Bill C-18 – Is the Link Tax Fair?
BlogUncategorizedBill C-18 – Is the Link Tax Fair?

Bill C-18 – Is the Link Tax Fair?

The Canadian government took up a rather unconventional task of rewarding news organizations with the proposed Bill C-18. With this tax, the bill aims to help struggling news outlets generate an additional source of income for the efforts they undertake to gather news stories from around the globe.

Under the provisions of this bill, other companies who link their content to these new stories will have to pay news organizations. This signifies the meaning of the alternate term to this bill – “link tax”.

Links are typically used by search engines and social media platforms as a part of their digital marketing endeavours. No wonder the biggest criticism comes from businesses operating in this domain. Link building is integral to their campaign success. As such, taxing them for this activity becomes a cost burden for them.

This post will look at the basics of link tax. It also examines the possible ramifications of SEO and digital marketing.

What is a link tax?


Bill C-18 proposes taxing those agencies or sites that have a link to a news agency site. There are two parties here –

  1. The linked website (news organizations)
  2. The linking site (SEO companies)

This link tax seeks to reward the linked website while adding more cost burden to the linking site.
This is not applicable to ALL news content. The bill outlines guidelines for eligible new content. It broadly seeks to cover news articles, blog posts, and videos.

What is the controversy behind Bill C-18?

Many tech and online marketing companies have provided reasons for terming the bill as unjustified.

  1. It promotes news censorship
    Many technology organizations believe that this tax will promote censorship of news stories. News organizations will force search engines to pay for linking to their news articles. This is a blatant use of online censorship, which should not be promoted.
  2. A sword over open web principles
    Tech companies argue that Bill C-18 is a threat to the open web. The open web is a decentralized network of websites that are linked together. It is this linking that allows users to easily find and discover new content. By imposing a link tax, the government would be disrupting the open web. This step is bound to make it more complex for users to find the content they are looking for.
  3. It pays an already monetized model
    Also, some tech experts may argue that Bill C-18 is unnecessary. They point out that news organizations are already able to make money from their content through advertising and subscriptions. This taxation will further swell their revenues at the cost of digital marketing initiatives of the brands. They feel that the government need not intervene and create a new way for news companies to mint money.

What are the ramifications of Bill C-18?


The ramifications of Bill C-18 remain unknown. However, critics of the measure have pointed out a number of alleged implications. The bill may have the unintended effect of curbing innovation.

Companies involved in SEO or SMM may be the hardest hit. It will impact their ability to constantly evolve to boost online user experience. This type of taxation on links will put a brake on their inclination to invest in new features or product improvements.

Another potential outcome is that the bill will undermine the core principles of open web. Users prefer the open web in its present state. This arrangement facilitates the free flow of information. But if this bill is successfully passed, it could lead to a more controlled internet with closed architecture.

How does the bill impact SEO and digital marketers?

The link tax would particularly impact SEO marketers. The reason is simple. These companies rely heavily on link building. This activity is core to their competencies in delivering successful outcomes for their clients.

Link tax could mean that SEOs and digital marketers will need to make several big changes to their strategies. This agility to adapt will be needed to ensure that their client websites are still visible to users.

Here are some of the potential implications of the bill for SEO and digital marketing.

  1. Changes to link building strategies
    Link building is an essential component of SEO. To comply with the link tax, SEOs will almost certainly need to adjust their link creation techniques. For instance, they may need to concentrate on gaining links from news organizations not covered by the bill.
  2. Increased focus on content
    The bill could also lead to an increased focus on content creation. News organizations that are covered by the bill will need to create high-quality content.This allows news companies to gain links from search engines and social media networks. This may imply that SEOs and digital marketers would be required to assist their clients in creating more interesting and compelling content.
  3. Changes to search engine algorithms
    The onus will be on search engines to tweak their algorithms as per the provisions of the bill so that there is no loss for them when the bill comes into force.There is a possibility that they might reduce the weightage of such links. At the same time, they may provide priority to high quality content that elevates user experience.With this point, we can deduce that SEO marketers will experience a significant shift in work processes if this bill is passed.

How can SEO marketers prepare in the interim?

There is still some time for the bill to be tabled, discussed and approved by the government. In the interim, SEO marketers can do a few steps to ensure that they face this bill without any loss to their bottom line.

a- Stay up-to-date on the latest developments

The bill is still in its nascent stages. We can look forward to significant amendments to it. Hence it is prudent to be aware of these changes that the bill undergoes. As a result of this agility, you can make informed (and timely) decisions about your digital marketing strategies.

b- Work with news organizations

Do you have clients who are news agencies? Then you need to work with them to ensure that they are compliant with Bill C-18. Doing so will help them create high value content. It will help them to attract links from search engines.

c- Be ready to adapt

Bill C-18 might have a significant impact on SEO and digital marketing activities. Hence it will be a wise move to adapt your strategies accordingly. A major candidate for this evolution will be your link building activities. You need to also focus on quality content creation so that you aren’t impacted by this bill.

End note – What is the future of Bill C-18?

Right now, the future of the bill is hazy. Many tech companies have disputed the bill legally in court. So we are not sure if the bill will be passed at all. Even if it is passed, the amount of impact may not be as drastic.

Search engines will not want to incur losses due to this link tax. Hence it may provide less and less weightage to the eligible content. When they do this, the impact will be strange. It will start affecting news agencies – the niche that was supposed to be rewarded by the bill originally.

The debate over Bill C-18 is a complex one. There are valid arguments on both sides. However, it is clear that the bill has the potential to have a significant impact on the internet and the way search engines work.

It will be prudent for tech companies to closely monitor the progress of the bill. This will help us weigh the benefits and risks before making a final call on link building strategy.

With a team of highly experienced digital marketers, we have developed some of the best results driven campaigns for all size agencies and businesses.

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