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When I first started working in SEO and online marketing I was downright amazed at the fact that you could pay for almost anything.

Want a couple hundreds links to your website? Get out your credit card. Looking to boost the number of people following you on Twitter? Log in to PayPal. Facebook fans? No problem. Stumbles? You can pay StumbleUpon for them. No matter what number you're looking to build, there's a way you can effortlessly pay to make it climb.

Apart from being fairly expensive, paying to fudge your marketing numbers can really hurt you in the long run though. Or maybe it's too early in this article to make such a bold assumption. Let's take a quick look.

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If you pay for more followers or fans on social media websites then you are guaranteed higher numbers for quite some time (even after you've stopped paying). As an example: if you pay $100 for 500 followers on Twitter, you're likely to get even more people following you as a result. The more people following you, the more likely you are to appear important or entertaining, and the more likely people will be to follow you. The same goes for Facebook fans.

If you pay for visitors to your website, as another example, you're guaranteed a high level of traffic. The results don't lie. $100 can get you a couple thousand visitors today without a doubt.

Now here's where the problems start to build up.

economy-cemetery

If you've paid for Twitter followers, what's the guarantee that those followers will actually give a damn about what you're tweeting or linking to? There simply can be no guarantee of interaction or conversion when it comes to buying numbers. What about Facebook? You may get 1,000 new fans for the cost of a new iPod, but what percentage of those fans will stay fans, or click links, or recommend you to their friends? Same with paying for stumbles or direct traffic.

Let's be gracious here and say that the company you hired to fake your fan and follower numbers is a really great company. They've got you a thousand new followers who are interested in what you're tweeting or sharing or blogging about.

Even if the fans and followers are interested in the topic you surround yourself with, the likelihood of them actually buying anything is slim to none. It's not science " well, it some what is " it's common sense.

money-down-drain

We have to go even further than these examples to really demonstrate the damage done by buying numbers online, though. If you invest in traffic or fans or followers, you're missing an opportunity to really grow as a marketer. How can you accurately evaluate your next big marketing project if your numbers are so skewed by dollar signs and robot fans?

Argue with me on this, I'm begging you: paying for links or fans or traffic looks great on the short term, but when it comes to actually selling a product or increasing reputation, the numbers are nothing but fog and mirrors.

What do you think? Is paying for fans online helpful in the long run? Have you had an experience with buying traffic or fans that has worked out great? Share with us in the comments.