Search Engine Rank Inflation: A Morality Tale

Search Engine Rank Inflation: A Morality TaleLiteracy Weblog)

Lately I’ve been coming across some strange search engine results, that look as if someone has taken information from my web pages — perhaps even dumping a Google listing for keywoards — and used it to inflate the search engine results of pages that have nothing to do with me.

For example, a search for “‘Dennis G. Jerz’ editorial” led me to several pages on the website. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course — everyone wants to be linked to, since that’s how you get traffic, right?

But when you click on any of those links — surprise! You are redirected to a different page —, which has no links to my resources. It would appear that the designer of this website intended to trap a visitor who might be interested in information found on my website, conceal the fact that I offer free online handouts, and charge. Since I have no particular interest in contracting out my services (I have plenty to do right now, thank you), I don’t feel that anyone is stealing business from me. Still, I was curious as to why this website presumably thought that my online materials were valuable enough to co-opt in this way.

A little Googling led me to an article “Word of Mouth,” by Matthew Blevins and Michael Wist. A line at the bottom mentions Blevins and Wist’s editorial services at and also EI Web Promotion (which returns 404). The “Word of Mouth” article is really an advertisement for different webpage recommendation service, that also seems to be offline.

One would think that a company trying to sell search engine results would try to be the top hit on the company name. I Googled for “editorsink” — but the first hit is for a completely different site: not, but ““. In fact, the “” website is ranked lower than the Yahoo category page that includes a link to Judging by the broken links and outdated information (one EI Web Promotion blurb talks about optimizing metatags, which most search engines completely ignore due to the ease with which they can be falsified by search-engine optimizers). I’d guess that the proprietors have all moved onto other things; maybe their rankins were a little better when they had fresher information online — but I have seen on content of any value on the or the EI Web Promotions website — only marketing blurbs posted elsewhere that point inwards. We can see now how little that strategy yields.

My little investigation supports the basic idea that the best way to attract lots of people to your website is to put up lots of low-bandwitdth stuff that lots of people want to find. Once you’ve got that audience, I leave it up to the entrepreneurs and visionaries to figure out how to make an honest buck without driving away too many freeloaders (who might eventually otherwise turn into customers). But most of us who write online are content merely to have an audience. (Welcome freeloaders!)