The Blogosphere is PWNED

A few weeks back the Blog Readability Test was making the rounds, and many bloggers tempted by immediate intellectual vindication ran the test and posted the results on their site.  As Charles Arthur reports at The Guardian, they were all played for suckers:

Anyway, once you’ve input your blog’s URL, you’ll quickly get a graphic showing your blog’s “readability” by school age – elementary school, high school, undergraduate, postgraduate, genius and so on. It seems to happen really fast, given the sort of linguistic analysis that must be needed, but computers are fast these days, aren’t they?

Then you have an image, which you can – if you’ve got the time and energy – copy, upload to your blog, and display; or a bit of HTML, which is much simpler, to paste in your page or profile. No muss, no fuss.

I was looking at this when I started wondering about the HTML. It has an image link – img style=”border: none;” src=”http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/readinglevel/img/junior_high.jpg”. All well and good. But then there’s the ALT tag – remember, the stuff that search engines actually index: alt=”cash advance” Get a Cash Advance”.

And that phrase “cash advance” has a link to an entirely different site, called cashadvance1500.com.

Now, what happens when happy bloggers – or MySpacers, or Facebookers, or whatever, laughing over their blog’s or profile’s readability or lack of it, paste the code on their site? Search engines index their site and find a link from them pointing to “cash advance” and that site. Well, that sounds like a recommendation for the site, the search engines decide.

The result? When you do a Google search for “cash advance”, lo and behold, there at the top of the “natural” results is cashadvance1500.com.

I have to say this was a particularly brilliant marketing ploy.  It understood a weakness* endemic to the blogging type, namely a desire to appear intelligent, and let the fooled do all the work.  As I’ve said before, you should be more skeptical than you’d normally be when someone is telling you exactly what you want to hear.

*I was skeptical about this test when I first saw everyone linking to it, but only because the results were rather random, not because I suspected an underhanded marketing strategy.  If I hadn’t been such a bad blogger lately, there’s a good chance I would have posted my results as well.  I have the exact same weakness, I’m not trying to say I’m better than anyone else.

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