Recently, several bloggers have asked me for advice on selling text links on their blogs. But before I start the discussion on whether that’s a good or bad thing, let’s go over some definitions first.
Another example: A company asks to put a paragraph at the end of an old post. It contains links to their website, but the copy has nothing to do with the subject of your post. It looks like paid linking, but it may not be indentified that way.
Visit my <a href=”http://www.example.com/”>cool company</a> site.
You link it this way:
Visit my <a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>cool company</a> site.
Why do companies, blogs or websites want to buy links?
Many companies purchase links to improve the page rank of their blog or website. For example, if you have a page rank of 5 and their site has a page rank of 2, they’ll purchase a link to grab some “Google juice” or authority from your higher ranking blog to their lower ranking website.
Basically, they’re trying to game the system and Google does not like that. The risk is that Google (and other search engines) may penalize your page rank for selling text links or doing sponsored posting. Lower page rank means your content won’t be placed high up when someone does a search. This in turn could affect your traffic and readership.
Google especially does not like “hidden” links, i.e., in-text links that appear natural but are really sponsored. However, how do they know it’s a sponsored link? Frankly, I don’t know. If you look at the “flowers” example above, how does Google know that it’s a paid text link and not a link to your brother-in-law’s flower shop website that you’re promoting for free just because he’s married to your sister?
Should you sell links?
Decide what’s right for you and your blog, and seriously think about what you feel is ethical. You may decide that in-text links are out since they aren’t identified as sponsored links. However, having a “Sponsored Links” column in your side bar could be OK with you.
Selling text links and doing sponsored posts can be a decent source of additional income. However, don’t let the money persuade you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Is the website you’re linking to something you would recommend to a friend? Does it fit the subject matter of your blog? (If you have a food blog, is it linking to a food or cooking related site, for example.)
And if your page rank goes down – and no one wants to buy advertising, sponsored posts or paid links – will that hurt you in the long run?
I’ve seen bloggers freak out when their page rank goes down and immediately take down sponsored posts and text links. Their page rank slowly returns, but it may have harmed their traffic. Then again, John Chow of JohnChow.com sells links, and makes a good living doing so. He also has zero page rank and tons of traffic. However, he’s one of the biggest Internet gurus out there, so low page rank doesn’t hurt him.
You could run the risk of not getting paid, of course, but it’s pretty easy to quickly remove a text link ad if the buyer flakes out.
What would your readers think if you sell text link ads? Would they care and if so, could it hurt your readership?
Also, will the ad networks you’re working with let you sell text link ads? Some may not.
Bottom line: trust your gut and decide if selling space on your blog is worth some pocket change.
Further reading on selling links