Yesterday, I received the following email (details excised, since I don't want to unleash a mob of torch-wielding cybervigilantes on the parties involved):
Lyle, I am writing to you from [company name] regarding a link that you have to us from your site Zapatopi.net. Listed as a [name of product they sell] site on your links page. Realizing that this link does not help either one of us we are asking that you please remove [company URL] from your site.
(This was from someone who doesn't actually work at the company in question, but for some agency hired to promote them or handle their Internet presence or something of that nature.)
My response, again excised of details, was:
I'm sorry, and I don't want to be an argumentative jerk, but that request is just silly and pointless.
A link is a reference to a site and does not imply any sort of relationship. I even put a disclaimer to that effect at the bottom of the page, even though it's common knowledge, since someone else got all worked up over a link there before (it was this guy: http://www.stopabductions.com/ who wraps his head in Velostat to keep the aliens from abducting him; wonderful company you're keeping, huh?)
Asking me to not link to your company is equivalent to asking me to not talk or write about it. If I were writing an article for a print publication about [making things with product] and I added "You can buy [product] from [company name and business address]", would you really think it sensible to contact the publisher and request that the article be altered in future editions so as not to mention you? Doesn't that sound just a bit... paranoid?
Furthermore, considering the reference I am making is to simply point people toward a source for [product], without commenting on [company] itself, I have a hard time seeing why this would not be of help to you. While it's very probable that no one has bought any [product] from you as a result of being directed to your site from mine (it is after all one link buried among many), I can't imagine who would be dissuaded from buying any because I linked to it. And even if I were to try and imagine such a hypothetical weirdo, the former is an immensely more likely scenario than the later and I'm only left to conclude that on average the link would be more help than harm.
All that being said, I'm not wedded to your company, since I chose it merely because it came up on a Google search for "[product]" at the time, and would be willing to substitute the link to another source of [product]. As it says on your website "[company is one of only three that make product in the US]" If you will provide me the name and URL of your two competitors, I'll go ahead and link to them instead and advise all AFDB users to shop there and avoid [company] and its products (without linking to you, of course).
(I request that you don't utter my name aloud.)
To which was replied:
Thanks for your response, and no, of course you're not an "argumentative jerk" We recently learned though, and would share this info with you, that the request is not "just silly and pointless." It's actually costly. It has become a new and unexpected issue for us. I'll explain. International industry standards for some manufacturing companies DEMAND that companies respond to any and all messages, even if they are not relevant to their busimess [Freudian slip? Just kidding.] AND DEMAND they do it with a certain set of protocols (we'd call them a "pain"). This activity, I've been told takes a lot of time and costs companies money; if it is relevant and a possible prospect, it's certianly worth it. Otherwise...well, you know...
Curiously enough, while we spend a good deal of time on search engine optimization so that others can find us. For some, we even pay to have listings, and we try to encourage cross alliances and listings of websites, for some clients it backfires. Honestly, very few extraneous visitors come to their site because of yours. This has just become a bit of an issue...one they'd like to avoid.
Of course, when someone does want [list of products company offers], we welcome the query! That's all.
We did enjoy our visit you your site. Good Luck with it. [name withheld]
So there you have it... PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET: Remove all links to companies that have not had their marketing agents enter into cross alliances with you! You are costing businesses untold billions of dollars in expenses for replying to very few visitors that they are DEMANDED to respond to. Or something.
(P.S. I have changed the link to a Chinese supplier of [product], who have a better website anyway, albeit in Chinese. Presumably I won't be able to read the emails from their marketing agents, so I'll never know if they want me to remove their link. Out of sight, out of mind.)