Thursday, February 12, 2009

Choosing and Rejecting Text Link Advertising Offers

For the average web site owner who has developed a web site to serve a specialized audience, making money from advertising is usually not a high priority. There are many programs that offer affiliate marketing opportunities where a web site owner may get paid if someone buys a product or service, or if a visitor does some other specific action. In most cases, the site owner has to go out and find these opportunities. But sometimes opportunities come looking for the owner.

There are also a number of companies that offer to pay to have specific links placed on a site. These may be plain text links, text links embedded in surrounding text, or even a rotating banner with a changing set of links. For most owners, getting an unsolicited offer like this is usually unexpected, and in most cases accepting such offers won't cause a problem. However, a site owner should still be careful and be prepared to say no.

You might ask, "Why should I say no to easy money?" The simple answer is that placing a link on your site may mean easy money, but this easy money isn't free from risk. In a previous post, I discussed how search engines may penalize some web sites that may violate their policies regarding advertising.

While search engine policies may differ, common sense dictates that anyone considering placing such links should at least check where the link is going. A sensible policy would be to avoid any link that is associated with one or more of the following:

Illegal activity: To be safe, this would include any activity, product, or service that is illegal in the location where your web site's server is located, or the location where the site owner or the business that owns or runs the site is located.

Unethical activity: Specifically, activities that your target audience would consider unethical. One example is an educational site aimed at high school students running ads from a company that sells customized term papers.

Immoral activity: Deciding what is moral or not could be an easy process or a hard one. One morality indicator I like to use is the 12-year-old rule. If I wouldn't want the average twelve-year-old to be exposed to it, it doesn't show up in the site or the blog.

Sites with no value to your audience: If you don't give your audience what it wants, they'll go elsewhere. Offering links that go to sites with no real benefit to them isn't worth the money.

Adult sites: Unless your site is adult-oriented, avoid any link to sites that have material that is not safe for work, or appropriate for children.

Sites that look suspicious: If you don't feel right about the site, don't link to it.

The most important thing about placing any links on your site is that the final decision is up to you. No matter how good the money looks right now, think twice before you do anything that might drive your audience away or lower your site's search engine rankings.

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