Since I wrote about how bloggers make money I have had three different people asking about the controversial topic of paid links. I know from past experience when one or two people ask there are usually many more people who are interested, so here are my thoughts and a small poll to see how you stand on the issue 🙂
It seems to me the various positions can be summarized as follows. Let me know in the comments if I have missed any.
- Against – It’s bad for the web – This is the position of Google. Their opinion is that links count as votes and they find it hard to tell if a vote has been bought or given freely. They don’t want to rank sites highly that have bought the position (unless the site in question is buying Googles own Adwords advertising).
- Moderate – It predates Google so they should butt out – Many people who actually don’t take part in the practice of buying or selling links nevertheless do not think it is Googles job to tell webmasters what they can and can not do where linking is concerned.
- For – It is good for webmasters, good for buyers, and good for audiences, do it! – It is easy to like this form of monetization. Text Link Ads pay well even to the average webmaster, particularly when compared to the most common Adsense payout, without forcing the inventory in your face, and reward webmasters regardless of traffic. Buying links has been a proven traffic method for a while now, in fact there are some niches where the practice is so common place I am told you can not compete without taking part.
- Depends – Sell ’em by all means but be careful buying – The buying side of the equation poses more risks than the selling side though I am told the key is to make your link patterns look natural by mixing up where you get your links from.
Where do I stand?
My opinion is closest to #4. Full disclosure, I worked with Patrick from TLA for a long time and think he is a thoroughly good bloke so am perhaps more sympathetic to the company than I would otherwise be 🙂 That said, if you are having a hard time making money off your blog I think Text Link Ads is a great scheme.
I don’t really care for Googles position and I believe if there is going to be a Policeman of the Interwebs it shouldn’t really be a monopoly that makes millions from monetizing spam like they do. Google incentivise splogs and click arbitrage with Adsense money so isn’t it a bit hypocritical? They even get users to out sites that are selling links. I am by no means an expert on all the nuances of this debate but is there only me that thinks what you will get is competitors playing dirty rather than honest search users filling those out? Perhaps I am opening myself up for a search penalty now saying that 🙂
Don’t think for a minute it is just the little guys who sell links. Huge properties do it. No, I am not going to out individuals, but many of the biggest household names and organisations on the web have sold links.
I do agree with one point that Matt Cutts makes, it is better for all parties if the links are relevant. The best approach is that put forward by Jeremy Zawodny (who happens to work for a big search engine, hmmm).
I rejected the on-line casino, drug sales, cheap hotels, and really offensive stuff–basically, anything the reminded me of blog comment spam I’ve bit hit with or that sends me to a sleazy feeling site. No need to encourage ’em.
If you can earn a couple of hundred dollars a month selling links, is a penalty so bad? If Google decides your site no longer passes “juice” I don’t think most people would notice, but if your site loses rankings there could be more pain. I would actually advise people to build up non-Google traffic sources so one monster company can not arbitrarily hold you to ransom in this way. Fact is, most of the people who look to Text Link Ads as their major source of income isn’t getting much love from Google in the first place.
While I know bloggers with small blogs who are making hundreds of dollars a month with TLA, I also know there are also webmasters who look down on the practice. Everyone has their own thoughts and it is nowhere near a clear issue. My advice is to look around your niche and ask around. If you would like to check out more information about selling links on your blog, visit the Text Link Ads site here. While there is no commitment required to investigate further, that is an affiliate link and demonstrates another way you can earn from the system, you can make $25 if your click leads to a sign up 🙂
Am I wrong? Is this bad advice?
Do not think from what I have said my mind is made up. While I didn’t want to sway the poll, as I say above, I have given advice on the topic already so I thought the honest thing was to let you know my thoughts. I am still completely open to persuasion on this. If you have thoughts or links that show a good argument in any direction, please share in the comments.
Now click your vote in the poll, I am looking forward to seeing how you guys think about this issue 🙂