On the shared items bit, there’s an article from John’s blog about the blog readability thing. It points out that the code you enter to get the badge also contains a link to a cash advance site, thus helping that site to rise up the Google ratings. I had actually spotted that, so I removed it when I pasted the code. On reflection though, I think I’ll just take the silly badge off altogether.
Here’s the tip:
“Another fiendish way to make money on the web | Technology | Guardian Unlimited
December 7th, 2007 by John

I’ve been wondering about this since I saw people linking to the original post earlier in the week and, like them, submitted my site to the “readability test” offered. The thing that attracted my attention was the traditional badge that appeared with HTML code for you to copy and paste onto your site. Displayed prominently in the box under the badge was code to link to a cash advance site. I decided this was somewhat fishy and didn’t go any further. However Charles Arthur on The Guardian site did take it further and has a fascinating analysis of what does indeed look like a clever attempt to boost the ranking of the cash advance site. In the article Another fiendish way to make money on the web he says of the process that:

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…

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…

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.

It’s a fascinating analysis of something that appears to boil down to a form of search engine optimisation, verging on blog link spam. It’s a piece of detective work that’s well worth a read – especially if you’re tempted to boast of the readability of your blog!”

CC BY-SA 4.0 Not a genius by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.