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 adf​.ly 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.

Relat­ed posts:





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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