Paid Link Noi$e

In my world of link building, compensation is often offered. That is because I see nothing wrong with paying someone to put up a link for a client, and because I work with clients in exceptionally competitive fields where we’ll be the ones losing out if we try to do things the 100% white hat way. I only make those claims to avoid having this post get turned into a paid link debate…because this post isn’t about the ethics of paid links. It’s about link noise, and how that factors into a paid link campaign.

The key here is that when you’re buying links, you have a lot more control. You can set your desired anchor text, tell a webmaster which page to point to, where to put the link, that you’ll hunt him down and kill him if he slaps a no follow on it 3 weeks from now, etc. Thus, the concept of intentionally going after a bit of link noise may seem somewhat strange. You see link noise in most sites’ backlinks of course but you don’t always think about the role that it serves in a profile.

Before I go any further, I will define link noise as being the type of link that you’d exclude if you were picking out your best backlinks. The anchor text won’t be optimal, the sites may not be relevant, the links will just somehow not be optimal in any way. Now, the idea of approaching a webmaster and requesting a noisy backlink and offering decent money for it still makes me a bit queasy, because I’d prefer to pay for something…good.

You know how all link builders talk about a natural link profile? Link noise is part of that. My number one point with this post is that it is a critical part of paid link building campaigns, because you don’t typically think about offering cash to get a shit link. However, it’s those shit links that can sometimes save you.

So what IS a noisy link? It’s probably a link that, as a professional link builder spending money, you’d never ever want…and considering my feelings on outing people and/or pointing out actual stupidity on someone’s site, I’m not giving any examples to go along with this. Well, there IS the beaver down below…hahahaha.


The Acceptable Noise Links

These are the links that most link builders can agree make a profile look more natural. They’re the ones least likely to annoy and frustrate people who think that buying a link means you’re shaking the hand of Satan. These are the links with anchor text such as “Click Here”, “visit”, your URL, your site name, your company name, “more”, “here”, etc. Not that it can be argued that some of these are not, in fact, link noise. However, remember that I’m talking about the active, paid pursuit of links.

Incorrect links
These are links that are misspelled, go to the wrong page for the anchor text, have incorrect URL but go to the right place (like “” which does go to our site properly but, um, we have a dash…a dash of sass! ) have a space where one should not be, etc. These are links that you might expect a newbie link builder to set up with an inexperienced webmaster.

Missing Anchor Text
These are the links with no anchor text. Need I say any more?

404 Links

These links go to a non-existent page on your site. Again…not much explanation is needed here. However, the very IDEA of getting someone to put up a link to a non-existent page on your site is just so counterintuitive that it makes my head spin. The other way, of course, but it still spins.

it ain't thar no more

The Pesky Second Link

These are the links that aren’t supposed to count, provided that the landing page for both links is the exact same. Some people try to be cool and get in two anchor text combinations, thinking both will count. Some webmasters think that they’re doing us a favor (thanks assholes) by giving us a free second link. In any case, these are excellent for link noise.

Just Plain Stupid Links
These are links that contain a paragraph in their anchor text. They are the links that you’d expect someone who’s a bit of a moron to give you, not knowing any better. I’d put hidden links in this category too, actually, as those really are just plain stupid. However, I do draw the line at specifically requesting hidden links.

idiocy, pure and simple, with stars, stripes, and a gun

Now, with this in mind I spent a bit of time analyzing the backlinks of this lovely site. I know, without any doubt whatsoever, that the SEO Chicks backlink profile is completely 100% organic. We’ve seriously done, well, fuck all to build links. To do this, I used Raven SEO’s backlink tool, which is my current favorite, and I exported, sorted, and did everything but produce a pretty graph that makes it look like I’ve done some work when I haven’t. I didn’t look for the second links or 404 links, mainly because I just wanted a quick and dirty analysis and didn’t feel like digging. Cheese dip awaited.

Here’s what I found:

64% of our backlinks are what I would consider link noise. Out of this 64%, 1.4% have missing anchor text, .6% are incorrect, but only 1 link (0.2%) was just plain stupid. Yes guys, I found the beaver link, and thanks for that. The most interesting thing is that a full 61% of our links are of the acceptable link noise variety. A good bit of these are site names and URL mentions, which, as I have said, could arguably NOT be link noise but hey, we’ve never tried to optimize for our own name so I feel ok putting them into the link noise camp. Before any of you mathletes gets testy about the math, note that I’ve rounded. Sometimes up, sometimes down. It just depends on my mood, really.

Therefore, 46% of our backlinks are something for which, as a link builder, I’d be trying to optimize, rank, and get traffic. Now, if I were paying for links, I might not think that spending money on noise was a good thing of course, but as you can see…noise is 64% of this organic profile. I am certainly not proposing that you invest in 64% link noise, of course, but I don’t think that there’s any way your link profile will appear natural if you ignore those kinds of links.

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24 Responses to “Paid Link Noi$e”

  1. Al Sefati says:

    actually i think getting a mix of links with diff. anchor text is viwed as natural to Google.

    If every link is perfect then that is not natural.

  2. Tola says:

    Yeah, I’m with Al here. When you link profile looks too squeaky clean then there’s something up. I think even the occassional ‘stupid’ link is allowed too, but a limited number. That give a balance over noisy, sponsored and organic links…

  3. Hehe some great opinions here well done chick :-)

    It had never really occurred to me that some of those “poor quality” usless links are still of interest – but I suppose it’s what makes link building appear natural. Just the same as posting on no-follow blogs, as you’re not after the back link, you’re just taking part in the conversation right? Makes perfect sense, thanks.

  4. Mento McPhee says:


  5. I agree with everyone here. It is those stupid links that makes it all look more human.

  6. Awesome and timely post Ms Joyce. I was myself just doing some backlink analysis for a client site in the gamin sector and was delighted to find a number of links with food and recipe related anchor text. You have to be greatful to your competitors for saving you the trouble there.

    Also – excellent find on “the beaver link”. That is now my number one all time favourite link on any site I am a part of.

  7. [...] Link Noi$e It’s about link noise, and how that factors into a paid link campaign. 35 Expert-Recommended Link Building Tools While interviewing 30 link building experts on [...]

  8. Mike says:

    This is good post on unrelated links, i always advice links from within niche with linkbait which can increase your site value… write good and strong that people like to link your website automatic and you can create good links

  9. Miss Zed says:

    as the name says – ‘noise’ – it’s still noise, as in, it contributes to make yourself heard – so that can’t be such a bad thing ;-)

  10. Media Maven says:

    It is indeed true that if you adhere strictly to 100% white hat SEO techniques, you may lose out in extremely competitive fields. However, to engage grey hat SEO techniques is not entirely frowned upon, but do take caution when employing such methods, as it may result in Google banning your website. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thanks for the Great article :)

    I bookmarked it ant will twitter it :)

  12. [...] Paid Link Noi$e – Julie Joyce had a great post over on SEO Chicks which takes a look at link profile analysis and in specific, link noise. Ok, it might be a little too granular for me to use, but it is an interesting perspective on link building metrics. [...]

  13. Donna Menner says:

    OK. I have an opportunity to have a web building/SEO site get me PR1 links or better for $1 each. (He came recommended to me). So is this what you call paid links? I am not purchasing them directly I have a SEO person doing his. OK I am inexperienced at this – and trying to find my way) I also don’t what the ranking system is for links? So what are PR, PR1, PR 3, etc.? I have been looking on Google and can’t find a good answer.

  14. Donna Menner says:

    Is it always bad to purchase links through a SEO/SEM company? If a company is offering PR 1 and better – I am a newbie – and I don’t know how the company is getting the inbound links. So can a company provide a link like that and it still be “white hat” with Google?

    Also, could someone explain PR 1, PR 2, PR 3, etc.? I have looked it up on Google and can’t find a good explanation.

  15. Julie Joyce says:

    Hi Donna!
    “Bad” is subjective. Purchasing links is against Google’s guidelines, period. Therefore, if you do decide to buy links, you have to be OK with the risk. A decent link builder will do everything possible to minimize risk but still, if you aren’t comfortable with realizing that your site could get thrown out of the index, you shouldn’t be buying links.

    I think that no truly competitive industry can do all that well in the Google search results without buying links right now, and that’s not something I say just because I run an agency where we do buy links. That’s because most people in competitive industries ARE buying links and it’s hard to compete if you don’t do it. However, if you’re working in something other than gambling, etc. you really need to be careful.

    I think I’ve strayed far from your question…if a company is selling you a link, that’s a link purchase, period. If they’re selling to you, I imagine it’s because they are either getting free links and making you pay for them, or because they’re buying them themselves. Either way, unless you’ve agreed to take on the risk, it’s a bad idea. I really, really hope that no one is trying to sell you links without admitting the risk.

    The PR increments that you ask about are what we call Google Toolbar PageRank. Most people don’t trust this metric to mean all that much, but it’s embedded in some people’s minds as being a good measure of a site’s importance. Theoretically, a link from a PR 6 page is better than a link from a PR 1 page. However, that’s not always true, as maybe the PR 1 page has the potential to bring you more relevant traffic.

  16. [...] Paid link noi$e – Julie Joyce [...]

  17. A Samuel says:


    The more weird and wonderful backlinks in your profile the more natural. However this is not so necessary when your site becomes a super site, as pure volume of links will negate the need for the stupid links etc…

  18. Jacob Maslow says:

    You write about SEO and presumably, a good proportion of those linking to you have some familiarity with SEO.

    Typical organic link profile probably has even more link noise. Good Anchor text, a nice proportion of high PR sites linking to you all look suspicious.

    High PR sites don’t link out much. If you suddenly got a bunch of those it would look suspicious.

  19. Tina says:

    I’ve seen sites who have done specific keyword rich anchor text link building drop in serps and the only way to bring them out, was to get “noisy” links.

  20. Sal Surra says:

    Buying links sucks! Google has created this beast by putting so much weight on back-links, and yet they police it like it’s some sort of a holy grail that they must protect. If Google is so concerned with paid links and people manipulating their search with paid links, why don’t they devalue it some in their algo and let users control more of what comes up. If they put more weight on CTR, Bounces, Time on Site, and other user generated factors, it would no longer be the world of the haves and the have-nots, but rather the Internet that people intend it to be and not what the link builders can buy and SEOs can game the system. Go Bing!

  21. Vocab homestead says:

    But still way to have payed links if you can get free once this is the idea of the Internet it’s free I like the post writing more post is very Helpful but still work on the idea of free rather than paying for stuff

    Thank lot of luck

  22. I too think getting different anchor text also qualifies as natural looking to Google. I have to agree after reading your article that noise links can indeed help with giving a more natural look.

    Also I too don’t see anything wrong with purchasing links. I think the only people who would actually report paid links to Google would be the owner of a website who may be a bit “green with envy” toward his/her competitor.

  23. Dan says:

    I understand purchasing links is bad but you can do it and stay 99% underneath Google’s radar. Firstly find the site and page you require a link from, secondly develop content related to that page, thirdly contact the site buy an anchor link to your content page. The trick here is to make it appear that the site has been mentioned naturally with a contextual link to a related content page. But the reason I don’t ever do it is because the site owner might be rat! You never know…

  24. anuj says:

    so can we say that link noise is the link farming..ofcourse link farming is not a good link building strategy..though good informative article added some good knowledge..thanks!


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