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Why we don’t buy links – and neither should you

Hannah Byrne Head of Digital PR headshot

“I hope you enjoy this blog post. If you want our B2B digital experts to help you smash your targets, click here.

Why we don't buy links

When it comes to ranking in Google, there isn’t a quick fix or button we can press to make us all suddenly appear in position 1. However, in general, we do know what Google wants – especially after the recent Google ‘leak’. And one of the biggest ranking factors Google looks for in a site is backlinks.

Backlinks are nothing new – but they did look different once upon a time. Pre-2012, the quality of backlinks wasn’t looked at – volume was important, and as such, it was very much about building any links to a site to showcase its authority. But the Penguin update in 2012 changed all of that; websites were penalised for having low-quality and spammy links to their sites, causing them to drop to the bottom of the rankings.

To combat this, SEOs started looking at ways to earn quality links organically. And so, link building became digital PR.

As you’d expect, digital PR has evolved in the 12 years since the Penguin update changed backlinks forever. And as Google’s algorithm gets smarter, even more focus has been put on both quality and relevancy when it comes to backlinks. This means that any – and all – links built must be on quality websites and be topically relevant to the brand (and publication). Anything other than this is usually – at best – ignored by Google and at worst – penalised.

That’s why a focus on storytelling that resonates with your brand’s audience is key to getting ahead in the search engines.

While paid links have been around for almost as long as Google has, there has been a resurgence in websites using them as a quick fix in recent years. There’s no denying that naturally building links is hard; fewer journalists than ever before, combined with an industry that has grown at an almost unprecedented rate, means that competition to earn these relevant and quality links that showcase Expertise, Experience, Authority and Trust (EEAT) is becoming even more difficult. But buying them is not the answer and can, just like when the Penguin update was first released, lead to websites being penalised for taking a shortcut and essentially trying to cheat the system. And as we’re in the business of getting Google to trust websites as a source of accurate information, it’s not something we would ever consider.

And neither should you.

If you want to get ahead in the search engines, you need to focus on your site first and foremost – make it the best it can be, giving the best user journey possible and making it easy for people to find products and information and to get in touch. Once your site is in a good place, only then should you start driving people to it with digital PR. After all, just as you wouldn’t try to sell a car that didn’t have any seats, you wouldn’t want to spend time and money directing people to your website if it didn’t work for your customers.

Your digital PR efforts should be authentic and encompass everything about your business and what it stands for. Putting your business at the heart of digital PR will mean that you naturally tick all the boxes that Google is looking for and showcase EEAT without having to force it. And journalists will see this too.

And that’s exactly what we do at Smart Monkey.

We work with our clients to understand their business, goals, and customers, and develop a strategy based on what will make the biggest difference to them, to drive demand for their products or services, organically – without paying for links.

Hannah profile picture

About Hannah

Hannah has over 10 years’ experience building brands through the power of PR, content marketing and digital marketing campaigns. With experience working within FinTech, SaaS, FMCG and automotive, Hannah excels at B2B PR and supporting demand generation.


No digital or traditional agency can guarantee PR results. There are simply too many uncontrollable factors such as competitor activities, market performance and external events. What we can do is to follow a proven approach based on over 16 years’ experience of helping a large number of businesses to build their site authority.

We have been perfecting our digital PR skills for over 16 years, and we have a very clear grip on what works and what doesn’t. We have tried and tested processes which have delivered strong results for our clients. There are thousands and thousands of guides, articles and YouTube videos out there that you could use to learn from. However, our clients see the value in using our specialist digital PR expertise to achieve results more quickly, without having to divert time and effort from running their business.

Digital PR is a hugely important piece of the puzzle that contributes to SEO success. Our SEO specialists tie all the elements of a well-optimised site together to give it the best opportunity of performing well on the search engines. However, a technically clean website with great content but no backlinks will struggle to rank for competitive high search volume keywords. Equally, a site with lots of quality backlinks but a technical issue that prevents the site from being crawled effectively, or content that isn’t targeting the right keywords, isn’t going to perform well either. Each piece of the puzzle has got to work well together. We are experts at analysing a website and creating a strategy that is going to help it build momentum.