Google GangBang Feels Like Date Rape

by Karoli on November 27, 2007 · 22 comments

[Update: Liz kindly pointed out that I dropped readers into the middle of the story without giving them a clue as to what I was talking about. Quick and dirty: Google lowered the page rank of bloggers who write paid posts or have paid links on their blogs to zero. Some of those folks had blogs that were ranked 5 or better. Advertisers don't like paying for zero-ranked blogs, and zeroes don't show in Google's results until around the fifth or sixth page of their search results. Not too many searchers go past page one. Some bloggers were banned from search results altogether. In effect, Google is saying that they aim to control advertising content and force conformation to their Adsense model.]

Just for the record, Google, about 60% of my visitors land here after a Google search.  You lowered my page rank by one, but all that means is that the people searching for info on scammers like Firstline and Automotive Warranty Advisors have to look a little harder for me.  Anyway, on with the introductions.

photo of CassMeet Cass. Cass is a hard-working knitting lady with eight kids.  Yep, you counted right — EIGHT.  In her bio, she writes…

For the first time in 18 and a half years, I have my own little corner again. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost myself, and now that I realize I’m missing, I’m on the look out for me. You maybe don’t know what that means, but then again, maybe you do.

Cass has many blogs.  One of my favorites is Midlife Musings, where you get the real deal — a warm voice, a real person, a lot of laughs and the same kind of pissy passion you occasionally get from me here (See Virgin Mobile Sucks and they also Lie, Cheat and Steal).  Another one of my favorites is Cass Knits, where there’s always a nice photo of some new project or other interesting (and impossible, to me) knit item or yarn.  Yeah, Cass is a real threat to the blogosphere, that evil thing.  Just think about how those eight kids must suffer as a result of the few extra dollars she brought in through her fully disclosed paid posts. All of her blogs are ranked 0 now, but she has some wise words in spite of the bitchslap you delivered:

When I first saw what was happening last night, I did feel like puking. One of my blogs has 183 back links, and dropped from 3 to 0 like a stone. But just like I said a couple weeks ago when Google started the foreplay that led to this rough-em-up, my blog is more than a number. My value is more than my page rank. My visits are up, up, up.

Cass is someone you’d like to know.  She’s someone you’d introduce to your friends.  She’s a smart cookie, articulate and bright.  Cass is a blogger first and foremost.  Here’s more wisdom from her:

I did not allow PPP itself to tell me how to blog, when they tried. I am certainly not going to let Google dictate my editorial policy. They’ve only managed to give me pennies to the thousands of dollars I have made with various sponsored posts, and haven’t even paid out on that because I’ve yet to reach the magic $100. In 18 month of adsense use. Whatever. And just so you know…all these posts I am writing about PPP, Izea and SocialSpark lately? For free, because I could. Because they are doing important, industry changing things. And also, because the people who work there are FUN. And Clever. And Witty. And My Friends. Not write about my friends? No.

Yep, Cass is a blogger and a damn good one.  Good thing Google made an example out of her, because all it means is that she’ll keep writing great stuff and we’ll get to keep reading it.  Woo, Google.

colleen's photoHere’s Colleen.  Colleen is a 31-year old mom of three from Tampa, FL.  She also has several blogs, including Geeky Speaky where I can get a fix on new gadgets and other fun things.  But here’s the blog of hers that means the most to me:  3DayMom, where Colleen writes sponsored posts as well as posts about training for the 3-day Walk for Breast Cancer.  She committed to raising $2,200 for Breast Cancer Research.  I donated to her team, and she carried my grandmother’s name with her during the walk.  Yep Google, she’s another one you slapped around real good.  Did I mention that the money from paid blogging on 3DayMom was donated to the Susan G Komen foundation?  Yep, Colleen was a real threat, wasn’t she?

Over here is Cheryl, who blogs at  BasenjiMom.  Her mother is battling Pancreatic Cancer.  Here is a word picture of BasenjiMom’s current challenge, in her own words:

I fear that my Mother is losing her battle with Pancreatic Cancer. And I have had an internal struggle with myself for the past day or two as to whether I should even write this post….but, this is my outlet, and it may help someone else to read my words. I have to be strong, as I fear my older Sister is close to losing her grip, and Brother – well, let’s just say we could devote and entire blog to his issues and leave it at that – suffice to say I will need to be the leanee, and not the leaner.

Cheryl is another 3DayMom.  She raised $4,760.00 for Breast Cancer.  Bet you’re pretty proud of yourself now, Google.  Smacking around that woman must’ve really felt good, eh?

A few others you should meet:  Lucia, who only wrote ABOUT paid blogging but was never paid to blog.  There’s Lisa, who runs a review site.  I differ with Lisa, in that I think disclosure should be in the form of a badge or written disclosure at the top or bottom of the post, but her reviews are straightforward and straight up.  Bet you feel pretty righteous about catching Lisa, eh?   Here’s another:  Snoksred lives in NSW with her kitties and other half.  She’s a wonderful writer who you also slapped down to zero.  However, Snoksred, like these other ladies, refuses to let you bully her into submission.  Instead, she equates your smackdown to terrorism.

Many of these people are so terrified they have made the decision to negotiate with the terrorist – they are removing paid links then admitting they did things wrong and asking for “re-inclusion”. Any law enforcement official would tell you – never negotiate with a terrorist. You need to look for other ways to solve the problem. If Google is the main source of traffic to your blog, you need to spread your wings and find other options.

My Questions for Google:

While you were manually knocking down these bloggers, why didn’t you take care of issues like seeded malware links on page one of your results, or the content scrapers who routinely try to ride on my coattails with their .info domains that are nothing more than splogs intended to make money on my effort?  Why is your top search result for John Chow a link seller?  Isn’t that just a tiny bit hypocritical?  Why are your Google Alerts results full of splogs and spammers?  They’re a waste of time and bandwidth.

My Message to Google: You are venturing into dangerous territory, particularly in light of your “do no evil” slogan.  If you really intend to hand-pick and hand-rank blogs, clean your house first.  Get rid of the malware vendors, spammers and sploggers that frequent your top results.  Lose the scrapers and the scammers.  If you can’t do that, then abolish PageRank altogether as a metric, because selectively bitchslapping bloggers is an ineffective way to run a business.  I know your PR (and by PR, I mean Public Relations) department isn’t awfully competent and that you don’t really care about that, but here’s the bottom line:  You have opened a door for Yahoo! to waltz right through, and you underestimate the women and students out there who want to make some extra money if you think they won’t turn around and accept the Yahoo! invitation to be evaluated on the basis of their content and not their links.

If you want to make advertising the center of your revenue model, do it with some sense.  Instead of punishing bloggers who are paid, find a way to incorporate them into the model.

Will you penalize Techcrunch for their “thank the sponsor” linky love, or Amazon’s purchase of space on Robert Scoble’s blog, where the ‘chosen few’ [edit]affiliates[/edit] get a $40 check for each Kindle sold via their blog?  Scoble disclosed that in his second blog post about the Kindle, a device I think is utterly useless, by the way, and incredibly overpriced.   I have no problem with him being paid until I consider the outrage of Arrington & Co and the constant efforts to humiliate bloggers who also are paid to write posts [edit]make money from posting[/edit] about products. Then the hypocrisy shines.  (No Robert, I am not calling YOU a hypocrite; I AM calling Google hypocritical, though).  You can be selective or you can be fair, but you can’t be both.  Selective is evil.  You do no evil.  Right?

Disclosure:  I wrote paid blog posts in the past.  I do not write them now.  My choice not to write them has nothing to do with Google or the advertisers that paid me.  Other constraints, including a lack of time, are the reason.  Nothing more, nothing less.  As long as there is disclosure, paid bloggers are doing no evil and you are.

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  • http://scobleizer.com Robert Scoble

    You TOTALLY don’t get Amazon. This is NOT something that only “a chosen few” can participate in. Amazon’s Affiliate program is open to everyone.

    Also I am NOT paid to put that link on my blog. It is NOT a “paid link.” I only get paid if someone buys something from that link. I also disclosed that link, which is far more than many PayPerPosters do. Kevin Burton, founder of TailRank, has been tracking disclosures and shows that PayPerPosters have NOT been disclosing and PPP does NOT ask you to disclose PER POST, which is the only ethical way to do advertising in today’s world.

    Amazon’s Associate program is explained here: http://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/join

    Until PayPerPost (or whatever it’s called) forces PER POST DISCLOSURES then I can’t get on board with calling Google evil. What PayPerPost was doing was evil. Far more evil than what Google is doing.

    I ALWAYS disclose my financial renumeration at the POST level.

  • http://drumsnwhistles.com karoli

    Robert, if you had read the entire post you would have seen that I said I disagree with NOT disclosing on the post itself. I always did, but if you disclose now, Google penalizes the advertiser, too. WTF?

    As for Amazon, I don’t get the same deal. Just sayin’. And yes, I’m an affiliate on a different, completely unrelated blog.

    You did see where I didn’t call YOU a hypocrite and noted your in-post disclosure?

    Google not only penalizes the poster; they’re penalizing the advertiser. That’s evil in my world, especially when it’s selectively applied.

  • http://drumsnwhistles.com karoli

    I have edited this post to be clearer about the amazon relationship. It was inaccurate to characterize your post as space or links purchased, even though the outcome may be the same. I do apologize for that misconception.

  • http://www.snoskred.org Snoskred

    Great post, Karoli.

    I’m feeling all talked out on this issue but I loved how you showed some of the people that Google has chosen to punish with their behaviour. They are just normal people – some trying to make a living to let them stay at home – some donating the majority of their earnings to charity! who do not deserve the punishment they have been given.

    I personally put all the money I earned from paid blogging back into scambaiting the Nigerian scammers – in fact several of my last paid posts bought Skype credits with which I called victims to warn them they were being scammed.

    Thanks for linking to me. ;)

    Cheers,
    Snoskred

  • http://www.midlifemusings.com Cass

    Thanks so much for the warm words: you do know how to make a girl feel loved :) You brought about some more great points about the search results, and wow, you know the reality of being hand selected just started to hit me. I just assumed it was a computer thing, but learning wh was and was not slapped…. Some real person sat down, read over my blogs and decided they were of less value than malware sites and scraper splogs. Nice, real nice.

    Hey, someone from Google read my blogs! How cool is that?? And they perceived me as such a huge threat to them that they had to take away my page rank. HA!

  • http://lisareviews.com Lisa

    Thanks for the link! You bring up a lot of really great points. I liked it so much I stumbled it. :)

  • http://www.simplekindoflife.com Colleen

    Awesome post! And I’m not just saying that because of what you said about me & my sister & friends – but that was the icing on the cake!

  • http://www.juliesjournal.com Jules
  • http://www.basenjimom.com Cheryl

    Wow, great post and thank you for the kind words….

  • http://www.mylittletribe.com Carla

    Incredible post!
    I did the paid blogging thing for three months, and quit a month before Google slapped me for my own personal reasons.
    My organic 3 prior to paid blogging sunk to a zero. And for what?

    Date raped indeed.

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  • http://www.crashutah.com/blog techie

    What google did and Date Rape isn’t even comparable. Date Rape is so much worse.

  • http://drumsnwhistles.com karoli

    Thanks to you all for the diggs and stumbles. :)

    @Techie, the metaphor holds to anyone who relied on that ranking to earn some decent money with paid blogging. The issue is control, and who should have it.

  • Frekay foenf

    Great post–meaningless, but great

  • fratman

    So “in the past” but “not now” you wrote some opinions on your blog. But they weren’t actually *your* opinions, even though you blogged them. They were opinions you were *paid* to have.

    Sounds like the “date rape” metaphor isn’t as applicable as another one that comes to mind.

  • http://drumsnwhistles.com karoli

    Fratman, you are 100 percent wrong on that score. I never wrote anything that I didn’t believe in personally. You can visit my blog principles page for the criteria I used for choosing and writing posts. Iwasn’t going to sell my soul or anything else for a few bucks.

  • http://drumsnwhistles.com karoli

    In fact, here are the criteria used for each and every post:

    1. Have I actually investigated the product, site, link, information personally? The answer must be yes.
    2. Would the product, site, link or information be of interest to people interested in this blog? The answer must be yes.
    3. Would I write this post even if I were not paid, and would I write it in the same voice and tone? The answer must be yes.
    4. Do I believe that readers and visitors might benefit in some way from what I’m writing about? The answer to that must at least be a strong “maybe”. Benefitting might be learning, discovering, or helping solve a specific problem.

    If I cannot answer all three of the first three questions in the affirmative, I will not link or post it on this blog.

    Every post I wrote was within those guidelines. In fact, I still use Zookoda, I did buy a phone from Wirefly, and I’m still a member of the Photography Forum that I wrote about.

    Next time you accuse someone of being a whore you might want to do your homework first.

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