Andy found out that Wordpress had a ton of articles obviously written solely for the high paying ads they would attract, taking advantage of Wordpress’ high page rank to increase their rankings in search results. This is something I’m familiar with and in fact, Andy mentions Asbestos Blog in his entry.
I feel like it’s important to point out what I think is a fairly big distinction between what Asbestos Blog is doing and what Matt, the head honcho behind Wordpress, is doing. With Asbestos Blog, I know that despite the fact that I’m trying to attract high paying ads (something both Matt and I are doing) I also know that I cannot succeed by any means if I don’t accomplish two things: I absolutely must have real content that I’ve personally written myself, and I must produce that content several times per day. I’m failing on the second half*. Doing this makes my site a blog versus a link farm. I’m sure to get flak from that, but I’ll stand by my opinion, and more specifically say this:
Matt is running a link farm, or more accurately, hosting a link farm.
Matt isn’t producing the content. A third party is producing content that is obviously designed to be eaten up by Google. What some people see as terrible writing and grammar I see as a cleverly designed piece of content. It’s dry and horrible because it’s not meant for human consumption. It’s meant to trick Google’s language parsing into thinking there is real, human generated content that other humans will be interested in, when in truth only the former might be true.
The very fact that a third party is willing to provide Matt with content and pay him a flat rate for the privilege of using his blog further suggests that someone is trying to game the system and that it’s working. I’m even confident in saying that Matt is getting ripped off – if he could do this himself, he’d be making a lot more money, but that’s a very tangential topic.
The biggest distinction between Asbestos Blog and Matt’s Wordpress pages is that Matt is simply hosting someone’s link farm and licensing out his sweet Google page rank in exchange for money. Personally, I think it’s cheap, but not unethical like a lot of people are suggesting, Andy included.
At first I thought – “This is an open source project. People are donating their time, money, and efforts into making a good product with no compensation. This ain’t right!” My first thought was that open source projects should be like non-profits, and that it stunk to not disclose spending or income sources.
But then, there are no rules like that governing open source projects. If you donate code, you do so without compensation. If the head honcho makes tons of money off the project he’s not obligated to cut you in on the deal, or even tell you about it. Showing a bit of good will and returning to the community that helped build the project is a nice idea and will go far, but it’s certainly not the rule.
I think the link farm bit is shady simply because it’s pure gaming of Google, plain and simple. Asbestos Blog does no gaming – I have no page rank to give it any advantage. I follow the rules of “content is king”. If my entries show up high in search results it’s because they’re relevant, not because they’re linked to buy a high page rank site**.
But, I also think Matt can do whatever he like with his page rank. Whether or not that will help or hinder his project is a whole other story, but certainly you cannot call him unethical.
- A full report of the progress of Asbestos Blog is forthcoming.
<ul> <li>Disclaimer: several high page ranked sites, including Boing Boing, Slashdot, and other bloggers linked to this site, which then linked to Asbestos Blog itself. The page ranks of those sites definitely had an impact for about a week, but that no long seems to be the case. And I never set out to use page rank to further my means initially, which is part of my point.</li> </ul>