• The Ethics of Bots and Backlinks, Over Brunch

    June 5, 2017 | Vicki
  • There is almost nothing I like better than gathering with friends and sharing conversation over food. Recently, on a fine and sunny Sunday, my husband I had an alfresco meal at the Maple Ridge home of our friends Dominic Kotarski and Christina Waschko.

    Dom and Christina are what I call ‘international citizens’. He’s from Tennessee and she’s from northern Germany. They met in Australia. Several global relocations and three sons later, they make their current home in Canada.

    On this particular Sunday, sitting on their large deck overlooking Silver Valley, polishing off the remnants of an abundant brunch, the conversation turned to the subject of online ethics.

    Dominic is a Certified Master Coach providing professional sales and coaching training to individuals and corporations around the world. He’s an author and a blogger. His blogs are practical and intelligent. I share his posts with my clients, knowing they will benefit from his wisdom. Dom is credible.

    Dom relayed a story about an email he received suggesting he revise one of his posts about emotional intelligence. In his post, Theory of Mind, Dom quoted the work of Daniel Goleman. Goleman is a world-renowned psychologist and considered to be a pioneer in emotional intelligence work.

    The author of the emails asked Dom to link his post to her website, as she was an authority on the topic. Clearly, she hadn’t read Dom’s post.

    I’ve had similar pitches. Usually the pitch comes in the form of a promise that the link will increase traffic to your website. On the surface it’s not necessarily a problem. Much of what makes the Internet so powerful is exactly this kind of integration. When a webpage links to any other page, it’s called a backlink.

    Backlinks are incoming links to a webpage, and in the past have been a major metric for webpage ranking. Backlinks are still important but changes in the ranking algorithms mean context has become even more important. Your site needs backlinks from quality sites that are authoritative and relevant to maximize rankings.

    There is also positive benefit to forming online alliances with people who have shared goals and a common message. There are many professionals whose work I happily link to, and several colleagues and I regularly share each other’s posts, tweets and links to help grow our brands and web presence. What’s important is credibility.

    Many pitches are based on results indexed by web crawlers. Essentially these are bots that search specific terms – in Dom’s case probably ‘emotional intelligence’ – and then another bot sends an automated email making the pitch. (I think you’ll agree there is a certain irony in this specific example).

    Just like with people, there are good bots and bad bots, and then there are some that are kind of in the middle. Do these automated approaches work? Probably. Are they ethical? I’m just not sure.

    Personally, I’d rather do business with another human. It just feels more credible to me.

    Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her at www.vickimcleod.com.

    This article first appeared in the Maple Ridge NEWS. Find it here.