Unbiased reviews, paid for by the reviewee

Got an interesting and somewhat amusing piece of spam this morning:


I'm the webmaster of [URL removed by Jed] 
I wanted to know if by any chance you would be interested in doing an unbiased review of our site
[same URL removed by Jed] on your blog http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/

If you agree we will send you a payment for the review.

Please let me know if you are interested.

If you are interested please click here to receive your money: 

[URL of other site that has "SEO" in the URL removed by Jed]

[More stuff about how to get paid for writing "unbiased" reviews removed by Jed]

The sad thing is, the site that wants the review looks like it might contain reasonably useful info. It's a site about moving (like from one house to another); free info, supported by ads. But if they've hired this SEO company to buy "unbiased" reviews for them, that makes it hard for me to trust any of the info they provide.

(For those who don't know: "SEO" stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's the business of improving a given site's rankings in search results on search engines. It's a legitimate field of endeavor, in that there are legitimate things you can do to improve your rankings, like presenting useful info in an organized and easy-to-find manner; but there are also SEO companies who are all about subverting or tricking search engines, and I obviously don't approve of that kind of thing.)

. . . Just in case anyone from the moving site ever sees this entry, I should add that the site has a significant flaw from my point of view (as someone not part of its target audience): it's based in the UK, and appears to focus entirely on the UK, with lots of UK-specific information, but nowhere on the site that I saw (not even on the About page) does it explicitly mention that it's UK-specific. Which is fine if you don't expect anyone outside of the UK to ever see your site--but when you ask an American blogger to give your site an unbiased review, you should expect that they'll say "This info is useless to me, 'cause it's all about how to move in the UK, and I had to waste time poking around on their site to figure that out because they never actually say so."

Of course, my blog does have readers in the UK, some of whom presumably have to move from one residence to another sometimes. (Apparently in the UK this process is known as "removal." Here in the US, it's called "moving"--and I assumed at first that "removals" meant hiring someone to come get a load of trash, or rubbish, from your residence and dispose of it. This demonstrates my ignorance of international terminology, but it also demonstrates a pitfall of having a locale-specific website that doesn't make clear that it's locale-specific.) So it's not unreasonable to ask me for a review; what's unreasonable is to offer to pay me for the review.

Of course it's fine for reviewers to be paid for writing reviews. But they should not be paid by the organizations they're reviewing.

P.S.: In fairness, I should note that there are a huge number of US-specific sites that don't bother to mention anywhere that they're US-specific. Failure to realize that the web has a potentially worldwide audience is an extremely common problem, and one that I'm prone to myself. It's very very easy to forget that some readers of a given site may be sitting halfway around the world. So the moving site I'm talking about here is far from alone in failing to mention that it's locale-specific.

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