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I have a question about my Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange post: Ford Radio Code


Hello

We posted a detailed answer to the above question that directly answered the question while clearly and transparently bringing attention to our own company that specialises in this service. We are a small but legitimate UK-based company with overwhelmingly positive reviews, and we offer this service as cheaply as it's possible to do sustainably - far cheaper (and more reliably, since we use the serial number rather than the VIN) than the average dealership can.

A few days later we realised that our answer had been downvoted and deleted while the much shorter answer from one of our many competitors had no downvotes and had been up for years, despite the fact that it was clear spam - it attempted to present itself as a real user when the user name was from a TV show, it didn't directly answer the question, and the post included a discount code that a typical customer is unlikely to know or share. That answer was only deleted after we initially posted and quickly deleted this meta question a few days ago (due to an urgent business issue coming up and not having enough time to deal with this).

In short, we were punished for directly answering the question while not attempting to hide who we are, while a much shorter spam answer that didn't directly address the question but still linked to their own site was kept up for years until it became clear we would be contesting the decision to delete our own. The only motivation that I can see for this uneven handling of the answers is if the moderator who removed our answer is affiliated with that site in some way.

Please reinstate our answer that directly answers the question, not just for the original asker but for the many others coming to it from Google (the question ranks relatively high on many Google results from users trying to unlock their Ford radios without paying the dealership's extortionate fees).

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    It might be worth reviewing the notes on self-promotion and "How not to be flagged as a spammer": mechanics.stackexchange.com/help/promotion Is there some aspect of your answer that you feel was written in the theme described in the Help Center documentation. Perhaps a rewrite could emphasize how to solve the specific problem without any particular commercial product?
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Sep 12, 2023 at 1:12
  • @BobCross It's of course not possible for customers to solve on their own, that is the purpose of our service - just a few years ago it wasn't possible to do so without paying a dealership a lot of money. It is however now possible to save a lot of money by going to an independent decoder like ourselves, so it's silly that this is not an acceptable answer to the question just because it would also involve advertising the services of a small independent business. Looking through the documentation you linked, my answer complies with every point on it, so it's not being enforced very well.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 1:31
  • If you would like to propose modifying Stackexchange policies to allow for purely business advertising answers, you are welcome to do so. Until the policies change, we mods are expected to be guided by the existing set.
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Sep 12, 2023 at 21:31
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    @BobCross As I explained in the comment above and the comments on the other answer, the policies don't need to be modified because self-promotion isn't prohibited. The article on promotion clearly allows some promotion and my answer can be made to comply with all of the rules in it, so it's the moderators' interpretation of that article/what they believe to be the site's rules that is at fault here.
    – John
    Sep 13, 2023 at 21:46
  • Please feel free to contact someone in Stackexchange proper if you feel that policies have been improperly applied. I suggest you seek out a user with the Staff tag as a good starting place.
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Sep 13, 2023 at 22:01

2 Answers 2

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Pure and simply, the reason your post was deleted is because you are looking for free advertisement. You posted the link to draw people to your site. From this, you are hoping to get more traffic and hope that someone will buy your product. This is not what Stack Exchange is about. We are a question and answer site. We are purveyors of useful information. We are not here to help promote your business. Doing a cursory search of the internet, I also see you are doing quite a bit more "business" on Reddit. While I'm not a real fan of Reddit, it shows your real intent.

Unfortunately, we will not be reinstating your answer. We do appreciate your pointing out the other short spam answer, as I was the one who deleted it as such. Unfortunately, that very old post went unnoticed and occurred prior to my tenure as a moderator here on MVM&R. As a moderator, if I come across a spam or spam-ish post, I will flag it as spam and then I'll destroy the user who posted it. What does destroying the user do? It deletes anything and everything they've ever posted on the site. I didn't handle the flag which deleted your post. If I had, your account would have been destroyed as well.

Going forward, if you have positive/constructive input to the site, we'll be very glad to have that information posted here. If, on the other hand, you feel the need to post your link, with or without affiliation, I'll be more than happy to destroy your account.

If you believe you are being treated unfairly, by all means, contact Stack Exchange by using the contact link at the bottom of the page.

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    Yes, of course it's an advertisement of sorts for our services, but the point is that it also answers the question. If an answer helps users save a lot of money, helps a small business and directly answers the question with an honest transparent answer, everyone wins - why is that such a bad thing? Likewise with Reddit - this is part of our social media strategy because we believe saving people money and preventing them from being ripped off by the dealer is a win-win for everyone. Our reviews on the Reviews.io and TrustPilot platforms attest to just how useful our customers find us.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 0:59
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    @John - You can do whatever you please on Reddit. Just realize, part of your social media strategy does not involve SE/SO, unless you want to go to corporate and pay for advertising. They'd be happy to take your money. Sep 12, 2023 at 1:00
  • Unlike our competitors, we have very little money to be spending on advertising because of how affordable we are trying to make this service. If it were any lower we would go out of business.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 1:49
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    "We don't want to/can't afford to spend money on advertising" is not generally considered an acceptable excuse for spamming. (I'm guessing many Reddit users and staff feel the same way.)
    – V2Blast
    Sep 12, 2023 at 14:54
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John, Stack Exchange simply will not allow you to promote your business in any obvious way, and there's nothing you can do about that. But you can provide useful information that will have the effect of driving business to your website. You have to get creative and stay within the rules.

Imaginary Question: My 1962 Borgward Isabella ran out of blinker fluid. The owner's manual says that the car uses a special blend of aliphatic and aromatic naptha blinker fluid made exclusively for Borgward, and using anything else will destroy the blinkers. As everyone knows, Borgward went bankrupt, but BMW dealers carry genuine Borgward blinker fluid. Unfortunately, it costs a bloody fortune. Is there anything I can do besides buy from a BMW dealer?

Your Imaginary Answer: There are usable substitutes for Borgward blinker fluid. Several chemists have analyzed the fluid and blend their own version, and at least one of them guarantees their blinker fluid to be compatible. They only sell direct to consumers. You can find them by Googling "Borgward substitute blinker fluid". Full disclosure: I operate one such chemist's shop.

Answered 1 hour ago

User 123456

Get the idea? Don't give the name of your business, don't link to it, don't mention specific prices, don't use a Stack Exchange handle that appears to be the name of a business, don't say "we", and keep your answer factual and useful but generic. Is it possible that someone Googling your search terms would find a competitor? Yeah, sure, but if you've done your SEO homework, you have provided a search term that will show your product / service first. And if you've primed the reader to look for "guaranteed compatible" and you show that prominently on your landing page but competitors do not, you're golden. Remember, you must disclose your affiliation to comply with site rules, but keep it high and dry so it's not an obvious ad for your business.

Take an approach like this, providing useful information, and I believe that your answer will not be closed, and it should drive business to you while staying within the rules.

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  • If any moderator would find this approach objectionable, please leave a comment.
    – MTA
    Sep 12, 2023 at 3:49
  • This is all very easily said and done but it simply doesn't work like that in the real world, our competitors got to their position by spending a lot of money on advertising and by posting direct backlinks, there is no other way to compete against that, especially when said backlinks happen to go undeleted for 3 years (i.e. they've done their job) until we post ours. In addition our answer does not violate any of the rules on this link posted by Bob, so it would seem our answer was deleted without regard for those rules.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 4:40
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    @John Really? The first sentence, "The community here tends to vote down overt self-promotion and flag it as spam." seems pretty clear, and your post was nothing if not overt self-promotion. Three years of a competitor's undetected self-promotion has been explained and dealt with, but no one can turn back the clock. If you don't want to self-promote within the rules, that's your call, but no amount of hand-wringing is going to change Stack Exchange policy or our community's collective wisdom on overt self-promotion. We're not Reddit, and we don't want to be.
    – MTA
    Sep 12, 2023 at 11:46
  • @MTA - The only thing I think in your example which I'd take issue with is, it would basically be a shopping question, which of course would put it off-topic. However, I agree with what you are suggesting to do. Sep 12, 2023 at 15:50
  • @MTA It's far from overt self-promotion, it's enough self-promotion as is needed to actually the question. It demonstrates the simplest, cheapest solution that can fix this problem, and only includes the one link needed to do that. Regardless, I can see now that those rules are badly thought out because they're written from an assumption that there's a product or DIY solution to all problems - it does not account for situations where the only solution is using a service. Anything else I include that doesn't explain how to use our service would be irrelevant, because the service is the answer.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 16:08
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    @John If that post isn't your idea of "overt self-promotion" I'm scared to see what you would consider that. Sep 12, 2023 at 16:13
  • @motosubatsu Since everyone seems intent on picking out a few words from my comment instead of actually addressing any of the points I've made in the last two paragraphs, feel free to show me what you think a solution to the answer would look like without promoting a service.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 16:46
  • @motosubatsu You don't need to imagine what true spam is, there was an example of it on the same question that has since been deleted, and you can simply do a Google search for any of our competitors' names and it'll bring up all the spam that they post. Overt self-promotion = self-promotion for its own sake that contains more than the necessary link(s) needed to answer the question, or at least that's how that very same article defines it.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 16:49
  • @John I know full well what true spam is, and I've read your post, I've also read the rules around self-promotion, and a blind man on a galloping horse can see how your post violates said rules and nothing you've posted here changes that. By your own definition of overt self promotion that your comment just listed your post falls squarely in that definition. Sep 12, 2023 at 16:52
  • @motosubatsu That's not my definition, it's this site's definition according to that article on self promotion. You're right, it contains one extra link and possibly the mention of payment methods too, but even if I edited those out I'm guessing it wouldn't make a difference to you? Repeating that you think it's spam doesn't make it more true and doesn't address any of my points. Don't tell me, show me: what else in my answer, apart from those things above, is irrelevant to answering the question and therefore spam? What exactly makes it necessary to be deleted rather than edited?
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 16:56
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    @John the first paragraph of your answer talks exclusively about how great your company is (enough for a red-flag for spam on it's own), the second provides some useful information but directs the reader to your site for most of it (that's a spam warning sign at minimum), the third paragraph talks about how the reader can give you money (enough for a red-flag spam flag on it's own). You have freely admitted elsewhere on this meta post that you're trying to advertise for free! As V2Blast (SE staff) pointed out, failure to budget for marketing doesn't entitle you to advertise here for free! Sep 12, 2023 at 17:13
  • @motosubatsu I've never denied it's an advertisement - once again, self-promotion is not disallowed according to that article and once again, my answer is compliant with most rules in it and could be made further compliant if it hadn't been deleted. It's nothing to do with a failure to budget - as mentioned, we would have the money if we charged comparable prices to our competitors, but our service exists to be as cheap as possible for the average consumer, and that's only achievable by not spending a lot of money on advertising.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 17:33
  • To actually address your points - the first paragraph talks about our experience and reviews because, assuming you actually read the question, you'd know the asker had a rare radio that other decoders couldn't decode and we most likely can, based on the mentioned experiences and reviews. Hence, the first paragraph is the one that most directly addresses the asker's question, with the second and third being more generic and applying also to the user coming from Google.
    – John
    Sep 12, 2023 at 17:36

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