Does FTD buy links? Well, duh.

Ian Lurie

A quick update: A lot of folks are e-mailing/IMing/Tweeting me that I ‘outed’ FTD. I didn’t out anyone. The New York Times sent 6000 suspect links to Google a while ago. And the Seattle Times contacted Google while writing this story. All I’m doing is analyzing what folks said in light of the link profile. And I’m saying they’re either, uh, modifying the truth, or somehow unaware of a massive link purchase program in their company. Could’ve been an SEO company working for them 2 years ago. Could be the one they’ve got now. I have no idea. But seriously, you’re telling me they got those links without paying? You may have a fever – take your temperature.

First, here’s the short version of the story, in a graphic:


The Seattle Times ran an article today about the big flower sellers, and whether they’re buying links on other sites to try to rank for stuff like “Mother’s Day Flowers”.

Well, duh.

I’m not that interested in outing people for bad practices any more. Do what you want. But I took a look at’s link profile and it’s just great for a Saturday morning chuckle. I’m pretty sure that Google already knows FTD is spamming the crap out of the rankings. Plus, post-Panda, I’m not sure how much buying dozens of totally fake links accomplishes.

FTD’s link profile: Liar, liar, pants on fire

In the Seattle Times article, FTD said “the vast majority of its links were on websites owned by FTD.” So, I cranked up OpenSiteExplorer and looked at 10,000 of ’em.

Of the 10,000 links, only 500 or so come from pages that mention ‘FTD’ or ‘Flowers’ in the title tags.

A quick sampling of the other 9,500 sites shows hosting companies, dead sites on hosting company servers, security software/spam sites and other fun stuff. I’m not going to list those sites. Google can sniff ’em out if they want to.

Really? FTD? You’re going into the hosting business? And the security software business? And you’re going to start selling social games?

Uh-huh. And I’ve just diversified into adult entertainment.

Benefit of the doubt

I’m not an unreasonable person. I’m sure a lot of the 9,500 links are from news, financial, dating and other sites that might have some tangential relationship with FTD and flowers. But more than half? I kinda doubt it. So that means FTD has a link profile that’s only about 50% purchased, or that they’re the luckiest web site in link building history.

Plus, I took a look at a few of the links. Again, I’m not going to show the links and give away the sites that are selling. But guys, you could at least try to look like you’re not selling links. When you put a table at the bottom of the page, outlined in green, with five neatly outlined links and nothing else around them, you might as well just say:

Yo GoogleI amsellinglinksNeener Neener

Have a little pride.

What does it meaaannnn?

For Google, these links may be meaningless: They might have it all handled now with the Panda update. We’ll see about that.

For FTD, well, you might want to clean that crap up, before the New York Times writes about it, embarrasses Google and gets you banned.

Other stuff

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Great post! What I think is hilarious about FTD and 1800 Flowers is their Facebook page…
    — FTD actually has a “problems” and “praise” tab. 3 pages of problems and half a page of praise.
    — 1-800 Flowers is even worse, their whole wall is basically complaints.
    I’d like to know how this social media program is beneficial? It doesn’t seem like conversation marketing when your customers are just screaming at and you’re just trying to save face.
    Seems like they’re just trying to put a band-aid on bad customer service/business model.

  2. Ian,
    I love the post. I think it’s funny when people deny sheer obviousness(not sure if thats even a word).
    FTD:In business, no one likes a liar. Own up and just admit what everyone can obviously see! You save more face by admitting you did something dumb right away, than lying about it and being outed later on.
    @travis was that a serious question about the Google Panda update? You’re behind the times my friend if you’re in internet marketing field. In any case, check out:

  3. @Rachel Travis is a very marketing-aware non-marketer. I don’t know that he would’ve heard about it. @Travis, sorry I was slow responding. Check out the post Rachel linked to. It’s gold.

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