wheel - 3:32 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)
Paid links work fabulously. Paid links are a viable strategy.
It just comes with increased risks. I beleive that the people selling links these days are well aware of the risks and have strategies to minimize (but not completely eliminate) the risk.
There's also a difference between a few paid links bought with precision, as part of a well rounded citation type backlink structure (no real risk that I see) vs. paid backlinks as the primary strategy.
I don't do paid backlinks as a primary strategy, no plans to do so (I believe results are better with the way I do it). but it's been shown repeatedly to be a solid link building strategy as long as you minimize the risks.
In fact, after the last pubcon, I really question how many people doing SEO aren't buying links. I'm pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of SEO being done out there right now involves some form of paid links. It just scales a bunch easier.
Example. SEO firm writes a crawler to scour the web to find sites that meet specific criteria. One of those criteria could be that they don't seem to have a lot of outbound links that look paid. A list is generated of those sites.
The list is then contacted with an offer of $NNN for a backlink with some content. A certain percentage respond, money changes hands, backlinks are built.
That seems pretty airtight to me. I believe many SEO firms are doing variations of that right now. And many others are reselling others paid links. It's an industry-wide practice and it's working.
Those systems are expensive, you're not getting access to that at the $1000/month SEO boutique. that's one drawback.
Second drawback is that the system won't ever get you true authority backlinks. I think it'll get you some decent close-to-authority backlinks and that works. But true authorities like govt's and the like, this methodology won't work.
So one tweak by Google that maximizes individual authority links rather than sum of lots of individual smaller authorities, and there goes the structure.
Though frankly Google doesn't seem to be making any moves towards that. Of course a year ago no one expected Google to pull Panda out either.