To Disclose or Not to Disclose – That is the Question
Shoemoney and Randfish have started a pretty interesting debate about blog disclosure. An overly simplified version of the debate is that Shoe says assume everyone’s getting paid in some way for any and all things they blog about and therefore, disclosure is not needed. Randfish says disclosure is needed, and that it would make him trust a site less if they didn’t disclose.
Again, that’s probably an overly simplistic version so really you should probably read the two posts: Full Disclosure: Assume the Position and Why You Should Be Able to Trust Blog Links
They then debated on webmaster radio which you can listen to here or download here.
I’d like to find out your take on the issue so to get the dialog going, I’ll share my thoughts. In my opinion, Shoemoney’s pretty much spot on. While not every post you read is financially motivated, all are filtered through the author’s or site’s bias. I thought Jeremy made a very good point that I wish he’d have pursued a bit more in that if I recommended a product to you and you didn’t end up liking it, would you be mad at me for recommending it? Probably not. So why then, would you be mad at me if you found out I had been rewarded for recommending it to you?
I especially believe this applies to affiliate links. Affiliate links offer no guarantee of a return. By placing an affiliate link on your site, you’re saying that you think the product is good enough that it will sell, and that it’s marketed in such a way that will attract customers. If you didn’t think you’d get anything out of it, why would you put the link there? You wouldn’t, so obviously you feel the that product has some value.
Also, I thought the fact that SEOmoz has NDA’s with some search engines was pretty troubling to me. I don’t want to seem to be piling on Rand after the thread here about their home page and premium content but it does trouble me. I suspect it’s due to their close relationships with people that work for the SEs but it still slants their perspective. It still puts a bias there that at best, they have to overcome, at worst, are influenced by. SEOmoz certainly isn’t the only site I feel is affected either. I’ve often thought SEL cut Google too much slack and when I see pictures of Danny having a good time with Google employees, it makes me wonder. Does Danny avoid criticizing Google because of his relationship with them? Do you think I could still write such scathing commentary on Google’s practices at Gevil if I were being given certain benefits from Google that indirectly lead to my success? NO probably not.
Now as I said, every one has their own biases. You’ll likely never see me linking to SEO Chat because of our history but my point is this; whether you’re paid for a post or for a link or not, you’re always biased and therefore, disclosing one form of bias (paid) while not disclosing others, seems a bit pointless to me. Thoughts? Leave a comment or post in our forum discussion.
Oh, in the interest of disclosure, I’m hoping this post will garner a link from Shoemoney, create discussion in our forum, and possibly generate a few other links as well. Those links of course will help our search engine rankings, which will help our traffic levels, which will in turn allow us to increase our advertising fees. Now tell me that wasn’t ridiculous…
I don’t think specific disclosures are all that useful. I recommend products and services I think are useful. If they have an affiliate program I use an affiliate link, if they don’t I still recommend them.
I suppose there are people who recommend products because they can earn money from recommending them, but in my opinion they disclose that when they simply repeat marketing hype about the product rather than offering useful views.
I think you can tell more from the content of posts about what someone’s trying to do than by any disclosure.