The Business of Buying Off Bloggers
There has been a lot of talk lately about buying off bloggers. This murky practice involves individuals being paid by PR agencies and SEO specialists to basically write nice stuff about a client. This in turn creates the illusion of independent third party endorsements, as well as scoring highly on search engines.
For some more background you can read two good posts on this topic by Laurence Borel who spoke out after being offered £70 in exchange for some kind words in her blog, whilst Matt Churchill offers some in-depth analysis on the ethical and sustainability issues surrounding this practice.
Whilst, I too had a recent approach from a SEO agency that put its motivation more crudely, a lot more crudely, it read ‘the reason that these blog postings are valuable is that, when they are linked to websites, those websites will achieve higher rankings in the search engines. Then those websites will sell more of their service or product. Those websites are willing to pay for your assistance’.
To me this is a black hat, underhand tactic if ever I saw one. Not only is it unethical, but could damage the trust, openness, the raison d’etre of blogging. I can see no difference between this practice and the infamous Edelman/Wal-mart fake blog. Whilst ‘paid for bloggers’ may involve ‘real’ people, I’m under no illusion that this tactic is just as bad as the Edelman/Wal-mart blog fiasco. In both instances there is no disclosure, audiences are being lied to and the blogger is guided on what to say – it is classic astroturfing.
Blogs are SEO friendly so it is not surprising that unscrupulous agencies are trying this tactic. However, I cannot help but feel that companies would be better off either investing in a product or service that people really want to blog about or carrying out some in depth analysis to target bloggers who would be genuinely interested.
This practice has made me question my own motivation to blog…I write SWT as I like to state my views and hopefully stimulate conversation. When someone offers me a story, I think about it, evaluate if it is relevant to the blog and if I can get any mileage out of it. I don’t do it for financial gain.
Whilst, I don’t mind people suggesting a topic, being paid to do so would call my impartiality into question.