Have you ever noticed your favourite blog include an article that seems out of character with the blog’s usual content? This could be a sign that someone has paid to place the article on the blog. The number of offers I get to place a paid article has grown from a rare email to a barrage of spam.
I don’t object in principle to paid articles if they are useful to readers, but too often they contain recycled fluff that is of little use to anyone. I’m not an idealist here. Bloggers have to get paid somehow for the work they do. The subscription model doesn’t seem to work. I use advertising, but I prefer to make it clear what is advertising and what is content. Paid articles blur this boundary.
In a typical case where an email offer makes any sense at all, I’m offered a unique article on a subject of my choice that will not get reused anywhere else. In return, I’m to let the writer include some links on key words within the article to a web site where they want to drive traffic.
The email offer often contains links to examples of their work, and all too often the articles are just a pile of words with no real point. My articles may not all be gems, but I write them with the goal of conveying useful information.
Many of the paid article offers make little sense at all. Others can be amusing. In one email, the sender claimed to be affiliated with a prestigious publication, but she spelled her name differently in two places. When people use their real names, I don’t think they get the spelling wrong very often.
Another category of offers is money for adding an advertising text link to my blog. In this case, the organization paying for the text link doesn’t really care if the text link is very visible or ever gets used. The goal is to improve the Google PageRank of the target web site. Every link to a site raises its PageRank and the higher my site’s PageRank, the more it helps the target web site’s PageRank.
All these efforts at search engine optimization (SEO) tend to pollute Google search results. Google is constantly working to punish web sites involved in useless paid links that are designed to improve PageRank numbers. I don’t bother with these paid links.
I’m all for trying to make money, and I’m interested in new ideas, but not at the expense of the usefulness of my site for readers.