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Offering A Discount In Exchange For A Link?


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19 replies to this topic

#1 whitespark

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:09 PM

Hi, I have an idea for how to incentive links, and I'm wondering if it could potentially get us penalized for "buying" links. When someone orders a product from our online store they receive an automatic email with the details of their order. I am thinking about adding a message to the bottom of the email that says something like:

"Do you manage a website or blog? Add a link to us and we'll give you 10% off of your next order!" and then of course details and code for the link.

What do you think? A little too close to buying links? If a competitor was to report us to Google about this, do you think this would get us penalized?

Thanks!

#2 qwerty

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 11:48 PM

I think that link building often involves old fashioned business arrangements, like sending someone a product sample or offering them a discount in exchange for having them write about your product/service and recommend it to your audience. However, I wouldn't make such an arrangement with any and all sites. If I sell shoes, then I want to establish relationships with people who run websites that my potential shoe customers might be reading, and whose opinions matter to those people.

Besides that, I can set up a site for free in a couple of minutes. Should that be all it takes to get a discount from you?

#3 Randy

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 06:45 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with Bob. I don't think it's a very good idea.

And I'll take it one step further.

I buy a lot of stuff online. A lot of stuff. Lots of 0's involved in my online transactions when you add 'em all up. With the exception of my computers (I have a really good computer guy) and stuff like groceries I'd rather buy something online and wait for it to get shipped to me than have to drive to a couple of stores to see if they have exactly what I want/need. Thus I'm a big proponent of e-commerce. Have been for years.

As you might imagine with me buying so much stuff online, I've run across such deals before. In fact I've had exactly this type of thing offered to me a couple dozen times over the years. At any given moment I run between 50 and 150 sites, so placing a link on one of them to get the discount is not an issue. It would be easy for me to do. I'd be the perfect person for such a discount deal if you view the facts on the surface.

What have such Discount For Link offers caused me to do?

It's caused me to lose respect and trust for those who offered me such Discount For Link deals. Not only have I never taken any of them up on the deal, as a general rule I never do business with them again. Not because the original thing I ordered wasn't in good condition or that I've had any problem with my original order. But because I've lost respect for them. They're offer has caused me to lose trust and good will that they'd already built with me that caused me to order from them the first time.

#4 1dmf

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 07:54 AM

QUOTE
It's caused me to lose respect and trust for those who offered me such Discount For Link deals. Not only have I never taken any of them up on the deal, as a general rule I never do business with them again. Not because the original thing I ordered wasn't in good condition or that I've had any problem with my original order. But because I've lost respect for them. They're offer has caused me to lose trust and good will that they'd already built with me that caused me to order from them the first time.
I don't understand this , how , why?

They offer you a discount so you no longer respect them? and no longer purchase from them?

Well that rules out nearly every single business in existence that sells something.

Doesn't everyone do sales, discounts or special offers at various times of the year, with various incentives and reasons behind them?

#5 Jill

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 08:01 AM

QUOTE(whitespark @ Mar 16 2009, 10:09 PM) View Post
What do you think? A little too close to buying links? If a competitor was to report us to Google about this, do you think this would get us penalized?


I disagree with some of the others and think it's fine. In fact, I think it's a great idea.

#6 oneofthe3lions

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 09:01 AM

I think in principle it can be a good idea. It wouldnt put me off buying a product that was satisfactory at all.

It may put me off getitng involved with linking exhanges with them if there wasnt some sort of proper editing of these links and any website was accepted just because you want the extra orders. You dont seem to be pointing to these in return so I doubt the links themselves will hurt you in anyway but it still makes sense to apply this email rule to websites that it makes sense for you to have a link on in most cases so I would perhaps continue to do it but be a bit more selective, do a little research and if they have a nice website then attach the signature (or info)

#7 whitespark

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 11:28 AM

Thanks to everyone for their responses.

@qwerty: yes, if you can set up a site in a couple of minutes and add a link, then I guess we would have to honour our offer. For the most part though, I believe the strategy would result in more "real" links then people trying to game it just to save a few dollars. If someone is repeatedly abusing the offer by creating fake sites, then we would deal with that. The discounts are all handled manually.

@Randy: I don't think the strategy will result in a loss of trust for this client's customers. The business I'm considering this tactic for is very well established with a very good brand image. I'm not suggesting a shady link exchange program, it's more of a "Show your _brand_name_ Pride by adding a link and we'll thank you with a little discount".

@Jill: I respect your opinion, and I'm glad to hear that you think it's a good idea. What do you think about the potential of being reported for link "buying" by a competitor though? I think the strategy has the potential to build some great links, but I am worried it could backfire if Google was to consider it link buying and we get penalized.

@oneofthe3lions: I don't think it's possible to be selective. We're talking about adding a note to order emails, and some of the recipients will have quality websites, and others might not. We can't really say "If we think your website is good enough, we'll give you a discount". We'll just have to hope that some good quality links are developed along with the not so good ones.

#8 rolf

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 12:32 PM

Interesting to see such a range of opinions through a group of well informed people.

Just to add my uninformed opinion to the mix, I think it would be OK if it was spun in the right way - it could come across as "we're unscrupulous and/or desperate for links" if done wrong (which I think is Randy's concern?), but your suggestion of "Show your _brand_name_ Pride by adding a link and we'll thank you with a little discount" seems fine to me - hopefully you wont mind that I'm even going to consider trying it with one of my sites since reading this thread.

QUOTE
If someone is repeatedly abusing the offer by creating fake sites, then we would deal with that. The discounts are all handled manually.


Maybe you could have a disclaimer allowing only one such discount per customer/delivery address/email address/whatever?

#9 qwerty

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 12:47 PM

I'm still not comfortable with this, even if the customer only has one opportunity to link to you from any old garbage site. I guess it depends in part on how much money 10% might represent. If you're making a $10,000 sale, then this link is technically costing you $1000, and the number of sites I'd be willing to pay $1000 to for a link is pretty tiny. If your average sale is more like $10, I guess this becomes a lot less of an issue.

But even under those circumstances, I don't think I'd go for it. I accept the fact that my sites might get linked to from junky sites that scrape content off equally junky sites. I don't have any control over that. But the thought that I'm incentivizing that in any way -- that these people are actually getting something from me -- that is not a good thing.

Besides that, a discount on a single purchase is something that can't be taken back, and while putting up a link is a very easy thing to do, taking it down is even easier. So how many people will put up the link, take their discount, and then remove the link? And how do you respond to that -- bill them for the 10% you had discounted for them?

I'd be OK with it if you were more selective from the start. Instead of just saying "link to us and get a 10% discount," you might put up a message asking your customers if they run a business that would be of interest to your customers and that you're open to discussing ways to work together for everyone's benefit.

#10 Jill

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 01:10 PM

In reading the other posts and giving it a bit more thought, I think your best bet would be to have some ground rules. Don't make it just about a link from anywhere, but more like: "If you liked our product that you just received, why not tell all your friends on your own blog?! Email us where your post is and we'll send you a 10% discount coupon for your next order!"

Or, if you wanted, you could make it a contest instead where not everyone who posts a link gets a discount, but the chance at one, or the chance at a free product.

I wouldn't worry about what Google thinks, it's none of their business, imo.

From what I understand they don't penalize you, they just might make those links not count in their PageRank algo. And somehow I doubt your small potato site (presumably) is going to create so many links and an outcry from anyone.

That said, I wouldn't publicize it, just keep it via email between you and your customers. It's nobody else's business.

#11 Randy

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 02:18 PM

Yeah, that's basically my concern Rolf. Or as I call it Link Begging. wink1.gif

The problem is in how one could structure the offer. Along a similar vein I've seen plenty of folks offer some sort of discount or free shipping on a subsequent order if the customer would take the time to write a review of the product after they receive it. I don't have nearly as much of an issue with this type of thing because a review (on the seller's site) is likely to be helpful to others looking to purchase the product.

The whole link to me for a discount thing just smells like a We suck at SEO, so why don't you do the work for us type of situation.

re: Jill's idea about a contest. It's not a bad idea, just be sure you check your local laws first. I used to run some of these on my sites and here at least there are some very, very specific things you had to do as well as many things you couldn't do with your contest to keep it on the right side of the law. This is why I don't do Contests/Giveaways anymore. I got tired of paying an attorney to keep up with the ever-changing rules for contests and giveaways.

#12 whitespark

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 05:02 PM

There is some really great feedback and advice in this thread. I'm glad I decided to post this question.

@qwerty: I see what you're saying. The purchases are more in the $100 range, but still it could really add up if people start abusing the offer and we end up with hundreds of useless links.

@Jill: Your suggestion of "If you liked our product that you just received, why not tell all your friends on your own blog?! Email us where your post is and we'll send you a 10% discount coupon for your next order!" is a better approach, but it still leaves the system open to abuse. We don't want to get into situations where someone has a very shady adult or gambling blog and we have to tell them we don't want their link. I think your advice about not worrying about the penalties is sound advice. The site isn't a huge player in the niche and I doubt this little addition to order emails will attract too much attention.

I think I have enough feedback and this is my plan:

I think that asking for a link at the checkout is still a good supplemental link building strategy, but I don't think there is a good way to incentivize it with a discount. It's bound to get messy, possibly expensive, and will potentially lead to more junk links than quality links. This was just one strategy out of 40 different things we're working on. I think the best approach is to tie it into the "Show Your Pride" badges campaign we are executing. A series of different badges are in development, and once launched on the site we will just cross promote them with the message on order emails. Something like "Show your _brandname_ pride! Add one of our badges to your website or blog!". No discount, just a call to action for those that might be so inclined. The business has a lot of love, so I think it will still be successful, even without a monetary incentive.

Thanks again for all the thoughtful feedback everyone!

#13 Jill

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 05:59 PM

QUOTE(Randy)
The whole link to me for a discount thing just smells like a We suck at SEO, so why don't you do the work for us type of situation.


Yeah, but that's because you're familiar with SEO.

I doubt the average purchaser of Lederhosen would even think about the SEO factor if worded correctly.

@whitespark glad you got some good info here and have some additional thoughts.

Look for more tomorrow as this is going to be the High Rankings Advisor forum thread of the week!

#14 mosxu

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:23 AM

It not a natural as being paid by a discount and we should stay away.
If you think it is a good idea then why make it plublic?

#15 Orpheus Descending

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 01:58 PM

This is very, very interesting to me - and thank you Jill for making this the thread of the week and thank you whitespark for starting the thread.

I've been working on a similar idea for a not-for-profit site. The idea is to include getting links as acceptable donations. There is a whole strategy involved with this, that would incourage those with disabilities (the site is for a disability) who use the site and their families to shop or give business to sites that support ours through their links. No reciprical linking, just the incentive to buy from those who support us.

This thread leads me to believe that in cyberspace the 'value' of the site or web page giving the link will have to be scrutinized so as not to deminish the non-profit site? There's an ethical question for the theorists - and I have to say, I'm a bit frightened of what the answers might be.

I realise I'm taking this to the extreme, I don't think we will be getting any attention from legitimate web pages of ill-repute but I never really thought of how links link us together in very tangible ways.




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