Sponsored Link

The term sponsored link can have two different meanings in oline marketing. On the one hand, the sponsored link is a paid listing in the advertising area of search engines . On the other hand, references to other websites via a link are referred to as “sponsored links”. In both cases, it is important that the linking site marks the paid link as such. In German, such a link is also called a “sponsor link”. Sometimes sponsored links are also referred to as partner links.

Sponsored link

Sponsored links as a link via search engine advertising

Search engines usually offer advertisers paid placements within the search result lists ( SERPs ). These are sponsored links. Both a complete ad and a URL within a text ad can be linked. Sponsor links are placed via search engines using keywords that the advertiser deposits for the advertising booking. If a user uses the search engine’s search bar and enters a search term, the ad created by the advertiser will be displayed. If the user clicks on this ad, the advertiser pays a certain amount. The amount of the so-called click price usually depends on how many other advertisers want to place advertisements for this search term.

This form of sponsored links can be used by webmasters, for example as part of search engine marketing ( SEA ), in order to generate targeted traffic for a website or a special landing page. In most cases, advertisers pay in the form of pay-per-click (PPC). It is therefore also spoken of PPC campaigns.

Sponsored links are marked as advertising within the SERPs.


In the late 1990s, the first search engines enabled private users to search parts of the Internet. Since the provision of computing power for the immense amount of data from web searches devours a lot of financial resources, search engine providers took advantage of the opportunity to monetize their offerings early on. For example, just a year after launching its search engine, Google began offering sponsored links to paying customers through the Google AdWords program. Today, the advertising program is still the central source of income for the Alphabet Group, of which Google has become a part. Other search engines such as Bing or Yahoo offer advertisers similar services and use sponsored links as a source of revenue.

Search engines like Google now offer users a large number of sponsored links and thus opportunities for search engine advertising. The Google AdWords advertising program can be used, for example, to place ads on the YouTube video platform, Google Shopping Ads, text ads or display ads on the websites participating in the Google AdSense advertising program. In all cases, the paid links are marked and recognizable as such for users.

Sponsored Links on Websites

Not only search engines look for possible income through sponsored links, but also websites. It makes sense for them to use programs like Google AdSense to integrate sponsored links on their own pages and earn money per click on such a link.

Some website operators offer advertisers sponsored links on their own initiative. Many publishers’ websites often maintain their own advertising networks, within which customers are allowed to set sponsor links. This form of paid linking must also be marked as such.

Sponsored Links and Surreptitious Advertising

It is important for website operators to mark paid links as advertising. By pointing out that the link is paid for, you avoid that an article on your own site could be admonished as surreptitious advertising. In most cases, it is not the link itself that is marked as an advertising link, but rather a note at the beginning or end of an article that it is a paid contribution. Accordingly, in this case, the terms “Sponsored Post” and “Sponsored Link” have almost identical meanings, even if they are two different versions.

Sponsored Links and Nofollow

For search engines, every link represents a kind of recommendation for a website. At the same time, a link can increase the trust of a website and improve its ranking. However, the webmaster guidelines from Google or Bing stipulate that backlinks are set voluntarily. Any form of unnatural linking can result in a penalty or, in the worst case, exclusion from the search engine index.

In this case, webmasters should mark paid links as such or refer to a paid contribution. On the other hand, they should invalidate these links for search engines and indicate that the crawlers should not follow them. To avoid a penalty for sponsored links, Google recommends giving these links the attribute rel=nofollow.

Sponsored Links and Affiliate Marketing

Sponsored links can also be used in affiliate marketing. In this case, the payment is made either via click or agreed conversions or leads. Affiliate links must also be marked as advertising.

Importance for Online Marketing

With sponsored links, marketing managers have the opportunity to significantly increase the brand reach of a website or a brand. By booking sponsor links in search engines or high-reach websites, more traffic can be directed to your own website. In a further step, sponsored links can also be used to test the suitability of a landing page through paid traffic.

Importance for SEO

According to statements by Google employee Johannes Müller, Google can now identify whether a paid link is an exception or not. For example, the search engine checks whether the link was set intentionally or not. Google’s web spam team would ultimately devalue such links so that no PageRank and thus link power would be transferred.

For webmasters, this should not result in the consequence of setting paid links without a nofollow attribute. After all, Google can not only devalue the link, but also classify it as web spam and devalue the relevant target page.


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