The Pied Piper Of PayPerPost?

Pied Piper of PayPerPostOver the last year I have given a fair amount of coverage to PayPerPost, who now house the service along with other endeavours under the name Izea.

There are multiple reasons why I have supported PayPerPost and similar programs so strongly, and yet at the same time have never reviewed a link buying / selling service.

I have mentioned link buying and selling in passing, and also a couple of WordPress plugins, but those plugins generally allow you to sell links which have a nofollow.

My emphasis both in editorial about services and in the few reviews I have myself written is to encourage the writing of quality content with editorial links. Compensation in whatever form should be based upon the time involved, expertise, and possibly the size and influence of the audience, and not based upon any SEO benefit to a site or service being reviewed.

Encouraging The Selling of PageRank?

It is my belief that I don’t advocate the selling of PageRank, especially considering how I also discourage excessive blogrolls and sitewide links. If you have links coming in for your every utterance, I suppose internal linking structure is less important to you than acknowledging sites you respect (who might also reciprocate), or possibly those you sell links to (if you do) but in general for niche marketing blogs I tend to avoid leaks in the sidebar.

Comments on Sphinn and even here in the comments recently suggest there is some kind of disconnect between how I regard paid review services, and possibly how they are regarded, used and abused by the SEO community at large, and possibly Google reacting to that attitude taken by SEOs and not that taken by the review services, or the reviewers themselves. I think it is important to point out that PayPerPost was created by a marketing company, not by an SEO or link selling company.

Rather than single out individuals for the comments they have made, I would rather answer a specific question asked here on my blog by Lisa Stewart

Hi Andy- thanks for the excellent and well thought out post and arguments FOR services like PayPerPost.

To play Gevil’s Advocate- If a site (like PPP) is offering a fee to post and the fee is based entirely on Page Rank (and sometimes Alexa traffic) then why can’t it be interpreted as paying for page rank?
A post coming from PPP on a PR3 site may cost advertiser 10.00 and the SAME post on PR5 is 50.00.

Why wouldn’t Google seeing this as gaming PR?

Now I should point out that at this time Google is interpreting this as gaming PageRank. I personally feel this is the wrong interpretation, but then my own interpretation could be extremely biased. I have been penalized by Google, even though I believe I don’t sell PageRank.

Advertiser Or Client Intent

Every potential client who has requested a review and I have considered for a review, when told that specific link text is not a possibility, and that any link I give would be for editorial purposes, has responded favourably.

It seems people are not necessarily ordering reviews for SEO purposes at all, though I do give SEO friendly links to things I highlight as part of the editorial process.

Many corporate advertisers have a different need to fulfil, that of creating a buzz about a new product and feel that blogs are an interesting avenue to explore. They will most likely get different feedback than they would from traditional reviews sites, because a reviewer whilst being a consumer, would also spend more time doing it.
In the attention age we live in, gaining feedback from consumers whilst increasingly vital, is also becoming increasingly more difficult – sure consumers might make a passing comment, but constructive feedback is less likely, unless they feel aggrieved.

Google, Microsoft, and even most startups have rank upon rank of staff members and shareholders to “get the message out” about a new product or service, but in many ways those too are paid reviews that don’t mention competing products or services.
Other large companies don’t have such an extensive and influential online presence amongst their staff and investors, thus they look to other alternatives.

  • Internal PR – the largest firms retain their own public relations specialists, often with shared ties to advertising personel – this isn’t a cheap undertaking.
  • PR Firms – expensive but have access to key influencers
  • Press releases – wider distribution costs money, though they are less effective for companies that aren’t monitored continually, and information is less likely to trickle down to niche markets – I have seen a number of popular websites hosting paid press releases
  • Focus groups – Google themselves pay $75 per hour for people to test their services, and are probably paying the person monitoring them even more – from this they gain private feedback, but I wonder how many people also write about the experience.
  • Product sample giveaways – quite frequently these do not have to be given back, so a blog owner can keep them, or give them away to readers.
  • Special events – I have attended special events by major Fortune 500 corporations launching products where many of the exhibitors (including me) had flight, room and board funded, along with display space, and the same was probably true of the press.
  • Paid reviews and buzz marketing

For some reason there is a disconnect between paying a blogger $10 to $200 for a post, and paying a staff member $100 per hour to chase a group of bloggers to write something for free, feed them with drinks, sponsor their events etc.

Social media optimization might be looked on as successful if a $5000 budget garnered 50 to 100 links, but paid reviews can garner many more links for a similar budget, and could also be used in conjunction with a social media campaign.

Paid blogging is a way of grabbing the attention of a blogger to consider looking at a product or service and sharing their experiences about it in public.

There are obviously some companies that use it specifically for SEO purposes, and some bloggers who are willing to write something purely for SEO purposes. Then again have you never heard of “SEO press releases” and “Article Marketing” where the content is provided 100% with links just to copy and paste.

I don’t think Hewlett Packard, Ford, or major movie studios really care that much about whether links count for search engines, but they probably do care if links are clicked. If you use nofollow, to a percentage of readers who see the link, the fact that you use nofollow suggests that you don’t trust the service you are writing about, the intent of nofollow.
The same is true for any redirects which suggest affiliate links and commercial tracking.

It is quite possible that 30% of my readers, and possibly more than 50% of my regular readers can see when I have used a nofollow on a link, because I encourage them to use the Search Status plugin for Firefox.

When Google and Microsoft employees start linking to their employers using nofollow, that is when I will start using nofollow on paid reviews and linking to consulting clients.

Leading People Astray

It has been suggested that my coverage of PayPerPost, Paid Reviews, and PageRank is in some way leading people astray, and thus the “Pied Piper” connotation.

My firm belief is that my readership is extremely mature and intelligent, and quite capable of making their own informed decisions.

Many do sell advertising in various ways without the nofollow attribute value, and would choose to use that advertising or not without my intervention, as they chose to use it in the first place without my input.

When half your family income comes from a few links in the sidebar on a few blogs, it is a very difficult decision to remove them just before Christmas, especially if you have long-term contracts.

If I was to denounce PayPerPost, it would have very little effect on the decision process each would make as an individual.

Alternative Metrics For Authority

There is a pay scale in many aspects of every day life, the time of different people has a different perceived value.

Advertisers, companies doing market research, and those looking for a little consulting need some way to determine a suitable pay scale.

  • Traffic metrics

    Alexa and Compete are not very relative to niches, and not enough people install Quantcast code on their site to get a real measure.

  • Technorati

    easily gamed with WordPress themes and widgets – eventually Technorati do kick sites out of the Top100 but the APis will still send high ratings. Competitions and “review my blog” have also been looked on as a good way of boosting Technorati rankings, and then we shouldn’t forget memes and link chains.
    Technorati really need to move away from counting anything in a sidebar, including blogroll links.

  • Feedburner Subscribers

    You would hope that this would be accurate, but due to the problems with default feed packages, and cross promotions of alternative reading platforms, the real number of subscribers could be anything from 30% to 90% of the number shown… and of course that doesn’t mean that people even open their feed reader.

  • Comments

    How much can your blog actually stimulate discussion on other blogs, and in your own comments. This is a measure of influence.

  • Clicks From Feeds

    Lots of people subscribe to content but don’t read it, or take action by clicking through to an article or referenced site. Feedburner do offer some tracking, but it is hard to use this as an external metric, and to get good results you have to use their tracking URLs which then reduce the numbers of links counted by other metrics such as Technorati. People make linking mistakes.

  • Social News & Bookmarking

    Most sites provide some kind of API access, thus allowing you to judge the quality of a page based upon social factors and popularity. These are also gamed to a certain extent. Stumbleupon need to provide an API. Eventually something like the Social Media for Firefox extension might be looked on as more useful than other metrics.

  • Meme Trackers

    Meme trackers try to track what is a hot story right now, such as Techmeme and Megite. The nearest thing they provide to an overall measure of influence are compilations of statistics such as the Techmeme Leaderboard. It is a very small subset of sites.

  • Custom Metrics

    Scripts such as Blogstorm can give an indication of popularity, but require server side access, and for a blog owner to care about being listed.

  • PageRank

    Proving to be too easily gamed (WordPress themes and funny redirects), and the visual representation provided in the Google toolbar is now being adjusted with manual PageRank penalties with arguably commercial considerations. It hasn’t been very meaningful for search results for some time, and now it is no longer a metric of social influence by anyone that understand these things. Unfortunately Google mislead their Google Toolbar users.

  • Misleading PageRank Description

  • Argus Is Coming

    I am excited about the potential of whatever Izea (PayPerPost) come up with for their Argus project which promised to provide a comprehensive metrics service for both bloggers and advertisers.

    I haven’t seen it, am not on the alpha test, and might not get early access to it because I am not going to be at Postiecon or Blog World Expo.

Examples Of PageRank Used For Ranking

The Google Directory
The Adage Power 150
The Top 25 Blogs About Blogging
The Top 100 Make Money Onine Blogs

The of course there is the PayPerPost Direct – it is an advertiser marketplace and PageRank is used as one of the indicators of authority or influence, but you can’t search the database based upon that field, and it is just one metric offered and soon to be removed.

It is quite possible Google just took that database of sites for its penalty list, without realising that whilst PageRank is used as an indication of authority, bloggers are free to set their own criteria in private discussion with someone requiring some kind of review service. Bloggers are quite able to specify that they will nofollow the links, or use redirects. they are also able (as I do) to insist that all links are editorial..

I know bloggers on that list who have never written a review for PayPerPost.

Techcrunch Crunchies

In closing, Techcrunch along with a number of other technology blogs will soon launch what appears to be an award ceremony for technology startups.
If there happens to be a monetization or blogging category, I know who I am going to nominate, and encourage people to vote for.
In something as serious as an award called “The Crunchies”, I am quite happy to try to influence any results.

Update

I just want to highlight why I don’t support paid links and this is the kind of review I really wish Sebastian had been paid for.

If Sebastian was giving that type of advice in private, it would probably cost someone $1000 or more… seriously, Sebastian knows his stuff, just as he demonstrated with the Blogcatalog redirect problems in the past.

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Comments

  1. says

    “The Chrunchies”- you just have to love this one. I wonder if Pornotube will be awarded? It has been covered quiet well on TechCrunch.

    I may have missed a lot during my vocation but whoever called you “Pied Piper” needs some serious help.

  2. says

    Hi there, I have been using PPP for close to a year now. Beginning of this year, I didn’t have any problems, not only my blog’s PR increased to PR3 and 4, I did loads of sponsored posts.

    After this quarter’s update, I notice a drop in PR in 2 of my blogs. Another 1 participated in similar paid blogging opportunities except PPP did not share the same fate.

    I have mixed feeling over this paid opportunity and I believe that your article more or less cleared things up.

    On the other hand, I firmly believe that blogs should not be penalized by selling paid posts, links, etc… the one that should be penalized is the advertiser…

    • says

      I do not see how penalizing advertiser can help. If anything Google should be working on a way to rank relevantly websites without consideration if the link was paid for or not.

      I personally think this article raises some serious questions Google needs to address, hopefully sooner than later.

      The penalties were carried out in uneven and unjust manner. The entire fiasco will probably cost me $500 in November, and I am not talking about selling links or writing paid reviews, in fact I have terminated my accounts with PPP, ReviewMe, TLA and Sponsored Reviews.

      In fact I am planing to ban Googlebot from some of my websites as I write this.

      It is great to see PPP/Izea is to disregard PageRank altogether.

      • says

        After watching my PR6 move down to a PR3 after years of being a 6 it does feel as if we are being punished for PPP and the likes. Funny thing is that now I’m stuck with shit opportunities from PPP because I’m now a 3. Go figure. Argus needs to hurry.

        • says

          It’s nice that PPP had the foresight to drop their current metrics system, and I hope others learn to follow suit as well. Using PageRank for metrics not only made it appear that it was meant for advertisers to game Google, but it’s absurd that a blogger should be precluded from doing a PPP post because his PR was a 5 instead of a 6.

          I hope I never see that “must have a minimum PageRank of X ” crap on PPP again.

  3. says

    Andy,
    Have you ever written a post that wasn’t thorough and balanced in every way?? I get excited every time I see a post about PPP or IZEA on your blog because I know it is going to be a good read.

    I am excited about Argus as well. I wish you were going to be there to see the announcement in person. I can’t wait to show everyone what we have been working so hard on.

  4. says

    I find it ironic that the concept of using metrics that accurately reflect your site’s traffic and readership would be considered a novel idea. :-)

  5. says

    Oh Andy, you gave me such a chuckle…

    My firm belief is that my readership is extremely mature and intelligent, and quite capable of making their own informed decisions.

    Ahhhhhhh hahahahahahahaahahahahahahahaaaaaaa!!!!!!

    You are one of the best, most sincere guys I know in this online circus parade so it’s forgivable that you’d make such a horrifying assumption.

    Stick to SEO and site metrics and leave the psychology and mind metrics to guys like Freud, Jung and Maslow.

    Also, while 99.99999% of what you write is dead on, and I’m really not trying to take a ratchet to you as I consider you an admirable acquaintance, I do want to address another point you made:

    How much can your blog actually stimulate discussion on other blogs, and in your own comments. This is a measure of influence.

    On other blogs, perhaps… but I’ve seen blogs mentioning other bloggers not due to intellectual sincerity but rather a petty desire to be associated with an A-list, in-crowd, blogger.

    I just saw S-a-ge Lew-is’ video about La-ycock-s “I hated Twitter but now maybe that I stumbled upon a cool use for it, I can get a little more attention by saying I’m open about it now” post.

    Ok, so there’s someone whose a blogger on a big tech site saying that she saw absolutely no use for Twitter and now that there’s some little newsclip about a creative use for it, she’s giving it a second chance… and Sa-ge’s whole blog is a video raving about Lay-cocks revelation.

    And none of it holds a candle to the first 2 in my series of posts on data mining Twitter.

    It’s almost always true that bloggers talk about other bloggers to maintain an “I belong” demeanor. You post so much good, original, well-written information that you don’t need to mention other bloggers for the same reason.

    To me, the Lew-is Lay-cock interaction is just a perfect example of someone without a clue raving about someone else who is, quite possibly, starting to get a clue.

    Same with comment sections. When I see the comments on most blogs, I want to heave. There’s like 80 comments all saying some version of “Great!” or nothing at all. I do encourage comments on my blog but you know my style, I discourage imbecility and respond to great questions with great answers.

    You are a brilliant, helpful person. I just think you over-estimate “the majority” and maybe have it juxtaposed with the minority.

    Happy Blogging,
    Sam

  6. says

    Thanks for the objective look at Izea/PPP. I’ve been an advertiser with them in the past (and probably again in the future). It’s good to see some good posts about them after reading only crap on TechCrunch… :|

  7. says

    PayPerPost is fine as long as that particular post is clearly identified as such…

    Trying to seamlessly blend a PayPerPost in with the rest of content is not acceptable…

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