There are a few types of paid ads and placements and Google sees them all a bit differently. Let us explain….
The most common and acceptable from Google is the AdWords paid ad. For $x per click, they’ll happily display YOUR ad on top of THEIR search engine results page. Lately, they’ve been toying with the display of these ads so they may blend in a little bit more and not be so obviously an ad area. Pay for placement. Google LIKES these ads. It should – they had total advertising revenues, according to their disclosures, of over 50 BILLION dollars in 2013 with their ads. Yes, that’s with a “B”.
Marketing Campaign where you pay to have your advertisement or logo put on a website to drive traffic. Like advertising your new super duper car cleaner on a car website. Google is also mostly good with this kind of paid ad. Today. These aren’t ideal for SEO, but if they make you money, well, that’s the key, right? If they can be placed and linked “just so”, they can also provide some additional SEO benefits. You will see a lot of “affiliate ads” on blogs in many cases. That is THIS kind of ad. If you have a blog with 10 words and 30 ad blocks, Google WILL look, let us say, LESS favorably on your site. But generally, they don’t penalize for this kind of “paid” ad – be it your ad on someone else’s site or someone else’s ad on YOUR site.
Campaign where your ad/link appears on a website primarily for backlinking purposes and SEO improvement of your site. These will usually appear on higher PR sites (strong sites) where you will benefit from some the strength of THAT site passing to YOUR site via that link. Google is NOT good with this kind of ad. At all. Be afraid of sites that offer such ads or links – particularly in big bold letters across the top of their site. Google may not be human per se, but that doesn’t mean it’s stupid.
If you have to pay for those links – which you may or may not realize if you’re working with an agency – Google frowns on them. It does strike us as a little hypocritical – they’re tickled if you pay THEM to boost your site to the top of a search engine results page, but should you try to go around them to do the same thing based on “free” resources – they’re waiting to ding you – and maybe even delist you. We have been approached many times about putting these links on some of our sites by larger agencies. As a rule, we don’t go down that path. Though it is always interesting to hear what they’re willing to pay for a link on one of our sites 🙂
There are some sites that are actually making a full-time living by selling links on their pages. (At least they OUGHT to be based on some of the prices that we have seen…). These would be the sites you run across with the “Your link here for x amount” plastered at the top. They do exist. A value-giving link on a page can range generally from 20-75 bucks per month depending on the strength. Sometimes even higher. Bearing in mind some of these sites are pretty easy going about how many links they put on a page, your mileage on this type of strategy WILL vary. There’s a big difference between a link on a PR5 site with 10 outbound links and one with 100. Due to the variability of the value of those types of links, the costs, and the potential downsides, it’s NOT a strategy recommended for beginners. It’s very easy to spend several hundred dollars per month (or even considerably more) and get no tangible benefits. As well, this kind of benefit only lasts as long as your bank account.