Confusion persists over what you can and can't do on Wordpress.com, that's the free service for Wordpress blogs hosted by the Wordpress folks themselves out of the goodness of their hearts. They run the advertising, they get the revenue. It should all be very straightforward but the rules don't seem to be encapsulated neatly in one place where we can all see them.
Run your Wordpress (.org) blog on a self-hosted domain and you can do anything you like. You're the one responsible for maintaining it on whatever server you've paid for, knock yourself out. The .com blogs are a different matter...
Wordpress.com runs ads on our blogs and has done since 2006. User-generated advertising is not allowed on free hosted WordPress.com blogs. The only exceptions are for high traffic blogs that qualify for and are accepted into the Ad Control program, and very high traffic blogs that qualify and are accepted into the paid VIP hosting program. More information can be found at
Which blogs are allowed to use AdSense and Skimlinks?
Those would be the blogs with high traffic of 25,000 or more page views a month. VIP blogs like CNN and the NFL, paying $2,500 a month, can run their own ads.
If you do get over the magic 25,000 mark, you can qualify for ads at a 50/50 split with Wordpress, but the amount varies with the click-thru rate. Don't give up your day job.
Other conditions for using AdSense and Skimlinks
There are further conditions for use of AdSense and Skimlinks, which are allowed only for blogs with real content, not skimming, hyping or solely for advertising product and definitely not spamming. The WordPress.com Terms of Service on Advertising is the usual 'EULA minefield' and Wordpress gets to decide what's appropriate not you.
To get AdSense and Skimlinks for your blog
You fill in a form on the Terms of Service on Advertising page to apply. WordPress.com will review your blog and approve or deny you. You also have to sign up for AdSense and Skimlinks accounts. You have to get approved for the latter as well, but both should be free.
After you get approved, Ad Control appears under your Settings menu when you log into WordPress.com, where your account ID's are entered.
In summary, free blogs hosted by Wordpress.com cannot be used to drive traffic to third-party sites by means of advertising and/or affiliate programs. E-commerce transactions via shopping carts and the like cannot be conducted on wordpress.com blogs. No retailing or reselling the work created or services provided by anyone other than yourself is allowed.
Affiliate marketing blogs
The only exceptions with regard to affiliate links are summarized by Wordpress:
"Affiliate marketing blogs: Blogs with the primary purpose of driving traffic to affiliate programs and get-rich-quick schemes (“Make six figures from home!!”, “20 easy steps to top profits!!”, etc). This includes multi-level marketing (MLM) blogs and pyramid schemes. To be clear, people writing their own original book, movie or game reviews and linking them to Amazon, or people linking to their own products on Etsy do NOT fall into this category (http://en.wordpress.com/types-of-blogs/)."
You can link to reviews in your actual post; book reviews, gear reviews and the like, but nothing is allowed in the sidebar section.
One response from Wordpress support reads:
"If you write reviews for product on Amazon.com, it's ok to use their image and add an affiliate link.Other forms of advertising (including sidebar widget with Amazon affiliate links) at WordPress.com is not allowed.
For full details, please see: http://support.wordpress.com/advertising/ and http://wordpress.com/types-of-blogs/ If you require advertising, you might be interested in a self-hosted (WordPress.org) installation. There are no restrictions on advertising if you setup a self-hosted WordPress.org blog instead of a WordPress.com blog, but there are some added responsibilities. Please see this link to learn about the differences: http://support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/...
If you require an ecommerce site, advertising and/or affiliate links on your blog, you can hire a web host and get a free software install from http://wordpress.org. The information at http://support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/ outlines the differences between free hosted WordPress.com blogs and WordPress.org software installs for self hosting.
Also note that those readers using Firefox browsers with AdBlock Plus (42.8% of those surfing the internet) will not see the ads on your blog at all! RC