Is Selling Text Links Worth the Risk?

Of all the ways to monetize a blog, selling text ads is one of my favorites. Text link ads:

  • don’t rely on Google Ad Sense
  • are incredibly easy to set up
  • don’t take up space on your website

In some cases, text links are really the only viable option for monetizing a blog. For example, I know a few bloggers who write about obscure niches in which there aren’t really any ads their visitors are likely to click nor affiliate products to promote (Note though that, with the right strategy, you can monetize any niche!).

But here is the problem: Google started to penalize websites that have paid text links.

If Google catches you with paid text links on your website (and their bots and human-evaluators are really smart!), then you could get severely penalized or even removed from the search results completely.

The Irony of Google’s Opposition to Paid Text Links

First of all, let’s be clear why Google is so against paid text links: Google doesn’t make money from them. I am tired of all this dependency on Google! I’d much rather sell a few (relevant) text links that are forced into using Ad Sense to monetize my blogs and websites.

Google’s opposition to paid text links is like the NBA being against its athletes getting paid to endorse a product. Of course, the NBA does have rules about which products their players can endorse (for example, the big sports leagues don’t let players endorse alcohol and tobacco) – but they don’t penalize athletes for making money off of their popularity.

Of course, Google claims that they are against text ads because they are black-hat SEO. But, if Google is against SERP manipulation for profit, then they wouldn’t have PPC search ads or require ecommerce sites to pay for product listings.

Note: Google does permit you to sell text links, but only if you put the nofollow tag on them. Most people buying text links are doing so for SEO purposes though, so using nofollow will seriously reduce the size of your buyer pool (unless you have A LOT of traffic).

Will You Get Caught?

I refuse to be intimidated by Google and won’t stop accepting payment for text links on some of my popular blogs. But here is the catch 22: If I got penalized for the paid text link ads, then I’d lose my ranking and advertisers wouldn’t pay me for text links anymore.

So, I use caution when selling text links:

Only sell text links to related websites that provide your readers with value (i.e. no text links from a weight loss blog to a car insurance website)

Use moderation. Don’t put more than 5 paid links on any page (fewer is even better!)

Wait until your blog/website is established before you sell text links.

As for this last point: Don’t be tempted by the immediate money that selling text links can bring in. If you are just getting started, it could ruin your rankings – thus making it harder to sell text links in the future. Be patient and wait until you are established. Then you will be able to sell a few text links at a nice price tag and have a sustainable, long-term business model. You might even find buyers lining up to purchase nofollow text links (which won’t result in any penalty)!

At No Hat SEO, you can find information about where to find text-link ad buyers. However, to avoid penalization, I’d recommend waiting for offers to come to you directly and then hand picking the ones which are most relevant to your blog.

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