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The gall of Consumer Reports
Implied they're linking to me when requesting a link
MichaelBluejay




msg:3906823
 2:34 am on May 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Here's a new one. Consumer Reports wrote to me, saying they're [seeking complimentary sites], how their ultimate goal is to help consumers get expert information, and how my site is an excellent resource for various specific reasons (which was on the mark, they did actually visit it).

They then requested a link from a specific page of mine to a specific page of theirs, ending with [a statement that together they can help consumers find information about a specific niche].

But a careful reading of their message shows that they didn't actually link to my site, or even say they'd do so if I linked to them -- even though they're supposedly so incredibly impressed by my site and its usefulness to consumers.

So I wrote back and asked, "I'm sorry, where exactly is your link to my site?" They never replied.

In any event, I can't imagine Consumer Reports needs any more inbound links, or that whatever benefit they might get from it justifies paying someone to try to collect them. And it really just seemed sleazy that they praised my site and implied a link, when they have no intention of linking to my site.

By the way, I would have linked to their page anyway if I thought it were relevant to my page, but I didn't think it was.

[edited by: martinibuster at 10:13 pm (utc) on May 7, 2009]
[edit reason] Removed email quotes. [/edit]

 

Jane_Doe




msg:3906877
 5:05 am on May 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

And it really just seemed sleazy that they praised my site and implied a link, when they have no intention of linking to my site.

I've had a number of requests like this from both small and large company competitors. They just get interns to mass mail out these kinds of sleazy requests in the hopes that they will find someone stupid enough to fall for it.

cnvi




msg:3907043
 12:04 pm on May 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

are you sure the request was from the real consumer reports and not someone spoofing their identity?

tangor




msg:3907048
 12:16 pm on May 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

cnvi may have hit it right... most of these requests aren't what they seem at first blush. I routinely ignore them.

MichaelBluejay




msg:3907601
 5:07 am on May 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Well, I suppose the message *could* have been spoofed, but for what purpose? Why would some third party want me to link to a specific page on the Consumer Reports website?

tangor




msg:3907603
 5:22 am on May 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Harvest a valid email address?

AnkitMaheshwari




msg:3907612
 5:43 am on May 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Have you checked the HTML code that they sent to link to them. That can have some script.....

Mercy_Livi




msg:3907855
 1:14 pm on May 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Its really strange and can u plz let us know if the email comes from domain specific email id some thing like, links at consumerreports.org or advertising at consumerreports.org

If the mail comes from any free email client service we can just omit this

[edited by: engine at 4:14 pm (utc) on May 6, 2009]
[edit reason] obfuscated e-mail addresses [/edit]

MichaelBluejay




msg:3907942
 3:02 pm on May 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

@tangor, they already had my email address from my website (obfuscated to thwart spambots). That's what they wrote to.

@ankit, there was no script in the link they sent.

@Mercy_Livi, you've just ruined the two email addresses you posted because now spambots will pick them up from this web page. But I went ahead and forwarded the message to CR. It's not from a free account, it's from CR's alternate (simpler) domain. When I initially replied to it, there was no bounce, either.

Mercy_Livi




msg:3908424
 4:39 am on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

@MichaelBluejay Oops I made a mistake. Thx its been edited.

HanKo




msg:3908822
 5:43 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

My name is Han Ko and I'm the Director of Web Marketing at Consumer Reports. Iíve seen the discussion regarding the email that was sent to Mr. Bluejay and I would like to address those comments. We did send an email to him requesting a link but we had no intention of implying that we were offering reciprocal links. It is against our non-commercialization policy to offer any reciprocal links. This email is part of our marketing outreach program to generate traffic, awareness and links to our web site.

We are a non-profit organization and our mission is to protect and inform the consumer. One of our most important policies is to not endorse any other companies since it may be perceived as not being unbiased and neutral. This policy prohibits taking advertisements in our publications as well as linking to other web sites unless it is in the content from our editorial department which is in support of our mission to inform the consumer.

Since there may have been some confusion regarding the email, we will review this aspect of our outreach program and to see if we can eliminate any future misunderstandings. I have also posted the entire email below for reference.

Thanks and let me know if there are any questions.

[edited by: martinibuster at 7:45 pm (utc) on May 7, 2009]
[edit reason] See TOS re Email. [/edit]

Marcia




msg:3908899
 7:41 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Well, this thread turns out to be very interesting, on two counts.

First: HanKo, welcome to WebmasterWorld. Since you're a marketer, let's touch on the marketing aspect. In that regard:

You can't preach to the choir.
You can't kid a kidder.
But: can you market to a marketer?

That email of yours, while well written, is definitely a marketing email; and if a marketer received it and was under the impression that a reciprocal link was implied, then that *is* the message that was conveyed - and the responsibility for that lies with the author of the message. At least that's what was taught in Business Communications 32, and that's what students had to get right to get their grades in the class.

That said, the other interesting topic here is defining and understanding the nature of "non profit" corporations. A good place to start is at the website of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service:

Charities & Non-Profits: Exemption Requirements [irs.gov]

The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization's net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

Definition of Net Earnings [google.com]

Marcia




msg:3908901
 7:48 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

<== Scratching head, wondering how their Marketing Department found this thread. ;)

Michael BlueJay:
In any event, I can't imagine Consumer Reports needs any more inbound links, or that whatever benefit they might get from it justifies paying someone to try to collect them.

Targeted traffic.
Subscriptions.
Net earnings.

[edited by: Marcia at 7:50 pm (utc) on May 7, 2009]

arieng




msg:3908915
 8:10 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

<== Scratching head, wondering how their Marketing Department found this thread. ;)

This thread was featured in a Media Post article yesterday under the title "'Consumer Reports' seeks links or Prank?"

HanKo




msg:3908923
 8:22 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Marcia --

Thanks for the welcome. I do acknowledge towards the end of my post that the email may have caused confusion in this instance. It is our responsibility, so we will review the content of the email and this aspect of our outreach program. We will make any necessary changes to eliminate any confusion.

Regarding our non-profit status, Consumer Reports is the name of our main publication. The publishing company is Consumers Union which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We actually have many other programs that inform and protect consumers but aren't as well known as Consumer Reports. Please visit [consumersunion.org...] for more information.

Regards.

Jane_Doe




msg:3908943
 9:05 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

This email is part of our marketing outreach program to generate traffic, awareness and links to our web site.

Since this is part of a program that means CR must be sending these types of emails out in bulk, and they are obviously unsolicited, so I believe that meets most definitions of spam email. As a Consumer Reports subscriber I must say I'm disappointed.

HanKo




msg:3908951
 9:30 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hello Jane Doe --

We do not send out bulk unsolicited email. We have very strict policies regarding email communications and take the privacy rights of all consumers very seriously. Our mission is to inform and protect consumers.

Here is the link to our privacy policy --
[consumerreports.org...]

Regards.

Slinger




msg:3908963
 9:55 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Holloween is a holiday where one person walks up to a strangers house and collects candy and gives none back. Sounds like HanKo is Trick or Treating.

Jane_Doe




msg:3908982
 10:15 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

We do not send out bulk unsolicited email. We have very strict policies regarding email communications and take the privacy rights of all consumers very seriously. Our mission is to inform and protect consumers.

It your actions, not your policies that count. Many, if not most, web site owners view unsolicited link requests like the one described here as spam. You may not realize this, but many of us, especially the publishers here with lots of web sites, get thousands of these unsolicited requests each year. It is just that usually they are for pay day loans, work at home scams and discount viagra sites.

Marcia




msg:3909114
 3:29 am on May 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

From the Link Development Forum Library [webmasterworld.com] thread started by sugarrae:

WebmasterWorld Classic: Link Development vs. Traffic Development and Staying with the Times [webmasterworld.com]

New:
Find sites that are about your topic in general but are missing pertinent information that you provide on your site or that you can create an angle to merge with their topic and email the webmaster at one email address with a personal email that notes things about their site only a human visitor would and explain why you think linking to your content would benefit their readers.
Example:
If you own a site selling film, write an in depth article on getting the best low light results on your site and then contact photography clubs explaining that you have an article on your site that their members might find useful and you were hoping they would consider including it in their resources/favorite sites/information section. Get enough camera clubs linking to you and youíll start to see a nice trickle of visitors as well.

Did the request in this thread seem individualized and done as sugarrae suggests, or did it come off automated?

tedster revived that discussion just 5 months ago, in December:
Link Development vs. Traffic Development - 2008 edition [webmasterworld.com]

Shaddows




msg:3909339
 11:44 am on May 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

Marcia, the OP states
Here's a new one. Consumer Reports wrote to me, saying they're [seeking complimentary sites], how their ultimate goal is to help consumers get expert information, and how my site is an excellent resource for various specific reasons (which was on the mark, they did actually visit it).
They then requested a link from a specific page of mine to a specific page of theirs, ending with [a statement that together they can help consumers find information about a specific niche].
[Emphasis mine]

That would seem to be a non-automated, targetted attempt at getting relevant traffic by inviting the site owner to help readers get additional information.

----------------------------------

I get LOTS of unsoliticted email, 95% or more is automated. I also tend to ignore the real requests. However, many members posting here in the Link Dev forum sends out these emails, and I suspect the CR email is on the more acceptable side of the link request email spectrum

[edited by: Shaddows at 11:46 am (utc) on May 8, 2009]

MichaelBluejay




msg:3909676
 6:34 pm on May 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

Okay, I started this whole mess, so let me try to clarify:

(1) I don't consider CR's request to be spam. Spam is bulk sending of the same message. But CR send me an exceptionally personalized message, crafted individually for me. It wasn't spam.

(2) I link out to other sites all the time that don't link to me. I link to other sites on merit, not on whether I get a return link. I differentiate between a link request and a link *exchange* request. I welcome the former, IF they're relevant and useful (usually they aren't), and I despise the latter. I despise exchanges because I truly believe sites should be linked to because of merit and for no other reason. A link exchange request is basically saying:

"Hi, your site sucks. If I thought it provided value to my readers I would have linked to it already. But I'm willing to link to your crappy site if you'll link to mine. My site is pretty lame also, and I know you wouldn't link to it unless I bribed you with a return link.

(3) If CR had just written and requested a one-way link to them straight up, I wouldn't have minded. What rubbed me the wrong way was how they implied that my site was just the kind of thing they'd want their readers to know about, implying that they're linking to it, when such was not the case. It was the deception that bothered me.

(4) Some have pointed out that CR didn't promise to link to me. I made the same point. The thing is, they *implied* they were, but a careful reading shows that they're not. Why should I have to dissect their message? When they tell me that their mission is to provide their readers with good info, and then the very next sentence says they found my site to be "an excellent resource" for consumers, that suggests they want their readers to know about it, and that they're linking to it. But they don't and they don't.

(5) The reason I didn't link to them was not that they didn't link to me. In fact, if they had linked to me, I still wouldn't have linked to them. The reason I didn't link is that their content is subscription-based. I would be sending my readers to a *sales* page. I don't really care to do that. (Unless perhaps they had an affiliate program and my link to them took the form of an ad, clearly spelling out that the reader would have to pay on the landing page to get the content they sought).

(6) Consumer Reports is not-for-profit *and* commercial. The two are not mutually exclusive. Not-for-profit just means that (a) the organization has a mission that's educational, charitable, or religious, and (b) they don't have shareholders or an owner which enjoys the profits they make. There's a movement to replace the term "non-profit" with "not-for profit" because it's clearer. It's not that these groups can't make a profit, it's that owners or shareholders don't get that profit. The profits stay in the org. A *company's* whole goal is to make a profit, while an org like CR's whole goal is some educational, charitable, or religious purpose. An example of how an org can be not-for-profit and commercial at the same time is Goodwill thrift stores. They're obviously retail businesses. I was on the board of directors of a not-for-profit that existed in both realms.

And yes, there's a loophole that does allow people to get rich from not-for-profits: They just pay their staff insane salaries, which is considered an expense and not dividends. For example, the head of the Boy Scouts of America makes $4 million a year, and the head of the right-wing think-tank The Heritage Foundation makes about $1 million. (The head of CR makes about $300k per year, which arguably isn't that extravagant for an organization with a $220 million budget.)

(7) I still don't think these link requests are worth CR's time. Yes, links mean traffic and (possibly) higher SE rankings (which means more traffic), but the question is, is CR paying less money to staff to generate the links, than the extra revenue they're getting as a result of those links? I doubt it. I think CR's time could be better spent starting an affiliate program, or doing other things to generate traffic that would have a better ROI than sending out personalized link requests.

JohnRoy




msg:3919584
 4:42 am on May 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure HanKo represents consumer reports.
(To verify, someone in admin needs to confirm HanKo provided a Consumer Reports email address. Just as GoogleGuy was accepted as such after the email was confirmed)

If it's not from Consumer Reports, the "link to us" emails may come from some nice (um, ugly) script that hangs around the net, sending emails to webmasters about a page on their site that has some relationship to a large entity site, just to keep them busy...

tedster




msg:3919631
 7:11 am on May 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

HanKo is indeed a representative of Consumer Reports.

Marcia




msg:3919641
 7:35 am on May 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

I believe that HanKo is with Consumer Reports. I also believe that in this day and age it's critically important for that organization - which has been around for decades - to try to get targeted traffic from online sources and that a comprehensive link development campaign is an excellent idea and very timely.

Why? Because they've been a print publication since even before I was born - and nowadays print publications are FUBAR. There's even speculation that the NY Times, Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune are in trouble, to name just a few.

An older married cousin (no dummy, a Phi Beta Kappa) subscribed when I was a little girl and made no purchases, including major appliances for a new home, and vehicles, without consulting the Consumer Union reviews. That's how I first learned of them.

They're the real deal and have been for a long time. They NEED to transition marketing efforts from print to online marketing emphasis and traffic acquisition, for the sake of survival. And the public needs them to survive because they're ethical and really do independent testing - a rarity in this day and age of pay to play, buying phony reviews and paid blogging and social marketing.

I raised an eyebrow about how they found this thread because I wondered if their marketing department reads here at WebmasterWorld - which wouldn't be a bad idea at all if their marketing people have any sense.

And hey, so what if they were to contract to a marketing consultant for promotion in addition to inhouse marketing. Some of our best members do just that kind of work for prime time organizations.

If their mail is giving any people the wrong impression, they need to make a modification in the wording to correct it,but without a doubt it would be very foolish of them not to ramp up online promotion and traffic acquisition. This isn't 1936, this is 2009; and that's where marketing is at in this day and age.

JS_Harris




msg:3919679
 9:35 am on May 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

HanKo - shhhhhh, when people are talking about you it's polite to stay quiet. You only need to worry when it's quiet.

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