A little while ago my friend, Reina, asked about my thoughts concerning the recent change in the FTC advertising guidelines. I have a strong opinion on why I feel the FTC is meddling with bloggers (and other web entities). Below is my answer to her question. It may come across a bit as conspiracy theory, but I don’t believe I am wrong (I guess conspiracy theorists usually believe they are right).
REINA: So today is slow at work so I was going back through all my emails at work and found an article about changes in FTC guides regarding web endorsements. I’m curious if you’ve heard about this, if so, what your thoughts are on it, and also how it has affected blogging and advertising. Have you noticed a difference? Is this sort of thing enforceable or will it be online business as usual? The article made me think of you. Just curious what your thoughts are. Here’s the article.
PAUL: I am very familiar with the new FTC regulation and frankly I think it is joke. However, I do think it will have a profound effect on the web, but not how most people think it will. You see, I really believe Google is behind this regulation.
In order to rank organically in Google you need to have a lot of links pointing to your website from other websites. So, people buy lots of links from different websites to help drive search engine traffic to their website. It’s a bit more complicated than but that’s the jist of it and it works really well.
Google’s policy is that you cannot do this without disclosing the fact that you are buying links. If you disclose that the links are paid for than it makes it easier for Google to discount your links. This in turn, makes it harder for you to rank in Google.
Now with the ridiculous FTC regulation Google can actually legally go after you for breaking their search engine rules. This FTC ruling is one of the finest examples of business meddling with government policy.
So, that is my conspiracy take on the whole thing. It just seems a little fishy that the FTC modified a Federal Advertising Guide that hasn’t been touched in 30 years.
UPDATE 03/11/2010: Thanks Tyler for sharing this video. It does put things into perspective concerning Google!
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