On travel insurance, paid links and reader trust

Regular Travelfish.org readers will be aware that we have a particular travel insurance provider that we recommend. That provider is World Nomads. We promote them because while they’re not the cheapest provider, we think that they’re the best match for independent travellers to the region.

And yes, we promote them on an affiliate basis (meaning we may earn a commission if you click across to their site from a link on Travelfish.org). They’re the only travel insurance provider that we work with in this fashion.

I’ve met the people who started World Nomads and they have always struck me as stand-up kind of people — the type of people that I trust. When it come to insurance, trust is important.

Now just like anyone else, they’re running a business, not a charity (though they do support many) and I assume they don’t pay out every claim, but likewise I assume they do pay out a lot. I’ve seen them personally intervene in cases that have somehow gone off the rails. That’s important. Nobody is perfect. If you make a mistake, you admit it and try to fix it as best as you can.

We do put our money where our mouth is. Both Samantha and myself use them without fail whenever we travel outside of Indonesia (we have separate coverage for within Indonesia from a different expat provider). As luck would have it, we’ve never had to make a claim.

We use World Nomads because we trust that the people behind it will do their upmost to assist us if we need it. It’s one thing to promote something because it sounds ok, it’s quite another to promote something because you use it for yourself and your children.

Where am I going with all this? Bear with me while I ramble on web-nerd-stuff.

One of the factors Google uses to ranks sites is to count up the number of natural links that point to a site. Afterall a link is generally a “vote” on the quality of the linked to site. This created an entire industry of link buying and link selling. Sites would buy hundreds or thousands of links in an effort to game Google. Crucially, these links do not adhere to Google’s guidelines (code can be added to tell Google to ignore a link). They want Google and, by default, the reader, to think it is a natural link. They’re hoping that Google won’t realise the links are paid for and so will push the destination site up in the search engine rankings.

Originally these links would be off on the sidebar or in the page footer. But Google cottoned on to that, so then the link buyers asked to have the links closer to the main text (“This story is sponsored by” kinda thing). But Google is cottoning onto that too. So then the link buyers started asking for the links to be in the actual content (write whatever you want, just add a link to X somewhere in the copy).

For publishers, especially small scale publishers, the earning potential can be substantial. I personally know people who charge US$300 to $500 for a single link. When you have 100 pages on your site, the money adds up quick.

But there’s a cost to this practise. Trust. Publishers who sell links are lying to Google and so to their readers. They’re saying this link is a natural link when it isn’t. They’re essentially the vital cog in a black-hat SEO tactic designed to game Google. They’re helping a website to appear higher in Google than it should.

Obviously each site owner is entitled to make their money however they want, but Travelfish.org does not engage in this practise and we try whenever possible not to link to sites that do.

So what on earth does this have to do with travel insurance?

Travel insurance companies are one of the biggest link buyers out there.

How can you trust a business that actively uses misleading SEO tactics to try and boost their ranking in Google?

World Nomads does not buy links.

We are regularly approached by travel insurance companies offering paid link deals. We ignore the emails.

So, what they do instead is they set up fake profiles and post messages on our messageboard with leading questions like “Has anyone heard of X insurance?”

So the insurance provider having found we won’t sell them a link are now posting fake messages on our messageboard to try and drum up business and create more “natural links”.

I find this rather annoying, hence this post.

So next time you see a link reading “This story was sponsored by X Insurance” remind yourself that if they’re lying to you before you even click on the link, how do you think they’ll treat your claim?

You can learn more about our recommended travel insurer World Nomads here. Yes, that is an affiliate link.

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