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Do You Sell Text Links on Your Blog? [POLL]

Do You Sell Text Links on Your Blog?

Warning – Before answering this question in comments you might want to consider doing so anonymously and without a link to your blog – particularly if your answer is YES. It could hurt you to identify yourself if you say yes publicly.

It is time for another poll here at ProBlogger – this one on the topic of selling text links.

A year or so back selling text links was the #1 income source for many bloggers. The practice was common and all done out in the open. Advertisers wanted to buy text links from blogs and websites that had been around for a while and had established decent page rank in Google. They were doing this to increase their own search engine authority. Bloggers saw the practice as relatively easy money – payments were recurring on a monthly basis and with services like TextLinkAds that emerged there was very little work in finding advertisers or collecting payments.

However the Text Link Ad selling industry came crashing down (to some extent) late in 2007 when Google took the step of penalizing many websites and blogs (some quite high profile ones) for the practice of selling text links. They see selling of text links as people trying to game or manipulate their ranking system and if they find people doing it – issue penalties which can hurt your search engine ranking.

As a result of this action many bloggers stopped selling text links. I had personally stopped selling them before Googles action (although was hit with a page rank penalty for a few days before Google corrected it).

The practice of selling text links continues today – however it’s done a lot less publicly than previously. Services still exist to arrange the buying and selling of links but it seems that it has gone much more underground with many deals being done directly between advertisers and bloggers and with advertisers less interested in site wide text links and more interested in buying them within content on individual pages.

While many bloggers have stopped doing it – quite a few continue to sell them either not aware of the risks or willing to take the risk for the income it provides.

The point of this poll is to find out just how many bloggers still sell text links.

As I mentioned above – if you want to comment on this poll below and you do sell text links you might want to do it anonymously or with a pseudonym as it wouldn’t be hard for Google to hit you with a penalty. Voting yes in the poll without commenting is anonymous however.

So it’s over to you – here’s the poll (it’s also in my sidebar):

Do You Sell Text Links on Your Blog
Total Votes: 1804 Started: 10/27/2008 Back to Vote Screen


I’m looking forward to seeing the results on this one!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jason says:

    Question: Let’s say I’m selling Text Link Ads on my PR3 site today. If I remove them, will Google notice and boost my PR appropriately? Do I need to notify them somehow?

    (I’m assume I’m already being penalized because I used to be PR4, but Text Link Ads were too much of my revenue to cut off.)

  2. Dr. Kangaroo says:

    What do people think of the tip jar type of text links are they any less vulnerable to big G?

  3. Jenn Mattern says:

    I sell text links on one of my sites, was knocked from a PR 6 to a PR 0 because of it, and I won’t stop. I decided a long time ago that I’d never be a Google slave. I don’t rely on Google for the majority of my traffic. I don’t rely on Adsense for the majority of my blog income. And under no circumstances will I allow Google to tell me how I can or cannot monetize any of my websites.

    On the flipside, I still find it absolutely ridiculous that Google will completely eliminate a so-called quality judgment on my blog, even though every incoming link to it is completely legitimate (I’ve never bought text links for the site). All they did was demonstrate to me that they have no real right to be “judging” sites to begin with unless they can do it on a case-by-case basis – I’m happy to have the pagerank eliminated. It’s still a high-earning blog, and it’s never been less than ethical to readers – sponsored material marked, all sponsored links carefully evaluated to make sure they’re things I was comfortable recommending to that particular audience, etc.

    My job as a blogger is to do right by my readers, and no one else. Google’s job is to provide relevant search results. To remove those because they disagree with advertising methods is as pathetic now as it was months ago. I’ll be the last person to add no-follow or anything else to my code, or alter my business model, just because Google’s algorithms are flawed.

    I’m still waiting to see if they deal with the real link spammers out there – those posting constant repetitive crap to article directories and press release sites solely for the links. I’m not holding my breath.

  4. I never have. I didn’t even consider it, actually. I like to make sure that any retailers that I refer to directly in a post are retailers that I have purchased from and that I know to be reliable.

    But here’s a question: if you do a lot of product reviews and link to sellers, can this be mistaken as text link ads? I never really thought about that until now. I offer to review products for the needlework industry, but I have a product review policy, and I don’t review products that I don’t personally like or that I wouldn’t recommend to a friend.

    Hmmm. I wonder if this can be misconstrued? Anyone?

  5. Whoa. Darn. I didn’t really intend to leave my website name in there next to my name. Leftover from the last time I posted on the 140 characters thing. Sorry.

  6. Nicole says:

    When I found out about the income opportunities for selling text links, I tried it out for a while about one year ago but then realized that the short term benefits may not always outweigh the longterm benefits of being indexed by the search engines. Therefore, I removed these types of links from my blog and stopped selling text links and am glad that I did because as I reflect back on this particular blogging decision, it is a better way to let my blog grow without selling text links even if it does not bring in the same amount of income in the short run.

    I am not against bloggers who do sell text links, but I do not follow this practice because it does not help my blog’s level of reliability.

    Now, I only link to websites and blogs that are relevant to my posts and blogs or websites that I like and that may benefit my readers and I do it all for free. It is for the love of blogging and helping others get useful information. To me, that is much better than selling links.

  7. BloggerTests says:

    Good comment Jenn… Quite frankly I’m tired of people talking of Google as if it was their mother. Who are they to tell ME what to put on and how to monetize MY site?? Remember, you are doing them a favor, too. Without the help of millions of blogs/sites offering ad space, they wouldn’t be making any money. It’s synergy, not an absolute rule. If they tell you to bark, will you do it?

    Let’s hypothetically say that some “Mega” blogger would start selling text links. If Google took them down from search results, they would make themselves look ridiculous for not having one of the most important blogs listed. Would they do it? Of course, and I’m sure they’ve done that in the past.

    And the whole secrecy surrounding the cut they take from ad revenue – Does anybody have a spare room in their house? I could rent it, I won’t tell you exactly how much I’ll be paying you month to month, but “trust me” you’ll be happy. Oh, and once I move in, I’m going to be setting the rules around your house. Anyone interested?

    I’m using AdSense on a few of my sites, but don’t care much for it, nor do I care about Google search all that much. I have never been a “Google slave” (thanks Jenn), and never will be. Only I will decide what content I publish, how it’s formatted and how I monetize MY site – not some pseudo “Big brother”

    Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not trying to start some revolution here :) They have every right to set the rules they like and all we can do is either follow them or not (and if you agree to follow them, you better do it). But I also have my own rules, one of which is “Not being anyone’s slave” Just understand that Google is not the only way to success.

    peace

  8. art says:

    I do, carefully

  9. Gene says:

    Well all advertising is link based.

    Consider a banner, a 125x 125 ad, Kontera, AdSense. Everything links to something?

    Google is the biggest seller of Text Links. What do you think AdSense is? Its text link based advertising from which this company makes its bread and butter revenue! They do not want you to take that away from them from your own blog!

    These double standards by GOOGLE to penalise others is laughable. Its sheer hypocrisy. Yes Google can sell text links but you can’t? Why ? Because of fear and intimidation? PageRank ? ( that schoolyard metric that never stops this stupidity and means nothing at all )

    When you are an independent blogger you should not be governed by a bigger competitor ( in this case Google) who tells you not to use text links for their own reasons.

    Did you figure this out it hurts Google’s income when you sell text links and it competes with AdSense text link based monoply / business ?

    What a shame this world has come to when a business becomes so big, it owns your balls and your underwear!

    Gene

  10. Darren Rowse says:

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy – ok, I’m not from Google so may not be the guy to explain it but they seem to have been cracking down on any links that you sell that pass on page rank/google ‘juice’.

    This includes all kinds of links such as sitewide links in your sidebar or footer, links in posts, paid reviews etc. The only type of paid link that they don’t penalise are those that are ‘nofollow’ links (nofollow is an attribute that you put in the html around your code that tells search engines to ‘not follow’ the link. It makes the link not pass on page rank/google ‘juice’).

    Of course if you use ‘nofollow’ tags most advertisers won’t want to advertise with you because they’re doing it for search ranking and the nofollow tags kill that.

    The links that you put your cursor over that have little pop-up ads appear (like those from Kontera – often called ‘in text advertising) generally do not pass on page rank and are ok.

    Franklin- sorry your comments are being moderated. It is simply that something about your comments triggers our comment moderation plugin – not sure what it is.

    Anonymous, Blogger Tests and Find a Job! – the difference between the text links that Google sells and the ones I’m talking about in this post are that the ones Google sells have no bearing on how well the advertisers sites rank in search engines. They don’t pass on any page rank.

    Google argue that they want their natural/organic results to be the best quality results possible. Part of how they do this is to rank highly sites that are linked to a lot by other sites. They figure that if a site is linked to a lot that it shows other sites have confidence in it. When someone pays for links they are trying to manipulate Google and can rank highly even for a poor site. This doesn’t do them any good, not because they miss revenue but because it compromises the quality of their search results. When this happens their reputation is hurt (they are popular because people think they give good results).

    As a result they penalize sites that try to manipulate or game their system. They say that it’s their system – if you want to rank well in it, play by their rules.

    Jason – if your blog used to be ranked higher and was penalized down to a 3 you can ask google to reconsider how they rank you once you’ve removed the text links – however if they didn’t know you were selling them and then remove them it won’t have any impact.

    Jenn – I understand your argument and in part agree with it. The only problem you may face is that now your site has a PR of 0, are advertisers going to continue to buy the text links?

    Nicole – “I am not against bloggers who do sell text links, but I do not follow this practice because it does not help my blog’s level of reliability.” I think that’s what a lot of us feel.

  11. Darren, I just noticed that 3 of your 125×125 ads are about selling links related services.

    Is the poll for you to show them it’s still worth advertising on your blog? ;)

    According to the current result, 33% still do sell links and 56% never have thus a potential new market for those willing to take the risk on their non flagship blogs.

  12. Andy says:

    Darren, I have never sold text links and never will. The main reason i don’t is because of the PR issues.

    Andy

  13. amirulcyber says:

    this question is good.thanks darren.

  14. amirulcyber says:

    actually before this i sell link using sponsored link program but then my page rank down.Since that i remove all the program code.what a sad.

  15. Dom says:

    Jenn is completely right.

    Too many people are slaves to Google, and it needs to stop.

    I make around $2000 a month selling text links on a few relatively small sites. I won’t stop because Google tells me to – it’s their ranking system that’s broken, not my sites.

  16. Poker Blogger says:

    I only sell text links on my sites that Google won’t accept for AdSense. I have a poker related blog that I don’t spend much time on anymore and has been out there for 3+ years yet I get flooded with requests for text link advertising there. I’ve started accepting text link ads now as Google refuses to allow me to use Adsense for that kind of site. I don’t make much but it helps pay for all my beer each month! On my other blogs that I do use AdSense for I don’t sell text link ads (yet). Seems like a sneaky underhanded way to hold us hostage – either do business the Google way or have your page ranking suffer.

  17. Gene says:

    Has congress passed this law that you cannot sell text links?

    Selling text links competes with Google’s click through rates and takes away their income.

    Should Google be playing with the rules of the web sites or its the other way round? When a company captures 60% search engine this is what happens.

    It becomes a monopoly and that is what US anti- trust laws should prevent them. Consumers suffer, they lack choices, and alternatives. Google has become the Microsoft of few years back dominating everything, buying all ancillary businesses and choking up competition and healthy growth.

    Congress and Justice Department should look into these Anti-trust violations. No one should be prevented from doing legally what they can to make a living.

    PS: Notice Probloggers has 3 ads for Text lInk sellers.

  18. Mark Riffey says:

    Darren,

    I use text link ads and it has not affected my page rank to my knowledge. I wouldnt know if it prevented my PR from increasing, of course. Perhaps it has, as Ive been at PR4 for quite a while.

    Part of the issue here is that some blogs are just junk and the only links they have are to TLA and other advertising mechanisms. They dont refer to good sites, they dont do things that generate authority – strong, informative, instructional posts and links to the same.

    So with that, I say: Go ahead Google, follow the link. If you decide that the blog is trash simply because of a TLA link here and there then YOU are the one damaging your reputation.

    I earn my own reputation from my readers and I do so every day, thank you very much. I don’t get it from a bot.

    Would Matt Cutts regularly read my blog if he owned a small business? I think so. That’s the type of reputation gauge I worry about.

  19. MMO gold says:

    I never have and never plan to. It just hurts the blog and steers people away.

  20. MaCo says:

    I already found that this is probably the reason of my Google rank decrease.

  21. which one is more danger, selling link text or reviewing other site

  22. TvKOta says:

    I have selling text link some months ago, and from the latest update of google rank my site rank jumped down from 2 became 1. How about solving it by support the site by redirect it from other site as many as possible???

  23. Maco says:

    I am not selling Text link, but my site rank jumped down some weeks ago and it came back two week later. I don’t know why. Can any one help me to explain?

  24. Jenn Mattern says:

    “I understand your argument and in part agree with it. The only problem you may face is that now your site has a PR of 0, are advertisers going to continue to buy the text links?”

    Most did leave, and others have stayed. Most of what was lost I’ve picked up through other income sources by now, with more on the way (I’m a big believer in diversifying income streams – not only will I not be a slave to Google, but I won’t put my sites’ fate in anyone else’s hands either – and that strategy in addition to focusing on authority content is what had my blogs going from nothing to what some would classify as a full-time income in a matter of months – in fact, I plan to move to it full-time by the end of ’09 as it eventually overtakes my service-oriented income).

    One of the things I really find laughable, which some have mentioned here, is Google’s claim that they’re supposedly doing this to improve the relevancy of search rankings. That’s utter BS.

    For example, when they hit directories, many of the top ones were completely absent or buried deep in rankings, even for their OWN NAME!!! There is absolutely no justification for removing the most relevant result for a search phrase if you’re then going to feed a line like that to your end user. It was about them not doing what Google wanted, plain and simple.

    It’s no one’s fault but Google’s that they base rankings too heavily on links rather than actual content. A lot of their ranking practices don’t make sense – featuring old, outdated material for instance versus newer content from high-level authority figures in various niches because of site age or an advertising model they don’t agree with.

    I’m lucky in that I come from a marketing / PR background, which gives me an edge in understanding exposure and how to bring in an audience. I sincerely hope the rest of the blogger / webmaster world moves past the Google love fest eventually too. Not holding my breath on that one either though.

  25. Funny thing you post this and here we are advertising on your site as well. LinkXL has had much success and about to have our best month ever. Growth is steady each month and every day we get new sign-ups. What does this tell me? Text Link Advertising is here to stay, and people will do it no matter what Google says. If you can provide a service that allows advertisers and publishers to remain safe (like LinkXL, we do not show a footprint with our patented software) then users will continue to buy and host links.

    It’s Google’s TOS, not ours. There is no violation to sell or buy text links for profit. And if they have a problem with their algorithm then they should fix it.

  26. I didn’t do Text Link and yet Google Still Penalising because I put TextLink Ads banner on my blog….

    I have 0 Page rank Now (it used to PR 3), but fortunately they didn’t block the search result for my blog.

  27. Keral Patel says:

    After working a lot on the blog and its rankings I didn’t wanted to lose it all for some dollars. That is why I have kept away from sales stuff. But yes I still have a links exchange page and I exchange links with other similar sites.

  28. Sha says:

    The people who got penalized are the ones that didn’t add “nofollow” to their links, so they shouldn’t be surprised.

    Google doesn’t mind people selling links as long as they have “nofollow” in the rel.

  29. Cris says:

    I have to agree with the other commentors, that it is absolutely ridiculous to care what google says. They’ve got a monopoly and they are trying to keep it. They can run their business how they want, but they are not going to tell me how to run mine. Since when did we inaugurate them into office?

    And I really don’t understand why having text links is bad PR, and will run readers off. How is it dishonest? I see no difference in having a text link vs having google adsense. Which by the way I do NOT use. I run and honest, clean site, with one text link. Google is not happy with it but they can kiss my butt. I still come up on search engines all the time. I’m usually always on the first page for many many searches, so I don’t see how it has hurt me. I get most of my traffic elsewhere anyway.

    I will NOT bow down and worship the might google.

  30. Chris-

    I agree with you- however, Google seems to think that only everyone relies on, and thinks about Google rankings. Google thinks that if you are buying or selling text links, and NOT implementing a NoFolow tag that you are making a direct statement to challenge their TOS, and want to manipulate their algorithms of how they rank website pages.

    I have had in-person, face-to-face conversation with Matt Cutts about this issue. He believes that if you are buying links you are trying to manipulate your Google rankings and directly violate their TOS. If you are publishing / selling links then you are misleading your readers and taking a direct position on the Google TOS.

    That is why we created LinXL – so users could do what they wanted with text links and not fear being devalued in Google, Yahoo or other search directories.

  31. Cris says:

    Dwight – I can see what your saying, but I allowed the text link before even knowing about all of this stuff. I am actually first learning it here. Me having a text link in no way means I am taking a stand anywhere. I accepted the offer from a company in naivete. I will however, not pull it just because of what google might think of me. I don’t see how individual sites should be at fault for this. If a company is somehow trying to “cheat” the system by doing paid text links, those individual companies should be faulted by google, not individual bloggers. Especially since a lot of new or small bloggers don’t know about all of this stuff. I’ve been blogging only a few months, and was completely unaware of all this stuff.
    I will be considering everything, though, because I am an honest blogger, and do not want to be seen by my readers as someone trying to “cheat the system.” Even though it’s not me doing the so called “cheating.” Anyway, thanks for posting about this. I’m learning new things everyday. I still think the oh so mighty google needs to go down…

  32. Jenn Mattern says:

    Cris, it’s highly unlikely that your readers will look at you as someone who’s trying to “cheat the system.” As long as your ads are relevant to them and not overly intrusive, they’re not going to care if that link is from a private sale, has no-follow or not, is in javascript format, is for an affiliate product, is a link exchange (which is still technically a “paid” link – you’re just paying with your own ad space instead of cash), is a link to a site you have no connection with, or if you’re linking to someone because they’re your best bud.

    As long as you’re not lying to your readers and not putting garbage links in front of them while they’re trying to access your content, your readers won’t think less of you. So if they’re your main concern (and it sounds like they are), don’t let them be a reason you stop selling ad space (if you do) – if you do that, it’s really nothing more than appeasing Google (which is fine if you’re OK with that sort of thing – I’m simply not).

  33. Host says:

    I create an account with linkworth 6 months ago and today i got a email for approval of one review ad for my blog which valued $30. I approved it.

  34. anonymous says:

    Our sites sell links. Direct and through Linkworth. They pay. We choose. We approve the ones we like for the content we have. It is advertising and competition to Google.

    Our PR goes up and down and no one can figure it out but for 2 years we sell our own adspace.

    Google is attempting to threaten its affiliate network with penalties if they go to direct advertising. That is pretty hairy.

    Google is pushing a monopoly on forms of income and selling a link to a website is a no-no? Links were there before Google – they are merely a form of competition.

    Perhaps it is Google’s ineptness to discount links in the sponsor boxes? Whatever their programming failures they should not be corrupting the meaning of the no-follow as a spam tag, not a tag for someone who sponsors a website.

    Horrid business practices hiding under some guise of programming ineptness should be unacceptable when it crushes competition.

    These sites pull in over 500 a month in links. They never made that on Google affiliate network. Like I said, some are direct links we sold, others through Linkworth. All work with our content and provide services. We have far more control who we link to than with Google or Yahoo who stick the strangest stuff in their ads.

    Content assures traffic and Google PR is something for web freaks. No one cares! It is SERP that is important (what comes up on search for terms) and if Google did not present the best content first page – well – the hand would show too large.

    What is a poor soul that takes blind automatic advertising that has little to do with the site, the Webmaster spent no time finding out whom that advertiser was, and you are told to sell no links to anyone else? A Google Adsense Webfarm Affiliate!

  35. What is a poor soul that takes blind automatic advertising that has little to do with the site, the Webmaster spent no time finding out whom that advertiser was, and you are told to sell no links to anyone else? A Google Adsense Webfarm Affiliate!