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Travel Bloggers Selling Links and Making Money – Should You To?

For fucks sake – I am over this whole  -“Google hates me”, “I must please Google”, “is this OK with Google” shite going down in certain circles.

Google is a company.

Google is a search engine that using a superbly complex algorithm.

Google doesn’t give a shite about you – because you are not Google’s customer.

I think a lot of people need to get over this unhealthy relationship with Google. Because as it is now Google appears to be winning the war – which war? The propaganda war.

You know spreading mis-information and fear – the oldest propaganda trick in the book. And its working.  Take for example the bullshite about buying and selling links. Google hates it. Of course Google hates it – links are what their search engine algorithms are still (mainly) based on. The reality is though, its pretty darn difficult for Google to know when a link is – well just a link – and when a link is a paid endorsement.

So often times you can get away with lots of paid links. But even more importantly:

If you are not ranking in the search rankings anyway why the hell wouldn’t you sell links – it could be a nice little earner! 

Selling links is gaming the system, well that’s true.  Selling links will get you thrown out of  Google’s index, it will get you sent to the pergatory of the 999th page, your site will be deindexed and your sins will never leave you!  Selling links is immoral!

Google doesn’t want you to sell links, or buy links. However that’s just a preference they have, because it helps their business model if you don’t. Selling links is bad for Google’s business model: selling your kid sister is immoral – see the difference?

I call bullshit on the rest of it. Lets start with the immoral bit first. This would frankly perplexes me. Google’s algorithm depends in part of counting the links to the page the more likely Google is to rank that page near page 1 (gross simplification there). So people who want their site on page 1, will acquire links to get them to page 1.

  1. by social media linking to them
  2. by guest posting;
  3. by links from other places  they control.
None of those links are paid for though – so they are OK. But if I take money  for a link on my site – then its immoral and wicked and polluting the electrons of the Internet ??? Pleeeese. It sounds like a business proposition to me.
Google is Part of the Competitive Environment - Not a Moral Authority - or Your Friend

Selling Links in 2011 

The link selling industry is alive and well. Most of us who have active blogs, particularly a site which is anywhere on the first couple of the pages of the search engine results will be familar with the email:

“Dear webmaster I love your site – I would love to provide some free content to it – the content is very well written and highly relevant to your readers. In return we will want just one tiny, little link.”

That’s the first offer – they want their link for free. You could try saying yes – and then no-following the link 🙂 Always amusing that one! Better yet – negotiate a decent rate – and then make sure the post doesn’t annoy your readers.

Decide on a Business Model 

You either want to sell links or you want to rank in the search engines – I suggest you don’t want to do both on the same blog. You also want to pick your niche. For example, there is no point selling links in the Internet Marketing niche.  Anyway there are plenty of affiliate programs which readers are interested in, and which pay me  commission.

Other niches are different. Take, for example travel. The affiliate programs in travel don’t seem to convert well – who goes to a blog to book a flight or a hotel – most travellers know how to spell expedia or hotelclub – and they go there direct. Travel on the other hand is an enormous global industry. An industry which is going more and more on-line. Having your travel site on page 1 of a search listing is very, very worthwhile.

And so travel blogs can do very well from: sponsored posts and paid links.

Now there are lots of business reasons to NOT do sponsored posts – You might want to check out this interview with Gary Arndt from  But that’s for you to decide.

Paid Links and Sponsorship and Advertising – Same, Same – Not Different

Apparently advertising is OK but paid links aren’t – well that’s what some in the travel community seem to think. I call bullshite on this one -plus a pile of mis-information in the post and the comments which caused me to write this.

Not one of the sites I reviewed for this post no-followed any of their paid links: sidebar, footer, links under “Advertising” headers, widgets, or in-content links – either declared or not. As far as Google is concerned – if they want to come the heavy – they are all paid links unless you no-follow them.

In practice – if they are actually links to affiliate programs – then Google will probably not care.  If they are links to landing or home pages of the advertiser – for which you are not getting a commission for – Google’s reviewers are going to assume you are being paid.

After all why the heck would anyone want to go to any of these advertisers – when they are on a travel blog?  Yeah I outed the guys buying the links – not the bloggers being paid – rather see the pimps in jail not the pros if you see what I mean?

So if you are going to do paid links –

Do Paid Links Smart

Here’s how. You  need to put all the paid links posts in new category – I suggest that you don’t call it “Paid Links” – maybe “Guest Posts” or “Miscellaneous” might be less obvious.

Make sure that category doesn’t appear on your front page, and remove it from your RSS feed. So now you have money in the bank and you haven’t annoyed your readers – that’s a start.

I would seriously consider re-writing any “Advertising/Press” page you might have to include that you always “no follow” paid links, whether you do or not. Yeah take the moral high-ground if you want – but really Google is in the habit of shooting first and asking questions later. You can always negotiate the deal with the advertiser in private.

If you are caught up in a manual review – then you need to appear to be doing the right thing.

Also putting links in older posts – is far less likely to be annoying to readers, particularly if they aren’t posts which show up in your “greatest hits” list.

Don’t even think about doing paid links on a blog which also uses Adsense – “Don’t make Google Look Stupid” is the appropriate mantra here.

Google Hates Paid Links But Seems To Be Ignoring All But the Most Blatent Sellers Currently 

I’ve been watching the most blatant sellers of links in the travel niche for a few months, including a page rank update last month. The worst I’ve seen is a drop from 4 to 2 for someone who has a paid link at the bottom of almost every post. I’ve seen no reports of deindexing.

Google really doesn’t seem to care about the travel blogger’s selling links – at the moment. Whether the little furore I linked to above, will make a difference, its hard to know, but bets would be on not, but this is game not without risks, make your judgement.

The reality is – why you can get away with selling links, you are getting cash in hand, real cash, real return. If it all goes to custard and you get penalised – the worst thing that will probably happen is that you will lose your Page Rank. Page rank and search engine rankings are not related. PR is certainly not related to social media – your community won’t notice.  Yes it may affect your future earnings – but at least you still have the cash.

My cynical take is that the people buying the links are also big Adwords advertisers – they are Google’s customers and Google doesn’t want to piss them off.

If you do get done for selling links – here’s what to do:

  1. delete the offending posts or add the “no follow” attribute to the links; and
  2. ask for reinclusion by Google.

In fact there have been some pretty high profile cases of sites like selling links – seems like they recovered from it.

13 replies on “Travel Bloggers Selling Links and Making Money – Should You To?”

You can get away with paid links all day long if they’re 100 percent relevant to the topic at hand. Of course, you won’t get paid a lot for those.

I had a furniture company wanting a front page link just a couple of days ago. I politely refused, of course, because the $100 offered would negatively impact the $1000 per month I already get.

Ha! I’m a veteran of the 2007 link selling pay-per-post et al gold rush. I used and abused like everyone else at the time and made a shitload of money from it before it all went tits up. Ah the good old days!

The trick was to buy PR5/6 domains and manufacture ’em into blogs to sell links – goldmines! They lasted maybe a month or two before getting slapped down to PR0. Then let the dead domains expire a year later. Now THAT’s unethical, immoral, cheating and downright bloody naughty! 😉

But you’re so right that Google can’t tell the difference between a link that’s real or been paid for if its placed intelligently on a blog/site that isn’t in an obvious “link buying” niche.

As for the morality of buying links… what f’ing morality exists with the big boys with deep pockets? Google loves them because they pay their frickin’ wages!

LOL which really goes to prove just how old you are in this game Terry – I really didn’t understand why G hated me at the time – I was guttted when they took my pretty PR3 away!

I have a problem understanding this bit “You either want to sell links or you want to rank in the search engines – I suggest you don’t want to do both on the same blog.” Why would anybody want to buy a link on a site / page that doesn’t rank at all? I mean, wouldn’t such a link be pretty close to useless or am I overlooking something here? SY

Its not useless – its still a contextural link – so long as the page is relevant its worth something. And in other cases the sites do have readership via SM channels so they presumably hope that someone will read the sponsored post

Makes sense, somehow … But I must admit I normally delete the ‘may we buy a link from your website’ emails straight in the bin. Simply not worth it for me. If they offer a genuinely well written guest blog post, I am game, but I don’t sell links outright … perhaps I am paranoid??? SY

Extremely accurate, post, IMHO. Common business sense indicates that you make money on your blogs, regardless of what ‘Google thinks.’ Just be aware that de-indexing does happen all the time, so make sure you take that into account. But, as you stated, if you already don’t get traffic from Google, making some money on ‘link ads’ seems reasonable.

As an advertisers travel bloggers simply price themselves way out of the market. $400 for writing a blog post you have to be absolutely bonkers!!

I don’t think I’d agree with this comment, Sara.

If your business model as a blogger is to sell links sure, accept the cheap links.
But if you are building your business as a brand then $300 – $400 + is reasonable if you have reason to back up the price.

Of course it also depends if you are asking for a permanent or short-term link placement.

I agree with Nicole. If people are willing to pay, then the bloggers asking for $300-400 are not pricing themselves out of the market. And the travel blog industry is so big & the audience is so big that many travel bloggers can afford to be picky about what they post/sell links to.

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