Bottom Slurping for Google Juice from Kate Kaye ClickZ is a fairly jaw-dropping story of Associated Content, a site cofounded by Google vice president of advertising sales Tim Armstrong, that might very well be generating the type of AdSense-powered crud that pollutes Google and other search engines as I just mentioned earlier today. Armstrong is also a board member of the company. [Postscript: Also on the board is Yahoo board member Eric Hippeau]
Kate highlights how the site employs freelance writers to create content that is used by other sites. Nothing wrong with writing! Well, she then points to some less than stellar examples of the content in action, content where the main purpose seems to be having fodder for AdSense ads rather than actually helping readers. [Postscript: This content, she's updated, did NOT come from Associated].
I’ve spent a little time at the Associated Content site itself now, for subjects I know, such as SEO. Here’s one page that stands out. The content is OK. But virtually every use of the word "SEO" is a hyperlink to a page internally at the site about SEO, here. Suffice to say, one hyperlink was enough. Fourteen repetitive links isn’t explicitly against Google’s quality guidelines, but they’re clearly designed in hopes of just manipulating Google’s rankings, rather than help human readers.
When you get to that SEO page, I was intrigued to discover a sponsored links box on the right-hand side. You can see one on the home page and elsewhere throughout the site.
Postscript: I’ve talked with Tim Armstrong now, who stresses the long-term vision of the company is designed to be an content exchange system, where people are buying content for use elsewhere, rather than the site itself being a destination. He also said that the company will look into the sponsored links issue.