Our main website is ILoveFreeSoftware.com, that is a very popular website and has a high PageRank. I keep getting lot of link exchange requests on that, which I always ignore. But, recently I got an email, which seemed link exchange request from Walmart itself!
This is a summary of the events, with more details and screenshots of emails down below:
- I got an email from an SEO agency that they have been authorized by Walmart to publish my interview on “Electronics Resource Center” of Walmart.com. However, in exchange, they wanted me to place a link for that interview on my website.
- I sent them an email that I need confirmation from someone at Walmart. Next I get a reply from someone with Walmart.com email address that it is a legitimate request.
So, it seems like Walmart.com has started this interesting link exchange program, in which they would publish interviews on their website, but in exchange, they ask a link from the site which is interviewed.
I have no idea why would Walmart engage in such a bad SEO practice, knowing vey well that Google will penalize them bad for this. My take on the whole situation is that someone at Walmart jumped the gun to run this type of program, without consulting the main SEO team; though, I have no data to back that assumption.
Here are the complete details of the email conversation I had with Walmart for this:
(Note: I am in IST, so date / times are as per teeeeeehat. That’s why you will see some of the emails coming late in the night).
On 6th June, I got an email from “Ade Perillo” at MediaShower, claiming to be “Editorial Assistant for Walmart.com” and asked for my interview. This is the key phrase from email:
We’ll send you a few interview questions by email, and we’ll turn your responses into a great article for our audience, promoting I love Free Software. All we ask in return is a link from your site, promoting the article to your audience.
In this email, Ade also gives email address of “Andria Tay” at Walmart.com, so that I can get official perspective of program from them.
Here is the screenshot of first email:
Now, this was a pretty interesting email. However, it did not come from anyone at Walmart.com. So, I decided to get a confirmation from someone at Walmart. I replied to the email that I need confirmation from Andria.
Here is the screenshot of the reply I sent. I deliberately did not copy Andria in this, as I wanted people at Media Shower to proactively add Adria to this mail chain:
After that, it was weekend, and I didn’t hear back. But on Monday, I did get two replies: first one from Media Shower (someone named Katrina, and not Ade who had sent original email), in which they copied Andria from Walmart, and next from Andria, who confirmed legitimacy of this program. Andria also added Kendal from Walmart.com in this email chain.
The best part of Andria’s email is this quote (bold highlight below done by me):
This is a legitimate request – MediaShower is managing the process for us, but it’s officially for Walmart.
Here are screenshots of both the emails:
(Note: In the screenshot below, notice that “Andria” has “Contractor” appended to the name. This probably means that Andria is working as an external consultant for Walmart, or is just a regular contractor or a temp. Also, I have greyed out the phone number in screenshot below.)
So, now I had the official confirmation that Walmart is indeed running this Interview series, which looks like a link exchange program. So, I decided to go on “Electronics Resource Center” at Walmart.com to see which all interviews have been published already, so that I can add that data also to this post.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any.
This was a disappointment. So, I decided to be gutsy again, and sent another reply to the email asking for links of a few published interviews. Shortly, I got a reply from Andria that this a fairly new program, so nothing has been published as of now. That explains why I wasn’t able to find any.
Here are screenshots of both the emails:
So, this was the end of the conversation.
What will happen next:
We know that eBay was recently slapped a manual penalty by Google. So, will Google do the same with Walmart? Probably not, because the damage was not done yet. They were caught right in the beginning of it (which probably is in the best interest of Walmart). However, Google, and other SEOs would probably be more vigilant towards this. It might also be possible that someone is able to dig up the data about some similar program in past as well.
Whatever the case is, it was lot of fun to see this super giant using this eternally bad SEO practice. I hope they thank me for saving them in the beginning itself (I am still open for that interview, BTW, but without a link exchange).