Top 32 33 Forms of Linking Payola

Special Update: Google Edition

What motivates people to link to other people? Listed are some of the reasons people might have for linking to you, and I am sure, some of the reasons you might link to other people.

  1. Did they just give you an Android phone Google TV, 3 month Dish + installation (Danny has a full history of Google Payola)
  2. Have they already linked to you for this topic so you are rewarding them back?
  3. Have they linked to you in the past and you are reciprocating?
  4. Do they Digg or Stumble your posts? Surely that wouldn’t motivate you to link to a blogger known to be a top Digg, Reddit or Netscape user?
  5. Do they leave comments and are an active member of your community?
  6. Do you want them to link to you in the future?
  7. Do you want them to see your point of view which may be different?
  8. Are they on Techmeme and you want to be there too?
  9. Do they have trackback enabled and featured prominently?
  10. Do they have trackback with followable links that give link juice?
    (if you link to my posts using trackback you get nice backlinks currently they are nofollow but that will eventually be fixed again)
  11. Are they a friend you shared beers with last week?
  12. Did they speak for free at your last conference?
  13. Are you speaking for free at their next conference?
  14. Do they invite you to take part in expert surveys within your niche?
  15. Did they provide good information and you want to provide good links to demonstrate your own authority?
  16. Do you feel obliged to link because you are talking about them, their product or their service?
  17. Do you feel it will help your search ranking results to link to authority pages?
  18. Do they display referrer information such as
    • Last visitor came from
    • Top Referrers This Week
  19. Did they say something nice about your company, product or service?
  20. Do you share their views, but don’t want to alienate a segment of your own audience so you voice your opinion by only linking to one point of view
  21. Did they provide you with a cool badge that stroked your ego?
  22. Did they provide you with a widget with a hidden or visible text link?
  23. They are the developer of the blogging platform you use, and you don’t know how to remove the link, or feel they earned it?
  24. They are the developer of a plugin or theme you use, and you don’t know how to remove the link, or feel they earned it?
  25. Do you want to be included in their linkblog, or their twitter feed?
  26. Did they make a large charitable donation to your cause or to fund further development?
  27. Are they a member of your:-
    • Blog Network
    • Secret Consortium
    • Joint Venture Network
    • Social Network
    • Trade Association
    • Prayer Group
    • Sect
  28. Are they your corporate client?
  29. Do you own stock in the company?
  30. Do they buy advertising from you?
  31. Are you employed by the company?
  32. Did they pay you to link to them?
  33. Do you earn affiliate commissions?

Many might look on this list as being a little cynicalI feel I am just being truthful.

I openly admit that in the past I have been motivated to link to someone for many of these reasons, and could easily have linked to notable bloggers who link to others for most if not all of these situations.

A lot of the time the linking happens with full disclosure, but even with disclosure, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the motivations would be disclosed.

However your audience isn’t stupid, and if you haven’t attempted to disclose as much as possible, that can have a huge influence on how much they trust your opinions and linking habits in the future.

This post in itself was motivated by a number of other recent posts on notable blogs that I am sure most of my readers read on a daily basis, and I would even happily link to them, if it was not for the fact that many of the motivations above apply to them even if they don’t admit it.

As this post isn’t intended to point the finger at anyone, no out-bound links.

Can you think of any more to add to the list?

First published Jun 2, 2007 – update to honour the Google Zeitgeist 2010

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  1. says

    32 forms of linking truth.

    I suppose some of these could be said for leaving comment as well. I’d rather link to someone because the content was relevant to a point I am trying to make.

    I will definitely keep these in mind next time I link to someone from my site(s).

    • says

      Ronald a lot of these most bloggers do to a small extent all the time, and you can fall into patterns of frequently linking to a smaller group of people because those are the ones who link to you the most, and who might be most aligned to your own point of view.

      Even if you make a concious effort to link to some different people, I am sure a large number of the people you choose to link to might be in some way “payback” because you have noticed them linking to you in the past.

      Many of these characteristics are a positive thing for whatever your point of view is, because it can inherently grow critical mass to a certain way of thinking.

      As an example it is very rare for me to link out to blogs which aren’t using some kind of dofollow because a lot of my feed reading time is now spent in the dofollow community I created.

    • says

      Bill that is partially point 14, but I expanded it a little because if you are sharing good content with your reader you are hoping they will stick around for more good content.

      Without that angle on the reason to link out, it wouldn’t class as payola, so wouldn’t be on the list. :)

      There is also the additional factor that most people linking out would link out to someone already in their feed reader rather than searching Technorati or Google Blogsearch for a definitive review.

      It is quite possible the reason someone ends up in your feed reader in the first place is because of one of the items listed above.

      There is nothing ethically wrong with most of the things I have listed above, other than perhaps a total denial that this kind of linking happens.

  2. says

    I try to let people know why certain blogs are being linked to up front. I don’t know if that qualifies as full disclosure or not, but it’s usually the first thing on one of those types of pages.

    Honestly, I don’t know how you could link to someone and not fall into one of those categories, even by accident. I probably fall under number 14 a lot, but I don’t think it has anything to do with demonstrating authority.

    • says

      RT you link out so much I am frankly amazed at your level of productivity, and you “sell” the links extremely well, so I don’t regard your drivebys the same as speedlinking posts.

      I think it is frankly impossible to disclose every motivation when linking through to someone and many motivations are subconscious.

  3. says

    Wow, that’s quite a comprehensive list. I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t fit into one of those categories.

  4. says

    You can relate to their purpose or you value their objective and want to see them succeed?

    It’s your mom? (:op

    It is a great way to introduce yourself sometimes but I think you have compiled some of the underlying motivation of some bloggers.


    • says

      You can relate to their purpose or you value their objective and want to see them succeed?

      19. actually started off as something like that and I twisted it slightly further because of one link I saw yesterday.

      I personally gain a great deal of satisfaction sending people lots of traffic and bringing them into the limelight.

      At the same time you hear people (top bloggers) questioning why they didn’t receive a “via” link, and because you empathise with the point of view, you could possibly have a subconscious or concious motivation in bringing the content to the attention of your readers.

      It’s your mom? (:op

      Damn I owe my mum so much, if she ever stated blogging she would get link dropped at every possible occasion.

      It is a great way to introduce yourself sometimes but I think you have compiled some of the underlying motivation of some bloggers.

      I suppose if someone is blogging purely for themselves, with the blog blocked such that it can’t be indexed by the search engines, no comments or trackbacks allowed, and no way to subscribe, a total black box, maybe even just on a desktop installed copy, then none of the above will creep in.

      Whilst the list seems comprehensive, I did actually leave a few out.

  5. Bill says

    Maybe 14, Andy, but your introductory paragraph makes it sound a little like all links are payola of one type or another, and sometimes links are just references – not to demonstrate your own authority, but rather to share with your readers something that you’ve found.

    Stephen’s first point is a good one, too.

    • says

      Certainly within business blogging where any kind of concious goal has been set, there can be some kind of payola in almost every linking action.

      You demonstrate your expertise extremely well through your blog, and that would be much harder to achieve if you didn’t reference technical documents.

      If you have readers you are trying to

      • Satisfy them
      • Educate them
      • Convert them into customers
      • Hope they might link to you
      • Help them see your point of view

      Linking out is a good thing to do, it is one of the hallmarks of good blogging and my favorite blogs are typically those that link out to others views frequently.

      I have said I have linked to people for many of these reasons, in all honesty it is approaching half, but certainly more than 10 on the list.

      That being said, it would be very hard to categorise altruistic anonymous editors on Wikipedia as linking as some form of payola, although many of those also create pages to improve their own standing within the Wikipedia community.

      I agree sometimes links are just references, but here is an example.

      Everyone was recently just writing about Mahalo. I wrote about it a couple of days later than many, a day later than most. I got to the end of the post and was just about to hit the publish button, and I consciously thought to myself, “oh I suppose as I like the service I should really give it a link” – I am sure most of my readers didn’t need it, plus I think I had a reference earlier in the article as well.

  6. says

    Sometimes I link to people just to get their eyeball. SometimesI link because I want people to think I am nice.

    Mostly I link to tel people what I am talking about (I link to myself a lot) but sometimes I also link just to let people know what I am reading (like this).

  7. says

    @Tinu – I am right there with you *grins*

    @Andy – I am still at the point where I am hoping folks will just leave comments or BUMP my articles… at this point if somebody leaves a comment, I usually try to find a way to mention them in an article or something… so, I can really relate with the reasons outlined in this article.

  8. says

    Until reading your article, I just linked. I never thought about the author of the blog, I didn’t care too much time for reciprocity (be it about links or comments), I always tried to build relevant links for my articles (or to put in there my affiliate links, which I almost gave up, as they barely show any benefits for my bank account). Now, you gave me a lot of ideas and reasons to link ;) I liked your list.

  9. says

    Hey Andy,

    This is a great post. Most of the links you describe are happening every day, used by people that turn their noses up at “creative” or “manipulative” linking, yet they are largely uninclined to turn the loop onto themselves.

    I know you’re a big fan of complete disclosure. I for one think it has to stop somewhere. On the otherhand, the hypocrisy of some really gets to me.

    Sorry for rambling. Bumped.

  10. says

    If something catches my attention, I link. But, I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of linking for more than a few of those reasons listed.

    Sometimes it’s difficult to find content or anything link worthy outside of your small circle of friends because that small circle of friends is all we know.

    Maybe it’s time to do a “spread the link love” game where we all link to some new blog that we’ve never heard of before…just because. :)

    ~ Teli

  11. says

    On the whole I link out because I believe it adds value to the article I’ve written. It either reinforces what I’m saying or adds some background. Sure, a little bit of link love back never goes amiss but I don’t remember ever linking out to someone purely with that intention in mind.

    However some of the other points definitely pricked my conscience and you’ve made me think about how I link out in the future.

  12. says

    Great post Andy, and thanks for the Blogger Trackback advice, have used it to trackback here, though I don’t know if it succeeded. May have balls it up…

  13. says

    Well Andy, for me it’s number 19 most of the time. When some other fella gives a good testimonial about my company or talks around about it in a nice way, i’d always reward them with a link on the blog :)

    That also brings no. 3 with it. Since they link to me when they mention it, it becomes reciprocal when i link back to them >_>

  14. says

    I enjoyed reading this list. The way I look at it. I just need to have a good business with a good product and good service, and people will start to link to me naturally. This is a point that most businesses seem to overlook. They want the rankings and the traffic before they have a product or service to offer.

  15. says

    Great list Andy. I have another for you. They hacked your wordpress blog and spammed the heck out of it… LOL! I had this happen before and it is a pain in the rear!


  16. says

    The most success I have had with getting links is having a featured member section within our social networks. That way I do not have to worry about losing link juice, and it is as simple as clicking feature next to their profile. They user gets more visibility and we get more links.


  1. Top 32 Forms of Linking Payola…

    What motivates people to link to other people? Listed are some of the reasons people might have for linking to you, and I am sure, some of the reasons you might link to other people….