Welcome to Dear John, a new (hopefully weekly) column where I’m going to answer questions about SEO/digital marketing in longer formats. If you have a question you’d like me to answer, please email it to hello at getcredo dot com with the subject starting with [DEAR JOHN]!

Near the end of December, I answered a question in Moz Q/A about whether this person should buy a specific directory link. Here’s the question:

Hi all,

I KNOW the hard and true answer to this, but I’m looking for deeper insights regarding links like those contained on this page.

I understand the by-the-book answer to this would be only pursue a paid link if it is “nofollowed” OR if it has the potential to bring in new business and traffic. My question is ….does a link like this actually pass SEO value? I see businesses killing it from an SEO standpoint with link profiles full of paid directory links like this.

I also thought this conversation was more interested now that Google appears to devaluing links like this instead of issue penalties.


My answer:

Hey Ricky –

Great question that I think a lot of small businesses and companies deal with. While on the one hand Google’s guidelines say “Do not ever pay for a link”, that gets really fuzzy in instances like local business bureaus (where you pay a membership fee and happen to get a link on their site), scholarships (where you’re giving money and happen to get a link), and a lot more. Even the old Yahoo directory (retired in 2014 or so) was $300 a year and was followed and everyone had it. So the question is a lot more nuanced than “should I or shouldn’t I?”

In this case, I would shy away from this specific instance simply because of the following:

  • They are actually advertising different types of links depending on what you pay. They also don’t say where the additional links for the higher price will go.
  • They’re willing to link deep for more money. This is a red flag.
  • Their WHOis info is private. Not a good sign for an above-the-board company.
  • They have another directory on this same IP. If that one got hit, so would this one.
  • They may have a DA of 56, but if you look at their links they’re (almost) all comment links that were likely built with an automated tool.

All of these are red flags to me. The fact that it is topically relevant to your site is a good thing, but in my opinion the bad definitely outweighs the good.

Spend your money creating things and then outreaching them to get the links that will actually build your business.


Have a question you’d like me to answer publicly? Email it to me – hello at getcredo dot com – and start the subject line with [DEAR JOHN].