Despite the practice being against Google guidelines, a new study by Ahrefs.com suggests buying links is still alive and well in 2018.
A new study by link building tool Ahrefs has revealed the extent of webmasters buying and selling links in 2018.
The study found that the cost of buying a link has increased slightly to $361.44 in 2018 compared to 2016, with blogs in some sectors much more likely to charge for a link.
To carry out the research, Ahrefs emailed 450 websites across the following nine niches (so 50 outreach emails in each niche):
Of the 450 websites they contacted, 54 replied offering to sell them a link, 38 said they do not sell links, 338 didn't reply and 20 of the outreach emails bounced.
Here's how the numbers compare to 2016:
So in 2018 12.6% of the blogs contacted by Ahrefs say they sell links - which may not sound like a lot but is quite a high hit rate. Perhaps the most interesting result of the study is how many bloggers ignore and don't respond to cold outreach emails. That has gone up from 72.8% in 2016 to 78.6% in 2018.
It is clear that mass outreach to generic bloggers in your niche might be a waste of time, considering close to 80% don't reply and over half of the ones that do reply want to be paid for a link - which comes with the added bonus of a potential Google penalty.
Ahrefs also broke the data down to see if bloggers in certain niches are more likely to sell links than others, and found that those in the travel sector are by far the more likely to respond asking for payment. Here's the number of bloggers who asked to be paid for a link for each niche:
- Travel: 22
- Fitness: 7
- Fashion: 0
- Finance: 3
- Wedding: 2
- Photography: 7
- Food: 3
- Parenting: 7
- Marketing: 3
A massive 44% of all the travel sites contacted by Ahrefs requested payment for a link, with 6 of those sites stating that any commercial link would be a "nofollow" link.
How much does it cost to buy a link in 2018?
The prices quoted by the bloggers for a link varied wildly, with the cheapest being $50 and the most expensive being $2,500 per year.
The average cost of buying a link was $361.44 - which is a slight 2.4% increase on the 2016 data.
To put it another way, if Ahrefs were to go ahead and buy a link from each of the bloggers who responded it would cost them $19,518 for 54 links.
With potential penalties aside, would that kind of outlay be worth it for the 'SEO value' you would get from those links? The answer, as you could probably guess, is a definitive No.
Ahrefs ran each of the link selling sites through their own link analysis tool to get an idea of the Domain Rank of the sites (an indication of how 'good' a follow link from those sites would be):
Obviously Ahref's Domain Rank isn't the only metric to use when judging the quality/authority/relevance of a link, but the above chart does suggest that for all the time and money it costs to get these links you have to question whether they are worth it.
See the full results of Ahref's study into link buying here: https://ahrefs.com/blog/buy-backlinks/
About the Author
Luke Glassford is an SEO expert with over 15 years’ experience.
During his time working in SEO, Luke has set-up an SEO agency, worked as an in-house SEO for a major national company and managed his own successful SEO consultancy - using a lot of different SEO tools along the way!