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Just got accused of Breach of Contract!
for using nofollow tags on links
microcars




msg:3446806
 10:59 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Several months ago I was approached by, a rather reputable name brand group related thematically to one of my sites and agreed to a few paid links on the main page.

This particular site is not monetized, it exists for other reasons, but I figured I would try an experiment.

So back in January, they send me a Word doc contract that I have to "sign" and I send it back and they pay me.

so all is good.

Then I started reading discussions about using the "nofollow" tag here (I forget when) and decide to use it on a huge page of links that are there for reference, not for advertising.

so all is good.

Then I decide to add the nofollow tags to these paid links that are on the main page.
Contract says links can't be in Frames or encased in Javascript.
Contract says nothing about tags on links. (that includes color, font etc....)

So I JUST got an email from the once a quarter person that I contact about payment saying that these nofollow tags need to be removed!
"This needs to be removed as per our initial agreement"

but the initial agreement says nothing about this.

"you are the first to place a nofollow tag"

am I the first? Does no one else use a nofollow tag on paid links (unless contractual obligations say otherwise...)

Did I cross a line by including the nofollow tags?
Can't I do what I want with my source code? (within contractual obligations....)

I did tell them that if they included that in the next renewal contract I would probably agree to renew, but that currently I am bound by our existing contract.

am I just being a PITA for no reason?

 

buckworks




msg:3448250
 6:37 am on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Keep in mind that this deal originated last January or earlier. The landscape regarding "nofollow" has changed a great deal since then and at the time of the contract there would have been no reason for them to mention it one way or the other.

The terms you mentioned (no frames, no javascript) clearly indicate that their intent was to purchase a search engine friendly link. You accepted that.

Your logic now is like a little boy who, upon being told not to hit his brother with his toy truck, proceeds to hit him with a toy car instead.

"Nobody said I couldn't hit him with my toy car!"

jeffposaka




msg:3448251
 6:39 am on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Vince, I agree the no follow should be in the contract but since this is a recent issue of the past 6 months, I could forgive a link buyer for not following Matt's blog and everyone's analysis of it.

I think Microcar's customer expected to receive not only traffic from the link but some kind of boost in the serps. When Microcar added the no follow, it removed one on the benefits.

I think by the letter of the law, there would be nothing wrong with adding the no follow but I think it would go against the spirit of the deal and the customers expectations.

I think if Microcar was worried that Matt's team would penalize his site for selling links, he should have called the client and let him know the concerns and discussed it. I can understand why the client is upset.

andyll




msg:3448255
 6:46 am on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

VVV said:
I'll ask again: Can any link purchaser who doesn't specify, up front, that rel="nofollow" isn't present explain, honestly, why they miss out such an important point?

If you think that the buyer will not miss out on 'such an important point' then why do you cloak it?

Did the buyer 'specify, up front' that the link wasn't to be white on white... or that it wasn't to be hidden behind an image, or that it wasn't to be in a 4pt font?

In general do you believe it is a sellers responsibility to describe what they are selling or that it is the buyers responsibility to ask the seller what they are selling?

Andy

simey




msg:3448256
 6:51 am on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Maybe people don't specify they want (no-nofollow) because they looked at the source code of your page and its links and don't anticipate links being altered or expect any cloaking tricks.

People dont go into a dealership and buy a car, receive it with no seatbelts and then the dealer says 'Oh we always remove the seatbelts' 'you should have specified no-noseatbelts' in the contract.

microcars




msg:3448671
 4:44 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm back!

what a thread.

I should note that after reading this and some other references, I have actually gone back and removed the "nofollow" tags now, even though legally I am not bound to.
I put them there, I can take them out.
I went back and looked at what the purpose of them was and it does appear that it was intended to prevent "blog spam" or "comment spam" from gaining PR.

And since the links in question were not comment spam, the "nofollow" tag should not be applied.
I agree with willybfriendly's comment.

The comments about "charging more" for links that do NOT have "nofollow" tags on them were very interesting to say the least.

HOWEVER - I go back to my OP which started all this and the client said that
"AS PER OUR ORIGINAL AGREEMENT..."
when in fact there was nothing of the sort in the original agreement.
This was what pissed me off initially.

Some of you appear to believe that if an advertiser says "JUMP", your response should be "YES SIR AND HOW HIGH SIR?!"

They draw up a contract that gets very specific about certain things they want adhered to. I agree to those things (or strike them out if I do not).

Outside the specifics of that contract, I am free to do as I please, thank you very much.

and that includes hitting my brother with a toy CAR!
of course Mom is free to alter the terms of the contract at any time, so that won't last long.

The difference here is the advertiser is not my Mom.

ceestand




msg:3448694
 5:01 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Weighing in, I would lean towards the side that says if a customer is paying for a link, unless specified otherwise they would get a link that is visible and optimized for human consumption and nofollow is fair. So the link being prominantly displayed and legible are all that would be expected.

However, slightly off topic, are the advertisers usually the ones who initially provide a contract? I would think it would be more beneficial for the service provider (webmaster) to provide it. Are there good sample contracts out there?

andyll




msg:3448705
 5:15 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

HOWEVER - I go back to my OP which started all this and the client said that
"AS PER OUR ORIGINAL AGREEMENT..."
when in fact there was nothing of the sort in the original agreement.
This was what pissed me off initially.

They did specify no JS links so at least their intentions were that the link passes PR. When was the contract written?

Outside the specifics of that contract, I am free to do as I please, thank you very much.

Absolutist urban legend type of comments like that gets many a person/company in trouble.

I'm not sure that bad faith breaches apply to contracts such as yours but I'm sure there are plenty of things you could do that would render the link worthless. If it was determined you did it in malice I'm not sure pointing at the contract and saying that specific action was not banned would protect you.

Andy

jomaxx




msg:3448707
 5:20 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think you're doing the right thing, but it's too bad you have to do all that posturing before you can change your mind about anything. Not to mention throwing a sideswipe at people who tried to answer the question you asked.

We're ALL bosses of our own websites and nobody can tell us what to do and we'll burn any bridges we darn well please etc.

microcars




msg:3448823
 7:04 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

...I'm not sure pointing at the contract and saying that specific action was not banned would protect you.

Protect me from what? I'm not being sued.

and conversely I am quite sure that telling me I agreed to something that I never agreed to will piss me off.

Sending me an email with a copy of an agreement with another website as an "example" of "our agreement" is also a good way to piss me off.
(yes they did that)

If they had not initially come in and wagged their finger at me and ordered me to do something I had not agreed to, I would not be posting any of this.

After they did the finger wagging exercise we had a talk and I told them in no uncertain terms that this was not in the original agreement and they DID NOT DISAGREE WITH ME!
I also suggested that they include it in any future agreements so we would not have this misunderstanding in the future.
And that is what it is: A Misunderstanding.
It needs to be clarified.

Some of you are reacting as if I am getting sued and am looking for some sort of defense.
What I wanted was some opinions. I got plenty of those now.
Maybe a discussion? OK, we got one.
thank you. All are useful. Some suggestions and opinions are more entertaining than others.

I just changed what I did based on the entire discussion here.
and it seems I hit a sore spot as well that does not apparently get discussed enough.

Was I just being a PITA? Yeah, probably.

but look we got this nice thread now.

artek




msg:3448884
 7:47 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Sorry got here late.

Remind your client that if you forward their correspondance to Google it won't be only the power of your link which is lost, but the inbound power of all their other purchased links once the site gets a manual review.

VinceVinceVince,

You should never do that. It could be called "blackmailing to get financial gains or unfair business advantage" and be base for nasty lawsuit in real business world.

Unless someone has purchased a link explicitly for SEO benefit then they cannot expect to get it.

Why in the world would I buy link for any other reason than page rank benefit?
Isn't the traffic gains amount to only 10-20% of the price of the link and rest is page rank benefits.

It is "common knowledge and practice" for years that you buy link for page rank benefit and then traffic. Like you buy hamburger for meat, and bun with trimmings are extra, not other way around.

By the way, I personally would never buy link with "nofollow" block on it.

Customers should understand what they're getting, and they should get it. If you're in business, it's your job to make sure both of these things happen.

This is how you build trust and loyalty of your customers, visitors, etc. Openness and transparency makes your customers fill safe and comfortable to reach for valet.

Smirking over the fact that you're conning your customers and they don't even know it is not very professional.

... and "fraudulent" as well.

Korrd




msg:3449112
 2:56 am on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

microcars
what a thread.

More like two threads in one with with your and vincevincevince's similar but very different scenarios and I suspect views differ as to whether someone is a seller or a buyer and there are going to be some people rewriting their offer contracts and checking their purchased links against Google's cache tonight.

I'm not a link buyer or seller but I've had offers and here's my two cents.

"This needs to be removed as per our initial agreement" but the initial agreement says nothing about this.

Does the contract say anything about not allowing meta "no follow", "no index". or "no archive", or not disallowing robots via robots.txt? If so I'd consider the "nofollow" tag also to be implied.

Does the contract name the link being purchased as a string from "<a" to "/a>" inclusive? If so I'd consider any deviation from the named string to require the approval of the purchaser whether stated as a term or not.

Otherwise unless the purchaser expressed upfront that they wanted to buy SEO power it sounds like you are within the terms of the contract. Spirit might be another question but that depends upon your understanding of the market and it sounds as if you didn't so you're clear there also.

Sending me an email with a copy of an agreement with another website as an "example" of "our agreement" is also a good way to piss me off.

You felt disrespected. Understandable but...

And that is what it is: A Misunderstanding.

Yes. And give the buyer the benefit of that doubt also. If no one had ever nofollowed one of their links before they may have assumed and not have realized the contractual omission until you argued it. Maybe, maybe not, but since they are not disagreeing with you now give them the benefit of the doubt. You've each learned something. Time to move to tomorrow.

Some of you are reacting as if I am getting sued and am looking for some sort of defense.

In all fairness you started the hyperbole with the thread title "Just got accused of Breach of Contract!"

vincevincevince

If you are serving cloaked nofollows to Google without explicitly informing your purchasers, it's fraud regardless of whether nofollow is contractually permitted or not. Regardless of whatever the product buyers have the right to expect uniformity in that what they see is what they are getting unless specified differently. That's why you see spec sheets "specs subject to change" and ads "may not be as pictured" just to cover minor changes.

Link buyers are entitled to expect that the formatting of all serves of their link will be identical. Secretly serving differently to Google could be grounds for legal damages although the shady nature of the link market offers protection against the likelihood of anyone going public.

link sellers

Contracts and implications should go both ways. Is there confidentiality that the purchaser will not publicize you as a link seller? What if mid contract the buyer changes the link target page to a bad neighborhood type? Specified or implied...?

ceestand




msg:3449550
 2:29 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Nobody has a sample contract to post?

DXL




msg:3463345
 1:49 am on Sep 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think it's irresponsible to add no nofollow tags to paid links unless the seller specifically states in advance that he/she intends to do so.

This all boils down to what is expected of an agreement to purhcase links, its safe to assume that anyone who buys a link does so with the understanding that this will help them in the SERPs, regardless of whether or not the buyer explicitly mentions this as their purchase motive. Anyone who feels the need to disguise the fact that they use nofollow tags on paid links is behaving in a fradulent manner. Buyers expect one thing, you're giving them something else, its robbery no different than what crooked mechanics do.

andye




msg:3466178
 5:12 pm on Oct 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

...I'm not sure pointing at the contract and saying that specific action was not banned would protect you.


Protect me from what? I'm not being sued.

uh, you named the thread 'Just got accused of Breach of Contract'...

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