On Friday, Search Engine Land published a piece about the Wired How To wiki, and how easy it was to gain a link from it. Our piece – which I gave the go ahead to — generated some serious spam issues for Wired, generated discord within the search marketing community, and injured the search marketing industry in general. I apologized in a note in the original piece to Wired, but Wired deserves a separate apology, along with other parties here.
Our intention was never for search marketers to spam the Wired wiki. Honest. I’d assumed this was self-evident. A prominent search blog can’t point at a loophole at another prominent site and expect that will stay open. We’d seen what appeared to be a wiki on an authority domain where anyone could easily get a link, and we came across that after encountering spam. We pointed it out, because we were surprised that things seemed to be so open at a place like Wired.
That’s why we wrote what we did. It’s not an excuse for it. The article that we posted, with my approval, was irresponsible, both for failing to check on the situation properly, exposing the system to spammers, and encouraging spamming itself. In particular:
- We didn’t check with Wired to ask if they had measures of blocking spam.
No, they don’t use nofollow, but we later learned that they do watch the wiki
carefully and chose not to use nofollow as a deterrent feeling that the wiki
should pass link credit. I support that. The article wasn’t meant to say
everyone should use nofollow on user generated content but rather to point out
that one often-used system wasn’t in place, which might attract spamming.
- While the wiki is hosted by Wired, it was little known. It wasn’t a
spamming haven, but our highlighting of it certainly drew attention to it.
- Our article was not seen as tongue-in-cheek by some readers, who proceeded to hit the wiki with spam, generating work for the community editors there that they didn’t need.
Wired’s Editor In Chief, Evan Hansen, contacted me on Friday several hours after we initially published, not out of anger, but to understand more about the issues we were raising. When I realized what a mess my approval of the article had caused, I apologized for the hassle. Both parties decided that the original article should stay up. Wired was happy with my suggestion that I add a note making it clear that we were not asking people to spam them.
I simply cannot apologize enough for the mess the article made over there. And though written by Barry Schwartz, let me make it clear that I approved it. We came across this. He was uncertain if it was worth a story, and I personally gave him the go ahead.
It was a bad decision. “Get a free Link from Wired” was a Stupid Headline was an appropriately titled blog post from John Andrews, which took us to task over the article. In it, he writes:
Attention grabbing, at the expense of Wired and all of us in marketing and web publishing who have to deal with the fall out: default no follow on everything published on the web.
John is correct. The article has generated fallout for the entire search marketing community. Commented Natasha Robinson:
Dang! One of the last things I said to a co-worker last Friday on reading the SEL article is "see this is why they call us spammers"
I can’t say enough how shameful that comment makes me feel. I know Natasha personally, and to think I let her down — and the search marketing industry down — makes me disappointed in myself.
In particular, I’ve written so many times over the years to defend SEO from accusations that "it’s just all spammers," such as:
- New York Times’ Marshall Simmonds: Poster Child Of SEO Success
For me to have contributed to the industry’s reputation problem was wrong. To everyone in it, my apologies.
I also apologize for the discord happening as people discuss the issue. John took issue with our post; Rand Fishkin took issue with how John himself wrote about it. The search marketing space doesn’t need that type of warring. We’ve had plenty, and it again makes me sorry that the article has prompted it.
For those who want the many comments from all around, here’s a list:
- Get A Free Link From Wired: Comments At Sphinn
- “Get a free Link from Wired” was a Stupid Headline: John Andrews
- “Get a free Link from Wired” was a Stupid Headline: Comments At Sphinn
- Oh Just Grow A Pair!, Smackdown
- No, Really… We Were Just -Kidding-!: Comments on the above post at Sphinn
- More Search Marketing BS: The Players get their Feathers Ruffled: John Andrews
- Calling Out Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz: Comments on the above post at Sphinn
You can read the various comments, sometimes heated — but personally, I’d love to push the reset button, take the responsibility for having done a stupid thing, and hope the community can move on.