I was recently perusing a blog called “THE Facts on Print Yellow Pages” when I stumbled across a post about Minneapolis pizza.
Being a Minneapolis blog writer, resident, and a big fan of Pizza, I checked out what this site had to say about this very important topic (to me, at least):
I clicked through to the post referenced on the above site to find this blog post:
That looked strange to me. Notice how the two outgoing links are both tied to specific keywords? And why is someone so excited about the Minneapolis phone book that they’re actually blogging about it? This smelled like rotten fish rather than freshly cooked pizza to me.
It turns out that the person blogging about the Minneapolis phone book actually lives in Arkansas. Strange, eh?
The blogger who wrote the post has a link to PayPerPost on their site. Ah, I wonder is this happened to be a paid post? Of course it is.
And when there is one paid post there are usually more. Why would DexKnows.com only buy a paid post about Minneapolis pizza?
Sure enough, a little playing around with queries on Google found a common pattern among blog posts, revealing that DexKnows.com has, indeed, purchased blog posts from quite a few bloggers.
Why would DexKnows.com pay bloggers to write posts that include links to DexKnows.com from specific keywords within the posts? Are they doing it to gain traffic from the bloggers? Not directly. They’re doing it to game Google. Increasing the number of links to your site increases your site’s authority in Google’s eyes. And pages that are linked to with keyword-rich link text (anchor text) tend to rank a bit higher for the terms used in the link.
This tactic of link buying is frowned upon by Google, who has gone as far as wiping out the authority of bloggers participating in this scheme. The message is clear: Don’t accept payola.
This got a lot of buzz in November of 2007, but still continues to this day. For example, the DexKnows.com payola shown above is from August 2008.
Here’s how this appears to have gone down.
1. DexKnows.com offers bloggers money in exchange for writing about topics covered in the DexKnows.com directory.
2. Bloggers take the offer and write the posts. Get paid.
3. Yellow Pages industry consultant, Ken Clark, writes about one of the payola posts on his blog called, “THE Facts on Print Yellow Pages”
4. He tags the blog post (you can’t make this stuff up): “Actual Experiences”
They’re actually making up “actual experiences” about their industry.
I guess we shouldn’t expect better from an industry that litters neighborhoods with phone books that many consumers no longer want. In fact, they try to prevent states from implementing opt-out legistlation.
If a Yellow Pages company is spending money to game Google, what does that say about the state of Yellow Pages vs Google as sources of information?
By the way, DexKnows.com does know how to buy ads on blogs without payola. My friend Aaron Landry is an authority on the Minneapolis pizza scene, and look who’s advertising on his blog: