Have you received an email from someone asking to pay for a text link on your blog? The request might be disguised as, "A great opportunity for you to make money without taking up any space on your blog. Just insert the link on a specific page or in a specific post in your archives and we'll pay you." Or the request might be described as what it really is: a paid text link used to drive traffic to a specific web page for a specific purpose. Typically, that purpose isn't to sell something but rather to boost the other site's incoming links, thereby increasing Google search rankings for a certain keyword phrase.
So what should you do if someone wants to pay for a text link on your blog? Should you accept payment and insert the link as requested? The answer depends on your response to the following question:
Which is more important to your blogging goals: making money right now or increasing traffic with or without making money over time?
Unfortunately, unless you know the answer to the above question, you won't be able to confidently make the right decision related to selling text links on your blog. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of selling text links so you can make a decision:
The Pros of Selling Text Links
Regardless of where a text link appears on your blog, it doesn't take up much room (or any room at all if the anchor text of the hyperlink is already part of one of your blog posts). Unlike other blog monetization opportunities like banner ads, button ads, and so on, text links are unobtrusive and have a minimal effect on the user experience on your blog. They also take up very little space, so you have more room to place other types of ads to make more money.
The Cons of Selling Text Links
The biggest negative of selling text links on your blog is that doing so can hurt your blog's search traffic. Search engines like Google use proprietary algorithms to crawl and rank online content, and one of the criterion that search engine optimization experts believe plays an important role in that algorithm is incoming links. The reason is simple. Pages with a lot of incoming links must be good or no one would link to them. Therefore, those pages get a bump in search rankings for related keywords.
When someone pays for a keyword-optimized text link on your blog, they're gaming the search system. A lot of paid links, particularly from quality sites and blogs, can have a significant impact on a web page's rankings in Google search results. Suffice it to say, Google does not like this. Google's goal is to provide the best results, and paid text links skew search results. As a result, Google is continually updating its algorithm to identify and punish sites that pay for text links and sites that publish text links.
If you publish paid text links on your blog, and you get caught by Google, your blog could be removed from Google search results entirely. That would mean a significant drop in traffic to your blog now and in the future. Once your blog is banned from Google search, it's extremely hard to get back in.
Of course, there are some ways to publish paid text link ads without getting in trouble (although it's not guaranteed since Google's algorithm is constantly evolving). For example, you can publish paid text links with the No-Follow HTML attribute, so Google won't crawl them. However, few people will want to pay for text links if they can't get the search engine optimization benefits from the incoming links. The No-Follow tag destroys those benefits for them.
Making Your Decision about Paid Text Links
If your primary goal for your blog is to make money right now and you have little concern about your blog's growth over time, then publishing paid text links might be a monetization tactic that you want to pursue. However, remember that you're likely to get more, higher paying monetization opportunities for your blog as your blog audience grows over time. Therefore, paid text links could help you make money now, but they could hurt your earning potential from your blog in the future.
If your primary goal is to grow your blog audience over time with or without making money (meaning you may or may not be interested in making money, but building your audience is your top goal), then paid text links are likely to do more harm to your blog than good. The risks associated with being removed from Google search results and losing search traffic far outweigh the benefits if your goal is to build a well-trafficked blog.
Remember, there are many ways to make money from your blog that don't come with the risks that paid text links have. Consider your goals, and then choose the monetization opportunities that will let you make money while moving closer to attaining all of those goals.