Thinking About Starting a Boycott Against a Smear Website? There’s Much To Consider To Be Successful

In 2009 we began following a few boycotts and other activities to take action against websites that host libel and won’t remove it. We’ve watched many boycotts fail to make meaningful impact, such as reducing their ad revenue or convincing a search engine to deindex the website, so we are going to review the reasons for these failures. We will also shed light on how a website boycott can be a helpful tool in the fight against online defamation.

The definition of boycott is “to abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, dealing with, or participating in as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion.” For example, in a free country, one can boycott a business, boycott merchants, boycott buses, and boycott an election. In the case of boycotting a website, joining with other victims to abstain from further dealings with the website is logical, reasonable and fair. However, if you’re hoping to ban together in the spirit of the people responsible for the term, boycott, then think again. It may not be worth your while.

Website Boycotts Fail To Make a Significant Impact Because They’re Not Getting The Publicity Necessary to Capture Enough of The Public’s Attention

The term boycott comes from the story of Charles Boycott, an absentee landowner holding the majority of land in Ireland during the 1880s. His opposition, an Irish politician named Charles Parnell, sought landlord reforms that went ignored by Boycott. In response, Parnell’s supporters encouraged everyone to give him the cold shoulder. Boycott and his family ended up isolated. After servants, farmhands, store service and mail delivery became inaccessible, the world’s first boycott proved effective.

In order to be effective, a boycott must have a large amount of public support. Unless your boycott gets coverage in national news outlets, the public won’t be able to learn about your boycott and take supportive action.

Boycotts of Consumer Review Websites Are Failing to Make The National News

Boycotts of retail chains and manufacturers often make the national news. Website boycotts don’t. In the example below, you’ll see there’s never been a boycott against that made it into national, or even local, news, according to Google’s news section.

-boycott - Google Search 2015-04-29 17-18-29


Websites Sponsoring Boycotts Don’t Naturally Attract a Significant Number of Visitors

Due to the nature of how keywords and search engines work, a boycott describing the problem and the name of the website will only gain the attention of anyone who shares the same issue (a demographic that’s likely already avoiding the website due to similar grievances).

Furthermore, few members of the general public, if any, are searching for boycotts against websites online:



Boycott Websites Will Require a Lot of Unique Visitors to Adversely Impact a Boycotted Website’s Advertising Revenues sheds light on how many unique visitors websites of various types can expect:

Successful Website Statistics 2015-04-29 20-27-40

A site promoting a website boycott would be hard pressed to get 1,000 visits per day, especially when Google users are not searching for website boycotts. It would take a lot of grass roots marketing to convince all 1,000 members of the public not to visit a website or click on a website’s ads and make a meaningful impact.

Boycott Websites “Call To Action” Statements Ask Visitors to Help Reshape Laws or Share Their Negative Experience

A “call to action” statement directs the boycott website’s audience to its primary objective. We’ve yet to see a boycott centered on adversely impacting a website’s financial bottom line, such as one that directs the general public to not visit a website or refrain from clicking on ads, but perhaps one day this will happen (if it hasn’t already). Typically website boycotts concentrate on getting victims relief. The call to action statements we’ve found on the Internet feature requests to send letters to a congressional representative. We’ve also found requests for impact statements that can be shared with law enforcement officials:

Common Decency vs. (Boycott Activism) 2015-04-29 20-49-05

Common Decency, one of the oldest and maturest activist organizations out there, submits statements to Attorney General offices and more.

┬áHeavy Social Media Engagement Would Be Required To Extend a Boycott’s Public Reach

It’s impossible to adversely impact a website’s traffic when you’ve only got 16 people tweeting about your boycott. Consider this example from a website boycott named “Bad For People”

Bad For People 2015-04-29 21-20-11(2) Bad for People 2015-04-29 22-21-57

The diagram above demonstrates how hiring a team of professionals to promote a website boycott would be necessary to reach an audience beyond those adversely impacted by the boycotted websites. When the above social media numbers hit the 1000 range you’ll then be in a position to raise public awareness and make the time you invest boycotting a smear website worthwhile. Until then, a small community of 164 people seeking to take on a Goliath such as Google is a noteworthy cause. They’ve been successful in a battle against Let’s watch and see how they do with Google.

Why No Boycott Against a Website Seems To Make a Difference in This Fight Against Online Defamation

In theory, a boycott sounds great, but in reality, boycotting a website on the Internet is a lot like fishing for a salmon in a river of trout. If you only want to attract the attention of others who are just as upset at a website as you are and then take meaningful action, host a boycott such as Bad For People.

If you want to hit a website in their advertising pocketbook, likely a million or more boycott participants will be required as smear websites don’t frequently appear during an Internet surfer’s use of Google Search. Furthermore, boycott participants would need to make a career out of looking for smear website page ads to not click on and each boycott participant would have to have a smear website appear in the search results before they could choose not to click on an advertisement, which is a tough mission considering there are approximately 4.71 billion pages+ currently indexed in Google (and smear websites collectively might have millions pages, at most, perhaps).

The stars have to align for such boycott activists to make meaningful differences. The stars aligned for the activist group, Bad For People, despite low social media activity and no commercial marketing effort what-so-ever. Study this group to learn how a boycott can be effective.

Boycotts of big businesses work fast because their products touch the lives of most people daily. Not so with sites that host defamation — a significantly smaller number of the population is adversely impacted. It will take a tremendous commercial marketing effort to garner enough public support for Internet users to put their bang where their buck is in support of your cause.

So if you want to be an activist in the fight against online defamation, no doubt you’re going to have to be clever.