Last week, iAcquire found itself accused of purchasing links for clients. Google seemed convinced, banning iAcquire from its index. Now, iAcquire says that it will no longer purchase links for new clients and will phase out paid links for existing customers and campaigns.
“In certain cases, we have allowed finanical compensation to develop links, not as our only tool but one of them,” said Joe Griffin, cofounder and partner with iAcquire, when I spoke with him earlier today. “Effectively immediately, we’ve removed that tool from our toolset. We’ve issued a company-wide memo and told everyone that the usage of financial compensation as a tool to build links is strictly prohibited.”
The company has also posted similar news to its blog. Neither Griffin nor that post use the phrase “paid links,” preferring instead to say “financial compensation” as a euphemism for purchasing links. Google’s guidelines say that those who buy or sell links in a way meant to influence search results may be penalized.
Griffin said that the move away from paid links had already been in the works but that last week’s events have accelerated that change.
“It was a slap in a face, a little bit of an eye opener, that maybe we haven’t made that transition fast enough,” Griffin said. ”It laid the groundwork for an immediate transition.”
Getting Clean Of Paid Links
Griffin acknowledged that his company acquired the paid link operations that Conductor shed last year. What about clients gained through that? ”We’ve been transitioning those customers away,” he said.
iAcquire has also been linked to a variety of other companies that seemed to be doing link building and purchasing on iAcquire’s behalf, as this illustration from Josh Davis — whose article last week kicked off today’s move by iAcquire — shows:
Griffin wouldn’t acknowledge ownership of any of these companies specifically but did say that iAcquire does have divisions or “personas” that work outside its main brand.
“It’s unwise to just do outreach from your parent company. There are a lot of crazies on the internet,” he said. “If you’re a marketing company, you should build some online personas so that you can protect your own brand.”
But does that mean these personas will remain a way for iAcquire to say it doesn’t purchase links because technically, other divisions or subsidiaries do? No, Griffin said.
“iAcquire, any affiliates, any personas we do business with, it’s [paid links] strictly prohibited,” he said.
How quickly will iAcquire be completely free of using paid links, given that existing customers may still use them?
“We’re going to transition as fast as possible,” Griffin said, adding that he thought things would be “quickly” fixed.
The company is undertaking an audit now to understand what paid links are purchased on an on-going basis, so those can be discontinued. Some were purchased on a one-time basis, he said. He stressed also that not all clients were using paid links, but that the company wanted to move away from them entirely.
“We want to make sure that all the customers we’re working with today are not in violation of [Google's] guidelines,” he said.
Clients Were Informed Of Paid Links
Griffin said that any client they’d purchased links for in the past understood that was part of a campaign.
“We’ve never mislead our customers or took them down a particular path. We don’t tell them one thing and do something else,” he said. We can be attacked and say we’ve bought links, but we’ve never mislead individuals [about them]”
Griffin also said the the change to “100% white hat” as he called it may ultimately cost iAcquire some clients, as in some spaces, paid links seem necessary as a way to compete.
“There are a lot of companies out there that have aggressive goals. It’s going to be very hard for them to achieve those goals if they don’t have financial compensation to obtain links,” he said. “That means there are certain verticals we won’t be able to work in.”
Griffin added a personal defense against those who’ve singled out Michael King for attacks. King, who’s gained popularity in some circles for his writing and speaking — including at our own SMX conferences — is the director of inbound marketing for iAcquire. The white hat stance of his public statements seemed at odds with the paid link buying.
“He wasn’t brought in to help endorse things we’ve done in the past but help us go forward in a new direction,” Griffin said. “He does not support financial compensation.”
But didn’t King, as director of inbound marketing, sit above paid link operations?
Griffin said that King only joined two months ago and “he hasn’t had the opportunity to penetrate into our fulfillment operations.” But Griffin said that having him as part of the company is a key to moving away from those links as well as implementing some of the unique white hat ideas King has.
“He talks about really progressive and intelligent ways to distribute online,” Griffin said. ”We can be doing things better, acting on some of the things he’s been talking about.”
Postscript: See Google Lifts Ban On iAcquire; Company Blogs Of Being Reformed
- What Can We Learn From The Latest Brand To Be Called Out For Paid Links?
- iAcquire Banned From Google After Link Buying Allegations