The InLinks option was first added to TLA last year and started getting promoted heavily on Text Link Ads 2 months ago. They have now went mainstream with it and have launched InLinks properly, and have got a lot of attention by doing so.
I did a quick review of InLinks in September so regular readers should have a good idea of how the InLinks system works. I always welcome another method for bloggers to make money but Google certainly disagrees. There is no disputing that InLinks is against Googles paid link policy however the problem is, it is very difficult for them to spot it as the links are embedded in the content and there is nothing to suggest that a link is paid.
Darren Rowse states that 31% of ProBlogger readers actively sell text links on their blogs so there is definately a big market for this kind of service. Google blogger Matt Cutts is obviously not happy about this. He contacted TechCrunch and said :
Google has been very clear that selling such links that pass PageRank is a violation of our quality guidelines. Other search engines have said similar things. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also given unambiguous guidance on this subject in the recent PDF at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2008/03/P064101tech.pdf where they said “Consumers who endorse and recommend products on their blogs or other sites for consideration should do so within the boundaries set forth in the FTC Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising and the FTC’s guidance on word of mouth marketing,” as well as “To date, in response to this concern, the FTC has advised that search engines need to disclose clearly and conspicuously if the ranking or other presentation of search results is a function of paid placement, and, similarly, that consumers who are paid to engage in word-of-mouth marketing must disclose that fact to recipients of their messages.”
Oh, but you say your blog isn’t in the U.S.? Maybe it’s in the UK? Then you’ll be interested in
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/uksi_20081277_en_5#pt11 which covers unfair trade practices and specifically mentions “Using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer (advertorial).”
But you’re not in the UK? I believe many of the unfair commercial practices directives apply through Europe, e.g. http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/rights/index_en.htm to prohibit misleading or aggressive marketing.
The reality is that accepting money to link to/promote/market for a product without disclosing that fact is a very high-risk behavior, in my opinion.
ShoeMoney hit the nail on the head yesterday when he said :
They are not law and if Google was following the FTC’s suggestions I doubt Google Adsense/adlinks would be engaging in some of the most deceptive advertising methods I have ever seen on the internet.
Also I am curious then why Google is not requiring Firefox to display that they are paying Firefox billions of dollars to be the default search engine each time you search. The funny thing is not even firefox developers know they are getting paid so much by Google as you can see in my posts about it before. Talk about a lack of disclosure.
I have to agree with the above statement. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I completely understand why Google have their paid link policy but they are not upfront about a lot of their monetization methods so it’s hypocritical to point the finger at everyone else.
Should you use InLinks?
I don’t want to recommend or discourage anyone from using InLinks, just be aware of the risks. It is quite difficult for Google to detect links being sold on your blog however if you are caught by them you could get a penalty and lose a lot of search engine traffic.
If you promote a service on your blog and rely heavily on search engine traffic then it’s probably not worth the risk. If you are struggling to make money with your blog but your blog has a good PageRank, perhaps you think it’s worth the risk of getting a penalty.
I’d love to hear readers thoughts on this issue. Would you use InLinks?
Link : InLinks
* Disclosure : I have used my affiliate link in these ads.