Buying text links for relevant traffic!

If you are moderately up to date in the world of SEO, you would know that there exists a lot of debate about the effectiveness of purchasing text links for a website. While buying links used to be a great way to get a website up in the rankings, it isn’t nearly as effective any more and can have negative effects on a website if the linking is considered spam.

So taking the ‘bold’ assumption for this post that there can be no positive SEO benefit from paid links, can it still be worth it to purchase text link advertisements?

My answer is absolutely…

I have experience buying text links with several companies. I have been buying text links for over three years, and I track my text link purchases very closely, and through this tracking I have developed a system for text links that works well, and prevents the loss of excessive money on text link advertising.

Rule: Make sure that you are purchasing text links only for the purpose of receiving relevant, qualified traffic, from real websites. Take SEO completely out of the picture when purchasing text links. If you buy text links only based off the Google Page Rank where your link is located, then this article is especially for you.

What you need to purchase text links:

  • Tracking software that can track from a domain or from a url tracking code (EX: mysite.com?source=thissite).
  • A predetermined monthly budget for text links.
  • Time and Patience.
  • A place to buy relevant text link advertisements.
  • Optional but very helpful: Microsoft Excel, or another Spreadsheet Application.

From personal analytics based knowledge of how website traffic and visitor behavior can change over a period of time, I recommend testing each link for a minimum of three months. Three months will give you enough time to test the potential of any individual link, and accurately determine whether it is cost effective or not. Sometimes six months is necessary to achieve an accurate model of the potential of a text link, but three months is normally sufficient.

Steps to obtaining good text links:

  1. Define how much your visitors are worth.
  2. Find relevant topics to your website.
  3. Find websites in those relevant topics that allow advertising.
  4. Purchase links on those websites that meet your minimum criteria.
  5. Track visitors from those websites for a minimum of three months.
  6. Analyze your data and determine if the link is acceptable.

Value of each conversion
1. Define how much your visitors are worth.

This is a step that can be done at any point in the process of your website, but must be done before you review your text link effectiveness (Step 6).

You are essentially going to define the desired action that you you want each visitor to make and then define a value for that action. There are a number of possible actions depending on your website including a sale, a lead, a visitor, a comment, or anything else that you would consider a conversion. Once you define the action, you need to place a monetary value on that action. You can normally do this by calculating how much you make on the average conversion. This can be very difficult for lead generating sites or non-sales, but you must calculate some baseline value for the text link tracking to be effective.

I normally use text link ads for lead generating sites, and a lead is what I would consider to be my desired action for these sites. A simple example would be calculating the value of a lead to be $50. This number is now my base reference I am going to use to compare the cost of my text links with the return that I get from visitors referred by that website.

Note: The $50 is a fictitious number, and you need to find your own value for a conversion on your website.

2. Find relevant topics to your website
The goal of this step is only to identify suitable topics that your website could benefit from advertising on. We’re not trying to find actual websites yet.

There are likely to be a number of related topics that your website will fall under. Targeting these topics in addition to the one’s your website is primarily focused on will increase your advertising options, but will keep your visitors targeted.

For example, if you sell web design services, similar topics could include web hosting, php programming, SEO, pay per click advertising, etc. These topics are similar but are not overly broad. An example of an overly broad topic would be computers. Yes, computers are related to web design, but the chance of someone searching for computers in reference to a web designer is relatively low.

3. Find websites in those relevant topics that allow advertising.
This is the most difficult step in the process. Finding websites that allow advertising, but at a cost that is low enough to make it worth advertising on is not always an easy task.

I strongly recommend against advertising on large website networks. While these sites could potentially provide a lot of traffic, they are very expensive to advertise on, and more often than not, they send un-targeted traffic that is a waste of money for text link advertising purposes. If you are on a branding mission and money is no concern, then by all means spend away.

There are several text link selling websites that have a large inventory of affordable, quality websites to advertise on. My personal recommendation is Text Link Ads and Adbrite, but Text Link Brokers has always been highly recommended to me as well. Linkadage is another site that normally has a large inventory on it, but most sellers are only trying to make a quick buck based only from Google Page Rank. You may find good sites there, but expect a lot of no-traffic links for sale.

Through these text link services you can easily purchase text links on targeted websites. They have hundreds if not thousands of websites that are on their advertising networks. The best thing about using Text Link Ads and Text Link Brokers is that they completely manage the billing, and placement of all of your links you have through them. Once you build up a decent quantity of websites you are advertising on, this makes your life much easier. You can cancel links, add more links, and manage your existing link text.

If you would rather find websites yourself, you can search by the relevant topics you listed in step 1. Search for blogs and websites that are related and offer text links already. It is normally a waste of time to solicit to websites that don’t offer advertising, as it will be taken as spam, and will be unlikely to even get a reply.

4. Purchase links on those websites that meet your minimum criteria.
The best sites that I have found to advertise on are blogs, and high quality information websites. There are blogs and information websites on just about every topic imaginable, and these sites generally provide very good referrals. They may never send a high volume of traffic, but the traffic that they do send is normally very good. Alexa rankings are not accurate unless the Alexa ranking is very low (sub 10,000). If you can, look at the actual websites, and find ones that are high quality and meet your requirements.

3 Things You Want In a Text Link

  • The first link on the website
  • Homepage and Every Page Links
  • A Price withing your budget
  • A title that entices visitors to click on your link

Getting the first links:
Assuming you’re using a text link ads or similar service, the first thing you should do is monitor the new inventory daily. Find out when new text link inventory is added and check for links during that time. You may be able to get email notifications when new links are added as well. The goal is to get the first link position on any given website. To do that, you need to buy links soon after the website is purchased. Having the first position when advertising on a website is essential to get the most out of that individual text link.

The pages you want your links on:
Next, you want to look for links that are on the homepage or on the home page and every other page on the website. We’re not getting links for SEO, so you can request to use a nofollow tag. Personally I don’t worry about it too much. Google and other search engines are pretty good at seeing paid links, and there is nothing wrong with purchasing link as long as you aren’t doing it to manipulate search results. If you’re in doubt, use nofollow.

The right price:
The links you find should be within your predetermined monthly budget. For text links, it is common to find links in the $15 – $20 per month price range. For links on more trusted and higher traffic websites, they can get well into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month. I recommend against purchasing high dollar links unless you have the money, and have some experience purchasing text links. The high price text links can be well worth the cost, but you can just as easily loose money on them.

The right link text:
Like any advertisement it is important to have a relevant call to action in your text link. Since the maximum characters in a text link is often too low for any real promotion, a question is often a great way to get visitors to click on your link. Since you aren’t charged per click, you want as many qualified people as possible to click on your text links. Text like ‘Need a low cost website?’, or ‘Want to get more traffic?’ would be appropriate, relevant, and would entice visitors to click on the link assuming that those links were applicable to your site.

Tracking Visitors5. Track referrals from those websites for a minimum of three months.
Tracking your text links is absolutely key to finding out whether they are worth the money or not. Lets face it, if you aren’t getting any SEO benefit, so why would you want to keep paying for a worthless link.

I have used several tracking systems, and the best I have found for this purpose is hitslink. Hitslink is cheaper than other more robust tracking systems, still offers the necessary features and is easily configurable. I’m sure that there are hundreds of possible systems out there, probably in the same price range as hitslink, so by no means do you have to use any particular system. Just make sure that you can track and label visitors from a domain or by using a url tracking code.

Setup your link tracking based on the url of the website that your link is on (Ex: mysite.com). You can also append a tracking code to the end of the links you are advertising (Ex: mysite.com?source=thispage.com). I don’t like adding anything to a url if I don’t have to, simply because complicated url’s don’t look as nice as clean ones.

Also make sure that if you are targeting a topic on your website to use the specific page for that topic, if applicable. This can help increase the chance that visitors will complete a desired action.

6. Analyze your data and determine if the link is acceptable.

After the initial three months is up, it’s time to analyze your text link. Build a report for the three months of traffic from a particular text link. You should have the total number of referrals from that link, and the number of conversions from those referrals. If you are basing your visitor values from a per sale percentage, you should have the total dollar amount generated by those referrals.

Using the example earlier of $50 per lead, I’m going to make a simple table showing whether a text link was effective or not.

Lets assume that I pay $30 per month for a text link on a website. I tracked all of the visitors and all of the leads from that link for a period of three months.

  Number of Referrals Number of Leads Total Cost
Textlink 1 – thissite.com 27 2 $90

Since I value each lead at $50 and I received 2 leads, I made $100 from the referrals that the website sent me. It cost me a total of $90, therefore my Return on Investment (ROI) is ($100 – $90)/$90 or 11%. This means that for every dollar I spend, I get back one dollar and eleven cents.

11% is nothing to brag about, but it is a positive return which is what is important.

With that in mind, as long as I receive a positive return on a text link, I stick with it. I also will sometimes stick with a site for another round of three months if I still have hopes for it. If I don’t think that I am going to pull a positive return from a link, I drop it. Six months is definitely long enough to get a solid prediction, so after six months, if the site isn’t worth it, get rid of it.

It is common for sites to send very few visitors some months, and a lot on another month. For this reason three months is the absolute minimum amount of time to develop an accurate model of what you can expect from a website.

Bi-annual review:
After a website meets the minimum requirements for three months, I review it every six months after to be sure that it is still performing. If is fails for a six month period, it gets dumped. Websites and their traffic often change, so it is important to do the six month review. If the links are very expensive, then a three month review would be more appropriate.

Hopefully you have plans to increase your budget as time goes on. This way you can keep good links while adding and testing more link to your portfolio. Excel is the best way I have found for tracking a small to medium sized number of links. I imagine that there are some software programs that can keep your links organized, but Excel us easy, most people have it, and it works perfectly for this purpose.

Be prepared to buy links that have absolutely no return. Some of the most promising sites I have advertised on were worthless, while ones that I thought had no chance, paid for themselves ten times over per month. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon at all to purchase bad links. Some links just wont send you more than a single visitor. Others will send you ten or more a day. Keep experimenting with sites and link text, and you should eventually be able to find a system that works for you.

A great blog related to text link advertising run by text link ads is the Link Building Blog.

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1 Comment:
  1. Fred 23 Dec, 2007

    Excellent post. You provided an excellent overview here.

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