The Dangers of Selling Links on Your Blog for Money

As I near the end of my course on search engine marketing, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of what I’ve learned with all of your fellow bloggers.

Today I’ll be talking about the dangers of selling links on your blog for money, and why paid links and sponsored content really are bad ideas for anyone who wants to maintain their blog for the long haul. On the flip side, next week I’ll have a post about the positives of working with advertisers (with a few tips for advertisers on how to connect with bloggers the right way), so make sure to check that out too!

If you’ve been a long-time reader, or are a member of my immediate family, then you’ll know that I’ve had this blog for 2 1/2 years now. And in that period of time, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. A LOT…of mistakes. Luckily, I’m someone who learns from her mistakes and that’s exactly why I haven’t made a dime off my blog since the new year.

That’s right, I’ve taken down my Google AdSense ads (has nothing to do with SEO, just a personal choice) and I’ve refused all pitches that have come my way for paid links. You might think to yourself that I’m making an even bigger mistake by not monetizing my blog, especially since I made $6,000 off of my blog, but honestly, I don’t regret a thing.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but whenever I agreed to publish a paid guest post or sponsored post on my blog, I just felt dirty. Like I was doing something wrong, sneaky, and unnatural. Well, that’s exactly what I was doing. I was putting up unnatural links and trying to pass them off as natural. Just thinking back to some of the past posts I’ve put up makes me cringe (my all time favourite being one about the history of air conditioners).

I certainly wasn’t trying to be a sell-out; I was just plain naive and uneducated about the harm this could do to my site. But at the same time, I saw all these other bloggers doing the exact same thing, making way more money off paid links than I ever did, so I thought what’s the worst that could happen?

Google will find out is what can happen. If Google can figure out that it’s your birthday and show you a personalized birthday Google Doodle on that special day, then Google can figure out if you’re selling links on your website. And when Google finds out, it will penalize your blog by essentially erasing your Google PageRank.

I’ve seen it with a handful of bloggers. They were at the top of their game at a PageRank 4 or 5, then Google would update its search algorithm and their blog would go right down to 0. Although having a good PageRank isn’t the be all and end all of gaining high rankings on the search engine rankings page (SERP), it’s still a huge factor.

Think of it like Google is your supervisor and wants to fire you but doesn’t have the authority to get rid of you for good. Instead, Google will just stop giving you shifts therein forcing you to quit. Google will penalize your blog and prevent a lot of organic traffic from going to your site until you get rid of all those unnatural links.

Fortunately, I’ve never been penalized by Google, but as soon as I truly understood what could happen to my blog if I continued down the same path I was going, I started getting rid of all of my unnatural links. After my paid link agreements expired (I always only promised to post links for a year), I started deleting all of those posts. I wanted to declutter my blog to make room for all of my original quality posts.

Selling links on your site may seem like an easy way to make money, but if you want your blog to mean something and to grow into something amazing, I’d highly recommend avoiding it altogether. And be careful because companies and advertisers won’t always be upfront about what they want from you. Sure, some advertisers will straight up ask for a guest post or post you write for them in exchange for money, but some others will be a bit sneakier.

They’ll pretend they are bloggers themselves and want to write a guest post for you, even though they are really trying to get a free link on your site that promotes their business. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten in the past 2 1/2 years from people pretending they are bloggers but really, they are working on behalf of an advertiser.

My only way of dealing with all those people is to have a clear message on my Guest Post page stating that I do not accept paid posts in any form. And when I see those emails come into my inbox, I either reply back saying I’m not interested, delete their email outright, or mark them as spam if they seem really dodgy.

To give you a better idea of what kind of things advertisers will do to trick you into linking to them, I’ll talk more about all that on Monday. I’ll also give you some suggestions for good and ethical ways to work with advertisers to make some side income too. Hope this post has helped some of you out there, and I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

What are your thoughts on selling links? Have you ever done it? Have you ever experienced Google’s wrath?

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