How to link to adult websites ethically

Amazing Girl on the Net author illustration by Stuart F Taylor

I do a lot of press to promote this site. Not just interviews with journalists – the word ‘press’ basically covers any and everything that I do for free to give other people content and help me promote my work: interviews, podcasts, quotes for articles, and other bits and pieces. I’m totally cool with doing this, it is the primary (and most valuable) method of promoting what I do. But with one caveat: it’s only valuable if people actually link. Understandably, many sites are reluctant to link to adult websites, so I thought I’d write a quick overview on how to do it ethically, and why it’s so important.

First let me make it clear that I’m not having a go at any writer, journalist, editorial team or publication for not wanting to link to adult websites. I get it, it’s porn, and readers of non-adult sites may not want to be confronted with pictures of people humping or stories about sex toys. But the fact remains that sex bloggers, porn producers and other adult site owners often spend a lot of time on interviews with mainstream outlets, trying to be as helpful, witty, engaging and useful as is humanly possible, and we only do that because we need people to link to us. 

I wouldn’t normally write posts like this here on GOTN, because they’re a bit ‘meta‘ – behind the scenes rather than the scenes themselves. But recently I’ve seen other adult website owners getting (justifiably) annoyed on Twitter when they’ve put in a lot of free work without getting a link, so I thought I’d write a quick post for journalists/writers who want to cover adult sites, and for site owners who want to make sure that the work they put into interviews actually gets rewarded with a link back. Read the section that’s relevant to you, and hit me up if you have any questions. I am, as ever, willing to go the extra mile to help you (provided you’re willing to link to me).

For journalists/editors

Why is a link to an adult website so important?

A link to someone’s website does two really important things:

  1. It gives site readers a handy shortcut to jump directly to that site. If you’ve written about audio porn, and you’ve linked to my audio porn page, people can jump quickly there to check out my work if they’d like to. They don’t have to go the rather circuitous route of googling my name and hunting it down that way. It means I get direct traffic, and I can pick up new readers.
  2. It tells Google that your site thinks mine is important in this topic area. This is absolutely vital for me, and other adult websites, who are not allowed to use the vast majority of other marketing/promotional tools which are open to other kinds of sites. We cannot run Facebook ads. We are not allowed to sign up to the large ad networks which could make us actual money. We could get banned from other sites/programs at a moment’s notice. So many of us rely on search as a key driver of traffic, and linkbacks from other websites are incredibly important to build, and maintain, traffic rank.

The bottom line is: I am not doing this just for fun, it’s my job. I need you to link to me in order that I can keep paying my mortgage. Consider the link a payment in kind for all the cool info I gave you.

The other important thing to note – especially if you or your publication has covered ethical porn before – is that the huge, unethical websites (you know the ones – the ‘free’ tube sites) have a hell of a lot of money for PR and publicity. They probably don’t need your links or mentions – they’ll be fine. But if those of us who are trying to create adult content ethically can’t get links from interviews we’ve done, one of the most valuable channels for online promotion (one of the only channels many of us can actually use without risking censorship) is entirely closed to us, and the big (and often unethical) sites get to cement their dominance. Please link.

Can I just link to your social media instead?

No, please don’t do that. Firstly, my Twitter is – at best – a fun way to promote blog posts to a small-but-valuable audience of engaged users and make connections with other writers/journalists/people-who-have-similar-interests-to-me. But the platform itself delivers very little traffic compared to search. Last week Twitter delivered less than 4% of my total traffic – search gave me 74%.

If you link to my Twitter, I’m reliant on the people who click through a) actually having Twitter accounts of their own and b) actually seeing my work when it shows up in their timelines. The chances of people seeing my work in their timelines is shrinking rapidly, as Twitter continues to shadowban adult accounts and mess around with ‘top tweets’ (which favour those clickbaity things which people are happy to share as opposed to, say, tweets about shagging which get plenty of clicks but few shares because understandably many people are too shy to hit ‘like’).

If you run an adult website, social media platforms are a really shaky foundation on which to build a following. We use them right now because they are juuuust about viable to do the things I mentioned above, but they are not our ‘home’ on the internet because our accounts could be ripped down at any minute. Therefore if you only include a link to an adult website Twitter (or Instagram, or Facebook, or whatever else) you run the risk that link will break at some point in the near future if our accounts get banned.

Our site policy says we can’t link to adult websites

I understand. I really, genuinely do. This post is not written to have a go at anyone – especially not to the incredible journalists who do their best to profile sex blogs and other adult websites which are struggling against a tide of censorship and stigma. The awesome journalists I have spoken to are those who want to surface independent erotic producers – of course! That’s why they’re talking to me! So most of the time when I’ve not been linked, it has not been the fault of the person who interviewed me, but of the commissioning website, which has a policy of not linking to NSFW stuff. Occasionally it’s just one subeditor who thought ‘hmmm not sure I should link to adult websites’ and stripped the link automatically. Sometimes it might be an editor who thinks that ‘adult websites’ might attract complaints from their own site users.

If it helps you persuade your editorial team, I can tell you that simply writing “NSFW link/adult website” next to the link itself should give your readers adequate warning that what they see when they click will be saucy, and mean you can link to adult websites consensually. If you (or your editorial team) are still not keen to link, there are two options here:

  • Ask the website owner for a SFW/non-adult page. If you can’t link to a page that has sexy images on it, chances are the person you’re interviewing has bumped up against this problem before. They may have a page which is entirely SFW, with links out to their sexier content, that you’re able to link to without worrying you’re scaring your readers with bums. I have pages like this! If journalists are ever unsure about linking to my homepage, or the audio porn page, I’ll always offer them a link which goes to a blog post or ‘about‘ page which is entirely free from boobs.
  • Tell the owner of the website before you interview them. Their time is valuable, after all, and chances are they have decided to give you their time because getting the link from your outlet will be valuable. It’s very nice to be mentioned in coverage, of course, but an unlinked mention is not the same. Not by a long shot. When this happens to me, and I get a mention with no link, it feels like I’ve agreed to a contract only to find I’ve been paid in Monopoly money.

Final point: I’ve seen some sites struggle with getting links even when other adult sites have been linked to without issues. Often this is because those larger sites have a bigger budget, and are able to hire PR folk/marketing people who will chase links, or know exactly how to ask for them in the right way. If the people you’re interviewing are small/independent websites or producers, please bear in mind that they may not understand exactly how to go about doing this – they may not have the time (or courage!) to push hard to get that all-important link. If you’ve linked to other adult websites in the past, please consider applying the same rules to smaller sites as you would to the larger ones. It’s really important for our livelihood, and it is one of very few ways in which small but ethical adult websites can ever challenge our big-budget competitors.

For sex bloggers/adult website owners

I fully understand your frustration. If you find yourself in this situation, having spent ages doing an interview then waiting excitedly for it to go live only to find there isn’t a single link to you in the article, I feel your pain. My advice would be to take a big, deep breath, count to ten, then decide how important this link is to you. It’s easy to get obsessed by even the smallest links, and end up wasting your time chasing hotlinks that aren’t that valuable. Likewise it’s easy to get frustrated at the person who interviewed you, and forget that it may not even be their choice which links they’re allowed to add in. So. Deep breath first. Allow yourself to care about this: it’s understandable to be annoyed. Give yourself time and space to be annoyed, then budget yourself an appropriate amount of time in which to fix it.

Here’s a template email you can use, which I have had a lot of luck with so far. Send it to the person who interviewed you (or the producer, if this is a radio/podcast credit you’re chasing), but feel free to adapt it if they bounce you up to editorial.

Just seen your article went live, it’s brilliant and thank you so much for including me! Please could you add links to my site in the piece?

If there’s an issue with my site specifically that means you can’t link to it, could you let me know what that is so I can fix anything that needs fixing, or give you an alternative link if you feel my homepage isn’t suitable as a landing page from [name of outlet]? I appreciate my website is NSFW, so if you’d prefer a landing page that doesn’t include sexy images, this one might be better: [SFW link]

I understand that linking isn’t always in the control of the writer, so if it’s an editorial thing I’m happy to contact directly, just let me know who I should email!

If the article involved links to similar sites but not yours, it’s also worth adding in:

The other sites quoted in the article – like [X and Y] – are linked, so I do hope you can add one to my site too. I’m an independent blogger and I don’t have the budget of these large websites, so I rely on promoting my work through interviews like this one.

If this doesn’t work, and you still want that sweet sweet link, the next step is to go find the editors of that section (or site) – via ‘contact’ pages on the publication’s website, Twitter or elsewhere. Send them a similarly politely-worded email explaining why the link is so valuable to you and offering alternative pages if they need them.

You deserve a link, and it is absolutely OK to ask for one

Fun fact: asking for links is an actual job you can do and get paid for. Really. Some sites pay people money to email/call other sites where they’ve been mentioned and ask for links. Some sites even pay money to contact websites on which they have NOT been mentioned and ask for links. I frequently get emails from random companies saying ‘Hey! I noticed you covered [X topic], would you be interested in adding a link to my [related blog post on the same topic]?’ If it’s a big site, linkbuilding of this kind can easily be a full-time job.

I tell you this is a job to help you understand that people ask for links all the time. People do it even when they haven’t contributed useful copy/quotes/case studies to the person writing the article. Seeing as you’ve spent all that time answering questions, you deserve a link, right? I promise, it is not weird or rude to ask for one. It is completely justified, entirely normal, and absolutely 100% OK. Please don’t be afraid to ask, and although I would always always urge you to be polite and professional with the people you’re speaking to (don’t kick off or be rude or shout abuse on Twitter), you also shouldn’t be afraid to chase your query or escalate to editorial if you don’t get a response.

Note that in the template email above I do not assume the writer has left me out maliciously (they almost certainly haven’t) or that my site is not worth a link. I suggest alternative pages, say I understand the NSFW thing, and offer alternatives. Note also the open question at the end: who should I contact if this isn’t in your control? I am not saying ‘no worries if not!!!’ as I so often do in other emails, because there really are worries ‘if not’: this is my job.

You did the work, the link is payment. It is absolutely your right to ask for it.


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