Jun 2, 2005

Manipulating Google

Companies are using blogs, link farms and spam to subvert search engine results, writes Mark Glaser. A case in point: Quixtar, a revamped version of Amway.
To put it simply, Quixtar enlisted various people to help create dozens of Weblogs that linked to each other and were filled with positive stories and key words. The idea is to help put these newer blogs at the top of search results for phrases such as "Quixtar success" and "Quixtar opportunity," while more critical sites such as Quixtar Blog and Amquix.info would drop down.


Eric Janssen is the driving force behind Quixtar Blog and became interested in the company when his wife became an independent business owner (IBO). Janssen is also a longtime journalist and online creative manager for the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Web site, so when he was pitched to join Quixtar, he was curious why no one would directly answer his questions. He found that unbiased online information on Quixtar was scarce -- with most sites being strongly for or against the company's practices as a multi-level marketing organization for energy drinks and cosmetics.

Janssen refused to join, and his wife was pressured to quit unless he shut his blog down. Later, Janssen started online forums on his site so people on both sides could discuss Quixtar, and he started to cultivate inside sources. He uncovered scoop after scoop, including extensive information on Quixtar's Web Initiative, including "adoration blogs," "character assassination blogs" and even fake news outlets such as eSource-News.com. Janssen connected the dots to Margaret S. Ross, one of the writers on eSource-News.com who specializes in "Web Reputation" and was hired to help lead Quixtar's Web Initiative.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Rosenbloom has decided to start her own blog in an effort to move an unflattering photo of herself down from the top 10 results when her name is googled.
IN the winter of 1996, back when I was a brunette who wore sensible shoes, a photographer snapped my picture during a rehearsal for a college musical. The production mattered; eating and sleeping did not. The resulting portrait showed a pasty, gaunt girl being swallowed by a XXX-large T-shirt.

The only thing more unfortunate than the photo is that nearly a decade after it was taken - a decade in which I became a blonde and graduated to stilettos - it is still the definitive image of me on the World Wide Web, the one that pops up every time my name is entered in a Google search. It even has the dubious distinction of being in the top 10 hits in a list of several hundred, most of them articles I have written.

No comments: