Monetize Links: The Morality of Link Advertising

Links an adventure or an opportinity for link advertising

The advert reads “monetize links you normally share on the internet” The idea being that you get paid every time someone views your link advertising. In the age where money has become a rare commodity I understand the temptation for trying to earn from everything possible, the reason for this investigation. Is this a good way to earn a passive income, or a major annoyance? Take a read – I would also love to hear your views.

I have used advertising for some time on this and other blogs that I have published in the past, that is advertising on the visible page, not link advertising where the intention is to monetize the link that readers click on to find out further information.


What Happens?

For the purpose of this hypothetical, Daniel has a blog, which he regularly advertises on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter. He earns some money from his blog through advertising. Being keen to earn extra money he investigates the way that link advertising works. Sites like claim to pay anyone to induce people to click links. The idea being that you replace the link you would normally use, e.g.:


With a link shortened and made specifically to allow you to earn from the link, like this (please be aware this link is the only one with advertising in it):


Both links here go to the same page. The principle of link advertising being that every time a reader goes to the page, the link provided by the advertiser is used instead of the original link. It is this link that will (hopefully) then generate an income. The following picture shows the link being added to Facebook. You should notice that Facebook still displays the image from the original article, but the source of the material is now ADF.LY instead of your blog name, which is what would normally happen.

Link Advertising - Post to Facebook

The principle behind link advertising is that anyone can create links for any site and earn from them, either by publishing the link on Social Media or including it in an article you write.


Link Advertising: a Great way to Earn?


On the surface this seems such a great way to earn money. But is it?

The first thing you should consider is how link advertising works. Going to any page becomes a two-step process. Step one is to go to the advert page and show the ad. Typically the page will play a video advert. The second step occurs once the ad is complete, it will then jump to the original target page. There is a short cut for the person viewing this page, they can click on the “Skip Ad” button at any time to also reach the target page.

Link Advertising advert


Consider the Reader


However the reader found this link, whether through social media or through a link on the page they were reading. They click on the link with a train of thought in mind, likely their desire to find out more about a specific topic. The impact of the advert is that it interrupts that train of thought. What happens next?

The cynical view is that the reader presses the “X” on the top of their browser tab and then be wary of anything else you have to say, possibly exiting your page. The other possibility is that the advert takes away their attention and they follow the link to purchase the product. Here Daniel may have earned because of the click on the advert, but did not gain a regular reader in the process. Questioning whether readership or earnings are the most important aspect of is something every writer should ask themselves.

The optimistic view says that every user on the Internet knows they are a target for advertisers and has no problem with adverts popping up. A focused reader will simply press the “Skip Ad” button. They click on the ad when they wish to know more, but they still come to the target page.

Reality is somewhere between. Many people hate all forms of advertising. Some will give up other will find their way through the maze of advertising. Others will embrace it. You are likely to lose 30% to 50% of your readers in order to gain an income from link advertising.


Gaining Readers


Attract readersIf it takes 5 to 8 people viewing your link to gain one reader without advertising then it takes 10 to 16 viewers to gain one reader with link advertising in place. Gaining readers can be a great challenge. Felix Salmon from The Guardian makes the point that “web-based articles, these days, are increasingly an exercise in pain and frustration.” He further states, “when it comes to the economics of online publishing, the first thing to remember is that job No 1 isn’t to get the news to you. Rather, it is to monetize you, by selling you off, in real time, to the highest bidder.”

Salmon’s view is perhaps bordering on cynical, but it is a view shared by many writers.

An accusation exists that anyone wishing to earn from their website treats their readers as a commodity, sold off to the latest advertiser. Yet all adverts remain an option, no reader has to click on them. The challenge with link advertising is that is can put up a barrier to readership because the reader doesn’t land where they expect to.


The Attitude of General Writing Sites


Many general writing sites are funded by advertising. It is the way that they pay their contributors. They have algorithms to calculate each writer’s earnings. Therefore link advertising becomes a breach of their terms and conditions, because the site does not earn from the link. They consider it a way for their contributors to take unfair advantage of the system.

There is a great difference between general writing sites and blogs. With the latter the owner is free to do anything they wish. Therefore the discussion moves to one of moral value.

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Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee to thank him for discussing the subject of link advertising. This is an complex and perhaps highly moral question and I would love to hear your opinion via a comment. For now I shall not be using link advertising in any posts, but this policy will be subject to future review. The images included here are from royalty free public domain image collections, Pixabay, or from Peter Giblett’s collection.


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