14 Ways to Disclose Sponsored Links While Fooling a Search Engine

There is a lot of debate right now about sponsored links. In fact, a certain search engine has decided to penalize web sites who are selling links (selling advertising) to other parties. I personally have decided not to publicly take sides on this paid link debate.

I strongly believe in online advertising. After all, most major search engines sell advertising on their own web sites in the form of Pay Per Click (PPC) ads, which is another form of text link ads. So, apparently ot all text link ads are bad. Text link ads are merely a form of online advertising.

If a search engine believes that paid text links or “sponsored links” (forms of online advertising) are getting way out of hand then perhaps the search engine needs to find another way to decide the relevency of a web site–perhaps they need to change their algorithm.

Certain advertising networks have decided that in order to be fair, they require that paid links or paid posts (when a blog accepts a paid post by a sponsor) must be disclosed–the web site must disclose whether or not a link or a blog post is “sponsored” or “paid for”.

To “get around” this disclosure requirement while still making sure that a sponsored link or paid blog post is not penalized by a search engine, some web site owners have decided to take disclosure into their own hands.

In the spirit of this, I have come up with 14 ways to disclose that a paid or sponsored link or blog post has been paid for by another party–while making it nearly impossible for a search engine to figure out whether the blog post or link is really paid for.

1. The links that appear somewhere below are not sponsored or paid for in any way. The statement in the sentence prior to this sentence is completely false.

2. If you would like to know whether or not this blog post is sponsored please email the site owner and we will tell you.

3. The links below could be sponsored or might not be sponsored. In any case, choose the former and you will be correct.

4. The fifth, seventh, twelth, and nineteenth link that appears in the source code of this page are sponsored links.

5. All links in blog posts on this web site are not sponsored links. This web site does not contain a blog.

6. .tsop derosnops a si sihT … Read the prior sentence backwards and you will find the answer.

7. .knil derosnops a si sihT … Read the prior sentence in a mirror and you will find your message.

8. tsoP derosnopS

9. kniL derosnopS

10. sknil diaP

11. skniL derosnopS

12. Read the next sentence in a mirror and you will have the message I am trying to convey to you. .tsop derosnops a si sihT

13. Read the next phrase by first using a screen capture program and using the reverse image feature of that program… .tsop diap a si sihT

12. A third party has decided that there is some monetary value in this blog post, and some other business entity has decided to take advantage of this.

13. Send the domain name owner an email asking about whether or not some other company has put value on this blog post and the domain name owner will tell you.

14. If a search engine requires that you pay for a pay per click program then this blog post is paid for by another company. The prior statement is true to the best of our knowledge.

Of course, I do not actually suggest that you use any of these phrases on your own web site if you decide to monetize your website by selling advertising, just like a search engine does. Furthermore, now that “the jig is up” most likely some fanatical search engine engineers might actually program these statements into their code and make it a part of their search engine’s algorithm.

My disclosure about this blog post: This blog post is certainly not paid for by anyone, never will be, and is not sponsored. This blog post is actually meant as a joke because I believe that the paid link (i.e., online advertising debate) has gotten way way way too far out of hand. If you would really like to know how I feel, send me an email and I’ll discuss it with you.

Do you have a way that a web site owner could properly disclose that a sponsored link is in fact paid for while at the same time fooling a search engine? I would love to hear what you’ve come up with.

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  1. Annie Maloney says

    I love it! “elims em edam tsil ruoY” It has gotten way out of hand. Maybe if the big G and the rest of them would actually come out with guidelines that don’t have 52 different variations or possible definitions then we could get some work done w/o wondering if you are possibly crossing the line or breaking the rules…

  2. David Wallace says

    I like # 2. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    How about, “Sponsored or not sponsored… that is the question.”

  3. Meg says

    Hi Bill

    Thanks for the chuckle :)

    Seriously though, would an image work? Rather than the words “this is a sponsored post” just insert an image saying “this is a sponsored post”, of course giving it some innocuous alt tag.

    Just a thought.

  4. Jason says

    remember search engines also give manual human reviews of websites too so they can not all be fooled

  5. Wiep says

    You could disclose it in an image. An image called 7362hjs.jpg that states “sponsored post” would be quite hard to read for a search engine ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Maki says

    The funny thing is I thought this was a serious article… got all ready to digest the info and then when I got to the first and second points I started chuckling. hehe :)

  7. Cody says

    Hehe…Great list. But yes, this is what I thought and agree with Bill, what about an image with the appropriate tag? Should be the same thing, right?

  8. Jon Henshaw says

    If you don’t want a search engine to see text that says sponsored link or review, put it in an iframe. Bam!