There is an article in The Register alleging a tech-blogger conspiracy to hi-jack the phrase "second superpower" though the power to exploit page rank on Google. The article refers to this as "googlewashing." The story is that Dave Winer and Doc Searles didn't merely link to James Moore's weblog entry on "second superpower," but were part of, to paraphrase Hillary Clinton, "a vast tech-blogger conspiracy." The article says:
But the real marvel is that they did it with so few people. Pew Research Center's latest research says the number of Internet users who look at blogs is " so small that it is not possible to draw statistically meaningful conclusions about who uses blogs." ... But we're looking at a small sub-genre of blogdom, the tech blogs, and specifically, we're looking at an 'A list' of that sub- sub-genre. Which means that Google is being "gamed" - and the language perverted - by what in statistical terms in an extremely small fraction indeed.
Now, I happen to think that James Moore's piece is naive and starry-eyed. Furthermore, I can't really tell that much difference between what he's saying and what the original NY Times article was talking about---so the whole point of the article in The Register is lost on me. But that's a story for another blog. This article is about exploiting page rank.
Calling what happened here "googlewashing" is ludicrous. In fact, I'd say its just what was supposed to happen. Dave and Doc are both authors of popular blogs and hence have a lot of "goooglejuice." They're popular for various reasons, but the fact is that, in the currency of the Internet, they've earned it for reasons that are entirely valid. I think classifying them as "tech bloggers" makes it sound like they earned their googlejuice by writing about transistors and then used it to influence thinking about the war. The fact is that they both write about a number of topics, their ideas have merit and a lot of people read them. Consequently, when they link to an article, Google assumes that other people will want to see that article as well. Rightly so.
Now, there are companies that do exploit page rank. One such company is a Utah firm called 10x Marketing. As an example, do a search on web analytics and notice that the number three listing on Google is a firm called Omniture. Omniture is one of 10x Marketing's customers. One of the services that 10x Marketing sells their customers is increased ranking on Google.
Lots of companies do search engine placement. !0x Marketing does the normal kinds of things as well. They'll consult with you on site design, metadata like keywords, and so on. Their expertise is understanding how search engines work and helping their clients make the most of it. Another thing that 10x Marketing does is run an "affiliate marketing program" which is really a clever way of ensuring that links to the sites they have as clients show up on lots of other sites as well. But 10x Marketing does some other things that are a little more out of the ordinary.
Open the www.worldhistory.com website and take a look on the left hand side. You'll see a link to www.omniture.com over the words "website analytics." Worldhistory.com gets over 100,000 visitors per month, so it has a lot of googlejuice. Getting a link there using the right words is worth a lot in terms of your rank on Google. Its no accident that there's a link on Worldhistory.com for Omniture. Worldhistory.com is own and operated by Paul Allen the CEO of 10x Marketing. Many other of 10x Marketing's clients have links on worldhistory.com as well.
I don't think this is necessarily wrong but it is clearly an exploitation of how Google ranks pages. Kind of makes me wish I'd been able to hold on to superbowl.com. I'd be able to make a handy living just exploiting it for its googlejuice.