No More Text Link Ads and Paid Links?


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The discussion about Google penalizing websites that sell text link ads has been going for a while. It looks like some stronger evidences are emerging, though.

Search Engine Land just published an article titled “Official: Selling Paid Links Can Hurt Your PageRank or Rankings on Google.” The article illustrates some high profile sites like the Stanford Daily, which saw its PR drop from 9 to 7, supposedly due to the the practice of selling text links. Here is a quotation:

Last week, I noticed the Stanford Daily had dropped from when I wrote the above in April to PR7 today. That’s a huge drop that has no apparent reason to happen. Some others were also reporting PageRank drops. So I pinged Google, and they confirmed that PageRank scores are being lowered for some sites that sell links.

In addition, Google said that some sites that are selling links may indeed end up being dropped from its search engine or have penalties attached, to prevent them from ranking well.

It looks like there might be a PageRank update going on as well, and several sites that used to sell text link ads experienced a drop in PR (e.g., Entrepreneurs-Journey).

Personally I will follow Google’s guidelines on paid links. I might not agree with their policy completely, but I really do not feel in the position to risk getting penalized.

I am also starting to consider if my 125×125 sponsor ads should have the “nofollow” tag or not. But for the moment I will not change it since Search Engine Land itself and several other high profile blogs have the same setup.

Do you plan to keep selling text links on your website?

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94 Responses to “No More Text Link Ads and Paid Links?”

  • aaron

    nofollow was one of the worst things to happen to the blogging community in my opinion. It did nothing against spam, continues to let blog authors penalize comment authors, and sets up situations like this. There’s obviously going to be some blogs that want to link to good content or a good site, that will be penalized because they didn’t add nofollow and it looks like a paid link.

  • Daniel

    Dean, I don’t think affiliates are a problem. If you are using them on the homepage or sidebar just stick a nofollow in them to be sure.

  • Dean

    I presume affiliate links would be classified as a paid link too?

  • Sydney

    The main source of income I’ve found is through paid reviews. Text link ads are nice and all, but I’d rather have something I can manipulate into fitting into my site more, hence the reviews.

    While it pains me that Google is using their clout to do this and us bloggers actually fear getting penalized by Google, it makes sense.

    I haven’t made much headway with TLA, but I did take them down anyway. If a new pagerank comes out, I don’t want my meager one to be penalized anymore than it should be.

  • Daniel

    cmanlong, who said they are not penalizing graphics? As I posted on the comments before Google states that all forms of advertising should have a nofollow tag.

    The issue is that major blogs still use banners with followed links, so I am not sure how much of a big deal this is.

  • cmanlong

    if they aren’t penalizing graphic ads wouldn’t a simple(albeit temporary until google updates again) solution just be to convert the text link ads to graphical ones. Say a 200 x 10 or 12 size block image with simple text.

  • Moses Francis

    The way i see it Pagerank was/is overrated to begin with, people should be buying links for traffic not PR and, the only reason a big majority of people are buying links is to increase their respective PR, but since Google has imposed this penalty wouldn’t it just devalue the whole PR shananigan?

    ok i don’t if what i just said makes sense, but it did to me, i think…

  • Annie

    Hm, I’ll have to think about it. In the grand scheme of things, I make very little from selling text link ads (about $150 a month) and only do it on one site. I have a blogroll list on the same site though so I’m not sure how Google would tell one from the other. (Unless they’re specifically looking for code from the TLA people.)

  • Daniel

    Dean, I am not sure about javascript codes.

    Raj, yeah if you still want to run paid links I would call them blogroll or something :).

  • raj

    The Googlewhip cracks down. Several webmasters are reporting PR drops. What I’ve noticed, though, is that it’s only on sites that have irrelevant paid links. And possibly due to snitching, or some obvious text such as “Sponsors” near the link blocks.

  • Dean

    Does this include javascript code for banner ads or is it just HTML links?

  • Ben

    Anything other than Adsense has done poorly on my blog so for me it is not a big deal. I guess what you really have to ask yourself is:

    Are you blogging for money?
    Are you blogging for content?
    Are you blogging for pagerank?

  • Jamaipanese

    I’m giving this a little more time before I decide to do away with sponsored links on all or some of my blogs

  • pchere

    I stopped using TLA a month back. Google is too important to ignore.

  • Daniel

    Patrix, yeah I am pretty sure Adsense units do not pass SE juice.

  • Patrix

    So does Google ads also have the “nofollow” tag built in? I use TLA as it provides a steady income but I would use a nofollow tag on those ads if I could. I rather have advertisers who are looking for traffic through clicks rather than SEO juice.

  • Thilak

    I’ve been watching the whole story closely. Matt Cutt keeps telling that we redirect sponsored links through robot.txt, but I don’t understand how this is done.

    Google should cook up some algorithm to devalue these sponsored links rather than devaluing the site’s PR.

  • Daniel

    Eli, if I am not wrong Google states that any form of advertising should be disclosed via the nofollow tag. So far the buzz is only about text links, but it could expand.

  • Eli

    I may sell text links, but not through TLA and not so that it’s noticeable. One reason to no longer use TLA is how much they take from your link sales, 50%.

    I wanted to ask, Daniel, in your opinion, is selling graphic ads the same as text links? They don’t have as much effect in SERPs as do text links do they? So why should having a no follow on the graphic ads effect anything?


  • N80ie

    I had the code for this program on this ( site since I set up the weblog and did not sell any ads until recently. Prior to the one and only ad that is now served via TLA, the site enjoyed over a hundred hits a day right out of the gate, even before there was any content.

    That particular phone model is not as popular as it had been prior to the N95, so there are probably fewer searches for this and therefore, less traffic, but the site is now down to an average of 23 uniques per day and the PR, which was 2 is now 1.

    The content is good. The is still on the first page of Google results for the domain name keyword search, n80ie. The drop in page rank makes no sense. Pretty lame Google.

  • Daniel

    Travis, yes Google stated clearly that you can still sell links as long as you add a nofollow tag.

    Most people buy links for the SE juice, though, so I this model would prove much less profitable.

  • Travis

    Like Kevin, I wonder if adding a nofollow tag would make the paid links ok. That would reduce their value somewhat, but if they’re relevant links, they might still be valuable as a traffic source (rather than just a link for ranking purposes).

  • Daniel

    By the way when I mention Text Link Ads I am not referring to the company by that name, but rather to all forms of paid links.

  • Nathan Rice

    I’d go ahead and add the nofollow to your button ads too. In all honesty, button ads are meant to attract clicks, not link weight, so adding it to them won’t affect the advertisers, and it will tell google that you are willing to comply.

    Better safe than sorry.

  • sir jorge

    This does dampen the future for me, as I was starting to see an increase in ad sales through TLA, but if google is going to start penalizing people and rank, maybe it’s time to figure out a work around. I’m sure we will figure it out.

  • Cigar Jack

    It is scary how one companies policies can make or break your site. If I gave up Text Links sold via other services and direct sponsorship I’d lose most of the income from my site. All my TL’s I sell on my site typically relate to my content so why I should I be penalized for that? So far it looks like my meager PR 4 is holding firm though.

  • Zybron

    And here we see Google flexing their near-monopolistic control on search engines. Since everyone who is anyone needs to be on Google and Google has a competing ad format to text link ads, they penalize websites who use a competitor’s product.

    I remember this happening before, though the context was different. At that time, it was Microsoft forcing everyone to use their browser. That ended badly for Microsoft. Perhaps Google should learn from the anti-trust suits of one of their competitors.

  • redwall_hp

    While the TLA idea is great, perhaps there should be an option to sell links with nofollow attributes attached so Google doesn’t get annoyed. Unfortunately, sites will be less likely to buy then.

  • fc

    hey.. came to your site through…
    its a bad move.. especially considering the fact that text links is most often the first steps into getting advertising on a blog or website for any publisher…

    also like kevin says above with the no follow text, who would really want to purchase text links..

    its unfair on google’s part to expect people to earn money only from adsense…and not add value to other streams of money…
    (ok stretched that one last part over there :))

  • Kevin Muldoon

    I have been watching this very closely myself.

    It’s a big blow for a lot of bloggers and webmasters, I’m happy to add nofollow tags to text links etc but will I be able to sell them if I do that?

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