Over 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.
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.
Alexa and Compete are not very relative to niches, and not enough people install Quantcast code on their site to get a real measure.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Examples Of PageRank Used For Ranking
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.
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.
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.