A few weeks ago I was reading a few successful and highly trafficked blogs. I was quickly looking through what I thought was a well written article when all of a sudden the article flow came to a halt and I noticed something interesting but not unusual… paid links in the article.
Was I surprised? No, not really since paid links are one of the dirty little secrets in blogging and the SEO (search engine optimization) industry that nobody really likes to talk about. However, I will since I am not afraid of touching on taboo internet marketing topics I will.
What are Paid Links?
Paid Links are pretty self-explanatory and sound exactly like what you think they are. It's when a site owner or blogger agrees to place a link on their website in exchange for cash. The link is mostly always a DoFollow link which passes pagerank onto the other site. Sometimes the SEO company gives you the article content and other times they'd rather a blogger work the link into an article so it makes sense.
The amount of money a company has to pay is usually determined by a site's pagerank, age of the domain, authority of the site, amount of traffic, and the authority of the blogger. I've seen some people charge as much as $1,500+ per year for a link. Sounds like a lot but when you hear what some SEO agencies charge, some bloggers should be asking for more.
In case of of the big time blogger I was reading she probably charged a lot for the link since it was for freezing women's eggs (embryos). More importantly her demographic seems to be women 22-40 years old. The medical company was aiming for wealthy women 20-30 years old probably. (Although the article and blog is not entirely aimed at women.) Most people know that health (and fitness) is a very profitable internet vertical. If you are in fertility and cord blood and can manage to get paid for a link for it, that's some serious money.
What does Google think of Paid Links?
Google frowns upon companies and people paying for links and it is against their Webmaster guidelines. (It would be good to read them if you haven't by the way.) However, few people that engage in paid link schemes get caught.
Since Google is not on the side of bloggers making any real money honestly… fuck them. They are many ways to monetize a blog but few that pay well enough so you can make a living. Paid links are one of the best and most profitable solutions if you are someone with an authority blog. (Of course creating an authority blog nowadays is no easy task.)
The blogger in question will probably never get caught and will not face any Google penalties. I don't like she was using paid links and misleading her readers, but quite honestly it's not like I don't understand why she was doing it and haven't seen it before.
Keep in mind Google employs engineers that can't read for shit. Just look at search results for competitive topics like domain names, web hosting, medicine, etc. Low quality spammy sites still rank 1st or 2nd in a lot of cases.
How Did You Know the article had Paid Links?
It wasn't like the blogger explicitly said, “Hey these are paid links.” but I knew immediately since;
- The article lost it's flow at that point.
- They were medical related sites for freezing women's eggs. Which in turn made me say, “WTF is this?”
- The keywords used were highly competitive.
- It was deep linked URL.
When you add it all up it was clear this blogger's article on, “6 Things to do in your 20s to make your 30s good” had paid links placed in it. At least that is my “expert” opinion.
Paid Links Conclusion
Next time you are reading one of the millions of blogs out on the internet I encourage my readers to be aware of paid links. It's good to be aware of how other bloggers monetization and content strategies. This is why I try to read a wide variety of authors and bloggers. You get an idea of how they target their content and who they is reading them, especially when you notice paid links.
On this blog I've had plenty of link requests but since it is a personal blog, I do not accept any of them. I haven't been offered money for this blog yet but if a person or company did, I wouldn't accept it.
What do you think of paid links? Is it ok for a blogger to use them to cover the costs and time they need to put into a blog? Should they be upfront with readers? Have you been offered money for a link on your site?