The "One-Way Link Trade," Feed Theft, and Other Marketing Funnies
Today's gambling-related e-mail turdlet gets a special shout-out for above-and-beyond duty. It arrived with a "Subject" line of "links exchanged". Here's the text of the missive, with parenthetical text replacement and underlined text courtesy of me, but all the stylish misspellings and wretched grammar intact:
My name is Helmuth , Im Working on (lame-costarican-sporstbook-and-casino.com) marketing team
I went through you site and i wondering if you are interested in a link trade with us.
Our policy is to work only with a one-way link trade.
***A one-way link is when a page links to another page without a link back from the same site.
If you agree please give me you link info to add your link at my page.
we will be glad to see our link at you site and have you as our links partner.
We appreciate you willingness to exchange links with us!
This is my link information:
LINK text: sportsbook
Thanks for you time!
So in other words, he wants a free link from me without even having the guts to ask for it directly. Oy. While I normally just deep-six this stuff, this one was so pathetic-funny I couldn't help sending off a reply, wherein I also invited our clueless Costa Rican friend to perform a physiologically impossible task. (Wonder if he'll try?) I usually have a good sense as to when a reply I might send to some net moron will actually be read by someone on the other end, so here's hoping I've raised his blood pressure a point or two in the process. Plus, the whole topic also dovetailed nicely into the rest of this post, which follows up my main article last week over at the Kick Ass Poker Blog.
The body of that longish article was a further look into the content theft and site scraping undertaken in various forms by so many poker and online-gambling vendors, the largest by far of which are the slimeballs at 888.com (Cassava, Pacific Poker, Casino-on-Net) and its main affiliates. Not only did I cite an example where a specific quote from one of my KAP posts came up 43 times in a Yahoo! search, but only two of those search results linked directly back to my post --- the other 41 went to ".info" sites of the type often used for scraping by 888 or its affiliates, in this case a boilerroom domain/ISP operation running out of some loser's daddy's basement in New Jersey.
I also showed an example of different type of content theft, the repurposing of a news feed (also from Yahoo!) for third-party profit. In this case I linked to the site directly, in part because I had linked to the site on an earlier occasion before I discovered the nature of its theft.
It was only a few hours until my boss, Jason, sent me off a note inquiring why I would link to them when I knew what these site thieves were up to, since my linking in itself incrementally increases the black-hat site's page rank and relative exposure --- in theory the exact opposite of what I want to see happen. Jason was right to ask, too. But what I didn't point out in my original article --- and yet could share a laugh about with Jason later --- was that I really didn't do that thieving site any favors. See, there's a thin chance that I also might have accidentally sent off a note to Yahoo!'s Copyright Division, advising them of the theft... and Yahoo! was quite happy to receive the note, judging by my rapid and personal reply. I suspect the "hub" site will be receiving its cease-and-desist any day now. Check it out if you want to see a passelful of soon-to-be worthless affiliate links.
I don't choose to play net-cop, but I will under certain circumstances. So if you steal from me or from those who I know, beware.
Moving on to a different aspect, it's important to realize that site scraping and RSS-feed theft are two separate forms of the same overall disease. Site scraping is one of those things that's just black-hat all the way, but theft of a news feed is a topic that comes in various shades of grey, because it (the news feed) is only of value and purpose if someone reads it, and in order to be read widely, it must be linked to by others. Feed repurposing is usually black, while "aggregator" sites come in various shades of grey and white.
For an example of an aggregator site done right, we need look no further than Bill Rini's pokerfilter.net. Bill manually selects each piece that's included, goes into each to select a short text passage that he believes will interest casual visitors, and links properly to the original site for the complete viewing of the original content. Bill's selected several of my KAP pieces for inclusion, and he's welcome to continue to do so. Pokerfilter.net increases my readership, much the same way a real-estate office increase viewership of a listed home by offering a photo and related info to potential buyers.
For middlin' grey examples immediately connected to poker blogs, two come to mind: the blog listings found on BlogsOnPoker (only occasionally available, it seems) and the "Blog Monitor" found over at the All In Magazine home page. Of the two, I would judge the "Blogs on Poker" hat to be several shades whiter, though I know several bloggers have justifiably complained about both. (Dragonystic comes to mind.) The Blogs on Poker site was kept reasonably current, captured only a small amount of text, offered proper links to correct content, and I believe they honored removal requests by anyone who asked. I didn't have a problem with that.
Then there's All In's blog monitor, and I have to do a mea culpa here, because I once asked them for inclusion, many months back, something I would no longer do. Collectively, the evidence now suggests that All In is more interested in exploiting the listed blogs for their own gain then for any real publicity for the poker blogs themselves. They excerpt rather more text than the On Blogs site did/does (though they do link to the original site in a proper manner), but their indifference to keeping the feature current --- despite its prominent place on All In's home page --- is the key tell: there are blogs listed that haven't been updated in over a year. I can only think of one example where a blog was removed, and that was where the blogger (already mentioned) declared it as automated theft... and that calling out of All In duly appeared in All In's own automated pages. Funny stuff, though All In did "correct" that little faux pas within 48 hours. Without apology or mention, however.
Still, the fact they they didn't then put the effort into redoing the thing --- and doing it right --- speaks volumes. Shades of grey... in deepening shadow.
Moving on. I may have the chance to put up some affiliate links of my own here in the near future. I'm torn about it, because I very much value my independence as a writer, but I could use any extra dollars the banners might bring in. Input from any of you is welcome, by the way. The most likely outcome is that I'll try one or two, but not upsell them --- the links will just be there if someone chooses to click-through at that moment. In any event, the presence of a banner for a given site would never preclude me from ripping said site a new orifice, if such an orifice were deserved. I don't sell out that cheap.