Looking for backlinks? Look elsewhere

Deluged with SEO marketers trying to get me to put links to their e-commerce sites on this blog. None of them are offering much individually, but added together it would be a fair-ish sum were I to say ‘yes’ to them all.

A quick and pithy message to them all: Fuck Off.

Apols if you’re sick of this topic (I’ve written about it before). I’m coming back to it because it’s a daily reminder, for me (yes, I’m getting these offers almost daily), of just how bonkers and corrupted the web has become.

The demands of SEO make every link suspect. Really doesn’t matter what you’re reading online, or where. Somebody, somewhere has probably paid for at least some – maybe all – of the links on the page. That’s rarely flagged, if ever.

To my ageing and increasingly irrelevant eye, this is dangerous. We used to educate kids to spot the difference between advertising and ‘real’ programmes on the TV and in other media (or at least, they tried to teach my generation. How about yours?). Nobody’s teaching anybody how to spot affiliate marketing and paid-for backlinks masquerading as ‘real’ content and ‘real’ click recommendations. Most parents haven’t got a sodding clue, so they could never teach their kids.

Does this matter? Do you care? Does anybody care?

6 Responses to “Looking for backlinks? Look elsewhere”

  1. VP Says:

    I’m being subjected to the same daily deluge Soilman, plus plenty of variations on the same theme.

    I’ve written on this subject a few times since your linked post and my lengthy reply in there.

    Things have moved on since then – your readers should note that non-disclosure of payment for links (money or in-kind) has to be disclosed by law in the UK. Also any links should be no follow, otherwise the blog owner is in breach of Google webmaster rules. Interflora made a spectacular own-goal around Mother’s Day this year when they managed to insert do follow links in 150 local and national papers and got penalised as a result. Whilst their Google ranking was quickly restored, it must have still cost them a tidy sum in lost revenue.

    It’s most frustrating to see some bloggers are clearly flouting the law, whilst hiding amongst those who aren’t aware of their responsibilities. Of course, the SEO people know there are plenty of either ilk who can be persuaded to link.

    Thanks for writing about the topic again and helping to raise awareness.

    If this comment proves to be gobbledegook for anyone reading this, I can supply the URL’s of my blogposts, which explain things more thoroughly and I hope more clearly!

  2. Soilman Says:

    Thanks for this, VP, and for pointing out the Google aspect. This is prob the most abused of Google’s rules, and getting more abused by the minute.

    Frankly, it should be ‘outlawed’ in more formal ways. If folks knew how compromised much web content has become, they’d be appalled.

    If you have kids, and if you know nothing about SEO and why links (and SO MUCH content) are so suspect, educate yourself. A quick Google search is enough. You owe it to your children to arm them with this information.

  3. Dave Says:

    I agree that education at all levels is needed, but it is difficult due to the speed that the internet is evolving. If you are going to complain about blogger with sponsored content/links, then complain about Google and its sponsored links that are ever becoming more and more similar looking then the organic results. I have spoken to many people who do not know that the very first listing is paid for, they just click it because it is at the top. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter sponsored activity, which are also marketed as ‘normal content’.

    VP is correct that it is illiegal to offer money for links without the link being identified as paid for and the link being nofollowed, but there are other methods to encourage bloggers to post about a product/service that does not break UK law (for example offering a free product to test). The links still need to include a ‘nofollow’ element, but that is only a Google guideline, and Google recommends lots of things that a webmaster should not follow.

    I too get lots of cold calling emails and offers of links. I have taken to finding humour in them and deleting them. There is little that we can do about them until Google decides to move the goal posts again and replaces links a major ranking factor (which I doubt they will).

    Overall, I guess ignorance is bliss. If someone does not know that a piece of content is paid for, but the content is what they want, why is that bad?

  4. Soilman Says:

    Hi Dave

    Many thanks for this contribution.

    To be clear, there is no UK act of legislation outlawing this practice specifically. What there is comes from Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The operative section is this:

    11) [It is not allowed to use] editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the
    consumer (advertorial).Example: A magazine is paid by a holiday company for an advertising feature on their luxury Red Sea diving school. The magazine does not make it clear that this is a paid-for feature – for example by clearly labelling it ‘Advertising Feature’ or ‘Advertorial’. This would breach the CPRs

    As you can see, there is no mention here of ‘dodgy’ web links (the example is an old, print-centric one), and all the references are to traders… ie commercial bodies. Bloggers aren’t traders (or at least, the ones offering dodgy links are usually doing their utmost not to look like traders… nor are they, actually, traders. At least, not by any standard definition thereof).

    So the law of the land (UK law at any rate – I’m not talking about any other territory’s rules here) is rather vague on this point and distinctly unhelpful. Probably also unusable for prosecutions. I’ve tried to find records of any successful prosecutions of bloggers under this legislation – and come up with nothing. Even if there have been any cases (know of any?), clearly the authorities aren’t throwing the book at everyone in sight.

    So we’re left with Google’s efforts to stymie it (which, as you so rightly point out Dave, are rather compromised by their own crappy record here). And our own knowledge and vigilance.

    As to your last point, I think – if I may dare contradict you – it slightly misses the point I was and am making: I have no objection to good content signposted by paid-for links. My objection is to recommendations – ‘reviews’ or endorsements of products/services – that purport to be genuine and authentic, but which are paid-for.

    And the web is absolutely fucking stuffed with ‘em.

  5. altadenahiker Says:

    The only ones who want links on my site are rehab facilities, weightloss clinics, and offshore casinos. I guess they think I’m nothing but a bundle of bad habits.

  6. Lee Burns Says:

    Feeling left out now that I’m not getting bombarded with these kind of offers! I generally get the sense that kids are more savvy than anyone when it comes to use of t’internet, but I might be utterly wrong about that.

    The convergence of paid for and “pure” content is an odd one. So many blogs seem to be created just to score freebies of some sort and bang on about how great they are. I don’t bother with these. Some others take freebies, but have no qualms about slagging them off if they’re guff, which is pleasingly honest. If people can’t intuitively tell the difference between press releases smuggled in as content, and heartfelt opinion and views, then things are indeed grim.