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Several companies have set up shop recently in the "get paid to blog about..." space. There's been a natural outcry by some, resignation by others, yawns by most. But thousands of bloggers have signed up and said they are willing to take money to blog about topics....


Does this mean the humble blog, which originated in sea of near-pristine editorial integrity, is doomed to suffer the same fate of distrust, spam, and pollution as some other online forums have...?
Not necessarily.
Some of the issues paid blog posts raise include the impact on the credibility of the blogger. And while it is possible for the blog post author to identify any paid post as such, this is not a requirement of all pay-per-blog services yet.
I'm hoping it will become so. That way when a guy blogs about how great (or awful) his new Lexus is he indicates he just got paid for that post. Over time, I expect the junk blogs will be rooted or ignored.
Another issue is the effect pay-per-blog links will have on link based search algorithms. After all, a paid link is a paid link, no matter where it appears.
There are only four places on a blog where an outbound link can appear. Three of those four have been for sale for a long time. The blogroll, the blog comment, and the blog sponsorship link are all places where link buyers have been very clever. But the fourth is usually editorially off-limits for any self-respecting blogger. The fourth spot is the actual content of the blog. The editorial. The posts.
Now the editorial content of the blog --and the links therein-- can be engineered by those with the money to do so. You might expect that the search engines will have some say so it the formatting of any links appearing within the confines of a paid blog post.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a resurgence of the "nofollow" or even a new "paid" attribute. It's a very simple way to make sure a paid blog post can be read by the reader but links within it wont be automatically credited by the algorithms. Some paid blog posts will be full of credible links, others won't. Such is the nature of the web.
I suspect that those who pay people to blog about and link to their sites with the intent to fool link based algorithms will probably get some early benefit. Then the engines will once again figure out how to spot such links. Fake blogs (and splogs) are nothing new, and I don't believe for a second that bloggers haven't been making money for years with editorial posts. It's just never been this organized and easy.
I have a dog in this fight too, since some have called my URLwire.com service the web's first blog, they just didn't have blogs back than (1993) so you couldn't call it that. And URLwire site announcements are paid for and always has been. The key for all blogs trying to make money this way will be one of pedigree and trust.
The engines can determine far more about your intent than you can imagine, and if you take money to post about how fabulous something is when in truth it's junk, your time as a paid blogger will be short.
My wish list for paid blog posts is short:
Disclosure for the reader:
-any paid post has obvious signals or tags for the reader indicating them as paid.
Disclosure for the bots:
- optional nofollows within the editorial for the bots. People already do this, so no need to reinvent here.

I'm sure it will get more complex than this, though I don't see why it has to. Giving people a reason to trust content has always been at the core of any paid online marketing effort. Paid blog posts give us a chance to actually have MORE confidence in the content via disclosure.
Eric

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Eric Ward

Eric founded the Web's very first online publicity and linking services, NetPOST and URLwire, in 1994. Eric's expertise is in helping companies generate links, publicity and buzz for their Web content. A hands-on practitioner, Eric also offers training and seminars that teach companies how to do it in-house. His client list is a who's who of online brands, from Amazon.com to PBS.org.

Eric has written for for ClickZ and Ad Age, and he won the 1995 Tenagra Award For Internet Marketing Excellence. In 1997, he was named one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. A well-known speaker at the major industry trade shows, Eric will soon publish The Ward Report, a monthly "how-to" newsletter on the art of link building and publicity for Web content, with commentary on the newest trends and practices.

A native of northern New Jersey, Eric has lived in Knoxville, Tennessee since graduating from the University of TN. Eric's wife Melissa and toddler Noah say "bye daddy geek" every day when he leaves for work.

Eric can be reached at eric@ericward.com