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O’Reilly accused in spam witch hunt

O’Reilly accused in spam witch hunt

Well known tech publishers O’Reilly have been accused of committing heinous acts of search engine spamming by Phil Ringnalda.

The only problem is that the accusation is incorrect, and O’Reilly has done no such thing.

Search engine spamming is about manipulating search engine results through illegitimate means, where as what we’ve got here is a case of sites buying advertising with the link based on the keyword/ topic which most people would consider a fair or “white hat” SEO tactic. The sites featured in the advertising have no discernable record of dodgy tactics and are actually relevant to the keyword’s used in the ads. Just because they are flogging mortgages and similar doesn’t make them the bad guys, because at the end of the day they are entitled to flog their products as much as the next person, as long as they don’t use dodgy tactics such as comment spam and spam blogs.

So please, if you’re reading Ringnalda’s post, and there seems to be a fair bit of traffic visiting there, don’t get caught up in the witch hunt.

“‘I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem – vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!

See Also

Arthur Miller: The Crucible Act 2, Scene 4

(thanks to Patrick Groate for the tip)

View Comments (7)
  • Duncan: Nonsense, on many levels.

    (1) Phil’s post and the subsequent conversation don’t even vaguely amount to a witch hunt. Quite to the contrary, folks are discussing the issue politely and reasonably, in stark contrast to the tone of your post here.

    (2) At least a couple people (Phil and I, for two) have changed their opinions due to points brought up in the conversation. That seldom happens during a witch hunt.

    (3) The purpose of those links is not to benefit consumers. They’re designed to trick Google into directing consumers to sites that would not otherwise merit their traffic. There is nothing “white hat” about that. The only relevant question is if O’Reilly and other entities have an obligation to protect Google’s index… some think they do, some don’t.

    Personally, I’ve decided I’m in the latter camp. The motives of the advertisers are anti-competitive and unpleasant, but saving Google from itself shouldn’t be the responsibility of any particular site owner.

  • Sorry Roger
    we’ll agree to disagree on this one: accusing a reputable company like O’Reilly of search engine spamming and comparing them to the dodgy tactics Matt Mullenweg mistakenly used (which if you recall was hundreds of thousands of fake content pages to manipulate search results) is a witch hunt where in this case the author has gotten rapped up in witch-hunting hysteria and not done his homework before hand. The ads link to sites are relevant to the topic and they’ve been paid for (I presume). Just because the companies are flogging items you might not like and items that are common in spam doesn’t make them evil. Do me a favour and check out the back links on Google for a few of them, because you’ll find paid adverts from them across any number of legit sites including newspapers of note I might ad. If the argument is that the author doesn’t like this sort of site advertising on their pages, then so be it, but the title suggests a mass hysteria that can only befit the pages of an Arthur Miller novel.

    As for your Google argument forgive me if I just don’t get it because the world and Google as well works on links, and Google finds and indexes content based on links. To linking to a site using the words relevant to that site isn’t search engine spamming, its search engine optimization (hey you can even do the same with Adsense ads now thanks to Google). Search Engine spamming, according to most definitions you’ll find (at Google I’d note) is when some cretin links the search term “teddy bear” to a porn site. Its also usually occurs in combo with dodgy tactics such as spam blogs or comment spam.

  • On the general point, a lot of the hot air about SEO stuff is made by people who think blogging and business don’t go together. They are purists who dislike “capitalism” (Mr Marx’s perjorative word) and hate the thought that money might change hands. They obviously come from a different planet to the rest of us who have earn a living. Maybe if Google were to bite the bullet and publish a manifesto, or at least a policy statement, on what it, as a thriving “capitalist” business, regards as legitimate, creative use of its search services we’d all be wiser, and maybe richer too.

  • “Sorry Roger we’ll agree to disagree on this one…”

    Disagreement makes the world go round. Well, that and breath mints.

    My primary objection here is to the “witch hunt” thing, since witch hunts do not traditionally become increasingly civilized and change entrenched opinions through reasoned debate. And that’s precisely what happened in Phil’s comments.

    In fact, I’m quite grateful to Phil and his audience (particularly Shelley and Greg) for fostering a conversation that broadened my view of a controversial topic, when it could have easily descended into a pointless exercise in vitriol.

    “The ads link to sites are relevant to the topic…”

    The significant counter-point here is that they’re not actually “ads”. Advertising is something you put on a page in hopes that a human will become interested and go buy something. These little linked blocks of text are designed to be consumed by the Googlebot and no one else, just like Matt’s ill-fated collection of pseudo-content.

    Again, I’m not arguing that O’Reilly should be brow-beaten for running the ads. They have no direct intent to harm anyone, and the Googlebot comes to them, not the other way ’round. But that doesn’t make the core intent of the advertisers any more palatable.

  • Fair enough. I was perhaps a litte harsh on the witch hunt thing labelled on Phil alone, its just that the whole “lets get the Splog” sites coupled with the Google changes that puts the power of blogs over the masses combined has witch hunt written all over it. I’ve since re-read the comments and I take you point, but I wil still disagree on the tone of his post because there is no comparison to what went on at WordPress and what the bad guys are doing, and I still think its dangerous comparing the two, because at the end of the day other people will believe it to be true, and if that’s the case there are a lot of very good people out there who might get tarred with the same brush.

  • Don’t worry about the ads on their sites!

    Somehow, I ended up on their email list months ago. They keep sending me emails daily although I tried to unsubscribe, emailed to ask them to stop, and even called.

    They are the worst spammers on the net.

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