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NYTimes Journalist Uses SEO To Show Her Editorial Bias

July 15th, 2009
16 Comments


I am not the first blogger to claim that the NYT has some questionable editorial practices, but the use of links in a recent article by Claire Cain Miller on the how Lifestyle Lift got busted for faking online reviews caught my eye.

The author presents two external links in the article, one to the NY Attorney General’s press release on the matter and the other to RealSelf.com, the site where Lifestyle Lift posted the fake reviews.  There also are three internal links to the Times’ Topic pages on Andrew Cuomo, Amazon.com & Yelp.com. These are the pages that the company uses to try and rank for search queries related to these subjects.

So how come there are zero links to Lifestyle Lift’s site?  The company is clearly the main subject of the piece and the providing the link would definitely help flesh out the story for readers. NYT.com does not tag their external links as “nofollow” therefore they are capable of passing a considerable amount of pagerank.

One, that one being me, can only conclude that the writer and/or the editor was making a judgement call to withhold providing Lifestyle Lift with any SEO benefit perhaps because they had been naughty.  Doesn’t seem very objective to me.


Tags: Online Reviews · Reputation Management

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Will Scott

    Best part is that when you do a little analysis on Re@1 $e1f you realize they’re aggressive link-hoarders.

    How do you think they rank #2 for Lifestyle Lift? They have all of their internal linking structure set up to rank for it.

    And, as you deconstruct their listings you’ll see that they only link out to their “pro” listings (a.k.a. paid links!). There are many docs who answer questions who have no web site listed even though they have one and who don’t get a link. Or, re@1se1f is linking to their profile on Surgery.org (a web site of one of the plastic surgery societies).

    So, why is this web site which only links out for pay getting a live link from the NY Times? Clearly because the writer knows enough about linking out to think them worthy, but not enough to realize they’d only reciprocate if she paid them.

  • 2 Andrew Shotland

    I definitely think RealSelf is the big winner in this whole thing. They look like they care about the community and they get the links from the NYT and other notable blogs

  • 3 Will Scott

    Right. Not bad for an MFA site who’s selling links.

  • 4 Ami

    What??! And give them another Link !

  • 5 Andrew Shotland

    A journalist deciding that they should not link to a spammer from an article about the spammer because they are “evil” and they want to deny them SEO benefits is akin to deciding not to show a photo of Kim Jong Il in an article about him because he’s batshit crazy and you don’t want to provide him with the promotion.

    Seems outside the scope of journalism to me.

  • 6 Stever

    because links pass a tangible value, in a world with search engines that assign value to links, beyond the scope of how other forms of media pass any kind of promotional value in a mere verbal or written mention I think journalism at times should consider how and when to link to whom.

    As I wrote over on Sphinn, if they opted to not link to the spammer, for justifiable reasons, then they probably should have refrained from linking to Real Self as well.

    Linking solely to the AG reference would have been sufficient.

  • 7 Ami

    You have a valid point there stever

  • 8 Andrew Shotland

    I go for the link to all or none philosophy. Just seems weird that Lifestyle Lift is the subject of the piece and don’t get the link. Not sure why denying SEO value to the spammer outweighs the reader benefit of supplying the link.

    Then again maybe the reporter just forgot to add the link :)

  • 9 Stever

    “Not sure why denying SEO value to the spammer outweighs the reader benefit of supplying the link.”

    a mere text based mention of the website address, unlinked, is valid and sufficient reference to sources. If readers wanted to check it out they can then type it in and go see. The text of the link to Real Self is the .com address, so could have, maybe in this case should have, been left unlinked.

    All references to Lifestyle Lift were only the company name, no mentions of web address. However, by naming the company, and not linking, they have provided the bare minimum in referencing sources.

    Whether you do or do not have an understanding of SEO, and the value of links, webmasters, bloggers, even journalists are never “required” to link to anybody. But when you do have knowledge of how links work, and you make specific decisions to link or not to link, then professional journalists should wield that bias evenly (all or none).

    Indy bloggers on the other hand can do as they please. Hey Andrew, psssst, you’re linking to a known spammer ;)

    Perhaps the reporter forgot to add the link, or, since there is a direct quote from the founder of Real Self, the reporter was probably asked to include a link, so they remembered that one and neglected to link to LL as nobody asked. ???

  • 10 Andrew Shotland

    You bring up an interesting point Stever. Perhaps the in-house SEO at NYT recommended not linking to the site out of fear of triggering a “linking to a bad neighborhood” penalty from Google. That I would understand.

    Keep your eye on this blog’s pagerank and stay tuned :)

  • 11 Mike

    @Andrew

    But isn’t that what the nofollow link is for. A link to show the website in question make since to be in the article, even if you don’t want to vote for it.

  • 12 Stever

    @Mike, perhaps that is what nofollow “used to be” for, or was once “supposed” to be for :) I think many SEO’s are still scratching heads over if, when, how to use nofollow since Google recently changed the rules on how PR is calculated and divvied out through the remaining followed links.

  • 13 Andrew Shotland

    Mike, I would be pretty impressed if a newspaper CMS was flexible enough to allow a journalist to tag a link as nofollow. That said, the NYT’s in-house SEO team are extremely capable so I wouldn’t put it past them.

  • 14 fta forum

    I wrote over on Sphinn, if they opted to not link to the spammer, for justifiable reasons, then they probably should have refrained from linking to Real Self as well.

  • 15 jlbraaten

    This might be a long shot, but maybe they’re concerned that a link to Lifestyle Lift would be viewed as linking to a “spammy link neighborhoood,” and thus would give them an SEO penalty.

  • 16 Twitted by localseoguide

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