Monday, 13 June 2022

Do-not-follow: my abortive brush with the world of affiliate marketing, and a "no comment(s)" apology

Source: Creative Commons ~ Nick Youngson, Alpha Stock Images

From time to time I receive unsolicited approaches from PR people working for perfume brands, sometimes offering me product samples - often in expectation of a review - sometimes asking if I would feature a guest post by them (invariably on the most off-topic of products, far more so than my own thematic digressions on Bonkers, which is saying a lot ;)), and occasionally asking if I would enter into some kind of affiliate marketing arrangement, whereby I would link to a particular website of a perfume I had been reviewing, and if readers clicked on it - or actually bought the product! - I might be remunerated in some way.

Taking these overtures in turn, I have always insisted that I won't write perfume reviews as a quid pro quo for free stuff, and would rather not receive samples in the first place if I sense any pressure in that regard. For when I do feel moved to write a review of something it is because I have thought of my own slightly sideways angle to the subject matter. 

Case in point:

"If you're interested in trying out the products, then I'd love to send you some samples to test and create a 'Christmas Gift Guide' with on your blog."

To which the only possible Bonkers reply was:

"I write about things I come across when the spirit moves me, so there is no guarantee I would feature them and if I did it wouldn't be in the form of anything like a Christmas Gift Guide."

And this, directly from a new perfume house, in an email entitled "I'd like to partner":

"Meantime, we would love to mail you demos and brochures of our recent products for you to evaluate if they fit in with your strategic plans."

I appreciated his conditional use of "if", but it was still a conditional response from me:

"Thank you for your inquiry. I don't have any strategic plans! I would be curious to try any scents you have available in very small samples quantities only, but I don't enter into partnerships or promise to review everything I have been sent. I have to like a fragrance and be inspired by some aspect to want to write a blog post about it. If you are still interested on that basis, let me know."

Radio silence.

And here are some of the more unusual product review requests - I have called the woman in question "Rebecca" rather than her real name:

"This is Rebecca from ****. I’m writing to you to see if our best-selling products 82% Merino Wool Socks and 100% Egyptian Cotton Bath Towels can be featured in your 2021 holiday gift guide." 

What's this obsession with gift guides?

"This is Rebecca from ****. I’m contacting you to see if you’d be interested in writing something about **** Carbon e-bike --- a full carbon e-bike known as one of the smartest e-bikes on the market."


This is Rebecca from ****, here. I’m very honored to introduce **** 100% Egyptian Cotton Bath Towel to you. Giza 86 (The top 10% of Long-staple Egyptian Cotton), 720 GSM, OEKO-TEX certified, super-thick and super-fluffy, **** Bath Towels encase you in a high-weight terry luxury that feels like you're lounging in a bathrobe waiting for room service."

Are you also getting the feeling that this may be one and the same Rebecca? She is really pushing those bath towels...And I must admit to being quite tempted by the idea of "high-weight terry luxury". ;)

As for guest posts on the blog, I have never had these in the 12+ years I've been going, for what I can only describe as curious Protestant work ethic reasons - I feel that as it is my blog, I should do all the work involved, though I realise this is an odd way to look at things, and that many of my fellow bloggers have several contributors on board.

Then as regards the affiliate marketing angle, I once dabbled very briefly in such a venture with Ormonde Jayne - it may have been longer, but it felt like all of five minutes, for no sooner had I set up the link in question, than there was a change of PR company and the link was promptly broken(!). I didn't earn a penny from that association - and given the low traffic volumes on here, may never have done, hehe.**

And so we come onto the most recent approach, from a US-based media company. The conversation went like this, where PRP = PR Person!

PRP: "I recently came across your website and noticed that you are linking to a similar page that (sic) one of our clients', and I'm wondering if you could add a link to an article for a reasonable fee?

My marketing budget is what it is, but hopefully, we can agree on an amount of money that makes it worthwhile for you to take a few minutes to add one more link to the article." [The offer for "link insertion" was $30, with a similar amount on the table for a guest post - which I declined smartish.]

ME: "Which article are you thinking of? I am open to adding a link, depending on the context / circumstances?"

PRP: "In the near future, we'd like to contact you with that information ready, for you to approve the do-follow link. The link and content would always be related to your existing blog post. Would that be OK?

PS: If you agree, please send your PayPal address and confirm that this is the best email to contact you in the near future."
ME: "I think the links would be do-follow - I am not very tech savvy, so I doubt I would have set them to something else. I don't have guest posts, so this would just be a link insertion on a post of mine - you have yet to tell me which one, so my agreement is subject to knowing that last bit of information."

PRP "We'll make sure to be in touch with our batch of links!

Also, keep in mind that after placing either an anchor or requesting a guest post, our team will always come back to follow up on our insertions' conditions. We will check if our anchors are still where we asked you to place them and are still do-follow tagged."

ME: "Just to check - you spoke in your first email of "a link", and "a similar page", so I assumed it was a one off? I don't want to have many links in one post that could look out of keeping with my normal way of doing things, which is one at most per post, if that?"

Who knew there was such a thing as "our insertions' conditions"? :) The whole exchange felt like talking to a bot...and I never heard from them again either.

So that was that. And while I am on the subject of blog housekeeping, I would like to apologise to any readers who left me a comment since the end of February(!). I experienced an absolutely "spam storm" about a week ago, which upset me so much that I went into the gubbins of the blog and started deleting pages of them at a time in a fit of panic. I didn't really need to, as I don't believe any of the comments in question had managed to get themselves published, but it was distressing to see this veritable blizzard of unwanted spam comments in my feed. What I think must have happened is that a whole bunch of legitimate comments from readers were included on one particular page I deleted en masse, but must have been out of "scrolling view" on my phone, as it were, and I accidentally vaporised them all. I am so very sorry, as there was a lot of collective time and thought involved in the leaving of them in the first place, and I will ensure it never happens again. So please don't be scared to comment here in future!

Lastly, it might amuse you to see one of a number of wrongly addressed emails I receive:

Hello abottledrose,

Get noticed in search results, You must have a responsive web design with advanced layout and search engine friendly design.

We can review and offer you a better design to allow brands to stand out among competitors

Well, personally I don't think there is anything amiss with the design of A Bottled Rose, but this company's punctuation leaves much to be desired.

I also got them for a long time addressed to the Non-Blonde, while she was still with us, at least.

Dear Team

Hope you are doing well.

I thought you might like to know some reasons why you are not getting enough website hits/visitors and conversion.

Till I could take it no more:


**Editor's Note: I have since had a catch up with the PR from Ormonde Jayne (see her comment below), and we have established that though she took up the role in 2003, there was a period of five years when she left OJ, before returning to the company in 2017. And my short-lived affiliate association was in 2013, when a different PR person would have been in the chair, with a different approach to marketing and social media. Since this lady's return in 2017, however, Ormonde Jayne has not entered into any kind of paid collaboration with bloggers.


Anonymous said...

Hello Bonkers About Perfume, Ormonde Jayne PR here...I can tell you we have never participated in any affiliate links partnership since I have worked here as it's part of the low key philosophy of our marketing....and I started in 2003! Are you sure it was Ormonde Jayne? Also, we would love to send you a small sample of the new fragrance GATSBY 22 which launches next month, just to promotion!

Vanessa said...

Hello Ormonde Jayne PR,

Thanks for coming through! It was Ormonde Jayne, indeed it was because I have had such a strong historical allegiance to the brand that I decided uncharacteristically to entertain the idea - I have turned down many other such approaches in the past.

I have now found the correspondence from May 2013 between me and a lady from an organisation called Lattice Media, entitled "Join LATTICE to promote ORMONDE JAYNE", in which the account manager for Lattice asks me to replace my links in a couple of posts with tracking ones, and to add a banner to the sidebar of my blog, which I can forward to you if you are curious. As I say, the arrangement was brief, because Lattice was dropped shortly afterwards.

You can actually see the broken tracking links with the word "Lattice" in them if you scroll down and click on the Ormonde Jayne links at the bottom of each post.

Aha, I have also found an email from me to a fellow blogger later in 2013, which backs up my impression that I was probably too small a blog to be in a position to drive traffic to the brand:

"I look set to unmonetize my blog at the moment, haha, because the PR company who set me up with my lone banner for Ormonde Jayne - which in theory would earn me money if anyone clicked on it and went on to buy something from the OJ site - has ceased trading(!!) and I have to take the banner down in about a week. I don't think I earnt a penny from that relationship, mind you, as the chances of anyone buying anything from following my link were always going to be tiny. I just like Ormonde Jayne and was curious to test the waters, but had no real expectations."

And yes, I would be delighted to try GATSBY 22 (love Scott Fitzgerald) on the usual no-strings Bonkers basis. Thank you!

Vanessa said...

PS Funnily enough, I have just received yet another spam comment on a review of OJ Tiare, but am pleased to say it didn't make it through. No idea what it is about either!

"thank you for the article it is very interesting, please read our article

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Ines said...

Oh wow! You're getting spammed by PR people now. :D Not just with comments.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

Yes, and it is the incongruousness of some of the products that tickles me - why would a blog about perfume want to feature bath towels or bikes?

Undina said...

It’s funny: I also collect all of the offers to improve my SEO, to publish a guest post, etc. And my response to the offer of samples is usually the same as yours (with the same results ;) ). “Usually” because sometimes I just ignore the offer if I’m not interested in the brand at all.
I’m sorry for your troubles with comments: it’s extremely annoying on its own to deal with spam - and even worse that you inadvertently deleted some legitimate comments. But it’s alright: we know that you read them and responded.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

The offers are quite amusing when you look back through them, so I tend not to delete them. I have probably ignored the odd offer of samples - or invitation to attend the launch of a new blusher in the middle of Soho on a Wednesday morning! - but try to respond to PR people as a rule.

I am gutted to have deleted those comments, especially the ones on my review of Hera, for both our sakes!, but thanks for your understanding. The more I blog, the more comments will return to fill the void...