Is SEO pay to play?

Callum Short

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I know that any good SEO strategy has a focus on building momentum, through content for example, that generates organic links passively.

With that being said, it seems like a huge part of the game is in buying links, placements and traffic in order to generate that exposure and momentum in the first place. Of course, there's a huge level of strategy that goes into what you are buying.

Is SEO, more than ever before, pay to play? It'd be interesting to hear how big of a part paid links are in BSers strategies.
 
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i don't think it's required by any means. know several people who have never paid for links or even ads. just good ole writing + promoting on social + manual link outreach.

none of these guys had much budget though so that's probably part of it but they all have some decent rankings and organic traffic already 6-18 months in.

i'm really curious to hear about solid, safe long term buying strategies that could pay dividends over time. if you have the money to pay for a safe shortcut that saves a lot of time, I think most would take it.
 
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No, it is definitely far less pay to play than before.

It's true that there is A LOT of advertorial sales. All my competitors do it and so far, are more successful than me. It's also true A LOT of PBNs are stille in play. They're not very effective anymore as far as I tell. Lastly, there are "clean" bought links, which I use, various certifications and sponsorships.

I am so tempted to go for advertorials, but on the other hand, I want to sleep soundly at night. I also think it's such a bad mindset to have, when you just buy links. You can spend on average something like $200-$400 on a link, multiple times a month, every year. Is that really the best business method you want to invest in: What do you do? I buy links from websites. Nope. I find it liberating to not have to constantly look at OTHER sites. I used to have a PBN, it drove me absolutely sick of SEO and websites in general.

Legit outreach is difficult, I tend to procastinate a lot about it. You have to put in real creativity, which can be difficult. A lot of people are good problem solvers, but not free thinking. I'm not either, so it requires a lot of effort. You got to mean it. Believe in it. Take action. Thus, I understand why it is so much easier to succumb to advertorials.
 

turbin3

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I've never been super deep into paid link schemes. I've experimented with plenty, including stuff like sape links, in the past. So take my words with a grain as someone that's not "cutting edge" in that realm. Also, the majority of my sites and those I've been involved with are usually legit brands built for the longterm. So if you're in more of an aggressive affiliate role, and not necessarily "building brand", my experience may not be relevant.

To date, I still find the best results through careful and considerate outreach. Also, I've found some of the best results in traditional "shoe leather" outreach. You know, picking up a phone. Developing relationships and contacts. All of those take time, and your time is money.

This is especially true as you develop relationships with influencers and media personalities in an industry. Know what I mean? Like picking up a phone to your favorite media contact and letting them know, "Hey Bill. <insert small talk> We're about to release this new product and I just wanted to see if you wanted an exclusive on it? You do? Cool! Let me know what you need, and I'll include creative from my designer with it."

That type of stuff costs time, and in many cases money, but it's what I've found to stand the test of time.
 

Callum Short

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I've never been super deep into paid link schemes. I've experimented with plenty, including stuff like sape links, in the past. So take my words with a grain as someone that's not "cutting edge" in that realm. Also, the majority of my sites and those I've been involved with are usually legit brands built for the longterm. So if you're in more of an aggressive affiliate role, and not necessarily "building brand", my experience may not be relevant.

To date, I still find the best results through careful and considerate outreach. Also, I've found some of the best results in traditional "shoe leather" outreach. You know, picking up a phone. Developing relationships and contacts. All of those take time, and your time is money.

This is especially true as you develop relationships with influencers and media personalities in an industry. Know what I mean? Like picking up a phone to your favorite media contact and letting them know, "Hey Bill. <insert small talk> We're about to release this new product and I just wanted to see if you wanted an exclusive on it? You do? Cool! Let me know what you need, and I'll include creative from my designer with it."

That type of stuff costs time, and in many cases money, but it's what I've found to stand the test of time.
Thanks for the insight.

I plan on launching an outreach campaign soon. One thing I've been struggling to understand is the incentive for these sites to respond to that outreach and post a guest article on their website. Is the free content enough of an incentive? Do they often try to charge you as well?
 
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Thanks for the insight.

I plan on launching an outreach campaign soon. One thing I've been struggling to understand is the incentive for these sites to respond to that outreach and post a guest article on their website. Is the free content enough of an incentive? Do they often try to charge you as well?
great content is really time consuming and expensive. every website wants views. if you have actually really great content that's unique, people would line up to take it from you. imagine the best case scenario: you run a website and it takes hours every week to write content yourself (or $$ to hire somebody). and then a knight in shining armor comes and offers you a piece of content that's at that level of quality + length. Optimized for a term you're actually gunning for. Who wouldn't take it?

problem is vast majority of guestposts are just utter garbage done for just links
 

RomesFall

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Thanks for the insight.

I plan on launching an outreach campaign soon. One thing I've been struggling to understand is the incentive for these sites to respond to that outreach and post a guest article on their website. Is the free content enough of an incentive? Do they often try to charge you as well?
A lot will charge, and some wont. The landscape HAS been changed by the amount of emails people receive being offered money. It's almost status-quo now. The thing is a lot of them that are happy to accept any old article as long as they get a fist full of dollars isn't a site you want a link on 90% of the time.

There's genuinely a lot of other outreach methods you can do that can score you links, and you don't even need to do a guest post. I always have good results with resource inclusion outreach and even sniping my competitors links by skyscraper'ing (is that a word?) their content and then flat out pointing out how much better mine is.

You're right that incentive matters massively.

Smaller publications are more likely to take a "bribe" and give you a guest post for money.

A bigger publication will sometimes not accept some money for a guest post due to editorial standards, but are perhaps more likely to consider a new resource to link out to. As with my above example of what I do, most of this outreach is targeted at bigger publications.

I think that not enough people segment their outreach, and segmenting via incentive is an awesome way to do it.

If this is for beambox I don't think you should have much of an issue with getting really good results mate!
 
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Sites that have an active social presence seems far more likely to be interested in fresh content (not just guest posts), since they have to feed the beast aka their Facebook followers. SEO driven sites in my experience respond better to unique product tests and similar. "Top 5 something something" and then do the job for them.
 
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If you're willing to sit on your duff and wait around its absolutely not pay to play.
Its just a byproduct of the basic branding and product development activities you should be undertaking anyway.

I never pay for links, I never send annoying outreach emails. Guess why? Because ranking a few long tails or niche serp results is actually super easy. Google actively wants to get you into testing.
Guess what else...
Ranking for random small stuff + having a bit of patience is the best way to get backlinks naturally. The serps form their own slow motion de-facto social network in a weird sorta way. Personally I think of it as bigger then facebook to. Just not as bursty.

A small chunk of the people using a search engine are using it to do research for content they are currently writing. Provide something worthy of referencing, whether its useful, amusing, detailed, high utility, current, dumbed down to their level, or even just plain skewed to some goofy bias they happen to feel strongly about and you will get links. It's just going to be on a timeline of months to years.

Getting the basic links to get google to start testing out whether you're the right fit for an audience is easy. Claim a few profiles on the latest and greatest web 2.0 and social sites. Pick a couple of communities to engage regularly with, and drop your link at the appropriate time. Most content never even gets 1 link. You can get yourself to 5 or 10 no problem with out being spammy.

Google wants to send you traffic. All you gotta do is meet their criteria of keeping the users happy.
They own the bleeping browser your visitors use and hire all the smartest nerds. Stop playing stupid games. You really think the bloggers selling you shitty guest posts arnt going to get cleaned up? It takes about 5 link sales to make it virtually impossible to cover up. People who buy links buy lots of links. Once you find a couple of link buyers its stupid easy to work backwards and flag massive groups of paid links.

My shitty site explorer totally blows, and I can find the vast majority of the incentivized linkers with some basic db analysis. All it requires is data points on a timeline and some statistics you can learn by reading 2 or 3 library books. You really think google doesn't know? Just because they sometimes hand out big smack downs doesnt mean thats what they do every time. Usually you just get a few tags added to your profile, than wonder why you're always stuck on page 2 even though on paper your sites stronger then the guys above you according to what ever stupid correlation causation confused mass signal analyzer shitware you wasted your money on.

Real helpful writers exist. There goal is to help people find what they're looking for. When they find you they really will link to you. They're kinda like little google defacto minion army in a way. The funniest part is how blogger / wordpress hosted blogs are often some of the most valuable links.


I grew a purposely broken website to north of a 1000 organics a day with a fivver banner depicting a toilet and a half assed tool that took less then a weekend to make.
I think our net total promotion was less then 10 link drops on a few forums.
Getting their was just a matter of sitting around doing jack shit for several years. Now I'm using that as a platform to go for the really hard stuff where you actually have to put in effort. Still not going to do any pay to play stuff though. Just selling services and investing some of the money to make the product to less half assed so I can connect with a broader influencer audience and have more compelling reasons for people to link to me.

Thats all. - End rant.
 

Ryuzaki

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No, SEO is not pay to play. That's the shortcut people want to take.

All SEO really requires is two things, and one of them isn't required:
  • Branding (optional)
  • Marketing
The large majority of SEO tactics that require money only require money because someone is unwilling to become a marketer.

Marketers get infinitely better links than any of the ones you can buy, and they do it for free. It takes creativity and time, is all, something most SEO's, programmers, and anyone crunching numbers and dealing with code tend to lack.

I can't tell you the number of SaaS and other products I've seen come and go that could have been 7 figure ventures with little effort but the creator did the absolute bare minimum after creating the software or service.

You, on the other hand, were hitting the beaten path on foot and making phone calls to sell your product the last time you were on BuSo. You can apply that same grit to SEO and dominate.

Do you know how many forums, websites, podcasts, sub-reddits, twitters, and all that exist ONLY for the sake of interviewing people like you? That's one angle and you have 100's in front of you already baked into your business. Here's another to get you rolling. Your local newspaper's website and print paper would love to have a picture of you and tell your story and link back to your site. All you have to do is call them. They'd love for you to do their job for them. Where else does that apply?
 

CCarter

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Marketers get infinitely better links than any of the ones you can buy, and they do it for free. It takes creativity and time, is all, something most SEO's, programmers, and anyone crunching numbers and dealing with code tend to lack.

I can't tell you the number of SaaS and other products I've seen come and go that could have been 7 figure ventures with little effort but the creator did the absolute bare minimum after creating the software or service.
This is why creating a business with a business partner makes life a lot easier. Find someone that can handle the stuff you cannot handle or can be your yang to your ying. It also gives you someone to be accountable to other than yourself. So when times get difficult, which they will, you both keep pushing through to not let the other one down.

Most successful companies started with two or more founders, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and so on (Amazon is a special beast). Most lawfirms do too. Having two or more brains working on solving a problem is better than one.

If you are a coder get a partner that’s a marketer. If you are an idea guy, get a “doer”, but always make sure you both put in work. Ideas can only go so far - execution above all else.

50% or 33% of a 7 or 8 figure business is alot better than 100% of a 4 or 5 figure business. It’ll also allow you to go on vacations without thinking the place will fall apart!
 

jstover77

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A few well placed links with good on-page goes a long way with Google these days. Like others above have said, a lot of it is your time. Too many people try to force it with garbage links. If you want to build a long term business it may work short term, but in the end, it almost always comes back to haunt you.

It's funny and I don't want to go off topic or rant, but I see so many people in this game with SEO mentality of someone in 2012 (pre-Penguin). I even see it on an agency level, which is dumbfounding. It amazes me the amount of amateurs and misinformation that still exist in the SEO space.

Mini rant over..lol.
 
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Pay to play - less than ever before. When i hear stories of people buying 20,000 links back in the day and ranking #1 the next day - that was the competition that you were dealing with. So you either paid for those 20,000 links or got outranked by someone who did.

These days it's less common. But if you look around, you'll find plenty of crappy sites with blatantly obvious PBN backlink profiles making bank.
 
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Guess I'm the salmon swimming downstream here but in my experience it is very much pay to play, if you're not a naturally lucky person, or if you don't have GOD level SEO abilities.

I've made numerous sites where I hand-crafted all the content, I'm talking that long form shit, reviewed products I actually bought and uploaded my own unique photos to boot. Optimized, promoted, waited. ...years.... net result was 80-200 visits a day, netting me anywhere from $20-50/month from Amazon. Not life changing by any stretch.

I've created other sites, some all hand-written by moi, some with outsourced content. Nothing blew up ever. Recently started spending on links and seeing movement. This is in line from what I saw working in-house with companies that had budgets and with friends in similar financially challenging positions.

Whenever a big brand like Authority Hackers do publish monthly spend figures for new site builds (content + outreach) it's often in the thousands.

Sure you CAN write 200 2,000 word posts yourself, you CAN send out 200 email outreach templates a day, and you MIGHT have some success, but even then, seems to be real hit or miss these days so you probably have to multiply all that by 5X in order for one of those embers to actually catch fire and grow into a real earner.

Heck, even doing things manually yourself like "outreach" will still often require a decent budget for link spend because everyone is outreaching like a hummingbird on meth and web admins are getting more and more comfortable asking for money. *I blame lazy outreachers who pitch cash up front but this is just the world we live in.

Just my two cents. I'm not claiming my personal experiences to be absolute truths, however if I asked myself 6 years ago if I'd recommend starting my own sites without a budget I'd say yes, BUT only so you have some domains aging, ready for a pounding once you DO have budget.
 
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Mahjong

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@Ryuzaki With all respect to what you've said. Branding is no more optional, you do that to distinguish your project from those low class lazy ass competition or you're the same as them just hitting water and thinking you do well. Thank you for all the information you've shared here, I've learned a lot from you if I think of any mentor I've learned much from, you're on the top of that list.