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Shhh.. It’s Not Advertising, It’s Wikipedia!

Shall we wait another quarter to start introducing yet more advertising on the web, or can we slip it in now? We’ve barely gotten past the “paid links are evil” debates. PayperPost is not completely dead yet, and TLA and it’s sister companies are still alive. But since there is really no other way for the commercial web to grow than to allow sponsorships, paid promotions, and “advertising”, I suppose we can just push forward again. Maybe, just maybe, people are busy enough that they (finally) won’t complain as advertorial replaces content (?).

So this is now content, even though the publisher is a PR agency paid by the client running the promotion, the post links out liberally and directly, and everything is disclosed somewhere in the fine print. Sphinn it even, because it’s content, right? (There I go making friends again). But seriously, all the banter about paid links and sponsorship needs to go away. But as long as Google’s actions (supported by certain public voices in the industry) actually harm people’s businesses, there will not be any end to the debate. If it’s about selling page rank, then make that clear. If it’s about sponsored posts, make that clear. If it’s about nofollow, then go ahead and enforce nofollow. Once everyone is freed from the shackles of Google paranoia, they will promote when they are enticed to promote, and limit their contributions to meaningful input otherwise. It’s the natural law of conservation of energy (greed plus laziness). Let it happen! It will be good!

I would like to propose an algorithmic solution to Google’s paid links problem, at least for the specific case of blog comments. It’s simple. Study the text of the blog comment, and flag it in a binary fashion as either completely positive, upbeat, and complimentary, or not. Then weigh it accordingly in the Google ranking algorithm. If it is like this:

“great post, great article. That (seminar/ebook/list) will surely help me succeed. Good stuff I can use! Thanks!”

then it is obviously spam and any associated link needs to be ignored. If it is anything else, allow it. See how it works? If you are a friend, you won’t say anything negative in the comments. But if you know that saying something positive will result in no-link-for-you, you probably won’t bother writing a comment. And if you actually have something useful to add to the conversation, you won’t care about the back link and probably won’t care too much about “being friendly” either. With tuning, this algorithm could actually flag this as spam:

“Nice find, Lee. I know it’s promotional for your client, but it’s good to know about and people will want to attend.”

which is good. That comment is follow-on promotional. Sure it’s eligible to be published on the web like everything else, but any associated back link needs to be removed from the “trust” equations as long as those trust equations are being used to squash competitors and destroy valid commercial endeavors around the world. This comment was just a friend helping out a friend, right? Maybe one of those “strategic alliances”? That’s fine, but Google, don’t credit that link if you’re discrediting other links as “paid”.

In time this new micro-algorithm might even be able to recognize this as worthy of credit:

“Sorry Lee, but this is such a promotonal piece I have to de-sphinn it.”

Keep that link, for that is a valid comment, and contributes to the health of the web. It’s clearly not positive, and not likely to strengthen any friendships. Why else would anyone have posted that, except to make a statement? Credit that gal with a back link for her courage!

Now back to wikipedia. I’m a big fan of several of the “back to Mine” groove CDs, having appreciated them since the dawn of the Back-to-Mine concept many years ago. I was exploring drum & bass in the clubs of Vancouver, experiencing what became “vibe” and “groove” and “chill” when I discovered asian underground and my first Back To Mine collections. I want to bring some to Vegas so when I go “back to mine” at the Hilton I can chill the way I like to (maybe sans friends after this post!). So I Googled Back to Mine. Number one is the publisher and #2 is this wikipedia advertisement. Nicely done. A full page promoting the Back To Mine series of CDs, with all collection covers neatly displayed along with the artists and links to their pages. The text cites the history, the company behind the label, and links to the vendor website backtomine.com. This is modern day Internet advertising and promotion. And because it ranks at the top of Google, it is search marketing very well done. Likely fan-generated, requiring just a touch of polish once in a while from a PR person. Google does the rest.

Woven throughout wikipedia are pages promoting the artists and their CDs, all reminiscent of what BillBoard or Motown was publishing back in the day (cover art, artist bios, stories, poetry… all added value for consumer of published music). Here’s one of my favorites — Orbital’s Back To Mine CD. UnderWorld is another favorite, as is Talvin Singh, although it seems Talvin isn’t on anyones promotion list these days. No external links and not very well written copy.

Google ranks wikipedia well almost universally, and more and more wikipedia is the new promotional spam of the web. Could it evolve any other way?

Update: For those interested in the music, none of which is linked by wikipedia, check these out:

  • Tabla Beat Science (mp3) defined some of asian underground genre initially http://www.uprisemgt.com/artists/tbs/media/tabla_beat_science_palmistry.mp3
  • Outcaste is a good place to explore the current and past world of British/Asian fusion (use IE).  Try Badmarsh&Shri’s Signs if this is your first exposure.
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7 Responses to “Shhh.. It’s Not Advertising, It’s Wikipedia!”

  1. Lee Odden Says:

    Good post John and am happy you used that post/Sphinn as an example. It should never have been submitted to Sphinn and I emailed Marty why as well as a request not to Sphinn our announcements in the future. There’s no back room arrangement there. In fact, have you ever considered the opposite? Submit content that shouldn’t be submitted and encourage it to go hot in order to reflect poorly on the original publisher? That’s unlikely to be the case here, but it happened to our blog on Digg so I have experience with it.

    I do reserve the right to post whatever I want on our blog, whether it be an interview with Danny Sullivan and Neil Patel, a contributed article from Yahoo’s Ron Belanger or a flat out ad/announcement for one of our clients that serves the search marketing industry.

    What I would hope is that people can tell the difference between an announcement and editorial.

  2. john andrews Says:

    Thanks for commenting, Lee. I completely agree with you (hadn’t thought about the sabatage thing) and really it’s all about Google at this point. After all, what is the point of promotion if it is counter productive for search marketing? We’re all building publications and Google says it wants to organize it for us. Hmmm…

    I was disappointed in the 20 sphinns and no comments, and thought more than a minute before posting. I suppose I am getting softer in my old age.

  3. Andrej Says:

    your Talvin Singh link links out to Underworld on Wikipedia.

    ** Fixed it Andrej, thanks. 

  4. Lee Odden Says:

    I hear you John. Is the big G getting too big, too controlling maybe?

  5. Dan Perry Says:

    So following your train of thought that negative comments (and taking it one step forward, negative articles) will be the only valid links left online, I’d say that you’re seting yourself up pretty nicely for a very link-worthy future online.

    ZINGGG!!!!!!

    P.S. I’m at the Hilton too, and I’d be happy to buy you a drink. This is my style of writing (Oops; positive comment. Oh well, I wasn’t expecting a do-follow on that URL anyway)

    John replies: hah hah hadn’t anticipated that! Sort of turns the ReviewMe business model upside down. maybe PanMe.com?

  6. SisterSledge Says:

    hmmm…too bad PanMe.com, RoastMe.com and FryMe.com are all taken. SauteMe.com is available but it just doesn’t have the right ring. TellMeWhyISuck.com IS available…for the moment ;-p

  7. Spielautomaten Führer Says:

    Now back to Wikipedia. I’m a big fan of several of the “back to Mine” groove CDs, having appreciated them since the dawn of the Back-to-Mine concept many years ago. I was exploring drum & bass in the clubs of Vancouver, experiencing what became “vibe” and “groove” and “chill” when I discovered asian underground and my first Back To Mine collections.Thanks for commenting, Lee. I completely agree with you (hadn’t thought about the sabotage thing) and really it’s all about Google at this point. After all, what is the point of promotion if it is counter productive for search marketing? We’re all building publications and Google says it wants to organize it for us.