Want clear numbers on blogs, fair ratings? Unhappy with this week's comscore report and the Technorati 100? We're not likely to get better than crude approximations as long as millions of machine-generated spam blogs pollute the blogosphere. Technorati's Dave Sifry describes the scourge. But every pollster, ranker and blog searcher is wrestling with the issue it raises: How can you establish clear guidelines, transparancy and accountability when you have an entire industry of spammers ready to game the system?
I talked to Bob Wyman, founder of PubSub yesterday. He sat down at my computer and showed me, click by click, how spammers run to the top of any index. Doesn't matter whether it counts incoming links, key words, traffic. In a world where their bots can create blogs for free and automatically engineer them, they rule--or at least occupy a prominent place at the table. The only way to read the blogosphere, says Wyman, is to make secret and subjective adjustments for spam. "We're behind the curtain, fiddling with the knobs," he says.
This is likely to stunt the growth of blogs as an advertising medium. The transparancy about "methodology and sources and scale" that Jeff Jarvis calls for is near impossible while the spambots are running.
Let's use BusinessWeek as an example of the havoc they create. Here's a look at the blogs that have linked recently to BusinessWeek.com. Loads of them, as you can see, are spammers. That boosts BW's link count. And why do they link so much to the site? They populate their fake blogs with links from places like BusinessWeek in order to engineer pages that climb high on Google and attract Adsense ads. We're all being used. I'll be posting more on this tomorrow.