Extortion SEO Sanctioned by Google

OK, forget arbitraging Google ads and link building. There’s a much more successful way to play Google these days — just build a site that can rank for companies or individuals and write crap about them. Once the posts start appearing in the search results, these entities will get in touch with you to remove them and you can charge them for it.

The king of these programs is Ripoff Report — the darling of Google. Matt Cutts has defended them and their right to publish defaming information — and he has two reports in there himself.

Inclusion of information like this makes me agree that the search engine results are “cesspools” — though Yahoo, Microsoft, and the other engines seem to be wise to Ed Magedson, the site’s founder.

Thanks Matt and Ed, I now know what to do.

The government has given the sites a pass with the enacting of The Communications Decency Act — the ruling that buffers sites from being held accountable for what others write on it.

“The Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, attempted to restrict Internet porn — and, at the same time, give Web sites special immunity. Under the act, Goldman says, ‘you can be aware of bad content, do nothing about it, and still not be liable for it,'” Eric Goldman, an assistant professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law and director of the High Tech Law Institute, told the the Phoenix New Times.

“Ironically, the Supreme Court struck down the porn part of the law soon after it was passed. But the exemption for Internet publishers stands. The U.S. Supreme Court has shown zero interest in entertaining a challenge to it, Goldman says, much less overturning it.”

Hey, they’ve created an entire industry: reputation management. There’s money in helping people push such sites off the search results. But should sites that publish unsubstantiated stuff get the listings in Google, the engine concerned with the user experience?

Here are some views I received via Twitter about Ripoff Report:

  • Jerry Nordstrom, founder of Lead Discovery: “Ripoff Report is a joke. Used by all sales reps to trash the competing company, then they point their prospects there.”
  • Ryan Sammy of Search and Social: “Its amazing Google allows a scammy website like that to be in their index. I’m a little surprised at Google.”
  • David Snyder, CEO, Search and Social: “It is a website that instead of helping the consumer, only further hurts the consumer as well as the business it is targeting. It is a game of extortion, that Google is not taking a stance against.”

Most of the major industry blogs have written about this and yet Google has taken no action. What does that tell you? Google likes how they have 567 complaints against the Google profiteer companies?

OK, Matt. You’ve convinced me. I’m starting a site tomorrow and the first complaint will be about AdSense accounts closed with large sums of money owed. Or should it be about Google Analytics killing an entire industry.

One wonders if Magedson was one of the early pre-IPO investors in Google, the company has helped him get rich.

“He revels in his role as a true-blue advocate. But with at least 30 companies now paying him to mitigate bad reports on his Web site, Magedson is facing sticky ethical questions,” the Phoenix News noted.

True, the law says it’s OK. But gambling advertising outside the U.S. was legal and Google pulled it. There are times when common sense should step in. That time is now.

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