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Wednesday 18 July 2012

SEO, lies, bloggers and no follow links

I've been a bit grumpy all day to be fair but this afternoon I received an email that really, really annoyed me.
The said email was from an online marketing agency with the sparkly subject line...

'Opportunity for'

Now that sounds innocent enough but in reality this opportunity was anything but. Let me explain.

On Saturday I wrote a review post over on my on my other blog The review is of Dial a Phone. I wasn't paid to write the post but I had been sent a mobile phone as a thank you. This was fully disclosed in the post and the links to Dial a Phone within the review are no-follow in accordance with Google's very clear terms and conditions.

Today's 'opportunity' related to that review but was sent via an agency that I'd had no previous contact with. It went like this...

I just saw your blog post about Dial a Phone... they are one of my clients... I wondered if you would consider making an exception to your (clearly stated) policy of not accepting sponsored posts or follow links... just this once and make one of the links in said post a do-follow link? With a small fee for your trouble...of course.

I've heard lots of bloggers talking about similar experiences over the last few months but as I don't accept sponsored content its the first time I've experienced it first hand.

My response went like this...

Dear SEO Expert... So, you are asking me to break Google's terms and conditions???

To which I received a reply that went like this...

Because you wrote the article yourself and and have already posted it, it would be a natural link to Dial a Phone's site... I'd pay you for the review you've already done and not the link... So, we aren't breaking any rules...

Sorry about to swear but seriously WTF?

How do agencies think that they can get away with behaving like this? Actually I know why and it's because they are preying on bloggers who aren't up with the CAP Code, OFT Guidelines or Google T&C's and they are lying to them by telling them that they aren't doing anything wrong.

But I am up on the regs and I know that its wrong.

So I did what any self respecting blogger would do. I spoke to my peers and it would seem that my 'issue' today is only the tip of the iceberg.

We have paid for, sponsored posts that once written with the agreed hyperlinks and mentions in place are strongly discouraged from being labelled as sponsored 'because that reflects badly with Google for the brand and for your blog'.
Read my friend Rosie's post about disclosure here (she gets a follow link!) and another post from Molly at Mothers Always Right who was also pushed about non disclosure.

Promises that payment in vouchers or product don't actually constitute being paid to write a post so follow links and non disclosure are OK.

Downright lies that Google will only catch you out if you insist on marking your posts as sponsored, as blogged by Mammasaurus (also with a follow link).

Full on agency denial and that they know nothing about these Google T&C's that you speak of.


I wonder how many brands know what their SEO agencies are up to? Maybe they don't care? The SEO's certainly don't. Pushing bloggers to risk the site that they have nurtured and grown for a £30 sponsored post. They should be ashamed of themselves.

If you've had similar experiences with online marketing or SEO agencies I would love to hear them.


In addition to this shoddy agency behaviour, overnight a number of bloggers have been approached by a new breed of shark in the form of a 'Cookie Compliance Consultant' who will for a fee make your currently illegal site compliant with the new EU cookie law.

Last time we all checked the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said that websites can assume that users have consented to their use of cookies. The use of "implied consent" shifts responsibility to the user rather than the website operator, and as such these 'consultants' are using scare tactics and preying on those not familiar with the law.

It only costs £25 for the few hours work that it takes the 'consultant' to get your site 'legal' so that your visitors can opt in or out of your cookies and she accepts paypal to make the transaction smoother.

It is WRONG.
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