Why spam blogs for PageRank when you can just go to big blog related sites and pay for placement?

That's what's happened over on Feedster. In a posting titled The Realities of Monetizing Your Traffic, Scott says:

Astute users of Feedster will notice an additional set of links in Feedster's page footer. And they are a set of links that perhaps don't honestly make sense given what Feedster does for a living. Anyone who knows me personally would probably be quite surprised at them. So why are they there?

He goes on to explain that Feedster is getting more expensive and these folks were willing to pay for links.

Does anyone else feel like this was the [sl]easy way out? He doesn't say anything about how hard they tried to find sponsorship on Feedster from less sleazy operations.

Don't get me wrong. I admire Scott a hell of a lot. But this really bothers me. I just checked my MT-Blacklist config, and found the first of those links (www.generic-viagra.ws which is linked as as "Sildenafil Citrate" in the Feedster.com page footer) in my blacklist already.

I can only guess what would happen if Google or Yahoo starting pimping Viagra ads on their front pages.

This leads me to wonder the following...

In this increasingly PageRank driven advertising economy, should I be worried that linking there is also promoting the same folks who are behind some of that fucking pile of spam that SpamAssassin and MT-Blacklist must sort thru for me?

What do you think?

(Of course, now I'm wondering if Google AdSense will detect that this page is about Viagra and put similar ads on it too. That could be the ultimate irony, no?)

Update: Feedster has responded.

Posted by jzawodn at March 17, 2004 12:24 PM

Reader Comments
# Rasmus said:

We regularly get requests for text links at the bottom of the php.net sites. The latest offer was $2500/month for 3 text links to some dating site. We have a solid policy of not allowing such ads, no matter what.

There does seem to be some hypocrisy here as I am seeing more and more ads in this vein on sites belonging to people who in the past has ranted about pop-up ads, flash ads, or other random commercialization of the web.

Of course, there will probably be a google ad under my comment here...

on March 17, 2004 01:29 PM
# Arcterex said:

What are "pop up ads"?

*pats safari/firefox/etc on head*

on March 17, 2004 01:47 PM
# Dave said:

I think having to pay to be considered for inclusion in search results is pretty sleazy. Yahoo is getting up there next to SCO in money-grubbing sleazyness. To boot, Yahoo has also taken down the free submission pages for AllTheWeb and AltaVista. So, Mr. Self-Righteous, why don't you work on cleaning your own house, before complaining about what other companies do to earn money?

on March 17, 2004 01:58 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Please tell me who told you that you must pay to be listed in Yahoo's search. I've not paid and I'm listed.

on March 17, 2004 02:00 PM
# Alden Bates said:

The Internet needs a big "Please Do Not Feed The Spammers" sign. *Thanks* Feedster, now they'll never go away!

on March 17, 2004 02:02 PM
# justin said:

People will know you by the friends (in this case links) you keep.

Iím sure google is working on / has something in place that can determine the spammyness of links to distort pagerank. Think about it..

How does Google know what Ad links are on WebPages? Obviously they already have something because AdSense was not always around and double-click was making a killing :)

I wonder if Google can determine if a link is an ad simply by the content and whom they link to? I would wager they could.

I am starting to agree that pagerank is dieing simple because the system is so easy to abuse.

on March 17, 2004 02:05 PM
# Shelley said:

"He doesn't say anything about how hard they tried to find sponsorship on Feedster from less sleazy operations."

Perhaps you might ask him instead of denouncing him and his actions. Especially given that he's publicly and repeatedly supported you, your blog, and your book.

I also think I'm not alone in this opinion: if you know him, much less admire him, I fail to see how you could ascribe "sleazy" to him in any way.

on March 17, 2004 02:14 PM
# said:

I just thought about this.

What if Major Corp.. created an account with double-click and you have some major ads running say on MSB, Forbes, and CNN. Now these ads are an image and a little text.

I wonder if the major search engines improve the rank of the sites being linked to seeing as they are coming from these major sites.

What I mean is you are really getting two fold for your money.

1. people see your ads on MSB, Forbes, and CNN
2. your page rank improves when coming from these heavily weighted pages.
3. you could really improve your profit using the following

Now what if ford.com creates an account and starts running some image ads and a little text link with something like "Toyota" and has the links all pointing to ford.com. Would this start to associate Toyota to ford.com?

I think there is real abuse possible if google scan tell the difference in links.

It might not be possible for the word "Toyota" but what if Ford simply entered the word "corolla" in their image/text Ad but pointing to their comparable offering on ford.com. Google crawls these pages and starts to think information about "corolla" is on ford.com.

What do you think?

on March 17, 2004 02:20 PM
# Justin said:

i wrote the above note.. but did not enter my name :)

on March 17, 2004 02:22 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Come on, Shelly.

Feedster is cleary more than just Scott nowadays. This doesn't change that fact that I think he's been doing great work. Does that somehow make this any less "sleazy" in my mind?

No.

I've long been a supporter of Scott and Feedster. I'm drawing a line between the two. You don't see me calling for a boycott or anything. It's still a very useful service.

After all, Scott did say "Anyone who knows me personally would probably be quite surprised at them."

I know Scott and I'm surprised. Why? Because it seems sleazy and I don't think he's a sleazy guy at all.

Make sense? (I hope)

on March 17, 2004 02:24 PM
# Alden Bates said:

Now that I think about this a bit more:
Could this be a sign that the spammers have realised the days of easily spammable weblogs are numbered, what with all of the anti-spam measures being introduced. If it is now more profitable to actually offer people money to put up links rather than pursue spamming technologies...

Maybe I'm just being optimistic. :)

on March 17, 2004 02:57 PM
# Scott Rafer said:

It may be that I'm the new sleazy influence at Feedster, though I don't think that is the case. Certainly no sleaze oozes out of ScottJ.

I commented on the overall issue on Feedster's blog, but I want to address Jeremy's specific and valid point regarding whether he should "be worried that linking there is also promoting the same folks who are behind some of that fucking pile of spam," etc.

We thought a lot about where to draw the threshold between what was and was not acceptable to include under this kind of linking deal. We ended up not trying to be that smart (except for the critical worksafe issues) for the quick one-month trial that we are running. The trial is really about Feedster learning what our users find to be appropriate, both now and once our large-scale revenue programs start. Using the MT-Blacklist as a screening mechanism did not occur to us. Is that a sufficient guide or is the entire program a problem? What is acceptable for Feedster to do along these lines longer term, if anything?

For better or worse, the e-commerce sites that jumped on the comment spam bandwagon are the innovators (innovation and virtue are not correlated) who are spending money and trying out new programs with startups like Feedster. As Jeremy points out, blog comment spamming is stoppable and blog owners/hosters need to the initiative to do so.

If this linking trial, which is generating incremental rather than critical revenue, is unacceptable, we'll either stop it or constrain it in some acceptable way once the one-month trial is up. We have already made the decision to avoid paid inclusion and popup ads on Feedster and will stick by those guidelines. There will be banner programs at various times and a variety of text ads.

on March 17, 2004 03:06 PM
# Betsy Devine said:

Jeremy, I am baffled and hurt by your remarks.

Google and Yahoo spend thousands of dollars to make "PageRank" work, others spend millions to game it. Now PageRank is broken beyond repair because Feedster accepted 4 text ads from an SEO?

As for the "fucking pile of spam" in your mailbox--if that could be solved by a web-wide policy to make sure people never spammed before accepting ads from them--that's an interesting idea. I'd like to add popup admeisters to such a boycott. I'd like to see how Yahoo implements it. But for now, I totally support Scott's decision to accept a few ads to get some money for Feedster.

And I'm sorry it made you so angry. You have been a good friend to Feedster in the past, but this really hurts.

on March 17, 2004 03:28 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Betsy:

I'm not angry. When I said "But this really bothers me." that's exactly what meant. It takes a hell of a lot more to make me angry. :-)

As for saying that "PageRank is broken beyond repair because Feedster accepted 4 text ads from an SEO" I can only assume you're trying to make a point that I'm missing. I've been complaining about PageRank (and its abuse) for much longer than today.

What bothers me is seeing paid adds on a high-visibility site (Feedster) that's tradnitionally been part of a community that has spent a lot of effort on dealing with comment spam. What's that comment spam for? The very products that are now linked to on Feedster.

I have nothing against paid placement ads like this in general. What bugs me is the fact that the ads are pointing to some of the same sites that blog spammers were promoting.

If you were posting links to sites that sold geek toys, books, table coverings, or any of a million other things, I'd have hardly noticed. But the first link I hit was for Viagra.

Does that help to clarify what I'm getting at?

on March 17, 2004 03:39 PM
# Ted said:

Do you get just as worked up over the Viagra, Cialis, etc. commercials on TV (such as during the Super Bowl)?

on March 17, 2004 04:02 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I don't really watch TV much. I've never seen the Super Bowl.

Besides, none of those companies spam me (as far as I can tell).

on March 17, 2004 04:09 PM
# Ted said:

#2: Why don't you pay a membership to feedster then (and they could offer a version without the "offending" ads)? It's likely offensive to feedster that users expect to use it for free, and who get worked up when it tries to increase its revenues. I don't expect people to work for free (it's often the people subsidized by fat corporations/universities who do), and the ads are quite minor compared to feedster drying up and closing.

on March 17, 2004 04:13 PM
# Techno said:

Justin: regarding the free submission.

http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html

You might have missed it since it's on the front page of search.yahoo.com as "Submit Your Site". I know it can be confusing.

I'd also note that since All the Web, Alta-vista, Inktomi, are all now yahoo properties, it might, just maybe, make sense to consolidate the free submission to the site that has the largest audience anyway.

I mean, but that's just me thinking out loud you understand.

As for the value of paying to submit your data, i'd suggest http://battellemedia.com/archives/000451.php .

on March 17, 2004 04:32 PM
# Scott Johnson said:

Why don't you pay a membership to feedster [...]

I don't see anything on the feedster home page that mentions that they have an option to pay for a membership. This is the primary reason that people won't do this.

on March 17, 2004 04:45 PM
# Mike P. said:

"*Thanks* Feedster, now they'll never go away!"

Riiight... C'mon, this is never going to stop, not because people put/sell links here and there, but because someone sold something on the internet once and other people caught on.

on March 18, 2004 01:14 AM
# Mark said:

Long long ago, when the Dilbert Zone was two guys in a garage with a 486 running IIS (or something), Scott Adams announced that they were going to start running ads on dilbert.com. He acknowledged that this might make some people unhappy, but said there were primarily two reasons for it:

"""
1. Advertisers give us money.
2. We like money.
"""

on March 18, 2004 04:24 AM
# Matthew Drouin said:

Ramus... I find it some what ironic that "php.net" is so against link ads like that yet... the owners of webhostingtalk.com, one of the big sponsors of php.net mirroring, actually owns one of the largest sites out there that does this; HotScripts.com. The sad part is they actually used to show you the links but now they have them commented out; but they are still there.

It seems google might have figured it out though as they were a PR9 but now are a PR8 as of the last update just a day or two ago.

on March 18, 2004 07:09 AM
# chris said:

Feedster is a valuable, respected service that is trying to determine the best way to support their efforts to maintain and grow their features and function. Similar to any early stage endeavor, they are trying to determine the best way to financially support their efforts. As Scott Rafer mentioned in his comments, Feedster feels responsibile to it's audience of dedicated users, and asks them to be somewhat understanding as Feedster tests various revenue opportuntities. Let's give them a chance to financially support their efforts in the interim.

on March 18, 2004 09:07 AM
# Rasmus said:

Matthew, I don't see how that is relevant at all. What we worry about is the integrity of the content on the php.net web sites, nothing else. I don't care what hotscripts.com does or who they are owned by. Heck, we even have a link to them on the links page because there is some useful content there. This isn't a moral stance, but simply a decision to not put links to non-PHP related things on the php.net web pages.

on March 18, 2004 10:00 AM
# RHB said:

Yahoo never has pop up ads. They never accept advertisers from known spammers. They categorically denied any ad revenue from X10.com or gambling sites.

Right?

Jeremy I never took you for a hypocrite.

on March 18, 2004 10:51 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

RHB, what does Yahoo have to do with this? I've never seen Viagra ads from comment spammers on Yahoo. Have you?

As for X10 and gambling, what's that have to do with feedster? I've never seen X10 or gambling comment spam (that I can remember).

on March 18, 2004 11:01 AM
# RHB said:

JZ, by this statement, "should I be worried that linking there is also promoting the same folks who are behind some of that fucking pile of spam that SpamAssassin and MT-Blacklist must sort thru for me?" I assumed you were calling Feedster out for accepting advertising from known spammers.

My statement is that your argument is hypocritical because you put food on the table by working for a company that also derives revenue from spammers and other nar dowells.

on March 18, 2004 12:16 PM
# Ben said:

I'm not sure where the confusion has occured with the majority of the comments above but Jeremy has clearly stated he doesn't have a problem with paid ads, only with the fact they are clearly from spam-inclined companies.

Yes, i'm sure these sort of people pay a higher premium for ads than your average e-shop but c'mon, talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Feedster is aimed at BLOGGERS (more or less - i'm sure a good majority of users have blogs), comment spam is the BANE of bloggers and Feedster is PROMOTING known spammers!

I'm with Jeremy on this one, i'm sure a lot of folks would _love_ to advertise on Feedster, so why go with these sleazebags?

on March 18, 2004 04:05 PM
# Scott Johnson said:

Everyone,

The ads are gone and the explanation is at:

http://feedster.com/blog/archives/391_You_Spoke__We_Listened.html

As always, we try to be a good member of the community and we appreciate everyone's commentary on this situation (both the positive and the negative). Blogs really are conversations and this is a good example of this.

Best
Scott

on March 18, 2004 05:46 PM
# RHB said:

Ben I am not confused.

Jeremy works at yahoo.

They have taken advertising dollars, with a certain savage glee, from spammers like X10.com.

This makes him a hypocrite.

No big deal, we all gotta eat.

At the end of the day we are all probably incongruent in our beliefes and actions about something, but this was a little blatant.

There is an old saying "That which makes you laugh can also make you cry."

In this case I guess its "That which makes you cry (feedster accepting ad revenue from spammers) can also make you laugh (Yahoo paying Jeremy's salary, all the while happily accepting ad revenue from spammers)".

I can't explain it any better than that and its confusing why a bunch of otherwise smart people can't see it.

on March 19, 2004 12:46 AM
# Pete Prodoehl said:

Jeremy said: "I've never seen X10 or gambling comment spam (that I can remember)."

I've not seen any either, though I know I've dealt with gambling referer spam on my own site.

on March 19, 2004 06:25 AM
# Matthew Drouin said:

Rasmus I am sorry I miss understood your stance. I though your stance was against this kind of linking in general not just on php.net sites.

on March 19, 2004 08:55 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

RHB:

What makes you think that I didn't complain loudly and every day to anyone who would listen about the fucking X10 popups?

At least in the Feedster case, my complaints seemed to have a positive effect.

But I guess that makes my a hypocrite, doesn't it?

(Scratching head...)

on March 19, 2004 10:13 AM
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