Yeah, we got mentioned in a Tweet – admit it, we all love to be noticed. But today kind of threw me for a loop. I saw this tweet and of course was happy – I liked it, I retweeted it and threw a tweet back thanking them, you know because good social manners are important!
After all this was said and done, for some reason I was inclined to click the link – even though I can see what they shared – I was drawn to that little ow.ly link that was screaming CLICK ME. So I did and what I found initially scared the hell out of me – I thought we had been hacked. I click the link only to see my page – my content with a big ugly ad in the lower left – you can see a screenshot of my worst nightmare below.
That big blue arrow is pointing to the ad that was somehow placed on my website without my knowledge – when you look at that ad you can see the name of the sharer “CrowdFund Genius” and in the upper right is the name Snip.ly – that is the company that makes all this possible.
Imagine a world where anyone can see a page/post on your website that has a lot of shares or comments and then can add their OWN call to action button, sales pitch or form to your web page to try and lure that traffic to their own website – or to turn your readers into customers, all without your permission.
That world is real – and it is here now, thanks to Snip.ly.
It is easy to use and the basic plan is free making it a popular option for those get rich quick schemes and non-ethical brands who are looking for a short cut to build exposure. We are NOT implying that every business using Snip.ly is unethical – or scammy – but because of the ease of use, low cost and so many wanting to earn a quick buck, we do see this as a big issue for website owners.
Snip.ly offers several plans and the more you pay them – the more options you have in regards to ad design and placement, meaning the look and feel is controlled by the ad placer – not you.
Why We Think This Is The Worst Idea Ever
There are so many reasons we think Snip.ly should not be used but here are a few of our main concerns:
1) The false assumption of readers that a website is ENDORSING a brand that has hijacked the post. When an ad is shown on a page it is considered an endorsement of sorts – as a website owner you would not have an ad for a product/service you would not use would you? That is what your visitors will assume – so this is giving a false sense of security to visitors – ultimately which can affect your REPUTATION!
Many are not familiar with Snip.ly yet and will not be aware that you did not control that content – this is NOT a good thing!
2) The risk of losing readers to this ad is also an issue. The link in the ad will take them off-site and more often than not, they do not come back to your website. While we understand that it is the ad sharer bringing in the traffic – we still do not want them clicking off the website once they are there!
3) The use of your name, logo and business model to promote their own service or product without your consent borderlines on illegal in our opinion.
We are not alone in our thinking – this is a great post by Plagiarism Today that goes a little deeper into the legal side of things with this whole business model.
Why Would Anyone Use This?
Great question. Let’s say there is a website I stalk – we will use a good friend, Fidose of Reality as an example. I know she gets a lot of traffic – I know people really engage with the website – so I want a piece of that to market my web design business.
I jump over to Snip.ly – enter my CTA information – enter a URL from Fidose of Reality that I want to have my CTA appear on and voila – instant traffic. I chose this post because it talks about “Making Money with Blogging” – and maybe people will think – hmmm I should probably update my website – and there I am! Cool right?
See where we are going with this? You have NO CONTROL over what is being shown on your website.
Faking An Endorsement
Alternatively, we have seen cases where companies are using this with FAKE personas – stealing the names and faces of the biggest industry names to place in these ads so unsuspecting visitors think it is a valuable proposition.
I can easily add a name like Victoria Stillwell with her image and name with a link to a scammy affiliate link to a dog house building blue print. I can steal Jeff Bullas’ image and name and sell social media services – it is just all around a scary thing. Those ads can be made to replicate ANYTHING.
Wait – So My Page Will Always Have This Ad On It?
NO! The page will ONLY show the ad if it as accessed with the Snip.ly link.
So – in a more broad sense, this is not like someone is taking over your website. But – the negatives to this approach can still harm you. If it is a larger group that is doing PPC or large social outreach you never know who is clicking on the link and seeing your content with this ad you did not authorize.
Basically, what it comes down to is that others are using YOUR content to promote their own related services or products – and to us that is NOT OK!
But They Are Sending Me Traffic Aren’t They? Why Is That Bad?
Technically, yes they are sending traffic to your website. And maybe, like in my experience – it is not some horribly scammy company.
I looked up CrowdFund Genius – the company that utilized the service to post an ad over my content – and they seem OK. But they do offer some services that I offer and I in no way shape or form want to be affiliated with a company I know NOTHING about – and I sure as hell do not want our competition linking to us to promote their services.
Because we work largely in Non-Profit Web Design – we do not want the first engagement with our website to be from a Snip.ly url since we then have no control of what the page is promoting. If this company wants to promote their fundraising services – they are likely to want social sharing from important people in the non-profit community – the same community we engage with and market to.
EXAMPLE: What if they did outreach to some major non-profit professionals who have large followings on social media. The post then gets lots of shares because it looks like a great article for non-profits to read. Yes, this is all good for us, so far. But then they get to the site – and their FIRST interaction with us is a huge ad for a competitor, not really what I want them to see. But even worse – what if that ad was for porn or hooka pipes or some other industry that would make us look bad. We can probably kiss them goodbye as a potential client forever after that.
How Can I Tell If Someone Is “Sniplying” My Website?
We only found out about this because they happened to tag us on Twitter – for which I actually commend them – I would think most Snip.ly users are not tagging the brands they are stealing content from.
The only way we were able to determine if there are Snip.ly links pointing to a website was in Google Analytics.
If you got to ALL TRAFFIC > CHANNELS > OTHER you should be able to see them in there if there are actually links. if you do not have an other referral source then you have no Snip.ly links linking to you.
Stop Snip.ly From Appearing On Your Website
I would hope after reading this most of you will want to protect your websites from this hijacking. The easiest way to stop it is to install the following plugin created by a team that is also pretty fed up with Snip.ly.
Download Snip.ly Buster by Warfare Plugins
While we know everyone is entitled to their opinion – we clearly think this is a horrible idea for most website owners – but we would love to hear your thoughts about Snip.ly and engage in a conversation about this type of marketing.
Have you used Snip.ly successfully? Is this something you actually would consider implementing?
Or, will you be running to download the plugin because you think this is as unethical as we do?
We are all ears and ready to have our minds changed if you think we are wrong!
Jill Caren brings over 12 years of WordPress and SEO experience to help you improve and grow your website. She has spoken at several events on SEO and has been published in several top SEO publications. You can contact Jill here.