Where is Jason Calacanis’s Disclosure, to People AND Machines?

Posted by on February 29, 2008 at 4:14 pm.

It’s a good thing February 29th doesn’t come around that often. It’s a day Jason Calacanis may want to sweep under a rug.

After yet another episode of Jason jumping up and down for the world to notice him and his company (this time with some affiliate marketer rants and techmeme coverage), a Feb 29 post by Allen Stern over at Center Networks focused on Jason’s conflicted, undisclosed PageRank-passing link practices and his promotion of such practices to the rest of his employees. Jason’s practices were particularly ironic given he just highlighted the FTC quote: “We wanted to make clear . . . if you’re being paid, you should disclose that.”

You can read Allen’s direct affiliate, employee, paid link comparisons. My post just provides a bit more detail to Allen’s dead-on observation. My post isn’t about affiliate links. My post isn’t about buzz marketing. My post isn’t about Mahalo’s business model (human scraping is worthy of a whole other post). It’s simply about applying Google’s standard for machine-readable disclosure to Jason’s PageRank-passing links. In fact, it’s even more narrow than all of Jason’s violations (Andy Beard covers some others) — I’ll just focus on his deliberate PageRank juicing of Mahalo already alluded to by Allen. No rocket science here.

Google’s standard:
1) Google’s position on disclosure, via Matt Cutts, is that adequate disclosure on the web must be understood by people AND understood by machines. [next 3 images are directly from Cutts presentation]
2) Google has suggested a few ways to meet their standard of machine-readable disclosure; the most straightforward being the use of rel=”nofollow”.
3) Google has exacted severe penalties against sites failing to provide machine-readable disclosure.
Jason’s PageRank-passing:
4) Jason Calacanis gets paid direct cash compensation from Mahalo, and significant equity compensation from Mahalo as a shareholder. [next 3 images are directly from calacanis.com posts]
5) More Mahalo pages in Google SERPs equals more money in Jason’s pocket and equity — orders of magnitude more than the typical affiliate or sponsored blogger that Jason has railed against in the past.
6) To get more Mahalo pages in Google SERPs, and higher in Google SERPs, Jason repeatedly creates PageRank-passing links to Mahalo, with SEO keywords stuffed into anchor text. One or more links are a daily occurrence, with many linkfarm-in-a-post posts.
7) None of Jason’s PageRank-passing links provide machine-readable disclosure as required by Google (or human-readable for that matter) — even though using nofollow would still retain any traffic/branding goals of linking.
The result:
8) Jason’s undisclosed PageRank-passing links are working. Pages that no one has found interesting enough to link, reach Google #1 SERPs because of Jason’s single PR6 keyword-stuffed link. See this Google SERP and this backlink check as just one example of many.
9) Neither the linker (Calacanis.com, PR6) nor his sponsor (Mahalo.com, PR6), have received any penalties as a result of these clear Google Guideline violations. There are times when I’ve heard Google say they focus on the most egregious examples, but I can’t think of a blogger with more compensation at stake, doing more blatant, conflicted PageRank-passing without machine-readable disclosure.

Google, what are Allen and I missing?

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