LinkAdage Selling .EDU Blog Space: It’s Evil
Ian Lurie Apr 15 2008
LinkAdage Auctions and the Pickering Institute have teamed up to offer blog space on a .edu domain, for rent.
That’s right folks! You can now publish your very own .edu blog, without all the bother of actually being a school!!!
That’s not OK. In the words of my favorite Pulp Fiction character, it’s pretty @#$)(*! far from OK.
It’s like putting soda pop machines in grade schools, only more subtle.
Anyone with a shred of common sense understands that this practice:
- Takes advantage of a vulnerable population…
- …and search engine algorithms that expect educational information at .edu domains.
- Is in poor taste.
- And is generally bad for the community.
For those who don’t know: Links from EDU domains may get more authority in the search rankings. So a lot of folks prize links from .edu web sites. That’s why this could be a compelling offer to unscrupulous marketers.
Linkadage Auctions sent me an e-mail today saying:
“LinkAdage is now offering the web’s first open to the public EDU blog community. This is a very unique opportunity for Webmasters and SEOs not affiliated with a university to control a personal EDU blog.
The opportunity that running one of these blogs presents is tremendous. Your blog will be a legitimate EDU blog that you can use to promote your business and increase revenues.”
Turns out they’re renting space on the domain blogs.pi.edu to all comers who promise not to publish porn, sell drugs, gamble or do other obviously bad stuff.
On the site itself, they introduce the service this way:
“PI.edu is now offering sub-domain blogs that will allow you to educate your potential customers on your field of expertise.”
Nice choice of words. Note how they slipped ‘educate’ in there.
Why LinkAdage and Pickering Aren’t (quite) Breaking The Rules
Only verified educational institutions can own a .edu domain. Pickering fits that description.
And, according to the rules around .edu domains, you can assign a third-level domain (makemoremoney.pi.edu, for example) to other parties.
Great. You guys found a good lawyer, and a nice loophole.
This still sucks.
Why This is Horrible
Oh, let me count the ways:
- This is lying, not marketing. This is a neat rules dodge someone found and is now exploiting. Visitors to a .edu domain will often trust that content more than what they find at a .com domain. That’s why search engines assign more authority to these domains. So this new .edu rental offer will let marketers take advantage of the fact that humans and search engines trust .edu domains more. It’s so cynical even I blinked.
- Lying (badly) is bad for your brand. When you publish on a .edu domain, you tell a story about your brand that’s totally false. More important, it’s a story that, when revealed, will enrage your customers. Read All Marketers are Liars if you don’t believe me. Seth Godin knows a thing or two.
- By littering the web with .edu blogs that have little or nothing to do with education, LinkAdage and Pickering will pollute the entire .edu community, and make it harder for folks to find content of real value.
- The search engines aren’t stupid. If this catches on, sometime in the next year or two Google and Micrahoo! (Moo! for short) will ding all third level .edu domains. Then we’ll get to hear SEOs who engaged in this practice whining about how they’re being bullied by the big bad search engines.
- Did I mention it’s lying?
Just have a look at the first few blogs opened up using the LinkAdage service:
I had no idea I could major in handbags…
There are a few blogs that look like they may be OK, like:
So I’ll reserve judgment on them. But you have to wonder.
The Letter of the Law, or the Spirit?
Call me old. Call me a wimp. But this entire deal leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.
Just because the rules barely allow you to do something doesn’t mean you should.
LinkAdage: I’m a customer. I like you. I’ve (gasp) bought links here and there. Please listen: Regulate this really carefully, or shut it down. If you don’t, you’re doing a bad thing, and the entire industry will end up paying for it.
Update: I’m keeping track of the quality educational content that goes up on the blogs.pi.edu domain. The best one so far is named “jwitham2002”. It links to pharmacy.pi.edu, which is titled “Online Prescriptions”. Niiicceeee….
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More