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Are Operators Posing as Affiliates for Link Juice?

Are some online casino operators and advertisers posing as as affiliates to gain link juice from Google?
That’s the accusation a poster, who goes by Football Affiliate over at Affiliate Guard Dog (AGD) is suggesting. Football Affiliate’s provocative claim has sparked a debate on the popular advocacy site about that fine line between black and white hat SEO.
Here’s what Football Affiliate had to say in his original posting:

Sure this has been discussed before, but here’s an example of a site that’s pretending to be an affiliate, but is actually owned by the casino operator. They do this to look like they’ve got loads of inward links and therefore gain Google popularity: – Your Australian online casino guide
If you check out the registrant of this domain they’re a spurious unidentifiable Limited company in Australia. However, a bit more digging will show you that they run a lot of affiliate sites and operate out of Tel Aviv in promoting their own casinos.
Anyone know how you report these spoofers to Google? They’re effectively hijacking your affiliate traffic.

The site he’s referring to is a pretty generic Australian-facing casino review site that doesn’t offer readers, at least the ones who don’t check up on domain registries, any idea about who’s behind it.
The question, one that others on AGD would ask, is, “So what if it is run by an operator?” Operators, like affiliates, aren’t really under any obligation to disclose their interests when reviewing an online casino or sportsbook.
Another AGD poster, Lalaenhound, isn’t bothered by the practice and suggests this is a subject affiliates may be over thinking saying:

That’s no different than a competing affiliate whose using a blog network to rank his sites… Instead you could learn from your competition and copy what they’re doing right.

While the original posting suggests that this practice is pretty widespread, it still doesn’t really answer another important question, “Who cares?”
There’s no shortage of online casino reviews that fall well short of the objectivity standards a major newspaper would use.
That is to say, if there’s ever been an online casino review on any affiliate site that included the affiliate’s rev share or CPA along with the glowing descriptions of bonuses and slot machines, we’ve never seen it.
Another question worth asking about this issue is why would anyone want to pose as an affiliate in the first place? Anyone who follows SEO news knows that Google is not exactly in love with the affiliate marketing industry.
At the end of the day most players, the ones who really matter here, don’t care who is behind a review site. Most of them are smart enough, and cynical enough, to know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch on the Internet.