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ScratchBack Widget Installed; Cheap Text Link Ads Available

July 28th, 2008

scratchback-logo.jpgIn my ongoing quest to test different monetization methods, I have finally installed a Scratchback widget on the sidebar and now have relatively cheap text link ads available for only $1.50 each. It is placed above the fold just below the RSS buttons. Any incoming link placements are set to remain on the site until 10 others are purchased and bump the first one off the list.

Originally created by Jim Kukral, the ScratchBack system is designed to allow bloggers to receive tips from readers, but instead of using the standard donation buttons, it allows the blogger to “scratch back” the reader by providing a text link in exchange. Although technically the payments are considered tips, the effect is the same as buying text links for traffic and branding recognition without having to worry about messing around with Google’s PageRank algorithm and bringing down their wrath on hapless webmasters. All links in the widget are automatically set to nofollow and are also contained within JavaScript, which means that they are unlikely to unduly influence search engine rankings.

Site owners who install the widget can set their own link prices, choose from a somewhat limited range of design options, and set the duration of link placements within certain parameters. For example, I have currently set the system to use the “auto bump” feature, which allows links to remain on the site for as long as it takes for other people to come along and purchase enough links to bump the original ones off the list. However, it is also possible to set the links to remain for fixed time periods of 24 hours, 7 days, or 30 days. Over time, my specific prices and settings will be determined by the normal free market forces of supply and demand as well as suggestions from readers.

Although I have not yet seen any detailed statistics, the ScratchBack idea seems to have become somewhat popular, thanks in part to this report from TechCrunch that was published not long after the initial launch. I have already had a fair amount of experience with purchasing ScratchBank links as an advertiser to bring in traffic to various pages of this site. There are actually some pretty good deals out there, especially if you can find other sites with widget placements above the fold.

The main disadvantage that I have encountered with this is that we are limited to only 20 characters in the anchor text, which can force you to do some creative thinking with your word choices depending on which page you want to advertise. However, we are allowed to choose the tooltip text that appears when visitors hover their mouse above the link, adding a certain amount of flexibility in choosing your overall message.

Like many other publishers, I am hoping that Jim Kukral’s team will eventually introduce more design choices, payment options, and perhaps the possibility of allowing longer lines for anchor text. Until then, I will simply give this system a test run and see if I can attract enough buyers to justify the widget placement and establish another relatively passive income stream.

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