A lot of people monetize their blogs with Text Links Ads. I mean, why not? If you’re not making a pile of cash with adsense, your low traffic, better than PR2 blog or web site can make an extra hundred bucks per month using this service. Just list your site, and you can sell up to 8 text ads. Ad rates are based on your page rank and alexa rating, you could charge $5 – $30 per month per ad. You can hand select the advertisers you want to approve or deny if you choose.

So what what’s the problem – the service is just like adsense really – isn’t it? People are buying ads on your site, hoping for clicks back to their products or services aren’t they? Well, the first difference is adsense is a “contextual” ad service. Ads are placed on your site based on the keywords and phrases on your pages, trying to match up the most relevant ads to your content. Text link ads not only might not be relevant, the purchaser buys the link for an entire month on your site. Adsense only pays you if someone clicks on an ad, with text link ads you get paid the same amount if no one clicks, or if 1,000 people click.

The reason this issue came up for me was because I was (today) considering putting text links ads back on one of my sites. I did it once, and nobody bought any ads – and I thought I’d give it a try. I was reading a post by Gaman at Sabahan.com about How to make $500 per month or more from Text Links Ads. Gaman’s ideas was to get 10 running sites with PR2 or higher, and sell text link ads on all of them. If each blog makes $50/mo from TLA, then you are making $500 per month. I wasn’t thinking of putting the ads on 10 sites by any means, but it got me thinking about putting them on 2 or 3.

I went back to the text link ads web site, and logged into my (old) account. I enabled my site, and downloaded the WP plugin, and then added the code to my sidebar (on another site) to sell ads. While I was in the sidebar, I decided to add in a “most recent comments” block, and went to check out some plugins to get that done. The guy that writes the Most Recent Comments plugin just happenned to have a post (listed in the sidebar) entitled “Goodbye Text Link Ads. Well, give that I had just installed TLA in my site – I just HAD to read that, now didn’t I??

That post in the FreePress Blog talks about getting rid of text link ads on his site because he believes that it can (or will in the very near future) negatively impact your site. The crux of it is that while the site is called Text Link *ADS*, you are selling links (on a monthly basis) on your site. Google firmly states in their Quality Guidelines that you should not engage in the buying or selling of text links.

This is what they say:

“Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

In fact, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam has blogged about this multiple times – including his post “How to Report Paid Links. That’s right – if you believe a site has engaged in buying links, you can report them to google.

So what can happen to you if google finds out you’ve bought (or sold) links? They can penalize you. They can penalize you in search results first, and if you use either Adwords or Adsense your account could be banned. If you don’t worry about traffic from google, or don’t use adsense or adwords – so what, right? Continue to use TLA or another similar service. But for most of us (since google is the largest search engine), we rely heavily on traffic from google search, and most of us would not want to jeapordize our adsense revenue (especially if you use it on multiple sites).

Now let me back peddle a bit and talk specifically about WHY Text Links Ads are bad. The TLA service is primarily selling links for the purpose of gaining google Pagerank (PR). Page Rank is a factor that google uses to score your site’s performance on a scale of 1 to 10. In fact, the way to get a better score is by getting other site to link to you with a higher pagerank. The thought of buying text links from half a dozen PR5 sites at $15/mo each is very appealing, if for that $90 per month you can essentially ‘buy’ a better spot in google search results. It might be far easier (and cheaper) to do that than use Adwords to pay for 10,000 clicks at 6 cents each. The way the google algorithm works, a hyperlink is a “vote”. Sites with higher pagerank that have a link carry more weight than one with a low or zero pagerank. Google feels that if you buy text links (directly or through a service) you are “buying votes” – or indirectly buying a higher rank in search results.

You might say “just rel=nofollow the links”, but with TLA that’s not possible. Read this post about “Dropping Text Links Ads by h0bbel, where he talks about his recent experiences with TLA. He added the rel=nofollow tag in himself, and Text Link Ads told him to remove it. He references Ryan Jones at dotcult.com and his post “Text Link Ads A Scam“. Ryan had his account suspended when he added nofollow to the TLA on his site. Ryan pointed out that no where in TLA Terms of Service does it state you can’t do this. With h0bble, TLA put in his account that he was using ‘nofollow’ and all his advertisers that had been buying links with him (for months) didn’t renew – and then he closed his account.

Isn’t this all just a really tell tale sign that using TLA is definitely violating google’s TOS? If those advertisers weren’t buying the ads for the “link juice” alone – why didn’t any of them renew with h0bble? He points out that on the Text Links Ads web site home page it says

Improve your traffic and search engine rankings. Only TLA can deliver an ad that does both.

. So – they are actually in a way boasting that you can “improve (BUY) search engine rankings” – aren’t they?

Now let’s be clear – I’ve seen and read a lot of posts, stories, and comments on this subject. One thing that I see a lot of people misconstruing is the difference between “buying traffic” and “buying search engine rankings”. It is against Google’s TOS to buy rankings, but buying traffic is not. They are two completely different things. You can buy traffic in many ways, and there are dozens and dozens of services to do it from – including the big ones like Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter, and Yahoo! Sponsored Search. The easiest way to explain this to you, is to quote a comment from Matt Cutt’s himself:

“…there’s absolutely no problem with selling links for traffic (as opposed to PageRank). At http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/hidden-links/ I mention a couple ways to sell links that Google would have no problem with.”

Many people think that is using TLA is bad – then similar services like AdBrite must be as well. Here’s what Matt had to say about that:

“…I believe AdBrite constructs their links with JavaScript so that links are being sold for traffic, not to affect search engines. Things like JavaScript, the nofollow attribute (or meta tag), or doing a link through a redirect that is robots.txt’ed out would be techniques to sell links for visitors/traffic, as opposed to trying to influence search engine rankings.”

When I really think about it, it’s surprising that TLA has gotten as far as it has. Read this article about Page Rank Penalties and see if you don’t think the company in question sounds exactly like TLA? I mean, this article was written back in 2002, and that company got a PR0, and about every site in the network of ads was affected negatively. I read this post on Sphinn about Text-Link-Ads.com hit by Google Penalty a month ago, and it appears that TLA doesn’t even rank for the term “text links ads” anymore – which means that they were hit with a google penalty. I see they had ‘bought’ the top spot (in adwords) in search results for those keywords, but they don’t rank in search results at all. Is the beginning of the end for TLA? If you use their service to sell ads on your site will you and your google pagerank be affected? If not now, you probably will be in the future. I don’t want any google penalties – so I for one will not be using Text Links Ads at all. It’s a definite Blogging Mistake to use Text Links Ads.

Here are some articles on the same subject:
Google’s Take on Text Links Ads
Matt Cutts on Hidden Links

Do you have comments on Text Links Ads, google pagerank, or buying links? Please comment now below, and share with everyone!