OK so. Basically everyone searches the Web. A lot of people who consume news get it from search-driven sources like Google News. Typically something like 99 per cent plus of search traffic goes to the first results page, and 90 per cent of that to the top three hits. So placing your message there is valuable. A whole spam industry exists to this end.
Search engines in general, and Google in particular, war endlessly against this practice. The most recent example of this was when the Google basically hit Demand Media, the folk who brought you “How to cough up mucus” and “one weird trick”, with the Internet death sentence.
This is important because Demand Media’s business model was basically to fill the Web with crap that matched a lot of keywords, so as to occupy that space on the results page and sell ads. (Hilariously, they discovered that relevant content was actually bad for business, because people read it rather than clicking on ads. It’s like the opposite of this blog.)
I think a lot of astroturfing is basically the same idea – trying to inject your propaganda into search results, and specifically news search results. This is where TPM comes in. Getting your crap onto a page in the domain talkingpointsmemo.com immediately gets it googlejuice, and also defeats the filtering. If Marshall means any of his excuses, he’ll set a robots.txt line to exclude the advertorial from search.
As this would basically render it worthless, I’m not holding my breath, although I will be checking in on http://s3.amazonaws.com/static.talkingpointsmemo.com/sitemaps/sitemap.xml.gz now and then. And I do think Google should treat advertorial as content-farming for the purposes of search integrity if it wants to be at all consistent. Yes, this is a political decision, but then zapping Demand Media and ignoring the Chamber of Commerce is also a political decision.
Ho hum. “I saw the finest minds of my generation trying to make you click on ads. That sucks”, indeed. How’s that Color app doing?
Update: If you want to monitor this:
curl http://s3.amazonaws.com/static.talkingpointsmemo.com/sitemaps/sitemap.xml.gz | zgrep idealab-impact