I think this is a bad precedent. March 8, 2002 11:22 AM   Subscribe

NeuroProsthesis seems to be trying to use weblogs in order to optimize their google ranking. Their anchor tag is optimised for google. They have a weblog that talks about running a googlebombing inspired experiment. They have been inserting links in other people's weblog threads encouraging them to participate. They have apparently placed textads in daypop, metafilter etc. I distinctly remember running into an unrelated link to this site in one of the threads in Kottke.org. Jason seems to have removed it.

I think this is a bad precedent. Are there others? What do you think?

posted by justlooking to General Weblog-Related at 11:22 AM (17 comments total)

Not sure whether linking to the 'NeuroProsthesis' site from Metafilter is a good idea. That is essentially going to improve their pagerank. May be if most people here share my viewpoint: Matt can remove the link later?
posted by justlooking at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2002

I don't know if they are doing anything others have also tried, but only doing it more successfully.

Although the changing color scheme is annoying as hell.

And as I can figure, they purchased TextAds, so at least they are supporting the form they are using in a monetary way.

I couldn't stand to read too much on the page, though.. the flashing colors drove me away.
posted by rich at 11:39 AM on March 8, 2002

um, rich, the page design is a template from Glish, and god those are scary colors, glish has good info on their site for css stuff though.
posted by bittennails at 11:56 AM on March 8, 2002

I knew we opened a can of worms when the critical IP thing took off. It was an interesting experiment, and I said time and time again that people should show responsibility when doing it.

The first googlebombs were done as a joke on other friends.

I did mine to spread the word about a company that ignored terms of service policies and annoyed the hell out of me.

Of course, I knew it was a matter of time before someone would do it for no reason or point to some goofy site for their benefit. Responsibility is out the window, and the whole thing is a joke. I doubt google keeps indexing weblogs favorably for much longer if people are going to use that favorable position to simply hack the system.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:10 PM on March 8, 2002

I meant the google bombing thing as something they are doing successfully. As for the site design, at least the credit glish as per his request in the source, unlike others we know of that just took his code and design and ran.

And I agree with Matt. I mean, your create any system and people will find how to exploit it. It happened with Yahoo years back with the whole meta placements and mutliple submissions.
posted by rich at 12:14 PM on March 8, 2002

The only technical solution I can think of is for Google to provide some way for site owners to say "this link on my site is not a vote for the linked page's PageRank", then Matt et al applying it to text ads, etc. Probably not going to happen. Anybody have a better idea?
posted by lbergstr at 12:59 PM on March 8, 2002

I would tend to think that Google can differentiate between other embedded links and advertising. Textads to my mind is not a very big deal. Its google's job to sort that out.

I was thinking more about insertion of links in comments, getting others to participate ..eventually creating enough of a buzz to get a link in enough weblogs to get them to hit the top in google. This specific site probably wont get there - but the probability is high that the SEO crowd may get more and more sophisticated through trial and error ...

The weblogging community is very clued in and news travels fast ...but even so ...

posted by justlooking at 1:22 PM on March 8, 2002

insertion of links in comments -- for a site like kottke, which is supposed to be Jason's voice with comments as marginal annotations, I agree. For something like Metafilter, where all the content is user-created, links in comments should count. The only real problem here is self-linking, and I don't know a way to eliminate that without a lot of administrative overhead (read: more sleepless nights for Matt.)

getting others to participate -- if they can convince other people the link is a good idea, though, what's the problem?
posted by lbergstr at 2:15 PM on March 8, 2002

Misusing other sites and blogs to insert promotional links is bad; I'd cite an example from a site I'm affiliated with, but then that could be seen as a promotional link, so I won't.

Other that that, what are they doing wrong? I looked at the signups for ads at Blogger, DayPop, and MetaFilter, and none of the sites have guidelines saying you can't place an ad on other sites.

Their anchor tag is optimised for google.

What does this mean? I looked at the source for the main page and the blog, and I don't see what you mean.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:06 PM on March 8, 2002

Kirkaracha: The following words are included between their anchor tags: "NeuroProsthesis Research Organization, neuroengineering, human brain - computer interaction, cyborgs, androids, humanoids, brain control, brain surgery, neurosurgery, biomorphic robots, spinal cord injury"

Google will interpret that to mean that the site is relevant for all the above categories and would weigh that factor when ranking that page when someone searches for something in any of those areas.

I dont think there is anything wrong with using keywords in anchor tags - so long as you have relevant content in those categories . I mentioned that to demonstrate that the site owner is clued in about how google works and how to influence its ranking. That is why I took this 'experiment with googlebombing' with a pinch of salt.

To answer your question: 'what are they doing wrong?'

It really depends your perspective. Is optimising for search engines wrong? Ask the marketing manager of any corporate entity and you would probably get a resounding no as an answer. And I agree that from their perspective it is absolutely not wrong.

The problem is - the more the companies successfully manipulate a particular search engines, the less useful that particular search engine becomes to users. Say - you are searching for wildlife photography and if the top 3 choices are always a particular camera brand (assuming they are not there because they are the best camera to use for wildlife photography, but because their site is optimised for search engines ), that is not a good thing for you as a user. If that happens for many such searches, you would have less use for that engine

Right now, as everybody out here probably already knows - google because of certain quirks of its algorithms likes weblogs. Consistent use of weblogs to promote products, corporate entities may dilute the usefulness of google and probably (eventually) the advantageous position of weblogs in google. (I am not talking about products, companies that bloggers genuinely believe in and therefore link to e.g. if everyone likes the National Semiconductor site !! and links to that site from theirs, that is an entirely different issue from what we are discussing here).

Obviously what I outlined in the previous paragraph isnt happening in reality and there is no point in being paranoid. I basically expressed a concern about a trend. I am not as knowledgeable about weblogging as many others out here. I was simply asking for other opinions.

posted by justlooking at 5:26 PM on March 8, 2002

I believe Kaushik is talking about the Meta tags and not the A anchors.
posted by riffola at 5:44 PM on March 8, 2002

I might be wrong of course, but isnt this: - 'a href="http://www.neuroprosthesis.org/" NeuroProsthesis Research Organization, neuroengineering, ...... spinal cord injury, /a - ' what you would call within the A tags in that site ? If you put it between 'title' and '/title' it gets picked up ....

Otherwise: I guess i need to go take HTML 101 :(.
posted by justlooking at 6:09 PM on March 8, 2002

Yes, you are right the title tags do get picked up by search engines (although most limit the length of the title tag). I thought you meant the Meta tag with the keywords. I was just thrown off by the word anchor and figured you were calling the meta tag that.
<a name="foo" id="foo">foo</a> is called an anchor.
<a href="foo">foo</a> is called a link.
<meta .... /> is a meta tag
<title>title of the page</title> is the title tag.
posted by riffola at 6:35 PM on March 8, 2002

The NP people are attempting a different sort of Googlebomb than Matt (and others) tried. While Matt simply encouraged other webloggers to jump on his bandwagon of angry weblog mob justice, the NP people are actually going out and using weblog comment systems to bump up their ranking in Google, which is an end run around the idea of weblogs being useful as arbiters of what's hot on the web. Seems awfully time-consuming for little benefit (IMO.)
posted by andrewraff at 7:50 PM on March 8, 2002

That's what I thought, but isn't that what anchor tags are for? All of the terms Kaushik cites look like fairly legitimate descriptions of what the site is about.

posted by kirkaracha at 8:23 PM on March 8, 2002

using weblog comment systems to bump up their ranking in Google

Which is exactly why I tell Google not to index my comment system.
posted by kindall at 10:34 PM on March 8, 2002

Given that a quick search on Daypop for "neuroprosthesis" turns up no results, I would say that their quest for popularity doesn't seem to be working too well. They're paying for their text ads and I don't have a problem with that. On the other hand, if they think that they will get hits by pimping their site via message board spam, they're in for a big shock.

They've got the top Google ranking on this same search. Who cares? So does my weblog, which isn't all that popular. I've found that the best page on a subject isn't usually the first Google return, but more like the fifth or sixth. "Googlebombing" just seems to be the latest fad for self important dorks to try to get a few extra hits. Back in the bad old days it was linking to the supposed a-listers.

I could almost care. Almost.
posted by mark13 at 12:48 PM on March 9, 2002

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