domain Authority website which is not carrying out abusive practices, then just about any link is a valuable link.
- If you want to increase the Domain Authority of your site more quickly, you need to make sure the pages that link to you have a higher DA than yours and, where possible make your link the focus of the content.
- Buying links via sponsored content is an effective and sustainable way to improve your Google ranking when done well, as outlined in this guide.
- Don´t link to a website that only exists to provide links to other sites to boost rankings. Sites that are designed just to link out to other websites to help SEO are toxic to your ranking in 2021.
- Don´t link to any site that are openly selling links in their front page as chances are the links will not age well.
- Finally don´t forget to make sure that your website is as optimized as it can be to boost your website further in the ranking. Aside from measuring user experience through Click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate or time spent on the site, Google also checks the technical features of your site like site load speed, navigation, design, keyword density and complexity.
I hope that you have found this article useful and I recommend you read our article The best linkbuilding strategies in 2021 which explains how to increase visitor traffic and position your website in Google and Bing in record time in 2021.