Crossposting isn’t spamdexing

By Felix Salmon
June 9, 2010
post on Edward Hugh:

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A rather angry commenter named IbexSalad reacted quite angrily to my post on Edward Hugh:

Mr. Hugh is one of the blog world’s biggest spamdexers.

What the NYT characterizes as ‘…writes for a suite of blogs…’ is, in fact, ‘…crossposts to a suite of blogs…’. The end result is that Google searches for country specific economic analysis constantly turn up multiple repeats of the same articles written by the same Mr. Hugh.

When another commenter remarked innocently that Hugh “certainly understands how Google works”, IbexSalad responded:

No Claus – that would be how Google fails to work. Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often outside the realm of selling gland enlargement supplements, and the like.

Spamdexing is taboo.

Putting aside the question of Edward Hugh specifically, I think it’s a very bad idea to consider crossposting to be the same thing as spamdexing. In fact, I’m a fan of crossposting, and consider it just another way in which people can use all manner of techniques to reach a broad audience of readers.

I think that the best content finds its way to readers, rather than the other way around. That’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of full RSS feeds, and it’s the main reason why I’m happy to let Seeking Alpha republish my blog entries for free: Seeking Alpha’s readers are not the same as the readers of my blog on Reuters, so I reach more people that way. I also like the way in which Seeking Alpha readers get my posts sent to them by email. And if other sites with wide readership also want to carry my stuff, I’ll be happy about that too.

That’s not spamdexing, that’s just humbly going to where the readers are, rather than forcing the readers to come to me. There can be issues surrounding comment streams, and I’d love it if more sites standardized on Disqus or Echo or similar, so that you don’t have to try to keep up with multiple conversations. (As it is, I almost never read my comments on Seeking Alpha, sadly.)

It’s true that some search engines will end up returning the same post multiple times if it’s crossposted to multiple places. But Google has worked out how to deal with that bug in Google News, where wire copy can often appear in hundreds of different places, and I’m sure it’s going to work out something similar for cross-posted blogs as well. Crossposting is just a natural issue for search engines to deal with, it’s not a black-hat or taboo way for bloggers to try to boost their search results.

It would have taken me years to find Hugh were it not for the fact that he was crossposting from early on to A Fistful of Euros. I’m glad he did that, and I think it’s great that he has other outlets as well. Let’s not excoriate him for being open with his intellectual property, rather than jealously guarding it in one place.

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Comments
9 comments so far

For the life of me, I can’t see the difference between crossposting and newspaper syndication. When cities used to have two daily papers, did people complain because Charles Schultz’ Peanuts was in each one?

Felix, I’m with you. I’m fine with people having multiple outlets for their blogging. I’ve found lots of great bloggers that way.

regards, John

Posted by jmcaddell | Report as abusive

Sorry Mr. Salmon. You are mistaken on this one. When Edward Hugh crossposts articles on what are subjects of fairly specialized interest (Latvia, Greece, Spain, etc.) and of correspondingly limited coverage to eight (at last count) sources, his take becomes dominant for reasons not entirely related to the legitimacy of his argument. This is certainly a failure on the part of Google.

That you may have come across him because of his penchant probably also means that there are others that you, or anyone else, have never seen because they can’t find their way through the many repetitions of exactly the same thing on the first two pages of Google results.

It is no different than shouting down competing opinions at a debate and quite frankly defeats the purpose of a search engine.

Thanks for responding.

Posted by IbexSalad | Report as abusive

Google is not the Internet, and no one using it is under the even the tiniest obligation to take the foibles and
weaknesses of this corporation into account as they utilize the net.
IbexSalad, do you seriously dispute this? (I’m sure FS’s readers would _love_ to hear someone attempt this case)! Because it you do not, perhaps you could rephrase your criticism of E. Hugh’s behaviour without implying he is under any obligation to pander to whatever random U.S. Corporation you yourself happen to use to help you navigate the net.

Posted by bxg6 | Report as abusive

Felix has done a very good job of pointing out that cross posting isn’t spamdexing, so no need to add any thoughts on that.

I think one can make two general observations.
1) Charles Butler of IbexSalad is bitter.
2) He doesn’t know how to use Google.

If think someone is wrong, argue with them. If you think they’re irrational, ignore them. Charles’s animosity towards Edward goes beyond economic disagreement. Surely Charles must have better things to do with his time than post negative comments on Ed’s blogs constantly.

Google indexes everything on the web. It has plenty of other things besides pieces by Edward on Latvia, Hungary or Spain. You can find them very easily. You can also find many helpful articles on how to search Google better using things like -”edward hugh”, filetype:pdf, etc if you want to avoid Ed’s blogs. Also Google is pretty good at filtering out spam cross postings to drive SEO, so perhaps they don’t consider Felix’s or Ed’s work spam. Food for thought…

Krugman, the IMF, the World Bank, Bridgewater, Chris Wood at CLSA, and many others make the same points Edward makes about Spain and the periphery, so searching more widely is unlikely to discredit what Ed writes.

Charles should find a hobby, make friends, go for a walk and do other things besides obsessing about Edward.

Posted by jtepper | Report as abusive

bxg6 – your argument is sound, if you believe that a judge at a debate needs nothing more than a decibel meter to determine the winner. The fact that this is allowed does in no way mean that it produces a desirable outcome.

jtepper – You’re right. It was raining, I was bored and suddenly the low hanging fruit appeared. Did you find that fact checker you were looking for yet, btw?

Posted by IbexSalad | Report as abusive

Funny that this argument should come up now where to my chagrin Ed posted very little in the past weeks.

Posted by hansrudolf | Report as abusive

Dear Felix,

Since you’re on the topic of blogging etiquette, I was surprised you hadn’t commented on this post from the FT’s Money Supply blog:

“Change ahead for Money Supply blog
June 7, 2010 6:47pmby Site Administrator | Share
Dear readers,

The Money Supply blog will become subject to FT.com’s subscription rules from Wednesday June 9. The Money Supply homepage will remain visible to all readers and those of you who aren’t yet subscribers can register here to view 10 articles a month for free across FT.com. This brings Money Supply in line with the majority of FT.com content.

We appreciate your readership and comments, and hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

The Money Supply team

Tags: notice”

I have already left a rude comment, but I thought you might have rather more sway. This blog already has truncated RSS feeds and also, hugely annoyingly, truncates the posts on the main page (which will remain free).

Posted by JDB | Report as abusive

In my publishing days, the powers-that-be hated cross-posting because it weakened the search strength of the content (they still did it, for other business reasons, but hated it). If your goal is to get as high up in the search rankings as possible, cross-posting is probably not the way to do it.

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive

Content is valuable, but it’s old-economy to assign high value to content in isolation from context… in my opinion, anyway. Blogging tends to be content in energetic search of novel context, making it understandable that bloggers may strive by any means necessary to be seen and read as widely as possible at least until notoriety and the temptation to paywall is assured.

This could involve cross-posting or virtual syndication by any legitimate means. While not as tolerant of the “legal unless prohibited” argument as abused by investment bankers, in the case of honest hardworking bloggers I’m inclined to regard cross-posting as innocent until proven otherwise.

The accusation of our man Ed “spamdexing” however, which if I understand it correctly would involve any web publication improperly burying irrelevant keywords in metatags and/or transparent layers of landing pages, strikes me as presently unfounded.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive
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