Delivering Content Without Flipping

Last month I talked about Delivering on Your Article Title Promise (meaning, does your article body give content that delivers on the hook or promise you put in your article title).

Today, another related topic: Articles that are mis-representative and leverage on the goodwill of others for the purposes of flipping the reader to their brand or product will be rejected. For most people, this is common sense… but there is a percentage of authors that this concept escapes them…thus:

Example of what not to do:

  • Promote the disadvantages of cable TV and in your resource box, pitch satellite TV products and services. Worse: Name a cable TV provider.
  • Discuss specific Mastercard or Visa brands and pitch an American express or Discover credit card sign up form.
  • Write about the benefits and disadvantages of Alli (the new weight loss drug) and pitch a competing brand.

Anytime you mention a brand name in your article title or article body, we’re going to slow down and really review your use of that brand. In the majority of cases, we rejected it to avoid a Cease and Desist order. You can reasonably expect that any article that mentions someone else’s brand in the article title may become trouble down the road and should be avoided.

The difficulty becomes in product reviews (which we do accept, generally) where a mention of the brand is required to review the product. If you present the brand in a positive light, most brand owners are appreciative, but there is always a percentage that will not appreciate it, regardless as to how positive you review is.


Emma writes:

This seems to fly in the face of reality, Chris. People have strong opinions about brands and express strong favoritism towards brands all the time. Marketers do it as well in every other marketing venue.

How many times have we seen ads for Coke vs Pepsi or Subway vs Quiznos or Satellite vs Cable on tv? Quite often. Keyword research also supports the fact that people are actually looking for these comparisons and I would suspect that most would recognize that the majority of what they read is going to show a clear preference for one product over another.

It is an accepted form of advertising and marketing practiced by many consumer brands because people do react positively to showing favoritism as it is something we all do naturally. We all are showing favoritism buy choosing one brand over another in the same category.

So I don’t get why it isn’t acceptable to write an article saying I think satellite television is better than cable tv, if I honestly think so — especially since cable tv doesn’t actually have any goodwill ;)

Right now EzineArticles has over 2000 articles that come up on a search for “cable vs satellitle”. So are you saying you aren’t going to accept those anymore?

Comment provided July 18, 2007 at 6:44 PM



We’re reacting to complaints received on this one…

Comparisons are ok, just be blatant about your bias…

The acid test for us on this one is looking for fraud or misrepresentation or ill-will to lean on anothers brand to win traffic favor to pitch your competing brand.

This is a gray area for sure.

Comment provided July 19, 2007 at 6:48 AM


Emma writes:

Okay, so if I compare, for example, Directv to Dish,I can state upfront that I personally favor Directv because I use it and ditto with comparing satellite vs cable? That should be fine. I would do that anyway.

I understand what you are saying about misrepresentation.

Comment provided July 19, 2007 at 1:05 PM


Jonathan writes:

I doubt that anyone can legally prevent anyone else to write his or her own opinion about any brand.

Chris, people are searching for brand keywords because they want to buy good products only. If I know a brand has flaws, why shouldn’t I mention them? Isn’t that a service to the reader?

Comment provided July 21, 2009 at 11:31 AM




If you want to alert the public that BRAND X sucks, I recommend that you do that on your own website or elsewhere…

I’m not disagreeing that it would be a good service to notify your readers that brand x sucks or has flaws…but that we’ve taken the position that we don’t want to be the conduit for that type of article.

Anyway, this blog entry is not about this issue, but rather about misrepresentation by leveraging one brand to promote another on purpose.

As you can guess, the brand being leveraged feels they are wronged because their good name and brand are being used to send traffic to competitor brands… It’s this type of article we’re flat out rejecting and always have.

Comment provided July 21, 2009 at 11:58 AM


Jonathan writes:

Hi Chris,

I totally agree with you that simply saying that something “sucks” isn’t much of anything and doesn’t help the reader. But let’s just say that a certain brand of car has little leg room, wouldn’t it be something that is worthy of mentioning in the article?

Then, it will be but an obvious conclusion to mention cars that do have sufficient leg room, even if it’s in the resource box, wouldn’t it?

I mean, writing about brands only to extol their virtues won’t make up too many great articles either, although I agree that the brand owners will love it.

I doubt if it will make readers trust our articles if all we did was praise brands and never be honest about them.

All I’m saying is that people want to be informed about the products they’re thinking about buying, and if a certain product isn’t right for everyone, then it would be good for the reader, EzineArticles, and the author to be upfront about it.

That’s all I was saying. I have no wish to simply say that a certain product sucks (Even if it does) because that’s just bad writing and isn’t what I want to do in my articles.

p.s. I understand your position on this, but this is a grayer area than most other guidelines.

Comment provided July 21, 2009 at 12:19 PM



If we’ve failed to make this black and white, let me take a few more fictitious story tries at it:

Example #1:

You can say that GM’s Corvette doesn’t have much leg room compared to a BMW M6, but you can’t include GM / Corvette in your article title and then only talk about and promote BMW’s M6. That’s bait-n-switch and while it may not be illegal, it’ll most certainly create legal demand letters being sent and lawsuits threatened.

Example #2:

Putting AT&T’s UVERSE in the article title, talking about AT&T’s product about why it sucks compared to TIME WARNER or COMCAST Cable products and then pitching a Time Warner or Comcast affiliate link in your resource box where you make money from converting visitors to buy Time Warner or Comcast products.

Example #3:

You put Saucony Grid Sinister shoes in the article title and then proceed to write an article about how they are poor when compared to competing brands. In your resource box, you pitch Nike running shoes. You clearly wanted to deceive the reader by hooking someone who was looking for Saucony shoes or was looking for info about why Saucony’s sucks with hopes to FLIP them (bait and switch) them to your Nike running shoes affiliate link.

High quality brands invest millions to build goodwill in the market and they don’t take kindly to hucksters who try to rip off their good name for the bait-n-switch game (also known as false designation of origin and unfair competition).

Comment provided July 21, 2009 at 12:31 PM



Your examples are very helpful! It seems to me that the problem isn’t discussing product issues, but setting the reader up to think that you will be writing about one thing (bait) and then switching to something else (switch.) Even in SEO, this is considered a black hat practice!

Comment provided July 21, 2009 at 1:36 PM



By the way, it’s great that you post these on Twitter! That’s how I usually find them!

Comment provided July 21, 2009 at 1:42 PM


Jonathan writes:


I think it’s great how you relate to my remarks so quickly and your examples are helpful.

I agree that we can be honest about the quality of products without bashing them unjustly just to make sales of competing brands.

I believe that if you write a review about a product you need to be honest about that product specifically without making mention of another one just to make a sale. I just wanted to be sure that we can express our opinion freely if it’s not in a bait-and-switch scheme.

What about titles with 2 brand names in them and comparing the 2, is that okay?

Thanks for the examples,


Comment provided July 21, 2009 at 3:29 PM




If it will create a legal demand letter that cites unjust enrichment, false designation of origin, unfair competition, trademark dilution, etc… then no.

Putting a brand name in the article title of a brand that you don’t own is asking for and inviting trouble. It’s high-risk content.

Comment provided July 22, 2009 at 5:33 AM


Jonathan writes:

Okay. Thanks Chris.

Comment provided July 22, 2009 at 6:02 AM



Hi Chris, I think you have done a great job of outlining your concerns with this issue.

I feel that what some marketers don’t initially realize is that the ‘reverse marketing’ tactics that some people use in articles forces the ‘victim’ or ‘target’ of that reverse marketing article to respond in kind ‘back’ to the aggressor – and then that creates a vicious retaliatory cycle.

My one question is this: since you have adopted this policy, would it not be fair to also ‘remove’ offending articles that use this ‘bait and switch’ technique if they have used it against another company who complained to EzineArticles?

It would seem unfair to allow an article (that was posted prior to this policy) to continue to be displayed that violated your new policy if it clearly violated your new guideline.

So, my question is – – if you received a letter from a company that was ‘attacked’ by someone using EzineArticles as the conduit for reverse marketing – and that company asked that you remove the offending article – would you then be prepared to remove that other article (once you investigated it) in order to maintain the integrity of your new policy?

Comment provided July 29, 2009 at 12:33 PM


Brian writes:


So basically none of our articles will be accepted anymore. If we give an honest review of say a satellite tv company and then put a link in our resource box for the same, it won’t be accepted because it is then viewed as promotional. So if you’re for it it’s against your guidelines, and if you’re against it it’s against your guidelines as well.

I understand that you have had complaints, but where’s the happy medium. It’s either promotional or it’s reverse marketing. Please advise.

Comment provided July 29, 2009 at 1:58 PM


Christopher M. Knight writes:


Would it not be fair? The real issue as you might guess is that we don’t have the labor to do this effectively…Therefore we rely on the assistance the market gives us with the REPORT ARTICLE and REPORT AUTHOR tools.

But get this: We introduce NEW Editorial (internal and external) Guidelines on a frequent basis (at least once every 3-6 weeks) and can’t possibly go back and audit hundreds of thousands of articles that might no longer be approved with whatever the new standard is… unless there are greater market forces that require us to comply.

What we’ve done is that we have typically (but not always) allowed existing articles that were already approved to stay in the site while all future articles must meet the new guideline.

Now, getting to your last question:

First, I don’t know what your definition is of “Reverse Marketing” as I’m not sure there is ever an ethical or way to say that *reverse marketing* has any moral ground if it involves bait/switch or false designation of origin type schemes to prey off the goodwill of someone elses tradename or trademarks to promote a competing brand of products.

If Company A sent us an email or letter asking us to remove an offending article, we would investigate it and most likely comply with their request.

If Company A and Company B tried putting us in the middle of their fight between each other, we’d handle that on a case by case basis with an investigation…that involves many factors of trust, risk, exposure, threats, time loss, etc.


Internally, we have a big poster that says one of our prime directives:

We Don’t Take Risks On Content

If we perceive that your article will create risk, complaints, lawsuit threats, or related to this blog post, false designation of origin (promoting one type of service by mentioning brand A while promoting brand B in the resource box)… then we’re going to attempt to take the less risky path.

Our continuity depends on not taking risks on content.

Comment provided August 4, 2009 at 5:05 PM



Hey Chris – thanks for your reply. It is fair and balanced.

No responsible internet marketer wants to see suffer from legal situations that arise from issues like the ones you have described that resulted in this policy modification.

Kudos to you and your team for creating such a valuable service online – – and thanks for being available to answer our questions.

We appreciate you!

Comment provided August 4, 2009 at 9:33 PM


Adrian Hines writes:

I am still a little bit lost. Let’s say I do an honest review on company ABC and I talk about my likes and dislikes.

In my resource box I can’t have a link going to a competitors site EVEN if I’m not bashing the company at all but just stating my preference?

Comment provided October 26, 2009 at 6:57 PM



It’s wrong to do a review of ABC company and then link to XYZ company.

That’s like doing a review of a Ford but then linking to a competing GM or Chrysler product. It’s disingenuous and it’s leaning on the good will and brand name of Ford to flip their clients over to your product.

I’m guessing the main reason you’re doing a review of ABC company is to attract the eyeballs of people who might have an affinity for ABC company so you can flip them to XYZ company, right? That is why it’s wrong.


Adrian Hines writes:

Thanks Chris for your timely response. So if I do a review about a company that means I need to be affiliated with them? Which also means the links in my resource box needs to point to that product?

Comment provided October 26, 2009 at 9:07 PM


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