I’m almost leery to mention this because the company approaches the seedier side of the SEO industry, but one of my experiments that I engaged in this month after getting destroyed by AdWords (I’m incidentally less than totally destroyed now: CPA is hovering around $.40 which is survivable if not very profitable) was buying some links from Text Link Ads.  I bought two, paying $15 for one and $20 for the other.  These two links stay up a month and there is no CPC fee.

Here’s the process: you come up with an incredibly short (30 characters as I recall) link, find a site to put it on through their interface, and make the payment for it.  24-48 hours later, the site owner says “OK, I’ll accept that link”, and they get half of the money while Text Link Ads takes the other half.  In return, I get some SEO juice and some natural traffic.

Results after a week have been less than encouraging.  First, Text Link Ads makes it less than transparent to figure out exactly who you’re buying the link from, so that you can’t contact that person off the site and cut Text Link Ads out of the deal.  As a result, I ended up buying a link on a high-traffic “forum for learning/teaching English” which turned out to be a midranked school in Beijing, with PR4.  Not that I have anything against midranked Chinese universities, its just, well, I have a realistic expectation of the likelihood of that link generating one marginal sale in a month (it cost $20).

The other site was “teacher resources for ESL learning”.  Sounds right up my alley, right?  Unfortunately, its almost *designed* to be hard to use (interstitial popup as soon as you get to the page asking for your email address so they can spam you, how lovely!), and my link is actually on the waaaaaaaaaay bottom of the page, competing for attention with some real estate speculators.

Their “inventory” (sites which have offered space for a link) is very, very poor at least when it comes to education (some blogs with two orders of magnitude less traffic than this one, for example, and a couple dozen sites which exist only to make a profit, not to provide anything of value to the visitors), and most of the pages are chock-full of links already.  Now, on the other hand, in the more technically adept parts of the pool there are some places where some offers would be actually attractive.  If I were selling iPod accessories, for example, $20/month for a link on a Mac fan forum with 60,000 members and 1,000 posts a day doesn’t sound like a terrible idea.

End result: Well, you win some, you lose some.  I’m probably not going to be continuing this experiment.  HeyAmigo is also incidentally not ready for prime time: more on that later.