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Ranty Friday — Asking Bloggers To Break The Law

I have had a post rattling around in my head for a while now but it breaks the blogging rule of never blogging about blogging itself.   Yesterday however I was tipped over the edge and decided I had to.    To discuss the increasingly common practice of bloggers being blatantly lied to and now being asked to break the law.

First of all though for my non blogging readers I must do some explaining.   In simple terms it works thus.

There are PR companies that represent brands or companies or products who ask bloggers to review a product for them and talk about it on their blogs.   Bloggers say it is a review or that they have been sent the product free of charge with a view to talking about it to their readers.   They write a post talking about the product.   Show pictures of themselves using the product etc.   As you may have read on this blog.  I do these and I always let you know that I have been sent the product for that purpose.   Not only is it fair that I tell you, the reader, that, it is the law.

I don’t feel it is fair to tell you about a product, effectively sell it to you, without being honest about how that product came on to my desk.  And the law agrees.

Why do companies do this?  Well because a) they want people to talk about it to their friends; and b) if there are, say, 50 people all saying how great that product is it will appear higher in the search results on that big search engine Google.    And that is good for the company concerned.   More people talking about it means more people see it at the top of the results if they are looking for a similar item.

So these PR companies, or even the brands themselves send out products in exchange for a review.

Next we have companies doing something called SEO.   Search Engine Optimisation.  Their job is to get their client’s company to appear higher in that search result, not with a product typically, but with cold hard cash.   They don’t send a product or invite you to an event with a view to reviewing it, they ask the blogger to write a post (or they write it themselves and ask for it to be copy and pasted).

They are paid by the brand or company to do this and they pay bloggers with cash or vouchers.

Again, I have made no secret of these types of posts.   In themselves there is nothing wrong with these sorts of posts.  They are not bad posts.

The SEO wants a link to their client within the blog post and often attached to a key word such as “best blogger called Tanya who lives in Fleet”  which would then lead you to this blog.

So if I was flush I could approach 20 mates and say “will you write about me and use the above phrase and link to this blog and I will give you £50″.    Those bloggers then write that blog, say they have been asked to write it (for reasons above) and the deal is done.   Then if somebody goes to Google and types “best blogger in Fleet” because they want a local blogger for a campaign I appear at the top.

Now.  If you are also a blogger in Fleet called Tanya but don’t have the money, is that fair?

No.  It is not.  Does that make me the best blogger in Fleet or does it just make me the blogger with the deepest pockets?

And that is what Google is trying to stop.   They don’t want companies with big budgets being able to skew the search results with cash, to the detriment of the other equally good companies with smaller budgets.    So they are changing their algorithms to pick up such posts.  The have two different ways of doing links, called “follow” and “no follow”.   I don’t pretend to know how it works “in the background” but I know in basic terms.   And those are that spiders trawl the web looking for content.  If they follow a link it boosts the rankings but they don’t want it to follow paid for links, they want to follow genuine links.  Links where somebody has said “I went to a conference today and met this great woman.  She might just be the best blogger in Fleet.   If you ever need a blogger, you should drop her a mail”.

That is a genuine link.   Talked about by a genuine person for the love of my blog.  Not because I slipped them £50.

And here in lies the problem.

What is now happening on a virtually daily basis is that these SEO companies are approaching bloggers and saying “it is fine for you to do the link to my client but you can’t put anywhere in the post that this has been paid for”.

This is a lie

A bare faced blatant lie

They think that by having a follow link (generally ones that are paid for) with no disclosure of the fact it is a paid for post it will fool the Google spiders.    But it doesn’t work like that.

You see there is that law that I mentioned above that governs any kind of “paid for content”.

It is never all right to write a blog post and not disclose it.   This is much less wordy post that explains it much more succinctly than I have done here:  Non Disclosure in Blogging

It goes on to say that this is covered in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Act 2008.   Which makes sense, doesn’t it?  If I am telling you how great something is you need to know that I have been paid, effectively, to sell that to you.   It is what you expect of me.  And it is what I expect of myself.

In fact the law says very clearly

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) specifically prohibits “using 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)
.
 The CPRs also prohibits: “Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes
relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.

So that is quite clear then isn’t it?  Even to you non blogger types that is pretty cut and dried?

Why am I rambling on about this?  Why is this featuring on Ranty Friday this week when I was going to talk to you about something else this week?

I will tell you why.   Because yesterday I was asked if I would be interested in writing a post (in exchange for a  three figure sum I could have well done with) this was my response:

Not a problem at all. I would need to disclose that it was a sponsored post though. And I always use the word “sponsored” not guest as it has been paid for so isn’t a guest post. I hope that is okay with you. There have been lots of discussions with SEO / PR companies and bloggers about disclosure and bloggers do need to make sure they comply with the  laws on disclosure

I sent this because increasingly bloggers are being asked to not use the word “sponsored” and quite frankly we are all sick of it.   So I now make my position very clear right from the outset

This was the response:

Unfortunately we have had new guidelines introduced that state we can’t place any more articles that are labelled as sponsored as they highlight the link has been paid for. Not great in the eyes of Google.

If that’s the case that you definitely have to state ‘sponsored’, then I won’t be able to go ahead I’m afraid.

I don’t suppose offering you a bit more money would sway the decision would it?

A bare faced lie.  Plain and simple.  It is nothing to do with Google.  Nothing.   And everything to do with Consumer Law.  And would I be happy to break the law for more money?   You see that.   A supposed expert in these matters is asking me to break the law in exchange for cash.

My response was this:

The problem isn’t Google. It’s the ASA. And they are quite explicit that within the post it has to demonstrate that the post has been paid for. Failure to comply has far more serious implications than Google unfortunately

So then our expert came back with this

From my client’s point of view the problem is Google. If it is made clear that we are paying for links, we will be penalised for it.  Therefore we can’t use any sort of wording that suggest it has been paid for

Blaming Google.  IT IS NOT GOOGLE THAT GOVERNS DISCLOSURE.    It is the law.   Consumer law.  There is an Act of Parliament that governs it.

I told him I was very disappointed that his client was encouraging bloggers to break the law.   That in the name of getting their site to appear higher in search engine results they are prepared to break the law.      This chap’s final word on the matter was this:

Please don’t think that <insert brand name> that is encouraging this. They are using us as a third party to increase their online presence and it is our choice how this is done.

So there you have it.   Brands don’t know what they are paying for.   They are paying these third parties to get results for them and not asking how that will be done.   Presumably entrusting the experts to do it.   Assuming they will comply with laws.   Not realising that some of these companies are unscrupulous and will stop at nothing to get a result.

And that is criminal.

SEOs ask yourself the question:  if you are asking bloggers to break the law and more and more and more turn you down, are you doing yourselves out of a job?

Other Ranty Fridays are linked up here:



65 Comments

  1. I am getting so fed up of these blatant lying from SEO folks. Am now making a point of asking who the brand is and, where appropriate, informing the brand who often have no idea this is happening and risk being wiped off the face of Google.

  2. Wow! Just wow! I am new to the whole sponsored/paid review type blog thing, and I can see how easy it would be for them to con someone like me into being paid and not following the rules, if I hadn’t checked and was lucky enough to follow and have the help of some bloggers who have helped me to know what I am supposed to be doing! That’s appalling! :(

  3. YESSSS!!!! Exactly this! And what makes it worse is that they know exactly what they’re doing and losing credibility so quickly!

  4. I’d be tempted to name and shame. We’re all for giving products/brands that we love the big talk-up on our social media so why not give the sneaky SEO’s and brands the shout-out *they* deserve on social media.

    I’d also suggest that 9 times out of 10 that the actual brand doesn’t know what goes on behind the scenes (hence contracting someone to raise their profile) and would be appalled by what was being suggested.

  5. A friend of mine used to be in charge of outsourcing all his online marketing. He went through an agency and was gobsmacked when I explained the SEO follow / no-follow aspect of what the agency would take on for him. Clearly, he didn’t want his brand to break the law or to try and hoodwink results, but he was assured by the fact the agency he was working with was a reputable one, with a big base of well-known brands as clients. The thing is, from my friend’s point of view, he didn’t want ANYONE thinking badly of his company – from one blogger to millions who might find his brand on Google. The fact some agencies appear to be asking bloggers (in a very aggressive way) to break the law doesn’t just do themselves a disservice, but it risks the reputation of the brand they are representing.

  6. I won’t pretend I understand all this because as you know I don’t, but why are bloggers not contacting the brand or company that the SEO works for to let them know their money is being spent on criminals? I wonder whether some of these companies turn a blind eye to the way SEO’s do business with bloggers for the sake of getting their company on that front page, but I imagine many don’t realise. I would definitely be inclined to report these SEO’s. Breaking the law is breaking the law, end of. If we saw someone robbing a little old lady in the street we would report it.

    Thank you for making it a little clearer in my mind as to what goes on with follow and no follow – my brain tends to clam up when I start reading all this stuff but you have helped me understand just a bit more today.

    CJ x

  7. Fantastic Post and one that is very close to blogger hearts right now! I have declined 2 this week for the same reasons. I do think that the problem does stem from inexperienced bloggers being unaware of what the legal implications are, they then take this and do the follow links without awareness as the are wanting the cash/product. The companies hope that they contact bloggers and they are unaware of what they should and should not be doing! (i was also guilty of this for the first few months)

    It would be great to eliminate this by all bloggers standing their ground and turning down these follow links, however what a massive job to educate all.

    Thanks for posting :-)

  8. Zoe

    Wow great post – thanks for opening our eyes to a whole new world :)

  9. Wow. Just wow. If I were you Tanya, I’d email the company this SEO company represented to fill them in.

  10. Jem

    Whilst I agree with the gist of your post, just a small point re:

    “And that is what Google is trying to stop. They don’t want companies with big budgets being able to skew the search results with cash, to the detriment of the other equally good companies with smaller budgets.”

    This isn’t really true. Google don’t care about little companies or big companies, they care about making money (just like the companies really). Their interest in keeping the results natural is about delivering the most relevant result to their customers (you and I) to keep them happy so that they come back. If Google were truly altruistic in their aims they wouldn’t have increased the ad’ space AND decreased the contrast between ads and normal results so that it’s easier to click an ad by mistake.

    At the end of the day, Google, SEO companies and their clients are all out to achieve the same thing: profit.

  11. Great post T, it really couldn’t be any clearer! I am astounded that SEO’s think bloggers have no idea about the ASA and disclosure etc, I’m even more astounded that brands aren’t in the loop of what is going on. This isn’t coming from just one agency though, they are all giving conflicting information. At the end of the day, the only person or ‘entity’ that is correct with this information is the ASA. Thanks for this post!x

  12. I was told yesterday that it was “a bit off” for me to not provide a follow link for a review. I explained all the reasons at great length but the SEO was still unhappy.

  13. Excellent rant today Mummy Barrow. And one close to many bloggers hearts. Let’s hpe they sit up and start taking notice too

  14. Thank you so much for making this much clearer Tanya. Thankfully with the help of the blogging community, I haven’t been sucked in to this and am now careful to make my stance quite clear when I’m contacted. However there are probably lots of bloggers out there who are conned by these dirty dealings, not knowing that non-disclosure is breaking the law.

    I agree that the brands/companies themselves, need to be made aware of what’s going on in their name.

  15. Fantastic post. Too many SEO companies are exploiting bloggers and far too many put up with it.

  16. Wow, that’s pretty shocking, not that it happens, but that the brand companies are unaware, hope the guilty PR companies are reported!

  17. Rant on Barrow! I’d go straight to the company and hand them the facts but then I am properly grumpy ;)

  18. Mr B

    Disgusting – this looks like an ‘expert’ in the field (the SEO) trying to exploit somewhat naive bloggers who just want to write (and offset some of the cost of running a blog).

    I wonder what they’d say if you asked for a letter on headed notepaper indemnifying you, with no limit of liability, against any legal repercussions from you posting the post as per their instructions…..that might bring them down to earth.

  19. Mr B

    Actually, if this is actually a criminal offence, then inducing someone to do it might also be a crime…..

    Section 8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, as amended, reads:

    Whosoever shall aid, abet, counsel, or procure the commission of any indictable offence, whether the same be an offence at common law or by virtue of any Act passed or to be passed, shall be liable to be tried, indicted, and punished as a principal offender.

  20. Mr B

    Now I’m getting ranty, but arguably the client (not just the SEO) is also potentially in the dock here, if they asked the SEO to get their ranking up and didn’t ask/care how it’s done. They can be guilty if they should have asked/known and chose not to discover how it’s done….

  21. Great post Tanya! I will be bookmarking this for any problems I may have in future with the SEO folks. xxxx

  22. I’d be going back to the Marketing Director of the company with a copy of the email. So SO wrong

  23. Mrs Teepot

    That’s absolutely disgusting that they’re blatantly lying about these things, and shocking that they even offered you more money to break the law.

  24. Wow..that is incredible…such lies, but it doesnt really surprise me. why should it? whenever someone tries to make something fair there are always folks trying to get around the rules. I love the ‘more money wouldn’t help would it? line? talk about lack of integrity. thanks for bringing my attention to this, as a new blogger (to the whole business end of it anyway) i had no idea about this. i shall be cautious in future!
    sarah

  25. All this kind of stuff just makes my head spin, all I want is to do is blog and have also turned down quite a few “opportunities”. Thanks for posting, very, very interesting reading, although it still leaves my head aching!

  26. Hopalong

    Amazing!
    Had no idea of everything of which you speak [so what's new?].

    Would this area of malpractice not be of interest to Trading Standards?
    I’ve no idea who should be contacted but the local Fleet man might be a good place to start. If that fails why not straight to CID?
    The idea of trying to co-ordinate action by all known Bloggers could be hell of a challenge!

    • MummyBarrow

      Thanks Jim. Trading Standards indeed. And also OFT. Not sure we can go to CID as it is not a criminal offence I don’t believe, but more of being unlawful rather than illegal as such.

      This is not the end of the matter however. I am cross :-)

      • Elspeth Daisy

        Ultimately ‘illegal’ and ‘unlawful’ mean the same thing, I think the distinction you’re looking for is between a criminal and a civil offence. I understand that this is a civil offence which is not dealt with by the criminal justice system (i.e. the police or the criminal courts). Local authority Trading Standards Services are responsible for enforcement of the Regulations and so it is to this body that breaches should be reported.

        Elspeth x

  27. Hopalong

    “Hell hath no fury like a Blogger cross!”

  28. Spot on Mrs B, You tell them.

    £ three figures though? Crickey! Whilst I agree I wouldn’t break the law on purpose for such a large amount I’d be getting out a thesuarus and looking up other ways to say “sponsored” or “paid for”

    Very good post!

  29. I have to admit that this post was a bit confusing at first, but on reflection, I totally agree with you! My big question though is what has happened to morals that people in big business are more interested in making money than obeying the law or doing right by their customers? Grr!!!!

    *shakes off impending rant*

  30. Brilliant post – like Crystal Jigsaw I think I finally understand all this properly.

  31. What an excellent and informative post, thank you!

  32. Zoltan Greoyioz

    Mummy Barrow, I’m an SEO, I work in the industry and quite frankly I think you’re being a bit harsh and quite frankly over the top here but I do respect your entitlement to opinion as we live in a democratic society. However I am going to politely disagree with your opinion and I’ll explain why.

    Firstly these guidelines or law as you refer to are relevant for companies not individual bloggers especially if you don’t mention the brand directly in text, you are not breaking the law, that’s a fact and contrary to the “mummy blogger police” there are no government departments analysing your every page of your site, let alone what you might have published 6 months ago. I’m sure our law enforcement agencies have much more pressing issues to deal with at the moment. Blogs are designed to provide freedom of opinion, the government is seriously not going to attack peoples freedoms in that way, maybe “The Sun’s” of this world but certainly not mere hobby bloggers

    Secondly the myth that you will go to prison for not disclosing a post is ridiculous, the courts and prisons are full enough as it is and would probably cost more money than it’s worth to prosecute. Have you ever exceeded the speed limit on a motorway, had a drink before legal drinking age, if you haven’t please cast your stone into the pit but I personally think there is some hysteria on an epic proportion going on in “Parent Blogger land” and please rest assured that you won’t be prosecuted if you happen to link to a company in a post.

    Thirdly and quite ironically, why would you charge for links in the first place? Does it not go against Google’s Terms and Conditions? By declaring that the post was “Sponsored” will only make it easier for Google to spot paid placements and ultimately penalise all sites that make such disclosures anyway. I think it’s very easy to ignore one rule and not another for the sake of commercial gain. I get that site owners want to make a bit of cash and guess what, why not allow them?

    As I said earlier, I totally respect your opinions but I think this debate has gong completely one sided in this community, I just think bloggers should give SEOs a fair go here and not give us such a hard time.

    At the end of the day why can’t we all be friends and avoid ranty posts like this without an opinion from the other side of the equation!!! You never know an SEO could provide you with some much valuable knowledge which might just get you more traffic!!

    • MummyBarrow

      You are wrong.

      Yes there are laws. Governed by Consumer trading law. You might want to familiarise yourself with this: http://www.iabuk.net/sites/default/files/IAB%20ISBA%20Guidelines%20on%20the%20Payment%20for%20Editorial%20Content%20-%20July%202012.pdf

      Full stop

      The End

      WHy would I charge? Why else would I want that content on my blog? I doing all right with my own content, thanks all the same. Where is your industry without bloggers providing you with a platform to host these links.

      And I can do without that traffic generated by a sponsored post. They are my lowest traffic posts. My posts, written by me, get around 3000 views a day. Those don’t get a tenth of that.

      So thanks for your opinion, but you can keep it I am afraid. My inbox is littered with other bloggers agreeing with your industry’s underhand and shady practices.

      And your blatant lies and mis information in this comment cement even further my belief that you SEO “experts” don’t even know the law concerning your own industry

      If you want some bedtime reading, go Google Hand Picked Media 2010.

      • Zoltan Greoyioz

        Who said anything about lying? Can you please tell me where you may have thought I was lying to you?

        FYI Handpicked Media is a commercial entity. That is the fundamental question here….. are blogs commercial entities according to law???? If you own a blog and are not a registered business then I would say the law doesn’t apply. This is not lying this is a logical interpretation of the law.

        I wasn’t referring to sponsored posts generating traffic (which personally are 99 times out of 100 lame pieces of content to say the least) I’m merely suggesting that rather rant about SEO’s wouldn’t it be better to get to know a few to see what they might be able to help out with and enrich your viewers with stuff you actually think is cool and vice versa. Aren’t opinions and ideas awesome??

        If your inbox is littered with similar opinions isn’t that saying something? All I am asking is to take a moment to think from the other side of the fence.

        We’re not all shady criminals you might think we are (far from it, I myself am a proud parent), we have a purpose in society as much as you do. We might even be able to assist you with fund raising for example and get our client behind your cause for some link value (that’s what I call collaboration!!). The way I see it it’s a 2 way street, there are 2 different sides to a story and I personally think if SEO’s and Bloggers work together the world will be a better place (we’ll for both of us anyway haha).

        Don’t forget there are 1000′s of blogs out there so I think bloggers and SEO’s need each other at the end of the day.

      • Kevin

        I am a Blogger, but quite frankly i have to agree with zoltan.
        quite frankly google should de index you because you are clearly admitting to accepting sponsored posts. how many page views would you get then?
        if you are only doing it for the pure pleasure of writing, why would you accept the sponsored posts?
        as far as google is concerned you are allowed to pay for links if they are no followed, as this will not affect SEO in any way.
        I do agree with that the SEO guy should not have offered you more money, he should have respected your opinion and walked away.
        however I do strongly believe that these laws are mainly inplace to stop major websites from influencing the masses for major sums of money, not to stop you earning pocket change

        • MummyBarrow

          Why should Google de index me for accepting sponsored posts? They are not against Google rules.

          Why do I do them? As they often highlight products I think my readers my like. And also my blog costs money to host, to subscribe to networks, attend events etc. So I use the money from sponsored posts for that reason.

          And you are missing the point. THE POINT IS NOT GOOGLE. GOOGLE DON’T MAKE LAWS. The law states that all advertising must be labelled as such. THAT is the point.

          And as for page views. Sponsored posts get lower views than any other pages. I get around 3000 views a day for most of my other posts.

          • Zoltan Greoyioz

            Sponsored Posts are against Google’s Guidelines if they include a dofollow link, in fact any form of link building is considered against Google’s guidelines a beast Google help create in the first place and MummyBarrow.com and 99.9% of all websites are actually breaking all guidelines by accepting dofollow links from other sites linking to their own site.

  33. Sumin Fo-yu

    Hi MB, you might want to look at this and explain to all mums.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/medianews/article3723138.ece

  34. Mummy Barrow, before I even read his reply, when you said “The problem isn’t Google. It’s the ASA”, I knew he would reply to say the problem was Google.

    The companies (and their agents) are worried about Google, due to what recently happened to Interflora. Had you forgotten about that, or is it somehow irrelevant?

    http://www.laceytechsolutions.co.uk/blog/seo/interflora-penalised-by-google-for-offering-free-flowers/

    Liska
    @NewMumOnline
    x

  35. I rang the IAB as I was sick of all this. as I got a SEO asking me not to declare if they pay for my ‘time’ and not post, as such. So I ring the IAB as all this is driving me insane and to be sure this was still naughty shizz, and it is. They are changing tactics and being underhanded. Needless to say I told him I would disclose and he said no thanks. PAID IS PAID

    • Zoltan Greoyioz

      The IAB is not a government authority and as such any advice given is only a guideline not law enforcement. The whole debate on to disclose or not to disclose is merely subjective and down to personal preference not legislation.

      The regulations only apply to registered businesses such as Handpicked Media that pay tax on their earnings.

      • MummyBarrow

        That is an absolute lie.

        What the hell has paying tax on earnings got to do with it?! That is laughable.

        The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) specifically prohibits “using 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).”
        The CPRs also prohibits: “Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposesrelating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer

        So forgive me for swearing but what you have just said is absolute bollocks. It is EVERYTHING TO DO WITH LEGISLATION.

        Any further comments from you will be now be deleted as they are wrong.

      • MummyBarrow

        And also Hand Picked, a tax paying entity, in your rule book were censured in 2010 because of what the blogger did on their own blog at Handpicked’s behest.

        That blogger was no it a registered tax paying entity but it was Handpicked who got fined

  36. Hello Mummy Barrow,
    I noticed Liska posted a link to my article regarding the recent controversy surrounding Interflora’s sneaky backlink campaign so I initially wanted to thank you for linking back to my article but I thought I’d stick around and read your article covering the topic as well.

    I like your article and you’ve covered a range of topics well but I noticed you said, “50 people all saying how great that product is it will appear higher in the search results” – this isn’t strictly true.

    If bloggers are sent products for review then the immediate benefit is that the they will have some good press written about their product being posted online. The SEO benefit that the company will gain is if you include a followed link in your article back to their website.

    If you write a review about a product, service or company then its best to add rel=”nofollow” to your html link going back to their website. This tells search engines not to count your link when working out that website’s rank in the search results.

    All that aside, SEO isn’t all about the number of followed links you have pointing to your website. Its also heavily focused on good content being added to your website on a regular basis.

    • MummyBarrow

      Thanks for your reply. My post was written in layman’s terms as most of my readers are not bloggers and so have no idea about what goes on. And the focus was on disclosure, or lack thereof, not necessarily on SEO tactics as a whole. I do talk about no follow links in the post too.

  37. Ian

    It’s all perspective, here.

    “Unfortunately we have had new guidelines introduced that state we can’t place any more articles that are labelled as sponsored as they highlight the link has been paid for. Not great in the eyes of Google.”

    “A bare faced lie. Plain and simple. It is nothing to do with Google. Nothing. And everything to do with Consumer Law.”

    Yes and no. For the link builder, it *is* all about Google. Especially if they’re not in the UK. The link builder is very likely NOT being untruthful when they state that their link building guidelines (that their company uses) now says they can’t build more links labeled as “sponsor” as this IS definitely a footprint Google can use to discount those links. For them, it’s all about Google and trying to ensure that the links count/help them rank. For YOU, it’s not about Google. For them, it is. That’s not lying – that’s misaligned priorities.

    Also, I see dozens of emails each month from bloggers asking for more money ($300+) in order to drop the nofollow/disclosure. That’s likely why the link builder did it – because it works. Other bloggers/publishers – people pretty similar to you – have shown link builders that more money means no disclosure. It’s *your* industry that’s trained link builders to behave this way – they’re going to do what gets links, period. I’d spend a bit more time trying to prevent that than ranting about SEO folks. If it doesn’t work – they’ll stop doing it.

    • MummyBarrow

      I am not talking about who started it I am talking about the law. Just because somebody chises to do it doesn’t make it right. And I have plenty if examples if “experts” confusing Google and the law and trying to con bloggers

      This post is about being asked to break that law. Don’t blame bloggers in the defence if your industry. Two wrongs don’t make a right

      • Ian

        Some link builders are probably lying about it – I’d never make a blanket statement trying to claim that never happens. However – just based on your current post, I can’t help but wonder how many of these “liars” are actually just reiterating the piece they care about, and you’re taking that as them saying the law doesn’t apply without them actually stating that.

        Yes – the post is about being asked to break the law. And I’m pointing out that your finger pointing being limited to SEO people is ridiculous. SEOs were trained to act this way by publishers, period. I’m not saying two wrongs make a right – what I’m saying you should call out both wrongs instead of acting like it’s just a situation of all these dirty, evil SEOs running around taking advantage of innocent bloggers.

  38. To the person above ^ SEOs do take advantage of bloggers, I have seen it first hand, especially as when you refuse not to disclose they back off! They go for bloggers they think don’t know too much, or talk to each other. However we do, we all talk alot and share similar stories from similar, if not the same SEO’s. Some bloggers are ill informed, normally from the companies themselves spouting some rubbish about why it doesn’t apply to them. Non disclosure is against the law PERIOD. Usually only bloggers charge the higher price for dofollow, not non disclosure.

    • Ian

      Hey Chelsea,

      I do have a name. It’s right above the post you read. Or were you ignoring it to be snarky? Either way – I’m a person too, I promise.

      As I said in my second comment, I’m sure it happens. My point was that this is absolutely a two way street, and that we shouldn’t act like one side is a blameless babe in the woods being preyed on by the boogie man.

      Also – I’m sure SEOs back off when a publisher insists on disclosure. here’s the breakdown…

      For the link builder, the post is about the link.
      Disclosure puts the link at a high(er) risk of being ineffective.
      There’s no point in paying for a link that has a high likelihood of being ineffective, so…
      They abandon the deal and vanish into the vast internet void.

      It’s not a “Oh crap – they know the law! Now I can’t take advantage of them! Abort!”

      It’s simply “Well. That does me absolutely no good. Next.”

      Emailing you back, along with everyone else who turns out not to be a placement that fits the campaign, would be a horribly inefficient use of time. There are only a certain number of hours in the day, and clients want links. So giving you a full explanation as to why they need to back out is very unlikely to hit the top of their priority list – it’s nothing personal.

      Lastly, you’d be surprised at how many bloggers put a price to non-disclosure. Though, if you actually, truly knew the job you were railing against, you’d know that already. The folks you talk to on a regular basis aren’t a good sample to make decisions off of, as that’s completely victim to selection bias. Unless you’re friendly with some aggressive affiliate marketers. Anyone doing scaled blogger outreach will tell you that there is a *considerable* percentage of people that respond asking for cash, often in tiers with dofollow and non-disclosure as enticements for more money.

  39. Zoltan Greoyioz

    I ask because if you are not then the legislation doesn’t apply to your site. The link that Sumin Fo-Yo sent sets the precedent regarding smaller blogs that are not aligned to large media companies.

    • Mr B

      Hi Zoltan, personally I’d be very wary of basing my position (with the resulting potential exposure to legal penalties) on the definition of what is, and what is not “a small blog”.

      If I were a blogger, that is…..

      Isn’t that, by its very nature, subjective?

      Also, I don’t see any reference to paying tax in the regulations and guidelines above – they specifically do mention “publishers or authors” though, suggesting joint and several liability to me….

      I would guess Ian’s blog would be small-scale – not many posts in the last few months, but I wouldn’t like to bet where the line was drawn.

      Maybe the article went on to make it crystal clear, but knowing the British legal system, I personally doubt that. An example is the famous “reasonableness” test which by its very nature is subjective.

      And, to give my last two pence worth on the subject, “The man on the phone said it would be ok” isn’t likely to stack up much as a defence…. :-)

      B

      • Benji Marshall

        Hi Mr B absolutely agree with you that defining a small blog is subjective as I would say is pretty much most opinions on this topic are. Maybe small blog isn’t the correct term I should, maybe we should talk about the difference berween private blogs and corporate blogs that are registered business such as Handpicked Media which is by British law is a registered trading identity and a Limited Company which pays taxes on their earnings. The law is a trading standards for commercial entities not private hobby bloggers.

        If we base any case on definition of the 2 we therefore have a differential between what the law is trying to enforce and what the law doesn’t enforce and finally if someone wants to label their paid for placements as such it is purely down to personal preference and nothing more, which as SEO’s we should respect.

        My final thought on the matter is I deal with bloggers in all sorts of niches from travel to finance and even parent bloggers. Most travel bloggers can’t be bothered with disclosing their post, nor do a great majority of finance bloggers…and shock horror there hasn’t been a single bloigger who was locked up or given a slap on the wrist for not disclosing a paid for post. It seems that it’s only the parent blogger community that really seems to be concerned about the topic.

  40. Claire H

    Phew, wowee. Nest and hornets come to mind. Great post.
    I’m coming from this from a slightly different angle. As someone who has thought up, designed and (incredibly slowly) getting a new product to market I thought I’d let you know my opinion on bloggers. I also have a blog (kinda).
    Your post although about the law is wrapped up with Google as this is where it is being breeched. It is why Google want to hit hard companies who pay for links.
    Getting your page highly ranked is king but as a small business I don’t have the money to pay for professional SEO. If I did I would spend a lot of time making sure the company didn’t breach the law – as it would, at some point, reflect on my business.
    I would never ask a blogger to review my product for money, irrespective of the law I would just naturally feel it wrong (like speeding on a motorway or underage drinking). I also wouldn’t actually ask for a link – why? Because if I’ve ever found anything interesting in a blog I’ve always cut and paste and found it on Google anyway!
    I acknowledge that this doesn’t help with ranking and I understand why people want links and why they break the law. Starting a business is incredibly tough and most of the time it’s sink or swim.
    Most bloggers have advertising, although I hope that this isn’t the main reason why they blog – you can, most of the time, tell those who do it solely for money. I have advertised on blogs with great click through rates but even this is expensive for a start up business and now with panda and penguin I am unsure whether Google likes or dislikes this.
    I did start a blog with the intention of regularly posting interesting articles on a weekly basis. I soon learnt that it’s harder than it looks! And I’m too busy getting products made.
    So now I have guest posts – and they are just that, guest posts. Unpaid for and written by the person who wants to write about their product. I allow this because as a small business I know too well the difficulties of getting awareness of your business. It never even crossed my mind to ask for money. Now, after reading your post I am going to make this especially clear on my blog.
    I am not going to add my web address on here as I do not want to appear as though I am writing this for the link. But should anyone wish to contact me about doing a not-for-money review on one of my products I shall be here @actingtheparty
    Thanks again for a great post.

  41. Mr B

    Is it worth just highlighting at the moment that we are talking about the UK here and UK legislation, for example Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008?

    It’s just possible that some of your replies have come from overseas, where the law might be different.

    You have quite a reach, you know…..

  42. Just before Christmas I was also offered a three figure sum for a sponsored post where I wasn’t allowed to mention that it was sponsored, and my blog is way smaller than yours. I turned it down because it didn’t feel right to me, and it wasn’t a company that I felt happy with promoting either. I had no idea though that to do so would have been illegal! Since then I’ve done a proper sponsored post for a company I like and who were happy to let me write what I wanted and say that it was sponsored. Hopefully all other bloggers will try to make the right choice too so these people will be forced to agree to do the right thing…

  43. I want to thank you for writing this post. The un-regulated nature of the internet can lead to a lot of abuses and I appreciate bloggers who are honest about what they are reviewing and why they are reviewing it.

  44. wow! that certainly caused some debate. Great post Mummy Barrow. I’m just getting to grips with the whole no follow / follow debate. I saw a discussion on a forum recently about a paid for follow opportunity and it confused me as I thought all paid for opps should be no follow. It certainly does get confusing. However I think I understand. I set out to blog for a hobby and still largely do. However opps do come my way and I always disclose and will continue to do so (as well as no follow). I think I will follow in your footsteps Mummy Barrow and make the clear up front to avoid any post post shenanigans. x

Do comment. I love to hear what you think!