It’s Monday, and over at Simple Justice Scott Greenfield is complaining about marketers. Usually, he complains about people who leave comments on his blog with an SEO-friendly link back to their web site (e.g. “DWI Attorney”).
I never really understood why Scott was so vehement about this. Personally, I will delete the totally gratuitous comments (e.g. “You raise some interesting points! This is a great site!”), but if someone leaves a legitimate comment, I don’t object to a link back to their site. They’ve given me content that adds value to my blog, and I’m paying for that content with a backlink. This is how the search-engine-driven blog economy works.
This time, however, Scott is complaining about an outfit called USLaw.com which is republishing all his posts in their entirety.
Again, I’m a bit mystified by Scott’s reaction. It’s not like USLaw.com is scraping the content off his website. Scott publishes full feeds for Simple Justice—in RSS and Atom, both also advertised as related content in the HTML header—and USLaw.com has picked them up. This is how content syndication works.
I’m not sure if U.S. law recognizes a syndication link as granting a license, but it’s common usage in the blogosphere. If Scott doesn’t want other people publishing the full articles, he probably shouldn’t be offering the full articles in the feed.
I’ve never objected to people who repost my stuff like that. Sure, they’re trying to benefit commercially from my work, but I don’t think it hurts me just because it helps them.
For one thing, Windypundit is only technically a commercial enterprise (I make a little scratch off advertising). Mostly, it’s about getting my ideas out there where people can see them. If some other web site wants to re-post my ideas, that’s okay with me.
For another thing, reposting my content is just another way of advertising my site. I think most people are smart enough to recognize a site like USLaw.com for what it is, and if they accidentally stumble onto something of mine on the site, and they like it, they can follow the link back to Windypundit.
Finally, sites like that give me a little bit of link juice. Search engines treat every link from there to here as a vote for my site.
So, my reaction to a site like USLaw.com is to check if they include me on their list of legal blogs. Having done so, however,I’ve decided that I don’t like them using my content either.
The first problem is that they don’t list me in their directory (that I can see), but they’ve got a page for me, and I show up in search results on their site. In other words, they’re using my content to increase the likelihood of a search hit on their site, but they didn’t list me in their directory, so people who find their site by other means can’t find my blog.
The second problem is how they describe my blog:
This blawgger opines on Illinois statutes, law-related current events, links to content on other legal blawgs he finds interesting. He’ll also write the occasional movie review and post his photography.
There’s nothing wrong with the way that’s written, probably because it’s word-for-word the same as the description the American Bar Association’s blog directory uses to describe my site. I checked a few other blawgs, and this is not a general pattern for USLaw.com—usually they just use the description in the feed—but I wonder if they stole anything else from the ABA blawg directory.
The third problem is a little more technical. The page that lists my blog includes a link back to my blog, but take a peek at the HTML that implements the link:
Go to <a zclass=’snap_preview’ rel=’nofollow’ href=’https://www.windypundit.com/’ target=’blog’>Windypundit</a>
Note that the “rel” attribute is set to “nofollow”. That little bit of HTML tells search engines not to follow the link for rating purposes. In other words, even though they’re using my content, they’ve gone to the trouble of making sure the link back to my site doesn’t help my search engine ratings. I checked around, and they seem to do this to everybody.
USLaw.com doesn’t bother me the way it bothers Scott Greenfield, but he was onto something. These people may not be breaking the rules, but they’re damned impolite.