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I love Rand Fishkin. He very well may be my idol in the SEO world.

About an hour ago, I attended a session about purchasing links to influence your search engine rankings. I have always thought of buying links as black hat SEO and Rand reconfirmed my belief this morning. I wanted to quickly summarize his presentation on purchasing links, why you shouldn’t do it, and what you should do instead.

Believe it or not, Google employs a team dedicated to searching for webspam. They invest lots of time and resources into finding and shutting down effective paid linking opportunities. This is the number one reason why you should never participate in paid links. Once Google finds you, you are done!

Paid links are paid links. They cost money! Rand hit on some better ways to invest your money in other avenues that will help you acquire links in a more natural manner. Here is what he said to do:

– Spend the money necessary to increase your webpage load speed. This will decrease your bounce rate, make your visitors much happier, and possibly cause them to link to your content.

– Invest in user generated content and contributions. Spending money to create content that will be on the internet for years is a much better way to go than purchasing or “renting” links.

– Hire community managers. Managing your place in the online community can definitely help you obtain links back to your website. Providing your customers visibility into your business wherever they are is the best way to get traffic and drive links to your site.

– Organize and sponsor events. At SEO.com, we organize workshops for the local community that help us get links all over the internet. Rand and the SEOmoz team organized and sponsored a party on Wednesday evening. That party got a lot of attention and links back to the party page on their website. This can be a very effective way to get a lot of really good, natural links.

– License content or technology for nominal fees (free if possible). Making something of worth available to your customers to either purchase or obtain for free can be a great way of getting links and promotion to your cause.

-Issue press releases. We do this for many of our clients. Press releases are a great way to generate buzz about your business and get links back to your website, if you have something newsworthy.

– Collect research data and share it with others. If you have collected truly valuable research data and you share that data for free, you can expect a lot of links coming back to your site.

– Take some time to look at optimizing the link targeted content from a conversion standpoint.

– Advertise link targeted content. It isn’t a sin to purchase links to advertise your link targeted content. You are trying to get the word out about what you are trying to offer or share with others. You aren’t trying to get rankings for that page with the purchased links.

These are most of the things that Rand spoke about. They are all really good ways to think outside the box and spend money on efforts that will bring natural links back to your website.

In closing, it is important to remember why we don’t want to participate in paid links. When you take a look at link acquisition speed, natural links grow organically or naturally. The number of links you acquire can and will fluctuate each month.

Not only that, natural links have less targeted anchor text, unlike paid links. You definitely don’t want all of your links to have the anchor text of your main keyword.

As with everything you do for your SEO campaign, you should always think twice when considering any gray or black hat tactics. Keep in mind that it is much more difficult to make your efforts look natural when you participate in anything Google looks down upon. When Google sees red flags, which they will, you are toast!