The Truth Behind Authority Link Pricing: Why They Are So Damn Expensive
“Wow, more than $1K for a single link? Why?”
That is something I hear almost every single day. As my SEO agency, SerpLogic has evolved over the past couple years, we have focused on securing high quality authority links and media exposure for our clients. I can confidently say that we are one of the leading sources for top links with the most powerful metrics available.
This is something that has taken a lot of time and money to be able to offer. From the outside, most people will think the high prices these links command is crazy, but if you knew what it really took to be able to offer these links, the price would be received much better.
We to some of the biggest companies in the world and also some of the largest SEO agencies and marketing firms, through our re-seller program. Big companies and SEO agencies understand why they are expensive, but the average business owner doesn’t know why they command such a premium, and why would they? Well, I wanted to take some time to put together a detailed blog post that explains why there is such a premium price attached to links from such authority monsters, like Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Inc., etc.
If you have read my posts in the past you know that I’m a straight shooter. With that being said, here is the truth, explaining exactly why these links sell for a premium and why there is always going to be a larger demand than the supply allows.
What is the True Definition of an Authority Link?
I’ve seen some SEO providers offering “authority links” for $20 – $50, and I can promise that these are not true authority links. If I really wanted to, I could create a network of blogs and fire Fiverr spam at them all day long and inflate the Domain Authority to 50 – 60 VERY quickly. So, to classify a link as an authority link based on DA alone is ridiculous.
A lot goes into this designation. For me, personally, I always look at the Alexa rank of a website and the traffic patterns. True authority links are from websites that are the most popular in the world and receive millions of unique visitors.
Get a link on Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc., Entrepreneur, and similar websites, and then you can say you have authority links in your profile. Authority links are those links that you can’t easily get. Money aside, without paying for them it would be VERY difficult to secure links for these authority sites. You can check the Domain Authority of the top sites and it will be sky high, and this leads to many people being fooled by spammed domains that have DA that is manipulated by spam links.
4 Ways to Secure Authority Links
1. Guest Blogging (Contributor Status)
The major authority websites all have their own writing staff that works within their offices and they also have freelancers that write for them and are paid for each completed assignment. They also take advantage of a contributor model, allowing a very small amount of people to write for them. While the contributors aren’t financially compensated, they do receive nice exposure. It’s really not as great as one might assume, because they are required to meet deadlines and work it around their career (which pays them).
It’s not easy to get these positions and it usually requires an introduction or referral. Also, don’t think they can just drop links all day long for their own benefit and that of their friends or clients. They are watched like hawks and many have been deleted because of shady practices involving link schemes.
If you want to drop one link in your author bio, then go for it, but I can promise you that it’s not unlimited links once you are a contributor. I have been asked by many sites to write for them but I pass. There are much more effective ways to get links.
2. Build Relationships with Contributors & Editors
This is without a doubt the most effective way of securing these links IF you have zero budget and cannot buy them. It’s important to realize the audiences these websites have. When you are writing for a publication with millions of readers you are going to get buried with social media messages and emails. Some from people that enjoyed reading the content, but most of the communication is coming from PR firms and companies looking for press and submitting pitches.
Then, mix in all the SEO spammers that reach out. If you want any chance of actually getting your foot in the door you need to spend a lot of time building a genuine relationship before you EVER ask for coverage, let alone a link. The word “link” will scare off these people and you will never hear form them again.
There isn’t a way to fake a relationship if you are serious about getting results.
Don’t expect to bullshit your way in. They have seen and heard it all. I am personally friends with several people in these positions and I hear the crazy bribes and offers that are sent to them, and they have none of it. Most journalists are in that position because they love what they do. They aren’t doing it for the money and many take offense to offers of money in exchange for coverage or links. Take time to get to know them and you will not only get your foot in the door at some amazing websites, but you will also build friendships that will be worth more than just the links you are able to score.
3. Be Newsworthy & Cross Your Fingers
If you are too lazy to build relationships and don’t have the funds to buy links, then you have two options:
- Be a newsworthy company that media outlets WANT to cover. This is why branding and brand messages are so important. Some companies are “fun” and interesting without having to do anything, but if you are in a boring industry and your company appears to be uninteresting then you need to take some steps to create some excitement.
I’ve seen companies that would be traditionally labeled as boring use celebrity endorsements and fun contests to generate media buzz. Don’t let a lack of budget stop you either. There are plenty of zero cost contents that you can launch that will not only help generate buzz, but also help kick start your sales.
- Cross your fingers and pray that someone wants to cover your business or sees some of your blog content and decides to link back to it because they feel it provides value. After all, that is the point of content marketing. It helps build awareness, but we all know that links are the end goal. Links rule the SEO world, and content marketing can act as link bait when done right. I’m not talking about 500 word blog posts. I’m talking about amazing infographics, long form posts with thousands of words or even videos.
4. Buy Them
Ahhh, now we are talking. This is the easiest way to get your hands on authority links. For those who desire these links, there are two major hurdles to get over. First, you need to be bale to handle the sticker shock. These are not cheap at all, and as the demand increases so will the prices. If I told you that there are some brands spending more than $100K a month on buying these links would you think I am full of shit? It’s true. I personally work with many that will buy as many as possible, with almost unlimited budgets.
The second hurdle is finding a provider that can actually deliver them. I’m not writing this to plug my own authority link service. If you are reading my content, then you already know I am legit and one of the only providers that delivers as promised. The point of this post is to help educate and inform, so if you are looking for providers be very cautious. Always use a payment method that protects you incase they try to burn you. I have seen some providers request Western union for links and that is a major red flag that you are about to get ripped off. Any legit provider will have no issues with credit card payments or PayPal transactions.
Reality: The Pros & Cons
Guest Blogging (Contributor Status)
Pros: You have direct access to the website and can essentially attempt to get any link you want approved. If you are only interested in dropping a couple brand keywords for your own business, then this route is one you can explore. Even if you don’t get any links, guest blogging on top websites is great for helping you become a thought leader in your niche. A lot of people do it for this alone and could care less about links.
It is also great for networking with other bloggers. They tend to all stick together and they all run in the same crowd. This can also help you get links from other writers, coming up with an exchange agreement with fellow contributors.
Cons: It’s VERY hard to get a contributor spot at many of the desirable websites. You have to start small, blogging on a regular basis on your own website and then working your way up, from small unknown websites to the big boys. This can take several years, because once you make a contact there they will watch you for a bit to get a feel for your level of expertise and the quality of your writing.
You can’t fake this. Even if you had a ghost writer you are going to eventually need to write yourself. So, if this is something you want to go after, you need to write almost daily. And it needs to be VERY good. Not many people have the time or patience to devote to this. This is why most of the players in this game are true journalists; they just love to write.
Build Relationships with Contributors & Editors
Pros: When done correctly, you have access to the top websites in the world, and you can help your clients receive amazing national exposure as well as get huge SEO benefits. This also allows you to charge a premium price. While some “SEO package” providers might charge $500 a month for low quality link building with no other benefits, big agencies with access to authority links charge several thousand, because they are able to provide amazing links for huge SEO boosts, but the placements also generate buzz and attention in front of large audiences.
Cons: It can be very exhausting chasing them down and trying to get your foot in the door. These links are in such high demand now that anyone with access to them is getting cornered in every direction by freelancers and agencies wanting to create relationships with them. They know most of it is BS and that links are the only reason people are giving them the time of day.
You can spend a lot of time and money trying to build a relationship and nothing can come of it. To me, I’d rather spend my time and money building my business. The price of these links is justified because of the demand and work required to obtain them. It’s like hiring a plumber to fix a broken toilet. You could probably eventually figure it out, but when you think about what it involves you would rather hire a professional and not get your hands dirty.
Be Newsworthy & Cross Your Fingers
Pros: If your business is really newsworthy and exciting to the point where media outlets are covering you then consider yourself very lucky. Who wouldn’t want free press? The benefit here is the exposure without the high price tag! Think about the big news stories every day. Once in a blue moon there is a story about an innovative company or a business that is doing something really remarkable for a charity or the local community. Even though a lot of these stories seem organic and natural, it was a very aggressive PR campaign behind the scenes that created the opportunity.
Cons: This is like catching a unicorn, though. The chance of a major outlet reaching out to you is so slim, that you are crazy to sit there and “hope” it happens. Any business banking on natural organic buzz is going to miss out and probably fail, and fast. If you don’t want to pay on a per-link basis, then I would suggest hiring a PR agency to pitch your business. But, PR firms are generally VERY expensive and there is no guarantee that you will receive any press or links for that matter. Wouldn’t it make sense to KNOW what you are getting for your money rather than giving it to a public relations firm and hoping they can do something. When you really look at the pros and cons you will see that buying links is the most sensible option.
Pros: You don’t have to waste a single minute networking or making connections. You don’t have to write a single word of content. You don’t have to do anything, other than pick out the media outlets you want a link from and place your order. It seriously couldn’t get any easier. This allows you to focus on running your business while your SEO agency or link provider does all the work. Smart businesses (with a budget) should opt for this avenue every time.
Cons: The price. The only downfall is the cost associated with these links. So, for a brand new startup or someone trying to self fund the business, this isn’t always possible. What you should do, if you are working with a limited budget is to really be as lean as possible, allowing you to dedicate most of your available cash to marketing. Then, once your sales are up, then you can opt for the fancy office fixtures and luxuries.
Buying Links is Easy but Expensive: Agency Perspective
Why are they so expensive? It’s because of the cost associated with securing them..
The 5 Hard Costs Associated with Authority Links
1. The Cost of Content (GREAT Content!)
Let me explain how the process works. There are two ways that an article gets published, with a “bought” link mixed in. The agency will either have the editor or writer craft the content or they will write it internally and pass it on to the publication for review.
It doesn’t matter what route is taken, the content has to be top quality. These publications have multiple layers for quality control. They have associate editors, junior editors, intern editors and senior editors that make the final call. In order to pass through all of these barriers the content must be very well written and match the “feel” of the particular publication that it’s going to be placed with.
Great content like this isn’t cheap. Whomever is writing it is going to command a pretty penny. You can’t use the traditional freelancer writers that crank out “SEO content” because while decent, it just isn’t up to the standard that these websites demand. So, the actual content itself is a big cost that needs to be taken into consideration.
2. The Cost of a “Kickback”
No matter how you look at it, people need to get paid. For their time, for their connections, and for the access. Every situation is different and has different terms. There are those that take cash payments, run payments through a company or need to be constantly gifted with perks that end up costing the same or more than the cash payment option.
I’ve even come into contact with editors that will never mention payment, but they will block you and never deal with you again unless a magic PayPal payment is sent to them. It’s such a crazy world that many are completely clueless about. Do you think these people want to go out of their way to write and plug a company for an agency? They know for a fact, that the agency is getting paid a pretty penny by the client and they expect a piece of it.
I don’t blame them one bit. Time is money and nobody wants to help a company make piles of money and get nothing in return. So, the second piece of the “cost pie” is the kickback paid to the people responsible for making the links.
3. The Cost of Relationship Building
Before you have access and the privilege of even asking for a link, there is a lot of schmoozing and elbow rubbing that needs to happen. If you think you are going to build up a contact list of top editors and writers just by sending emails and messages on social media, you are dreaming. The best relationships are the ones that are initiated in person.
The great thing is that these people are easily accessible via conferences and events hosted by the publications. For example, conferences like Mozcon and HubSpot’s INBOUND, are great places to meet editors and writers for popular SEO and online marketing websites and publications. You will also find many mainstream editors and writers at these events. Guess what? They are there to network as well, so it’s much easier to get a proper introduction at an event like these than to send a cold email. Face to face is always going to produce better results.
Then, sites like Forbes and Inc. are always hosting events that are well attended by their writers. If you want to know who will be where, simply follow them on social media. Writers LOVE Twitter and even though it’s not the most popular social media network it is within the journalism community. It’s where they turn to for breaking news and they are all pretty active on it. If there is a particular writer or editor, you want to connect with in person make sure to follow them on Twitter so you know what conferences and events they will be attending.
You will need to plan in advance and book hotels and flights. This is a big expense, but one that is required if you REALLY want to get your hands on the links. More proof as to why they are expensive.
4. The Cost of Relationship Maintenance
See a trend here? It’s not cheap to be in a position to have access to authority links, hence the expensive price tag. Just like it costs money to establish the relationship, it takes money to keep it alive. Let’s compare it to dating. You go out, spend money to impress and meet someone. Then, the relationship starts and the wining and dining doesn’t end. If it does. I can promise you the relationship will die ASAP. I don’t know about you, but I know my girl wouldn’t be too happy if dates, dinners, and fun nights out stopped.
The same logic applies to relationships with editors and writers. If you meet up at future events there will be rounds of drinks on your tab and probably a dinner or two. If you don’t keep in touch at events, then you are making sure you drop some sporting event tickets in their lap once in a while, or send them something nice on their birthday.
Money. It all costs money. Think about dating a hot girl that is high maintenance that has a lot of guys after her. You need to keep her entertained and happy or she will wander to other offers.
5. The Cost of Agency Hands
When a client has a question about his link order and calls in or submits a support ticket what happens? Their issue is addressed ASAP by a team member. Employees are not cheap. It’s not just the salary to consider either. It’s the benefits, the employee taxes, and all other expenses tied to just having hands in the office to help.
I have an entire team that works behind the scenes. Content writers aside, the project managers and support staff needed to run a large operation smoothly doesn’t come cheap. All of this comes into play when pricing authority links. The clients that are buying these links are high profile clients. When they have a question you need to get them an answer ASAP, and that doesn’t mean passing them off to an outsourced virtual assistant; not when dealing with clients spending large sums of money.
Staff is an expense many don’t even think about, but it’s a major cost factor.
What to Look for When Seeking Out an Authority Link Vendor
Ok, so now that you understand WHY these links cost as much as they do, how do you know the vendor advertising them for sale can deliver as promised? The truth is, most offerings are fabricated and they don’t actually have direct access to these type of links.
They will take an order, and then attempt to contact writers and editors. This approach doesn’t work. Then, after months and months of delays and excuses the customer isn’t able to dispute the payment because too much time has passed.
Dive into the Agency’s Link Profile
Any SEO agency that is claiming to have access to authority links should have a few pointing at their own website. Even my own firm, SerpLogic, has some, and we don’t rely on organic rankings for our customer acquisition. We onboard all of our clients from our content marketing efforts. We like to lead by example, and through these efforts we have attracted some very nice links from the likes of Inc. and Huffington Post, just to name a couple.
All you have to do is run their URL through Ahrefs or Moz’s Open Site Explorer and take a look at their link profile. If they are selling you on the fact that they can obtain any authority link you want, yet don’t have any themselves, that should tell you something.
There will be some agencies that have been around years and they have a great SEO strategy, which has helped them obtain great links. They obviously have an idea how this game works. I’m not saying they need to have dozens of them, but a few will give you an idea that they do have the ability to help you secure them as well.
Ask About Their TAT (Turn Around Time)
This is the one question that will tell you whether or not they have direct access, because this process will go one of two ways:
- You will place your order and within a couple weeks your link will be live and you will be a happy, repeat customer.
- You will place your order and after a couple weeks you will get an excuse as to why the order hasn’t been delivered yet. Then, as the 30 day mark approaches they will give you some excuse about an editor being on vacation. Then, by the time two months approaches they either disappear completely or keep throwing excuses at you until you just stop contacting them. By this time it’s too late to dispute the charges and you are ripped off.
Sadly, 95% of the deals follow the second route, and I will tell you why. It’s because these agencies do not have access to the links. They know the links command a very high price, so they take orders for them and then attempt to secure them. They will bother writers and editors, offering to pay them for linking “their client.” I can tell you that their success rate is about 0% because it doesn’t work this way.
Relationships and trust take a lot of time to build up, and nobody at these publications are going to even reply to these email requests, let alone ever link them. These type of SEO agencies are who give the industry a black eye.
A realistic TAT is 15 – 30 days. It does take time to create the content specifically tailored around the client and the editorial process can take some time.
Look for Reviews & Client Testimonials
Reviews and testimonials can be a tricky thing for a couple reasons. Number one, most SEO agencies don’t want to put their clients out there. It gives other agencies a list of potential leads to snipe. Trust me, I know agencies that cold call companies they find on other agency websites and simply feed them a line of bullshit and come in at a lower price point. Many businesses fall for this, especially the ones that believe all SEO is created equal.
Then, you have the generic testimonials like this: “This is the best SEO company in the world. They got me links on every authority website. – Joe S.”
Joe S.? Who the hell is Joe and why should we believe this is a real testimonial? Chances are it’s not even close to being real.
So, what do you do? Talk to your provider and see if they will disclose some of their clients or show you some of the links they have secured for them. Personally, I wouldn’t do this unless there was a contract pending. If someone is fine with the price and ready, willing and able to pay, then it might change my tone, but 99% of people that want examples are tire kickers or a competitor spying.
If you can get a real testimonial or review, go for it. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but chances of this are slim.
There is always going to be a market for top links as long as Google still uses inbound links as the top ranking signal, which I believe will never change. Links will always be relevant, and it’s going to always take a mix of top authority links to reach the top of the SERPs.
With that being said, if you are serious about ranking, you need to work these types of links into your SEO strategy. They are great for SEO and for business awareness. If you have any questions about authority links, post them below and I will do my best to help answer any questions you might have.