Bloggers didn’t Come Down in the Last Shower…

Since Google’s latest update, most bloggers have realised (if they didn’t know before) that Google likes paid links on blogs to be no-follow.

It’s not a complicated rule, and I don’t think it needs THAT much debate. If you have a paid link on your blog and you don’t fancy being penalized by Google, you add a little ‘no-follow’ tag, and that’s it.

Unless you happen to work in SEO, apparently.

I’ve received some brilliant emails from SEOs since BlogCamp, explaining to me that my understanding of Google is woefully inadequate, and I shouldn’t take advice from ‘so-called professionals’ who tell me to worry my pretty little head about such things, because so long as I say a post is ‘suggested by’ a brand, and not ‘sponsored’ then everything is fine and my Page Rank will probably go up. Yeah, right. And Facebook cares about my privacy.

I think my favourite email came from an SEO who sent me ‘proof’ of his argument in the form of a ‘top parent blog’ that carried paid links and still had a Page Rank of 5. He made a nice picture with red boxes and arrows and everything.

The only teeny problem was the blog he sent me was my own blog. Which – for the record – doesn’t carried paid links, only no-follow display ads.

Anyway, some SEOs are starting to get a bit creative with how they secure links from bloggers. And I’m not knocking that.

If you can come up with something fun and engaging for bloggers to do, that will naturally build links, then that’s A Good Thing. There are loads of great PR and digital/SEO types doing interesting stuff.

Like running a competition and asking bloggers to link to you in their entry – I know some bloggers won’t enter on principle but I’ve worked on this sort of campaign and think it works well if the prize is REALLY amazing – like a family holiday overseas. But is asking bloggers to provide a back-link in order to apply for a job A Good Thing? I’m not so sure.

Working Mums (a job site for Mums looking for jobs) has posted a job ad this week asking for a blogger to write on its site. The job is a temporary, 3 month contract to write 3 posts – at £50 per post. Great.

Except, to apply for the job, the blogger is expected to write a post on their blog about the challenges of being a working Mum, including a back-link to the Working Mums site. And then Tweet the company a link to the article, using a hash-tag.

I really want to think this is a company offering flexible, part-time work and recognizing the challenges of being a working parent. But, I’m not convinced. It actually strikes me as being quite a smart way of building lots of relevant backlinks to a site, along with a bucket-load of social mentions. For what they might otherwise spend on two sponsored posts. As I say, I’m not opposed to SEOs using blogs to build links. If it benefits the bloggers. It just seems disingenuous to get hopeful job applicants to do your SEO for you.

Or am I being too cynical?

(ps – my link to Working Mums here is no-follow) 

(UPDATE: You can now enter the comp by email and Working Mums says it’s happy to consider applications by email and also those using no-follow links. Which I think is fair enough – kudos to them for taking on board the feedback) 


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Emma
    17th May 2012 / 9:03 am

    Oh I hate this with a passion! And it bugs me that bloggers will actually take the time out of their day to do this and not be compensated in anyway, unless of course they are that lucky one to be chosen to write for them. It’s like the email to come into my inbox the other day from a SEO wanting me to host a competition for tickets to Blackpool Tower, requesting all these links and certain words to be mentioned. It’s not that bloggers are greedy, I don’t think they quite understand precious a mothers time can be and how it’s needs to be worth something for them to do that in the form of compensation. We’re not a free form of advertising.

    • 17th May 2012 / 10:29 am

      Yes, I agree completely – it’s a competition by another name, and it makes me SO sad to see a brand that should be all about supporting working parents running a project like this. Grrr.

  2. ghostwritermummy
    17th May 2012 / 9:11 am

    I’ve been given duff advice and plenty of obscure reasons why I should take follow links and if it wasn’t for people like you I would be non the wiser. And I also will never tire of hearing you were quoted your own blog. Haha. Its a shame as there are many decent PRs out there but it makes you wary of them all.

    • 17th May 2012 / 9:17 am

      Yes – remember, mostly these are SEOs rather than PRs. Most PRs I chat to are horrified by this sort of thing.

  3. 17th May 2012 / 8:32 am

    I don’t think you’re being cynical.
    Nearly every PR I’ve been in contact with recently has told me that the no-follow thing is a myth and that most people misunderstand SEO etc…etc.
    Hannah@HomeBaked recently posted..All Year Round Carnival: SummerMy Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 8:40 am

      Quite. I’m sick of being told in gentle terms that I just don’t ‘get it’

  4. 17th May 2012 / 8:37 am

    Too cynical? Not sure it’s even possible.

    And, BTW, when are you applying?

    • 17th May 2012 / 8:39 am

      I applied before writing this post, obv. You snooze, you lose.

  5. 17th May 2012 / 8:37 am

    Spot on, Sally. This whole debate is simply ridiculous. Follow Google’s rules or don’t follow them – your choice. But for god’s sake, can we move past trying to bend them?! Your example is a great example of proper blogger outreach – it’s built on something engaging that benefits everyone. The way I see it, a major part of blogger relations is building favourability toward a brand/cause/company/product in the blogger’s mind. Achieve that and you get results. If you just pay for a post or a link, where the hell is the long-term benefit in that?

    I’ve blogged about this very issue today myself – see the CommentLuv link.
    Paul Sutton recently posted..The Bullshit Way to Approach a BloggerMy Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 8:41 am

      Thanks Paul – it IS possible to create campaigns that will build links in a way that benefits everyone, and doesn’t bend the rules. And bloggers can make an informed choice to ignore them, too. It’s just exasperating to see SEOs who think if they’re aggressive enough with bloggers, they can simply convince them the rules don’t exist.

  6. Vic
    17th May 2012 / 8:42 am

    You know, every time you say something on this subject I rush off to check my page rank hasn’t plummeted!

  7. 17th May 2012 / 8:42 am

    This whole issue is just making me more and more cross. I genuinely think that your title couldn’t be more apt, do these SEO people genuinely think that we are gullible enough to fall for this kind of thing, especially given all the recent exposure of the issue.
    I know for a fact that it’s making me very wary of dealing with companies full stop. The lines just seem so hazy and I’m a natural born rule follower (it’s the teacher in me) so staying out of it all seems an easier option.
    And it has to be said that I prefer reading blogs that just post their own content anyway, so I think from now on I’ll stick with that. X
    Lucy at Dear Beautiful Boy recently posted..being a mother…My Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 8:46 am

      Lucy, it’s interesting because although I’ve never done sponsored posts, I was carrying a lot of advertising until recently, and I know exactly what you mean. I’ve turned down a lot of ads since then because I can see the companies just want to use my site to bend the rules. Not respectful. Ugh.

  8. 17th May 2012 / 8:55 am

    I will never tire of hearing that he sent you your own blog, that’s just a priceless piece of twuntism. Love it.

    Anhoodles, I think it’s very hard for some bloggers to understand SEO so then they don’t get when they are being taken for a ride up the swanee.

    I’ve never done sponsored posts. At this stage I am happy for my reviews to be follow as long as the content is relevant and the link is to support the review.

    And I have had the odd approach and I’m quite confident to say “unless its no follow I am not interested”. I need money as much as the next person, but I’m not prepared to lose my pagerank for it, I’ll do an extra shift as a carer thanks.
    Kylie (@kykaree) recently posted..Twit and Twoo – And Conquering Toddler FearsMy Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 9:15 am

      Twuntism is just the right word 🙂

  9. 17th May 2012 / 8:57 am

    Brilliant. Think link bait like that is a poor show and would turn me off a company for good.
    kat recently posted..Square PegsMy Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 9:15 am

      I don’t think it’s doing a brand any good – a competition is one thing but this just starts to look like a brand exploiting the fact that people are struggling financially at the moment and will go to great lengths to try and get a good, flexible job.

  10. Mum of One/Jennifer Bath
    17th May 2012 / 8:59 am

    I don’t think you are being cynical at all but I must confess the whole thing had me totally befuddled until I read your Tots 100 no follow post so thank you. I am grateful as, to be honest, I am EXTREMELY gullible and tend to believe whatever the tell me.

    • 17th May 2012 / 9:16 am

      Thanks – I’m glad you found the post useful. It makes me cross because most bloggers just write and don’t get involved in geeky stuff so it is VERY easy for SEOs to pull the wool over people’s eyes, and it makes me very cross. Informed choice is one thing, being misled or misinformed is quite another.

  11. 17th May 2012 / 8:59 am

    It is disheartening how lowly regarded bloggers are in the eyes of some PR companies that they think they can pull the wool over our eyes. Hopefully attitudes will soon change and PRs will find ways to work with us to create relationships that will naturally and organically lead to mutual benefits, rather than trying to bend the rules or cajole us into bad practice! Well said Sally! x
    Inside the Wendy House recently posted..Fifteen Years Ago TodayMy Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 9:17 am

      Yes – mutual benefit, relationship and organic SEO – that’s what it should be all about.

  12. 17th May 2012 / 9:01 am

    I don’t think you are being cynical at all – I would like to think that the company are trying to help working women too, but I am not sure that this is the best way to go about it. Perhaps providing great content that relevant bloggers want to link back too would be better than running an advert in this way?
    Helen Neale recently posted..Working Mums: Get your kids in the boardroom!My Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 9:17 am

      Yes, I’m sure it could be tweaked to be a bit less exploitation and more mutual benefit.

  13. 17th May 2012 / 10:09 am

    I have been said the same from a few PRs, and maybe they think we will do anything for a few pounds… I have changed even my old sponsored posts to nofollow and included in the paid adds too. I think if we all did the same, then the PRs would realise there will not be anyone to write sponsored posts without including nofollow … but obviously there are still many of bloggers who don’t inlcude nofollow…;( That doens’t help, does it?
    Mirka Moore @Kahanka recently posted..Get ready for this summer with Sudocrem Sunscreen Mousse SPF 50!My Profile

    • 17th May 2012 / 10:30 am

      Yes, I’d love to see more bloggers standing up for themselves and valuing their blogs better, but on the other hand, if you need the money, then there’s no harm in making your own choice – I just want to see people making informed choices and being made to jump through hoops and do SEO for someone to apply for a job doesn’t sit comfortably with me, at all.

  14. Vegemitevix
    17th May 2012 / 11:17 am

    I think this has to be my favourite blog post of the week. He sent you your own blog! I’m still laughing. And no, most bloggers are not so wet behind the ears.

    • 18th May 2012 / 7:24 am

      It was pretty funny. But he never emailed me again after that. Which is a shame…

  15. 17th May 2012 / 10:35 am

    Hi Sally,
    We do have loads of content on Workingmums, as you know, since you were featured on it. Yes, it’s about getting more people talking about the issues around being a working mum and letting them know what we do, but that is to help women find the kind of flexible jobs they are looking for. I fail to see how offering people information about flexible jobs, news on issues relating to working mums, features and free advice on issues like employment law is exploiting them. Our LIVE event, for instance, is totally free to working mums and includes a large number of workshops, free CV advice sessions and employment law advice. We will look at all entries for the guest bloggers even if they don’t have follow on links.

    • 17th May 2012 / 10:52 am

      Hi Mandy

      Thanks for commenting. I do appreciate your points. I think it’s great people can use no-follow links (though most applicants won’t know this) and I do note people can also apply by email, which is great.

      I’m not disputing the quality of the site, which is great. I’m also very supportive of anything that makes life easier for working parents and flexible work opportunities are an important way for parents with young children to use their skills and earn a much-needed income.

      I just happen to think asking bloggers to publicly compete in this way for a job opportunity is less than ideal, especially given the debate raging in the community at the moment over links, SEO and sponsored content.

      You are essentially asking bloggers to link to your company in a relevant blog post, in exchange for the chance to win a short-term job that pays £150. The SEO benefits to your site far outweigh that £150 investment.

      Given that many of the bloggers I know who publish paid links would charge £75-£100 for that link in a single sponsored post on their blog, you can hopefully understand why so many parents looking at this particular opportunity might feel short-changed.

      My suggestion (which I made in an email to your digital agency today) would have been to look at ways to make this benefit bloggers as well as your own site. Sharing posts through carnivals means bloggers get traffic and links in exchange for their efforts. In addition, if you’d made it a competition with a £150 prize and the opportunity to write for the site it would have felt a little less like taking advantage of someone looking for work.

      There are lots of creative, engaging ways to work with blogs, and I know many of the bloggers we work with would love to promote flexible working opportunities and sites like your own. I’m just not personally convinced this was the way to do it.

  16. 17th May 2012 / 11:03 am

    I have had so many discussions/arguments with SEO recently, they are all driving me nuts. Reading my mail used to be a joy, but now it is a challenge and if I get another email from an individual who wants to finds links for me to add to a post and it will cost me nothing, I will scream. The other ones are individuals who decide to be a middle man, so they can take a cut. Ahhhhhhhhhh!
    Jacqueline recently posted..Cupcake Decorating Class – 3D CakesMy Profile

    • Dan Thornton
      17th May 2012 / 2:08 pm

      Sally posted a great answer to this yesterday – set up an email filter for anything involving the words ‘guest post’ and ‘link’

  17. 17th May 2012 / 11:57 am

    totally agree, you are spot on. I suppose there is the ‘you scratch our back & we’ll scratch yours’ that is kind of the done thing in blog land, but to apply to earn (something towards) a living is somehow crossing a boundary if you ask me. Rachel x
    Rachel Lucie recently posted..Handmade Silver Jewellery Sale!My Profile

    • 18th May 2012 / 7:23 am

      Yes, exactly – if it was a competition, that’s one thing – but a job? Not so fun.

  18. 17th May 2012 / 11:57 am

    …and now my reply looks really spammy because that link came up! I don’t know why it did that…sorry!

    • 18th May 2012 / 7:23 am

      It’s there to let people find my commenters’ posts – it’s supposed to look like that!

  19. Dan Thornton
    17th May 2012 / 2:13 pm

    Nice post, and one which I’m going to be saving to share with clients who ask why I insist on more time and resource to try and build links properly, and why I’m not going to just send out identical emails to 100 blogs from a list with a crap request.

    The funniest thing for me is seeing lots of these emails when my blog clearly states in several places it’s part of the site for my digital marketing agency, which includes SEO and link-building.

    Just a shame I’m not working with any parenting/mummy specific clients at the moment, although if anyone needs some eCommerce software, just let me know!

    • 18th May 2012 / 7:23 am

      I’ll bear it in mind, thanks Dan 🙂

  20. 17th May 2012 / 2:28 pm

    Oh it gives me the rage. Every week I’m being wrongly ‘advised’ by agencies that follow links are fine, just don’t write ‘sponsored’ write ‘guest post’…A follow link is a follow link however you dress it up.

    We keep being told that as bloggers our ‘voice is huge’ and our reach is far, sadly some agencies who know that full well are still trying to insult our intelligence with giving us rather dodgy and more to the point unethical ‘advice’.

    My mum once told me that is the wind changed my face would ‘stay like it’…I didn’t believe her and I don’t believe the ‘follow links are fine honestly’ lines I am being spun…
    Mammasaurus recently posted..There’s a fine line between domain genius and utter insanityMy Profile

    • 18th May 2012 / 7:22 am

      My face TOTALLY did stay like this.

  21. 17th May 2012 / 3:23 pm

    You know, in the good old days SEOs used to do “proper” Search Engine Optimisation. You know, make sure that the client site was optimised for keywords, contained great content that people would want to link to etc etc.

    Then parent bloggers came along, were not familiar with the rules, and someone, somewhere thought “hey, we can make our job a load easier by paying these bloggers to host links for us so we can manipulate our client sites up the Google results list”. It was probably considered a win/win situation at the time – bloggers got money, SEOs delivered results to their clients. It’s all fun as long as no-one gets hurt, right?

    But now bloggers are getting hurt. And more importantly, those SEOs’ clients could get hurt too. Who got downranked in the whole Google Chrome and the Mummy Bloggers situation? Not the bloggers, but Google Chrome. I am sure no SEO agency wants to sit down with a client and explain why the client’s page rank just disappeared, do they?

    The Google guidelines are entirely clear. You pay for a link, it’s nofollow. Anything else and you could get penalised. Why are bloggers suddenly getting the bad rap for putting that into practice? It makes me quite ranty myself.
    geekmummy recently posted..How a Lego designer made me rethink my attitude to the Friends rangeMy Profile

    • 18th May 2012 / 7:17 am

      I think the Chrome downrank was a publicity thing. What strikes more fear than hearing Google will penalise their own product?
      kat recently posted..Capturing ChildhoodMy Profile

      • 18th May 2012 / 7:20 am

        Oooh, so cynical!

  22. 17th May 2012 / 7:04 pm

    Cynical – no, honest – yes and the fact they used your blog as the example is priceless and another example of PRs not doing their homework (whilst accusing bloggers of not doing theirs of course) Well said Sally!
    Lou @ Bloggomy recently posted..Haba Orchard game – HABA Ambassador reviewMy Profile

  23. 17th May 2012 / 8:43 pm

    I think they’re being creative, and very clever! And I don’t think you’re a cynic (well, no more than the average clued-in blogger!), and I appreciate your no-nonsense honesty. It makes sense, and it helps me tell people where to put their “not sponsored” sponsored post follow links!
    Actually Mummy… recently posted..Stitch Head: a Book ReviewMy Profile

    • 18th May 2012 / 7:22 am

      It is clever, and I like the whole thing a LOT more now it’s not compulsory to offer a link. Glad you like the post, though, as I’ve said before, I’ve no issue with people who do take paid, sponsored links – it’s a personal choice. I just don’t like people who mislead others, as some of the less nice SEO agencies are doing at the moment. Grrr.

  24. 18th May 2012 / 7:21 am

    As I said, it’s not a paid link and I have no financial relationship with the company. Sometimes, we just do stuff because we think it’s cool. Simple as that.

  25. 18th May 2012 / 9:09 pm

    Enjoyed the article – read all the comments but to be honest still not really sure what it’s all about. I’m just hoping that as I don’t do ads and don’t do sponsored posts – the closest I come is reviews and that is only for kids activities really – that somehow I dont’ need to know. Noone has ever asked for for any kind of link – follow or not – although I do sometimes link to a website where you can get more info about a film or a cool party planner – but that’s because I choose to. Should I be worried about taht. Or just relieved – as far as this is concerned – that many Prs do not know who I am!!
    notanottinghillmum recently posted..Learning to share: advice for the grownupsMy Profile