I've tried several monetization methods on my site over the last few years. I've learned a ton about the search powered ecology works by actually participating in it. I've figured out what works, what doesn't, and what effects various tweaks have on the payouts.

It's one thing to hear about this stuff second hand (or from the folks on either end with a vested interest in "selling" their idea to publishers), but it's quite different to become a participant in the system. I've experimented with AdSense an YPN in various forms. I've tried paid job listings (never worked out, which is a story for another day). I've used Amazon.com's affiliate program. I've even tried AdWords. And each time along the way it's been a useful exercise. Sometimes it works well, other times not. My success rate has been rather mixed so far.

However, my latest test (sponsored links) seems to have stirred the pot a bit. Greg in particular seems tweaked by it.

I'm a little (but not completely) but not completely surprised by this.

Going into it I thought about what I did and didn't like about existing advertising systems and how those play into this.

In particular:

  • I didn't hide the links. (Remember the WordPress fiasco?)
  • They're clearly labeled as sponsored links.
  • They're far less annoying than distracting graphical ads.
  • I've made it possible for anyone to comment on them. In public. Who else does that?
  • They don't show up in my RSS feed(s).
  • I rejected the on-line casino, drug sales, cheap hotels, and really offensive stuff--basically, anything the reminded me of blog comment spam I've bit hit with or that sends me to a sleazy feeling site. No need to encourage 'em.
  • The links aren't permanent. They go away after a month (see below).

Nobody seems to be up in arms about the fact that I run advertising from Google's AdSense program, one of my company's largest competitors. They are ads that are sometimes graphical and more disruptive than those in question right now. (I also use, gasp, Google Analytics too.)

When this one month test is over, I'll decide what to try next. Maybe I'll drop the links. Maybe I'll keep 'em. Maybe I'll refine 'em. Maybe I'll try another service (BlogAds? AdBrite? I signed up ages ago but didn't finish.). Maybe not.

It depends on feedback and how the experience goes.

What next? Put up a poll to decide which non-profit gets the cash? Or can I decide that myself? ;-)

Actually, that's not a half bad idea. There are probably a few good causes I'd like that aren't on my radar...

Posted by jzawodn at December 12, 2005 11:00 PM

Reader Comments
# Joe Hunkins said:

As a user I see no problem with this type of ad.

I am concerned about the issues raised by Greg - that Google's desire for no paid links pressures you, the publisher, to second guess what the big G needs and place those concerns over your own.

Who's in charge here anyway?

on December 13, 2005 12:09 AM
# Nick Wilson said:

I agree Joe, Google's stance on paid links worries me greatly, and has done for a long time -- these are OUR websites - get it?

on December 13, 2005 04:12 AM
# grumpY! said:

a controversy! this is the best thing that ever happened to you. this ultra-contrived shitstorm will no doubt line your wallet with extra pageviews from the curious. you should engineer these more often. maybe a well-publicized (fake) shout-out with a yahoo exec at the next shareholders meeting. perhaps rumors of spying for israel? i would suggest dating a supermodel too, but i'm not sure anyone is going to buy that.

on December 13, 2005 10:14 AM
# randfish said:

It's highly hypocritical to argue against a paid linking model, when your businesses revenue is based largely on that model (AdWords and AdSense). If Google wants to discount these links because they think they'll get better results, no one's stopping them or saying no. But, lumping every link that has a commercial purpose or a monetary exchange would kill the link structure of the commercial web... It's just not sound thinking.

on December 13, 2005 10:20 AM
# A Paid Sponsor said:

I agree with Randfish, it is hypocritical. I didn't buy this link for a SE boost, I bought it for the traffic (which is much less than I thought would be).

Now after reading Boser's post, I'm seriously concerned if this lone link will undermine the whitehat work I've done to obtain solid rankings.

Needless to say, I've canceled the link because the click traffic just isn't there.

on December 13, 2005 10:44 AM
# Adam said:

I have mixed feelings about the whole no-follow thing in the context of text ads for your site, but I have pretty unambiguous feelings about your Yahoo Publisher Network ;).

on December 13, 2005 11:29 AM
# Adam said:

Ah, I should RTFM or RTFD or whatever re: "no HTML tags"
Anyway, here's my commentary on the Yahoo Publishing Network vs. AdSense:
I haven't yet tried AdBrite or the others you mentioned.

on December 13, 2005 11:34 AM
# Search Engines Web said:

/// I rejected the on-line casino, drug sales, cheap hotels,

There is absolutely nothing wrong selling text-link ads to solve the maintenace costs for any site and the energy that goes into xreating and sharing Information freely.

There is nothing wrong with not using the NOFOLLOW tag, and allowing those pre-screened links to reap the benefits of being spidered.

on-line casino, drug sales, are NOT inherently bad, like everything else, there are good and bad sites. The Good should NOT suffer as a monolith because of the bad.

That would be like Yahoo Directory of Dmoz - getting rid of those categories permanantly.

The biggest farce is Google putting Three Sponsor Links ABOVE the Organic SERPs.

Then sometimes, depending on the query, promoting and linking to their Google Print and Froogle and News Groups above some Natural SERPs.

on December 13, 2005 03:36 PM
# Tim Converse said:

Sure, Jeremy, do whatever you want to do. Free country, etc.

One question though: why aren't you using the very nofollow construct that you yourself advocated for others? (My guess at the answer is: well, if the links told the search engines that they were not to be taken as endorsements, then they wouldn't be worth very much on the open market, right? But I'm interested in your answer.)

Anyway, selling linkage does make life harder for search engines, but maybe that's our problem not yours. (By "our", I mean people who actually work on the search engines themselves.) A perfect search engine would be able to detect which links were true endorsements and which were purely sold, and adjust accordingly. But to the extent that imperfections exist, there's money to be made.

But as GrumpY! said, you're doing an excellent job with the controversy creation. Would anyone care what monetization practices you engaged in if you weren't well known for your association with Y! Search?

on December 13, 2005 04:40 PM
# alek said:


My two cents on having paid links is that it is your site, so you can darn well do whatever you want to do. Having said that, I think being transparent is appropriate and you are a lot more than most - yea, don't be a Wordpress of the Stanford student newspaper - doooppppp!

You mention at the end about possibly donating for charity. I'd like to put a plug in for a personal favorite of mine (since my kids have it) which is Celiac Disease. Specifically, the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research which is at http://www.celiaccenter.org/

Heck, make a 100% tax deductible donation to 'em and I'll even link to you on my decent pagerank Christmas Lights Webcam site at http://www.komar.org/cgi-bin/xmas_webcam ... ;-)

So I guess I am also in the link selling business too (kinda) as I'm willing to bend my personal "rules" for this charitable activity ... but like you, I'm trying to be transparent by having an explanation clearly outlining how/why folks are listed and the terms and conditions of the link.

Merry Christmas,

P.S. The smiley above is because you got a lot more google juice and/or pagerank mogo that me ... although my offer is serious. BTW, one of these days, you guys (Yahoo) have to get people talking about "yahoo juice" or "webrank mojo"

on December 13, 2005 09:50 PM
# Jarrod Hunt said:

Wow, it is so nice to finally read some good debate on the topic of paid linking.

Those who know what I do for a living would easily guess what my opinion of sponsored link ads is but If someone would ask me anyways I would say:

Leave it to search engines to develop algorithms to determine which links they want to count. Simply discounting links because they are paid is a path that will only lead to a major disruption of the intricate fabric of the "natural linking web". If we keep on this path that we are on, link builders will keep getting smarter and smarter and the search engines will keep getting stricter and stricter, until finally there isnt a dam link in the world that will actually help anymore.

Instead they should focus on the attributes that make a link "truly" valuable when determining what links should count.

1. Is the site that is doing the linking trusted? Trusted being a site that does what a trusted site should, builds good content, links to other quality sites, been around for a long time... etc etc..

2. Is the site that is being linked to Quality? If an advertiser's site is crap then it shouldnt matter what links they are getting, because the search engines should see that the site is crap and not let any links count anyways.

3. Is the link in a place that can be seen by the public, Does it get any clicks? If so, then it shouldnt matter whether it is a paid link or not.

Links should only multiply the power of sites that already have power due to on-site factors.

If a site that is trusted for only linking to quality sites visibly links to an advertisers site, it is should be considered a vote like anything else. The same kind of vote that you get from Yahoo's paid directory, which Google loves so much.

It all comes down to whether a link is human edited or not and if it is, does that human/website have quality quidelines.

Once you have determined that the statements above are true there is no need to classify links as bought or natural, just trusted or not-trusted.

on December 14, 2005 10:10 PM
# Tom Foremski said:

I heartily agree with Jarrod, especially about letting the search engines figure things out. I don't use no follow and I don't use technorati tags or do *anything* to promote my site or make it search engine friendly--that's their job.

Search engines bring me just 5 per cent of my traffic, the rest comes through direct bookmarks,rss, and links from other blogs.

Let the search engines optimize themselves to find the best content. Why should I lift a finger to help them do what they are supposed to do?

I figure that if my content is good then it will be read, and it will be shared. I shouldn't have to do anything but post it and wait for the world to beat a path to my better mousetrap (content). And occasionally it does happen.

I try to optimize for my readers not the armies of spiderbot scrapers (is that last bit a bit too harsh? :-)

on February 1, 2006 11:27 PM
# Poonam Dhar said:


Today i have seen www.compglobe.com an online computer store in sponsored link of Google. I was searching windows vista there and i found this on the top. compglobe.com has presense in India too... compglobe.com is a great portal to buy computer online, is this service of google or somebody else..


on February 4, 2007 04:07 AM
# Angsuman Chakraborty said:

Can I assume that this post also represent the official position of Yahoo search engine?

BTW: While I understand the reason for typing Jeremy, I couldn't help but wonder at the egocentric nature of the CAPTCHA :)

on July 2, 2007 01:08 PM
# Camila said:

Dear Jeremy,
could you please contact me as I'm doing a university project and would like to ask you something about sponsored links.
Thank you in advance.

on July 11, 2007 12:15 PM
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on November 19, 2008 12:33 AM
# ashwani thakur said:

i am ashwani thakur . i am eduacated boy. my father is dead before 6 year back . i and my mother is alone in home . i can not go to earn money outside because my mother is alone in home. i live in rural earia . where there is no imployment. i start some business. but i am financelly zero. hope you advise me or help me . i wait your email. thank you. god blessyou and your familly.

on April 5, 2009 01:35 AM
# Sam Peck said:

I realize this discussion is long since dormant, but just wanted to chime in on the side of being transparent. The engines don't seem to frown on links that show relationship between two parties--ie: the two parties are connected by more than a mere exchange of a link for financial compensation.

--Sam Peck

on March 23, 2010 04:31 PM
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