Q. I found a company that guaranteed coverage by a certain number of bloggers that would help improve my search engine ranking. Is this a good idea?
A. Probably not. Without knowing all the details, this certainly sounds fishy at best. Typically companies that undertake projects like this are compensating bloggers under the table. Sort of like the old days of radio payola where labels funneled cash to disk jockeys to play certain songs more often.
While such an arrangement may help boost your search engine rankings in the short term, the chances of being discovered are pretty good if you are truly successful. Then you have created your own crisis communications project for no good reason.
The blogosphere is especially sensitive to anything that even hints at “pay to play” or a lack of transparency. Even when a blogger may disclose compensation, there is often hefty criticism of that individual (no matter how well-respected that person may have been to begin with).
Many even criticize bloggers who accept free samples or evaluation products from companies — even if it is fully disclosed. While that is silly and I would never advise a company not to share samples with appropriate journalists or bloggers for review purposes, it gives some perspective as to the vehement criticism one is likely to encounter in a paid blogger post program.
Now, there are companies out there that try to thread the needle and pay bloggers but require them to explicitly disclose the relationship. PayPerPost was probably the most famous and controversial company in this space and its disclosure policies were much debated.
These vendors are still very controversial in the eyes of many and should be deployed by companies and organizations with appropriate trepidation. In fact, in the online advocacy and public affairs space, there doesn’t seem to be much good reason to do it at all.
The best way to improve search engine rankings is to conduct a solid one-on-one blogger outreach program. It takes more time and effort, but the long-term results are much more convincing and the relationships built will likely continue to bear fruit.