Link building remains a fundamental pillar of SEO success.

Organic links, which are a part of White Hat SEO, are often earned through high-quality content and outreach. Similarly, sponsored links provide another powerful avenue for driving targeted traffic and brand awareness.

Definition of Sponsored Links

What Are Sponsored Links?

Try searching any query on Google. Most of the time, what you’ll come across is a single or a string of sponsored content. These are Google ads and they may appear like any other search engine results, but the label clearly shows these are sponsored links.

Put simply, a sponsored link is the advertisement displayed on the search engine results page when any user searches for certain keywords. These can be also found within various blogs, articles, websites, and so on.

What Are The Benefits Of Sponsored Links?

Sponsored Links are mission critical for websites. Here’s why:

1. Targeted Visibility: Dominate the SERPs. Forget blending in with the crowd. Sponsored links ensure your brand occupies prime real estate, appearing above or alongside organic results. It’s like having a VIP pass on the digital highway, capturing user attention the moment they enter their search query. 

Imagine your logo popping up for “best running shoes” – you’re not just visible, you’re the first option users see. This immediate and prominent visibility translates to significantly higher click-through rates, driving more qualified traffic to your website.

2. Laser-Focused Traffic: Attract the Perfect Customers. Organic SEO casts a wide net, hoping to catch whoever might be interested. Sponsored links let you define your ideal customer with laser precision. By targeting specific keywords and demographics, you reach users actively searching for your solution.

 Imagine a travel agency dominating searches for “honeymoon in Maldives” – you’re not just attracting travelers, you’re attracting dream vacationers ready to book. This targeted approach ensures every click is a potential conversion, maximizing your return on investment.

3. Brand Visibility: Build Instant Recognition and Trust. Forget slow and steady brand building. Sponsored links let you launch a blitz attack on user awareness. By consistently appearing for relevant keywords, you plant your brand name in their minds, building instant recognition and trust. 

Imagine a new startup app owning the “productivity tool” search space – you’re not just introducing yourself, you’re establishing yourself as an authority in their eyes. This rapid brand-building effect paves the way for future organic success, making users more likely to remember and choose you.

4. Instant Lead Generation: Convert Clicks into Customers. Organic SEO is a marathon, but sponsored links are a sprint. You don’t wait for users to stumble upon your website; you drive them directly to action. By linking sponsored ads to landing pages or contact forms, you ignite conversions from the very first click. Imagine a furniture brand offering a “Free Design Consultation” directly through sponsored links – you’re not just attracting browsers, you’re actively generating leads ready to buy. This immediate conversion potential shortens the sales cycle and accelerates your bottom line.

5. SEO Benefits: Fuel Organic Growth Indirectly. While sponsored links themselves don’t directly influence organic ranking, they can create a powerful ripple effect. The increased brand mentions, user engagement, and website authority you gain through successful campaigns can positively influence Google’s algorithms. Imagine positive testimonials and increased traffic boosting your website’s reputation – you’re building goodwill with both users and the search engine, laying the groundwork for organic success over time. This indirect synergy amplifies your overall SEO strategy, creating a long-lasting impact beyond the paid campaign itself.

6. Instant Results: See Results Now. Organic SEO takes time and dedication, often measured in months and years. Sponsored links offer instant gratification – you can launch a campaign today and see your brand dominating SERPs and attracting targeted traffic tomorrow. Imagine seeing an influx of leads and conversions within hours of launching your ad – it’s a morale booster and a validation of your marketing efforts. This immediate impact provides a valuable jumpstart, giving you valuable data and momentum to optimize your broader SEO strategy.

Characteristics of Sponsored Link Attributes

Sponsored links are a prevalent form of online advertising where businesses pay to have their websites featured prominently on search engine results pages. These links are labeled as “sponsored” to distinguish them from organic search results, ensuring transparency for users. Here are key characteristics that define sponsored links:

1.Clear Labeling: Sponsored links are distinctly labeled as “Sponsored,” “Ad,” or a similar designation. This transparency helps users differentiate between paid and organic search results, fostering trust in the online advertising ecosystem.

2. Positioning: Sponsored links typically appear at the top or bottom of search engine results pages. Advertisers bid on specific keywords, and the position of their sponsored link is influenced by bid amounts and ad relevance. Higher bids and relevance can lead to more prominent positions.

3. Keyword Targeting: Advertisers choose relevant keywords to trigger the display of their sponsored links. Effective keyword targeting ensures that ads are shown to users actively searching for related information, improving the chances of engagement.

4. Cost-Per-Click (CPC) Model: Sponsored links operate on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, where advertisers pay a fee for each user click. This model allows businesses to manage advertising expenses more directly, paying only when users take action.

5. Ad Copy and Creatives: Sponsored links include ad copy and creatives such as images or videos. Crafting compelling ad copy and visually appealing creatives is crucial for attracting user attention and encouraging clicks. Advertisers often conduct A/B testing to optimize these elements.

6. Relevance and Quality Score: Search engines assess the relevance and quality of sponsored links to ensure a positive user experience. Advertisers with high-quality, relevant ads may receive better placements and lower CPCs. The quality score considers factors like ad relevance, landing page experience, and historical click-through rates.

7. Ad Extensions: Advertisers can enhance sponsored links with additional information using ad extensions. These include site links, callouts, and structured snippets, providing users with more details about products or services and creating a more comprehensive ad.

8. Geo-Targeting: Advertisers can target specific geographic locations to tailor sponsored links to local audiences. This feature is valuable for businesses with physical locations or those offering region-specific services.

9. Ad Auctions: Placement of sponsored links is determined through ad auctions, where advertisers bid on keywords. The auction considers bid amounts, ad quality, and other factors to decide the position and visibility of sponsored links on search engine results pages.

10. Ad Tracking and Analytics: Advertisers use tracking tools and analytics to measure the performance of sponsored links. Metrics like click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and return on investment (ROI) provide insights into the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, enabling data-driven decisions.

Technical Aspects of Sponsored Link Attributes

The special attribute rel=”sponsored” was created by Google to indicate that the link is advertised. All affiliate, sponsored articles and any other paid publications that contain a link recommended by Google must be marked with a special parameter.

<a rel=”sponsored” href=””>Microsoft</a>

In 2019, Google introduced 2 new parameters for rel. Previously there was only rel=”nofollow”. The parameters were created to help Google better understand the nature of links. At the same time, rel=”nofollow” continues to work, but rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc” have appeared.

Some tips for working with parameters:

  • rel=”nofollow” – use this parameter if you do not want Google robots to follow links on your site and associate these links with it. This is usually used to protect against leakage of reference juice.
  • rel=”ugc” – use if your site has content that is generated by site visitors. These can be forums, comments, reviews, etc.
  • You can specify multiple values separated by spaces or commas.

<a rel=”nofollow sponsored” href=””>Microsoft</a>

  • It is better not to touch existing links on the site and not to change their rel. We adhere to the concept of IT developers “It works, don’t touch it”🙂

Despite the fact that many years have passed since its launch, the parameters have not become the industry standard. The attitude towards them in the SEO community is ambiguous and it is not very clear how this will affect the effectiveness of link building. Webmasters are wary of using new parameters and close links the old fashioned way using rel=”nofollow”.

Common Problems in Campaigns with Sponsored Links and Their Solutions

Low Click-Through Rates (CTRs)– Optimize ad copy: Craft compelling headlines and descriptions that resonate with your target audience. Focus on benefits and calls to action.
– Target the right keywords: Bid on relevant keywords with high search volume and low competition.
– Improve ad quality score: Google Ads provides quality score metrics. Improve landing page relevance, ad relevance, and expected CTR to lower costs and increase ad positions. 
– Experiment with ad formats: Consider using different ad formats like image ads, video ads, or call extensions to attract more attention.
High Cost-Per-Click (CPC)– Refine keyword targeting: Narrow down your target keywords to avoid irrelevant clicks. Use negative keywords to exclude irrelevant searches. 
– Adjust bids: Optimize your bids based on performance data. Reduce bids for underperforming keywords and increase bids for high-performing ones. 
– Improve ad quality score: A higher quality score can lead to lower CPCs. 
– Consider alternative platforms: Explore other advertising platforms like social media or LinkedIn ads depending on your target audience and goals.
Poor Conversion Rates– Optimize landing pages: Ensure your landing pages are relevant to your ads and offer a seamless user experience. Use clear calls to action and lead users through the conversion funnel. 
– Track user behavior:Analyze user behavior on your landing pages using tools like Google Analytics. Identify any friction points and optimize the page for conversions. 
– Offer compelling incentives: Consider offering special promotions or discounts to entice users to convert. 
– Test and iterate: Experiment with different landing page designs, headlines, and calls to action to see what performs best.
Irrelevant Traffic– Refine keyword targeting: Ensure your keywords are tightly aligned with your target audience and the products or services you offer. 
– Use negative keywords: Exclude irrelevant searches that might trigger your ads. 
– Leverage audience targeting: Utilize demographic and interest targeting options to reach users most likely to be interested in your offerings. 
– Monitor campaign performance: Regularly analyze your campaign data and adjust targeting criteria as needed to attract the right audience.
Compliance Issues– Understand platform policies: Familiarize yourself with the advertising platform’s policies and adhere to them strictly. 
– Clearly disclose sponsored links: Use the rel=”sponsored” attribute in your HTML code and label sponsored content within your website or platform. 
– Avoid misleading claims: Ensure your ad copy and landing pages are accurate and truthful. Make no false promises or deceptive claims. 
– Monitor competitor activity: Be aware of your competitors’ advertising practices and ensure your own campaigns remain compliant.

Future Trends and Developments

As technology advances, the landscape of sponsored advertising will continue to evolve, offering even more targeted reach and engaging experiences. Embrace these trends and adapt your strategies to stay ahead of the curve and ensure your sponsored links keep sparking user interest and driving conversions.

  • AI-powered Personalization: Expect hyper-targeted ads tailoring messaging and placements to individual users, blurring the line between ad and relevant content. Think ads seamlessly blending into your interests and search history.
  • Dynamic Bidding Algorithms: Bidding based on real-time user behavior and market fluctuations will become the norm, ensuring optimal ad placements and cost-efficiency. Imagine bids adjusting based on a user’s purchase intent or competitor activity.
  • Interactive and Immersive Formats: Forget static banners, embrace 3D ad experiences and interactive elements like AR/VR, capturing user attention and engagement in innovative ways. Think virtual product try-ons or interactive demos within sponsored links.
  • Evolving Sponsored Link Attributes: Attributes may move beyond “sponsored” to provide richer information like data origin, user consent status, or environmental impact for enhanced transparency and ethical considerations. Imagine sponsored links labeled “carbon-neutral” or “user-verified” for conscious consumers.

How Serpzilla Showcased Usefulness of Sponsored Links

To test the effectiveness of links with the rel=”sponsored” attribute, the Serpzilla team conducted an experiment to find out how useful such links are when promoting a site.

The main goal of the experiment was to test links with the rel=”sponsored” attribute. This attribute indicates a connection with advertising or sponsorship materials, and also indicates in advance a paid method for placing a link.

The website of the boiler installation and maintenance company “Guru System” was chosen as the site for this experiment. For a long time – about 2 years – no SEO work was carried out on this resource. Consequently, it was possible to check the correctness of the hypotheses without fear of the influence of extraneous factors.

To test the effect of links, 4 URLs were selected – pages dedicated to the repair of boilers of various brands. The semantics were analyzed and selected on them, so that 4 different clusters of keywords were obtained:

  • Bosch boiler repair;
  • repair of Vailant boilers;
  • Baxi boiler repair;
  • Visman boiler repair.

The effectiveness of links with the rel=”sponsored” attribute could be confirmed or refuted only by comparing them with others. Therefore, for two URLs (“Baxi boiler repair” and “Bosch boiler repair”), sponsored links (with the sponsored attribute) were purchased, and for the remaining two, regular links (without the attribute) were purchased.

After all the preparatory work was completed, the purchase of links from the Serpzilla service began in early September. Links were selected according to the SR parameter – from 5 and above – as well as according to the level of traffic. In this case, the cheapest links from among those available were selected.

In just 2 days, 425 links were purchased:

  • Bosch boiler repair – 144 Serpzilla backlinks (rel=”sponsored”);
  • repair of Vailant boilers – 100 Serpzilla backlinks (обычные);
  • Baxi boiler repair – 94 Serpzilla backlinks (rel=”sponsored”);
  • Visman boiler repair – 87 Serpzilla backlinks (обычные).

The first results became noticeable after 3 weeks. By the end of the month, there was a clear increase in all promoted clusters. A month after the purchase, it remained and reached an average of 12%; the improvement within the group was approximately 20-25 positions.

It should be noted that not all links were included in Google Search Console – only 10+% of them were displayed during verification. Perhaps the reason for this was the speed of updating data in the console, as well as the fact that it may not take into account all the links included in the site profile.

All promoted URLs showed approximately the same growth statistics in search results.

Support for all purchased links was stopped on September 20 and after that there was a drop in visibility.

Based on the results obtained, we can clearly conclude that links with the rel=”sponsored” attribute really affect rankings in Google and are not inferior in this regard to regular links without this attribute.

In addition, the experiment once again showed the importance of maintaining links for further successful promotion. If it takes time to gain positions using link building, then pessimization after removing links begins almost instantly.

Create Quality Traffic with Serpzilla

The role of links in SEO is undoubtedly important. For more organic and natural link building, we recommend adding variety to your link profile and using different types of links with different rel parameters. It is not enough to work with only one type of link. At Serpzilla you can buy up to 7 formats. In addition, you can set up the purchase of both regular dofollow links and nofollow and sponsored links. You can change the rel parameter in the settings of any URL.

The purchase and payment process is automated. The placement of links is controlled and you will never spend money on non-existent links, and in case of loss, the money for the missing link will be returned to your balance.

Need more such detailed insights on everything SEO? Check out our other blogs on the website.

  • Sergey Pankov

    Sergey is a seasoned SEO expert with 20+ years of experience, global link building opinion leader, he is a regular speaker at various SEO conferences and webinars dedicated to website optimization. As a CEO at, Sergey is responsible for strategic & operational management of business areas, business scaling, building first-class customer service, innovation & technology management, hiring & management of teams of talents. Sergey's Linkedin