October 30, 2006

PageRank/Link-Buying Doesn't Care About Blogger Ethics

Much discussion about "PayPerPost" (a service which pays bloggers for posting about products) has understandably focused on the social rules involved in distinguishing what's an acceptable high-class social exchange of mutual benefit, and what's a low-class tawdry selling yourself (hint: where people stand on this is very tightly correlated to where they sit, as in on conference panels vs below in the audience or worse).

However ... in terms of "Search Engine Optimization And The Commodification of Social Relationships", it doesn't matter. That is, Google PageRank does not care about "*disclosure*". I laughed about PayPerPost's latest stunt in paying bloggers to link to a page about "disclosurepolicy.org". There's something very recursively absurd about that.

I don't think PayPerPost advertisers are buying the few dozens to hundreds readers of a typical blog post. Maybe, but I just don't think it's cost-effective. Rather, they're buying more the organic-looking LINKING from the various blogs, which looks to search engines as if the page is legitimately popular. Think of it like Astroturf applied to link-campaigning rather than political campaigning.

And when a product then ranks highly on a search engine due to those paid links, the people seeing that rank are not going to have any idea whether or not the blog posts which contributed to that rank followed A-lister Approved Best Practices For Soul-Selling.

Ironically, to use a buzzword, the A-listers are being "disintermediated" for certain business purposes (and THERE IS RE-INTERMEDIATION by the advertising agency), which I suspect is part of the reason for their howls that standards are being breached. Part of the evangelism sales-pitch is that bloggers are "influencers" - so of course A-listers are the biggest influencers of all. Thus advertisers should cater to them with everything from product freebies to consulting gigs. But what happens when, through The Magic Of The Internet, advertisers bypass those "gatekeepers", and simply buy large amounts of Z-listers through blatant resellers, instead of going through the A-list as intermediaries? Well, you have A-listers obviously upset that their own business model is being undercut. But it can be misleading to see their unhappiness as the main story (though it can be an amusing sideline), rather than a reflection of the economic shifts and battles between commerce vs social, being played out in various ways.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather , google | on October 30, 2006 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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"A-lister Approved Best Practices For Soul-Selling"
I haven't seen this list yet and google is not yet returning results.

So in the spirit here it is;
1. Use the product
I would but my VB supply has run out.

2. Disclose your interest
Yes it was sent to me free [I wish] but only because I am such a good customer and plan to host a party for meaningful people with the pallet of VB sent to me.

3. Make a meaningful analogy about the product.
Drinking beer is like going to a peace demonstration, makes you feel good when you do it, but the after affects can be bad.

4. Comment on the good the company does as a side note.
I am sure Fosters Corp buys from farmers and they are doing it tough. Supporting farmers can't be wrong?

Posted by: tqft at October 31, 2006 03:52 PM

Gee, I was so looking forward to discussing this with my friends and neighbors when that Wal*Mart blog bus came to my town!

Posted by: Dean Landsman at October 31, 2006 08:08 PM

Worry not, Seth, it all gets much easier once you realise the world actually run by only seven people ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at October 31, 2006 10:46 PM