WebCred: Reputation is Important

I received this email today, but before marking it as spam, it occurred to me that I should not only reply, I should also blog the reply. Because, you see, this isn’t the first one of these I’ve received, so there are probably an awful lot of bloggers out there getting the same solicitation. Because that’s what this is: solicitation disguised as sharing, a way to game the system. Like any good con it appears to be a good deal for a blogger. But looking a little more closely the hidden costs far outweigh any apparent benefits.

Dear Rebecca:

You offer me a “link swap” where you’ll give me two links in exchange for one of mine.  Wow.

You say:

3-way linking is a very effective link building strategy.

Really. I didn’t know that I needed a “link building strategy.” I thought I just needed good content. If I have good content, people will link to it. Just as I link to other good content. That’s a big part of why I work hard to create good web content.

Our partner sites that link to your site are at least 3 years old with a minimum pagerank of PR3.

I have no idea what PR3 means. I’m assuming it is some kind of marketing lingo, although it could as easily be the kind of “pseudo Authority” Snopes warns against in cases of Internet Fraud. Means nothing to me.

The age of a bottle of wine may impact on a decision of which bottle to buy, but I have difficulty seeing the relevance of the age of a website. I think you intend this as an implied credibility.

How much credibility does the age of a website carry? If that is the only data, my answer to that question is zero credibility.

Any scammer can register a fistful of domain names and leave them cooling on a shelf for three years. Although you’ll never catch me dealing with GoDaddy, as I understand it anyone can register a domain with them for a couple of dollars. It could cost as much as twenty dollars to incubate a couple of three year old websites. I don’t know about you, but to me, my reputation is priceless.

Web age alone has no bearing. If the content is good, I’ll link to a site that goes online today.

Since you’re getting the links from third party websites, they appear totally natural to search engine algorithms. Such inbound links help your website rank higher in Google and other search engines.

This is the real problem, you see. I don’t want the links coming into my site to “appear to be totally natural.”

I want the links coming into my site to be totally natural.

This is an admission that the purpose is to game search engines.

Guess what: I’m not in this to fool search engines into sending me more traffic.

The Internet is valuable for it’s capacity to share information without fear or favor, without needing a huge bankroll, without having to trick people. Isn’t that what TV is for? As far as I can tell, television news is programmed to provide entertainment and maximize car sales.

So when I want real news, I look for it online.

[The Broadcast industry isn’t dying because of ‘piracy.’ it’s dying because of diminishing credibility.]

Misleading search engines doesn’t simply trick the search engines, or the searchers, what it ultimately does is reduce the effectiveness of search engines. I’m a little surprised that Google or Bing aren’t out there offering a bounty on companies like yours that seek to deliberately reduce the accuracy of their search algorithms,

The absolute last thing I want is to deliberately trick Internet users into visiting any of my sites. The only visitors I want are those who chose to visit. Those who have a genuine interest in, or need for the content that is available on my blog.

crying wolf

When a wholly irrelevant website links to mine, the visitors it sends mine can cause me damage.

If netizens searching for articles about astronomy, or travel recommendations or even an escort service, are sent here to my website in error, it erodes my credibility.

A year from now that same visitor might seeking to learn about Self Publishing, but having been scammed into visiting my website under and fooled the last time, they are unlikely to trust the perfectly valid content that I work so hard to make available here.

I use a lot of links, all the time. But the links I use are for sites I’ve visited; sites that contain information – “content” – that I believe to be worth sharing. Content related to mine. Sites that fit with what my site is all about. If I find good content, I am more than willing to send my visitors along to the appropriate website.

My websites don’t sell eyeballs to advertisers, they share content with people.

If I have any ‘marketing strategy’ at all, it would have to be the one advocated by the character Kris Kringle, in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street.

Because I’ve worked hard to build an Internet reputation I can live with. I stand behind what I say. But I’m only human, so if I get something wrong, tell me, and I will admit it and do my best to correct it. My Internet credibility reflects my personal reputation. Quite frankly, I am not willing to throw either away. The Internet is brilliant, but using it effectively can be very hard work.

the author as a child with an unopened gift
links, like gifts, should be freely given

Although I can’t prevent dubious sites from linking to my content, I do have absolute control over deciding which links that I will forge. I do my level best not link to sites I don’t trust. I don’t sign up for anything that wants to suck in the contents of my email book or Facebook Friends. I try to avoid fraud, malware, scammers, spammers and information harvesters.

Links are more than citations, they are like a personal recommendation. They carry a certain amount of power as Internet’s equivalent of “word-of-mouth”. They shouldn’t be for sale.

Who I link to is an important part of my web footprint. As such, it is an important part of my online reputation.

Like a gift, any links I give are freely given.

So, in conclusion, Rebecca, my answer is, and will always be, “no”.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves


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