When is a Blogging Assignment a Link Scheme?

Some months ago I wrote a post titled “Google Doesn’t Owe You a Living”. I later felt it was a little too harshly sardonic, even by my standards, and in any case it didn’t articulate my thoughts terribly well, so I took it down.

It was written around the time that Google really put the hammer down on manipulating search rankings via link building, and sections of the SEO community were angry at what they perceived as an unfair attack on their livelihoods by an arrogant, hypocritical company with a dangerous monopoly on feeding sites with traffic.

My contention was, one, the situation was at least partly of the SEO community’s own making, and two, no link builder ever lost sleep over what their activities did to Google’s business.

The first point boils down to an age-old tragedy of the commons: merciless over-exploitation until it’s ruined for everyone. Even when aware of this, nobody can afford to be the first one to adopt a more sustainable approach.

As for the second point, it’s easy to construct emotive but essentially iffy arguments that relatively small businesses making a living at the expense of a multi-billion dollar corporation’s business model isn’t such a bad thing. Iffy because, well, it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to respect your business if you won’t respect theirs.

Thinking about it again the interesting thing, at least to me, was the vacuum left by the industrial link building sausage machine still didn’t seem to have filled. The post-link apocalypse chorus of “Content Is King”, for example, never quite coalesced into the synchronised spew of pseudo-scientifically justified, poorly executed content for content’s sake that I expected.

There’s a good reason for that: it didn’t really need to. There’s a healthy trade in “blogging assignments” through which bloggers provide their, uh, expertise in exchange for certain inducements from some of your favourite brands. All above board you understand. Any requirements for “high quality Google PageRank” are merely to establish quality and digital clout that can’t possibly be established by any other means, and definitely do not constitute a link scheme.

You’ll notice I’m back to being harshly sardonic.