Your Blog Monetization Options: Part IV - Paid Links

Paid Links are showing rust

This is the fourth in my series on Blog Monetization Options. Previous Parts: Part I - Pay-Per-Click Ads, Part II - Affiliate Ad Widgets, Part III - Affiliate Offers

In this series I’m seeking ways for the small time blogger to develop a modest cash flow of $100 to $200 a month with their blog. In this part, we’ll examine paid link brokers. This once moderately lucrative way for a small blogger to make money has been the subject of a massive Google crackdown on paid links. Is it still a viable money making option or is it best to simply forget about making money this way with your blog?

The Basics of Link Selling

Links for sale! Links for sale! Get your links here!The whole idea behind this method of making money was to sell a portion of your Google PageRank (aka PR, Link Juice) to a buyer who wanted to use it to improve their standing in Google’s search results. Buyers were looking for bloggers who were willing to place links on their ranking site. Brokers hooked up the site owners with the buyers and collected a commission off of these sales. Since it is relatively easy to get a PR between 3 or 4 with a little promotion and a little time, this offered a way for even very low traffic blogs to make a tidy little sum every month. For example, on another site where I have several PR4 pages, one broker says that I could make over $50 a month selling link space there. But, is it worth it now?

The Crackdown

You’re Busted! Google had been saying for quite some time that they were going to crack down on paid links. People had assumed that this didn’t mean ‘mainstream’ linking services, that it only applied to spammy directory sites and link farms. They were wrong. Google started devaluing blogs that sold links a few of months ago, particularly those associated with Text Link Ads and a few others. When these sites lost their PR, they were no longer of value to link buyers and, therefore, this money has been drying up.

I’ve discussed in other articles, such as Is Google Evil? and Standard Oil and Google, if Google was right or wrong in doing this. But, for all practical purposes, selling links and reviews in order to pass PR is dead as a way to make money on your blog unless you go underground and risk detection and devaluation of your site. However, there are some new ways to sell links without risking Google’s wrath.

Links, the Old Way - TextLinkAds, TNX.Net and LinkShare

The well has dried up These guys are still around so if you want to risk a Google slap, you can give them a try. They’re taking their operations underground, uh, make that ‘private’, in the hope of Google not discovering who’s running paid links or not. They still want you to have PageRank and want you to risk devaluing your site and, if you’re in the US, violating FTC disclosure regulations, to earn a few dollars. Is it worth the risk to you? Only you can answer that question but don’t say that you weren’t warned when Google takes away your PR.

Links, the New Way - ScratchBack

Scratchback LogoJim Kukral’s ScratchBack TopSpots offers a new way to sell text links so that it meets with Google’s approval. These links don’t pass PageRank and are intended for straight-up site advertising. With this widget, you set the price of links and people who want to buy one can click through and buy one. You can also control the availability of links. Having them work on a rotating basis where a new buyer gets the top spot and others move down or off the list probably offers the best profit potential.

So far, these links haven’t been as popular here on OpTempo as I had hoped, although the widget has done better than Adsense in the same position. I’ve heard mixed reports from others. Some people may shy away from them out of Googlenoia although they’re completely safe. Others may not think they’re worth the money for a link that only passes traffic and not PR.

This method may be the future of link sales but it still is in it’s infancy.


As I mentioned, link sales to pass PageRank are all but dead, at least in an up front, public, sense. For me, the risk of facing devaluation and perhaps even de-indexing of a site is too high to entertain using this methods. If you want to enter the Internet Speakeasy, sell links and hope the Google ‘revenoors’ don’t bust the place, that’s up to you. There are ways to do this if you want to walk on the darker side of the street.

Selling links purely for traffic building and promotion that don’t pass PageRank is the new way. Maybe at some point these ads will turn as a good profit as the old methods did. However, traffic and activity will be the key to making money this way.

What are your thoughts on link selling, both for PR and without?

My next installment of this series will cover paid links close cousin, paid reviews.


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Comment by thewild1
2007-12-10 16:20:18

how can they tell if the link is paid for?

Comment by jfc
2007-12-10 19:10:54

Hi TheWild1,

They have a number of ways to detect it, mainly through disclosure words nearby or links that go back to a broker. They may have some other ways as well, such as comparing who’s selling links to who’s advertising them. Remember Google has hired a lot of bright, young, shiny faced engineers who having nothing better to do than to figure out what you’re doing wrong for 18 hours of their day at the office between cappuccinos and Wii games.

There are ways to hide it through, even with the scrutiny. Take a look at Jack Spirko’s article I linked to in Googlenoia Update #2 if you want to use the dark side of the force.

Comment by Louie
2007-12-10 23:02:12

Is this the beginning of the end for Text Link Ads?

Comment by jfc
2007-12-10 23:43:45

Hi Louie,

I think it is the end for them. Their business model was designed entirely around passing PageRank for money. Absent a ‘cease and desist’ order from a US or EU court, Google has effectively put an end to their business.

The future of paid links isn’t in passing PR but in generating traffic. If TLA can adapt to that, they may come back, otherwise, their ride is over.

2008-08-08 23:42:10

Frank, how funny to hover over John Chow’s name in your blogroll only to see the link actually points to our friend Vic at Blogger Unleashed! You are too funny! Talk about bait and switch!

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