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.

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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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