All About Content

Google AdSense versus Text Link Ads

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, February 5, 2007 at 10:20 pm

Note: I wrote this post in 2007. Please be aware that selling text links is heavily frowned on by Google and may have consequences for your site.

For advertisers, there is a significant difference between contextual ads and (non-ad-served) text link ads. Contextual ads, like the Sponsored Results you see on the side of search engine results pages are all about ROI; whereas text link ads are primarily about (c’mon now let’s be honest) buying relevant inbound links that are intended to drive up rankings.

But for publishers, one concern looms larger than all others: show me the money!

After doing some investigating into the whole industry of purchasing text links (not to be confused with paid content or paid blog postings), I’m starting to come to the conclusion that I should migrate away from Google’s AdSense system in favor of a text link broker like Text Link Ads, or the equally creatively named Text Link Brokers (both terribly generic company names that serve as ultra-relevant anchor text anytime someone links to them).

So here’s the thing, it took me a whole year to get my first Google AdSense check. I look to be on track for another year of the same. Don’t get me wrong, I have no real complaints about the program. So why am I thinking of walking away with money left on the table?

Reasons Why Text Links Are Better Than AdSense

  1. Google’s minimum for actually cutting you a check is higher than most other services, but until the money is in your bank account you haven’t actually earned anything yet.
  2. With contextual ads you only get paid when someone clicks, while the simple act of publishing the text links is all it takes to earn money under the other model. And depending on the default level you set for editorial oversight, text link ads can run themselves as easily as the AdSense script.
  3. While one could argue that visitors to the site might actually be interested in contextual ads and that text links, by comparison, are simply link spam –i.e., that I’d be doing my readers a disservice by switching to text ads — the truth is that I don’t think any regular readers of this blog are too interested in the cheesy contextual ads that get displayed alongside my posts currently.
  4. Because text link ads don’t require anyone to actually click through, there’s less pressure to pimp out a site with ads in very prominent locations. (Google advises advertisers to pay attention to eye tracking and heat map studies to make decisions on where to place ads.)and finally…
  5. Even if I only sold 1 link a month with, I’d still be earning more money than I do with AdSense currently.

Whether you think text link ads are “black hat SEO” doesn’t really matter if you’re the publisher, not the advertiser. Even if there’s a possibility that the search engines start discounting your links by virtue of being lower quality, the only reason this should matter to you as a site owner is if the ability to pass PageRank is part of your sales proposition (which means, de facto, that you were already trying to pull one over on the algorithms).

If you’re a very large site, text link ads look pretty tacky, so I certainly don’t think revenue should be the only consideration when deciding between AdSense and paid links; but on the other hand, AdSense would detract from how seriously I would take a large, would-be authoritative site as well.

If you’re interested in selling ad space on your site as well, visit

Comments (17)

Category: Contextual Ads,Link Building,Monetizing,Navel-Gazing


Comment by fontadoni

Made Friday, 23 of March , 2007 at 5:21 am

I agree. I am in the same position. I have been thinking about Text Link Ads for a while now, but decided to wait a little bit.

When do you think is better to switch to Text Link Ads? Better PR, better Alexa Rank, traffic?

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Friday, 23 of March , 2007 at 2:32 pm

There isn’t a reason to wait to switch. You can run both types of ads concurrently (i.e., start using TLA while also continuing to publish AdSense).

Until there’s some evidence that you have a little PR or traffic, you might not get accepted into the TLA network; however, that’s not necessarily a reason to wait before you apply.

Does that answer your question?

p.s. You might also check out my post about technical requirements for getting the TLA script to work on your blog.

Comment by fontadoni

Made Friday, 23 of March , 2007 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for your quick response. I’ll give TLA a try very soon.

I’m using WordPress, so I suppose I will not have any problems with the TLA script.

Great site you have here by the way. I’ll be coming back again.

Thanks again!

Comment by Paschal

Made Tuesday, 27 of March , 2007 at 1:39 pm

I can’t believe how poor contextual ad proceeds are, despite all the hype. It is even more disturbing when the pay is delayed. Do you think text ads capture the pulse of the dynamic marketplace?

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Friday, 30 of March , 2007 at 4:27 pm

Paschal, hi. Contextual ads work great as revenue generators if your site has a lot of traffic and people click on them. They don’t if you can’t deliver any traffic… that’s how the marketplace is supposed to work … Seems pretty fair to me.

Comment by pierre

Made Tuesday, 8 of January , 2008 at 7:27 pm

I been using adsense for a couple of years. Now Im thinking of what to use on my Money School. IĀ´ll have a look at Text Link Ads. Thanks for an indepth review.

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Tuesday, 8 of January , 2008 at 10:09 pm

You’re welcome Pierre. I took a look at your site, but to be honest you’ve got some work to do before TLA is going to approve you. But I’ve got some tips that’ll help move you in the right direction.

The very first thing you need to do to be taken seriously as a blogger is to get rid of that default WordPress template. None of the big money bloggers you mention as your inspiration use pre-made templates, least of all the WP default. Invest a little time or money to get a better template design.

You might also think about making the name of your blog match the domain you’re on. It’s just confusing otherwise.

In order to get accepted into TLA (and to attract advertisers), you’re going to need much more history. So keep up with the blogging for a couple of months at least before you apply.

Good luck.

Comment by Ricky M Muchtar

Made Sunday, 6 of April , 2008 at 12:38 pm

May I put Text link ads code and google adsense code in the same website?

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Sunday, 6 of April , 2008 at 4:33 pm

Ricky – yes you can.

Comment by Pete

Made Wednesday, 15 of October , 2008 at 3:39 am

I’ve been using adsense on my site and the money is ok, but I’ve been considering adding text link ads as well. However, I’ve read that Google penalizes websites selling text links. Any views how likely this is?

Comment by Korin

Made Wednesday, 22 of October , 2008 at 5:26 am

Thanks for making it clear that I can use adsense and text link ad in the same site. I use Adsense on my Antique site and it doesn’t really pay at all. I will give Tex link ad a go but I probably won’t get accepted.

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Wednesday, 22 of October , 2008 at 7:03 pm

Nothing in the ToS of either says you can’t run different types of ads by different ad systems concurrently. HOWEVER, since I wrote this post, Google has put a major crackdown on people who sell paid links on their sites. If your site is small, you can probably fly under the radar, but you should be aware that there are risks involved.

Comment by Liza

Made Friday, 3 of April , 2009 at 10:55 pm

When my personal blog was accepted to TLA links didn’t start selling straight away,but eventually I got up to earning about $50AUD. I hope that when my new site reaches PR3 and a higher Alexa ranking it will be accepted as well.

Comment by wied

Made Tuesday, 7 of April , 2009 at 6:29 am

According your response “Nothing in the ToS of either says you can’t run different types of ads by different ad systems concurrently”. I’m still unsure to try it.

Meanwhile, my blog is currently run about a month. Earning from GA has reached around $2. Average visit per day is 50, average page view per day is 150 and my PR is 2. Should I switch to TLA or run them concurrently?

Whatever your response, I will appreciate. Thanks

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Tuesday, 7 of April , 2009 at 8:10 am

I should point out that this post is 2 years old and quite a bit has happened since it was published. Google now punishes sites that sell do-followed, paid-for text links, so that’s something you should be aware of.

Comment by wied

Made Tuesday, 7 of April , 2009 at 9:44 am

Thanks for your quick response. So, i will decide still keep GA or switch to TLA depend on my earn from GA :p. If you don’t mind, can you give me a suggest for this decision 😉 ?

Comment by Luis

Made Wednesday, 29 of July , 2009 at 7:03 pm

Is it possible to use both together ??

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