What Are Sponsored Links?

Sponsored links are a form of online advertising where businesses pay to have their links displayed in various online platforms. These links are commonly seen on search engine results pages, social media, and other websites.

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SEO and Sponsored Links

Defining sponsored links

In the simplest of terms, sponsored links are paid advertisements that appear on digital platforms, such as search engines, websites, and social media platforms. They are normally in the form of text, image, or video ads and are strategically placed to gain maximum exposure. The aim is to drive web users to the advertiser’s website or specific web pages, thus encouraging them to undertake desired actions, such as making a purchase or registering on the site.

Purpose of sponsored links

Sponsored links serve a variety of purposes, from boosting brand awareness to increasing website traffic, and from promoting special offers to generating new leads. To put it succinctly, sponsored links act as an effective tool for businesses to reach new customers, retain existing ones, increase brand visibility, and importantly, drive revenue.

How they operate in online spaces

Sponsored links strategically blend into the online spaces they appear. They might appear at the top of search engine results, along the side of web pages, within content, or even in news feeds on social media platforms. Regardless of where they’re placed, they’re typically designed to fit seamlessly with the surrounding content to ensure a non-disruptive user experience. On a search engine page, for instance, sponsored links are commonly seen as the top few results, clearly marked as ‘Ad’ or ‘Sponsored’ to distinguish them from organic results.

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How Sponsored Links Impact SEO

Link between sponsored links and search engine rankings

While sponsored links are not directly factored into search engine rankings, they can indirectly influence them. When users click on your sponsored link and land on your website, their behaviour can impact your SEO rankings. For instance, an increase in website traffic, a longer time spent on your site, and a lower bounce rate will signal to search engines that your site offers valuable content, potentially leading to higher rankings.

Interplay between organic and sponsored search results

Having both sponsored links and a strong organic ranking can increase your overall visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). Although sponsored links don’t directly boost your organic ranking, they work together with organic results in driving traffic to your website. They can also provide an immediate presence on SERPs while you’re working to improve your organic search presence.

Influence of sponsored links on website visibility

Utilising sponsored links can significantly boost your website’s visibility. This is because sponsored links allow you to bid for specific keyword terms related to your business, thus positioning your website at the top of the results for those keywords. This increased visibility can lead to more clicks, resulting in higher traffic volumes to your website.

Types of Sponsored Links

Text links

Text links are sponsored links represented in plain text format. They typically contain a short headline, a description, and a URL to the advertiser’s website. Text links often appear in search engine results or web content and are designed to blend well with the surrounding content.

Image links

Image links or display ads use visual content to attract attention and encourage users to click through. They could include product images, logos, or other visual elements, combined with text. Image links are commonly seen on websites, blogs, and social media platforms.

Video links

Video links are ever more popular, given the growing preference for video content among internet users. These are essentially brief video ads that promote a product, service, or brand, and may appear on platforms like YouTube or within video content on social media.

Social media sponsored links

Social media sponsored links appear in a user’s social media feed, reflecting the user’s past online behaviour or relevance to the ad. They could be in the form of text, image, video, or combinations thereof.

Sourcing for Sponsored Links

Direct approach to companies

This involves directly contacting the companies you’d like to advertiser with and negotiating the terms. It’s a suitable option when you want to keep control over the advertising process and have a specific list of sites you’d want your ads to appear on.

Using affiliate networks

Affiliate networks act as intermediaries between advertisers and publishers. They provide an extensive range of sites where you can place sponsored links, giving your ads a broad reach.

Leveraging link brokerages

Link brokerages are platforms that can help you buy and sell links. They offer a diverse range of websites to choose from, streamlining the process of finding suitable sites for your sponsored links.

Setting Up Sponsored Links

Creation process

The creation process for sponsored links can vary depending on the specific platform you’re using. However, it generally involves designing your ad—be it text, image or video—defining your target audience, and choosing your keywords.

Choosing link placement

Link placement is crucial as it determines the visibility and effectiveness of your links. Depending on the platform, you can choose whether your link appears at the top, side, or within the content on a page.

Link optimisation

Link optimisation ensures that your sponsored links have maximum impact. It involves using relevant keywords, creating engaging content, and ensuring you have a compelling call to action.

Cost Structures for Sponsored Links

Pay per click (PPC)

PPC is a cost model where you pay for each click your sponsored link receives. It’s ideal if your aim is to drive targeted traffic to your website.

Cost per thousand impressions (CPM)

With CPM, you’re charged for every thousand views your ad gets, regardless of whether or not the viewer clicks on it. This model is ideal for increasing brand awareness rather than directing traffic to your site.

Fixed cost advertising

In this model, you pay a fixed price for your ad to be displayed for a certain period, regardless of clicks or impressions.

Detecting Sponsored Links on a Webpage

Visual cues for identifying sponsored links

In most cases, sponsored links are labelled with an ‘Ad’, ‘Sponsored’ or ‘Promoted’ tag. They also often sit separately from the main content, usually at the top of a search engine result page, on the sidebar, or in between content.

Software tools for detecting sponsored content

There are software tools available that can flag sponsored content on a page. These tools typically operate by scanning a webpage for specific markers or keywords indicative of sponsored links.

Benefits of Sponsored Links

Potential for increasing website traffic

One of the primary benefits of sponsored links is the potential to drive significant traffic to your website, instantly increasing your visibility and reach.

Monetisation opportunities

Sponsored links provide excellent monetisation opportunities, allowing you to earn revenue for every click or impression your ad generates.

Creating brand awareness

Sponsored links can boost your brand awareness, getting your brand name and message in front of a wider audience.

Drawbacks of Sponsored Links

Potential for keyword competition

One key drawback of sponsored links is the potential for intense competition over popular keywords, making it harder for your ad to stand out or achieve top placement.

Risk of diminishing organic traffic

There’s also the risk that investing too much in sponsored links could shift focus away from organic SEO strategies, possibly leading to a decrease in organic traffic over time.

Possible consumer mistrust

Sometimes, consumers may mistrust sponsored links, viewing them as less genuine or trustworthy compared to organic search results.

Future of Sponsored Links

Trends in sponsored advertising

Trends in sponsored advertising point towards more personalised and targeted ads, such as interactive ads or ads powered by artificial intelligence, set to provide a more engaging experience for users.

Impact of changing algorithms

As search engines and social media platforms continue to update their algorithms, these changes are likely to affect how sponsored links are displayed and prioritised.

Innovation in ad delivery methods

Innovation is anticipated in delivery methods, with newer advertising formats like voice search, visual search, and augmented reality gaining traction. These advancements will likely reshape the world of sponsored links, offering advertisers fresh ways to connect with their audience.

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Nico Bortoluzzi

Hi, I’m Nicholas Bortoluzzi (but people often call me Nico).

I am the Founder and Director at SEO Lynx, an internet marketing agency operating in the UK and servicing clients worldwide.

The article on this page was written and curated by myself.