Stay Away from In-Text Advertising

by Daniel in — 111 Comments — Updated — Reading Time: 2 minutes

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This is going to be a polemic topic given the wide spread in the usage of such advertising networks. In-Text advertising refers to networks like Vibrant Media or Kontera that place advertising links on your content. The links are placed inside your text (hence the name), and they come with a double underline to differentiate them from normal links. Once the user rolls the mouse over the link the advertising will pop. Should the user click on it the site owner will make some money.

At a first sight this advertising method represents a good way for online publishers to generate some money from their websites. Why should you stay away from it then? Simple, because it is one of the most intrusive forms of advertising and it also goes against the principles of web usability.

The hyperlink navigation structure is one of the most basic and most important features of the Internet. You should think twice before messing up with it. Check out the words of Jacob Nielsen, a web usability guru:

One of misery design’s most insidious recent examples is the idea of embedding links to advertising on the actual words of an article using a service like IntelliTxt. By sullying the very concept of navigation, such ads not only damage the user experience on the host site, they poison the well for all websites. Such links make users even less likely to navigate sites, and more likely to turn to trusted search engines to guide them to the next page.

It is not a surprise, therefore, the fact that virtually no mainstream website is using this advertising approach. Sure if you are a small blogger it could generate some extra money at the end of the month, but are you willing to put your credibility at the stake for it?

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111 thoughts on “Stay Away from In-Text Advertising”

  1. @David (word link 360 guy) no no no. One of the biggest flaws in inline ads is the complete disconnect between the article’s focus, and the ads. Grabbing any single word from within an article or other content and attempting to “know the intent, relationship or specific reference” of that is not possible.

    The complete and entire reason to have links inline it for the content writer to provide specific, spot-on dead-accurate additional content that is purely and completely for the sole purpose of providing exactly related additional content or resource reference. To attempt anything else is to butcher the nature, reason and purpose of hypertext links within content.

  2. I would like to get people’s opinion.

    I just read everyone’s comments and it looks like most people are against the inline text ads that are currently out there.

    I am a web developer and I have just developed a similar but different idea to use words on your website to generate revenue for the website owner and would like to get people’s opinion’s if they feel the same about my idea as they do about the typical inline text ads.

    My idea turns your interesting words into a link that performs a web search on a search engine which then generates the website owner some revenue and provides the reader with additional, useful, and relevant information to the word they asked to know more about.

    I am trying to follow the principle that we (I know I do) love clicking links on Wikipedia when I am reading an article to get more information and learn more about what I am reading about and I am applying the same principle to words on people’s websites.

    Okay, that is the basic idea – Let me know what you think. Good and bad opinions.

    You can check my site out at


  3. I am using infolinks and had no problem with it, but lately my stats were zero in my infolinks account. I emailed them and they told me that it’s one technical problem that they are used to and will do something about it. 2 weeks after that and 3 emails after, no more repies and problem still unsolved. I’ll wait for another week before I’ll decide on removing them.

  4. Hmmm, I just try using INFOLINK. So i donno yet how it would effect my blog. I dont even know whether they approve it or not. I think i am gonna give it a try myself, before I can start saying:”Ho ho, it’s bad idea!”

  5. @Jai, there isn’t much to say. She is just arguing that they pay good rates. So does popup ad networks, so it is up to the web publisher to decide how far he wanna go with monetization.

  6. What an interesting article. I’ve seen in-text ads in a variety of places and I always thought that those types of ads were somewhat ineffiective. After reading this article and the comments, it seems in-text advertising is more than ineffiective, its danergous.

    Thanks for the warning.

  7. Here is a small update that I wanted to share since my last comment. I kept Infolink on my blog for 2 days. Surprisingly, I did not get even a single Adsense click on those 2 days. Absolutely zero. My personal conclusion is that even though such in-text advertising is claimed to be non-obtrusive, it still gets attention because such text is formatted differently (double-underlined). This draws the attention away from the main article ads.

    This is my purely personal conclusion – but the findings of those 2 days were enough to convince me to get rid of in-text advertizing. I wanted in-text to earn some money in addition to Google ads – not to reduce earnings by Google ads themselves.

    I might still use Infolinks on longer articles, when user is watching some portion of screen which does not have any other ad (by using conditional in-text advertizing on and off), and see how do the results perform then. Will again share the findings here.

  8. Daniel

    Thanks for the blog post. I’ve been seeing in-text ads for a while now and think it’s a very negative model. Polluting the concept of hypertext is surely the first issue. And as others have said, it’s intrusive and obnoxious to say the least. What’s worse, the contextual relationship between an article’s focus, the word that becomes a link, and the offerings are quite often stupid.

    Like today I came across a tech article on GPUs and CPUs. One of the words highlighted was “drivers” (like in computer system drivers) – and the ad linked to an environmental company page talking about annual emission reports for vehicles.

    OMG that disgusts me.

  9. Hmmm.. quite interesting article. I have recently implemented text link ads on my website, and want to give them a fair chance for a couple of months. I am not sure if they are obtrusive, but agree that they can dilute the website navigation. One change I made is to implement these only on single post pages, and not on home page, or category pages, as they have all the hyperlinks, and don’t want those hyperlinks to be confused with in text ads.

    Let’s see how do my links perform 🙂

  10. This is quite an intriguing article, and quite helpful, especially for novice bloggers like me. This is something that kept me thinking because I use infolinks on my site. I’ll be thinking this over and thanks for sharing this.

  11. Wow I disagree with this post. I own a “mainstream” discussion forum. We use in-text ads for guests only, not members, and generate about $5k each and every month from about 1 Million monthly users. Depends on the size of your site, type of site etc but don’t discount the whole model because you have a tiny blog that makes $5/mo from in-text — that’s not always the case for all publishers.

  12. Hi, an interesting thread but what about your thoughts about the reputation of the Advertisers – would you think less of the company/organisation or, in my case, not-for-profit using in-text adverts?

    I run a website for a UK NGO. We already have a Google Adwords programme but I was interested in experimenting with in-text ad’s to drive more people to our site. I think it could work really well as not many other NGOs are doing it and many of our key words will not be taken yet.

    Would it put you off making a donation, for example?


  13. Ah, now I am really confused at to what to do here, as I too was about to sign up to kontera, moments before I read this blog.

    Possibly I will try one of them like brandclik first and report back with the results.

  14. I think adwords usually gets 1/10th of a percent to about 1 percent depending on the venue but you will have to ask Google to chime in… 🙂

  15. I can tell you that our CTR’s vary based on the type of publisher.

    -Newspapers can expect = .5% – 8% depending on the article and the words in it

    -Social Networks = .75%-3% – depending on the location of the ads

    -Blogs = .5%-2% – again depends on the content and the blogs popularity.

    We have seen with some publishers who white-label the service double digit numbers consistantly

    Thank you,

  16. We had an employee who worked with us who’s name was Dee…

    Nothing misleading about the same name is there?

    Good luck and if you change your mind we would be happy to help you at BrandClik.

    Take care,

  17. I just checked in on this forum again and saw that “Joshua” wrote on August 27, 2008, “I work with Lowell and Dee at Brandclik.” I wanted to refute that. After I posted on March 21, 2008, someone named “Lowell” posted on March 27 saying he was contacting me at my e-mail address, apparently to give me the benefits of using Brandclik over other in-text networks. I did receive an e-mail from him but I never responded to it, and never signed up for Brandclik, nor have I have ever worked for or had any connection with Brandclik.

    It’s definitely misleading of Brandclik “employees” to say that I work with them, and by inference lead readers to believe that I endorse them. I haven’t changed my opinion of in-text advertising and I still do not use it on my web site.

  18. Personally I think it is a great way to advertise and I find it a lot less annoying than banners and 125×125 ads (animated is the worst kind).

    The only thing that goes against the in text ads is that a lot of them really aren’t relevant. With Kontera more than half of them are for Web Dictionaries and has nothing to do with the topics.

    If there was a way to make 100% of the ads relevant I would definitely use it on most of my sites.

  19. In-text advertising slows down page load times. It may also hang browsers of users who have slow internet connection.

    I used them on my site until I went fed up with load times and removed them altogether.

  20. Right now Kontera does not seem to have enough ads.
    Can somebody explain the difference between AdBrite’s in text advertising and Kontera?

  21. Sounds like in-text links can be useful if your intent is to get users to a specific page rather than to get them to focus on your content.

  22. Thanks for posting this article. As a new blogger looking for the best ways to increase traffic and revenue this was very informative and certainly gives me something to think about.

  23. How about the adsense link units? Would it be also an intrusive ad? An unaware reader might assumed that it is part of the navigation links.

  24. I work with Lowell and Dee at BrandClik and want to chime in and provide a few of the many reasons advertisers should also want to participate.

    Advertisers can…

    1) See the pricing structure of all the participating newspapers, bloggers, and social network sites we have in our database prior to putting any money into an account. Registration is completely free.

    2) They can opt in or out of anyone of the content providers or all of them or none of them at will.

    3) Since our program is not a bidding system like Kontera and VibrantMedia all corporate trade name or brand names are completely protected. Even if Kontera signed up with BrandClik no one else in our system can bid on that keyword since they own that trade name.

    These are just a few of the reasons advertisers are registering with us.

    Thank you,


  25. I’m going to be controversal and say that Kontera can work well and be valuable. It depends on the type of site you have and why people use it.

    I run an article bank 99% of visitors come from searching a phrase that matches either the title or content of the article pages. The CTR of Konera and Adsense are about the same – and Kontera does not impact at all on the Adsense earnings.

    Most users are actually looking for a service or product matching the content they read and actually find the links both Kontera and Adsense of value because in general ( OK mostly ) the links take them to somewhere which offers them a solution.

    If your site’s aim is to build regular visitors then I agree that in link services are not a good idea.

  26. Thanks very much for this. I’m setting up a new blog and was seriously considering using the intellitext advertising for what I thought might be a good experience for the end user. I’ll go with the masses on this one then.

  27. I’ve tried in-text advertising in a (serious) “business tips” web site with roughly 100 very interested users a day for three (3) months.

    The visitors were 90% based in the United States and read 4.2 pages, on average. My revenue for the entire period with Kontera was 19 cents.

    I wanted to give some time to my users to get familiar with this new type of advertising but after 3 months, I decided it was enough and this type of advertising wasn’t going to work for me.

    In-text advertising is probably good for other web publishers because I see it here and there but obviously, it didn’t work out too well for me.

    This being said, the support people at Kontera were nice. Useless in helping me generate more revenue but nevertheless, quite nice. It’s worth noting.

  28. I absolutely hate in text advertising!!! aghh it drives me insane, it looks so tacky and stupid and its just annoying. grrr gets my angry just thinking about it 😀

  29. Hi All,

    I am a business development associate at Kontera and appreciate your comments. In-text advertising is becoming a very common way for publishers to monetize their sites (seen on sites like,, and users are getting more and more used to it. The expansion of the ad on mouse over is so that people do not confuse our ads with a normal hyperlink as they may services that don’t have an expanded ad on mouse over. If your site is seeing lower CPCs that is probably because you have a lot of international traffic which we pay for compared to other networks that dont pay for it at all (take into account the overall revenue rather than the just the CPCs). You can always request to just have your US, UK traffic monetized so that you will see much higher CPCs. Please contact me at [email protected] if you have any further questions.


  30. I work with Lowell at BrandClik and I think the fact that some newspapers are registering for our service while not registering for the others mentioned above means that the newspapers feel our opportunity is the least intrusive format to date with the highest return.

    Anyway, 2 more newspapers to report:



  31. I am looking at this form a consumer point and as a media buyer.
    I could not disagree more with the premise of this article. I would say this is the least intrusive kind of advertising. Hyperlinks are underlined twice so no one can mistake it for a regular link. If consumers don’t know what the double underline means – Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice…- well you get the picture. Also considering that these ads are graphically non demanding it seems to me that they would reduce your bandwidth use. The only downfall is that it can sometimes make the website look `cheep’.
    The most annoying type of advertising are flash banners that spread over 50% of the page when you mouseover, and many times mouseover you must in order to navigate. Same with in page popup and animations that run across the screen as you are trying to read the article. I also hate ads in the middle of the text which you can “skip” by clicking on the link that takes you to the bottom of the ad.

  32. Dee-
    We just sent you a message regarding BrandClik to the Juno e-mail address that is on your site. Please feel free to contact us regarding our services.


  33. wow I was just about to sign up at clicksor and decided to do a little reasearch. The last thing I want is to ruin months of hard work to get loyal frequent visitors, in return of few cents per 1000!!

  34. Hi –
    Boy am I glad I stumbled upon this thread! I was just in the process of signing up for Kontera after a local blogger in my city wrote up an article about it in the newspaper. It sounded good, but I didn’t realize those annoying popups I’ve been getting lately on sites I’ve visited are in-text ads! Like a previous poster, I just thought my popup blocker was not working. But no one in the posts above has addressed another issue with Kontera in particular…that of security.

    When I went onto their site, my program which watches for insecure sites told me their site certificate was broken/insecure/didn’t match. I took a risk and continued on into the site anyway. I started to sign up and got to the application page where you had to give your personal information like social security number and name/address/phone and I realized that page was not a secure page. They have Verisign but recently it has come to light that this is not a guarantee of security (getting more hacker friendly) and Verisign has instituted a new layer of security, which somes sites have updated to, but not all.

    Anyway, I abandoned my application process at that point mainly based on no faith in their security. I e-mailed their support people to see if there was a way to apply securely. They replied prompty (that was good) and just told me to go ahead and complete the application (this didn’t solve my problem with their application process).

    Now after reading this thread I’m glad I did not complete my application for the additional reason of not wanting to subject my visitors to that popup annoyance.

    Thanks so much, Daniel, for writing about this subject.

    P.S. Maybe someone could comment if they have had any experience with the BrandClik business which I see they posted about in a post just above mine. Sounds like it may be a step in the right direction if a person still wants to use in-text advertising.

  35. All of the points regarding in-text advertising are valid, the balloon or bubble that covers the content and interferes with the text is intrusive and affects the user’s ability to enjoy the site.

    BrandClik is an in-text advertising company that does not use any intrusive balloons, but rather direct hyperlinks that allows Content Providers to monetize their content and Advertisers to generate direct, targeted traffic for their brand names or products.

    BrandClik is a Beta program but we would appreciate your feedback and feel free to register for the service or learn more at

    Better ads, less intrusion!

  36. I just started to use Kontera because i need a way to support the sites minimum costs. I found that from the first day the ads did start to get clicked. My only problem with kontera is that they pay pennies!

    I dont really care if it interupts the user experience, because by now online surfers should be used to ads already. So stop complaining about ads. Its how websites stay alive!

    I just dont like how the pay out is and how kontera pays you in pennies. Atleast adsense you can earn like 30 cents minimum.

    Intext ads are in my opinion a waste of time as they dont pay anything, BUT they do have a higher CTR than adsense.

  37. It’s interesting that everyone seems to be down on “Contextual” ads. They’re intrusive. They’re !@#$%^. They’re this and that.

    But Google’s Adsense is ok. Clickbank ads are ok. Not!. However, it is a way of life and the internet. You put up with all the junk mail in your mail box. Why? Because it’s there.

    People are trying to make a couple of bucks. What’s wrong with that? What about the mass of ads shown on TV? What about all the junk ads at every major sporting event?

    Are these ok?

    This is the internet. It’s time to wakeup and see the forest for the trees. Quality is not a quantity on the web. The Internet is a sounding board and nothing more.

    You want quality? Open a private site for members only.

    BTW. I don’t use Kontera, ClickBank, or Adsense.

    Okay, I’m off my soap box.

    Everyone live happy.


  38. I completely agree with everyone’s post that the in-text contextual ads are very annoying and it takes away the navigation and user-experience from the site.

  39. I get so irked by these kind of links. Not hating on anyones ability to make money but those links just add to confusion to the visitor.

  40. QUOTE[I’m planning on keeping them on the site for at least the rest of May. No one has complained about them yet and traffic and RSS subscriptions have stayed the same.]

    No one has complained but you can bet your life that you have lost traffic – new traffic is probably just keeping the balance.

    I find these ads the most intrusive on any on the web. I steer clear of any site that uses them. I come to the web for information and these are not helpful.

    If you were reading a book would you expect adverts in the middle of a paragraph?????


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