Most Bloggers Should Sell Text Link Ads

One of the great, never-ending debates in blogworld is whether bloggers should sell text links. They can be a source of relatively easy money, but there is a risk they will bring the wrath of Google down on your blog. Or more specifically – on your search engine rankings.

Quick reminder – text links are links that a blogger will put in their sidebar, footer or in a post. The site that the link leads to will pay money to the blogger. The idea is that the link will provide the receiving site with some “Google juice“, which will help their Google rankings.

Let’s talk about text link risk

Selling text links is a risky activity. Or more accurately put – it’s an activity that has some risk associated with it. The problem is that nobody knows how much risk.

I don’t know of any other bloggers who got nailed for selling text links. It seems that so far, Google has only punished a few high publicity scenarios like By “punishment”, I’m referring to Google actually dropping your site and it’s pages in the Google search engine results page. Many sites have had their PageRank (PR) number lowered, which is not the same thing.

The only drawback of a lower PR number, is that your future text link income will likely drop.

I’ve sold text links in the past, had my PR drop and my search engine numbers went up. There is a public PR and a private (real) one. As of right now, it doesn’t appear that any kind of link punishment includes the real PR which is the one that could affect your search engine rankings. This could obviously change at any moment.

Don’t listen to people who say that their traffic went down “a bit” because of text links. If Google wants to punish you – ALL your Google traffic will be gone – not just a bit of it. It would be very noticeable.

My theory is that G doesn’t punish link activity in the search engine ranks because they can’t determine which links are paid with enough certainty to avoid lawsuits.

Can you hide text links inside a post?

No – a link is a link. They are all equally risky – don’t think you are “hiding” your links, just because they are inside a post.

My Insurance theory

If you don’t sell text links for fear of being punished by Google, you are in effect, paying an insurance premium (equal to the amount of money you could make from text link sales) on your search engine related income (and potential future income).

If you are successful with your blog, you might see search engine income climb over time – this will manifest itself with higher Adsense and affiliate income. If your text link income falls to a low enough percentage of overall revenue – it might make sense to drop the links and start paying the “Google insurance” premium.

If most of your income is from text links, it doesn’t make much sense to give up the majority of your income to protect the minority.

Another thought is that once your search engine related income gets high enough, it might be worth dropping links, even if they are still a significant part of your income. It’s one thing to put a few hundred bucks per month at risk, but once it gets to decent money – say $1,000/month – you might want to protect that amount. It’s also very likely that if you can get your Adsense and affiliates over $1000 per month – you are very good at generating online income and will likely be doing it for a long time – or selling the site for a pretty penny. Either scenario could dictate that dropping text links might be a good move to lower your risk.

So why sell links?

You need to make money blogging.

Most new bloggers will never get to the point where their search engine based income (Adsense) is high enough to warrant dropping text links. They will either quit or just continue the blog as more of a hobby.

If you are a new blogger, I would definitely consider selling text links. If you end up being a short-term blogger, at least some income will have been made. Income is a great motivator – it’s very hard to make much search engine money in the first year of any site. Selling links can be a great way for a new blogger to keep motivated to continue to the next level and perhaps one day be able to drop the links.

In my case – I sold text links for a long time and made some pretty decent money from them. I eventually gave them up because:

  • Link revenue dropped.
  • Link income became a small percentage of my total income (less than 10%).
  • My search engine income (Adsense and affiliates) was quite high on it’s own.
  • And lastly, because a lot of link sellers are a pain in in the ass to deal with. 🙂

What do you think?

Are text links “evil” (according to the big G they are).  Would you sell them?


7 Responses to “Most Bloggers Should Sell Text Link Ads”

  1. I understand that Google says that they want to keep people from gaming the search engine algorithm, but doesn’t that really mean that the algorithm is flawed? Furthermore, you cannot truly ban text links unless you discount links, period — even if a link was not compensated for in actual cash, it could have been compensated for in 1000x other ways. Maybe it was a form of link exchange, maybe the guy owns several sites and links to each other, maybe he is employed for the company asking him to put the links, maybe he received a free product instead of money, or maybe he felt the content was so great that he did not need any additional monetary payment.

    No matter what the case, all exchanges are done based on value. What Google is doing is skewing the market in favour of their own solution, which may be what they want, but there is absolutely nothing immoral about selling text links, in fact, it’s all part of capitalizing on the perceived value of the site. The only true “solution” from Google’s point of view is to change the algorithm so that selling links is not profitable to the link buyers. Otherwise, the buyers will always look for sites to sell their links on and the market will continue to exist.

  2. Mike Holman says:

    @Kevin – Their algorithm works much better if people don’t game the system. That said, if Google wants people to follow the rules, they have to be able to enforce them – which in most cases, they haven’t done.

    Good point about determining if a link is paid or not. There is no way to be 100% sure if a link has been paid for.

  3. Rachelle says:

    If you can get good enough at writing and linking in your niche you may get pay per post with links as well. I’m getting $100 per post for one guy so that’s pretty sweet if you can get it 🙂

  4. Evan says:

    What kills me more are those sites who actually don’t have search engine results and are worried about google! 1 in the hand is better than 2 in the bush.

  5. Mike Holman says:

    @Rachelle – The money from text links can be quite good.

    @Evan – Agreed. In theory, if a blogger knows they are in it for the long haul and will make good Adsense money etc, then I can see the point in not selling links. But, most new bloggers will never get to the point where link revenue is a small percentage of their total income.

  6. Echo says:

    I’ve never sold text links before but I’ve never really had the right opportunity. Most offers are from guest posts these days which I’m not a big fan of posting crappy content (other than my own).

    It’s not that they’re evil, it’s that you either have to post some crappy guest post or you have to link to a payday loan site or “free” credit score site, which some bloggers might object to.

  7. Mike Holman says:

    @Echo – I can’t stand those “guest posts”. But, I do understand why some bloggers publish them.