Blogging scholarships and Googlebait

by Henry on October 17, 2007

Tom Chatfield at Prospect (UK) catches something interesting for those, like me, who have gotten emails asking us to promote a $10,000 scholarship for blogging undergraduates.

a shortlist of web-savvy American students have spent the last few months competing for a $10,000 blogging scholarship to help with tuition fees—just one part of a scheme conceived by the American philanthropist Daniel Kovach, whose Daniel Kovach Scholarship Foundation also offers cash awards to female and minority students, web designers, political bloggers and majors in library and information sciences. … But is it also too good to be true? A cynic might suggest that the advertising revenue Kovach stands to gain from entrants directing everyone they know towards him quite possibly outweighs the money he is giving away. … The clincher, though, is an April article buried within CNN’s online Business 2.0 Magazine, which features Kovach as an example of the latest trend in internet revenue-gain: vacuuming up google links for ad revenue. This explains the bizarrely inclusive nature of his site’s listings: having discovered that people regularly search for scholarships for “twins,” “tall people,” and “left-handed people,” he added a section about each. “There are hardly any real scholarships,” Kovach explained, “but we’ll give the searcher any information they want.”

Perhaps this isn’t the complete explanation – $10,000 is a lot of money to spend on a $120,000 a year business. But it may make sense as a canny bit of social engineering – if lots of bloggers write posts linking to Kovachs’ site with the word ‘scholarship’ in them, Google will presumably pay attention, driving the site up the search engine rankings on the cheap, substantially increasing revenue streams.

{ 7 comments }

1

sanbikinoraion 10.17.07 at 5:50 pm

Can you say “doh”?

2

Tim Worstall 10.17.07 at 8:30 pm

The creative manner of boosting Google results has been noted:
http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/index.php/blog/individual/a_message_to_econ_and_academic_bloggers/

3

Matt Weiner 10.17.07 at 9:13 pm

This seems decidedly unsinister to me. It’s no great shock if Kovach is using his scholarship to garner free publicity of one sort or another. That’s presumably why so many organizations that offer scholarships name them after themselves (and the same goes for other philanthropy). Similarly, so long as he’s not being deceptive about the availability of scholarships for twins, tall people, etc., I don’t see the harm in his vacuuming up the search results for them.

In particular, I think the phrase “too good to be true” doesn’t apply at all; the scholarship is there, it’s just that Kovach isn’t offering it entirely out of the goodness of his heart. But who thought he was, and what does it matter? Unless there’s something I’m missing.

4

Matt Weiner 10.17.07 at 9:14 pm

(Well, the e-mails may be annoying, but it beats comment spam.)

5

Mike Otsuka 10.18.07 at 8:00 am

But it may make sense as a canny bit of social engineering – if lots of bloggers write posts linking to Kovachs’ site with the word ‘scholarship’ in them, Google will presumably pay attention, driving the site up the search engine rankings on the cheap, substantially increasing revenue streams.

I’ve noticed, Henry, that you’ve refrained from linking directly to Kovach’s site, perhaps because you didn’t want to become another one of his blogging pawns. But you’ve linked to a site that links to his, and doesn’t Google also pay attention to the popularity — in terms of links to it — of the sites that link to sites?

6

mpowell 10.18.07 at 4:44 pm

The thing that I always mystifies me is how there can be so much money in advertising.

7

bi 10.19.07 at 9:04 am

Henry, Mike Otsuka: I use the rel=nofollow tag when I decide I don’t want to increase someone’s googlejuice. I guess this particular installation of WordPress allows that?

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