Table of Contents
- What are sponsored links?
- How do sponsored links work?
- Types of link attributes
- Different types of sponsored links
- Similarities between sponsored and “nofollow” links
- Sponsored links for bloggers
- Create high-quality content with Embarque
At Embarque, we get asked a lot about Google’s new sponsored links, their benefits for businesses, and how they differ from links with follow and nofollow attributes.
Simply put, Google’s new sponsored links are links that are being promoted for a certain price. The goal in using sponsored links is to increase brand awareness, reach more clients, and boost conversion.
Note, that much like nofollow links, sponsored links normally don’t help you increase your search rankings. For ranking purposes, editorial links are still the best way to gain SEO traction. Businesses should have this clearly in mind when paying for links. And even when they’re masking sponsored links as editorial links, these links will most likely still not give SEO juice.
So what’s the benefit of using them?
What are sponsored links?
There are many types of sponsored links. Sponsored links can be paid links or listings allowed to either feature on the search engine result page or refer visitors to another website. They are sometimes referred to as paid ads or partner links.
For example, when you enter a phrase or term into the search engine box, at the top or middle of the list you’ll find some results with an Ad descriptor. Those are paid ads that show up when searching for relevant keywords.
Advertisements and paid links on one web page that lead to another web page are also categorized as sponsored links.
How do sponsored links work?
They work in two main ways:
- Paid search
- Sponsored placements
Through Google AdWords
Sponsored links through Google AdWords are focused on keyword targeting.
Advertisers simply choose a list of keywords that are relevant to their business and the ones their customers are using to search for their product or service.
Next, they bid on these keywords based on how much they are willing to pay for each click. The bid combined with their quality score will determine their position on the search result page whenever users search using the keywords.
Through paid website placements
Companies and websites can also reach out to authority website owners and offer to pay money in exchange for an advertisement on their web pages. As such, paid ad placements or sponsored articles need to have a sponsored link’s attribute attached to them. Otherwise, these domains risk getting penalized by Google. And Google can detect unnatural linking patterns quite effectively.
These sponsored placements can also be affiliate links, whereby the sponsor gets paid for successful conversions (e.g., website clicks, a commission from purchases, etc.).
Relevance of sponsored links to SEO and digital marketing
Sponsored links have some benefits in an overall marketing strategy:
- Building brand awareness: Think about it: every brand wants to be recognized so they can attract qualified visitors and gain brand exposure. That’s what motivates them to run paid ads and use sponsored posts. The sponsor can be a big-name brand that can generate a lot of buzz for the sponsor.
- Driving more traffic: when a user clicks on a link it automatically directs them to another web page which eventually results in more traffic at the receiving end. To do this, they sponsor relevant publications in their niche to attract quality customers.
- Creating an affiliate process. This can incentivize people to market a product and get a commission from them on a per-click or per-purchase basis.
The Google penalty: “follow” vs “nofollow” vs sponsored links
Link attributes represent an important aspect of SEO, as they help Google understand your web pages.
Over the years, publishers continued to use nofollow and dofollow links to distinguish sponsored links from editorial links, but Google recently announced new changes to how publishers should mark these links.
Usually, editorial links or follow links are supposed to include the attribute “dofollow” while every other untrusted link should have the “nofollow” attributes included on their web pages. But a recent modification from Google has rendered some of these rules outdated, and a new set of attributes has been introduced.
Some of these new rules are listed below:
- Google announced that all nofollow attributes will be treated as “hints,” which simply means they may be used for crawling and indexing, depending on their purpose. This hint model may change the way nofollow links work in the future.
- Sponsored links must either contain a nofollow or sponsored attribute or a combination of both to avoid penalty.
- User-generated content should be spelled out using the attribute “Ugc”
- Depending on the situation, paid links as UGC links can lead to a penalty.
So, yeah. Don’t try to cheat your way to top search engine rankings through creative link schemes. It probably won’t work.
Types of link attributes
A quick summary of the new link attributes includes:
- Paid or sponsored links – rel=“sponsored”
- Editorial links or follow links – rel=“Dofollow” (nothing changed)
- Spam or shady links from user-generated content – rel=“ugc”
- All nofollow links – rel=“nofollow”
Why you shouldn’t pay for sponsored links to improve your search rankings
Don’t pay for sponsored links on Fiverr. For many different reasons:
- If your paid link has been included in their website in the press release section, this most probably won’t get indexed by Google if the whole page has been blocked for indexing. Yes, they can still make your links dofollow but not get indexed or crawled by Google.
- Website owners can also block sections of websites from Google with these sponsored links to not get penalized.
- If your paid link has a sponsored attribute, then you most probably won’t get SEO benefits for the reasons stated above.
- Google has a way of sniffing out spammy UGC content or links that may seem too commercial to be an editorial one through language processing. This goes the same for unnatural links.
Different types of sponsored links
Sponsored links vary, depending on their usage and relevance.
Sponsored links on websites
Many websites with high domain scores, credibility, and a greater number of monthly visitors help other companies to run adverts on their websites in exchange for paychecks.
Basically, the companies or websites that need exposure and more conversion reach out to the authority website to request a link back to their website.
The publisher (authority website) will simply mark these links as either nofollow or sponsored so search engines can understand their intentions.
Sponsored links through paid search engine marketing
The sponsored links in Google AdWords allow you to reach new customers that are looking for the products or services you sell.
You choose the keywords in whose searches you want your sponsored link to appear, then create your ads and analyze the return of investment (ROI).
You will only pay when a user clicks on your ad and there is a real visit to your website. Advertising links on Google AdWords and marketing in other search engines suits businesses of any size, sector, and budget.
Google’s sponsored links auction
To determine which ads should be displayed on the search result for a particular search query, Google uses an auction.
This auction is performed millions of times per day and takes place every time someone searches Google or visits a site that displays ads.
The primary factors in the ad auction that determines the order and position of the ad are:
- Your Bid: Publishers will need to set an amount they are willing to pay for a click on their ad. The amount is often less than the ultimate price paid, and the bid can be modified at any time.
- The quality score of the ads: The relevance of your ad to the website it links to and to the person who is seeing it is summarized in the quality score. The higher your quality score, the higher your ad positioning. You can always work to improve your quality score.
- Ad extensions and formats: The ad extensions, which involve your phone number, specific links, and additional information can significantly determine the placement and performance of your ads.
Similarities between sponsored and “nofollow” links
As mentioned above, every sponsored or paid link should be treated as nofollow to avoid the risk of being penalized.
Using a no-follow link is a way of telling the search engine spider not to follow any untrusted or paid links found on your site. It also helps increase crawl budget (the number of times Google goes through your website daily).
Publishers had always been required to add nofollow to any links that were either the result of user-generated content, spam, or paid adverts.
However, a recent change in March 2020 implies that all no-follow links will be treated as “hints,” which simply means Google may decide to crawl or index no-follow links whilst still devaluing them.
Also, all sponsored or paid links should be marked with the “sponsored” and “no follow” attribute to help search engines understand that you’ve been paid to put the link on your site.
While you may decide to use the “sponsored” attribute alone, it’s advisable to add a nofollow to avoid any unfortunate consequences.
You should simply use:
<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”nofollow sponsored”>example link</a>.
Sponsored links for bloggers
As you continue providing your readers with high-quality content your monthly and weekly visits will skyrocket, your domain score will increase, and people will want to link to your web pages, likely interested in paying you to place adverts on your website or even recommend their products.
While this may sound like a great idea, not all these people willing to pay you for ads placed on your site will come with reasonable and honest reasons.
In other words, they might be link spammers with harmful links. So, what should the vetting process entail?
How to identify link spam
First off, you should understand that any company that requests a do-follow link on your website comes with hidden motives and may want to bring a downfall to your blogging business.
Indicators about spammy links could be:
- Inaccurate research about your website: Anyone with legitimate reasons will carry out appropriate research about you and your blog. They may even go to the extent of knowing your name, when you started your blog, and your recent posts.
- Offering to pay without even engaging you in a conversation: When a company reaches out to ask if you could help them post a piece of content on your site in exchange for payment without following the appropriate order, please run, as they are all for spamming.
How to identify legitimate links
Can I find anyone with a legitimate pitch?
Yes, of course, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Companies who reach out to add more value to your website are those I think you should consider fit for a link.
For instance, anyone who reaches out to you with something along these lines probably isn’t going to spam your website:
“. . . I thought it would also make an excellent addition to your article and a great reference for your readers.”
That said, these are not sponsored links if they’re added to a well-ranking listicle.
Why are editorial links better than sponsored links?
Editorial links are quite prioritized by search engines over sponsored links. They’re the best backlinks for SEO and will help you to rank up.
The reason behind this lies in the fact these editorial links as backlinks are organically attracted and are the result of producing high-quality content that is shared on various social platforms.
If people link to you to cite or reference your high-quality content, then Google can trust your website and, in turn, increase your ranking on search results.
More so, editorial links are often attributed with the “dofollow” backlinks, which often tell search engines that your website is offering unique value to users.
On the other hand, paying for sponsored links on other article distribution portals or through paid advertisements is not a legitimate method of earning links and may sometimes lead to unfortunate repercussions.
Create high-quality content with Embarque
You now have everything that there is to know about sponsored links and other types of link attributes!
As we’ve indicated, if your goal is to increase your search engine rankings, purchasing sponsored and nofollow links is not the way to go. Scratch that; purchasing cheap links from Fiverr or other websites may have no effect or lead to you getting penalized by Google.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you have any questions, feel free to email the founder: email@example.com.