Recently a fake story was highlighted in the mainstream media, and the SEO behind it also mentioned it on their site. The SEO space as a whole began debating the legitimacy of such tactics, and Matt Cutts even commented on the issue:
My quick take is that Google’s webmaster guidelines allow for cases such as this:
“Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it.”
There’s not much more deceptive or misleading than a fake story without any disclosure that the story is hoax.
The irony of this statement, as Nick Wilsdon pointed out, was that not only did Fox News syndicate the fake story, but they got in trouble in the past for attributing fake quotes to John Kerry. A person coming up with a clever story to get a few inbound links is nowhere near as sleazy as lying to try to sway the public vote for presidency...but it is much easier for Matt to police the small and weak webmasters while turning a blind eye to similar (but worse) offenses from larger players.
Morals of the story:
- If you talk about exceptionally effective SEO strategies expect them to lose their effectiveness (search engineers are active in public discourse because it is easier to control people through fear than it is to write a better relevancy algorithm).
- If your technique works so well that it is featured on many SEO blogs and/or draws a specific public comment from Matt Cutts you have went too far (sheep must be slaughtered to control the herd).
- If you are going to lie do it in a way that builds a fan base. If you have such a large fan base that most of your traffic comes from channels other than Google it is virtually impossible for Google to block you (unless you use hate speech that extends beyond the lies and spin that are typical on networks like Fox News).
If you want to understand how the mainstream media works I highly recommend investing 5 hours and $50 into the following 3 DVDs. As more time passes Google's ad fueled business model will lead to them essentially replicating the flaws and biases of the mainstream media.
- Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky talks about how the media operates to shape public opinion and policy.
- Outfoxed - how Fox News spins the news to fuel their desired political agendas.
- The Fog of War - in this DVD Robert S. McNamara talks about how he used spin and media control to try to minimize blowback from the Vietnam War.
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