Recently I wrote a post called “Pleased to be part of the Top 100”. Don’t go looking for it, as it has been removed. For me, that is an extreme measure – normally if I make a mistake I post a correction, but leave the original mistake. It’s kind of a transparency thing drilled into me from my Science background. Bu tnot this time. You may have already seen the blog posts about this on dy/dan or Quantum Progress, but here’s the story…
A few weeks ago, I was contacted and told that this blog had been recommended, and would I like it to appear on a list of the Top 100. Well duh, who wouldn’t want a little recognition? The site it was hosted on (which I will not link to) looked a touch fishy, but the blog posts seemed to consist of actually useful lists or resources, so I agreed. And it is polite netiquette to refer back to a blog if your blog is mentioned, right? Who cares about the main site, if the blog is useful? What’s the harm?
Turns out, plenty.
When I happened onto a twitter discussion following Dan Meyer’s post, I realized – rather slowly because we humans are great at denial – what had happened. I felt kind of like this .
So what’s the deal? It’s called gaming the search engines. You see, 0ne of the tools used by search engines to prioritize the list of returns is the number of links to a site. So a site that posts lists of top 100’s, presumably gets a substantial number of links back. And that stacks the deck during a search. And in this case, the main site is receiving kickbacks for referrals to online degrees, which is itself a huge business. Dan Meyer explains it well.
Taking down my previous post and removing that one link (and, in fact, deleting the tweet about it) doesn’t do a lot, but it does a little. I feel crappy that I actually tried to be helpful to these people (not as crappy as when we had our passports stolen in Bern last summer, but close). So I am writing this post to help spread the word about this type of scam, and maybe help prevent others from falling for this in the future.
Kind of makes me wonder though – if we could get a thousand links to a post explaining the scam, could we game the search engines enough to rise above that site in the search results…?
(*For those who don’t know Latin, “Mea Culpa” means “My bad“)