Buying links that pass PageRank is expressly forbidden by Google. However, is it possible to evade detection, and in 2017, garner significant traffic for a website through a primarily paid link strategy?
One site in particular, PromoCodeWatch.com, seems to be succeeding at the paid links game. PromoCodeWatch has built its backlink portfolio primarily by making donations to high profile charity websites, paying for text and banner ads that pass PageRank, listing their website in paid directories, and utilizing paid guest posting opportunities. Through primarily these strategies, PromoCodeWatch.com has succeeded in ranking prominently in Google, reaching about 500,000 visitors per month.
We are concerned about PromoCodeWatch due to questionable on-page practices the site engages in which they post invalid coupon codes, and format them to look like valid codes through a variety of proactive measures run in automation on their website. We feel that the PromoCodeWatch website harms consumers and misleads users into clicking their ads while apparently paying little attention to the validity of those ads.
We've analyzed the top 100 dofollow backlinks from PromoCodeWatch.com and summarized them here in this table. We downloaded 100 of PromoCodeWatch.com's backlinks from Majestic.com, sorted for the highest Domain TrustFlow (Majestic's measure of domain authority). We only included "dofollow" backlinks which pass PageRank. We analyzed each backlink, and determined whether it was possible to purchase a backlink from the website in question, either by making a donation to the site or by paying a sponsorship or advertising fee. If we could obtain definitive proof that we could purchase a link on the site, we marked that site as "Yes" as a paid link.
We also found guest post links in PromoCodeWatch's backlink portfolio. We analyzed these posts, and determined that they did not resemble organic content to us, and were most likely paid guest posted projects. However, we did not have definitive proof of this, so we marked these as "Likely" paid links.
Of PromoCodeWatch.com's top 100 dofollow backlinks, we found 69 confirmed paid links, and 15 likely paid links in the form of guest posts, for a total of 84 confirmed or likely paid links out of 100 of PromoCodeWatch's highest-impact PageRank-passing backlinks.
The rest of PromoCodeWatch's backlink portfolio comes from backlinks from educational institutions linking to its scholarship program. Although we did not consider these to be paid links, these links are still unnatural and incentivized, albeit indirectly. Of PromoCodeWatch's top 100 backlinks, only 2 appeared to be natural, organic backlinks, meaning 98% of PromoCodeWatch.com's backlinks are paid or incentivized in some fashion.
PromoCodeWatch continues to rank well in search engines, so for now at least, the answer is, at this point in 2017, it is definitely possible to rank well in Google through a primarily paid link strategy.
PromoCodeWatch.com top 100 dofollow backlinks (Majestic TrustFlow sort)
Have a concern about this site? Then you should report PromoCodeWatch for buying links on each of these sites. Google provides a simple tool to report sites here.