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Stupid irrelevant misleading annoying and inappropriate

One of the things that gets in the way of good business and precise relevant searching is the preponderance of ridiculous SPONSORED LINKS. Some search engines including Google are becoming notorious for this. You put in a search for something reasonable, and then alongside the sensible relevant results which the clever search engine has come up with, there are some stupid advertisements for things which are nothing to do with what you have looked for!

Although some of the sponsored links are relevant, and/or have some logic behind their appearance, many are not! Far too many are for nonexistent items on eBay or are purely to lure you into linking to someone's spambased advertising site. At least Google have the honesty to state these things are "sponsored links" so you know they are likely to be irrelevant. Plus, most people have the good sense to AVOID linking on sponsored links nomatter what they are. Footnote on this: Google (2012) have now started putting the background of the Ads in very faint colour, making it almost impossible to see which the ads are and which are the real search results.

Part of the problem with the whole "sponsored link" business is that you don't know where they are going. The URLs displayed are often entirely bogus. You might click on something assuming it's the official site of a well known shop and yet it's not. It might be nothing to do with it at all! It has now (2007/02) got so bad that affiliate merchants are having to state in their terms and conditions that they do not allow faking-up of the official URL! As if that was anything like a reasonable thing to do in the first place!

In addition to the nuisance value that sponsored links and other forms of splat advertising have, there is also the problem that the misuse of the media is bad for the genuine affiliate business! Even some reputable affiliate marketing companies have been fooled by the fake goldrush of splat advertising and PPC nonsense to the level where they have their top advertisers being PPC splat advertisers! That is like having your top advertisers being SPAM SENDERS! As you know, spam advertising went out of fashion some time ago, and is regarded with some disdain by most people. Surely folk should have enough good sense to see that irrelevant sponsored links are also a form of nuisance and deception and should know to avoid them.

Well, some people DO have the good sense to avoid them. Hence the expression "Don't click on that! It's a sponsored link!". It's largely a matter of educating people so they understand the problem and why it's got to be dealt with. If we spread the word before it's too late, we can consign the Sponsored Link problem to history as we did with the Spam problem! (to see what I mean, see the depths to which lines of stuff advertised in spam have sunk).

I worry about the sponsored link problem because I feel it brings the whole business of affiliate marketing into disrepute. Real affiliate websites such as Stamp Demon, Antzweb.co.uk, and Xyroth Enterprises, and obviously my own website Zyra.org.uk which you're looking at now, have genuine content and have something to say, much in the spirit of television channels with programmes as well as advertising, and newspapers with articles and editorial as well as advertising. In contrast, splat advertisers are merely a distraction like spam, and yet are damaging the market. Although there are some sponsored link PPC ads with some merit, most are devoid of it. The problem is caused by the fact that any fool can buy a sponsored link on (some) search engines, and can display any advertisement material nomatter how daft, with false information and a link that's faked-up to look like something genuine but which actually goes somewhere entirely wrong.

Here's reality contrasting with falsehood: As I am a success in the GENUINE affiliate marketing business, I am emigrating as a tax exile. I'm going to Panama. I was going to Belize until I found about the police corruption in Belize. I like to encourage new business so I've written about how to set up in business, and I was writing about Belize at the new site Zyra Belize. It is reasonable to mention travel and tax avoidance in this context. These links tell the truth and are relevant. In contrast, when I was doing a Google search for Belize Embassy or Belize High Commission etc, I saw a sponsored link which said "Belize sucks" and went on to say something to the effect that before going there you'd got to read the dire warnings at the site being advertised. Upon closer inspection this turned out to be a lie! There were no warnings or critical comment at all, and the site (which I won't name as they don't deserve advertising), was just a load of random travel links. Further experimental test searches, for various Caribbean places, all revealed the same site in the results, with "[country name] sucks" in the title and the same shpiel. It was all a total scam to lure people into going to the site on false pretences.

There was even one occasion where I found I was apparently for sale on eBay! Fortunately this particular lie was removed as soon as it was pointed out, but the fact that it happened at all shows there is something fundamentally wrong with the system.

It has also been noticed that searches for random things you've just made up reveal sponsored links claiming that the thing you've searched for is existent, available for sale on eBay, or that someone has written some scholarly articles about it, and that you can get it on Amazon, even though it's a load of hokum. Quite worrying really, and it could fool a person of lesser intelligence than yourself!

Yes, well, it is the Internet, and there has to be freedom on the Internet, so you have to accept there's going to be instances of people saying things that aren't true, but nevertheless there has to be some level of good sense that people have, to avoid being duped by it. In the days before spam advertising became discredited, it was quite usual to see various daft messages arriving which even quite intelligent people fell for. You can take a look at some of them at the Rogues Gallery, and you can see some insight into the extent of the problem at the page of Antivirus Measures and another one about chain letters and the old stuff about messages from the bank. At the time I did what I could to expose the problems and tell people how they could avoid being caught out by the scams. However I didn't think I would need to start having to warn everyone about a new wave of spamlike advertising in the form of SPONSORED LINKS!

Also see SCAM voucher codes!