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WordPress Website’s Search Engine Spam

WordPress have been coming under a little scrutiny in the past 24 hours by Waxy.org who have questioned their hosting of 120,000 articles on their site on a variety of topics provided by a third party on some high paying keywords. You can check out some examples of these pages here and here. I’d noticed a few of these articles a few weeks back and wondered what WordPress was doing with them – not it all becomes clear! Waxy.org writes:

‘These articles are designed specifically to game the Google Adwords program, written by a third-party about high-cost advertising keywords like asbestos, mesothelioma, insurance, debt consolidation, diabetes, and mortgages. (Update: Google is actively removing every article from their results. You can still view about 25,000 results on Yahoo.)…

This poses some interesting questions. First, do organizers of open-source projects need to disclose how they’re making money off the project? Matt isn’t disclosing anything about this activity to the community. I don’t think anyone would be upset about Matt trying to support WordPress with outside sources of revenue, but as an open-source project, they should be held to a higher level of transparency. Without the users and developers all working for free, it wouldn’t exist.

Second, is it ethical for open-source projects to make money gaming search engines? Unlike a blog about asbestos news, the WordPress website has nothing to do with asbestos. It capitalizes off the goodwill of the WordPress community, which links to the WordPress website because they support the project — not because they support search engine spam. But as long as there was transparency about their plans, I think this is less of an issue.’

So – what do you think about this? I have some mixed thoughts. On one hand I have nothing against the people at WP making a few dollars from it – open source or not. However I think that there has been a lack of transparency and that perhaps using the official WP site to do it is not the best move. If they wanted to take this approach perhaps a better strategy would have been to do so on another domain which was clearly marked as being a repository of such articles.

I personally don’t like the ‘free article’ thing that so many bloggers are getting into. I did dabble in it myself a while back but as I’ve previously written don’t think its a wise move to get into both because it runs the risk of duplicate content, potentially cheapens your site and in my opinion clutters the web with the same information in multiple places around the net – and as Waxy writes is quite spam like.

What do you think?

Update – there is some sort of official explanation on this discussion thread at WP.

Update – the web is buzzing with this story – check out what some other bloggers are saying at some of these blogs:

Jason Kottke – Oilman – Elliot BackGreg YardleyIan LandsmanPriyadi Iman Nurcahyo – SEO RoundtableLisa JillKingsleyJonas LusterChyetanya KunteBlogosphere NewsSilicon BeatPatrick StrangTim Mayer

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I definitely agree that if this is done it shouldn’t be on the official WordPress site. In fact, I think whoever’s running it should develop it as a personal project and simply donate the revenue to WordPress. As it is, it makes me feel less honored to write WordPress code (I’m writing some plugins) because it cheapens the feeling of community that open source provides it’s contributors.

  2. update: It seems that Matt has no intention of doing it against the will of anyone in the community (source: the waxy article). I take back what I said about it being cheap – but I still think it’d be better not on the main website.

  3. I’m sorry but abusing WordPress.org’s Pagerank in order to serve cloaked pages to google is lame.

    Blogging is about transparency and honesty – all this does is take away from the credibility of bloggers in general.

  4. SmartMoney says:

    Darren, can you explain why Google would de-index these pages from their results? Is there a rule against duplicate content and if so, wouldn’t being in a different context (ie. sitting on a different site) be enough to make it unique?

    I am curious because I have given other sites permission to reprint some stories I have written and don’t want it to come back to haunt me. Should I be worried about that?

    Thanks

  5. Darren says:

    Well SmartMoney – it could be because they see it as Duplicate content (which is my main concern with ‘free articles’) but I also wonder if it could be that they see it as spamming their search engine.

    One of the things I noticed in their Adsense rules is that they do not allow sites to be developed with the specific aim of making money (which always confused me a little) – but perhaps they see what WP is doing as junky.

  6. Fresh News says:

    Last day we have discussed about this with one of my friends. Information that you gave cleared our questions.

Trackbacks

  1. SEO Blog says:

    WordPress and search spam
    WordPress has been caught by spamming search engines by Andy Baio. They created about 120,000 small webpages stuffed by high payed keywords like “cialis”, “credit” and so on, and put invisible links on main page of wordpress.org…