Dear Pop-Up Link Advertisements: You're Doing It Wrong

Posted by Grady Neff

January 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM

The classical art form of link building has been around for several years now and, unfortunately, it's getting a bad rap. Most people in the game started out simply building links on blog comments or in forums to boost SEO ratings, but Google wised up. Each update forced links and content published on behalf of other sites and products, via a hyperlink, to evolve into a more elegant process.

Guest blogging and publishing content on behalf of other businesses is still an incredibly effective tactic for SEO and inbound marketing, in that those tactics drive interested parties to relevant content. We at Slingshot SEO have honed it down to an effective process that works. However, much like anything else in the world, it needs to be done correctly. Creating content that's in line with what you do as a business is paramount--otherwise, it helps no one.

Examples of How Not To Do It

A website has no need for random links to unrelated information and products--not to mention the linked party will receive hollow traffic that will almost always bounce. A couple of these organizations employing said tactics are Kontera and Infolinks, claiming to understand the content graph to help your links and products get in front of your desired audience. But these aren't hyperlinks--they're merely paid ads; and they also have the potential to destroy your rapport online by treating your readers like morons.

As a placement specialist myself, these fellas make me look bad--especially since Slingshot SEO is doing digital PR that has been proven to work. I don’t want to throw down, but if a chump steps to me, it’s time to get wild. Let’s take a quick look at a few blog posts in which these “paid ad links” appear, and how their method is absolutely wrong for driving traffic.

TG Daily

So, here we have the website TG Daily, a technology and science website devoted to various news stories, environmental updates and other relevant content. This particular article is about how increasing jellyfish numbers in the oceans have nothing to do with global warming or other environmental issues; it’s simply part of a natural cycle. It's a great article, and one that will draw plenty of viewers in search of green and scientific content. The problem arises in the form of the green underlined hyperlinks throughout the article.

Each hyperlink (with the anchor text being stings, rise, investigation and academy) opens up a little advertisement that links back to Showtime’s hit new series Homeland. For those of you who don’t know, Homeland is about terrorism and government's role in stopping it. Do you get the connection? Jellyfish to new terrorist TV show? Didn’t think so.

This is just wolf advertising in sheep’s clothing. People will flock to TG Daily to get their scientific news, only to be interrupted each paragraph by a pop up flash advertisement with Claire Danes. Though the words sting and investigation are relevant to the show, in the context of this blog post they carry no value to the advertisement. Who will honestly go from being concerned about the planet, immediately to, “Huh, I could use more premium channels?” No one. Period.


Here's another perfect example: an article from iVillage about how actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Katie Holmes are rumored to be getting together. Great bit of juicy information and one that will draw people interested in celebrity gossip and entertainment news. Again, content rules supreme, and it's aimed toward a specific audience. And once again, a major problem arises in the form of a bright green underlined hyperlink.

This time, the link’s anchor text is West Village, referring to where Gyllenhaal lives. Hover over the link, though, and what pops up? An advertisement for NYC Financial Times about stock news and prices, you know for all those 17-year-old girls who have their eye on the Dow Jones.

Bad For UX, Bad For SEO

These paid links simply use a network of websites that get paid for installing their widget and use a crawler to identify various keywords within the site’s content. If you connect with a certain buzzword, bam--you get an advertisement. But most of the time, it has nothing to do with anything your audience comes to the article or website about. The ad buyer fails because people aren’t interested at all, and the host site fails because you lose the audience’s trust.

Guest blogging helps a website and an organization in that the link references information that is parallel to the current content. If the viewer wants more info they can follow the link and dive deeper into the subject. It helps drive traffic of people who will actually want to read and investigate your products and services, and it helps with SEO value by creating an effective backlink profile. When done right, it's an incredibly powerful tool to employ. When done wrong, it can come off as spammy, and paid links like these are the definition of spam.

There's a lot of chatter about how pop-up ad links are simply a scam to drop in advertisements based on keywords. Essentially, it's just masking the banner ad into another form, because all Internet users are stupid and love ads everywhere (heavy sarcasm). Digital PR has evolved, and it can be done right through the process of building relationships, and maintaining a focused attitude on the client and website on which it will be placed. Using an interruption advertising software like Infolinks or Kontera is not effective to bring in consumers who are genuinely interested in a blog post or site content--and for me, it just ends up pissing me off. And if I am the consumer you are trying to connect with, pissing me off is the exact opposite of what you want.

If you're interested in simply blocking out pop-up link advertisements, here’s a great article about how to shut it off.

To learn more about our digital PR strategies, check out CLASS: An insider’s guide to the Slingshot SEO methodology.


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