Google Says Quality is Dirt Cheap, Don’t Hire Copywriters

by Christina Gleason on June 10, 2009

According to Matt Cutts of Google, Internet marketers should avoid the unethical practice of buying links by paying a few pennies to the folks who complete tasks via Amazon Mechanical Turk and scoring free links from their efforts. Let me rephrase that: Google says it’s wrong to pay for other people to link to your Web site, but it’s totally cool to score hundreds or thousands of links – not by paying a professional copywriter to create an awesome resource for you – but by spending about 20 bucks for a handful of people to perform cheap labor for you with Amazon Mechanical Turk. Don’t believe me? Watch this video.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Amazon Mechanical Turk, it’s a place where companies pay unwitting individuals a few cents to complete tasks that can’t be automated. Looking to work from home? As I write this blog post, you can earn a whole penny for taking 10 minutes to answer some questions about a news article. If you do six of these tasks in an hour, you’re making an hourly wage of 6 whole cents! I tried doing these tasks when I was unemployed last year, and even with my efficiency, I wasn’t even making minimum wage.


But according to Google, this is a perfectly acceptable way to outsource crowdsource your linkbait. Matt Cutts talks about someone who paid a total of $25 to get a whole bunch of people to compile a list of adjectives about top Twitter users. This is quality content. And not just any quality content, it’s pure linkbait gold. This is what  Google wants to index. It’s completely within their guidelines for ethical SEO.

As a damn good copywriter, I take offense to this. This isn’t quality content. This is crap. This is pandering to the lowest common denominator for a quick chuckle, and paying slave wages to make it happen. Where is the quality in that? Tell me, Matt Cutts of Google’s Webspam team, why would you promote the proliferation of crap like this online instead of encouraging people to invest in something of value?

Dude, I was a Quality Rater. I know what your quality guidelines are – or at least what they were a year and a half ago. Have you really fallen so far? Do you really want to tell the world that what the Internet needs is another insipid fluff piece about Twitter? I’m sorry, sir, but you’ve just discredited everything you’ve ever said about quality content online.

And what is “white hat” about paying crap wages for something inane that could potentially make your business thousands of dollars? That may not break anything in your Webmaster guidelines, but it certainly doesn’t seem ethical to me. Just because you can get away with paying someone a nickel for 45 minutes of work doesn’t mean that you should. In fact, it would be against U.S. employment laws if there was an employee relationship involved. But that’s a whole different rant about the abuse of independent contractors.

All content is paid for in one form or another. I happen to make a living writing quality content because, during my stint as a Quality Rater, I actually wanted to try and make the Internet a better place. What’s the difference in paying writers (say, bloggers perhaps?) to review and link to your product than paying someone to produce content for you in order to attract links? On one hand, the money goes to the writer to manipulate people into linking, on the other hand, the money goes to the writer who was “manipulated” into publishing the link.

Oh wait, that’s right… bloggers should work for free and shouldn’t be paid for linking to companies in the first place. That’s essentially what it’s come down to when Google instituted this “no paid links” policy. The companies don’t suffer. They’re getting free freaking publicity by not paying bloggers to link to them. Yeah, I’m a blogger, too. It’s ridiculous how many moms I know are working for free so that they can have the “honor” of reviewing a $5 product and not get slammed for writing a paid review. It’s crap.

But Google doesn’t respect content creators. That much is clear. It just wasn’t obvious to me just how badly the search giant wanted to screw content producers until now. Google doesn’t really care about quality content. They just want everyone to jump through their hoops so they can keep making money hand over fist for other people’s hard work.